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“How to slow down.” With Beau Henderson & Allie Andrews

I have not always been the best at slowing down, and still struggle with it at times, and I am always in wonder of how much better I deliver and feel when I have space to be peppered into each day. I’ve learned through practice that busyness and rushing are like treading water; we can […]

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I have not always been the best at slowing down, and still struggle with it at times, and I am always in wonder of how much better I deliver and feel when I have space to be peppered into each day. I’ve learned through practice that busyness and rushing are like treading water; we can only sustain it for so long until we burnout and sink. Slowing down makes us buoyant, floating us on the surface with less effort, where we can see everything a bit more clearly. Life has nudged me to teach busy people to know this truth within their own lives.


As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Allie Andrews, Wellness Speaker & Yoga Teacher.

Allie founded OmBody Health in 2014 on the principle that work has a profound impact on our quality of life and wellbeing; the way we feel at work not only impacts how well we work, it has a ripple effect throughout our entire lives. Allie and her team help employers throughout the US care for their people with virtual and onsite wellness breaks, championing the importance of self-care and self-trust in the workplace. Allie is also a writer, her first book, Wake Up: 40 Simple Self-care Rituals for a Healthy, Abundant and Purposeful Life, published in 2016. Allie holds her master’s degree in Education and is a Certified Health Coach and Yoga Teacher.


Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

Being raised in the US by a busy family, I grew up learning to value productivity, intellect and planning more than being, creativity and frivolity. I, like so many, was taught from a young age that at the root of success was doing more and working hard. I was not taught the truth; that in order to tap into my most creative and effective self, I must learn to mindfully flow between the energies of doing and being.

After years of a one-way dialogue with my body, moving quickly, demanding productivity, and rationalizing what I felt to the point of not feeling, I began a daily practice of taking time to gently check in with myself. I spent time, however small, tuning into my body and practicing being honest about what I found — not an easy feat. I soon realized how disconnected I had become from my compass and most reliable teller of truth.

I’ve spent my adult life confronting and unlearning my conditioning and exploring who I am and what unique contribution I am here to make, plans and expectations aside. A big part of that process has been putting down my map and allowing life to show me the way.

I have not always been the best at slowing down, and still struggle with it at times, and I am always in wonder of how much better I deliver and feel when I have space to be peppered into each day. I’ve learned through practice that busyness and rushing are like treading water; we can only sustain it for so long until we burnout and sink. Slowing down makes us buoyant, floating us on the surface with less effort, where we can see everything a bit more clearly. Life has nudged me to teach busy people to know this truth within their own lives.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

There is a tendency, I notice it in myself, to fill empty space with something; to have more, to do more. This impulse is deeply (often subconsciously) engrained in those of us who have been raised in a culture that glorifies busyness and productivity over slowing down and wellbeing.

There are some conditioned beliefs driving this tendency to fill, and overfill, space in our day, which causes us to feel rushed. Ideas like: busyness is a necessary side effect of success, slowing down is lazy, “good things come to those who hustle” (I once read this on a matcha bottle cap), and success comes from hard work and making things happen, to name a few.

Having leisure time used to be a sign of status. Now it seems to have flipped where those with excess leisure time are judged as lazy. When I ask clients of mine why they don’t take time to discover and then do what matters to them, I often hear: “someone always needs something” or “I’m so busy, I don’t have time”. Busyness has become a status symbol, martyrdom a badge of honor.

We can say that we value leisure time, but why then are we obsessively checking email while in bed, on vacation or watering the plants? Somewhere deep down our sense of self-worth is tied up in how busy we are. It’s like if we’re not doing something, we have no value.

It’s also been shown that we tend to predict that we will have more time in the future. For example, even though we feel rushed this week, we anticipate that next week or next month will be more spacious; thus, we schedule things for later, over-filling the future void that only exists in our mind.

Of course, there are other reasons we say yes to things that we don’t have time for, or that don’t feel right, causing us to feel rushed. For example, wanting to be likeable, agreeable and belong — all perfectly justifiable desire that trace back to our survival.

Rushing and busyness are perpetuating cycles. The more we rush, the harder it is to access the truth of what matters to us, so we take on more under the blind assumption that doing more will make us feel fulfilled. And the cycle repeats itself.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

Rushing is conducive to stress which can block our ability to access the most evolved (human) part of our brain (cortex) that gives us the capacity for problem solving, creativity, compassion, connection, love, and even humor. Of course, there are countless physiological impacts of a negative relationship with stress, but here I’d like to focus on the mental/emotional costs.

