How Can Slower Be Faster?


“Slow down and you’ll get it done faster.”

– Arunima Orr –

Arunima is the founder of the artists’ space where I take classes, and I’ve decided she’s right about slowing down. Well, truly, she’s right about a lot of things, but getting things done faster by slowing down is one of them. In art class, we usually apply this to cleanup, but I’ve applied it to my daily life as well, and I’ve discovered that slowing down doesn’t mean moving at snail speed. If I simply shift into a slightly lower gear, I have more traction. My movements are more precise, deliberate, and intentional. And I notice more. As my sports friends might say, my head is in the game. Life is simply easier to navigate when I slow down.

Now more than ever, the world needs you and me to be calm, clear-headed, and thoughtful. Here are some things I’ve realized as I’ve practiced living less frantically.

  • Not every answer has to be given right away.
  • Not every request or demand has to be fulfilled, and if we choose to fulfill it, it does not have to be fulfilled right away.
  • Not every task has to be tended to immediately.

That may sound like a dream list for procrastinators, but there’s a difference between procrastinating and giving a task the mental prep time it needs. I’m not suggesting that we shirk responsibility or wiggle out of a job we’d rather not do. I’m just saying that slowing down and pausing allow us to intentionally approach tasks with care. Slowing allows us to be mindful as opposed to mindlessly plowing through.

One caveat: that list above may simply be a wish list if you’re the parent of preschoolers. Someone once said that preschoolers are walking emergencies. That’s not far from the truth. With young children, some things have to be tended to immediately. Still, taking your life as a whole, not every task needs to be done right this minute. You may have to be creative about it, but where can you cut yourself some slack?

We need to pause occasionally to assess ourselves, the world we now live in, and our journey through it. We’d be wise to assess mindfully, thoughtfully, and graciously. To cultivate an open-hearted faith, we need to move forward with open eyes and open ears, listening to various voices (including those not of our “tribe”). We need to consider differing viewpoints and weigh ideas.

Consider is a key word here. It’s the root of the gracious term considerate. Our world needs considerate people, people who don’t just blindly jump on bandwagons but consider what they see and hear and believe. The old advice, “Think before you speak” is right, as is “think before you act.” When we take our time, we give ourselves the space to think and listen, to be attentive and considerate.

Slowing down and taking our time also gives us the opportunity to appreciate. The word appreciate contains the Latin pretium, which means price. To appreciate is to comprehend the value, the true nature, and the importance of something or someone. When we slow down or pause, we give ourselves the space to notice what’s of value. If we keep our eyes open for signs of grace, kindness, beauty, and goodness, we usually see them. We witness God’s touch on and in the world. We can appreciate – or value – our turn on the timeline.

A few posts back, I wrote about drawing lifelines in a class on abstract art. When I think back to the lifelines that I and my classmates drew, I’m awed at the value each one represents, and I feel a deep sense of appreciation. I’m amazed that one lifetime can hold so many swings of the pendulum: sorrows and joys, illness and health, angst and comfort, enemies and friends, failures and successes. Maybe we wish our path had been otherwise. Maybe we wish we had not been so blind. Maybe we wish we had responded differently. Maybe we wish we had been Dorothy instead of the Tin Man. But in the wide world of humanity, in the broad flow of history, each of us is on a unique journey, and each of our journeys tells a unique story.

“The blessing of regret is clear,” says Joan Chittister, “– it brings us, if we are willing to face it head on, to the point of being present to this new time of life in an entirely new way. It urges us on to continued becoming.” All of our past experiences – all of them – have brought us to where we are now. And now is a treasure. Now is the time for re-vision and discovering our path ahead.

As I’ve said before, we are always coming of age, moving to the next stage, taking the next step, growing into the future. And the future is something new. Even if we’re old, tomorrow is new. Next week is new. Next month? Next year? All new.

In my dream of now, we stand with hands cupped before us, holding what we thought were the thorns of the past. But they’ve turned into fragrant flowers. As we cradle them in our palms, something marvelous happens: the petals become wings. With one joyful toss of our cupped hands, we send them flying into the future. And as we bring our hands back down, we realize that, in spite of everything we let go, our hands are not empty; they are full of mystery and grace and hope enough to fuel our next steps.

Next week: Finding our footing on roads rough and smooth.

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Text © 2017 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

Photos courtesy