The biggest stumbling block to slowing down is the perception that we won’t have enough time to do everything we need to do. But slowing down can actually leave us with more time, not less. Hurrying is counterproductive because it’s stressful. Stress creates emotions, and emotions are exhausting and take time to process or cope with. To deal with stress, we might stop at a bakery for a cupcake, call a friend to complain to, or go on a shopping spree. The ways we cope with stress take up time! Hurrying also makes us more prone to mistakes and accidents, and you know what those do to your plans. Besides, hurrying doesn’t feel good. So how is hurrying good?
Of course, we have to hurry sometimes, but making that our usual speed doesn’t help us achieve our goals; it only wears us out and makes us scattered and cranky. By slowing down and being more present, we can get just as much done or more and feel better doing it, with energy to spare—and no negative emotions to deal with.
When you slow down and become more present, your life won’t fall apart—on the contrary. But it could change. You might make some different choices about how you spend your time and end up with more time to do what you’d really like to do. Or maybe you’ll continue doing what you’ve been doing but with more enjoyment. What you choose to do once you slow down depends on whether what you were doing was motivated by the ego or your heart.
Our culture needs to make a similar shift from the ego’s values to the heart’s. Our culture keeps us locked into egoic values and the materialistic lifestyle that those values create. The unhealthy lifestyle that many of us are living seems normal, even desirable, perhaps because we don’t know what the alternative looks or feels like. Or we may know, but out of fear, we don’t feel that we can live differently. But, of course, there are already many who are living more consciously. It’s important to seek out models of healthy living and move away from people who aren’t models of this and who don’t support us in making the changes we’d like to make.
Slowing down means doing whatever you do more slowly and with more presence. It also means being less busy by cutting out things that aren’t necessary or meaningful. This will make room for things that are more nourishing to your soul. Only you can decide what needs to be cut. You can tell by how you feel when you’re doing something. Do you feel excited and happy or at least content doing it, or do you feel contracted? The heart shows us what’s true to do and not do in any moment. We are meant to follow our joy. We are meant to enjoy life.
It may seem scary at first to choose on this basis, but what have your choices been based on before? If you are unhappy or leading a stressful life, you’ve been listening to the egoic mind. There’s another way to live, and it begins by slowing down, being present, and following your heart.
From From Stress to Stillness: Tools for Inner Peace. Find out more about this book.