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Coming to Your Senses: How to Slow Down with A Mindfulness Practice

In a competitive culture where speed and productivity are highly valued and consistently applauded attributes, it’s hard not to buy into the idea that you should churn out a week’s worth of to-do’s in a day. 

It’s no wonder the urge to multitask is so high! As helpful as it seems to spin multiple plates at once, research shows it’s not a true time-saver, and, at the same time, you’re more prone to making mistakes.  

I can plainly see how this plays out in my own life. 

When I hurry to get the kids out the door in the morning, I’m more likely to forget things or lose track of what I was doing. “Where did his socks go? What did I need in the fridge, again?” Then, sure enough, as I traipse around looking for socks, I catch a whiff of burnt toast. Oops!

Let’s begin again. 

Why You Should Slow Down: Slow Is Smooth, Smooth Is Fast

Can you think of a time in the recent past when you felt less pressure to go fast? Or, perhaps you were more focused on enjoying what you were doing? 

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What was it like – boring, awkward, or pleasurable? Did you cut it short because something else popped into your mind that had to be done right then? Or, did you resist the urge to switch gears? 

How was the quality of your focus? Did you get more or less done? Were you more – or less – in sync with the people around you? When is hurrying necessary and when is it not? 

When Is it Okay to Rush?

Sometimes hurrying is required, such as when you need to catch a connecting flight that’s on the other side of the airport, and you only have 15 minutes. But a lot of times, hurrying is merely a habit. 

For example, you might default to speeding through breakfast because your brain associates being in the kitchen in the morning with anxiety or agitation. Or, anytime you feel anxious (about anything), you might have the urge to go fast regardless of how much time you have to get from point A to B. 

Are you aware of what causes you to rush? One way mindfulness can lend you a helping hand is to help you pinpoint triggers. 

Is it always the same situation(s) that lead you to go a million miles a minute, such as when you make dinner or sit down to create a presentation? Can you gently notice if certain thoughts, feelings, or sensations keep you stuck in a habit of rushing? 

Another question for you to consider: What’s on the other side of not rushing? 

Could you see more into the nature of your reality? The trees blowing in the wind, the kids sitting on the patio meticulously watching a trail of ants, the mysterious clouds surrounding the mountaintop. 

Likewise, could you feel your body more as you move about your life each day? Your feet as they glide across the earth, the support or texture of your chair, the warmth and joy of hugging your loved ones.

For me, slowing down allows me to come to my senses – to wake up to the life I was born for.

How to Slow Down with Mindfulness

Unfortunately, slowing down isn’t purely something you can will yourself into doing. You need a way to help your brain and body safely sync-up with a slower rhythm. 

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Learning to deliberately engage one or more of your senses is a great way to do this.

To heed Rick Hanson’s advice of, “Practice when it’s easy so you can do it when it’s hard,” I suggest you start with times you have less on your plate and your system is already fairly relaxed. Then, bring curiosity to one or more of your senses. See which sense comes easiest and experiment with that one first.

For example, if you find it easiest to listen for pleasing sounds around you, spend a moment or two connecting with the sense of hearing. Take a moment to notice the effect of hearing on your body, and enjoy whatever good feelings are present. You can do this a few times with the same sense or, if you feel called to explore another sense, go for it! 

Do this practice regularly so it becomes a resource throughout the day.

Now, because I live in the same world as you, I want to mention that no matter how much you do a practice like this, it won’t have near as big of an impact if you’re routinely overcommitted and overscheduled. Honoring your limitations is a crucial piece of slowing down, too. 

Nonetheless, as with any learning opportunity, it’s normal to stop and start, forget and remember, move closer, then further way from, your ultimate goal. But keep in mind, this is the reality of growth and change. Savor the times it’s easy, and take pleasure in hitting the reset button when it’s not! 

Written by eM Life teacher Breon Michel.