How to Find Peace in Doing “Less”

Learning the fine art of slowing down from world-class chefs

The minutes are long, while the days are short.

I used to pride myself on being ‘lightfooted’ – quick and efficient at everything, from leaping out of bed in the morning to leaping around the globe every three years – from Edmonton to London, UK back to Toronto, across to Vancouver, over to Tokyo and now on to Singapore! I’ve enjoyed living on that precarious balance at the edge of over-scheduled, over-stretched, overwhelm. But as a first-time mom of a very adventurous one-year-old boy, aptly named Jasper, I’m learning that it’s actually way more fun to be safely on the ‘terra firma’ side of life than to pull my family off onto the precipice. It’s not that we travel less now, as Jasper has explored over 6 countries, 30 cities and 60 homes in his first year of life, but we do less with each day now. The minutes are long, while the days are short.

As Jasper gets older, I’m learning a squirmy toddler just doesn’t care if you’re on a schedule, that you have things TO DO, that you’re too busy. Struggling to reason with a kid on a single-minded mission of I WILL NOT SLEEP TODAY is strangely and comically disempowering, apropos of F*wl Language.

In moments where I’m so tired that I want to cry into my face-palm, I draw inspiration from the oddest place: world-class chefs. I would literally rather run for an hour straight than to cook a fancy meal, but the chef’s philosophy of everything in its place (“mise-en-place”) is something I aspire to live by.

As Dan Charnas explains in Work Clean: The life-changing power of mise-en-place to organize your life, work and mind, an excellent chef will commit to working smoothly and steadily – precision over speed. Rushing creates its own chaos. A calm body calms the mind. Use physical order to restore mental order.

This approach works superbly well with children; they respond best to a slow, steady, relaxed touch and even calmer voice. Next time you make contact with a squirming kiddo, pay attention to your grip. Is it tighter than it needs to be? Are you shoulders tensed? Does your voice sound unnaturally constrained in your ears? The moment you notice where your tension lies in your body, exhale, relax and observe as your child does the same.

In moments of high stress, chefs are taught to slooooow down their movements, keeping their limbs and breath relaxed, thus restoring calm and order – and productivity. So the moment I sense I’m getting too close to the edge of overwhelm, I relax my grip on everything but the task at hand and enjoy the precision, the simpleness of that moment, the minutia of the activity. The rewards of this are immense: being present for my son as he explores his world, one blade of grass at a time, is meditation in practice, is joy in action.

What do you do to help yourself DO LESS? Post a comment below – we would love to hear about your successes in finding peace in doing less.

And stay tuned for the next story on why I CARE LESS!

Originally published at

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