A colleague once shared a Montana saying.
Question: How do you make cows move fast?
It was one of the days. I was not succeeding in fitting life into the time available. Maybe I should have known that my jazzy new Adobe podcast editing software, designed to save me time, would exponentially increase the time it would take me to edit–at least while I was climbing a mountain known as “master new software.” I’m still panting.
I was standing at the sink trying to wash the dishes rapidly so I could return to my writing and other critical tasks on my agenda, when I heard the words, “Go slow.”
Slow? I challenged myself: why not. I was already hopelessly behind in my plans for the day. I remembered an exercise I had done in an improv theatre class in which the instructor asked us to slow all of our movements down. Each gesture we made or step we took, we were to do sloooowly.
I experimented, sticking my hand slowly into the hot water and swiping a sponge against the inside of a bowl, at half of my normal speed. Then I reduced my speed again. I almost stopped moving. I stood still as a stream of rinse water came out of the spigot like magic, bouncing off the sides of the bowl. I extended my arm a few inches at a time until I could safely nest the bowl in the drainer. I took so…much…time.
What I discovered
The results were amazing. I started breathing more deeply. I began gazing around the kitchen with new interest. Ordinary objects caught my interest. I saw art where there had been none before, a beam of light on the counter; the texture of a basket, a streak on the window, a pillar of glasses, and the glistening of soap bubbles in the sink.
I enjoyed what I was doing.
Moving in slow time felt so different than my usual program of “let’s see how fast we can do this so I can get back to my real work.” I left the sink feeling refreshed by the work. What’s more, I felt that in moving slowly, I had shifted my relationship with time: I had gained time.
Since this first experiment, I have tried slowing down while walking a garden path, feeding the horses, and taking Riley the dog out for a poop. As I slow, I seem to break apart some habitual patterns and pay more attention to my surroundings.
What’s the big deal or isn’t this just mindfulness?
You may be shaking your head at my revelations, thinking that this is just another form of practicing presence or a modest experiment with mini-mindfulness. You’re right. But I wasn’t trying to be mindful, or spiritual, or present at all. I was just trying one simple thing in the midst of a crazy day:
Slowing way down.
The benefit of slowing is you can do it practically any time and anywhere, in the midst of the crazy parts of your day. You don’t need to save it for your meditation or use it to practice presence.
And you don’t have to relate it to your spiritual path or label it anything. You just do one thing: you…slow…down.
It doesn’t require a course, a guru and it’s free.
You’d need to exercise some care in high-velocity zones like Times Square or Grand Central Station in New York or Shinjuku Station in Tokyo where breaking with the rhythm of the crowds might be a bit risky. But maybe you could think “I’m just practicing slowness” when you find yourself on Seattle’s I-5 corridor moving at a tortoise-like pace. (Probably too advanced for me!)
If moving at half-speed doesn’t help you relax, move at quarter-speed. Move so slowly that your movement feels like art. Play with it. And keep washing the dishes, walking the path or feeding the animals.
Something might open up for you. Please experiment and then tell me about it.