[0032]Slowing down

May you allow yourself to slow down

In ordinary men, every faculty carries in itself the impulse to its own exercise, and in that exercise there is pleasure; though it may be arduous or painful, the craving of the whole man for some end is sufficient to outweigh the discomfort of exercising particular faculties. In fact, it is in this struggle that he is most alive, for it is in his striving and seeking for something that he feels like he is actually living—reaching out towards harmony and tranquility as it were, through the mists of hardship. Without this constant struggling, his life slows up for him, and not knowing what further to strive for, he falls into a kind of despair and ceases to value what he had previously yearned for. Then none of the prizes of life are sufficient to rouse him from his inertia. He sees through them and knows beforehand how hollow and unsatisfying they are. When riches no longer satisfy him, he looks to power and prestige for his redemption. 

Power and riches fuelled by the insatiable desire for material needs must be kept in order with the most anxious attention. They demand the sacrifice of a lifetime, given up to their care and cultivation. These irrepressible “needs” of man are cleverly exploited by savvy entrepreneurs, politicians, and corporations to keep the huge operose wheels of industry turning. Now you are forced to think fast “on your feet”, thinking that is linear and logical and delivers immediate solutions to well-defined problems—like a computer program. But it is nay impossible to slow down with the constant barrage of media and information that you are subjected to. Your thought processes are accelerating exponentially as they try to keep up with the world and everyone else around you. This constant influx of data is not a good thing; a delay in your perception of experience is vital for the proper functioning of your brain. Indeed, the brain itself relies on delay neurons to regulate signal transmission from the senses, forestalling their flow for mere milliseconds, which allows for sequence and order in your apprehension of reality. 

When you slow down the rate at which the world is perceived, you also give your slower anaesthetic system a chance to inhibit an experience of fear or anger before it enters consciousness. By deliberately slowing down your actions like speaking and reading, you become more psychologically relaxed. Slow thinking is intuitive and creative but is only possible when you’re not under pressure. It’s the kind of thinking that yields insights and epiphanies. Slow breathing triggers the body’s relaxation response. In meditation, you learn how to slow down both your thinking and your breathing. You’re not frantically grasping for a solution or trying to figure out experiences and perceptions so that you can move on to the next thing on your list. In meditation, the posture itself is a mudra—a symbolic gesture—expressing your connection with the earth and a willingness to slow down and face your experiences directly. In Rinzai Zen, you place a koan or question in the abdomen and wait for an answer to come from there. There is no “getting to” somewhere, be it to health, or to God, or to some some other form of self-improvement, but a patient unknowingness without expectation. So today, give yourself the chance to slow down and enjoy just being without doing.

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