April 5, 2011

Speediness does not equal efficiency.

Hurry Up & Read This!

Just Kidding. Take Your Time. You’ll Get More Out of It.

Several weeks ago, I was zooming out of my driveway (in reverse, mind you). This is something I have done at least five times a day for the last ten years. This time, however, I smacked into one of the trees that line the driveway. Yup. I crashed the mirror right off the side of the car.

I slunk back into the house, imagining hundreds of dollars of repair costs, to confess to my husband.

Luckily, he thought it was funny. Added bonus: he was able to reattach the mirror. I headed off on my way again, musing about what it means to be in a hurry. In my rush to be somewhere else, I was paying so little attention to where I was that I ran the car into a tree that has been a fixture in my daily life the entire time I’ve lived here.

That’s really what it means to be hurrying. It’s not about how quickly we’re moving or how much we get done in a day (or even in an hour). Hurrying is a state of mind when we’ve let our attention dash off to whatever’s next. I even did a little research and found an article in Yoga Journal, called “Don’t Hurry, Be Happy” by Christine Feldman.

I admit to being a little annoyed by the title – after all, does being in a hurry guarantee that you’re an unhappy person? If so, most of our society must be miserable! But she hooked me in the very first paragraph.

“I found,” she wrote, “that I could move very, very quickly without letting my mind engage in hurrying.” (Phew, I thought! Speed is often completely necessary in my life to keep all my balls up in the air!) “In fact, before long it became obvious that hurrying had less to do with how fast I moved and more to do with my agitation and preoccupation with being somewhere I was not.” (Hmmm.)

It’s safe to say that I was preoccupied with something other than driving my car when I hit that tree. In fact, I was agitated (just as Ms. Feldman wrote) because I was running late. In that bothered, distracted state of mind, I got sloppy.

In fact, I think it’s safe to say that, in that state of mind, we all get sloppy. We make careless mistakes, we say things we shouldn’t, we forget to do things we’ve promised to do. Life, in that state of mind, does not feel good. It’s actually pretty hard to be happy when you’re hurrying.

As I continued to cogitate on hurrying, I started to look for instances of this state of mind in my days. I began to pay attention to when I was hurrying and how I felt while doing so. Surprisingly, I actually found myself hurrying through my yoga practice on a couple of occasions! This was surprising, frankly, because practicing yoga is one of my very favorite things to do. Why on earth would I hurry through that?

The thing about practicing yoga is that it can take as long as we want it to take. I can roll out my mat for half an hour or for two hours. I can move slowly through five postures, holding them each for 10 breaths. I can pick up the pace and do the entire ashtanga series, holding each asana for only 3 breaths. It doesn’t matter how long I practice or how many postures I do. What matters is my state of mind while practicing. So I wasn’t hurrying because yoga took too long.

When I started poking at it, I discovered that I felt hurried during practice because I was agitated and preoccupied with all I had to do afterward. I wasn’t truly present on my mat. My practice did not feel good because I wasn’t really there. My practice felt like another item on my to-do list rather than the space I make in my days to reconnect my body, mind and spirit. I also learned that I frequently come to my mat hurried, but the breathing and the postures themselves seem to work some sort of magic on me. For the most part, by the time I’m halfway through the sun salutations, my hurried feelings are dissipating. I’m suddenly more focused on what I’m doing right now, and that’s the real secret. It doesn’t matter whether that day’s practice is fast-paced or slow, or whether I’m able to stay on my mat for minutes or hours. The physical practice of yoga can be an antidote to a hurried frame of mind.

Since I’ve started paying attention to my hurrying, I can’t say that I’ve stopped doing it. What I can say is that I believe I’m more aware of it when I’m doing it. This awareness sometimes enables me to snap out of that preoccupied and agitated frame of mind. I take a deep breath and focus on the activity at hand, knowing that, when I’ve moved onto the next item on my list, I’ll feel better for having done each task well and for avoiding careless mistakes. I’ve found that focusing and paying attention do not really slow me down. I’ve discovered that I feel more peaceful in this other, non-hurried frame of mind.

P.S. I’m also pleased to report that I haven’t hit any more objects with my car!

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