The Speed of Life
Several days ago, I found myself in line at the groccery store. In front of me were two ladies with maybe 15 items.
The cashier quickly scanned through their items, sliding them along to a bagger at the end of the counter.
The bagger was an elderly gentleman, placing each item carefully into a plastic bag. His pace didn't match the cashier's, and soon, all three women were waiting on the bagger to finish. The cashier, with a harried sigh, started grabbing items and putting them into bags, pushing them towards the women who were checking out. Her impatience and that of the women in front of me was tangible.
She quickly moved on to me before the women had even taken all of their bags. My items were scanned across, quickly, efficiently. Behind me, another women started placing her items on the moving belt. Her anxiety was apparent, as she started piling up items in the foot of space in between the barrier separating our items and the end of the belt.
All around me, people moved in a hurried manner, as if someone were pushing them from behind. Some held children, some wore the employee jackets of the groccery store, some pushed their carts as if they were in a race.
Others moved around in a less hurried, but equally frustrated manner. An amble over to one shelf led to a grunt, another shelf, to a groan. The frown accompanied them everywhere.
And amidst it all was the elderly gentleman, bagging items one at a time at the end of my row.
Like simplicity, slowness has a sort of romantic quality to it. Even thinking about a slower day - one in which the breath flows easily, little is scheduled, and there is time for tea and an afternoon siesta - brings most to a place of wistful longing.
But we also realize that the pace of modern life doesn't match that dream. Like the bagger at the end of the aisle, one moving slowly tends to cause tension and often, anger in those who are still clamoring to move at a faster speed. We know this, and therefore try to keep up with the rush, rush, rush.
I once noted that I'm not here to change the world; I'm changing the world because I am here.
Probably much like you, I'm not interested in challenging the entire system that perpetuates this fast pace of living. I'm not tying myself to the train tracks in hopes that the speeding train will stop. I'm not going to give away my smartphone nor stop using the microwave.
I am, however, constantly noting the speed at which we are trying to live our lives.
And when I become aware of that, I return to my breath.
I slow down my thoughts. I walk with awareness of my feet touching the ground. I shift my perspective from what isn't working to what IS working.
Because while I can't change the pace of the world, I can change the pace of my own thoughts and actions.
At the groccery store, this meant breathing through the anxiety I felt from being hurried by the cashier (who was just trying to do her job) and from the person behind me (who was just lining up her grocceries). It meant feeling compassion not only for the older gentleman doing the bagging, but for every person around the groccery store who was moving at their own pace. It meant setting down my items one at a time, and smiling at those around me.
When driving, this might mean staying in the right lane and letting others zoom past, without feeling as though I need to match their speed.
When parenting, it might mean turning away from the computer to give my daughter or son my full attention when they are asking me a question....without feeling angry that I'm being "interrupted". (It also might mean asking them to wait for a few seconds while I finish something.)
There are so many areas in which we can practice this.
Awareness is the first step - simply noting how much is going on in life and the pace at which you are trying to deal with it all.
Breath is the first tool - returning to it when the overwhelm rushes in.
There are so many resources for slow living, and I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments. (You can also email me if you are interested - I have many books and know of many websites on the topic.) Just a couple:
- I recently came across a video shared in my Facebook feed, Carl Honore speaking at a TED talk, "In Praise of Slowness". I picked up his book (aptly titled, "In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed"), which I'm thoroughly enjoying.
- I also came across a breath-deepening video by Lillian Obogoh, and have not stopped thinking about her mantra, "Peace Be Still". Wise words spoken in such a soothing voice... It is well worth your time to watch HERE.
When you finish reading this, can you take 60 seconds to stop moving, reading, browsing...and just sit and breathe?
And today, can you try to be aware of the pace you and others are moving?