When was the last time you did something, anything, at the precisely perfect speed? I mean, when did you eat a meal at just the right pace so that you could savor every bite, without letting the food get cold? Or, took a walk briskly but casually, so you had the healthy glow in your cheeks but didn't lose your breath? Or had a conversation, replete with easy pauses amidst equally easy flow? When did you last read an article, without either skimming or getting stuck in the minutiae?
Come to think of it, how are you reading this posting, right now?
Most of us move too fast (and occasionally too slow) much of the time. Sometimes we move quickly by choice, but other times, we move rapidly by habit. Yet, slowing down is not necessarily the answer. There are definitely certain activities that don't improve with time, and of course, there are experiences that we wish could last forever.
As I see it, the basic question is "Do we purposefully set the pace of our lives or do we get caught in the current of our habits -- and find ourselves in motion but out of sync with our changing rhythms?"
Here are a few thoughts on the subject, things that came to mind today after I took a somewhat-too-fast walk followed by a not-slow-enough run through the local sprinkler:
- Fast can be fun. Just ask anyone who drives a speedy car or loves biking, skating or skiing downhill. The wind in our ears is exhilarating, and there's something about rapid movement that excites the brain. Celebrate the dynamism, for sure. And, celebrate that sense of flow that comes with a runner's second wind or the rush of adrenalin that marks a roller-coaster ride. Feel the speed, and stay with it, so you see where you go.
- Notice when fast means fear. The key to having "fast be fun" is paying attention to the moment at which the speed is no longer comfortable. The quicker you realize you've crossed that line, the faster -- and yes, I mean "faster" -- you can slow down, purposefully. This is true with cars, bikes, and romantic partners. I'm absolutely serious about the romantic partners bit; the instant passion goes too fast (and is no longer fun), is when you need to slow down or stop. And, I mean, it's really time to respond "then and there."
- Judge speed for yourself. Everyone has different tastes and tolerances. Develop awareness of your own preferences, and then trust your gut instincts. If you feel like things (cars, people, whatever ... ) are going too fast, then honor that feeling and put on the brakes. If you're happy with the speed, but leaving everyone else in the dust (literally or figuratively), just be sure you are comfortable accepting the consequences. And, of course, always respect other people's limits.
- Move at your own pace. If you are speedy by nature, and the person or people around you move much more slowly, then you need to accommodate them and/or find another time to travel at your own pace -- either on your own or with other companions. Think about a speed runner who zips down the track in record time; you wouldn't expect anyone other than a serious sprinter to move that fast. In fact, it could be dangerous to make someone with no running experience try to run like that. The same wisdom applies to physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual speed movement as well -- we all have to travel at a pace that's healthy. Forcing someone (or yourself) to go too far, too fast is counter-productive.
- Never judge people by their speed. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter how fast you move through life -- so long as you are able to accelerate and apply the brakes at will. Your pace won't necessarily be comfortable for anyone else, and none of us can expect to match another person's stride without effort. Anyhow, that's not the point.
What's really important is paying attention to how you move and developing an awareness of whether your speed serves you well. That way, you can set your own pace, with ease.