In our busy fast-paced lives, even the idea of slowing down seems like a ridiculous affront to our energetic effectiveness. Taking a different perspective, at no other time in history have humans led such complex and busy lives. With our always-on smart phones, digital media and twenty-for-hour news, we live at such a pace that there’s no time to stop, to let go, relax, and find a little bit of peace. With speed comes agitation, turbulence, and noise, which often builds over the day, impacting on our effectiveness and disrupting our sleep patterns.
Like adding the right ingredients to make a cake, slowing down is about introducing some stillness into our experience. It’s useful to know that the stillness is already there in the background of all experience. Even when we are overwhelmed with agitation, it’s possible to find stillness in the swirling momentum of activity, like the calm at the centre of a storm.
Slowing down is not about physically moving more slowly. It’s about moving from a state of agitation where we are all over the place, to slowing things down and finding stability and steadiness. When we slow down, we create the space to notice thoughts, insights, feelings, and sensations, as well as choices in how we respond.
When we slow down, we bring our attention to our senses and appreciate the rich complexity of the world. The world around us is always more complex than we think it is. For example, a simple leaf that’s fallen in the park can be full of shade and colour; a complex structure of living cells, turning light into glucose, and transforming carbon dioxide into oxygen. Although computer games and virtual world technology are getting increasingly sophisticated, they can never approach the rich and full complexity of reality. And like virtual reality, most of the time, we tend to skim over the surface and experience a relatively superficial view of the world around us.
When we notice that we are agitated and moving too fast, how can we intentionally slow down our experience? Some ways that help us to slow down include:
- Bringing our attention and awareness to our body and into the present moment.
- Finding stillness and allowing mental and emotional agitation and movement to settle. If it helps, bringing to mind the image of a shaken snow-globe being placed on a stable surface as all the shifting particles come to rest.
- Noticing the natural detail of the world around you.
- Rather than trying to do many things at once, seeing if it’s possible to do one thing at a time.
- Making sure you take the time to pause, with regular work breaks to let go of any noise or turbulence that may have arisen.
- Setting the intention to anchor your experience in a peaceful, calm and stable state that you return to again and again over the day.
The 1966 Simon & Garfunkel 59th Street Bridge Song has the lines: “Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the morning last” and “Hello lamppost, what’cha knowing, I’ve come to watch your flowers growing.” These lyrics acknowledge how fast time seems to move and are also about noticing the world around us with a more awake awareness.
Slowing down is about taking care of ourselves, managing stress, anxiety, and agitation as it arises. It’s also about connecting with a richer and more direct reality of our present moment experience. By intentionally slowing down and finding stillness, we can more easily enter a calm, open and aware state, full of appreciation; ready to respond skilfully to whatever arises.
Suggested weekly practice
- Watch your speed! Take care to notice stress, agitation, and turbulence and slow things down.
- Take the time to notice the world around you, appreciating the rich complexity. Noticing the flowers growing at the base of a lamppost.
- Take the time to pause and return to a peaceful, calm and open state during the day.
Find somewhere undisturbed and sit in a comfortable, dignified, and upright posture, where you can remain alert and aware.
There are two guided practices for this session. You can close your eyes, or lower your gaze while the meditations play.
- Play the settling practice, then read through the session content, which you can print off if that helps
- The second practice explores slowing things down so we can notice what’s in our experience with a more awake awareness. You will be asked to look at an object during the meditation – so find something natural like a leaf or plant before you start, or look at your own hand.