I was reminded again this morning of these words that have served me so well in the past, yet are so easy to forget: “Being gentle, being slow.” In our fast-paced world it can sure seem that everyone but us seems to balance the incredible amounts of stimulation and constant flow of information and choices, the myriad expectations of family life and workplace, or our own minds that are relentlessly planning, sorting, prioritizing, and producing. We sense the constant nagging sensation in the bottom of our gut that somehow, somewhere soon…someone will find us out that we simply aren’t keeping up as well as we ought to.
Caught up in such a deluge of thoughts that never seem to end, we find ourselves running and doing everything in a reactive manner. It feels like we just put out fires and survive, not ever thriving in our life. Our minds feel like a runaway train, and our bodies keep getting wound tighter and tighter. We believe that we can’t stop until we get it all done; yet for everything we complete, we find there are always two more items to add. We feel driven and controlled by external forces and internalized expectations, losing touch by the hour and day with who we really are. We promise ourselves and our loved ones that “once everything is finished, I will have time to be with you.” Yet increasingly that time seems to get pushed further and further into the future.
Many of us allow ourselves to get swept up in such cycles, all the while justifying doing so by believing that we are good people for pushing ourselves so hard. And yet, we never find our way to a place of rest, calm, peace, and safety. When we are feeling rushed, we seek to meet it with greater speed; when we feel obligated to meet an expectation, we take on more responsibility; when we are criticized for not meeting someone’s expectations, we double down our efforts. Underlying all of this we are using our sense of shame and inadequacy to motivate us, in the hope that if “I just can do enough, then I will feel better.”
I wonder for how many of you reading has this strategy ever really worked? Left you feeling empowered and transformed? My guess is that while it may provide temporary relief, the relief is short-lived. When you wake up the next morning, your mind is back to its familiar strategy, struggling to meet the “new” expectations that have reappeared after having taken care of everything and feeling so good last night. And so the cycle of shame continues.
So if you are tired of having to re-up day after day, why not try a new approach? Why not try an approach that offers yourself gentleness and slowness? Use the mantra: “Being gentle, being slow,” and repeat it in your mind several times, and several times throughout your day. Avoid trying to prove to yourself that you are being gentle or slow (i.e. “I’m being gentle, I’m being slow”). The part of your mind that is addicted to moving fast will argue with you if try to take ownership like that.
When you come back to this intention over and over again, you reawaken and remind your true self of who you are and who will be today, and your thinking about what must get done will be allowed to slow down, easing up just ever so slightly with each repetition of the mantra. Reminding yourself that moving faster never really worked in your favor to feel safer, calmer, or more secure, you will find that you experience the very gentleness and slowness you have always been craving. In that place of safety, you access your inner power; the place deep inside that knows what it is to truly choose, rather than always acting is if there is no other option. You discover that treating yourself gently and slowing down actually gives you greater energy, more efficiency, and increased productivity. You stop wasting the endless energy your mind consumes to constantly light and put out fires.