This week over Facebook my mom told me, “Hurry is one of the saddest things in the world.” I thought about that very briefly. But only because, lately, hurry has been the operative word in my world. I haven’t had time for reflection, the deep kind. For peace and quiet. For that inner life. It’s just been all about work and to do lists. All about deadlines and getting from point A to point B with all possible speed. The weekends bring a small respite from the stress but it always returns on Mondays, and with a vengeance. So when a Saturday road trip, the first one of the year, presented itself unexpectedly the other day, promising to take me away from all this relentless hurrying, I did what every depleted, exhausted and harried person would do. I said yes.
I thought I said no to a rushed life years ago, when I read Take Your Time, by the late author and spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran. This wise-beyond-its-years book about slowing down the pace of life needs revisiting, especially since the lessons mean more to me today than they did back in college when I first read it. And I thought the 90’s were fast times.
Easwaran presents an Eight-Step program in the book, which includes meditation, and is broken down into practical suggestions (like the ones I summarized below), that could work for anyone. Having tried many of them I can tell you that they are easier said than done, but worth a try.
Wake up early.
Make time for a good breakfast.
Don’t pressure the people around you to hurry.
Learn to be patient.
Attend to details.
Do not multitask.
You are what you think.
Cultivate relationships with others in all that you do.
Basically, Easwaran makes a point about how we must slow down to truly live. Ask yourself about what’s truly important and make do without what isn’t. It is in spending more time, not less, on those precious ones. The suggestions are simple but the effects are profound. And being the culture of instant that we are, slowing down takes a conscious effort.
I’ve always been an early riser, and my best days are when I can carve a moment for myself early in the morning to see the sun rise and enjoy my coffee quietly before the kids awake. Rising early also gives me a head start on my day. If I get up at 9am or even 8, the rest of the day becomes a breathless game of catch up where I’m bound to make an endless array of mistakes. I listen to music when I need to calm down. When I’m tired but still have tons to do, I just drop everything (?!?) Please raise your hand if you know how hard that is. But I do it. I just do it. I kick my shoes off and close my eyes. Sometimes 20 minutes is all it takes for a brain reboot.
I wish I knew how to speed read, but only because I want to read more books and not just get them over with. I’m also famously (in my house) anti-multitasking. So you can imagine how much of a fraud I feel like when I find myself frantically eating my lunch in front of my computer. Easwaran says, “When your life and your mind are going faster and faster, there can be no decisions. There are only reflexes…”
I realize this is easier for someone like me who works from home. Friends with 9 to 5 jobs who live in mega cities give me all sorts of valid excuses. But suggestions abound. Like in this article by writer Cody Delistraty, that should be read by every workaholic whose pick me up is “two Red Bulls”. Suggestion number 4 is about spending your time wisely by leading an authentic life. It reads, “Choosing what you want to do with your life, not what will most impress someone else, is the only way you won’t feel like, in the words of Holden Caulfield, a big phony.”
Sometimes it just takes a step back, and focusing all your attention on a single moment. It might be completely random, like that old couple holding hands in the train. The fragrant steam wafting from the cup of noodles on your desk. Or those little things of nature that are everywhere if we only really looked. Slowing down means focusing. Being in that one moment so that everything else that is irrelevant fades into the background.
Rushing through life without the single-minded attention it deserves only makes us want to do more, and faster. According to Easwaran,”What we need to do is just the opposite: to slow down and live completely in the present. Then every moment will be full.”
Have a nice (and slow) weekend. And thanks for reading.