We all know how to do it. Everyone does it — albeit rather fast — yet we rarely do it enough to get the real benefits.
Do you ever get stuck in a loop of hyperactiveness? Always wanting to move onto the next thing never knowing what to do next. Clicking on a video and another and another and another. Then eating something, reading something, and moving onto something else. Feeling like you’re in a rush to get nowhere, mindlessly racing through the world without ever looking at it?
You know, getting into the vicious cycle of going faster, wanting more, rushing, and then getting to the point where you’re overwhelmed, and don’t know what to do. You’re stressed, emotional, and your mind’s foggy. Feeling unproductive, you think should be doing something with your life right now.
Well, I have to admit, this is something that happens a lot to me these days.
It’s quite frustrating. Everything you do seems to intensify the problem.
At some point, though, and this is what I’m working on, I remember to slow down. That seems so counter intuitive, you think “but I want to go faster”. Yet there is much wisdom in the saying “make haste slowly.”
What I do, and this works almost instantly, is walk. It’s simple. I simply go take a walk. A slow walk. Not a quick walk, but a slow one. One that seems effortless.
You’re in this hyperactive state and all of a sudden you’re taking a slow walk. It breaks the pattern.
At first you feel a bit uneasy. You feel like you’re in a rush. But where to? What’s the rush? And you realize it’s all in your head.
Then you allow yourself to take a step back. To breath. To focus on slowing down. You take in the world around you rather than mindlessly racing through it all.
You become aware of your surroundings. The gentle breeze on your skin, the ground and how it feels under your feet.
Sometimes your mind tries to go back in worry mode, but you insist on relaxing and slowing down.
You calm down, stress magically leaves your body.
When you slow down the noise quiets down. You create space. Instead of being driven by worry, greed, lust, and impulses, you begin to observe. You notice thoughts that don’t get to be heard often. You are with yourself. You realize you were running from yourself. This is when what Blaise Pascal said becomes relevant: All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.
The main advantage of walking slowly is that you create space. Space to calm down. Space to think. Space to relax, to take in the world. You feel what it’s like to be alive. Walking this way is something I got into after reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb, an adept of long slow walks at a pace where you barely notice you are even walking.
As Nassim Nicholas Taleb puts it in Antifragile: Just as for a long time people tried to shorten their sleep, as it seemed useless to our earthling logic, many people think that walking is useless, so they use mechanical transportation (car, bicycle, etc.) and get their exercise working out at the gym. And when they walk, they do this ignominious “power walk,” sometimes with weights on their arms. They do not realize that for reasons still opaque to them, walking effortlessly, at a pace below the stress level, can have some benefits — or, as I speculate, is necessary for humans, perhaps as necessary as sleep, which at some point modernity could not rationalize and tried to reduce. Now it may or may not be true that walking effortlessly is as necessary as sleep, but since all my ancestors until the advent of the automobile spent much of their time walking around (and sleeping), I try to just follow the logic, even before some medical journal catches up to the idea and produces what referees of medical journals call “evidence.”
We evolved to walk and run. So there must be some advantages to these behaviours. I’m working on implementing this more and more in my daily life. What about you? Go try it and share your results.