With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Look here,” I said to her.
She leaned in a little closer.
“Where,” she asked.
“Right down here. Between the blades of grass,” I replied.
“I see it!”
Buried in the blades of grass was a small ant making its way somewhere. It went over, under, and around the blades of grass in its way. To find it took a bit of careful looking.
To find it also took the kind of attention that is only available once we slow down.
Earlier that day the four of us decided on a whim to take a trip to central Washington. Both my wife and I went to school there and both of us enjoy its way of life.
Cows and horses in large pastures, big sky from horizon to horizon, and a slower way of life greet those who are willing to make the trek.
Life in the Seattle area is in stark contrast. More people, more cars, more going on. There is a relative sense of hurry in the Seattle area that dissolves as you wind through the mountains and come down the other side toward the middle of the state.
A slower way of life isn’t for everyone, though.
Slowing down after you have been sped up by life can be a challenge. Some people cope by constantly checking their phones. Others need people around to incessantly talk with.
Me? After a few deep breaths I can sit by the river, as we were doing that day, and just be.
Indeed, all four of us returned to the present moment that day.
A Sense of Relaxation
My son was throwing rocks into the water and stalking a garter snake along the shoreline. My daughter was running and dancing on the grass.
My wife and I were simply enjoying the sun after escaping the gray skies of western Washington.
Sitting there I could finally feel a sense of relaxation. I could feel my shoulders start to drop and my attention wander to smaller, less weighty things.
If it’s been a while since you have slowed down, here are s four benefits to giving it another try.
It’s almost impossible to truly relax without slowing down. I have never been able to truly relax while running from place to place.
I remember a trip we made back east a number of years ago. After several days in Virginia we made our way over to Washington DC. With only one day to spend in Washington DC we moved quickly from place to place, from museum to museum.
It was fun for sure, but I wouldn’t say it was relaxing.
Slowing down helps you focus on the details of life. When we are moving quickly, it becomes hard to focus on the details. Miss them for long enough and it becomes easy to think they don’t really exist.
We found the ant by looking through those blades of grass. If we would have just looked at the grass while walking by we would have missed it.
Details add richness to life and its experiences.
The more rich the experience, the more enjoyable it is in the moment. Additionally, richer experiences are often remembered longer and with greater detail.
Slowing down helps you stay connected in the present. The present is where everything happens.
Slowing down directs our attention back on the present as opposed to reliving the past or planning for a possible future.
It’s hard to be present when life is going full speed.
Being present, however, is essential to being connected to others and your inner self. These connections act as the foundation for well-being and happiness.
Slowing down can help recharge your batteries. As work continues to expand and the line between personal time and work time gets more blurry, taking time to recharge becomes increasingly important.
People who really produce over time understand the importance of rest. Stephen Covey thought it important enough to include it as his seventh habit of highly successful people. Covey referred to it as “sharpening the saw.”
As he put it, “You can renew yourself through relaxation. Or you can totally burn yourself out by overdoing everything.”
I suggest that by slowing down and recharging your batteries you will become more effective at work, at home, and in your social life.
Paradoxically, rest is a necessary component to real effectiveness.
As my daughter and I were watching the ant that day I remember thinking that these moments, the moments where we can slow down and be in the present, are the most important.
She may not remember it when she gets older, but I will, because it’s in these moments that we are the most fulfilled and the most connected.