Slowing down is one of the underlying messages that I try to impart through my yoga teaching. By slowing down we can pay a little more attention. Live with a little more awareness. And this, I believe, will make everything a little better. Slowing down creates time to think about what matters. To choose life rather than being dragged along.
Life seems to be lived at high speed. Information is instantly available. Technology allows us to multitask our way through life. And as a result we are always thinking about what's happening next. What we 'should' be doing, how can we be more productive, constantly comparing ourselves to the never ending reel of other people's best bits. It's exhausting.
Our minds are always thinking ahead, living life as a means to get somewhere. Somewhere where everything will be sorted. We'll be happy when we get there. But this place is often a mirage that stays at arm's length.
Another portion of our consciousness gets distracted by ruminating about things that have already happened. Wondering if we said the right things, ate the right things, or going through old patterns of thinking on repeat.
This looking back and fast forwarding ahead means that we don't have a great deal of time to enjoy what's happening under our noses, right now. When I read Eckhart Tolle's 'Power of Now', it was like a light-bulb being switched on as he explained this common way of living. This is exactly what happens in my head if I allow thoughts to run free and I know I'm not alone.
So what can be done? How do we slow down the thoughts and start savoring the here and now?
Here are my go-to practices for achieving a slower pace;
Start some mindfulness practices. This can be as simple as starting to pay more attention to your breathing. When we are stressed and anxious, our breathing gets shallow and fast, which creates a stress cycle and signals to our bodies to get ready for fight or flight. Getting into the habit of noticing your breath can allow you to deepen the breath, and intentionally move into a more relaxed state of rest and digest. As you get into the habit of noticing your breathing, extend this awareness to noticing the body. Are your shoulders tense? Is your jaw clenched. Relax anywhere that you notice tension.
Get moving. Movement and exercise will bring greater awareness of your body and is a way of bringing yourself into the present moment. Yoga is the perfect movement for connecting with your breath and your body. Choose a class where there are elements of mindfulness and meditation and start to practice these exercises off the mat.
Start a meditation practice. This can take as little as 3 minutes a day. You can download an app such as Headspace or Calm and listen to a guided meditation, or you can set a timer and focus on your breathing. Distraction is normal and pretty unavoidable. Just keep bringing your focus back to the breath once you realise you're on a train of thought. The more you practice the more in touch you become with your thought patterns and the more in control you become of your reaction to the thoughts. Continually returning your focus to the breath creates new neural pathways in the brain so you can change habitual thought patterns over time.
Practice self-compassion. The voice in our heads is often a harsh one. Try imagining how you would speak to your best friend and adopt that way of speaking to yourself. Give yourself permission to slow down and enjoy things that will fill your cup. Don't worry if you're not perfect. Cut yourself some slack.
Hopefully this list doesn't seem overwhelming. If it does, pick one thing that resonates the most and see how you go.
Slowing down is a daily practice for me. I haven't perfected it yet but I'm enjoying the journey. Here's to the here and now!