Slowing Down Our Lives
There is a kid around the age of twelve who has been giving Dharma talks. He has attracted large audiences. A British reporter followed him around for awhile, and whether this child is the second coming of the Buddha or not, a moment in time that really stood out for the reporter occurred while watching his subject eat an apple. He savored every bite and it took him about an hour to eat the whole thing. This little guy has figured out mindfulness at a very early age.
One of my favorite yoga teachers told us this story right before a class and then guided us through a sequence of poses where everything was slowed down so that we could really savor every movement. He told us, “When you go slower you get stronger.” Like almost everything in yoga, this type of comment doesn’t only apply to the physical practice of asanas but also to the wider practice of daily life.
Socrates said “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” These words flashed across my consciousness during Tim’s class. Sometimes we think that if we can stay really busy or quickly move from one subject to the next it means that we are being productive and doing something right. But this frenetic movement is a lot like the motorist you see who guns his engine between every stoplight, speeding up, stressing out himself and everyone else, before slamming on the brakes, impatiently idling until the next signal turns green.
When we can slow down a little bit and spend more of our time working and acting in the present moment, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are being less productive, and in fact it probably means we are being more productive. We get to enjoy the scenery and make informed choices about where we are going, choices not influenced by the external compulsion to keep moving at all costs.
Frenetic activity is kind of pointless and counterproductive because there are always stoplights that will slow us down and make everybody else catch up anyway. We can’t stay busy all the time and eventually have to rest. Mindfully coming to the moment and giving 100% of our attention to slowly and purposefully accomplishing the task in front of us makes us stronger, and it improves the quality of our work and the quality of our lives.