Excerpt from Chapter 1: Perspective

Slow Down — October 2009

            Slow down, you move too fast.
            You got to make the morning last.
            (From, "Feeling Groovy" by Simon and Garfunkel)

Most of us rush through our days, beginning the moment we get up. Despite all the advice to simply get up earlier in order to avoid the out-the-door rush, we usually prefer a little extra sleep and just deal with the rush. But it's highly questionable that this extra sleep provides any extra rest; the stress of rushing requires so much more energy that we'd be less tired if we slept less and rushed less.

Since I work at home, I don't have to rush out in the morning. But I must confess that I do still rush! I prepare my breakfast as if it were a time-and-motion study, doing it in the most efficient way in order to take as little time as possible. After breakfast, I do take time for what I consider an important (necessary) activity at my age: doing some stretching exercises.

I had developed the bad habit of rushing through the exercises, so I got a yoga stretching video that I thought would slow me down. But now that I'm familiar with the routine, I even rush through that. I simply move ahead with the exercises and finish them sooner. So, of course, I defeat much of the benefit I might otherwise receive.

It's clear that my efforts to "slow down" have become a real challenge. I've been focusing on this goal for quite awhile—with almost nothing to show for it. I even have a note posted on my printer (where it's visible all the time I'm on the computer—which is a lot) with a quote from a fortune cookie: "Do not rush through life. Pause and enjoy it." At first, it was a nice reminder; now it's become so familiar that it hardly registers.

I do know I'm not alone. I suspect most of us find ways to sabotage whatever efforts we make to slow down. No matter what activity we're engaged in, we seem to constantly be rushing to get to the next activity. We run around like the watch-carrying rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, crying: "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!"

Of course, we've been hearing about the need to slow down for many years. In fact, one of Benjamin Franklin's many sayings back in the 1700's was "haste makes waste." Little did he know that the haste of that period would feel like slow motion in today's world. With each time-saving invention through the years, we have continued to increase the speed of life.

Today, we rush most of our meals, often resorting to "fast food." We've also gotten accustomed to speed with our computers so that any delay of a few seconds seems an eternity. And one of the most obvious illustrations of our addiction to speed is the way we drive. We're impatient if we have to wait for a red light, impatient if the driver in front of us is driving slower than we want to go, and we usually exceed the speed limit. In Southern California where I live, few people maintain the posted speed limit on the Interstates; it seems like almost everybody is speeding most of the time.

We never seem to learn the lesson in the Aesop fable "The Tortoise and the Hare"—where the tortoise's slow and steady pace allowed him to win over the speedy hare. It may well be that humans might come out ahead in many aspects of our lives if we just learn to slow down.

I've been reading a book called In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed by Carl Honore—who admits to being a former "speedaholic." The review says: "His personal wake-up call came when he began reading one-minute bedtime stories to his two-year-old son in order to save time." The experiences described in this book serve as a great reminder of all the benefits possible if we would just slow down.

Frankly, it may be too late for many of us to make significant changes in our hurried way of life. But there's a recognition that many of today's children are already rushing around like most adults. So we can at least commit to helping future generations slow down.

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