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Recently, for the first time in my life, I have intentionally begun the practice of slowing down.
I don’t just mean meditating more, practicing yoga more, which I do believe to be powerful ways to become present, but really and truly living my daily life at a more gradual pace.
Although my body, mind, and most loudly my spirit, have been asking for this gently and politely for years (and I’m only 27!), it was not until I was laid out on the couch for days that the universe got my attention. The first couple of weeks were filled with figuring out what and how to let go of my existing commitments, as well as trying to understand what my body needed to mend and heal.
I am now a couple of weeks beyond that initial experience, the dust has settled, and I am finding that for the first time in years, I am being asked to be completely present with myself. Not the “busy” “productive” “thriving” “becoming something” part of myself that I put out to the world, but the pieces that I don’t so much like to be with, experience or talk about; the pieces that I have shoved down, run from, and distracted myself from since they became a part of my self perception.
I am having to face the belief that I am weak and small, but somehow not small or shapely enough. That while I was once more pale or had more blemishes, my skin is still not clear and perfect; that I didn’t appreciate my marathoner body for all that it did when it was doing it, and now it cannot keep up the pace. That my mind runs constantly and that I don’t remember the last time I made a decision based on what my body/mind/spirit was truly asking for rather than some external rule that made the decision “right.”
Most painfully, as I figure out what slowing down looks and feels like, and my senses become more still, I am acutely aware of how many daily joys I’ve been rushing through rather than savoring. I’ve taken habits that could be made into beautiful acts of self-love: showering, washing my face, breathing, practicing yoga, eating and even cuddling on the couch with my fiancé or reading, and I’ve placed time limits on them and declared them one more thing to check off of my list.
My mind is always pushing on to the next thing, leaving my body and emotions hanging on for the ride, and my spirit crying for the remembrance of what love feels like. It’s not that I don’t have a beautiful support system or even a beautiful life, I really do, and that realization makes my behavior all the more agonizing as I look back on it.
As I open up space to become curious about my behavior, rather than judging or shaming, what I find is that behind the cloak of “I’m too busy” for that, or “I don’t have time for that,” is the belief that I do not deserve to feel that joy. I don’t deserve the joy that comes with being present with my life. I don’t deserve the joy of being in this body, of waking up to this day, to enjoying this exercise, or this meal.
I’ve allowed shame to block, rush, and hurry me through spaces and opportunities to feel loved, cared for, accepted, not just by others, but by myself. I’ve forgotten that deep down, I really do love myself because I remember who I truly am; I remember who I am connected to. That realization still brings tears to my eyes.
And I know, without a doubt, that that is who you are, too.
Can you imagine what your life would look like if you remembered this as your first thought, each and every day? Can you imagine how loved, held, and supported you’d feel if you infused every self-act with this belief? Can you imagine what space and energy you’d create to then give it back to others? Can you imagine how rich your relationships would be? Your life?
I am beginning to believe it could become my reality, but only if I commit to moment-to-moment mindfulness like I’ve committed to jobs and projects in the past: with the whole of myself.
While I will keep my meditation and yoga practice, what has really served as most transformational for me lately is to release the grips that time has on me. Believe me, coming from a background in academia and corporate work I understand how difficult to comprehend that is. But think about the way that your great-great-grandparents lived. Think about how inventive and elegant they were. Think about how much more gently and in tune they lived, as compared to our schedules.
It doesn’t have to be a total re-do of your daily routine (though I am hoping to get there!); start with one activity each day, and refuse to put a time limit on it. It can be a shower, a meal, a meditation, or something fun and creative you’d never normally let yourself do. Think about what you’d let yourself do if you had just one week or one month to live, because let’s face it, life can be that short and uncertain.
I am beginning to walk the path of a gentler and more love-infused life, one mindful step at a time; I hope you’ll join me.
The Art of Slowing Down (Without Feeling Guilty).
Author: Jadi Engels
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr
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