To get energized, you should move faster by setting a timer. This way, your brain perceives that you are in a fight-flight situation, releasing stress hormones like adrenaline.
The effort can be a strategy to make us productive.
When you feel lazy in the middle of working hours, you should intentionally move faster by setting up a time limit. With this pressure, you can be alert and energetic, as your brain thinks you are in a fight-flight condition.
Is this strategy recommendable? It could be, but not always.
In our everyday lives, we have already been overusing this approach. We always look in a hurry and impatient as if life is short and we don’t have enough time to do many things.
From the moment we wake up to bedtime, a smartphone is with us, bombarded with constant messages and notifications. Even during sleep, the bombardment never ceases from different time zones. It covers 24 hours and seven days, including holidays. Can you flee from them? If you can’t, you have no choice but to fight, fight and fight.
Life is a war game. We get overexcited and overstressed.
What happens if this fight-flight reaction continues for an extended period? We would eventually use up our adrenaline and get more cortisol. These are stress hormones to our body, mind, soul, and spirit. We are under various chronic illnesses, seeking elusive health and wealth and not having enough time for soul and spirit. All the contemporary physical and psychological diseases result in these unhealthy conditions.
What should we do? One of the traditional remedies should be seeking the opposite of these faster, fight-flight situations. We can use the overarching term like slow-motion therapy, similar to the meditative approach. And yet, the former focuses more on slowness.
Traditionally, Tai Chi could be one of the typical activities. You are supposed to follow a set of martial art moves and forms in super slow motion. While martial artists are supposed to move faster to defeat their opponents, this effort radically looks counterintuitive.
Moving slowly, you can enter a meditative state, mindfully sensing every move and area of your body and posture. This way, your brain perceives that you are in a peaceful situation, far from fight-flight. You can reduce the adrenaline and cortisol releases. Instead, you can get more peaceful hormones like endorphin, serotonin, oxytocin, and the like. And your brain waves can enter the alpha zone. You are ready for your peak performance and flow state, using the terms of both Maslow and Csikszentmihaly.
Without knowing these recent medical and psychological findings, people understood the optimal approaches in the past.
We can be productive with the fight-flight threats, but it is short-lived, harmful, and unsustainable. With a short sprint, we can get energized. But we can never continue it without breaks. The intervals should be necessary when we practice HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). If not, we get exhausted, injured and eventually destroy our bodies and minds.
We know that in the field of sport. But we have taken it for granted in our everyday lives.
Besides Tai Chi, other practices like tea ceremony, flower arrangement, drawing, painting, calligraphy, composing poets, and the like emphasize the importance of mindful slowness. For example, in a tea ceremony session, we spend enough time tasting and appreciating a cup of tea alone with deliberate slowness. This way, we restore the optimal state of higher and deeper consciousness.
In the sixteen to seventeenth-century Japan’s civil war period, samurai warriors practiced the tea ceremony sessions and composed poets at their crucial moments. One reason is that they tried to calm down with their slow-motion therapy to mitigate their overflowing adrenaline and cortisol, which was unavoidable when the life and death conditions were more frequent in those days. Miyamoto Musashi made a set of his master paintings together with his writings like The Book of Five Rings.
Likewise, in our twenty-first century’s stressful societies, we need slow-motion therapy.
It doesn’t have to be any formal practices and sessions. We don’t have to enroll in any weekend Yoga, Tai Chi, and other classes of our interests (If we can, that should be beneficial).
The essence of slow-motion therapy is to apply mindful slowness to every area of your life. If your ego gets pressured to master complicated skills and forms to brag about them, this competitive mindset might be another roadblock to distract its therapeutic effect.
It should be aimless to focus on the here and now of what you are doing at hand.
We can apply mindful slowness to the following areas. Let me explore each area more on how to do it.
- Daily chores
- Mental activities
For all types of daily chores, from cleaning to dishwashing to taking a bath to brushing teeth to dressing up, and more, you can do it with mindful slowness focusing on each step and move. This way, you can practice meditation all day long.
Even you can enjoy these tedious activities as if you are creating works of art. Everything you do gets beyond arts (skills) to become Art (creativity). Indeed, we are all artists if we know the fundamental value of everything we do. And the first step to becoming this artist is mindful slowness.
