Today I have been going nowhere fast thanks to a rather painful ankle roll while strolling the uneven streets of Covent Garden last night.
It was supposed to be a busy day, zig-zagging from one side of London to another for friends, family and commitments. But stiffness and swelling setting in overnight putt a literal stop to any of that, even armed (or ankled?!) with my trusty strap.
Thanks in part to the sunshine, I decided there was no point in wallowing in self-pity and instead taking it as a sign that this was a day to slow down. I also have a nasty underlying fracture in my other ankle that left me in a boot for three weeks the last time I rolled it, so it also could have really been much worse (and very un-timely given I’m off for a yoga week in just under a week).
Slowing down doesn’t always come easily to me. A busy work schedule, often rushing from one meeting to the next, emails from waking until late at night, grabbing lunch on the go, along with a sense that free time should be filled and an interest in experiencing experiences. I talk fast and I walk fast. Sitting with thoughts and emotions, with nothing to distract, can also be very uncomfortable and unfamiliar. It takes time and some perspective to realise that silence can be a sweeter sound and slowing down makes space for rest and renewal.
So today I moved more more slowly and deliberately. I finally meditated – something I adore and do once a week at work but haven’t made into a daily practice. I lay in the sunshine, I watched my cats play, I read a book, taking my time over each word, I had long and leisurely conversations with friends, I focused on each activity and task whilst I was doing it instead of rushing ahead to think of the next.
And it feels really good.
I usually think about slowness in relation to two things. The first is Yin Yoga which I think is my favourite practice. Not because I’m lazy(!) but because the slowness, the stillness, holding and feeling each pose is so different to day-to-day life. Eyes closed, shutting down that sense. Just being, feeling my body, feeling that I am enough.
The second is eating. This one I don’t practice so consistently, so well. A few years ago I spent a week at the Original FX Mayr Clinic in Austria taking ‘the cure’ (which I can’t recommend enough by the way). That week was the epitome of taking it slow, not least because the initial detox and calorie reduction means you cannot help but slow down to close to a complete stop. But slowness over eating is a key component of the cure, with mealtimes meant to be taken in silence, no books or distractions, and each mouthful chewed a minimum of 30 times before swallowing. Not only beneficial for digestion and weight, I read about a study that looked at the heart disease rate of people from different countries which found that the key difference was the amount of time spent actually eating food, the slower being the better.
My ankle today reminded me of the importance of incorporating slowness much more into my day to day life and perhaps will be the nudge I need on meditation.
Thoughts fluffing their feathers before falling still. Perhaps one last squawk then silence. Until, huddled together on their wire, between your ears, they lose definition, merge into each other, become a single pool of feathery shadow, deep shadow in the darkness, one layer beneath another, beneath others, as eyes close behind closed eyelids, watched by still deeper eyes, and the mind at last discovers itself transparent – Tim Parks, Calm