The accelerated pace of our culture makes the idea of slowing down seem comical. Yet lately I’ve noticed a couple of times where my mindfulness practice has helped me to consciously slow down. Last summer I bought a “comfort bike” – which is exactly what it sounds like – a bike intentionally made for comfort, not speed.
I love this bike. It is designed to encourage the rider sit upright with an open heart and a breeze-catching smile on the face, and the seat is cushy so it takes a while for a sore bottom to develop. Aerodynamic this bike is not. It is heavy and clunky and I will most decidedly not be entering any races with it, but the bike forces me to slow down, and focus on the experience, not the exercise, and helps me see the ride from my children’s perspective.
3 Reasons to slow down
1. Slowing down makes you smarter – Mindfully slowing down engages the medial prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain, activating logical thought.
2. Slowing down can lead to better productivity – Many recent studies have debunked the myth of multi-tasking, proving that racing around trying to complete more than one task at a time causes more errors and mental fatigue and is ultimately counter-productive.
3. Slowing down makes us kinder toward ourselves and others – Mindfully choosing to slow down encourages us to notice the often unrealistic expectations we have for ourselves, allows us to acknowledge the suffering of others, and to view life with acceptance and gratitude.
In The Compassionate Brain Training sponsored by Sounds True, Rick Hanson, interviews Dr. Dacher Keltner who talks about how our go-go-go! culture makes it hard for us to express compassion. This makes sense, doesn’t it? Who has time for compassion when we are rushing around. Think about times in your life in the past week when rushing around made you feel irritable with yourself or someone else.
This past month I did some physical therapy hoping to heal the sciatica in my right leg. This was my first experience with physical therapy so I didn’t know what to expect. When I first arrived, I was directed to walk on the treadmill for ten minutes at a pace of one mile per hour. I instantly went into impatient mode, thinking “are you kidding me? My normal pace on a treadmill is five to six miles an hour! Where’s the challenge?” Then I caught myself and mindfully examined the irony of the situation. Running – or shall we say rushing – on the treadmill of life probably contributed to my injury in the first place. I took a deep breath, landed in my body, and allowed myself to move slowly and mindfully through the next hour of restorative exercise led by the physical therapist. I replaced my “where’s the challenge” thinking with the thought “you are here to heal.” I also noticed that there were other patients around me who were struggling with more painful injuries than I was. By simply taking a few breaths and slowing down, compassion for myself and others replaced my impatience and agitation.
Slow is the new fast!
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!