Monday, March 21, 2011

Slow down and breathe!

Our lives are filled with things that are constantly grappling for our attention, which can end up making us feel overwhelmed and like we are juggling too much. In essence, not very graceful. This inevitably leads to irritability, mistakes, lowered performance and stress. (Even less graceful!!) While I know there's a pressure to rush to tackle everything that needs doing, I've found that actually slowing down, and taking each task one at a time provides a greater sense of accomplishment, allows me to perform it more succinctly, and doesn't leave me with frazzled nerves and the "what abouts" that keep me from falling asleep at night.

While many have spoken about the power of meditation, many of us don't have the time or the patience to sit quietly in a room with low lights and no cell phones, children or noisy neighbors to complicate matters. However, I do believe that its key components can be applied to waking, moving, noisy life and still have a very powerful impact on reaching a state of mindfulness.

To start, try moving slower (after you've gone to the gym and run the six miles around your block that you were planning on.) Just try it. It feels a bit silly, but the slowness actually lets you really feel the strength in your body, the sensation of your fingers washing your hair, the texture and taste of the meal you've prepared. It's calming and enjoyable, and helps promote a sense of safety and well-being for those around you.

Today, most examples of feminine elocution and conversation are brash and gossipy. (Turn on the television for 10 seconds. Am I right?) I'm not saying this is an accurate portrayal of feminine behavior, but it's rampant enough that it's the predominant way our sons, daughters and most sitcom writers tend to perceive female communication. So imagine if you tried this instead.

Go back to the post about The Three Gates, and then add this on to it: Speak softer. True, kind words spoken in a calm, gentle tone... is there anything more graceful and powerful in the world? It's strong, but not forceful. I had a Montessori school teacher that could calm a class of twenty children by starting to slowly, quietly sing a song that we all knew. We'd drift over to the circular woven rug, sit down next to each other, and wait to hear her next words. I don't remember her ever shouting, and though I would do anything she asked, I didn't do it out of fear of punishment, but out of respect. Being aware of not only what you say, but how you say it, will have an enormous impact on the way others hear and perceive you, and on the way you perceive yourself.

Lastly, breathe. When someone asks something of you, take a breath, then respond. Before entering a room, pause on the precipice to gather yourself, breathe, and then enter. This is your life, and your well-being and choices are just as important as anyone else's, so being rushed or shuffled along won't be tolerated. Or in the words of my Montessori teacher "It's unacceptable." Taking a moment to breathe and remember who you are as you face the day will help to center you and remind you of the beauty and strength that exists within, and enable you to make more thoughtful decisions rather than knee-jerk and automated reactions.

Practicing meditation techniques as we go about our days can help bring focus, peace of mind, less stress and more compassion. When I think of strong, graceful women, I can't imagine them having to shout or be hurried along, and so I grant all of us permission to do the same. Now slowly, move the mouse to the comments button and tell me how you'll try this new exercise.


  1. This post is the perfect description of poise. Do you mind if I link to it one day? I think other women would love to read something like this.

  2. Penelope, I would be honored!! Of course!!