For nearly everyone I know, life is moving fast. There is so much to do. Some of it perhaps you really want to do, other things that you feel under pressure to do. It might seem odd to suggest that slowing down could actually help you become more productive, let alone make an even bigger difference. Yet what if it’s true? What if you could actually get more done in a higher-quality way and have greater positive impact through your presence by moving slower instead of faster?
In truth, it’s not just about moving slower – it’s about moving slower with very clear intention to slow down and pay attention. The paying attention part is the key.
Shortly after Trace Hobson joined us at the Center for Transformational Presence as our Chief OAM – Organizational Alchemist and Mystic – he coined the term, “Slowing down to the speed of presence.” When he first shared this phrase with me, I knew that not only did it give a name to a critically important concept of Transformational Presence – it was also the perfect name for a simple yet powerful exercise I had been playing with for more than a year. That simple exercise was expanding my awareness of the physical space around me, as well as of whatever was happening in the moment.
A few years before, a colleague had introduced me to an acting exercise that involves moving in slow motion in order to heighten awareness. I experimented with it a little bit when he first told me about it and found it interesting, but I didn’t follow through to make it a regular practice.
However, in 2015, as I was identifying four modern-day archetypes that help us develop and embody Transformational Presence, I started thinking about that exercise again.
The first of those archetypes is the Seer – one who perceives beyond the obvious, who senses beyond what others sense, and who can peer deeply into the present to discover the seed of the future that is ready to emerge. I realized that this exercise might be perfect to help workshop participants and clients develop their Seer skills.
(By the way, you can learn much more about the four archetypes in my forthcoming book, Transformational Presence: How To Make a Difference in a Rapidly Changing World. The book comes out in November – more about that in the next couple of weeks!)
I began practicing the exercise as the first part of my morning meditation. On the first day, I began the exercise just as I entered my office space. I chose to walk across the room and sit down in my meditation spot, all in extremely slow motion. The physical distance is about 18 feet (approximately five meters). I thought that it might take me three or four minutes to get to my meditation cushion if I moved really slowly. I wondered what I would experience.
Fifteen minutes later, much to my surprise, I was still not quite all the way down on my cushion! I was only aware of the time because I had noticed the clock as I began the exercise. Then as my body was finding its way from standing to sitting, my gaze happened to pass by the clock again. I couldn’t believe it! More than 15 minutes had passed. Now, just going from a standing position to sitting cross-legged on my meditation cushion was taking me another five minutes.
However, I was also lost in a magical world of detail and awareness. First, I was fascinated by how my body was moving me. With each new part of the journey across the room and sitting down on my cushion, I was surprised that my body wanted to move in ways that I didn’t expect – ways that were not my habit, or at least not how I thought my body had been moving. As my body led the way, subtle move by subtle move, I was discovering a smoother and more efficient flow than I might have choreographed myself. I could feel every muscle. My body was teaching me about how it works best. I also became aware of how much strength it actually takes for my body to perform actions that I completely take for granted.
And then there was everything outside of my body. I had no idea there was so much to look at and discover in my office space. It is indeed a room that I love and that embraces and nurtures my spirit on many levels. It’s a very intentional space – everything in my office has some significance or meaning. There are many things that I’ve collected in my travels around the world. Nothing is there by accident. Yet I was discovering details, colors, and textures that I hadn’t noticed before. I was remembering the stories of objects, who gave them to me, or where I found them. There were flashes of experiences with special people as my eyes fell on photographs. I didn’t want the experience to end.
So the next day, I did the practice again. And again the day after that, and again every day for a week or more. Each day, I chose a different slow-motion activity. One day the activity was to stand up from my meditation cushion and move to my desk chair just three feet away. That simple process took at least ten minutes. Another day it was to stand from my desk chair and walk ten feet (three meters) out onto the stone patio just outside my office. Some days, I practiced the exercise in another room in the house, or moving from one room to another.
Something was awakening inside of me. The activity was so simple, yet the experience so profound. I began understanding more about what it meant to be present in the moment. And I was experiencing my own “presence” – how I was showing up – in a new way. Slowing down allowed me to experience myself as energy in motion. And then, it was as if everything around me was also energy in motion. I was just a part of the flow. The space around me had come alive to me in new ways. I experienced being “at one” with the space and separate from it at the same time. It felt incredibly ordinary and natural, and at the same time, extraordinary and supernatural. I gained a new perspective on my relationship to the world around me that was difficult to put into words, yet incredibly invigorating and restorative.
Slowing down to the speed of presence. I continue to use this presence practice every now and then to remind myself what the speed of presence really is. As Trace and I continue playing with this concept in our work together as well as in our work with clients and organizations, we recognize that, often, when we slow down, the momentum in our work starts to speed up. It may not happen immediately. It takes a little time for everything to get aligned – for things to come into place. Yet when they do, things start happening. The project takes on a life of its own and it starts leading us. It’s all energy in motion.
The space around us is “talking” to us all the time. Our projects, visions, and dreams will show us how to bring them to life. We just have to pay attention. However, when we are moving too fast, we don’t catch the signals. We miss some of the available choices, opportunities, and possibilities that we could have noticed if we were operating at the speed of presence.
In the coming days, practice slowing down to the speed of presence for yourself. Begin with a slow-motion practice for a few days. Then experiment with not allowing yourself to move any faster than you can be fully present with everything around you and within you. Let it be a game, and see what shifts in the quality of your time and productivity.
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