Friday, December 5, 2014

Slowing down: taking a mental break at a red stop light

As mentioned recently, I'd been working with a client who was thinking, feeling, eating, breathing, walking, talking, and living way too fast! As a first step toward reducing his anxiety and poor decision making, he needed to slow everything down.

One important method of living slower is being on the lookout for opportunities to slow down. This posting is an example of me discovering such a chance and taking advantage of it.

I was three blocks from my home recently, slowing my car to stop for a red light when I felt this impulse to push the car-radio button. On the one hand, I had a slight urge to hear some music. On the other hand, it was more habit than desire. All in all, I had begun to reach for the button on Automatic Pilot, without really thinking about it.

Then, something odd and helpful happened. I popped out of my semi-trance and wondered what it would be like to enjoy a slower, more peaceful moment, what it would be like to "just be" instead of trying to fill up the moment with something better. It was an instance of snapping out of mindlessness and into mindfulness

So, instead of turning on the music, I sat back in my car seat, took note of how my body felt, took a deep breath, cleared my mind, and just "noticed things" while waiting for the red light. They were simple, every-day observations, such as a few people walking on the sidewalk, the traffic light, my dashboard and car wheel, the blue sky and clouds, and some near-leafless trees. 

Because I was paying closer attention to these every-day scenes, they seemed more vivid, clear, and interesting. I'd slipped into being content in the present moment without desiring anything more; breathing, sitting, and checking out the street scene was good enough for me.

It's noteworthy that, by giving these ordinary things some extraordinary attention, I ended up feeling really, really GOOD, instead of feeling irritated or bored by the red light as is sometimes the case.

I was able to maintain this clear, observational mind for the rest of my drive to work, and I arrived relaxed and in a very good mood. 

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