Do you need a Simple Tool for Slowing Down in Life?
Lately I noticed myself repeating a mantra. It’s not something that I consciously decided; actually it might be the result of years of trying to figure out how to slow down; I’ve found myself spontaneously saying “there is plenty of time….”
I was sitting one morning in meditation, and after only 5 minutes I became aware of a sense of urgency, a notion in the mind and readiness in the body of need to get up and do something, to move on the next task. I heard my son call me from across the house, and my to-do list was not far from my awareness, by habit my mind thought it was time to begin the next activity, although I hadn’t finished my meditation.
I’ve been living like this for a long time. As I go through my day lately I have been paying attention to how much this sense of busyness permeates all of my daily activities. Physically, it is a sensation of readiness – it ranges from a sense of unease that I should be doing something “else” to the frantic, hurried adrenaline of running from one activity to the next, leaving them all half unfinished. Despite being unpleasant, these sensations can be addictive.
What to do when Urgency Becomes Omnipresent
It wasn’t always this way, but it has been for a number of years. At some point along my adult journey, the demands of modern daily life have all become “urgent”. I can find reasons for its origins. I am a mother of two small children, both myself and my husband often travel, I work outside the home in a demanding job, both of my children have lots of activities and my daughter has special needs that require extra time and care. On top of that I have numerous creative interests, a spiritual practice and a (sometimes abandoned) commitment to self-care.
Everything is so urgent that sometimes things fall through the cracks, important things, because of the sense that there isn’t enough time for them, and they seem so “little” in the grand scheme of things. No time to hang up the coats when we arrive, no time to clean the house, no time to go through the children’s clothes and weed-out the too-little ones, too busy to focus single-mindedly on helping with homework, too tired to watch a full movie or series episode. Definitely no time for a cup of tea or a 20-minute meditation.
There is a vague sense in my mind that there is no spare time between activities, between waking up, preparing the kids for school, my work, guitar classes, speech therapy, doctor’s appointments, kids’ homework, disciplining and rewarding, couple time, cooking, and cleaning. How are we to slow down?
The sense of urgency itself is a big part of my unease. This is what sends me running from one thing to the next, it is the sense of urgency itself that makes for tension in my breath, neck and spine. Clearly, there has been time for whatever it is that we get done each day, but is there a usefulness to this sense of urgency when it permeates all of life?
When everything is urgent, there is no time for living. The things I miss the most are the little domestic tasks- often people hate doing them- household organization, planning meals for my family, looking through family albums, enjoying small moments- the instant when the sun filters down through the clouds and the tree leaves and casts shadows on the sidewalk. The spaces for appreciating life just seem to vanish in the haste of modern life.
A Daily Practice to Create Plenty of Time
My daily practice, for now, is to reprogram my mind to think that there is plenty of time. What are the steps?
- When engaged in activity, any activity, become aware
- The minute we detect a thought of haste or feel a sense of “rush”
- Don’t “do” or “change” anything
- Just say “there is plenty of time for [whatever we are currently doing]”
Whatever task I am engaged in, when the sense of urgency comes into my awareness, I say “there is plenty of time…”.
Plenty of time to heat the milk for the coffee, plenty of time to hang up the coats when we arrive, plenty of time to put the dishes away, plenty of time to wash kids’ hair today, plenty of time to sit in the arm chair and gaze.
I’m already doing what I am doing, so it isn’t a change in a physical activity in any way. It’s a change in my mental perception. It’s a simple reminder that whatever I am doing with a sense of urgency, I can equally be doing with a sense that there is plenty of time.
As soon as I say the phrase, “there is plenty of time”, my body relaxes and I experience a greater sense of ease. It makes sense; part of the discomfort associated with busyness is the tension we hold in the body. The mental urgency of things plays a role in this. We believe that we are busy and immediately we feel it in the body. Thus, just reminding myself regularly that there is plenty of time helps me relax into a space where there truly is enough time.
Plenty of time to light a candle before dinner, plenty of time to sit down and have a cup of tea, plenty of time to save a document in the right folder, plenty of time to be on hold with the doctor, plenty of time to listen to the rain.
We have all of the time we need.