The Joy of Slowing Down

Every simple task becomes more meaningful when we slow down and give it all our attention

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At the end of the evening, just before I go to bed I like to go for a walk.

I love walking around the campground when it’s dark, the stars are out and everyone’s tucked inside. It’s so peaceful as I slowly make my way around the park.

I like doing things slowly.

It feels good.

But I didn’t always like slowing down.

In fact, it felt really uncomfortable.

For most of my life I had this constant urge inside of me, a propulsion that was always pushing me forward. Go faster, get there sooner, save time! 

I would race from one thing to the next in a frenzy of worry and fear.

And if I happened to arrive a few minutes early instead of slowing down for just a moment to take a breath, I’d think to myself, “what can I do with this extra time?” “How can I be more productive?”

If I was stuck in line at the store, I’d use that time to answer an email, catch up on Facebook or read the news. It didn’t matter that I had to look up every 30 seconds to make sure the line wasn’t moving without me. 

Because I’m being productive, right? And that’s what will make me happy!

That’s what I’d tell myself. But the reality was I’d just be more anxious than I already was from the constant switching back and forth of my attention. Much like a squirrel is – ever conscious of predators about to swoop in.

What’s the Hurry?

Our most primal instinct is to survive – that usually means moving and doing something. I can’t imagine too many couch potato Cavemen surviving very long.

But the rate at which I was doing things, with an overly booked schedule, racing from one event to the next, praying on the way that I wouldn’t hit a red light, wasn’t helping my survival rate. It was making it worse, and it made me feel awful.

So what’s it all for?

To run around crazed and harried my whole life so at my funeral everyone will marvel at how much I got done?

Is everything on my list that important? 

Is it worth killing my joy?

The Mind-Body Connection

There’s an intimate connection between our minds and bodies. If our bodies are moving fast, then our minds are moving fast as well, often jumping five or ten steps ahead of our bodies.

So the moment I notice my mind has left my body, usually evident by some tension arising, I purposely slow down as much as I can. Even going absurdly slow, to begin with.

By slowing my movements, my mind starts to slow down too and come back into the body. 

It feels good to have them both in the same place again.

Our nervous system loves it when we bring our mind and body together, fully engaged in the same task, as if bringing a cup of tea to our lips is the most important thing in the world.

Because if that’s what we’re doing at that moment, it is the most important thing in the world. And the more we can realize that, the better we feel.

Every Act Can and Should Be Precious

When I come home to the RV, instead of carelessly throwing my keys into a bowl, I gently and slowly place them there as if they are precious jewels. Next, I’ll carefully put my bag in its designated spot as if it’s returning home too.

These simple acts, that seem so inconsequential and mundane take on a whole new meaning and fill me with gratitude and appreciation. 

As I’m preparing dinner, if my mind starts jumping ahead to the next thing,  I will consciously slow down my movement. A moment before I would feel the tension as my mind wanted to be done with chopping and onto the sautéing. By slowing my movements down, the same activity, chopping the onions, suddenly feels joyful – and safer!

Of course, there are times when I need to move quickly, and there are also moments when moving fast just feels good.

Sometimes while I’m walking Bodhi it turns into a short run. It feels good to move fast when there is no reason for it, other than the enjoyment of moving.

I also find that consciously going slowly when I’m able to, is what allows me to go quickly at other times without the anxiety and pull of my mind needing to get “over there.”

It tends to balance things out.

But there’s no question for most people, there is an imbalance on the moving quickly side of things. And usually for no reason, other than the continuous habit of believing our happiness is on the other side of whatever it is we’re doing.

It also seems counterintuitive in a culture that’s so focused on achieving, acquiring and doing.

It seems so wrong to slow down.

But it’s exactly what we need to do.

That doesn’t mean to stop doing everything, but to reduce the number of things we are doing so that we have time to enjoy what it is we are doing.

I know at first, slowing down can feel a little weird.

But it only takes a few moments for your mind to come into sync with your body’s slower movements and as soon as those two are together, joy will naturally arise. It’s like a slow dance union – the feeling is so complete.

We don’t have to wait for joy to arise, we just have to slow down.

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