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Going Slow

By Steve Crandell

Speed kills enjoyment.

Yes, I know. Skiing. Surfing. Fast cars. Bungy jumps. Impulse shopping.

Bu” face it, those posttimes don’t amount to even five percent of most people’s lives. Most of the time we’re not on holiday. Most of the time, we’re at home or at work or in between. So living fast means living rushed.

Here’s how it affects me: the faster I go, the less I see, the less I see, the less aware I am of life. And if I’m not aware of something, I can’t possibly enjoy it. Unnoticed pleasure is not pleasure. It’s a missed opportunity.

The potential for joy is there every day. The trick is to recognise and appreciate it. That’s why, whenever I can, I take it slow.

Try this test. Compare what you notice when you’re driving on the motorway to what you notice when
taking a walk . Most people watch the traffic while driving, but the world around them is a blur. On foot, the world becomes a myriad of detail.

When we go through our days at high speed, people and experiences become a blur. Life gets busy. We juggle jobs and parenthood, hobbies and careers, relationships and time alone. But the choice is still there. You can treat all your life like a commute — the faster, the better. Or you can slow down some times -you can take a few moments to be aware, to appreciate.

When was the last time you closed your eyes and tried to identify all the tastes in a mouthful of food? Eating is one of the great pleasures, but when rushed, it can be like stopping at a service station for fuel.

The other day I tried to single out all the tastes in a curry stir-fry I’d prepared. I found I had to chew more slowly to fully appreciate the flavours. So I took longer to finish my meal. (Often, I wolf things down.)

The entire process brought me pleasure. Wine and coffee drinkers already practise the ‘go slow, enjoy deeply” approach. But you can use the same technique on anything — fresh bread, chocolate, fresh fruit, whatever.

In nature, the slower I go, the more I enjoy. The tuff’s syncopated song in my neighbour’s tree. At the beach, the sucking, slurping sound of the tide as it draws back after a wave. The smell of the bush after the rain.The feel of the late afternoon sun on my skin. All these are pleasures which take time.

Going slow can also benefit our health. In Timeless Healing, Dr Herbert Benson and Marg Stark write that some of us suffer from what the Buddhists call “papanca” or monkey mind. “Like monkeys jumping from tree limb to tree limb, our minds often leap from thought to thought with little reprieve. When one has a monkey mind, excessive brain activity can overload the system, making it difficult to concentrate, to learn new things, and to fall asleep.”

Benson and Stark recommend something they call the “relaxation response” to counter-act the monkey mind. The relaxation response is a simple exercise where a person focuses on a word or phrase for a short time, disregarding everyday thoughts.

Benson and Stark say studies have shown that such relaxation decreases metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate, rate of breathing and muscle tension.

I don’t advocate going slow in all situations. In emergencies, when the ambulance heads to the hospital, obviously, speed is of the essence. But in everyday life, I often slow down. Not just to enjoy, but also to cope.

In stressful situations, sometimes I simply do nothing for a few moments. When in a hurry, I tell myself, remember to wait. And this kind of going slow helps me to know myself better, which in turn helps me to make better decisions.

I’ve begun saying grace with my boys at the dinner table. It definitely slows things down. My six-year-old usually wants to dive straight in because he’s hungry, but I make him wait.

We hold hands.

We bow heads. We say words of appreciation about the food and the day and whatever comes to mind. I’m not religious, nor are my boys. But I do have a strong sense of the spiritual in life. And saying grace, gives some time and space to that feeling of spirit.

One night, after grace, my six year-old asked me about God. Who was God? What was God? I answered from the heart. I told him that, to me, God was life. All the great, simple things of life. Like love. And food. And playing sport. And trees. And children. I told him he was God and so was his brother and so was I.

I told him some people think heaven is up above, but for me it is the earth and all that we can enjoy here.
You mean, God is everything, he said. Which was just what I meant.

God is everything….. so anything can be sacred.

A meal. A talk with a colleague. A walk. A cup of coffee. A sparrow. A father. A mother. A son. A daughter. All worthy of our respect. All holy.

Voltaire wrote that “Paradise is where you are.” And often I can find that Paradise, but only when I go slowly enough to recognise where I am.

9 steps to relaxation

Pick a focus word or short phrase that’s firmly rooted in your belief system. (This could be a religious word. It could also be a secular word such as “one,” “ocean,” ‘love,” “peace,” “calm,” “relax.”)

Sit quietly in a comfortable position. Close your eyes.

Relax your muscles.

Breathe slowly and naturally, and, as you do, repeat your focus word, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.

Assume a passive attitude. Don’t worry about how you are doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, “oh well,” and gently return to the repetition.

Continue for 10 or 20 minutes.

Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting for a minute or so allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.

Practise this technique once or twice daily.

From: Timeless Healing by Dr Herbert Benson

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