Last week I attended a meditation workshop with my teacher Dr. Richard Miller. Taking three hours off in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon to learn more about the benefits of meditation and how to bring this into my daily life felt a bit decadent. But it proved to be time well spent.
That evening, after the workshop, I had crystal clear insights about my life and business, I was able to respond to my adolescent from a place of wisdom and compassion and my interactions with others were more heartfelt and present. The experience of slowing down–on the inside and outside– and seeing the benefits that came from moving at a slower pace reminded me of the mantra my son used to always share when he was little and mornings were moving faster than he’d like, “Mama, slower is better.”
Does the thought of slowing down make your heart race as you look at the mountains of obligations, daily tasks, household chores and work duties before you? Think slow is for slackers? I used to, too.
Slowing down and doing less are easier said than done, and they require a radical paradigm shift for most of us. It requires us to distinguish our inner life from our outward productivity and asks us to be willing to release old habits and ways of being.
When I was thirty years old, I was a public relations director in a very stressful job. I fit the persona of an overachiever, and I loved the strokes that came with overachieving; I was addicted to having a super busy mind, schedule, and life. I was also exhausted and frankly doubted I could sustain this pace (really, this level of mental activity — or insanity). Over time, my job, relationships, and well-being were all suffering from my speeded-up life.
I began working with a great mindfulness coach named Frances. She teaches clients how to slow down on the inside so that you can actually be more effective and wise in all areas of your life. For a long time, I thought (somewhat smugly), “This will never work for me. She just doesn’t understand my world. How can I slow down and still get things done?” Successfully juggling and anticipating solutions for ten different projects simultaneously was my hallmark! But slowly I integrated her coaching into my life, and I began to understand the connection between my inner state of being and how I see and respond to my outer world. As I cultivated more awareness for my inner world—and began to slow down on the inside– it had a huge impact: I lived more in the present, decreased anxiety, and improved my mood in large part by creating more space between my thoughts and my reactions. From stillness also came discernment: I began to see what really mattered to me, and my life purpose and path became clear. And, I actually did become much wiser and more effective at work!
My work with Frances during those years led directly to the model for balanced living that I teach and try to live by today, focusing on four key insights: learn to manage your energy and say no, ask for and receive help, practice self-care, and live more in the present. Integrating these practices into my life over the past 18 years has had a profound impact on my well-being.
Do I believe slower is better? Yes! In many ways slowing down and pausing–especially when your plate is really full–is like a secret weapon. It’s counter to how we feel we should respond when there’s much to do, but it’s the only sane way to navigate the 24/7 world we now live in. The challenge is just to remember that when we feel the need for speed: slower is better.
INVITE: Slowing down when you’re used to moving fast can be hard (it was for me!). A great way to begin to “reset” your internal speed and to see how powerful it can feel to move at a slower pace, is to take a retreat. Consider joining me for an upcoming weekend or week-long retreat (or have me lead a custom “mini retreat” for your team or company). Learn more.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by work-life balance/mindfulness teacher/author and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-care groups based on her award-winning curriculum. She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 12 year-old son. More on her background here.
Photo: Last weekend my family rented a canoe and spent a lazy evening on Town Lake in Austin. We all loved the sloowww pace.