According to Hospice nurses, one of the biggest regrets people have on their deathbed is: “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time working”. Furthermore, as stress and worry go up, happiness levels tend to decline, as we’ve seen in the US. A rushed person is in survival mode — i.e., nothing is as important as the thing they are rushing toward, and then the next thing after that.

Rushing makes is difficult to tap into and cultivate meaning and connection in our lives. As we struggle to hold it all together on the outside, our insides become sick. Sick with mental and emotional dis-ease that comes from living in fragmentation because we’re disconnected from why we’re doing what we’re doing and whether it is aligned with the work we are here to do.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

I would argue that doing more is not the goal, but rather doing more of what matters. Slowing down is crucial to even knowing what matters to us, what we are compelled to do, not on the surface, but deep down. When I take time to go beneath the surface of patterned thinking and doing, whether by stream of consciousness writing, meditation or taking a long walk, I can hear my insides talking to me about what I care most about. And I can feel the anxiety that comes when I don’t align with what I feel at my core. If I don’t take time to slow down, then I stay in my head, living on the surface, my life dictated by doing what is expected rather than what is important — I wash the dishes rather than rest, I distract myself with email rather than writing, I say yes when I really mean no.

I once heard an example that stuck with me. A busy mind is like being at a rock concert with a friend who is right next to you, screaming at you, and you can’t hear a word their saying. The busier we are, the busier (and louder) our thoughts, making it next to impossible to hear and discern what the deeper aspects of our being (our heart, our gut, our soul if you believe in that) are communicating to us.

I know from experience that this is true from my 10-day silent meditation course. It took about 5 days of moving slow and meditating for 8–10 hours a day for my mind to start to settle. Of course, I still had thoughts, but they were more spacious, purposeful and original. I felt some relief from my tendency to ruminate — which I define as chewing on the same old thoughts over and over again.

The hours of meditation were scrubbing my mind of toxic gunk allowing for waves of clarity to overcome me. I remember the day I left, everything felt brighter: the colors of the leaves more vibrant, my interactions with other humans freer, juicier, more connected, my mind sharper and more lucid, my being more penetrable, malleable, open.

Then, after a few days of business as usual, my mind started to get busier and the anxiety slowly started to creep back in. But even still, there is a resounding calm that I can access because I have made sinking into stillness a priority over the year. Slowing down as not only a practice, but a lifestyle, is by far the best thing I have ever done for my mental health and thus all aspects of my wellbeing. Anyone is capable of this.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Embrace Unstructured Time — There is a tendency to structure our time to be efficient, and in the space between to find distractions like scrolling the smartphone, washing that one dish, or tidying up. Most people I talk to are lacking in unstructured, free time; an imbalance that fuels impulsive, patterned thinking and decision-making that takes us further from what we actually need and want.

When the scales are tipped to this extreme, it perpetuates alienation from the self, stress, overwhelm, resentment, martyrdom, burnout, illness, dis-ease, and worse suppression of our innate intelligence. It is no wonder so many people feel lost, uneasy, and unfulfilled, tending to find refuge in busyness rather than stillness: they have misplaced their compass.

If you’re someone that likes to understand the brain science behind all this, I recommend educator Dr. Donna Volpitta’s article: 5 Ways We are Priming Our Brain for Addiction, Anxiety and Depression, and 5 Ways We Can Stop. Volpitta reminds us, that unstructured time is essential for nurturing our cortex, the part of our brain that helps us make decisions that reflect our deeper truths (values, goals, vision) and support us long term. Without a well-nurtured cortex, we become impulsive, seeking the next shiny thing (the cookie, Instagram likes) or giving our time and energy away without consideration of our actual capacity to deliver. And usually what suffers is our health, wellbeing, and sense of purpose and meaning. It is during unstructured time that we develop our capacity to think creatively and critically, to stay persistent, and to discern between impulse and what we actually need.

