You know those radio advertisements where at the end someone talks a million miles a minute to get in all the horrible side effects or that important stuff in ‘the fine print’? My students used to tell me that I should do that on the side since they couldn’t believe how quickly I spoke. Although I was completely game for the opportunity, I always told them I thought speaking fast kept them engaged since if they daydreamed for a minute they’d miss half the lesson. Although neither travel nor a westward move has removed my ability to string words together at warp speed, I no longer feel the need to do it on a regular basis. It’s weird to even think those words, and then even nuttier to write them to live forever in the digital world. I never thought this New Yorker would find joy in slowing down…but I have.
Maybe it’s from the over half a decade of yoga, maybe it’s from a career change and shift in what makes up my daily routine, maybe it’s caused by looking at life through eyes that have seen more of the world, maybe it’s living on the west coast or maybe it’s the aging process – I don’t know, but this slower pace thing seems like more than a stop along the journey, it seems like it’s a guiding focus of the whole damn thing. This is weird.
Seven years ago the husband and I visited Vietnam. We spent part of our first morning in Hanoi joining locals in a daily Tai Chi experience on the shores of the well known Hoan Kiem Lake. Although we lacked a shared language, we were filled with shared communication, delight and action. And aside from the hug from the local woman at the end of the session, what I remember most are her constant hand gestures telling me to slow down. The actions of Tai Chi are designed to attain far more than physical fitness alone. The lessons may have been lost on me then, but today, I embrace them.
For whatever reason, I thought slowing down meant something else than it does to me today. The shift in perspective from less to more, negative to positive, bad to good and eradicating the errors of black and white thinking is a mind shift that shakes you to the core. Today, I don’t like to rush – whereas years ago, my little legs would blast through the hallways of the high school as if on roller skates. Today I try to be more mindfully present and pay closer attention rather than getting quickly to next. Today I’ve learned that ‘doing nothing’ is often far greater than ‘doing something’. Today, I can bring on that lightning speed conversant style happily (and still find great joy when it takes place or I find myself watching the likes of The West Wing, The Newsroom, Gilmore Girls or Will and Grace) but it isn’t the norm. Today I actively add meditation and yoga into a daily practice whereas years ago I couldn’t sit still enough to give it a chance without giggling. The New Yorker in me continues to think ‘WTF’, while the west coast wanderer says take the time, walk the beach, watch the waves and make time for yoga.
The weirdest things are that I get just as much done but see it all a little clearer, still take it all in as quickly but pause (slightly – I’m working on it) before speaking, still listen as actively but try to keep the constant sense of urgency out of my responses and try my best to take the time to think and respond instead of living in the time I spent mostly reacting. Seriously, it’s weird. But the awesome, has far surpassed the strange.
A tribe of like-minded folks has begun to grow. My appreciation for shared focus has become sharper and my search for personal growth has become a daily endeavor. Shifting coasts, shifting careers, shifting perspectives and shifting mindsets have taught me more in a short time than I ever could have seen coming. The universe definitely does have your back in more ways than I ever imagined. Slowing down comes with more positives than I thought. Don’t worry, like riding a bike… I’m certain that those other patterns will appear the minute I set foot in Manhattan, wander back into a school or wind up in a conversation quoting the West Wing – but this time I’m hoping I can turn them off as easily as I can turn them on.