We hear a lot about the importance of slowing down these days. We know that we move too fast, we work too fast and we keep every slot of every day filled up and accounted for. And sure, we would all benefit greatly from carving out out empty windows of time and space amidst the endless stream of doing, to just be.
But the leap between insight and action is often as big as the Grand Canyon. As much as we know we need to slow down, sometimes just the thought that we have to slow down adds to the overwhelm.
How can I slow down when I have to get the kids ready in the morning, make breakfast and lunch, work a full day, pick up the kids, deal with the after-school activities, and somehow manage to find time to exercise and connect with my mate?
With our pace of living at increasing alarmingly speeds, it's hard to imagine finding even ten minutes to meditate, journal, or practice yoga.
The solution? There is one simple way to slow down and it only takes a minute. It's an action that has been shown to improve digestion and mental well-being. You can do it anywhere and it doesn't require money, special clothes, or anyone else. Sound doable?
The action is to take one minute to become mindful just before you eat, to become fully present to the act that you are about to engage in.
This could be as simple as closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths — in and out, slowly and gently, with presence.
It could be offering gratitude for the food that sits before you, recognizing the people and machines and work required to transform a seed into a vegetable, transport that vegetable from farm to table, and prepare it for the meal you are about to consume.
It could be imagining, as Thich Nhat Hanh so poetically writes, that the entire universe exists in the food you eat — the sun, clouds, rain, earth, worms, fields and bees — and allowing that awareness to fill you with a moment of awe.
It could be saying a simple prayer that resonates with you.
Whatever you do in that one minute, try to come from the heart as opposed to reciting a heady series of words or actions. This is your time to pause and be open to blessing, a built-in moment of mindfulness in the otherwise harried, hurried pace of your day.
If you want to extend your one-minute action, consider remaining present for the duration of your meal without the distraction of a phone, book, or screen of any kind. Consider what it would be like to slow down enough to taste each bite, to notice and savor the flavors as they meld and dissolve in your mouth, and to continue to offer appreciation for the miracle that this delicious, (and hopefully) healthy food has ended up on your plate and in your body.
If you're in the presence of others, put all screens away and focus on the opportunity to connect in conversation with the actual, flesh-and-blood human beings who sit in front of you (as opposed to the virtual ones that tend to populate more and more of our connections).
You might not think that one minute could make any difference. But when you realize that one minute three times a day becomes three minutes, and three minutes seven days a week becomes 21 minutes — you can see that it all starts to add up. 21 minutes of pause in your week is better than nothing. It's a wonderful beginning to allow this habit of pause to domino-effect into other areas of your life.
When you start to implement this new one-minute practice around mealtimes, you slowly create a new habit of pause, until eventually your mind and body start to crave those times of non-doing. And when you do it enough, you'll feel a bit strange when you begin a meal without taking a moment to pause — like you're tumbling over yourself.
You'll naturally and effortlessly carve out more moments of non-doing in the stream of your week, and notice the times in your day that naturally invite that sacred pause. The portals of pause are waiting for you to receive them; our days, contrary to what the culture encourages, actually include a natural rhythm of ebb and flow. One minute of ebb can lead to more ebb. It's the turning inward that creates the fullness of self that we're all seeking.
Does this sound easy? It's not. In fact, it's astonishing to me how difficult it is to pause long enough to come into our breath and bodies and connect to the heart. It's like we're running on automatic and we resist the putting on the breaks. But once you do it one time, it becomes a tiny bit easier. If you can do it for a day, you've broken ground on planting the seeds of a new habit. And then before you know it you can do it for two days, then three, then a week, and then a month. Bite-sized, manageable steps to form a new, healthy habit. Give it a try and see if you notice a difference.