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How Can You Make The Most Of Life When It Slows Way Down?

John Amaechi is an amazing speaker and thought leader (and the first former NBA player to come out as gay). In one memorable speech, when he was talking about being a young man in distress over identity and relationships, he challenged the audience with this question:

What do you see when you’re alone in the dark?

Think about it. What might it feel like to be in a place of complete stillness, to have your mind be totally clear, to feel the absence of distraction, and to focus on yourself?

For better or worse, we have that opportunity right now, as we find ourselves sheltering at home, separated from each other, often isolated by ourselves or with a few others. Yes, we have our technological distractions, but we also have more time to be still, to retreat a bit from some of our former frenziness, to just Be.

Think about it. How can you take advantage of life when things slow way down?

I was at a pizza place in New York City eating a quick pre-theatre dinner last July when the lights went out. I  finished my slice in the dark and headed down 45th Street to the Theatre District, where I waited for the doors to open. And waited. And waited, alongside families from Canada and Long Island and across the world, who paid top dollar for their tickets and may have bought them months in advance for a big Saturday night out.As the doors continued to stay closed past the 8:00 curtain time, the sidewalks and streets around the theaters filled up. The traffic lights were out, and cars snaked through the streets. Police and fire engine sirens wailed non-stop. The mass of people outside the theaters continued to build until thousands were shoulder to shoulder. You can see it in the photo above. Can you imagine that today!? 

Word finally spread that all shows were cancelled. As the novelty of taking pictures and videos of a mostly dark West Side wore out, I headed back to my Airbnb and sweated my way up 23 flours so I could be inside before it got pitch black outside.

The apartment was eerily silent and devoid of energy. No fluorescent lights on microwaves or cable boxes, no LED displays on alarm clocks, no refrigerator hum, certainly no TV to turn on or music to play. I couldn’t open Spotify because I only had half a battery left on my phone and had no idea how long the power would be out. I texted my wife every once in a while to let her know I was alive but otherwise shut down my devices.

It got darker. And quieter. A quiet you could hear. More quiet than I’d heard in a long time.

Picture yourself in that place. What might you think about? What could you create? What might it tell you about how you interact with the world, and how you could do it differently? What could you learn from this uniquely weird and special experience?

When the power came on after many hours I was woken up partially by the one small light I’d left on, but mostly by the giant whiirrrr of lights and electronics turning on at once around my building. It jolted me out of my sleep. When I looked at the blinking clock I realized I’d fallen asleep an hour earlier than normal. I don’t think it was because I was super tired. I think it was because I was super at peace. Without the artificial hum I only had my body to tune in to and I was filled with the creative possibility of what could be.

In today’s surreal world, amidst all of the sad and unfortunate suffering, we also have the ability to slow our lives down. Turn the lights low. Take a breath. See what it’s like to just Be. Think about how you’ll make the most of it.

Written by Danny Schuman, Creative Lead / Copy at BTP Unite - In addition to plying his award winning writing and creative direction, Danny is an author, mentor, and speaker.

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