Everything seems to be getting faster: Broadband speeds, processor speeds, train speeds and digital needs, download times, political crimes, climate change, interchange, stock exchange. Streaming video, ab initio - it's all in the moment. Blink - and it passes you by. (I hasten to add).
If there is one important lesson to learn in the 21st century - Irrespective of style or school, satin suit or kimono, pony-tail or shiny pate, martial or health emphasis - it is to slow down.
And the practice to teach us that rule, is Tai Chi. The practice is indeed the product and the goal is in the going. Trouble is - although we nod, smile knowingly and accept we have been scurrying around like naughty mice - within the hour we are back to our frantic lifestyles again, bemoaning the absence of space and time in this digital age. "We crave distraction," said Alan watts, "a panorama of sights and sounds, thrills and titillation into which as much as possible must be crowded in the shortest possible time. "
Five ways to help you slow down
1: Using Breath to Slow Down
First up, is to remember to link all activity to your breath. No, not with a rubber band or sticky tape, but with your mind. Just connect them together. Re-introduce them, they are old friends after-all. This will result in slowing down your movements, coordinating your body and mind so that the sense of needing to rush begins to dissipate. Once you link movement and activity back to your breath again, that niggling voice of urgency cannot so easily dominate your space.
2: Change Your Shoes
Secondly, change your shoes. Yup, that's right - change those shoes! Get out of the boots, the trainers (sneakers), or the hiking gear for they separate you from the source of your stability and strength. "Untie the knot" say the taoist sages of old. I say unite the tie itself and lob it away. Silly things. Oh, and flip-flops are out too, you need something that will securely stay on your feet, not just cling to a single toe and constantly trip you up on stairs and kerbs. Remove items that cut you off from your environment (unless you live next to a nuclear energy plant, then you may want to do the opposite).
3: Unplug the headphones.
Step back from the noise of life - the traffic, the hum of urban life, the chink of the cash register, the notifications from the phone, the digital chatter from your time-line. Step back and see if you still have the capacity to hear the beating of the earth around you. If you hear a bird song or insect buzz, a dog snore, or someone along side you sigh - then congratulations, you are back on track again.
4. Don't try so hard
Watts said: "For the perfect accomplishment of any art, you must get this feeling of the eternal present into your bones - for it is the secret of proper timing. No rush. No dawdle. Just the sense of flowing with the course of events, in the same way that you dance to music, neither trying to outpace it nor lagging behind. Hurrying and delaying are like ways of trying to resist the present." In other words, don't worry about the correct moment to do stuff, when you are in tune, the moment will let itself be known to you.
Yup, no getting away from it, you need to put in the time. Being good at something doesn't happen by spending more time on twitter, or though osmosis. But practice needs to be meaningful and relevant and functional to the 21st century. So make sure your practice is having the results you are looking for. Do a self-assessment. Remember, it's one thing running through the tai chi form each day out of habit, or doing an hour of chi-gung as part of your morning schedule, but then rushing out the door because you are late for work. Did you just cancel out the benefits of the practice? Or take the more yang-practitioners amongst us - It's one thing being able to fend off 6 armed attackers using just "ward-off left" - but it's another thing altogether being able to diffuse the moment with a lethal Alan Watts quote. Even weapons need updating now and again.
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