The mundane can be transformed into something transcendent by slowing down the pace of life. It shows us how simple we can appreciate simplicity.
An old friend of mine had moved to Baja years ago, so I went on a vacation there. I took a walk along a deserted beach one morning. My pace became slower due to the mushy sandy sand. I started to notice things that I wouldn’t have noticed if I was going at my normal speed. I saw perfectly-shaped conchs, sparkling pebbles and multicolored sand crystals. I was attracted to one particular pile of tide debris. I stopped to examine the situation more closely.
These tiny shells were just millimeters in length, brightly colored, iridescent, and unimaginably beautiful. The more I lay down in the sand and inspected the debris, the more beautiful the scene became. Even the smallest shells were beautiful, beautifully painted and lacquered by tiny artisans. I thought that I might be able, if I squatted long enough, to see the individual grains of sand within the beautiful pile of debris. I felt grateful that I didn’t have to move or do any important tasks. This brought back the beauty and wonder of slowing down.
The practice of slowing down was something I first learned on my first vipassana retreat many years back. It was here that I learned walking meditation. Slowing down became a part of everything we did, such as eating, brushing our teeth, bathing, and even drinking tea.
We looked strange from the outside. Maybe a little tired and uninspired. The inner experience was vibrant and uplifting. I felt fully, consciously alive when I slowed down and connected with the micro-movements that made up each action.
Sylvia Boorstein, author and meditation teacher, said that “we are all sensation junkies” during a retreat she attended at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. We are a culture that seeks stimulation, speed and excitement. We are drawn to fast cars, racing, competitive sports, loud music, and being scared by movies. These activities are stimulating and exciting for us. Feeling more vital by feeding our sensation habit is a great way to feel better.
HOW SPEEDINESS MAY OBSCURE THE MOMENT
Yoga is defined by the yoga sutras as ” the settling the mind into silence.” If we move at our normal pace, our actions become mechanical. Our minds can be anywhere, but only in the moment. Our minds can only settle into silence when we are in the moment. Slowing down allows us to see the silent mind and infinite sky of awareness more clearly.
The sensations of living within our bodies-mind can be just as compelling as the transformation of a beach tangle into a stunning landscape. To experience them, we need to slow down. It is possible to celebrate what we see, hear, feel, smell, taste, and touch from a vantage point of clarity.
Meditation and quiet yoga have allowed me to discover the fascinating subtle energies that move through my body. If we take the time to really look at our bodies, we can discover new worlds that are deeply satisfying and enlivening.
It is different to slow down while on a meditation retreat where it is an integral part of the practice than trying to slow down our daily lives. A full-time job is considered a sign of virtue in 21st century Western culture. Relaxing is considered a sign weakness or sloth.
Engaging in stimulating activities can be fun. Balance isn’t achieved by living in constant activity with no time for slowing down or stopping. The ground of balance, the ever-changing middlepoint between action or rest, is where we can live the most gracefully in this world.
Stress is the bane of our culture and time. Adrenaline is the key to many of us maintaining a lightning fast pace in our lives. To keep us on track, our adrenal glands work overtime. The adrenals are not meant to be used in constant stressful situations. They wear down if they don’t get enough rest. They wear down and we feel tired and stressed.
Slow movement can alter our physiological balance and replenish our nervous system. Roger Cole is a yoga teacher, researcher scientist, and yoga instructor. His research focuses on the physiological rhythms of relaxation, sleep, and biological rhythms. He studies the effects of slow movements such as yoga or tai-chi on the human nervous systems.
He says, “They provide steady and gentle input to the nervous system (muscle stretch receptors, joint position sensor, golgi tendon or organs, and muscle spindle stretching receptors)”. This could be similar to a massage. It can induce reflex relaxation and mental safety.
HOW SLOWING DROPPING DOWN MAY ACTUALLY IMPROVE YOUR PRODUCTIVE
The physiological benefits of slowing down may even help us to achieve more. Each day I find it easier to let go of my work schedule and do something totally unrelated or nothing at all. I return to my responsibilities more clear and calm. Some days allow me to slow down for an hour, others not.
Sometimes I may do something simpler on the less-scheduled days. This could be:
It doesn’t really matter what I do. It doesn’t matter what I do. What matters is that it allows me to fully experience the moment, its richness and beauty. It doesn’t matter how much I do, but the care and spirit I bring to my work is. The mundane becomes transcendent when we slow down the pace of life. It shows us how simple we can appreciate simplicity.