Just Slow Down
Rechtschaffen also sees a connection between slowness and a healthier environment. “I believe that the speedup of time is intricately connected to the holes in the ozone layer, non-disposable nuclear waste, endangered species, and polluted rivers. The more we operate only from our minds, the more we divorce ourselves from our emotions and our senses; the more we will bulldoze, blacktop, pollute, and mindlessly destroy life,” he says.
Without a doubt, slowness helps cultivate mindfulness, a state of non-judgmental self-awareness. This enhances our connections to one another, which ultimately engenders a respect for our surroundings. Something which remains suppressed when individuals run the treadmill 24/7.
No wonder so many individuals feel like retreating to the nearest cave. But this only denies what is happening in the outside world. Sooner or later we all must face a world of beeps and clicks.
Rechtschaffen contends that someone from a thousand years ago watching a modern-day television commercial would have a similar experience as getting a drink of water from a fire hydrant. “Life just comes pouring out at us. In order to survive in the modern world, we need to know how to handle that.”
That’s why he advocates timeshifting, the premise of his book by the same name. Rather than simply slowing down, Rechtschaffen believes that we twenty-first-century souls need to learn how to shift our rhythms throughout the day. (See sidebar)
“What’s causing stress and killing us is the lack of capacity to shift gears. So our problem is we’re always multi-tasking. We need to acknowledge that different activities have different speeds and learn how to adjust our internal rhythm accordingly. Real success in modern times is not to emulate the turtle but to move seamlessly and decisively among different rhythms,” he says.
Beyond shifting our rhythms, we must also shift our attitudes about time. For it’s easy to forget that time is nothing more than a human creation. And while the invention of the clock has brought a sense of order to the natural chaos of the world, it has also caused us to become obsessed with “getting it done,” rather than simply being.
As Pema Chodron writes in her book, Uncomfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings (Shambhala, 2002), “if we learn to sit still like a mountain in a hurricane, unprotected from the truth and vividness and the immediacy of simply being part of life, then we are not this separate being who has to have things turn out our way. When we stop resisting and let the weather simply flow through use, we can live our lives completely.”
For more information on the Slow Movement, please contact the following organizations:
Slow Investing, www.investorscircle.net
Slow Food, www.slowfoodusa.com
Slow Cities, www.slowfood.com/eng/sf_ita_mondo/sf_ita_citta_slow.lasso
Timeshifting by Stephan Rechtschaffen is published by Main Street Books, 1997.
How To Be At Ease with Time
Adapted from Timeshifting by Stephan Rechtschaffen
An effective way to train oneself in timeshifting is to develop rituals that shift us from one rhythm to another. Here are five ways to help you do this.
Be in the moment. Thich Nhat Hanh says to let the telephone be a bell of awakening. When it rings, stop and take a deep breath instead of snatching it off the hook. You’ll find yourself slowing down, getting calmer, and better able to respond to the call.
Create time boundaries. We all need some time that is strictly our own on a daily basis. Try to find the same time everyday – whether fifteen minutes or an hour – for meditation, contemplation, or to just enjoy your surroundings.
Honor the mundane. We often consider the “highlights” of the day – the big meeting, a good meal, or an outing – as more important than what occurs in between. But these mundane times offer treasures for the soul.
Create spontaneous time. Those from northern climes will remember what a joy “snow days” were. As adults, we need to create our own time for unplanned, unexpected results by scheduling time to be spontaneous. Pick a weekday three weeks from now and plan to leave work at 1 p.m. Get in your car, or on a train, or just start walking . . . anywhere.
Create time retreats. Once a year or so, spend a week or more doing something out of the ordinary that lets you shift to a slower rhythm. This might mean going into nature. Beware of “vacations” that have you racing through Disney World or European cities. Choose consciously to go somewhere and be still, and watch time open up to you.