Intensity and Depth

(image via Kamil Pietrzak)

(image via Kamil Pietrzak)

A few years ago I jumped out of a moving airplane...a perfectly good moving plane I might add, and I paid someone to help me do it! Sky diving is an intense experience. Standing on the wing at 10,000 feet, and realizing that there was no way I could climb back in, that was a moment. This experience is one of many from my younger years. Flying trapezes, race car driving, walking on fire, cliff jumping, these are all some of the many things I have done to create an intense "buzz" in my life. This buzz helped me feel alive, and in some ways supported my love of learning. Each moment was filled afterwards with both an adrenaline rush and the desire to help me understand more. I even seemed to reflect this in my personal life. My father died in my arms at 16, I had a very dramatic divorce from my first marriage, and I even had open-heart surgery at 42. I am not saying I caused all these events, but it is curious that there remained a pattern of intensity to create personal change. When shifts came they occurred through thunder storms rather than evening showers. Little came easily.

But in my mid-forties something began to shift. I began to separate "intensity", the thrill and all the effort that came with it, from "depth". And it was a question of speed.

Intensity moves at a high rate of speed. Everything is fast. We think fast, act fast and make appropriate connections fast. No time to consider whether pulling your rip cord is a good idea. You pull and pray. When you walk across hot coals, your mind says only one thing, "Go, go, GO!" It is conducive for survival but not always for either sustained change or deeper learning.

Depth on the other hand is usually more in line with the rhythms of nature, which are slow to medium. All great religious traditions know this. When you wanted to have an epiphany you walked into the wilderness--Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, all went because their souls craved depth and it could only be found in nature at nature's rhythm. Native peoples go on vision quest, aborigine's on walk-about. The goal in all of these examples is the same. For the rhythms of nature to take us deeper into our own original character and reveal another layer.

In nature there is a pacing that just is. It is not dependent on deadlines or crises, it is just what nature does. When we slow down, especially in nature, we experience this "is-ness" which helps us get to our own "is-ness".

Questions that can help:

  1. Where does my desire for intensity create movement in my life?

  2. Where does it repeat an unhealthy pattern?

  3. Do I spend more time seeking intensity or depth? What is the price paid?

Finally, if what you want is greater depth than the solution is clear. Try spending more time in nature just observing the slower rhythms you experience. Let the "is-ness" of what you see, be who you are.