Even if you don’t schedule it in (which I recommend you do), unstructured time often arises spontaneously. Your plan gets rerouted — that trip or event gets cancelled, business as usual gets put on pause due to a global pandemic, you lose a client or leave a job — and you are presented with a void, an empty space that you get to play around with. If you believe on some level that emptiness is bad — you feel stupid when you don’t have the answer right away, you feel lazy when you have nothing pressing to do, you feel lonely when you’re alone — then the tendency is to go fill the space by keeping busy or finding a distraction that breaks the silence (hello smartphone!).

The way I see it, we can react to the void with fear and worry, resist it by filling it with just anything, or we can really receive this opportunity to recharge and explore what matters to us — or in Volpitta’s words, to “nurture the cortex”.

Whether for 2-minutes, 10-minutes, 30-minutes, or an hour, block out some unstructured time for yourself and see what comes up, see what you are drawn to. This is a powerful practice in welcoming the innate intelligence and creativity that lies within you to bubble up. It will feel uncomfortable and strange at first, like you’re wasting time, but I promise you, you are not.

The next 2 provide tangible strategies for creating space for unstructured time.

Buffer Your Day — If you’re like me, you often anticipate fitting more into each day than you have the time or energy for. Buffers are scheduled, unstructured time during the day to do whatever feels right in that moment. When I pepper buffers into my workday, I feel less rushed, more easeful, and more effective, and less burnt-out at the end of the day.

Rather than jam-packing every single minute of your day, block out 15 to 30-minute buffers between tasks, meetings or activities. I find transitions are the best times to build in buffers, because this gives me the opportunity to check in with myself: What do I need? What would be the self-caring thing to do here? Depending on what I find I may choose to step outside, grab a snack, stretch, breathe, meditate or lay down, which allows me to show up for my next obligation more alert, easeful, present, and in union with myself. If I’m driving to my next meeting or activity, a healthy buffer allows me to remain calm if I hit traffic.

I first learned about buffers in Essentialism by Greg Mckeown. Mckeown recommends scheduling buffers for half the time you anticipate an activity will take you. For example, if you have to drive an hour, plan to leave a ½ hour early. If you have a 60-minute meeting, buffer in 15-minutes on either end. If you have a project you anticipate will take you 2-hours, block out 3 so you have transition time.

Say No — Part of slowing down is being receptive to yourself and honoring of what you want, need and have the time and energy for, which means saying no. For many, saying no won’t feel comfortable at first, but the more you practice, the easier it will come.

Many of us have been taught to be yes people — Oprah calls it the “disease to please” — thus we have a big old pile of yeses; things that we have impulsively agreed to. If you find that you don’t have the energy for what matters to you, you resist unstructured time, or can’t fathom finding the time for buffers, then it’s a good sign you need to grow your no pile.

Here’s one way you can practice this: Don’t respond immediately to requests for get-togethers, unurgent asks, phone calls, texts, emails, etc. Instead, notice your initial gut reaction (is it a yes or a no?) and then sit with it for a while (up to 24 hours if you can), checking in as to whether you feel you have the capacity right now. Be honest with yourself about what you find.

Discern between your expectations and needs — Less expectations allow ample space to honor your needs.

I was taught from a young age to put expectations on myself (and others). I used to think that I should work out every day, do the dishes after dinner, reply to texts and emails quickly, do the laundry, and I would feel guilty, like I failed in some way, when I didn’t. I now practice discerning between expectations (or “shoulds”) and what I actually need.

Writing is a need of mine; I must write every day. I know because when I don’t, I start to feel less like myself and more like my conditioning — the easily triggered, rushing, busy, self-conscious girl who doesn’t know how she feels. But when I leave the dishes in the sink overnight or miss a few days of rigorous exercise (excluding walking; solo, tech-free walks are also a need of mine) I feel no less me.

Let your ears perk up when you hear the word should and actively put down your guilt so that you can tune into a wiser part of yourself that knows what you need. I no longer feel guilty for not meeting expectations, in part because I place far less on myself, which comes from awareness and practice. Give it try, your insides and outsides will feel more spacious, but be gentle with yourself, this will take a lifetime.

Relax your mind — Showing up in a rushed, contracted state, blocks our ability to be receptive to what life is showing us, and shuts down the creative genius that moves through us all.

I always say the best possible thing I could do to prepare for any day, talk, class, event, or meeting is to be still, put away my plan, and open my awareness to what is meant to come to me or through me. When I create this space for being, unattached from outcomes, even just 15-minutes, an hour or more for higher stakes speaking gigs, the difference in my energy and my delivery is palpable. This is not to say that I don’t prepare, but I no longer over-prepare.

