I’ve been thinking about how to describe the experience of living with depth. We are in such a fast-paced, hyperconnected, ambitious world, we find ourselves chasing ever more speed and efficiency at the expense of the experiences that require more depth, more time, and more thought. And I began to think about what depth really means. It has to do with moments of experience where we have some resonance or awareness within ourselves I think.
Sometimes you are sitting somewhere and you suddenly realize what a spectacular moment it is. It may be an encounter with another person, sitting in a beautiful spot, or hearing something delightful–music, or a baby laughing, or the sound of a stream. You feel as if you have woken up out of a sleepwalking pattern and recognized the absolute miracle of everyday life.
In the same way, you can sometimes see the profound value of those things that require time to create or develop, that require your total attention and thought, that have immense significance that cannot be explained. These aspects of depth cannot be found without enough time and space. Our usual mode of trying to be more productive and more efficient just won’t deliver the same type of value.
In some ways, it is the old-fashioned approach of stopping, noticing, thinking, being with someone, taking time that allows those parts of our human capacity to surface. We do not trust that our inner selves have more to offer. We over-rely on our conscious, obvious thinking, and we under-estimate how very much we have inside of ourselves. There are no short-cuts to those depths. We cannot think harder and smarter and get there faster. This depth of experience must be allowed to arise at its own pace.
This grounded connection with ourselves and our lives is the focus of many of the wisdom traditions. There is a larger teaching about stepping back from the details of day to day life and getting in touch with something both larger than ourselves and deeper than our everyday conscious train of thought. There are many avenues to develop this capacity, like meditation or depth psychotherapy. But they require that we slow down, change our measure of success, and appreciate our experience in a different way.