March 2015 By Suma Varughese Suma Varughese is learning the paradoxical truth that slowing down helps you to speed up I type really fast, which is good. However, a lot of misspellings creep in, and it takes me a while to clean the copy of its errors. I move fast too, darting here and there like a bird when I am cooking, cleaning the house, or doing any other activity. Yet in all that haste, I find that I have forgotten to fetch something from the fridge so I have to retrace my steps, or I have gone for my bath without taking the towel. When I recently bought myself a smart phone, and acquainted myself with touch typing, again my fingers sped across the pad, and typed out virtually incomprehensible sentences. I speak hastily too, breaking in before people have completed their sentences, to blurt out whatever it is that I have to say. In short, my speed trips me up, and makes me far less effective than I can be. Where does this tendency to overdrive come from? From our minds, of course. The reason why we hasten automatically is because the moment there is a thought such as ‘I am getting late for work and I still have so much to do’, the body tenses and the mind begins to speed up. Worry and anxiety flood the system, self-recriminatory thoughts swirl in your head, the breath becomes faster and more shallow, and before we know what we are doing, the mind has taken control, and is whirling us around like a schoolboy does a cockroach. Fortunately, my focus is increasing, and with it is coming a merciful slowing down. I am getting that slowing down is actually far more efficient and effective, because you make less mistakes, you get a chance to think, and you tend to be more peaceful and calm. These days when I do pranayam in the morning and find the mind being taken hostage by marauding thoughts, I recognize that the solution is not to resist, insist, and breathe faster and faster, but to slow down and breathe slowly and longer. Inevitably, the mind follows the breath and slows down too. Even when typing messages on the phone, I slow down, instead of hastily dashing out something which then has to be rewritten. It is when we are most in a hurry that we need to slow down, because only then will we make maximum use of our limited time, take the right decisions, and stay calm. The more hurried we are, the more the danger of things going wrong, and of us losing our cool and having a showdown. Often, when stuck in an article with nothing to say, my default reaction is to type faster and faster as if that itself would make the words flow. Now I am recognizing that the solution may possibly be to slow down, allow the mind to quieten, and then I might actually hear what I am trying to say. Similarly, if late for an appointment, it is counterproductive, though compelling, to grab one’s things and run out of the door, only to turn back and find that you have forgotten to take your house keys or cell phone. I am getting that slowing down is actually far more efficient and effective, because you make less mistakes. Slowing down is powerful when we are confronted with a raging friend or colleague who is upset with us. Usually, we tend to catch the other’s momentum and get carried away. However, if we were to slow down instead, we would find ourselves absorbing what the other has to say, soothe our own reactions, and have the capacity to respond. Quoting the Buddha, Stephen Covey said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Slowing down widens the space, and helps us choose our response.
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