Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world. Mother Teresa, as quoted in Momfulness
As part of Project Momfulness, this week my task was focusing on slowing down and savoring the ordinary moments of life with my children. I found new joy in preparing dinner, walking to school, picking up the house together and our normal bedtime routines. Part of the exercise was to spend time with each child and not be rushed. So one afternoon I just hung out with my daughter in the backyard. She helped me plant a few flowers and I helped her find some fairies. With my 10-year-old son, I went on what I planned would be a leisurely bike ride, but he had other ideas. He wanted to race…so I practiced being slow and still inside while I rode my bike faster than his. ( I figure I’ll only be faster than him for a few more years so I have to enjoy it now).
I don’t tend to be a person that moves slowly, so this one took some intentional practice. I choose to use the senses as the method for slowing. How lovely it is to savor the moments of life with intention. As the week progressed, I was especially mindful of what I saw, felt, and said during our “ordinary” family time and the overall rhythm of the home.
Slowing down with the eyes
It was like trying to move in slow motion with my brain. I noticed I saw the little things that are usually missed, like the way my daughter’s teeth are shaped when she smiles or the way my son walks just like his dad. Slowing down helped me to see things I wouldn’t normally see otherwise. Seeing things I wouldn’t normally pause to notice then helped me savor the experience, breathing in the peace and fullness of the moment. Some things I saw represented things I needed to do, but the decision to live fully present in the ordinary moments made prioritization more simple. Some things mattered in the moment and some things clearly did not.
Slowing down with the body
At the first of the week I felt helpless in the effort to slow down. I have so much to do and slowing down feels like the last solution to such a problem. So I just decided to use a mindfulness technique and physically slow down. As I was preparing dinner on Monday night, with the assistance of my little chef of course, I pretended my hands and legs were in molasses. I moved slowly. Literally, I purposefully moved my hands and legs and body with delay. It felt odd at first, but then surprisingly calm.
Slowing down with words
On Monday I read a brilliant article on The Huffington Post called “Why I’m Eliminating the word ‘busy’ from My Vocabulary.” The author wrote of her experience of hearing her doctor explain why she refused to use the word “busy.” She said word busy “only makes you feel more overwhelmed and not in charge of your time” and it makes others feel less important in the moment you are with them. With this on my mind, I choose words like calm, slow, peace, easy and light. I was amazed at how often I say “Hurry up!” or “Let’s go!”
The places slowing didn’t happen?
I didn’t experience slow ordinary life when the outside found its way in, like when the TV was on, talking on the phone, or in the car. Although I decided to take it slow and focus mostly on the rhythm of the home, there are many ways to practice slowing down outside of the home. When working through a book on spiritual disciplines a few years ago, I recall the suggestion of choosing the lane with the most cars at a stoplight or with the longest line at the grocery store as methods to slow down our living. The world is loud and we let the outside pace come into our homes and speed up its rhythm. Sometimes the American “more is better” mentality finds its way into our minds, so it is quite counter-cultural to intentionally choose to be either slow or ordinary. Yet sometimes going slow is the better way and the ordinary can actually be extraordinary.
I wonder what life would look like if we could see that nothing is ordinary. Each moment, each child, mother, and person is unique and therefore EVERY interaction is unlike because it happens in the present. Sometimes things feel the same, but they never truly are the same.
One of the best movies I’ve seen this year is About Time. The protagonist learns that he, like all the men before him in his family, have the ability to travel back in time. His father shares his secret to contentment in choosing to relive each day again at the end of the day. After the son uses his gift to manipulate his life to his liking, he discovers something even better than his Dad’s secret. He discovers the best way is to live each moment as if it were the only moment. So he slowed down and began to see, feel and live in the moment.
Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly. ~ Mae West, Actress
Want some tools to slow down? Here’s a few cool things about slowing:
- Slow Family Living Manifesto
- Humorous approach to slow living: International Institute of Not Doing Much
- Slow Life Design
- The Slow Movement
- Article: Life is good when parents and children slow down
I’ve had this lovely poem in my Bible for many years. Enjoy!
Slow Me Down, Lord
Slow me down, Lord!
Ease the pounding of my heart
By the quieting of my mind.
Steady my harried pace
With a vision of the eternal reach of time.
Give me, amidst the confusions of my day,
The calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves
With the soothing music of the sighing streams
That live in my memory.
Help me to know
The magical restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art
Of taking minute vacations of slowing down to look at a flower;
To chat with an old friend or to make a new one;
To pat a stray dog,
To watch a spider build a web;
To smile at a child;
Or to read a few lines from a good book.
Remind me each day
That the race is not always to the swift;
That there is more to life than increasing its speed.
Let me look upward
Into the branches of the towering oak
And know that it grew slowly and well.
Slow me down, Lord,
And inspire me to send my roots deep
Into the soil of life’s enduring values
That I may grow toward the stars
Of my great destiny.
Wilfred A. Peterson