Monday 3 December 2018

The importance of slowing down

I've been struggling so much with this particular aspect in my life - slowing down... In the therapy room I often encourage my clients to take on some kind of meditative practise as a way of slowing down both the mind and body in a far too fast-paced world. Things become blurry when we move with speed and we do need to let the dust settle in order to see the world clearer.

And it might come as a surprise that I've struggled with this since I speak so fondly about it. Slowing down is not something that comes naturally to me (or to most people) and I have used speed as a measure to avoid difficult emotions. Eventhough I have learned how to deal with difficult emotions the impulse to speed up still comes up even for me and slowing down is rarely my first impulse.

When I started training in Compassion focused therapy slowing down was one of the first things we were taught. Things happen when we start pacing ourselves also in the therapy room. It allows for that outside perspective we often need. It allows us to see the world from above in a way we just can't while we're constantly running around or feeding our mind.

Nowadays I've built pacing down into my daily routine. If I'm lucky I get to start the day with a short yoga session. Throughout the day, I take little micro meditations either with the help of the app called Pause or Calm. The Pause app is brilliant because it helps you to center and focus, literally, since it asks you to focus on a dot on the screen. I use that when I am very wound up and really need help to calm down. The Calm app has a number of different programmes and you can choose a particular meditation or can choose a programme. I've made my way through the self-to-self series which is about how we relate to ourselves and how we can meet ourselves with more Compassion and understanding. I've just started the programme meditating on emotions hoping it can give me some inspiration I can use with my clients.

The most common experience amongst the people I meet is the idea that meditation needs to be perfect. No,  in fact there are two ideas. One is that it needs to be perfect and that our mind should never wander. Yet, this is the default set up of our brain. It is constantly on, even when we sleep. The other idea I meet is the idea that meditation is about emptying the mind from thoughts and not think at all. Now, for me that sounds really scary! Imagine the emptiness and loneliness connected to an empty mind. I have at brief moments experienced something that could be labelled as emptiness - a moment of deep reflection where time passes without me noticing it. The difference though is that my mind was active even then. When I first started trying to meditate I struggled in particular with this idea of emptying your mind and I never found striving for that helpful. A third idea I meet is the idea that meditation should be pleasant. It can be pleasant at times and the brain normally enjoys a moment of slowing yet it is not the purpose. The way meditative practises are used in Compassion focused therapy is to help us work through difficult issues. Yet, sometimes I've met very experienced yogis who have used it as a way of getting away from difficult emotions and thought. In my opinion this is not what it should be used for but rather to improve our innate psychological functioning.

So even if you feel a bit of resistance towards slowing down, because it is not what our brain wants when we are wounded up, stick to it. Explore your resistance. There might be a new aspect of yourself to discover!

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