And mental activities mean reading, writing, and speaking. In the age of speed, we relentlessly and obsessively seek to do these actions faster and more. Speed matters. Quantity matters.
For reading, many high achievers brag about how fast and how many books they read as if these are the indicators of their ego-driven smartness and intelligence. We admire these avid readers, which is valuable.
On the other hand, likewise, we should restore the value of slow reading. Instead of seeking a quantity of knowledge, we must focus on the depth of its quality.
Let’s say, what if the books you encounter are like the persons who change your life? Does the number of people matter? What matters is the existential value and preciousness of these persons. The Little Prince eventually realized the irreplaceability of one Rose he met on his planet, despite seeing countless roses on earth.
How can we know it in the books we read? The first step is slow reading.
How can we select these books for slow reading? One possible piece of advice could be to choose the well-known classics. These books have survived through the test of time. But it is a piece of advice alone. We tend to blindly choose one only because of the authority that it is a well-known classic. But again, we also need to be patient. It takes time for us to understand the value of the masterpieces. The teacher can appear when the student is ready.
We can slow down the speed of writing. Likewise, it sounds counterintuitive. Our technology has evolved as people need to write faster and easier, from papyrus to clay to bamboo to parchment to pulp to digital devices, and from engraving to scratching to brushing to typing to transcribing. We can write faster and easier with modern instruments.
Nevertheless, or because of that, we need to write slowly. In writing, we should meditate on each word, phrase, and sentence one by one. As we walk one step at a time, we can write one sentence each, one paragraph each. Don’t worry about the speed. Let’s enjoy the moment of generating them from our writing process itself. This way, we can restore the profound feedback mechanism between both words we develop and embrace – how we understand the world around us and the universe beyond through the act of writing.
And we can realize that writing is not only the process of describing what we see with words but, more importantly, the process of seeking truth, goodness, beauty with them – no wonder why religious figures, philosophers, and artists use wiring as the medium of their pursuits. Writing is thinking.
Likewise, why don’t we speak slowly? In the current social media platforms, we talk faster and faster. If we don’t find speaking fast enough, we change the speed option to 1.5x or 2x as we get irritated by slowness. We do the same for audiobooks.
Why are we impatient? Why are we in a hurry? In the presentations like TED and the like, those experts talk faster to deliver the maximum possible information within a limited time. It looks like everyone has to provide the elevator pitch to impress everyone else, believing all of us are supposed to be eloquent and fluent.
We are all guilty of this faster speaking. And it’s not easy to correct it once it is part of our deeply embedded habits. I am guilty of this habit. My friends tell me that I talk fast as if I am in a hurry. How can we get out of this obsession?
The key to slowing down your speaking is not the way to change your speed option mechanically from 1.5x to 0.75x. This mechanical slowness makes us sleepy and unnatural. Instead, we should focus on the pause and emphasis. In speaking, we can try to make an extra pause and emphasis to clarify the points. That is to say; silence is as important as the words we utter.
The Buddha’s Flower Sermon is a good example. One day, in front of many disciples who were eager to gain and possess the knowledge, instead of delivering the TED-like or celebrity pastor-like eloquent speech, the Buddha picked up a piece of flower and kept his divine silence. Many of his disciples got irritated even complained as they couldn’t get anything from him. Few disciples understood the meaning of his silence and a piece of flower he gently held. Again, the teacher can appear only when the student is ready.
We can apply this slow-motion therapy to every area of life. Those mentioned above are the instances I could make my brief comments. This approach is not to insist that slower is better than faster, and the like. If slowness becomes another set of obsession, it is again problematic. It is not mere slowness but mindful slowness to be aware of the stillness beyond the spacetime measurement.
Life is the moment. What is the point of going faster or slower being troubled by its illusory length? Is life short or long? It is neither/nor. Life is the moment. People spend their maximum lifespan, or infants pass away in their early ages. Is it unfair? God knows. Life is the moment. With slow-motion therapy, we can restore the sense of awe in this perspective at the higher and deeper consciousness level.
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.Psalm 46:10
Image by Ngo Minh Tuan