The Japanese poet Bashō says is beautifully:

Sitting quietly

Doing nothing

Spring comes

And the grass

Grows

By itself

Don’t overdose on other people’s content — The ideas, opinions and teachings of others are certainly helpful, so yes, keep learning — you’ll keep people like me in business — but set aside time each day to turn inward and listen to yourself. Turn off the podcasts, put down the books and news articles, and just cook, meditate, journal or walk. Empty yourself and practice being fully immersed in one thing without distraction.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

Mindfulness is open, compassionate awareness. It’s being completely immersed in what I’m doing, not just the act, but myself experiencing the act — how my body feels, the thoughts and stories flowing through my mind, whether my heart feels open or closed, judgments I’m placing on myself or others.

Mindfulness is conscious noticing through the lens of acceptance. Not acceptance to the point of complacency or complicity, but acceptance as in: “I surrender to the moment as it is, not as I want it to be”. So much resistance and suffering come from not accepting life as it is, ourselves as we are, others as they are. Mindfulness helps with this.

For example: We hit traffic on our way somewhere important and we instinctually tense and worry that we’ll be late. In this moment mindfulness helps us to acknowledge and breathe into our natural (animalistic) response, while at the same time actively emptying ourselves of worry and mental resistance because there is nothing we can do to change the situation.

Another example: Our inability to see and accept ourselves as we are can cause us to unfairly project judgments onto others. Getting caught up in our heads, we create a story about why they should be one way or another. Everything we perceive is a projection of our own mind and conditioning. Mindfulness helps us to remember this and see others (and ourselves) with greater compassion, which is more empowering for everyone.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

I find it helpful to practice feeling without judgment. For example, about a quarter of the time I wake up in the morning with a tinge of anxiety which can turn into self-doubt. Somedays I slip and let this feeling high jack my mind and creativity for a while. But mindfulness allows me to notice the feeling (nervousness in my belly) and any limiting thoughts that follow without identifying with them. Instead of needing to think or distract my way through the discomfort, which tends to take me further from the truth, I can feel my way through by breathing into and acknowledging the sensation in my body.

Feeling and breathing are perhaps the most accessible yet underdeveloped tools that we have to become more mindful, conscious, and aligned humans. Eileen Fisher articulates this well in a practice she calls Breathe, Relax, Feel,.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

When I feel triggered by an email, question or situation, and I want to snap back in response, I wait at least an hour (more if I can). I notice that my shoulders feel tense, my heart faster, I may feel hot, frustrated even. With some time and gentle awareness, this initial (animal) reaction settles and I am able to respond with compassion and clarity around what I or the situation needs. This is a great mindfulness practice to implement anytime you notice yourself wanting to impulsively respond to anything, whether it be an ask of your time or problem that needs your attention.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?

  • Yung Pueblo’s writing and poetry (Instagram @yungpueblo).
  • Eckhart Tolle and Oprah have a wonderful Podcast Series where they discuss Tolle’s book, A New Earth.
  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. If nothing else, try Morning Pages!
  • The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford. Shadow work has been an important part of my journey in seeing and accepting myself as I am, and others as they are.
  • The work of Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare Me and When Things Fall Apart are a couple of my favorites.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you want to find meaning, stop chasing after so many things.” -Ryokan

Ryokan’s words are simply brilliant. Life can be full of meaningful people, moments and work, but feel void of meaning when it’s oversaturated and rushed through. As long as we are doing what matters to us deep down, less truly is more.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

30-hour work weeks (or less) without any pay cut.

Globally, the US falls into the “high hours, high output” category, while some higher performing countries have figured out how to work less and produce more. Luxemburg, the world’s most productive country, has a 29-hour work week and 5-weeks of paid leave each year. Their GDP per person employed is over $100,000/year more than the US!

I read in the NY Times a year or so back that Unlimited Power, a solar grid company in Greenville, SC has adopted a 26-hour work week company-wide, while their people still get paid for 40. The CEO reports that people are working much more efficiently because they are focused on accomplishing what they need to in less time.

Can you imagine the impact of one of more hours of leisure time each day on stress and happiness levels, health care spending, productivity, wellbeing, not to mention the planet?

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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