There is more to life than increasing its speed
- Mahatma Gandhi
I am someone who likes to do everything quickly. I eat fast, I shop fast, I breathe fast, I talk fast! There is no time to waste!
I have so much to do, and only by moving at this speed is it possible to get it all done. And given that time is money, this is obviously the expedient thing to do.
And then during a yoga class in India, my teacher announced something quite casually: “if you go fast, you won’t know when the pain started”.
You see, the type of yoga I practice, is characterised by a combination of breath and movement, and unlike most styles of yoga, it is pretty slow – or it’s slow for me at least**.
When I started, the teachers at the institute didn’t seem to mind that my breaths were short and shallow. They told me that, over time, my lung capacity would develop and my mind would calm. Not what an impatient person wants to hear – even when said impatient person knows that a caterpillar helped from its cocoon will die.
So there I was, unable to stop myself speeding through class, when I realised that my teacher’s words were probably one of the most profound things I have ever heard.
I always say that how you do anything, is how you do everything,
If I was rushing through my entire existence, well, to what end? Given that the destination is death, I know don’t fancy getting there any faster.
But even though I know that the number of breaths that we take, corresponds to the length of our lives (animals who breathe slowly live longer (think tortoise versus dog)), knowing something intellectually doesn’t always translate to wisdom that changes our lives.
But I had to try anyway.
So I started, by eating slower. Turns out, I often didn’t much like what I was eating (Note to self: stop recommending porridge. It does taste like wallpaper paste).
Then I moved through my day slower. I realised I could hear the birds singing as I did my morning yoga practice. I also noticed just how beautiful my children are.
I talked slower – and then realised that I didn’t need to be talking so much.
I texted people back later. Again fewer words and fewer dopamine hits.
I savoured a book once again, and even enjoyed slowly picking out the apricots and cashew nuts in my granola. It suddenly became about the journey all over again - the journey to my own way of being, and uncovering the parts of myself that are pretty damn amazing, but I didn’t even know existed.
But perhaps most importantly, I got the chance to be the neutral observer, in the dubious situations I sometimes found myself in. I wasn’t always a fool rushing in anymore (well, most of the time anyway). Going slow allowed me to feel exactly where the pain started.
As Claude Debussy once said, “music is the silence between the notes”.
We have to stop, pause, assimilate, absorb. We have to slow down long enough to access our own inner wisdom and clarity, instinctively knowing what is and isn’t good for us.
I didn’t have to go for therapy, take a new supplement, buy a new crystal, or even stand on my head for longer. I just had to slow down – and even that, just a little.
Don’t you love it when the answers are so damn simple?
* The word for ‘slowly’ in Spanish.
** Google the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai for more information.