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Slow Down To Do More: “Why We Should Also Be Mindful Of The Mundane” With Ashley Graber and Rita Devassy

While most people find it easy to be mindful in things that they love, the trick is applying it to the mundane as well. Even the mundane can be experienced vividly — and this is a part of the solution to feeling less rushed! There are endless ways to integrate mindfulness into daily living. Notice the extraordinary in […]


While most people find it easy to be mindful in things that they love, the trick is applying it to the mundane as well. Even the mundane can be experienced vividly — and this is a part of the solution to feeling less rushed! There are endless ways to integrate mindfulness into daily living.

Notice the extraordinary in the ordinary: Since you breathe over 14,000 times in any given day, why not close your eyes and notice the rhythm of your breathing for 60 seconds?


While many look for shortcuts and tricks to solve this challenge of feeling rushed, the best strategies are ones that can be instantaneously called upon in the moment of intense demands.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Rita Devassy, who is the founder of Deva Seed. Rita combines her extensive background in science, her leadership experience, and contemplative practice to help executives manage their work pressures without sacrificing well-being or performance.


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

Eighteen years of technological leadership roles later, the emotional exhaustion in corporate America hit me hard. At the same time, I realized that more than a decade of contemplative practice had helped me manage work pressures and actually improved my performance as a leader. So, now I help executives create space for awareness that sharpens their leadership of both people and organizations.

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?

Being busy has been prevalent for a long time: “Writing in the first century, Seneca was startled by how little people seemed to value their lives as they were living them — how busy, terribly busy, everyone seemed to be…” (The Economist, December 20, 2014). Technology with all its upsides, has also created downsides, like staying “on” 24/7. Culturally we are driven to do, rather than to be. There is even guilt associated with doing nothing. This has reinforced the fear that people possess of slowing down, and turning inward.

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

When we hurry, we move too fast to notice objectively; often we are fueled by our inner dialogue about the past and the future. We are potentially activating our sympathetic nervous system (resulting in the fight-or-flight response); this generates threat-based responses that are reactive or unproductive. In turn, it makes us feel fearful, and less confident and drags us away from feeling positive.

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?

On the flip side, activating our parasympathetic nervous system which allows our body to “rest and digest” helps us calm down, and take right, intelligent action. When we slow down, whether it is through deep breaths or walking in the woods, we are activating this mechanism. It creates more focus and clarity in our mind.

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?

While many look for shortcuts and tricks to solve this challenge of feeling rushed, the best strategies are ones that can be instantaneously called upon in the moment of intense demands. Since these strategies are not temporary fixes, they also require consistent, ongoing practice. Here are six things that help me.

I set the tone deliberately for my day, waking up early enough for self-care and mental strength habits; I get energized for what’s next.

I train my attention all day long, so that I stay focused even if things are chaotic; this could be in the form of meditation, gratitude journaling, or pausing to feel my breath.

I give myself permission to stop, walk away, and do something completely unrelated to the task at hand when I know I am spinning my wheels.

I protect my schedule by setting goals and prioritizing every single day, including weekends.

I allow for spontaneous mind-wandering because that’s when creativity arises; the shower is a great place for this! Long hikes are great too!

To recover from a full day, I create spaciousness intentionally. So, I may choose to eat my dinner at a slower pace…maybe walk at a slower pace…or even clear clutter from my desk!

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

Mindfulness is being deliberately present to one’s experience with curiosity and non-judgment. Do you know that feeling when you are doing something you really love — running your favorite trail, noticing the turns as you ski down a hill, or reading a book on your favorite chair? When your attention is completely in the moment, immersed in the activity with wonder, curiosity, and with total awareness of your experience and your surroundings — that’s mindfulness in action.

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

While most people find it easy to be mindful in things that they love, the trick is applying it to the mundane as well. Even the mundane can be experienced vividly — and this is a part of the solution to feeling less rushed! There are endless ways to integrate mindfulness into daily living.

Notice the extraordinary in the ordinary: Since you breathe over 14,000 times in any given day, why not close your eyes and notice the rhythm of your breathing for 60 seconds?

Become a silent, keen observer: Simple objects on your desk or magnificent wonders of the world offer the opportunity to observe quietly, encouraging detachment.

Choose your object of focus: When you notice any tension in your body, make a decision on what you want to feel more — the tension or the thoughts about feeling the tension.

Build daily mental habits: Start a mindfulness meditation practice. Even 10 minutes a day of meditation can have significant impact on how you respond to the stresses of your day.

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

Simple ways that you can apply mindfulness at work are plentiful. Choose an anchor phrase to repeat to yourself in times of stress: “I got this” or “This too will pass”. Or maybe for 30 seconds, sit at your desk and do absolutely nothing. Pick a task that you will do for twenty minutes straight without multitasking! Give yourself a technology break for an hour. Notice how it feels to listen fully without rehearsing a response. During a team lunch, notice all the flavors, textures, and colors of your food.

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

There are many resources out there to help. Some of my favorites are Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book ‘Wherever you go, there you are,’ podcasts hosted by the Upaya Zen Center, publications like mindful.org, and apps like Insight Timer.

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

One of my favorite quotes is credited to New Zealand mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to summit Mount Everest “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” It speaks to me of the inner work that is necessary to accomplish indomitable external results. Every day is my chance to “summit Everest”.

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. 🙂

A movement that I am working to inspire: Become your own best friend! The challenges in our world, whether feeling rushed or something much more sinister, are largely due to individuals feeling disconnected from themselves. If our society encouraged introspection, and taking the time to be silent and to realize that stardust intricately connects us all, many of our challenges would be lesser and lighter to carry.

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


About the Author:

After 15 years working in Commercial Real Estate in New York City, Ashley Graber changed the coast she lived on and the direction of her life from Real Estate to the worlds of Psychology and Meditation & Mindfulness. Ashley came to these practices after getting sober and in the decade plus since, she now runs a busy mindfulness based psychotherapy practice at Yale Street Therapy in Santa Monica, CA where she see adults and children and speaks on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices.

Ashley is an Owner and Director of Curriculum for the next generation meditation app & mindfulness company ‘Evenflow’ and launched the company’s one to one online mindfulness mentoring program. Ashley also educates teachers and administrators in schools and presents in businesses across Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

Ashley was trained in Meditation and Mindfulness practices by prominent teachers; Elisha Goldstein, Richard Burr and Guiding teacher at Against the Stream Boston, Chris Crotty. Her Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) certification was done through The Center for Mindfulness at UC San Diego. Additionally, Ashley is trained by Mindful Schools to teach Meditation and Mindfulness practices to children and families. Ashley’s unique combination of psychotherapy, trauma reprocessing and meditation and mindfulness practices make her a sought after therapist and mindfulness educator and speaker. Her passion for the benefits of mindfulness practices as well as her enthusiasm for helping young kids and adults is the drive to teach these very necessary, life long skills and why she wrote and runs the Mindfulness for Families program at The Center for Mindful Living. This is where she teaches groups of families with children ages 6–12.

Ashley was featured on Good Morning LaLa Land, presented on Resilience at the renowned Wisdom. 2.0 Mindfulness & Technology conference, and presented at the TED Woman conference offering an in-depth look at the profound psychological and physiological consequences of chronic stress, and how meditation and mindfulness practices can alleviate these effects.

If you’d like to book Ashley for an inspiring speaking engagement, please click here.

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