“In an age of acceleration, nothing can
be more exhilarating than going slow.” Pico Iyer
I often teach what I need to learn and, boy, is this lesson a big one for me. I move fast, talk fast, think fast, and drive fast. The faster I move, the more lost in thought I tend to be and the harder it is to fully experience the present moment. Monday morning I was so caught in the acceleration of life, that I was combing my wet hair when I asked myself if I’d taken a shower yet that morning! I had been completely absorbed in the thoughts in my head.
It’s not completely my or your fault if we find ourselves moving a little too fast. We live in a culture that encourages us to move too fast and do too much. Coming to terms with the impact of this acceleration is the first step in taking back control of your life. We lose connection with our selves, with others, and often with what’s important in live. The “urgent” takes over that which is “important.”
In order to live fully in the present moment and wake up to our senses will require that most of us put on the brakes a little and slow down. You can’t experience the ride when the landscape is whizzing by and you’re missing the essential information you need to have the life you want. Even stopping from time to time and asking yourself “how important is this in the scheme of things?” can be helpful.
Can we not be even more satisfied with doing a little less and trying a little less hard? Our dissatisfaction is largely due to trying to live up to some expected ideal that was generated by marketing staffs paid to feed our anxieties—to be smaller, smarter, taller, thinner, quicker, younger, and prettier! The idea of perfection is both unattainable and unnecessary but our conditioning is pretty strong. Slowing down and experiencing the moments of our lives is ultimately more satisfying than the striving for an illusion of success or perfection.
At one point in my life, I went fast because slowing down meant that the things I didn’t want to face would catch up with me. I thought if I just ran fast enough I wouldn’t have the face the pain or difficulty in my life. Of course, that strategy didn’t work all that well. But, slowing down requires that we be willing to face our lives and our conditioning straight in the face. Looking in the mirror and doing the work it takes to un-condition that which has colored the truth of who you truly are is when the amazing you underneath can begin to shine back at you.
In my yoga classes, I often have people take a deep breath as they bring their arms overhead. Then on a long out-breath I ask people to lower their arms very, very slowly. This turns out to be so hard for some people that I repeat it once or twice so that everyone finally gets to experience what it feels like to do something slow. It’s amazing how much just this one simple act of slowing down begins to reverse the stress response and creates a sense of greater peace and relaxation.
Try it Now: Let me ease you into slowing down by bringing the practice into your body. Stand in a comfortable position with your feet hip distance apart, arms resting comfortably at your side. Feel your feet fully grounded into the earth. Take a deep breath in as you slowly raise your arms overhead. Breath slowly out and bring your arms down to your sides. Take your time. Notice how your heart beat changes. Notice your thoughts—perhaps they slow down too. If you find yourself being impatient, do it again. Give yourself over to doing one thing slow and notice happens.
Other Practices To Try: Liberally practice slowing down in other activities you engage in. Slow down when you’re driving and actually drive the speed limit (I’m still working on this one!). Slow down when you eat (you’ll enjoy it more). Slow down when you’re talking (people might even be understand you better). Slow down when you’re (fill in the blank). You get the idea! Slow down, even a little, and notice the difference.