In our modern, busy lives, it can sometimes feel like we’re speeding through the day, hurrying from one task to the next. And while we may check more off our to-do lists by rushing, the constant thinking ahead means that our minds are never calm. Just as rushing can become a habit, it takes practice to tap back into the present moment and remind ourselves to pause. As meditation teacher Martin Aylward notes, “slowing down is an art and a practice,” which ultimately leads to greater contentment. Thankfully, one can practice slowing down anytime and anywhere. Here is a collection of teachings from Tricycle’s archives to help you slow down, whether that’s by extending the breath or taking a single, mindful step.
1. Recognize the Need for Quiet
“We have the wealth of absolute truth, of immeasurable love and compassion—the whole wealth of the universe within us. It’s just waiting to be discovered. But within the hustle and bustle of morning-to-evening activity, we’ll never manage to find it. It’s like a golden treasure that is lying within us, that we can actually touch upon through the quiet mind. Anyone can do it, but they’ve got to become quiet…
So we have that treasure. But if we really get busy, we have no way of unlocking that treasure chest. Unlocking it takes time, and it takes the quiet mind, the contented mind, the satisfied mind. It needs the mind which knows that there is something to be found far beyond anything at all that we can ever find in the world. And then we will make an attempt at checking out what is really necessary to do.”
— from “There’s No Need to be Busy” by Ayya Khema
2. Notice When You’re Rushing
“Rushing reinforces the sense of time pressure. You feel squeezed, busy, harassed by time. Slowing down conduces to ease, gentleness, and relaxation.
Until you really give attention to this, you probably don’t realize how much you rush. We even try to make tea quickly, though you cannot make the kettle boil faster. One of my teachers used to tell me, ‘There’s no such thing as waiting for something else.’ There may be a good reason to move quickly. There is never a good reason to rush.
Notice how you go up stairs. Or make tea. Or brush your teeth. Or get dressed. Or wash the dishes. Or do your grocery shopping. Feel for the inner imperative that makes you feel busy. That compresses your sense of self into a forward-pushing agent called me. Focused on what I’m doing and where I am going. What happens if you soften and slow, just a little bit? Feel how that changes your experience. Your sense of yourself. Your capacity for ease in the moment.”
— from “The Art of Slowing Down” by Martin Aylward
3. Extend the Breath
“The breath is one of the few ways that we can directly impact our autonomic nervous system.
Take a breath in, and slowly breathe out through your mouth. As you’re breathing, you can also add a hum or a sigh. As we’re adding that hum or that sigh, notice the resonance in the throat, in the heart, or down in the belly. As you do this, observe any sensations of settling and letting go. If you’re around people and it would be weird to make a sound, you can simply inhale and exhale through the mouth, softly pursing the lips almost as if you were going to whistle. You don’t have to make a sound.
As the breath empties out and comes back in, keep noticing: how does this voluntary action impact the involuntary response in the body? What’s different now?”
— from “A Reminder to Pause” by Kathy Cherry
4. Practice Mindful Eating
“Mindful eating is a way to rediscover one of the most pleasurable things we do as human beings. It also is a path to uncovering many wonderful activities that are going on right under our noses and within our own bodies. Mindful eating also has the unexpected benefit of helping us tap into our body’s natural wisdom and our heart’s natural capacity for openness and gratitude… There are many ways to slow down our eating and drinking. You might experiment by trying each of the following techniques for one week:
Put down the fork or spoon.
This is one of the most reliable and simple ways to slow down your eating. Each time you put a bite of food into your mouth, put down the fork or spoon, onto the plate or into the bowl. Don’t pick it up again until the bite you have in your mouth is chewed and savored completely and swallowed. For real appreciation of the bite that is in your mouth, you can close your eyes as you chew and swallow. When that one bite has been thoroughly tasted and is gone, then pick up the utensil, take another bite, and put the utensil down again. Watch the interesting impulses that arise in the mind with this practice.”
— from “Mindful Eating” by Jan Chozen Bays
5. Take One Peaceful Step
“We walk all the time, but usually our walking is more like running. Our steps are often burdened with our anxieties and sorrows. When we walk in forgetfulness, we imprint our anxieties and sorrows on Mother Earth and on those around us. But when we walk in mindfulness, each step creates a fresh breeze of peace, joy, and harmony.
When we practice walking meditation, we do not try to arrive anywhere or attain any particular goal. Our destination is the here and now…
The longer you practice walking with this connection, the more your heart will be softened and opened. Do not start with an unrealistic goal, such as practicing for an hour or so. But if you can take one peaceful step, you can then take two, three, four, or more.”
— from “Walking Meditation—Anywhere” by Nguyen Anh-Huong and Thich Nhat Hanh
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