We're surrounded by urgency. It's everywhere: on our screens, in our media, at work, in our social interactions, and in our bodies. And for folks that are trying to shift patterns shaped by trauma, the last thing we want to hear is "go slow". Many of us feel like we've already lost so much time, like we're already "behind" - and even when we know that the hetero-, cis-, monogamous timelines don't suit us, we want to be able to live our lives more fully right now, damnit!
When I remind my clients of the importance of slowness, I can feel their impatience and frustration. I can hear the question on their lips: but why?
This is the wisdom of our bodies: lasting changes, changes that we actually get to keep, happen slowly. Change is built little by little, an accumulation of small, doable pieces and practices that gain momentum over time. For bodies that have experienced trauma, we need to move slowly so as not to overwhelm our systems, because overwhelm (another word for trauma) will push our bodies right back to where we started, into our survival physiology. As one of my mentors will often say "the best way to speed up is to slow down": if we want our awareness and aliveness to expand, we have to offer it time to adapt and space in which to grow. Capacity to be present must be built slowly, or the structure collapses.
Our bodies are walking land. We are made of earth, water, air, fire. Like so many beings on our planet, we find our roots and gather nutrients deep within the soil for months, years, and sometimes decades before expanding into our full expression.
Slowness also reveals our needs and wants, our "yes" and "no", our boundaries. When we slow down long enough to hear the messages our bodies are sending us, we gain clarity around what might need to be communicated or expressed. We regain a sense of choice: "my body says no, not right now, not today, maybe not ever" and "my body says yes, yes, please yes" and "maybe, wait and see". We can then discern where our edges are - those areas that have the flexibility for a little bit of stretch, and we can sense the right time to move back towards our supports.
Within urgency, within capitalism, we cannot hear these messages. Instead, we hear and follow the "shoulds" and "musts" that are rooted in conditioning and fear. And then we become confused by our own emotions and responses: I should feel grateful/satisfied/happy, why don't I? or I should feel closer to my family, why don't I? or I should look/act/think this way, why can't I?
When we are constantly stimulated by something, we are disconnected. And healing is all about reconnection: "reconnection of the self with the self, the self with community, and the self with land and spirit". Slowness is a form resistance against current oppressive systems. It forces us and the people around us to connect with the reality of the present - not just the stories we're told or the assumptions we make but the truth of what it's like to be a body among bodies right here, right now. Slowness, like urgency, like trauma, like anger, like power, like presence, like laughter, like pleasure, has its own momentum.
Slowness is not about bypassing the urgency of our own or others' suffering.
Slowness is a return to connection so that we can act from a place of resource and deeper knowing. This is how we move forward, collectively, with respect for each other and clarity about our own role.
Take a breath.
Imagine you are a fish in the ocean. Breathe.
Imagine you are a dolphin. Breathe.
Imagine you are a whale. Breathe.
How might whale-time feel in your body?