We have been paying more attention to our lives, and noticing our internal state as well as the external circumstances, whenever possible. We have made interesting discoveries (go back to the previous posts for some examples, both in the text and in the comments).
Despite those efforts to apply a mindful attitude to our daily life, I am willing to bet that in most circumstances, most of us are still operating on auto-pilot. We are oblivious to many of our own feelings and sensations. We react more than we act, based on past experiences, habitual patterns, and assumptions about what constitutes the right way to live our life. If we stay on this path, no significant progress can be made. We will continue to feel tense, frustrated, inadequate, guilty.
Time to deepen our awareness.
But why "waste our time on awareness", some will think, when there are more urgent matters to take care of? Our lives are unsatisfactory (and, for many, rather hectic). We don't want to use our precious time for reflection. We want results. It's understandable.
The truth is, no real awareness, and thus no true change, is possible without first slowing down. It's hard to see clearly when your mind and body are rushing. A while ago, I had this conversation with D:
Me: I feel like I'm running all the time, without making any progress
D: You must be running in the wrong direction
Those sage words left me pensive. Running in the wrong direction sounds like a deplorable waste of time and energy, doesn't it? I have a feeling it is precisely what most of us are doing. But how can we really tell unless we first slow down?
I will admit that slowing down is hard, especially in a society like ours. Being busy and/or rushed is worn like a badge of honor. Don't we feel somewhat suspicious of people who don't have much to do? Don't we look down on them? Even if it was out of envy?
Add to that the speed technology has gotten us used to (the speed at which images change on TV and in movies, the speed at which we access information and each other), and it's no wonder our minds and bodies feel so frantic. I have stopped counting the number of friends and family members who have told me that "yoga is too slow" for them, let alone meditation. I don't think it's an idiosyncrasy; I think it's a reflection of our society's hasty pace. It takes time to get used to go slow.
"But I don't have time to slow down", many will say. I get that. Believe me, I do. I work full-time on top of trying to kick start my freelance writing business and training for races; I have two kids, three pets, a house and a big yard. If you asked me how often I feel on top of things, I would reply without hesitation: "never". But I have also noticed that rushing made no significant difference. Worse, it sometimes creates additional problems.
Driving fast, for example, will save you one or two minutes at best, but will raise your stress level and put you more at risk for accidents. The same applies to most daily activities: eating fast, talking fast, brushing your teeth fast... it doesn't really give you more time, but more importantly, it's stressful for your mind and body. What happens when you rush all day? Eventually, you collapse. You collapse on your couch each night, bag of chips in hand, and mindlessly surf the channels until bed time. You collapse mentally and can't focus at work or can't handle daily stresses (e.g. your kids drive you crazy). A burnout is around the corner. You collapse physically and get ill.
Here's my long-distance runner piece of advice: pace yourself so you can last. When you slow down, you don't accomplish less. In fact, you may very well accomplish more; by doing things at a realistic pace and paying attention to what's going on, you don't get to the exhausted state (mentally, physically), which in turn means that you don't need to "compensate" with your usual addictions, whatever they are (eating, drinking, smoking, shopping, gaming, etc.)
In addition, most things benefit from being done slower:
- eat slower, drink slower (so you know when you're full)
- talk slower (so you have time to think it over; also, listen more)
- read slower (so that ideas make their way to your mind)
- walk slower (so you notice the beauty around you)
- make love slower (so you enjoy it better)
If speed was what matters the most, we wouldn't take the time to sip on coffee. We would pop a caffeine pill and go on with our day.
How does this apply to other aspects of your life?
Mindfulness this Week
This week, do something slower. It doesn't matter what it is. Pick something and systematically do it slower, with more awareness. Tell us how it felt!
Be part of the process:
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