The art of slowing down

By A. G. Mohan and Dr. Ganesh Mohan

It will offer you the time to appreciate life better

Yoga is the practice of inner stillness. But modern life pushes us to the opposite. One of the main reasons for this is the feeling and habit of being rushed, of hurrying.

Examine the sentences running through our minds in the course of a regular day. We push ourselves with dialogue that make us feel restless and hurried, many times over.

We use phrases like, “ASAP, there’s no time, quickly, hurry up, right now, right away, why is it taking so long...”

The more we say those words to ourselves, the harder it is for any other part of us, to slow down. When we practice yogic mindfulness, we pay attention to what’s happening in the mind, and we realise that our thoughts are often rushed. The mind can’t just rest; it prods us to do more, and in a hurry.

This habit of hurrying is insidious in modern life. It has permeated our daily life, both at work and at home. Digital devices have made it very easy for us to hurry even more, to stay connected all the time.

If we have to wait for a few minutes, we immediately send a message saying, “Where are you? I am here already.” Of course, it’s good to have modern communications, to be in touch, and to get things done. But when hurrying becomes a way of life, it damages our well-being and peace of mind.

Could we change our inner dialogue to slow down instead of hurrying?

If we tell ourselves, “Taking the time as you need.” “Whenever you feel ready.” “If it takes a little longer, that’s okay.” “Patiently…”

We don't often hear people saying these phrases, isn’t it?

This practice of slowing down is a necessity to reduce stress and practice positive changes for our body and mind. This is one of the reasons why asana and breathing practices in yoga is best done by slowing down. It’s also useful to speed up and exercise. But that is not a substitute for slow movement, slow breathing and patient attention.

Does it make sense to say, “Be calm. But do it quickly!” Or, “Be mindful. Meditate. But hurry, there’s no time.” It does not make sense. How can we calm down or be mindful when we are rushed?

Hurrying is deeply embedded in us in modern life to the extent that we often don’t listen even when we are given permission to slow down. We don’t believe that we can. We think we will miss out on life. And there’s an impression that if you’re not running around and doing something all the time, there’s something wrong with you. Is this really true?

Life is always experienced in the present. It is not found in a future that we wish to hurry toward. The future doesn’t exist yet, and when it does, it will be the present. One of the key messages of yoga is to watch your mind with appreciative and restful awareness! To do that, we should cultivate the skill of slowing down and being present, at least for a small portion of every day.

Try bringing this practice of slowing down to your asanas. Take a few deliberately slow breaths every hour. You could speak more mindfully and slowly for a few minutes every day. Eat one meal everyday slowly. Small steps. Let slowing down make you calmer, and notice that you can appreciate life better when you take the time to do so. Yoga happens when we take the time to be present with the practices and with our life.

This article appeared in The Hindu newspaper.