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Doing things slowly in a fast world

Submitted by dave on Thu, 04/22/2010 - 7:30pm

The entire following blog post was intially written as a private email to a friend of mine. I decided to share it here.

I grew up doing fast things in a fast way. I raced motorcycles -- and I have always loved anything fast. But I also tried to accomplish the maximum possible number of things each day and I always pushed myself to do things quicker or more efficiently. Then I developed glaucoma.

As I have gotten to know myself more intimately (thanks in part to self-tonometry) I have realized that I actually like to take my time. I enjoy doing things in a non-rushed manner. You could even say that I enjoy being slow! (Something I never would have admitted to myself in my days of racing, even in my most private thoughts.) Even today, I still have a great admiration for people who do things quickly, as if this is an inherently superior way of being.

But I now know that I like to take my time doigo slow to reduce eye pressureng things. I still enjoy efficiency. But sometimes it is more efficient to delay the next project's start and finish what was started rather than have to terminate it due to an artificial deadline and then pick it up again at a later time. I like going deep into things (whether discussions, research or building software) and having the time to do it well. And I have found that sometimes I even enjoy doing something in a completely inefficient manner (saying that still sounds sacrilegious). Sometimes I enjoy just plain being slow! (What have I just said! My gosh!)

Actually, slowness is a kapha tendency. Honoring one's tendencies -- without letting them become imbalanced -- seems to be a valid strategy for healing. Exercise is good for kapha people in part because it gets us going, prevents us from stagnating and getting taken over by inertia. However, keeping kapha balanced is a much different thing from trying to deny one's kapha tendencies and act like a vata or pitta person.

When I realized these things about myself, I stopped trying to consult with clients for at least 8 hours per day, for example. I started leaving big gaps between my appointments. This cut way back on my stress and dramatically increased my enjoyment. I think this decision and other related decisions are important to my strategy of protecting my vision. This decision has certainly been a benefit to my overall health and happiness.

I think one of the worst things I did was deny my desire to take my time. For most of my life I forced myself to operate in jobs and in situations that demanded doing things as fast as possible.

My wife is the opposite of me in this regard. She does not like to spend much time on any one thing. She doesn't care about understanding something in detail, and it is virtually impossible for her to do deep research. But it also makes her an ideal fit for many modern workplaces. Bosses see her as someone who gets things done. Indeed, I also greatly admire this quality of hers. (And few bosses really care about doing things any better than she does them anyway, but now I'm getting off topic.)

However, it is clear to both my wife and I that her (lack of depth + quickness) and my (depth + slowness) are complimentary. Neither is inherently better than the other, but modern society tries to force everyone into the mode my wife operates in. Even in areas where depth has traditionally been the most valued trait, CEO's have (for example) compelled employees to follow a model that emphasizes speed above all else, right?

A person who doesn't fit well in a corporate culture that demands we do as much as possible as fast as possible, will, at some point, have to face a hard truth. The lack of congruence here is almost guaranteed to result in the development of disease. Often people never make the connection between dis-ease and disease, but my experience tells me that the correlation is nearly 1.0. [EDIT: a correlation of 1.0 means loosely that the relationship is nearly 100% aligned.)

I had to accept the fact that leaving time between clients (so that, if an occasional Thursday session needs to run longer, for example, I can go with that and enjoy it) would reduce my potential and actual income. In the beginning my old ideas about being productive, successful, etc. dominated the messages from my own body. I endured dis-ease. Eventually I did listen to my body -- but my first reaction was that I wanted to quit consulting and go back to my previous job. Eventually I just learned to really listen, to pay attention to what was right in front of me. When I gave up my concepts about "success" I found that I could easily do this consulting and be comfortable. But at the time it was a difficult decision. Choosing to be "less successful" goes against everything society wants us to do/be. Society rewards/honors those who destroy their health to achieve some material gains, right? As Eckhart Tolle points out, when we are on our death beds, we may finally see the folly of this way of living. Tim Ferris calls it the deferred life plan.

One can learn mental discipline and psychological techniques for dealing with stress in the workplace. But when one is in a job that is against one's nature, it makes mastering the other eminent psychological skills we've discussed seem trivial. I do not feel that simply adjusting, as challenging as that would be, is sufficient to let me accomplish my goals of protecting my vision and improving my vision. I need to be in a situation where I feel totally right all the time. Where I live with comfort (the total opposite of dis-ease) in my physiology 24 hours a day.

No matter what worldly success may be achieved by conforming to society's ideals of success, if doing so is against one's nature and takes one out of one's comfort zone, real success and real happiness will never ever be achieved. Nothing but misery, disease and suffering will come from that strategy.

The beauty of self-tonometry is that we can quantify and test these ideas. In my case I see a near perfect long term correlation between dis-ease in my body and elevated intraocular pressure.

As a postscript, I would like to add that even after I made this decision to honor my enjoyment of working more slowly, I still retained a tendency to want to do things fast and to do more in less time. For example, I have the habit of walking in the evenings. It is good for my eyes. Until more recently, I tried to walk fast. I felt like I needed to get the benefits of physical exercise (even though I was walking primarily for my mind and my eyes). That immediately led to the idea that the more miles I walked in my given hour of time, the better I was doing.

Soon I discovered that my walks did not always lower my IOP. Eventually, I tried the idea of walking slowly. (Slowly I started applying the concept of being true to myself to all areas of my life.) At first walking slowly was actually psychologically painful. I felt that I was wasting my time. Eventually, I learned to let myself do it and I found that I could consistently produce lower IOP by walking slower. My best walking is when I turn off my thinking brain and just walk as slow and as relaxed as I feel like walking. When I give up on the idea of making it into a productive exercise, I get much lower IOP. Moral of the story: slower is better. ;)


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