How many things are going on for you right now as you read this? How many things are you wanting to do next? How many things are tugging at your awareness? Is it possible to do one thing in this moment? To do nothing other than read the next word of this text. What. would. that. be. like.
I had to ask myself the same question as I wrote this and then I put my devices into “do not disturb”; I brought my full attention to writing this. I invite you to bring your full attention to reading this. More importantly, I invite you to bring your full attention to this moment as you read this. I invite you to experience yourself in this moment as you read these words. I invite you to slow down. I invite you to feel the space between the words you’re reading. To feel the space between the thoughts. I invite you to set aside thoughts of the future, memories of the past… feel here with me as we close gap in time from when I write these words to when you read them. Feel your breath and take a pause.
Take as long as you like.
“I’ve got to get busy… busy, busy, busy!” said professor Hinkle in Frosty The Snowman. This just came back to me in this moment as an archetype of our modern day life. Regardless of how much we’re doing in our lives, I’m most interested in how all this plays out in how we do each of those things on the small scale of living. Just like in how you read this article and how I write it. I want to engage in these tasks with full attention and a slowness that fully appreciates the richness here now. I also don’t want to miss important details. In every conversation I want to be fully present; I want to slow that conversation down so that I capture the essence of the other person; and I want to enjoy and savor that experience with them. I want to do the same with my food, with my guitar playing, with my dancing, with walking my dog, with reading my books, even with playing my video games (yes, I do that, too).
I don’t want to miss important details. In fact, sometimes everything I need to know is in the details I’m missing when I’m going too fast. Take video games, for instance. If I’m zipping through a game and not taking the time to really enjoy it, I may in fact be truly not enjoying it. I may be straining my eyes and making myself sick to my stomach by overstimulated myself and focusing on the computer. When I slow down, I notice these sensations that were beneath my awareness. Once I notice them there is a natural desire to stop playing the game. The game is no longer enjoyable. I’ve had the same experience with sweets.
In conversations, a different importance comes from the details. I’ve often heard a subtle cry for help or attention from a friend or lover. When I’m zipping through the conversation this cry can easily go unnoticed. I once had a friend ask to meet me for coffee in the middle of the day – something we never did – and during that conversation she shared about something she was struggling with in her family. I listened and I thought that was what she needed, but I also felt a bit distracted and not fully present. During that conversation she said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Something about the way she said that stood out to me, but I dismissed it because I didn’t want to take the time to dive in deeper. Months later she did something to harm herself. I realized that I was the only person she felt comfortable reaching out to, but she didn’t feel comfortable stating so clearly that she needed help. The best she could do was say, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” This experience solidified my commitment to slowing down and paying attention during conversations.
I believe in the power of slowing down for bringing positive change and catching potential problems. However, there’s also the simple and pure joy of connection that can be missed. There’s a sort of numbing that can happen where we miss out on the greater joy and richness to be had. I feel the joy of my friends more when I stick with their joy and celebrate with them in their latest success instead of moving on to the next topic of conversation. I feel the peace and serenity more when I sit with my friend in silence watching the sunset for an extra minute. My next dance move is more creative when I wait in stillness with my dance partner for the move to arise rather than move out of some self imposed expectation to move before I’m ready.
Sometimes these moments of slowing down can feel awkward and uncomfortable. I now know this awkwardness as an edge to lean into for growth towards connectedness.
I wonder… just as an experiment… what will happen if we bring any of this kind of slowness into some part of our day today… what will we discover!?