eNewsletter - Aug 2022

Hurry Up and Slow Down
By: Melissa Hedlund Nelson, PhD, LCPC, ATR-BC, CADC, SEP

 

There is a sacred art to slowing down and taking a pause, it allows for one to be in the open, embrace vulnerability, and to be present with experience. When we slow down, we see more and increase access to healing, embodiment and the present moment (Franklin, 2017; Hanh, 1991, 2014).

We are able to make shifts and go deeper in the pause (Hanh, 1991). Taking a pause and turning one’s head to experience may be exactly what we need, especially right now. We have learned a great deal over these past two and a half years about slowing down but as soon as we figured out how to do more with less, we moved in that direction and crammed in more appointments and tasks in the every day. Taking a pause and slowing down is so extremely difficult, especially when there is so much to do in this world. However, if we do not listen when our bodies and minds tell us that life is too much, they will find a way to slow us down whether we want to or not. 

Taking a moment to stop and pause, allows for stillness, depth, connection, and assimilation. The pause is an “opportunity to integrate” (P. Allen, personal communication, March 26, 2020). Hanh (2014) believes the pause allows for one to re-center and gives time for one to breathe. The pause brings attention to the moment, allowing for one to absorb and assimilate what is happening. For a society that values constantly moving, achieving, and doing more and more, we need to pause and take time to rest. There is respite, re-centering, and joy in the pause. So much happens in the pause, including healing and a restoration of energy (Hanh, 2015). 

Energy is the fuel for movement and is constantly shifting, it never settles, and cannot be created or destroyed. An Eastern perspective on energy is that there is a life force energy behind all movement, this life force energy is called ch’i.  It is a vital force, constantly moving, powerful, and is present in all things (Wei-Ming, 1993; Yun, 2012). It can present itself in physical form or in a non-physical form and is the Eastern representation of how the West views the soul of the body. Our ch’i can become quickly depleted, it is in the pause that it is restored. 

In order to optimize the flow of ch’i, one engages with the Taoist principle of wu-wei, “non-action,” or “effortless action,” while engaged in a task (Slingerland, 2003). Merton (1965) describes how Chuang Tzu, 370-287, BCE, believed that much emerged from stillness or “non-doing.” It is in the non-action that action happens and much can emerge from not forcing movement or action but letting it happen naturally and spontaneously (Merton, 1965). Sitting and doing nothing but being fully alive and present is non-action. Being is non-action, it is the greatest form of presence (Hanh, 2014). The practice of wu-wei allows for one to embody both mind and body and to connect with the way or tao, simultaneously, while engaged in a task (Merton, 1965; Slingerland, 2003; Tzu & Johnston, 2016). 

Perhaps one of the clearest visual representations of wu-wei that I have witnessed was while attending a training several years ago. The training was at the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the museum had many different exhibits related to electricity, one was a game called Mindball. I was just beginning to learn about wu-wei and became fascinated with this game. The objective of the game is to have a calm state of mind and a deep focus in order to move a ball to the opposite end of the table and towards your opponent. This is very different than most games played, typically there is some kind of competitive edge and adrenal surge. In Mindball, two people sit at either end of the table, wearing a headband that has electrodes attached to it, and the calmer and more focused one is, the further the ball will move towards your opponent. The person that can move the ball to the opposite end of the table is the “winner.”

The game showed that the more present, calm, and connected to non-action one is, the more that is possible. This is a radical concept in today’s world of doing more; it is doing less, intentionally, to produce more. Slowing down and pausing allows for restoration of your ch’i and connection with wu-wei. Take the vacation, go outside and really look around at your surroundings, take in the sensory of your experience, close your eyes and look away from the screen, or take a quiet break and replenish. The paradox is that you will have even more time to do things when you take those moments to slow down and pause. You will feel revitalized and in balance with all things. Trust the wisdom of your intuition, of your heart and intelligence- take the pause and slow down.  

References

  • Franklin, M. (2017). Art as contemplative practice: Expressive pathways to the self.  State University of New York Press. 
  • Hạnh, T. N. (1991). Peace is every step: The path of mindfulness in everyday life. Bantam.
  • Hạnh, T. N. (2014). How to sit. Parallax.  
  • Hạnh, T. N. (2015). How to relax. Parallax.  
  • Merton. T. (1965). The way of Chuang Tzu. New Directions. 
  • Slingerland, E. (2003). Effortless action: Wu-wei as conceptual metaphor and spiritual ideal in early China. Oxford.
  • Tzu, L., & Johnston, C. (2016). The Tao Te Ching: Lao Tzu’s book of the way and of righteousness. Kshetra.
  • Wei-Ming, T. (1993). Confucian thought: Selfhood as creative transformation. State University of New York.
  • Yun, K.D. (2012). The holy spirit and ch`I (qi): A chiological approach to pneumatology (Princeton Theological Monograph Series 180). Pickwick.