The Surprising Benefits of Slowing Down & Listening

Updated: Aug 10, 2019


Look closely at this flower like a painter would, slow down and notice all of the shades of pink, and the patterns of colour.

There are so many benefits to slowing down, in fact I sometimes imagine that slowing down is the cure for all that ails us. People are drawn to slowing down for a variety of reasons: to feel more calm, to focus on the things in life that matter to them, to have more time for rest, to be present. For me, I believe the purpose of slowing down is to create time and space to pay attention and to care for what is within my personal circle of influence. My body, my child, my home, the earth and ecology that I come into contact with regularly. It may mean caring for your neighbours. Or maybe it's your writing and your business; your customers. Slowing down gives us time to deepen our attention on what’s around us and to take greater care of those things.


We can begin this process of caring for that which is within our circle of influence by paying attention, listening, hearing what each of these parts is saying to you or asking of you. I most often do this for myself and my child, I slow down and pay attention as a way of resolving challenges in our lives. This is necessarily a practice, meaning it can’t be expected that we are able to take care of everything in our circle right away. In some areas of our life we may already care for things and people instinctively, in other areas we may need new skills or more time before we can take good care. It strikes me that is a reason to live in smaller spaces, to live slower lives and to do less but with greater intention. It’s easier to take greater care when our responsibilities are reduced in size and number. 

Fewer commitments creates more space in the day, allowing us to slow down and pay greater attention to our children and our own needs. In fact, I believe that healing, learning and growth become possible only when you pay attention, you connect, you listen, you care. So if you’re too busy to pay close attention to that which is in your circle of influence, it may be that all the “doing” is generating more harm than good.


Fewer commitments creates more space in the day, allowing us to slow down and pay greater attention to our children and to our own needs. In fact, I believe that healing, learning and growth become possible only when you pay attention, you connect, you listen, you care.

Some of us choose to let go of therapy and school for that very reason, especially if it is causing stress, no longer life giving, or preventing us from bringing our attention to the needs of our kids. I don’t believe letting go of activities is a step backwards, as long as we don’t then fill our days with other unfulfilling tasks. If we pay close attention to our child and ourselves, having less in our day can prove to give us far more than having a packed schedule with appointments that are supposed to fix things for us. There are no hard and fast rules for what to let go of and when; like anything it’s a process of discernment. 


I know these things because I live in my head much of the time and I can forget that I’ve learned the benefits of slowing down. But there is a second type of slowing down, beyond reducing our scheduled tasks and activities to make room for a slower pace of life.


This other kind of slowing down is about paying closer attention to what is happening in any given moment or giving our full attention to a problem or challenge we are having. Like zooming in on something we want to look more closely at, or studying an object that we want to paint by looking at the many different colours; colours we didn’t even notice were there until we slowed our attention way down. This second kind of slowing down I find particularly helpful when I’m wrestling with a problem that I can't figure out with usual mental gymnastics. It’s also useful tool to gently support us in responding to the tasks we know we should do, but procrastinate because we ignore the nagging messages from a leaky faucet, a sore hip, or a whining child.

For example, I usually don’t want to take time to move my body. I know I should be active for my long term health, but perhaps more compelling is that if I wait too long to move I feel weary and bored and uninspired. And yet I resist moving, stay longer in my favourite mode which is thinking or researching, and don’t listen to my body. My legs just want to go for a walk, to stretch, to receive a tiny bit of attention, but often I avoid and ignore it’s call. If I actually stop to listen, to be with what I don’t feel that I have time or inclination to hear, it can soften my resistance to doing the thing that is asking to be done. And then when I finally do step outside for a stroll or do some stretching on the floor in the midst of a work session, it feels so incredibly good to release stress and tightness in my body. And I’m often surprised by new ideas and inspiration that surface in the process - moving my body helps my brain and re-activates my creativity (yes I realize this is obvious and proven, but there is nothing quite like direct experience).

I want this for my child, to know how to tend to all of his parts and care for them. To make nourishing food and care for his skin and to move his body. To hear what he wants to do with his days and what he feels pressured to. Heck, I want that for me. I want the entire global community to know how to listen to themselves, to each other, and to the earth and to respond with care to the extent of their current capacity and willingness.

 

I want the entire global community to know how to listen to themselves, to each other, and to the earth and to respond with care to the extent of their current capacity and willingness.

Yet it is a special kind of frustrating to have this kind of vision, a fuzzy inkling of how our society could grow to meet the needs of it’s people and the earth we inhabit and yet feel so incredibly inadequate to do that very thing myself.  I find myself in-between seeing what I would like to happen and and the skills and capacity to do it. I’m in the gap; practicing, but in the gap.

So I return to slowness, attention and caring. It’s something I can do; at least when I remember to. Offering myself, others and the earth one small act of attention and care at a time and trusting the benefits to ripple outward. 

If you like the idea of slowing down to allow new possibilities to emerge but don’t know where to start, I support women seeking a path of freedom and meaning, including those raising neurodiverse families, to examine what is not working for them and open to new ideas and opportunities.

©2019 BY CAROL MAAS