Having the Courage to Slow Down

It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of life, rushing from one appointment to the next, eating out of our cars, barely stopping to take a breath. Some days we can come to the end of the day and wonder where it all went because we were so busy rushing. We rush through our food. We rush through household chores. We rush from activity to activity, racing down the twenty-five zone at forty-five. I sometimes wonder if we are afraid of what will happen if we slow down. Does that mean the not all the dishes get washed before we go to bad, the last load of laundry doesn’t get done, that we are five minutes late meeting a friend for coffee?

Mindfulness teaches us the value of slowing down. It teaches us of being in the present moment and not rushing it into the next. I am relearning what I thought I knew about mindfulness. I thought I understood it. I read affirmations. I journal. I practice breathing, especially important for someone with anxiety. I am learning a new form of slowing down. Mindful eating. Slowing down how I eat and focusing on one bite at a time. I am practicing making each meal take about fifteen to twenty minutes to eat. Why?

I have decided to have weight loss surgery. I have been overweight most of my adult life and since I have started taking anti-depressants, the weight gain has become worse. I need a way to reset my weight, to restore it to a new set point. This was a big decision to have made since initially I was against it, even though I had known people who went through it. Now I have made my choice. In making that choice I HAVE to learn new ways of eating. I must create new habits around food.

Since the surgery purposefully gives you a smaller stomach, you cannot eat as much. However, you also cannot eat quickly or it makes one sick. In the seminar and in the dietitian class that are requirements before even getting surgery, they both emphasized slowing down. Sitting down for each meal and taking one bite at a time, chewing it thoroughly. No, I haven’t had the surgery yet, but both dietitians were clear about practicing the art of slowing down so that when the surgery does take place, it isn’t entirely new. This is what I have been doing. Sitting down for each meal. Taking one bite at a time and not getting the next bite ready until the previous one is done. The habit of racing through a meal is a hard one to break and so I am starting now so that I will be ready when the time comes.

Slowing down in this manner has me looking at mindfulness in whole new ways. It has created an awareness of how often I race from place to place, and in observance, how many others seem to be doing the same thing on the road. If we are rushing around in our cars, where else are we rushing around or speeding through? Where else do we need to slow down and pay attention? I am not talking about crawling through the world but rather becoming more aware of our presence and the presence of others around us as we move through the world. I am talking about seeing the people (and other cars) around us. I am talking about maybe instead of racing through an errand on your ten-minute break, that you color or read instead or engage in a pleasant conversation with a co-worker. This is about being mindful of our environment and our own habits that keep us racing through the world without noticing it there.

How are we supposed to have creative energy when we are busy racing around our lives? We aren’t allowing time for the fun, creative aspects of ourselves when we spend most of our days running and running, filling in all the empty spaces with “stuff”. Our creativity gets sucked dry being left unused. Our creativity is vital to our spirits. It is what brings us fresh ideas, new energy, and a sense of wonder. Stopping to be creative allows us to have More not less energy because we return to our lives refreshed. Creativity requires that we slow down.

What if we practiced with the courage of slowing down? What if we allowed our awareness to rise to the surface and be more present in our every day lives? In a time and place where it feels as though being busy earns us a badge of honor, then there is courage in slowing down and creating a less “busy” feel to our day. Can you slow down just five miles per hour slower and still be okay? Can you stop to eat at the table instead of the car and taste your food instead? Are you okay with leaving what dishes didn’t get finished because instead of rushing through chores you took some time to play with the kids? Or maybe you took some time to use some creative energy and you painted or colored or read a book?
What would it take for you to actively practice the art of being mindful a little bit every day?

What would it take for you to have the courage to slow down?