In a world full of “do more, produce more, be more” and “no time to waste” attitudes, I am currently in a practice of slowing down and doing less. I say, “there is no time to rush”. The slowing down is part action (or non-action) and part a state of being; an attitude of slow, calm, ease, and acceptance. This is not my default setting, and did not come easy to me at first. As the practice deepens, I am slowly becoming more slow, and feeling the benefits. And I can honestly say that I do not feel any less “productive”, which is subjective anyway. Perhaps this slowing down and doing less has even made what I do engage in more “productive”, honest, and valuable.
When we are in a state of hurry, or feeling that we never get enough done, the nervous system is charged up. Living in the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze) most of the time will shorten your life span and create disease and discomfort on a daily basis. We are not meant to live with stress hormones coursing through the blood stream on a regular basis. If we feel that we never do enough, that there is never enough time, and are constantly rushing around, the nervous system is in a constant state of anxiety and fear. This is why I say there is no time to rush. Sleep, slowness, rest, space; we need these things everyday in order to be nourished, in order to thrive.
Being active and taking care of chores, work, family, and other life obligations can be accomplished fully while maintaining an attitude of slow and steady. The brain literally cannot multi task. We may think we are doing multiple things at once, but what is happening neurologically is that the system is just moving extra fast in order to process all of the sensory information and none of the things we are doing actually get the attention they need or deserve. The synapses are bouncing all over the place, trying to keep up. For example, if you are eating food while reading, the attention cannot fully be on either. The comprehension of the reading material is diminished and the ability to digest and assimilate the food is reduced. In actuality, if you sat and read the same amount you would while eating, and then ate your meal, it would not take any more time and might even take less time. Some of us pride ourselves on being able to multi task, but truly this is just a delusion.
One of the ways I have been practicing slowness is to simply walk slower. I am a person who walks with intention to a goal or destination. That is my tendency, and is a sign of the fire element in my unique constitution or genetic make-up. By implementing a practice of walking slower, I am calming the nervous system and surrendering into slowness. I am reversing the perceived need to rush and bringing in qualities of ease. Watching the practice unfold and evolve, and feeling the effects has been fascinating. In addition to becoming more slow, I am also less critical and judgmental. I am less tired and more forgiving of myself and others. I notice now when I am walking fast or doing things in a quick or impatient manner. And when I see it, I take a breath and slow it down. It’s not always easy, and sometimes I am in fast mode all day or continually revert back to it.
This idea of rushing around includes the way the mind is moving as well as the way the body is moving. When the mind is mobile and quick, the body moves mobile and quick with less attention to detail. When the body is moving erratically or at hight speeds, the mind is doing the same. Mistakes are made, things get lost, tasks are left unfinished, and I am no longer the reliable person I want to be. There is not time to rush. Notice in what ways you are moving quick or erratically. This may be cutting vegetables to prepare for a meal, speaking very quickly in order to get through a conversation that truly deserves more attention, driving faster than is necessary or safe, moving from task to task with such speed that you cannot actually remember what you did.
Like increases like, and opposites balance. This includes lifestyle, food, and temporal factors. On days when the wind is blowing outside your internal wind is also affected. Foods with frenetic or rajasic qualities, such as hot peppers, garlic, caffeine, fermented foods, sour fruits, and carbonated beverages bring frenetic energy into the body-mind-spirit. There is nothing we can do about the weather outside, but we can control how we engage in it. Choosing not to spend as much time outside on those windy days may be an option for some of us. But if it’s not, covering the ears will help reduce the effects of the wind in ourselves. When feeling that sense of rush and hurry, especially when there is not actually anything to hurry to, choosing heavier and sweet foods will serve to balance the body-mind-spirit. Such foods may include, grains, oil, sweet fruits, and calming teas such as chamomile and lavender. And the most obvious, and possibly most difficult opposite to incorporate, just move slower and pause. And as you find yourself speeding up again, slow down and pause again.
The practice will yield results if we continue to practice. It is not something that is easily accomplished just because we’ve become aware. However, awareness is the fist step to making changes. We need tools to help us along the journey. The tool of opposites is simple yet profound, and available to all of us at any moment. As the summer heat sets in, there is ample opportunity to slow down. I invite you take this opportunity to surrender to slowness, and see what you discover.