Archived Story

Slow down, you move too fast

Published 3:33pm Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Driving back from Asheville recently, I heard a song on the radio from the 1960s that I cant seem to get out of my head. It was 59th Street Bridge – Feeling Groovy by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Innocuous enough, the song is one of those tunes from the 60s era that encouraged people to take the time to notice and enjoy the things that are going on around them – a kind of mindfulness.

If you remember, the first four lines of the song are as follows:

Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the mornin last. Just kickin down the cobblestones, Lookin for fun and feelin groovy.

I was amused to look down at the speedometer to find that I was driving over 70 miles per hour, and really didnt have anything pressing at the end of my drive. Why was I driving so fast? Easy — most of the traffic going in my direction was travelling at that speed and I was just sucked into the pattern. It got me thinking about the speed of our culture. Everyone seems to be in a hurry; trying to save time . to do what?

Watching the pace and the complexity of the lives of my children and their children, makes me think that we arent just trying to save time but we are also trying to fill every moment with some adrenaline-driven activity. The psychological roots of this behavior are deep and tangled indeed. This is a stressful way to live. I decided to noodle around and see what others think about the idea of being too much in a hurry.

Existential psychologist Rollo May says, It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way.&bsp;&bsp; &bsp;

Gratefully, as we age there are opportunities to rid ourselves of the compulsion to be constantly busy, or productive, or engaged. These are hard habits to break however. We arent quite sure whats on the other side of busy, productive and engaged. The Manhattan poet and writer Phillip Lopate once said, The prospect of a long day at the beach makes me panic. &bsp;

If you can overcome the dread of relinquishing the drive to rush and accomplish, there are other perspectives to be enjoyed. The early 20th century writer Milan Kundera instructs us that To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.

Ah! There is a destination I was looking for. Escaping boredom in favor of Peace seems a desirable target. While we cannot individually stop global conflicts, we can, if we are willing to exhibit the concentration to do so, find peace of mind. This quest, more often than not, requires giving up some destructive habits. Its sort of anti-work. As Baptist minister Harry Emerson Fosdick said near the turn of the 20th century, No one can get inner peace by pouncing on it.

Meditation, prayer, self awareness are tools that can help us along the way to seek and find levels of inner peace. Real access to these tools begins with taking the time to calm the mind, focus on breathing or an inner vision and/or your heartbeat; and letting go intrusive thoughts and compulsive urges.

One final tidbit of Zen from Lao-tzu: Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.&bsp;&bsp;&bsp;&bsp;&bsp;&bsp; &bsp;

So slow down, if youre moving too fast.

Don Weathington is a retired psychotherapist and business owner who lives in Gillette Woods at a place called Birdland.

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