“Slow down Jo
Anybody ever tell you that you move too fast?
Anybody ever tell you how to make a good thing last?
Cuz it ain’t like that . . .”
Monsters of Folk
Do you feel that everything in your life is moving at warp speed, that there’s no time to do all of the things that you need to do (let alone want to do) and that the pace of life is getting faster and faster? Do you feel perpetually exhausted, at the limit of your capacity, unable to keep up? Maybe it’s time for a re-adjustment in your life. Maybe it’s time for a little `slow’.
Carl Honoré, award-winning Canadian journalist and international best-selling author of In Praise of Slow and, most recently, Under Pressure, says,
“We all feel under pressure to do everything faster. But faster is not always better. When every moment becomes a race against the clock, when we forget how to slow down, there is a price to pay. Our diet, health and work, our relationships and communities, all suffer. But there is an alternative to living like a roadrunner. It’s called the Slow movement. Slowing down at the right moments can help everyone live, work and play better in the fast-paced modern world.”
Chapter 15 of the Tao te Ching reads:
“Who can make sense of a world like cloudy water?
Left alone and still, it becomes clear.
Should this stillness be maintained?
Moving hastily will surely cloud it again.
How then can one move and not become clouded?
Accept Tao and achieve without being selfish;
being unselfish one endures the world’s wear,
and needs no change of pace.”
I’m very fortunate in that most days I can and I choose to walk to work, and my walk is down a wooded path along a creek (in a large city this is exceptionally fortunate and one of the benefits of living close to where one works). Of course I could drive (it would only take 10 minutes or so), but my walk to and from the office affords me the opportunity to listen to the cardinal’s or the chickadee’s song, the cricket’s or cicada’s buzzing; enjoy the sight of ducks and geese and blue herons and the brilliant eastern bluebird, the yellow finch, the robin, the blue-jay and red-winged blackbird; taste and smell Queen Anne’s lace and the sweet grasses and the clover in the early morning. The creek itself sings its own special song. I have seen the coyote walking down the shallow creek-bed or seated on its haunches high above the crooked vale and been graced to run alongside deer and rabbits on the trail. One day I came around a little bend in the path and was face-to-face with a twelve- point stag. No matter how much trepidation I may have for the day ahead or how much stress I may carry from the day gone by, after a few moments on the trail it all dissolves in the natural beauty of the moment.
We need this respite from the busyness and the noise of our lives and the constant striving.
There are many ways to achieve this peacefulness. Walking or hiking is one. Tai chi is a Chinese martial art that cultivates slow, graceful, methodical exercise, the ultimate expression of meditation through movement. Tai chi teaches its practitioners to be attentive to the slow, even motions of their bodies — to balance — to be light, to be heavy, to be high to be low, to exchange energy in the flow of yin and yang. It allows us to take joy in moving slowly, rhythmically and in harmony with the Tao. Yoga, too, can do much the same, its in-breath and out- breath inviting us to unite with slow, deliberate stretching of our bodies and our minds.
Meditation can provide us with the mental room we need to slow down and watch our thoughts and dwell in the timeless realm of infinite space. Mindfulness can guide us to the meaning and significance of each and every passing moment.
Certainly there is a time and a need for speed, but mostly those drivers are the rule rather than the exception in today’s world. In order to thrive, to appreciate and to grow. now more than ever, we need SLOW.
Miles Murphy works in the field of learning and professional development. An independent scholar, he has a wide range of interests including the humanities of East and West. He is a devotee of Buddhism and a t’ai chi ch’uan enthusiast. His poetry and other writings endeavour to poke about in the rich soil and empty sky of the human condition. Miles can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article cannot be re-published without permission.