Slow Down to Be More Intentional in Life

Double exposure

Note: This is a repost from Lola Wright’s blog, which originally appeared October 6, 2017, and can be found here.

We are wired for impact. We want to know that we make a difference. That our lives matter. It’s the existential orientation of our nature to seek problems and long for answers.

In today’s over-scheduled, highly connected world, we often feel like there’s never enough time, energy, or any number of other resources to accomplish what we want. We live by the motto: never enough.

Which is a load of shit.

There is an eternity of time. And when we are spinning on that merry-go-round, it’s time to jump off.

Because your wellbeing matters.

I am a devoted meditator. It has become a habit, much like brushing my teeth or showering. It doesn’t look like sitting in the lotus position with a perfectly erect spine. It doesn’t necessarily look like a solid 30 minutes. It doesn’t occur at 4 a.m., and it isn’t always noticeably sacred. That being said, it does always make a difference in my perspective on life.

Being still and slowing down can happen anytime. While you’re waiting in line to pick up your kids. While you’re in the shower. While you’re on a walk. While you’re in bed (before you jump up and immediately look at your phone). Close your eyes, take a few conscious breaths, and acknowledge the moment you’re in, not the one you’re jumping to get to.

Personal wellbeing is the foundation to a happy and healthy life. Slowing down enables you to work more effectively and creatively. Running on fumes does not produce great results—it creates a sense of lack and burnout.

Which is not reality. That’s manufactured drama.

As someone with a significant level of accountability in the world—mother to four kids, community organizer, oldest grandchild, board member, extrovert—I learned early on that solitude and personal reflection are a must.

The people you are in relationship with will always have needs. Your to-do list will never be complete. Your calendar will always continue to get filled. And likely none of the commitments or demands will recommend you take care of you before you address the concerns before you.

So here are some simple ways you can bring yourself to a center point of wellbeing in an instant:

  1. Start by closing your eyes: at work, in the kitchen, at your kid’s soccer game, etc.

  2. Soften your belly and relax your jaw.

  3. Breathe in through your nose.

  4. Notice your belly expand and your chest rise.

  5. Exhale slowly and completely, emptying your lungs and letting your body relax.

It’s that easy.

Taking ten conscious breaths before entering an appointment, walking in the door, or getting up in the morning is one of the loving and generous practices you can give to your central nervous system.

As you integrate conscious breathing and regular meditation into your daily life, it will become clear the importance and value of slowing down.

Very little that gets us worked up is worthy of the strain that stress causes on our body and mind.

We were never intended to go 100 miles per hour, 100 percent of the time. Slow down. Enjoy yourself. Play. Have fun.

“Learn to pause…or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.”

— Doug King

Lola Wright is the Spiritual Director at Bodhi Spiritual Center, a preeminent mindfulness-based community organization in Chicago. She spoke with Candace Vogler for a Chicago Humanities Festival event last November.