Imagine a Zen Master. Imagine him making tea. Or raking the garden. Or practicing calligraphy. At what speed do you imagine him performing these tasks? I am guessing you see the tasks happening slowly. If so, you are correct. Zen masters know the power of slow. It is not uncommon for Zen monks to ritualize tasks. Ritual has a way of elevating the mundane, of revealing the sacred that lies in the commonplace. Rituals are often performed slowly. When attention is given to the way a cup is held, or a napkin is folded, there is a significance that is attached. While a tea ceremony is formal, formalism is not the point. The ritual is actually a sort of dance, a choreography designed to keep even the most everyday tasks from becoming trivial and mindless.
Try slow for a change. Think of it as an experiment. Start with little things. Chew slower. Drink water slower. Walk slower. Drive slower. A moment ago I shared how lunch often seems like an obstacle to overcome during a busy work day. I see this now as tragic. Eating should be a sacred experience. The universe has provided for us and the least we can do is appreciate its offerings. A good life ought to be savored. Life is not a sprint.
You may have heard about the slow food movement. That’s right, a movement that started in Italy as a reaction to the proliferation of fast food restaurants. Really, the movement is a reaction against all that fast food threatens, an end to food that is wholesome, local, prepared carefully and by hand, food that is savored and eaten slowly, usually with a glass of wine and good company. The Italians and the French are wise to protect such a cultural tradition. It is a lifestyle they seek to protect much more than an issue of nutrition.
I know that the demands of life are such that most of us feel we cannot slow everything down. Fair enough. No one is saying you have to go all in. But I implore you to introduce more slow into your life. When we go slower, we notice the little things, we appreciate the subtleties and nuances, we become more attached and connected. We become mindful. Try it. I assure you that some of your everyday moments will be better for it. You can still be a busy person. You can still strive for more, and work hard, and make sacrifices, but take time to pause. And where possible, and it is possible, SLOW DOWN. The quality of your life depends on it.