Search

The Art of Slowing Down

I got a speeding ticket for going 33 in a 30 zone. I was just in the flow of traffic. I paid my dues, and thought nothing of it. Not long later, I got another speeding ticket. A really popular stretch of road for speeding tickets, because the 50 zone changed to a 30 zone down a hill round a corner and the speed camera was just after the change. It’s a real doozy! Again, a bit of a bummer, but nothing to write home about. Just bad luck. However, my attention was really grabbed when a third ticket made its way through my letterbox. Another boring, innocuous seeming event, this time a road around the corner from home that is usually a 30 zone had been made a 20 zone because of temporary roadworks, that were no longer there. Without the visual clues, I'd driven that familiar strip on autopilot, assuming I was abiding by the limit until I got that fateful third notice through the letterbox.

gif

Three is the magic number for me. I was now looking for the message. Especially as with points accruing on my licence, if I didn’t learn and integrate the lesson this was trying to teach me this time, I would lose it. So I spoke to my guides. ‘OK! I hear you - what is it I need to get here?’ And the answer was of course: SLOW DOWN! This baffled me at first, because when I looked at how much I’d shifted around this already, it seemed rosey in comparison. Nevertheless, on pain of a driving ban, I knew I needed to look deeper to see how I needed to integrate this clear message to slow down.


I began to notice that the amount I tried to fit into a day was often literally impossible. Setting out with a list of things that added up to more hours than there were in a day is obviously and squarely in the ‘unrealistic expectations’ category. The small things in life would suffer. The kitchen often went uncleaned. Waking up to a dirty kitchen thrust me into overwhelm before the new day even began, and as the day unfolded the looming anticipation of failure to complete my crazy lists would ramp up my inner managers, who I commend for their efficiency. If those little daily chores did get done, they got rushed. I danced through my day with the precision of a world class ballerina - no movement was excessive, my multitasking was superbly choreographed, and I will admit to feeling pride for how much I did manage to fit into a day. It was more than most people could physically manage and I craved the sense of achievement that I earned myself through this scheduling gymnastics.

gif

Not only that, the hat switching act I performed during the average day was worthy of a circus show, too. Going from undergraduate philosophy teacher, to energy healer, to artist, to dog mum, to researcher, to housekeeper, to writer, changing every ten to ninety minutes throughout the day, was like pushing myself through one of those children’s toys where the different shaped blocks need to go through the different shaped holes. Bending and squeezing myself around to fit through these different shaped holes was an exercise in agility, and again, I admired my mental and emotional flexibility, but, I finally admitted, it was exhausting.


I also appreciated the subtle ways that I was not as present with these activities as I could be - as I was in my vision of how I wanted life to feel. When I tuned into that vision more closely, I stayed with it to really sense into what the qualities of that Self were… and I noticed, of course, she wasn’t rushing. I decided to implement a new spiritual practice. This practice was to just marginally slow each and every movement, task, activity, below my usual hurried pace. It would require mindfulness because when allowed to slip into ‘default’ mode, I would speed up.


I am reminded of one of the key lessons my greatest music teacher instilled in me. ‘SLOW DOWN!’ He would say. He pointed out time and time again (with such patience!) whenever I would speed up while playing the piano. He noticed it was almost universal, that when people stop paying close attention, they naturally speed up. You can notice it most when trying to play with a metronome. There’s just the tiniest pull, urging forward, thrusting, getting ahead of the steady beat of the constant click. Almost like the magnetic pull of the mind drawing us away from presence. It takes a good deal of presence to play music beautifully. Even professional musicians can tend towards speeding up, playing songs considerably faster by the end. He found it was worse in students who had performance anxiety, as the increase in speed serves their desire to ‘get it over with’. Was I trying to get my life ‘over with’?


He encouraged me to play a song on the piano as slowly as I possibly could without losing the rhythm of the song. It is harder than it sounds. And it gives you so much time to focus on all those little things it is easy to miss when you go quickly. Is my posture good? Are my fingers curled? Is my finger positioning optimal? And after practicing a song slowly like this for a short while, the improved technique transposed beautifully to the faster tempo and improved my playing much more than I could ever expect from playing quickly during practice time, no matter how many more repetitions I managed that way.


Tony Robbins says “Most people greatly overestimate what they can do in a year, and greatly underestimate what they can do in ten years.’ I was noticing that I overestimated what I can do in a day, but also, that the consistent application of a balanced effort, would lead to more progress in a year than I was anticipating too. My teacher during my first Internal Family Systems training, Osnat Arbel, loves to remind us “Slowly, slowly, we’ll get there fast.’ The idea that we can get there quicker the slower we go is a painful reminder that in rushing, we often bypass what is most important, and that by running straight for the goal, we may miss it altogether. This is the lesson in so many people who experience burnouts and breakdowns. There is no short cut through life.


With all this good advice to lean on, I began the practice of slowing slightly, just enough to maintain presence. I changed my priorities too - now I would ensure that the daily tasks that support my mental and emotional wellbeing were the backbone of my day - not rushed if I had time. So far since this shift of focus I have noticed that my nervous system is calmer. I realised that the rushing was a subtle form of ‘flight’ response, keeping me from feeling my experience fully. This slower pace is allowing me to stay tuned in with my feelings, intuitions and my body’s reactions and responses in real time. This is allowing me to navigate my days with an increased degree of clarity and truth, supporting what was really needed and called for and steering away from things pulling me from my purpose and my wellness.


If these stories have touched on any aspect of your own experience, I invite you to consider these things for yourself. If you are called to explore this, you can use this exercise as a starting point: Read these incomplete sentences, and complete the sentences spontaneously out loud. Record your answers on your phone so you can review them and journal about it afterwards.


I find myself rushing when…

I usually rush because…

When I rush, my body feels…

And as I breath into this feeling, I notice…

What this is telling me is…

The impact that rushing has on me is…

Without that impact I would…

An area of life I need to slow down in is…

If I could slow down I would…

And my body would feel…

And as I breath into this feeling, I notice…

My intention going forward is…


Now that you’ve set your intention, make sure to implement your follow through! No one can do it for you. And you are worth it. I promise ;) My course on self love really goes deep into this and related issues, so check that out and see if it might be a fit. I hope this has helped in some way, and if I can help you further, let me know.


With love,

Joy