Slowing down is a part of practicing mindfulness. It is challenging to be aware in our lives when we're rushing so quickly that we're living and reacting on autopilot.
The challenges to slowing down are many. We're afraid we'll miss something if we skip that social engagement or new committee at work. We want to maintain a certain expectation for productivity, success and happiness. We want a fulfilled life in every way: being respected and capable at work, being an involved parent - a loyal, loving partner, friend and family member, manifesting our psychological and spiritual development, contributing to community and global change. All of these pieces of our life are worthwhile - but if we can't be present in them, that comes with a cost. We feel depleted of our resources, reactive, stressed and we lose touch with what matters most.
The antidote to this epidemic of mindlessness is simple but takes commitment. Wake up in your life now. Find what works for you to be more present in your life. There is no better time. When we allow ourselves to see what is before us with fresh, alert eyes; to feel what is inside of us with curiosity instead of resistance; to savor the moments of our life that bring joy, gratitude and fulfillment - then we wake up in our lives and the rest takes care of itself.
Slowing down doesn't make us passive, lazy or unfriendly. Carving out times of the day when we can consciously move and do and think and feel at a slower pace will support our mindfulness. We can drop the judgment here and simply give it a try. Most of us have tried lots of things over the course of our lives to feel better or be more happy. Slowing down costs nothing and can be practiced immediately. You can even begin by simply setting the intention to create more space in your schedule, or respond a bit more slowly to emails or texts.
Doing one thing at a time invites me to bring in presence to any activity. Washing dishes becomes mindfulness practice - walking becomes a sacred act - and practicing mindfulness like this reminds me that the possibility to be aware is always a choice, no matter what I am doing.
If you've struggled with meditating and want to be more present, try slowing down a bit as a first step. This doesn't have to be a radical change. It can be subtle and still have a big impact. Here are a few ideas for bringing more mindfulness to the pace that underlies your life:
Pick one day a week to move at a slower pace. No to do lists, no scheduled activities. Simply the intention of slowing down, cultivating mindfulness and connecting with what matters most to you.
If that feels too daunting, pick one activity or transition a day where you can slow down. Perhaps one meal a day can be savored or a morning routine can occur in presence without adding in emails, chores or other things on your to do list.
Commit to doing one thing at a time. Give yourself permission to fully immerse yourself in this activity. If you had to do a book report on the experience after you would be able to describe how all of your senses engaged in the experience (what you saw, heard, felt and smelled), what feelings and thoughts were present and how you related to the experience.
Notice your breath as you move throughout your day. It will help you know if you are rushing around mindlessly - often with reactivity. It will help guide you toward mindfulness and help you stay present.
Share a way that you've shifted a part of your life toward a slower pace and what that has been like for you in the comments below.