Last week I noticed that I was walking super slowly. Softly putting one foot in front of the other and taking small steps. No matter where I was going or what plans I had.
I had been enjoying this slowness for a few days, noticing it from time to time and letting myself be. As my awareness grew I realized I was softly smiling as I walked. I could take in and see the world around me. My breath felt easeful, even, and grounded – the pace of my breath matching my movement. I’d realized that (until I started to think about it) there had been no thoughts – I found that I had been humming at length instead.
When I’ve tolerated slowing down (painstakingly) in the past it was because I was sick. Even then it felt nothing like the quality of this slowness because I didn’t want to slow down. I wanted to keep going. I wouldn’t rest much and would be back at work before I should have been or dragging myself through the day – anything to avoid slowing down and resting.
If I slow down doesn’t it mean that something is wrong? Aren’t I only supposed to slow down if something is wrong? (And fight against it at all costs?).
Over the past month I went through a minor surgery on my leg. Livid at first at the surprise that I wouldn’t be able to move for two days at all, and likely not much movement for two weeks.
It took me four days and lots of support to be able to start to accept slowing down.
After the last surgery I had it took over four years to slow down.
From that earlier experience of surgery came several months of complications and woven in between and through it all the strong, deep workings of trauma. I couldn’t even fathom slowing down as a possibility. My breath was constantly tight, short, restricted and moving quickly up in my heart. My thoughts zipped along as fiercely and my body struggled to keep up – pushing through. All of it completely intolerable and unsustainable but it felt normal to me. I couldn’t see any alternate possibility and the energy felt like it had a hold over me and I was just being dragged along for the tumultuous ride.
It already felt like it was in my nature to rush but as the hyper vigilance of post-trauma kicked in it escalated to new levels of intensity.
I mean, aren’t I supposed to move at a fast pace because I’m capable of it? To keep moving? Keep doing things? Keep filling up all this space and time to not be bored? If I slow down then maybe that means I’m not smart or able, doesn’t it? If I slow down people will be able to tell that something is wrong and I can’t let that happen. Maybe it means something terrible will happen. Maybe it means I’ll have to face all of those huge, heightened emotions and that’s just too much. No. Keep moving. Keep running. Keep fleeing.
My pace became beyond rapid, fleeing from something that felt like it was always happening in the present even though the moment had long passed. If I moved quickly I could get away from it, right? Or wouldn’t have to face it at least. Maybe if I moved fast enough then I could actually find some speed at which I could skip over it – like none of it ever happened.
Except that in time, and with support and tools including therapy, gentle asana, restorative yoga, yoga nidra and meditation, I have been able to not only face but feel and see all that I was trying to move away from. The heightened emotions weren’t gone as a result of trying to get away from them – they had to be given space to surface and release. The energy needed to shift but it needed time and with each practice, class, workshop, retreat, little bits of new energy entered in until eventually the feeling that all that energy had a hold over me disappeared and we started to work together. As I introduced little bits of slowness into my life, eventually the fast-pace I had thought was my nature dissipated.
From this place of slowness I feel as though I am actually in this present moment and not the ones that were replaying from the past. Instead of reserving a state of slowness to come in to effect only if and after something is “wrong”, I can now tell that if my breath restricts, my thoughts and pace also beginning to quicken, then something actually is immediately wrong and needs to be addressed in order to regain the slowness.
I thought that the fast pace would be how I found freedom but it was just the opposite. Slowing down, releasing, and being with myself has brought so much more freedom than I could ever have fathomed.