Have we lost the art of savoring as we live our lives?

by | Oct 14, 2023

There are practically an infinite number of things to savor in this life.

The first five categories can be associated with our senses – taste, touch, smell, sight and sound. Unfortunately, some people don’t get to savor all five, but typically the senses that they do have become heightened and they can end up savoring experiences using what they do have all the more. But for those of us who have the ability to savor all five, do we not take them for granted most of the time?

Read this list slowly and put yourself “in the moment” for the ones that you like or love:

A rainbow in the sky. 

The smell of cinnamon buns or brownies baking. 

A loved one scratching your back. 

The cool breeze on a warm summer’s evening. 

The smell of the earth as rain begins. 

The taste of a perfectly grown and ripe orange. 

The beautiful face of a sleeping baby in your arms. 

The bubbling of a brook in the woods and the simultaneous smell of moss and cedar. 

Sitting with a joyful group of people you love, laughing, eating, drinking, and just being together.

A playful dog with that puppy-look in its eyes.

The smell and first sip of your favorite drink in the morning.

The biggest, most deep red rose and the rich smell coming from it.

The warm and tight embrace of someone who has really missed you.

The smell of leather.

The taste of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.

The eruption of the hometown cheers of a team that just won a national championship.

Now think of some of your favorite things related to your 5 senses.

Beyond the five senses, there are countless other aspects of life that we can and should savor. Breathing, thinking, relating, communicating, feeling positive emotions and traveling are just a few that quickly come to mind but there are so many more.  In the realm of thinking and communicating, there is storytelling, romanticism, intellectualism, brainstorming, and creating. When we exercise these things according to our own skills and abilities, we’re made better, others are also made better, and our life is enriched.  We’re able to certainly appreciate the genius in others based on our own attempts at genius within ourselves.  But these attempts take time. They take concerted and focused effort. They take intentionality and at the pace of life today, we often strip ourselves or are stripped of the time and effort that it takes to do these things and do them well or at least improve in our own skills. Furthermore with the pace of life, we lose that ability to savor because savoring again takes time, effort, and intentionality. To savor, we have to slow down…we have to “stop and smell the roses”. Psalm 23:1-3 is a great example of this and how God invites us into this to “restore our soul”.

So where are examples of people savoring that happen now or that used to happen? When you read the writings of J.R.R Tolkien and CS Lewis and other brilliant intellectual writers and artists even of our modern day, we see examples of savoring thoughts, ideas, pursuits, and it’s inspiring to us.  They move us deeply, if we let them.  When I read these writings, I want to be better in everything.  I want to savor more, to think deeper, to form more complete thoughts, deeper thoughts.  In order to do this, it requires focus and determination AND TIME and in this world where we’re surrounded by YouTube shorts, Instagram Reels, TikToks, we’re programmed and manipulated to not be focused but to, instead, have our attention “sold” as many times as possible in a minute. Everything is short and, as a result, savoring is lacking because of how short our attention spans are trained to be. Through these mechanisms and mediums, we are losing the mental ability to savor and that’s a sad thing, a diminishing thing. As a result, we run the risk of becoming “less”, both individually and collectively, and this in a time where we could collectively and individually be so much more because of the outpouring of knowledge and tools that are available to us.

Even informing the thoughts associated with this brief article, I’m struck with the fact that I have lost a significant aspect of savoring.  I think that this article could go on for days if I were to take the time to savor this concept and expand upon it. But then, it would be labeled “TLDR” because of the inability or unwillingness to go that deep into anything. “No one has time for that.”  Even returning back for a moment to the creative brilliance of J.R.R Tolkein, I’m reminded of that amazing race in The Lord of the Rings – The Ents.  Treebeard, one of the Ents, makes the statement that “…it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish. And we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say.”  The Ents’ own language was tightly coupled to savoring the concept and idea being communicated.

There are a great many impacts of our inability, or more correctly, our unwillingness to slow down and savor life and work. As I have studied well-being and burnout, I believe that savoring life and work is an essential ingredient to increasing well-being and decreasing burnout anxiety, depression, and some of the other common ailments that we see on the rise in our world today. In the workplace, burnout is at an epidemic level and people are floundering and searching for ways to feel good again, to feel normal again. I long for that for them. In a period in my life when I have been able to unplug, reflect, and recover some, but certainly not all, of my own ability to savor life, moments, and relationships, I’m struck with just how restorative it is and how much well-being comes from this pace and this focus. What’s counterintuitive to this is that our productivity, mastery, and excellence increases as we take this time to be intentional, to create, to focus, and to savor.

I’m reading a book called “A Non-Anxious Presence” by Mark Sayers and it talks about the impact that a non-anxious presence has on people’s lives at work and at home. I believe that it’s this non-anxious presence that reminds us and gives us permission to slow down and we can savor and be restored to something greater than our diminished selves. And don’t our hearts long for this? As I have evaluated and read numerous books, I have been struck by certain titles that have compelled me to read them. Books like “It doesn’t have to be crazy at work” and “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”, and of course this book, “A Non-Anxious Presence”. These book titles stir a great desire in me. Do you feel it? And until processing through and writing this article, I now see that it is this aspect of savoring life and work that has been missing from my life and when I don’t do it, it affects me and the people around me. We don’t celebrate well. The celebration of something done well is marred by the expectation and knowledge that we’re just going to rush into the next thing and at a pace that doesn’t allow for any savoring, only more and more “productivity”, because, after all, that’s what we’re paid to do, right?

The constructs of our “new and improved” society that WE have created now battle against savoring life and work because they battle against our ability to remain focused. Even the phone on which I am dictating and writing this right now is one of these key mechanisms that distracts and undermines focus for most of the day because of the constant and unyielding notifications that pop up and seek to take my attention away from creating and being intentional with my time.

What are we doing to ourselves? What are we doing to our society? What are we doing to our own hearts and our kids’ hearts? It’s a sad thing to see lives impacted through what most would say is something that’s neutral. Professionally, creatively, relationally, and spiritually being present in the moment – completely present in the moment – is one of the most impactful and important things and yet we are constantly distracted in the moment and it sabotages our lives.

Look for ways to savor. Look for ways to be MORE present in the moment with the people that you’re with. Look for ways to be fully focused on a topic, a skill, a project, a book, or deep thoughts. Your humanity was made for this. God made you for this. His thoughts are so much higher than our own thoughts but He has made us in His own image, to think deeply, to be present, and to savor life and work.

Watch what happens to your heart and your soul as you take time to savor the good and great things in life.

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