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For Fast Relief, Slow Down

September 17th, 2013

We live in a world where, as Carrie Fisher said, “Even instant gratification takes too long.” Speed is a drug, and the need for speed is a mindless addiction too. We only occasionally catch ourselves racing through life and wonder why, like when we’re behind a slow driver (ie someone driving the speed limit), get impatient and then slap our forehead because we realize it only takes an extra minute to get where we’re going. Most of the time we don’t even realize, because we’re marinated in a culture of speed, thoroughly and compulsively immersed in the rat race, forgetting that even if you win the rat race you’re still a rat.

If there’s a fast way to do something, someone will find it; fast cars, fast food, fast lane, quick fixes, speed reading, speed dialing, speed dating, pizza in 30 minutes or money back, speed yoga. We’re even in a hurry for inner peace. We want it NOW!

I want to understand this need for speed. What is it? Why is it? And most importantly, how can we reframe “slowing down” so we don’t think of it as lame, but reclaim the gifts of time and space. As Eddie Cantor said,

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast-you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.

I shocked myself when traveling in Bali. The slow pace in places like that is shocking to us speed freaks. We find it quaint when it suits us but get annoyed when we have to wait for a table at a restaurant because no one is being rushed out. I was running late, really trying to hustle but other drivers were in no hurry. I drove past a McDonalds, which was shocking enough. On the billboard there was a cheeseburger and the words “Buru Buru”. Later I looked up the translation and it means “In a hurry!”

Wow! That woke me up! I had climbed onto the fast food, fast living, carousel and wanted to get off, or at least slow down.

There are many symptoms of a mindless fast life, and poor health IS one of them. I’ve experienced this first hand with my own bout of adrenal fatigue; an overloading of stress on the body.The human body needs a rhythm of sleep and awake, dark and light, stress and peace. Too much pace will weaken the immune system.

There are other symptoms too; like a sense of entitlement. The comedian Louis C K described being next to someone on a flight who was using the in-flight internet, but he was complaining because it was too slow. As Louis said, “Give it a second, for the signal to get back……. from space.” “How quickly we feel a sense of entitlement for something we didn’t know existed ten minutes ago.”

The need for speed breeds impatience and entitlement, but more importantly we lose our perspective. We forget that food has a history, that health takes time, that inner peace is a lifestyle.

The good news is that we can easily turn around the symptoms of speed and reclaim the gifts of time.


1. Gratitude

Practice gratitude in basic daily moments like eating. The Slow Movement encourages us to eat a wide range of local foods. Use markets where you can talk to the people who grew it and produced it and brought it to you. Think of them with appreciation while you eat. Give thanks for nature that keeps giving no matter how abusive we become.


2. Presence

Stop and smell the roses, literally, as often as you can. We need kids to remind us of this one. I have fond memories of a phase in life when I spent Fridays with my two-year-old son. We walked for miles and we did it really slowly. We tried to get as lost as we could.

One of our favorite tricks was running sticks along the metal fence of the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall. It occasionally disturbed the meetings taking place inside, and briefly their attention was diverted from their study groups to the racket outside. They probably expected trouble, yet when they looked, all they saw was a young child and his dad, both being kids. I often wonder if they pitied us as, according to their worldview, we had no hope. If only they knew. If only they realized that this was one of the times in my life when I felt most alive and hopeful; precisely because nothing was further from my mind than rushing or striving.


3. Work Smarter Not Harder

As the famous cartoon office guru Dilbert said, “Make sure your toothpaste and shirt are the same colors.” Be smart about taking on extra work. Is it really going to make a difference?

Lao Tzu said, “The slow overcomes the fast.” The tortoise wins with guile. Unleash your inner tortoise. Give yourself space to find creative ways forward, be prepared to take the path of least resistance from time to time.

Carl Honore is a leader in the Slow Movement He summed it up nicely,

the Slow movement is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. Nor is it a Luddite attempt to drag the whole world back to some pre-industrial utopia. On the contrary, the movement is made up of people like you and me, people who want to live better in a fast-paced, modern environment. That is why the Slow philosophy can be summed up in a single word: balance. Be fast when it makes sense to be fast, and be slow when slowness is called for. Seek to live at what musicians call the tempo giusto — the right speed.

Tempo Giusto is free will to a musician. It means “the right pace”. The musician is free to discern the intent of the composer and go with the flow.

That’s the way to live- tempo giusto. At YOUR right pace, listening to your body, seeing the signs of stress before they eat you alive, eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full, sleeping when you’re tired and allowing yourself to sleep long and late some days.

Life doesn’t have to be anywhere near as complicated as we make it. As Lily Tomlin said, “For fast acting relief, try slowing down.”

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