Going fast versus going slow

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    Mindfulness and meditation urges you to slow down, sit down, and shut-up in the face of chaos, anxiety, stress, rumination, trying to resolve the problem, figure things out.

    But sometimes, I feel that work life demands a sense of urgency – deadlines need to be met, targets need to be reached. When things get stressful and the pressure is on, if everyone slows down or stops to breath, things won’t get done, people won’t be helped, services won’t be delivered, lives won’t be saved. Or at least, that’s the pattern that we’re used to it in our 9 to 5 world.

    How does one integrate mindfulness, compassion, gentle loving kindness into the chaos of daily life and not get sucked into the vortex or perhaps even try to alleviate the vertex of churn and spinning that takes place in the world?



    What a great question! Buddha suggested that monks who are serious about ending their cycles keep their engagement with the outside world to a minimum. For instance, they don’t handle money, prepare food and so forth. For us lay folk, we have to find a balance. Consider that being mindful isn’t a retreat into the breath, such as the focus we have in meditation, rather it is allowing our mind to fully engage with what is in front of us.

    The balance I found to be effective for me is what I call battle meditation. Its from a star wars game I played many years ago, and was a rare Jedi power. Basically, instead of opening our senses to the breath, we open our senses to what is in front of us. In meditation, the breath becomes a gateway to a silent mind, a concentrated mind. As we get up from the cushion and begin dancing at a faster tempo, concentrating on the breath isn’t necessarily helpful. Instead, we allow what is in front of us to blossom into the space we created during our meditation.

    Imagine a doctor walking into a hospital emergency room, and experiencing all of that vibration. People running this way and that, bleeding, coughing and so forth. It might seem reasonable to become overwhelemed quickly. However, if the situation before us can blossom in a spacious mind, we don’t become distracted. Instead, we remain concentrated. The doctor, for instance, can accept that the stream of need is endless, and instead of being drawn into all of it at once, focuses on the patient in front of them. Our practice allows our mind to stop bringing additional junk to the moment, and the better we get, the less our mind dances. Instead, we pour our skillfulness and compassion where it does its best.

    Another way of considering this: the difference between wind blowing through trees and a dance club dancing to music is slight. It appears to be more chaotic, but its still just shapes and colors bumping up against each other. Also, consider that “stopping to breathe” compares to “not stopping and cycling”. A clear mind is more potent, more able to solve, create, learn… so perhaps the question is: can we afford not to stop and settle our mental ruminations?

    With warmth,

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