“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Gandhi
As the seasons change, and the year marches on with even the ‘C word’ getting mentions (I saw my first mince pies 2 weeks ago), I notice a growing unease within me that time seems to be speeding up and I can’t keep up. A quick litmus test with friends on the issue shows that this unease is shared and collective. I am not alone (apparently 40% of Brits say they don’t have enough time for breakfast).
In fact a recent study has suggested that our increased use of technology has tricked our minds into believing that time is speeding up. When it’s actually our brains that have speed up not time. Whilst our internal pacemaker is speeding up, we might supposedly work faster, but what about our well-being?
By speeding up our lives, surely we are living less in the present and more in the future. I often find clients can do this in session. Worrying about future anxieties, which might not happen for another 5 or 10 years or so, if at all. By focusing on a possible future, we avoid the definite present. We miss the current moment. It’s all rush, rush, rush. Finishing one thing with one hand, whilst grabbing the next with the other. No wonder we are exhausted!
Inspired by a workshop I led earlier this year, I have consciously created space for myself in my life. My workshop focused on reclaiming space, and so I decided to fully embrace this concept and take space in all aspects of the process. For example I deliberately delayed handing in my initial proposal for the workshop several months after forming my ideas and also I allowed twice as much time for the write up of my workshop. As quite a task-orientated person, this was a whole new way of being, and it took a good few months to adjust to my new pace of life.
Taking time and space over my workshop, seems to have rubbed off into other areas of my life. I notice I have been reluctant to overfill my diary, I have focused more on one task at a time and I seem to even walk a bit slower these days. I ma starting to stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes. Plus I have finally, after numerous false starts, got my regular meditation practice going (hooray). I have even become part of the slow journalism movement by subscribing to the fabulous Delayed Gratification (a quarterly mag which tries to counteract the massive influx of high speed low quality news we are force fed).
I hope my emerging slowness will help me embody “the mindful therapist” as proposed by psychiatrist, Daniel Siegel (2010) who writes:
“Rather than being consumed by worries about the future or preoccupations with the past, living fully in the present is an art form that liberates the mind to relieve mental suffering”.
As I slow down, however, I have noticed a small panicky voice within me. This voice says “is this ok?”, “am I allowed to go slow?”, “look at everyone else speeding along, I am not keeping up”. I get scared sometimes that I am being left behind.
As someone who jogs regularly, I notice how important it is for me to find my own pace and not be influenced by other runners. Trying to match other’s paces normally ends in completed exhaustion and possible injury. Just as with my running, I need to find my own internal pacer. Siegel explains that by being present, we are strengthening our minds and without it we run the risk of being overwhelmed in the moment and burning out in the long run.
So it seems being present or mindful is a key factor in slowing down. Daily tips could include:
- Ditch the watch or phone for a while each day (I do this sometimes and once I got over the initial attachment anxiety, I found it quite liberating).
- Try to mono task (as opposed to multi task).
- Do nothing for 15 mins after waking up (this is a tricky one to get going but helps if you meditate first thing).
- Cultivate the Italian saying “dolce far niente” this being the sweetness of doing nothing (so fight that puritan work ethic by fully embracing the moment by doing absolutely nothing) (for Eat Pray Love converts, have included the barber shop scene for your viewing pleasure :))
Plus for more encouragement check out Carl Honore’s TED talk which accompanies his 2005 book ‘In praise of slow’ .
So I hope my experience of slowing down has given you some pause for thought as to your current pace of life. Maybe it’s time to embrace your inner tortoise (or snail)!
Cover photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash