Slowing it Down

As a working mom I feel sometimes like my life is one big race to the finish line. Only every day, it seems like the line keeps moving and I never actually get to finish!

I’ve become very good at time management – I have developed a number of effective ways to get everything done and I even teach workshops on the topic. Many people ask me, “How do you do it all?” They marvel at all I can accomplish and still manage to keep a small portion of my sanity.

But, is it really healthful for me to do so much and rush around all of the time? In order to become an Interested Observer, we can’t give short shrift to the people we deal with everyday. If I run around doing my errands, taking care of my work and driving my kids hither and yon, am I also able to stop and take the time to engage with those I encounter along the way?

It’s one thing to be busy and efficient but it’s another thing entirely to miss out on the chance each day to actually relate to another person. It would be so easy to just drop my kids off at events, or run into a store to purchase something, but I choose to make time to chat a little bit with the other parents, or engage a little with the store owner. People are so interesting. If, instead of rushing through our lives, we take the time — we can find something we enjoy about each and every one of them.

Being an Interested Observer and practicing active listening requires a concentrated effort to slow down. It means putting a focus on another person so that you can “see” them clearly. Our built-in filters make it difficult to see clearly at all, and if we don’t stop and focus we don’t stand a chance of true understanding.

When I rush I also notice that I’m not as pleasant or as patient as I’d like to be with others. I start speaking in an angry tone to my children because they aren’t coming along quickly enough. I might cut my husband off because I simply don’t have the time to listen to what he is saying. When I multi-task to be more efficient, I miss what someone else is telling me because my focus is divided. I am aware that rushing, hurrying and trying to get it all done does not help me to be a very nice, kind person.

I once heard Guy Finley, a favorite spiritual teacher of mine, talk about deliberately slowing down. He suggests when we feel ourselves rushing or hurrying, instead we should simply make our body move in a slower, more patient fashion. The mind follows the body in its efforts to slow down. I do this quite often when I can catch myself and I know that my senses become more alert and I become more aware of my surroundings, and those people I am engaging with.

If we think about it, few things makes us feel more important than when someone stops and puts a focus on us. We can feel the effort someone is making to listen, concentrate and understand us.

This week, catch yourself hurrying past people, rushing to respond to someone or multi-tasking. Make a different choice to slow down and to be more conscious about your actions. See if maybe you can learn something new about someone else – and about yourself