Thoughts on slowing down. Part 1.

My dad had a health scare recently, and as a silver lining to this distressing situation, my five year old son and I spend Tuesdays and Thursdays over at my parents’ house - or Papa’s - so that my mom can go into the office. Their house is infinitely quieter than mine, and often darker though there are many windows. (Must be a sun angle thing.) Days there are forcibly slowed. I catch myself looking for things to do, but I can’t find any because my mom is immaculate and it isn’t my house. We do slow things like build Lego sets and put together wooden train tracks. We make chocolate chip cookies from a recipe my son brought home from preschool. My dad eats five and Charlie eats two. 

Being with my dad, days slowed down, quiet, dusk-like, has me thinking about slow things. This year has started, and continues, with a bang - or a series of them. This seems to be a fairly universal experience. When I talk to friends about what’s going on in our lives, everyone is doing. For me, last year did not feel this way. Last year was introspection and spiritual growth and a constant stream of very conscious soul-feeding and purging, as needed. Interestingly, this all adds up according to our spiritual guide books. In astrology, 2024 is full of ups and downs with an emphasis on labor and economy. Numerology tells us that it is an 8 Year, vibrating with power and material gains and achievement. (For the record, last year was a 7 Year, full of spiritual energy and looking within.) 2024 is also the Year of the Dragon, bringing abundance, growth, and success. It’s a happening time.

In light of all this, I want to remind us (you and myself) of some simple ways to slow down amidst the action - destined action it seems, so let’s do the things. But let’s also stop and think about them. In a series of posts on slow things, starting with this one, we’ll explore some ways that help our brains to stop and think about or feel the happenings in our lives.

When I’m over at my dad’s we start the morning with a meditation called Sa ta Na Ma. My yoga teacher told our class about it one day, and it’s recommended by the Alzheimer’s Foundation for strengthening memory connections in your brain and reducing stress. Sa ta Na Ma is a twelve minute meditation that involves chanting, whispering, and finger-tapping. It’s incredibly valuable for brain upkeep and is a natural introduction into meditation in general, since there is some movement, some vocalization, and sitting in silence can seem daunting.

I’ve been practicing transcendental meditation for over a decade, some years peppered with fewer sessions, but I’ve been faithfully consistent in my practice these last handful of years. Not because I’m enlightened or more tuned in (though you will be if you meditate - it’s literal science). But because I’ve found that as a person in this world, I cannot maintain my own personal sanity, or reasonable management of this impossible-to-control half-cut-in path that is life, if I’m not meditating. It is stillness alone that keeps me pinned here. A tiny bit of time - twenty minutes in my case - to let my brain rest and my spirit be still. Time to notice the thoughts, and love them without prejudice, inviting me to love myself, to see the disarming power of it, watching ideas that held me dissolve like delicate forms made of sugar.

I’ve talked to lots of folks about meditation and the different ways they practice. I have a friend who takes a little time every day to listen to classical music while doing nothing else. I’ve had many friends tell me that running, or some form of physical exercise, is their meditation - I think a sitting meditation and a running meditation hold different purposes, but I also understand what they mean. How do you slow down? What illuminates your thoughts and inner-workings and then lets them go? Making time for such a practice everyday is not extra. It might take a while for your brain to accept that - because it’s deeply unAmerican (why be still when we could be accomplishing?) - but it’s worth continually trying to digest it until your being is ready to absorb this way of thinking. Changing our brains takes practice and patience, but it's wildly worthwhile.

Photo by Robin Schreiner on Unsplash