Meet Pearl… a horse mentor of mine who taught me an important lesson recently, tough love style, on the importance of slowing down.
Coincidentally, or maybe not, the enticing yet ever so illusive allure of slowing down has been a common theme in my work with clients recently. The way I see it, slowing down is really code for being present, and being present is code for connecting more whole-heartedly to other people or whatever we are doing at any given moment.
As both a teacher and student of the art of slowing down, the events of February 7th, 2013 gave me a crash course on the subject.
On that day, I was in a hurry… surprise, surprise. Being in a hurry does not compute to Pearl, a typical horse whose main objectives in life are to be safe and to do as little as possible. Grazing, and snoozing in the sun are the highlights of her day. In other words, I was riding Pearl in a hurry that day, and in doing so, I was not being present, and not connecting with her.
Bad news in the horse world, and on this day, it turned out to be dangerous.
Time was ticking, my mind was already picturing moving onto the next item of my packed day, and I decided to rap things up with Pearl… at my own pace, not hers. So, I hurried her through the steps of opening and closing a gate, and when my stirrup got unexpectedly caught in a little piece of metal everything went to hell in handbag, and fast.
Pearl stepped forward, my ankle stayed back, and rolled in a direction and at a speed that is just not natural. Something exploded (yes, that is a bit dramatic, but it hurt like a b….!) in my cowgirl boot, bright stars (and not the pretty kind you see in the night sky) clouded my vision, but I was able to safely slide off of her back, and lower myself to the ground.
Pearl calmly sauntered over to a small patch of grass, and happily grazed while I writhed in the dirt, swearing profusely while mustering up the courage to pull my right boot off to access the damage.
Now, how did busting up my ankle earn Pearl more snaps as a mentor, and teach me yet another experiential lesson on the necessity of slowing down in the moment regardless of all the seemingly non-negotiable demands of my life? Well, a bone fracture and some jacked up ligaments have given me plenty of down time to consider this. Emphasis on plenty of time.
It was and is crystal clear to me that this injury was not the result of my ankle going through a spin cycle in the stirrup. In other words, I busted my ankle, because I needed to slow down, not just in the moment with Pearl, but also in other areas of my life.
And, I had been planning on doing just that… slowing down, that is. I had been thinking it, and talking about it, but not actually doing it.
And, in the fraction of a second it took for my ankle to turn, I had absolutely no choice but to surrender, for the foreseeable future, to sloooooow living.
So, what am I trying to say here?
Is it possible that given the combined demands of both the external world, and our own internal motivators to slow down before the decision about how you pace yourself gets taken out of your hands (i.e. you do the equivalent of busting up your ankle riding a horse named Pearl or something far more interesting or worse).
If you are a person who wants to slow down, and in doing so, be more present, and ultimately connect more deeply with people, but find it difficult to do so, here are a few questions to ask yourself as food for thought:
1) Why are you moving so quickly through your life? I’m not talking about the obvious reasons like I have to work to pay my bills so I can put food on my table. I am asking for a more personal consideration of motivators that may not be so obvious or serve your larger goals in life.
2) What might happen if you slowed things down? A seemingly benign question, but in reality, the answer might give you major insight into outdated stories you might still believe and emotions you have about what it means to not be on the go all the time.
3) Is it time for a conscientious, or as many would say mindful, consideration of who and what in your life is adding value, and who and what are taking up time that could be better spent doing something else…like resting? Again, I am not recommending that you develop an “everything is about me attitude,” and flagrantly kick people to the curb.
4) How do you feel about making time to do what some consider being unthinkable: less or nothing at all? Does this thought bring up fear or shame or guilt, or motivate you to go take a nice nap in the sun instead of checking off one more item from your to-do list?
On a final note, as a good friend and fellow horse lover of mine helped me up out of the dirt where I sat cradling my busted ankle, she said to me, with a sympathetic grin, “You did tell me that you wanted to slow down.” And, she is right.
Thanks for reading!