please slow down,
and take a deep breath.
Take another deep breath.
Do you see what lies before you?
Do you see what lies within you?
Now breathe again.
Do you feel this life?
Can you dance with the uncertainty?
Can you love what you have
even when you think you deserve something else?
Can you live with the disappointment
until it reveals to you what you need to know?
Can you reach for what is good and true
and then change your ideas of “good” and “true”?
How can you notice all this subtle beauty
if you are constantly rushing, breakneck pace, no pause?
Come home to yourself.
Nothing is more important than your homecoming.
So slow down please.
Take a deep breath.
Do you see?
Since trading in our gas guzzling 2012 Dodge Durango for a much more fuel efficient 2014 Toyota Prius V and completely changing the way I drive, I’ve noticed some pretty incredible shifts in the way that I experience my every day life.
An eight cylinder hemispherical engine packs a lot of power…back in the days of driving the Dodge, whenever I was stopped at a light on my way to work, on my way to an appointment, or really just on my way, I would plan to quickly leap ahead of anyone I could so that I wouldn’t be stuck behind some unfocused cell phone using ninny who didn’t boast the same strategic driving skills as yours truly. I would feel my system flooded with adrenaline as I anticipated the light changing and putting the pedal to the metal to take off from the intersection as quickly as possible. I would still give a quick glance left and right when the light changed to make sure that the intersecting traffic had stopped, but I would take off as quickly as I could and feel satisfied by the roar of the engine and the pull of the g-forces as I left the other ninny drivers in the dust. Oh, the beautiful torque. Boy–what a dummy I was with that Dodge.
Such behavior left me hurrying everywhere I went. Such behavior cost me a great deal of peace of mind, put a strain on my body, trickled into my parenting, my marriage, my housecleaning, my meditation practice, and most especially the way I perceive my personal evolution: my growth into the person I most want to be. I was living a glaringly obvious breach of authenticity and it left me feeling uncomfortable on a very deep level. I mean, come on–I was teaching my students to be gentle with themselves, to give themselves time to notice subtle sensations and make mindful choices about how they transition from pose to pose–and “All of this can be achieved,” I told them, “by slowing down”–yet I was unable to slow down in my own life, and this left me feeling like I was living a lie.
And then one fine blue sky day my husband drove away with the Dodge and came back with the Prius. I was resistant at first, thought I’d miss all that power. I didn’t even want to drive it at first, out of some kind of weird loyalty to the Dodge. But then my husband told me about hypermiling, gave me a rough estimate of how much money we’d save by fueling up less often, offered me a few tips about how to drive more fuel efficiently, and my whole outlook changed.
Okay, I told myself…I have been feeling uncomfortable about my aggressive driving for years now, afraid that one of my students or colleagues would see me behind the wheel and feel shocked and disappointed and lose respect in my teaching because of what they witnessed. I have been acutely aware of the stress reaction in my body in response to my driving choices. I have felt guilty about the toll my fossil fuel consumption is taking on the earth and her resources. I was exhausted by all of the hurrying around, by the anger I directed at other drivers, assuming that they were out to get me, to hold me back. Maybe I’m not losing out by giving up the powerful car. Maybe I’m actually gaining something precious. Maybe something will change. I think it’s time.
So I started slowing waaaaaaaaaay down. I began playing a game with myself called “Get the best MPG possible” everywhere I went. Because I wanted to consume less gas, I was taking my time accelerating. I was watching the cars up ahead and anticipating stopping well before I needed to use my brakes, so that I could coast to a stop and save gas and my brakes. For once I was consistently going the speed limit, so I wasn’t worried about being caught by police officers who were looking out for speeders. And I discovered that driving felt calming, relaxing, soothing even, meditative even…
I stopped worrying that someone I knew would see me driving and be appalled. That was a relief. I began to take myself more seriously when I would once again encourage my students to slow down in their yoga practice. I started feeling like I had more time…I wasn’t arriving any later than before. Well, maybe a minute or two later max–but how ridiculous it was to think that I was saving myself time by driving like a maniac!! I leave the same amount of time to get where I’m going as I left myself before, and without speeding at all, I’m arriving at the same time. Epiphany.
And then I noticed that I was slowing down around my kids. When I held my two year old son up to the sink today to wash his hands, I wasn’t just trying to get it done as quickly as possible so that I could get on to the next thing. At first we were just there, the water was running, I was pumping the soap onto his hands, and I noticed suddenly that I was being a little brusque, a little too fast; so I slowed down. I used a gentler touch… and it struck me how precious his little hands were, how soft, how tiny his fingers were, how much of a privilege it was to hold him, and there was this outpouring of love coming from me…and whatever thing he was doing two minutes before that was annoying the crap out of me had suddenly melted out of my consciousness.
As I have started to see myself relaxing while driving, while parenting, while teaching, this miraculous thing is happening where I have more space to see and appreciate all that I have. Because my mind isn’t cluttered with a list of to-dos, with the urgency that I have to get this and that done so that I can rush on to the next thing, there is room in my awareness to just be present and enjoy the sound of the keys on this keyboard as my fingers tap them. There is room to hear my son’s breathing as he concentrates deeply on fitting a puzzle piece into its proper position. I can listen to my daughter singing, I can watch her light steps, and I’m not waiting for her to be bigger so that she can stop making messes.
How can it be that one little choice can have such far-reaching effects? But isn’t this what the greatest thinkers of all time have been telling us forever? That God is in the details, that the little things in life count, that every thought matters, that all of our actions have rippling effects…
It feels good to live my way into this knowing. It feels good to adapt to a way of being that promotes health and deeper connection. How about my decision to give up half of my yoga classes so that I can spend more time with my family? This happened because I became so acutely aware of my frantic drive to develop myself professionally, and how this drive was leaving little room for my loved ones. My hurry sickness was giving me tunnel vision, and once I slowed down, I saw the bigger picture and realized that nothing is more precious than my family. I could’ve told you before that my time with my family was precious, but I wasn’t living it until now.
So there it is. I slowed down, it helped me to relax, and now I’m feeling this great sense of contentment welling up in me. It wasn’t some groundbreaking event that happened. I didn’t win the lottery. I wasn’t nominated as best yoga teacher in the universe. I didn’t teach myself how to levitate, or see remotely, or read other people’s thoughts. I’m not living in my dream home, we have no plans to go on my dream vacation, and there are still dirty dishes in my sink, crumbs underneath the table, and cat litter on the floor right by my bed. No major explosion of genius or windfall of material wealth has happened. There’s only this gentle realization that slowly dawned on me, and a feeling of being so incredibly grateful for it.
Thank you life for revealing how awesome you are, and thank you for being patient with me as I toddle my way into realizing what really matters.