I am coming to the gradual recognition that mindfulness is deeply connected to the pace at which we move, think, and act.
From rushing through my tasks and days to lazing slothfully in fits of exhaustion, I tend to oscillate between two states which are completely counter to mindful living. I’ve named these states the busy bee and the lazy loo – you might be familiar with them.
The Busy Bee
As a chronic high achiever, people pleaser, and do-gooder, I often neglect my capacity for mindfulness by living in a state of hurry.
I sprint through my days, breezing past opportunities to walk mindfully through this world:
I spend my time in the shower thinking about my to do list for the day
I rush to work filled with the anxiety of everything there is to do there, often speeding out of a subconscious desire to get to the office faster in order to get started on it all
I respond to a co-worker’s inquiry from a place of distraction or half listening with my mind still in task-mode
Coffee gets me through my days and is usually guzzled in transit or at my desk
I forgo a lunch break to “better utilize my time”
When I do manage to make time for it, I squeeze into the yoga studio just before the class begins and hop off my mat as soon as it is over
I choose a recipe based on its estimated time to prepare
I eat most meals in a matter of minutes
That to do list from the morning is never complete when I finally get to bed
If you recognize yourself in this list, you too might need to slow down.
I invite you to choose just one bullet point from above and treat it as a practice. And by that I mean be present within the activity. Use your breath to guide your movement; be aware of what you are feeling in your body; give the moment, task, and yourself the time that they deserve.
When we move mindfully, I like to imagine our bodies slow like molasses: thick and heavy, filled with our present sensations and the expansive time of our own infinity. I notice the roughness of the loofah against my skin, walk to work at a leisurely pace, listen from my heart, respond to inquiries only after letting them sink into my mind and body. Even as I type now, I feel this paragraph moving slower and with greater intention. And it feels like an apt metaphor: let’s not live our lives in bulleted lists, but in rich descriptive stories.
While slowing down is a necessity of mindfulness, movement too is still required.
The Lazy Loo
As I rush through life, I then experience bouts of inactivity that are anything but mindful. This fast-paced life is unsustainable and it catches up to me in lapses of slothfulness and lethargy:
I binge-watch a Netflix series and then wake up late the next day
I feel so overwhelmed by my personal to do’s that I don’t work towards any of them
My list of people to catch up with or emails to respond to pile up and I take a hiatus from any sense of responsibility for them
I neglect my meditation, asana, or reflective practices out of a sensed a lack of time or energy
If these patterns are familiar to you, you probably need to set an intention towards movement. Choose one area where you’ve indulged in atrophy and set a goal. Make it a small one, a baby step towards mindfully attending to the things that are important to you. Because when we slide into indolence, we no longer reside in the moment but instead live in patterns of avoidance and escape.
A Third Way
In the Vedic texts, this cycle of incessant action and excessive inactivity are referred to as two energies: raja and tama respectively. From this lens, our spiritual practices are in pursuit of sattva, an energetic state of harmony, presence, and clarity.
Sattva is effort with ease, movement with patience, and relaxation with purpose.
The ideal pace, then, is a balanced one – a slow intentionality that is the foundation for sustained action.
How can we better practice this third way of slowing down and taking action? Be it steps to calm the busy bee who is always on the go, or action to break up the lazy loo’s lengthy postponements, what do you need in order to inch closer towards a sattvic life of mindful movement?
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