Written by: Angie Noll
There is something about being asked to slow down that makes us want to rush even faster, isn’t there? It’s almost as if that exact invitation causes us to go into panic mode, to create as much as possible before we commit to the dreaded pace of slow.
Many of us find slowing down so challenging that we almost want to prove, with a show of how much we can really get done if we just push harder and work faster, that we don’t really need to ease up. They might, but we certainly don’t.
Or do we?
We all know, and I’m willing to wager that we know this from personal experience somewhere along the road of our creative life, that as soon as we’re asked to give up something – say cigarettes, alcohol, desert – that it triggers something in us that makes us just want that forbidden item even more.
It’s no different with a fast paced, filled to the brim kind of lifestyle. As soon as we hear mention of having to do less – even if it is with the intention of devoting more time to our craft – all we want to do is more.
Sometimes, filling our lives to the brim is the only way we can legitimately avoid our creative calling. And if you suspect this is you, then read on for inspiration on how to ease out of busy mode and into creativity.
Less really is more
That’s the irony. Less really is more – not only in your home décor but also in terms of getting stuff done. The reason for this is simple – more action does not necessarily equate to more results. It might make us feel more productive, but that doesn’t automatically mean that we are achieving more.
Steps to slowing down
Through Yin yoga, I’ve learnt how to slow down, how to surrender and how to deal with the discomfort that it produces. Because it is challenging to do less, especially if we’re doing less with the aim of achieving more.
We’re not simply slacking and shirking our responsibilities, we’re mindfully and deliberately slowing down in order to achieve something. We’re just using a different mindset to get there.
Step 1 – Go to your edge
In yoga, this refers to your physical edge, of course, but in life, it can mean anything. Everything has its limits. Going to your edge means do not push yourself past your edge. You go only as far as you can feel something, but not further.
For instance, how many of us have a to-do list as long as our arm Every. Single. Day? And we know it’s excessive because we suffer the effects of trying to keep up with the list of demands, errands, tasks, chores, favours and jobs. In other words, we suffer from Stress.
How do we stop at the edge, and not go further? We could take a good, hard look at the impossible to-do list and select only those things that we really, really have to do. We could let the others go, if possible, or delegate, or do them on another day.
It’s all about making a mindful choice. We don’t need to push beyond our limits and physically exhaust ourselves every time we hit the gym. We can stop eating before we are overfull. We can stop spending before we’re in overdraft. We can stop arguing before we tip over into full-blown anger.
Step 2 – Find stillness
Once we’ve reached our edge, we must become still. In other words, we don’t fidget. This can be challenging for those of us who require caffeine and other stimulants to get through the day. Our bodies and minds are so wired that stillness is almost elusive.
Back to the to-do list… once you’ve reached your edge for that day, stop. Resist the urge to check your email, to tick just one more task off the list or do one more favour for someone.
By that same token, resist the urge to lift just one more set of weights and go find stillness in the sauna or at the juice cafe. Leave the table before eating an extra serving just because it tastes nice and become still in the bath, the garden or the bedroom instead.
Finding stillness, in the context of real life situations, doesn’t necessarily mean stillness of mind – although if you can go meditate in the car for 5 minutes instead of spending more money at the mall you certainly score extra brownie points. But, realistically speaking, this stillness just refers to learning to feel calmness when you’ve reached your edge and being ok with stopping at this edge, instead of compulsively having to do more.
Step 3 – Stay there
In Yin Yoga, we stay in the poses for a long time, allowing the body to soften, to open up and to gain the benefits of surrendering into the pose without force or effort.
In real life, this translates into deeper calm. In other words, in step 1, we culled our to-do list so that we only had to do enough to feel productive for the day, but not overworked and stressed. In Step 2, we stopped by simply not allowing ourselves to “just quickly” do one more task or check one more email. In Step 3, we maintain this stopping for the rest of the day, however much day you still have left. Staying with the stillness, resisting the urge to do more and push just a little harder – that’s where the magic starts.
What would your day look like if you followed these steps? If you only did what you really had to, then stopped, and then used the rest of your time to draw/paint/write/dance/compose/sew….
Perhaps, like me, you would follow the way of Yin Yoga, and allow the time spent in stillness to reveal its purpose for you, without planning anything in particular. Just being, and seeing what unfolds… Usually with a notebook and pen close by.
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