Monday, June 19, 2006

Slow Down

Authorities continue to warn us of terrorist threats and encourage us to scrutinize our surroundings, including mail, more carefully. I am wondering if we could get some good out of all this bad. Perhaps this slow down isn’t a bad thing -- what might happen if we actually took the time to be aware not only of the mail that comes in, piece by piece, but the other small interactions that fill the day? What would your day feel like if you could cut your pace in half and actually pay attention to each of the small things you are doing? (And if you say, “It would be overwhelming”, how can you begin to cut down/cut out until it is less so?)I can already hear those who’ll protest that they can’t slow down, because the rest of the world won’t and then they’ll be behind. That’s why this is such a good time to begin -- everyone can use the excuse of needing to be more aware of their surroundings and interactions --everyone can begin to slow down. Don’t you feel like you’ve started running down a steep hill and now can’t stop? Do you know anyone who doesn’t feel like Life has gotten entirely too “speeded up” in the last few years?

We’ve gotten so good at, and taken such pride in, our efficiency and speed that many of us haven’t noticed the price we’re paying for this: we’ve become more frantic, more tired, more isolated (lack of time to visit and chat), more irritable (input overload) and often more sick.In the name of efficiency, we’ve speeded up our meals until they can be eaten with one hand, adapted to multi-tasking until we feel incompetent if we’re only doing two things at once, and reduced our communications with others to the barest minimum needed to get work done. (Raise hands all of those who work for a company that schedules lunchtime meetings. When was the last time you ate lunch with a co-worker just to chat? Remember coffee breaks? Or was that before your time?)

And yet it’s the moments when we’ve slowed down that we remember, those moments when we are totally present with the moment. I can remember summer afternoons under the trees as a child, and quiet moments with friends, and a recent trip to a lake -- but all those rushed-through moments at work have become one fuzzy blur. So - how much of your life to you want to remember as a fuzzy blur?

There’s more than enough research to point out the dangers of living at the speed that we’ve “achieved”: high blood pressure, neurological illnesses, and more accidents, divorces and broken relationships (to name a few). But each of us must check our own lives, and make our own decision as to whether the price we are paying is worth the benefit of moving through each day at double or triple speed. And if the answer is “no”, let’s each take a small step towards slowing by taking a full minute longer with each interaction, each activity today.

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