Why It’s Important to Learn to Stop

“We are in the habit of existing in the future while our souls yearn to exist right now.”

I studied in Denmark this fall, and on my way home from class each day I biked over the Langebro Bridge across the inner harbor of Copenhagen. Over charming canals I pedaled past stunning sunsets, only drawing my eyes from the water when my bike began to swerve from lack of attention. A quiet voice yearned to remain on the bridge, watching the colors of the city fade into darkness. But a louder voice was uninterested in sparing five minutes, just wanting to get home before six and get ready for dinner.

This seemed to be a theme during my time in Copenhagen. I had the quiet desire to take everything in and rest in the glorious presence of each moment. But the city’s energy and the long list of places and activities to check off my abroad bucket list swept me up into a whirlwind of constant movement and planning.

Each time I crossed that bridge, I noticed a gentle longing. Until one day, I felt myself come to a halt, barely recognizing the hand clasping the brake. Something in me needed to be on that bridge longer than the time it took to bike over it.

Pulling my bike off the road and leaning over the bridge’s metal railing, I watched as the sun danced rainbows on the water and the sky took on a misty gold quality. I felt a softening in my eyes and my chest that I hadn’t experienced since the summer. And for the first time since arriving in that city, I experienced the true richness of where I was. When darkness replaced the sunset sky, I drew my eyes from the horizon and noticed that six other bikers had stopped along the bridge.

Maybe the fault lies in our habits or maybe in our social norms. We are in the habit of existing in the future while our souls yearn to exist right now. But those instances of aware connectedness with a moment and place, with no thoughts of the past or future, are truly what give life its beauty and meaning.

Simply listening to the quiet voice that longs for presence and fulfillment has the power to transform the quality of a life. It might even make that voice in others just loud enough to do the same.