Why It Pays to Slow Down

Paying attention to the way you move through life helps bring peace and focus to your everyday.

Posted in , May 17, 2019

Go slow

“Slow gets the brain’s attention,” writes the meditation teacher Sarah Rudell Beach. “It’s like the brain realizes, ‘Wow, this must be really important! Look how careful she’s being!’”

Beach’s point is valid, and supported by centuries of contemplative practices in every religious tradition. But moving slowly through the modern world doesn’t exactly come easily to me. Most of the time, I am going somewhere—picking up a muffin on my way to an appointment; grabbing a half hour of email time while my son is in his piano lesson; dashing through the grocery store for tonight’s dinner ingredients. If I slow down any of those activities, physically down-shifting the speed with which I approach them, wouldn’t I feel anxious, not calm?

I love a phrase Beach shares in exploring the idea of slow, purposeful movement—she calls it “moving without arriving.” That’s not to say that I should stop trying to get somewhere with my daily activities. But maybe I can create some daily opportunities to more fully inhabit my movements. I could sit down at the cafe and take 10 minutes to enjoy my muffin. I could take a more thoughtful approach to writing a grocery list, and stretch out my errand to take in the smells and sights of the lushly stocked store. 

Or I could choose an entirely different activity, like making my bed in the morning or unloading the dishwasher, and just slow it down—Beach recommends slowing down to 50 to 75 percent of the speed you’d normally work.

The benefits of this kind of activity are many. I might discover new ways to accomplish old jobs. I could become more focused on the task at hand, finding satisfaction or even pleasure in otherwise mundane work. And when I slow my muscles and joints, I might also feel my mind slowing down, thinking less about what I need to do next, and more about what I am actually doing now.

In short, I might just get my brain’s attention. How do you get—and keep—yours?

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