Disclaimer: This is my personal retelling of Aesop’s “The Hare & the Tortoise”. 🙂
Once upon a time, there was a Hare (looks like a rabbit, but isn’t) that prided himself on his ability to be lightning fast. He kept bragging and bragging about it to all the forest animals, until one day, a Tortoise named Slow and Steady (looks like a turtle, but isn’t) challenged him to a race.
(Now, we can all infer from movies/books/general media that if a tortoise LOOKS like a turtle, it must be SLOW like a turtle is, right? Have you ever seen a tortoise move? Let’s just say if you and the tortoise are trying to compete and grab the last Classic NES system during the Black Friday sale, chances are the tortoise isn’t going to physically beat you there to the shelf. :-P)
Anyways, the Hare started running down the road and noticed Slow and Steady trailing along behind him. He yelled out, “How do you expect to win this race at the pace you’re at?” Since Slow and Steady was way behind, the Hare decided to take a nap on the side of the road. After all, he has absolutely nothing to worry about, right? He’ll definitely beat Slow and Steady, no problem.
While the Hare was sleeping, Slow and Steady continued to move along the road at a comfortable speed. He kept going and going, but never once rushed himself. Eventually, he crossed the Finish Line and won the race for all the forest animals to see!
The Hare finally woke up and continued rushing down the road to win that race he obviously knew he was going to win…but, wait? Slow and Steady already finished the race and won? The Hare asked himself, “How could this be, when I am so fast?” Alas, the Hare accepted a new life lesson and discovered for himself, “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for slow and steady wins the race!”
As a child, I grew up reading this fable over and over again. Back then, I didn’t know that this short story contained wisdom that I would revisit 20 years later and would hope to instill into my daily life as an adult. I realized that I always rush my way through life and try to get to the “Finish Line” as soon as I can, just like the Hare. Do you ever feel like that sometimes? We all live such busy lives and have to manage so many things at once: our job, our health, our relationships, our children, our pets, our home, our finances, etc. The list can go on and on..especially if subcategories are used! No wonder journals are coming back in style as well as productivity apps on our phones to help us keep track of what we need to do every day.
How many times in the past 24 hours have you put down your phone, your computer mouse, your TV remote control, your to-do list, and stood still in the present moment for even just 5 minutes? Have you actively stopped to take in your surroundings, your senses, your thoughts, and hear your own breath? If you’re like me, this is a rare (if it even happens at all) event. I realized that I don’t know how to relax and slow down.
If you struggle with slowing down in life like me, let’s challenge ourselves to channel our inner tortoise and try to slow down a little. Here is what I plan on doing and I invite you to try these with me:
- Spend 5-10 minutes each day doing nothing: WHAT? How do I not do something? It’s hard because we are trained to constantly be on our feet (or mentally “on”), but this is a great way to remind yourself that you don’t need to be busy to feel happy or a sense of calm. You can even call this meditation if you want. It’s simply a time you can set to being still and giving your body and mind a break from the surrounding world. I know we are all busy and rely on our phones to keep us on track in our lives, so why not set a reminder to do this every day on your phone? Even better, use this free Insight Timer phone app to set a time limit for yourself so that you don’t accidentally go beyond the amount of time you have in your busy day to do this. (Bonus: the app contains 1000s of guided meditations..all for free!) Do you need a meditation cushion or decked out room for this? Nah. You just need some place (preferably away from all the hustle and bustle) to withdraw from your senses. Go outside your home for 5 minutes, take a walk, go into an empty room, or throw on headphones with some calming music (http://www.calm.com) if you find that you can’t get away from noise. See additional calming apps below in #3 to use as a substitute for music.
- Stop and notice your surroundings: This is a way to be mindful in your every day. Do you find yourself rushing to work or to get a task done? Or simply rushing through life, in general, to always get to that next step (whatever it is)? Take a few moments to stop and notice your surroundings. I have found this is a great grounding tool for when I start feeling anxious and/or overwhelmed with life. Are you outside? Take a moment to describe what you see and hear, whether it’s a tree, the sound of birds, buildings, people, etc. Are you inside? Take a moment to notice the color of the walls, the color of the chair/couch you’re on, the texture of an object that is near you, or the food that you’re eating. Although it doesn’t seem like it, this is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness doesn’t need to be done in a group meditation class, or while being guided by a teacher, it can be done at any moment. That’s the point, actually, is to be aware of the present moment. Not the past, nor the future, but the present moment.
- Can’t get away from your phone? Use your phone to your advantage then!: I totally understand that our phones are our connections to others and to the world. Sometimes we are “on call” to our children, our spouses, family members, etc, and turning it off simply isn’t an option. Luckily, there are a number of mindfulness phone apps out there (for free!) that give you a chance to take a mental break. Check them out here and here.
- Make time for self-care: I can’t stress this enough, but make self-care a priority. Read my previous post on some ways to do this. Often times, the result of rushing through life is neglecting your mind, goals, health, spirituality, passion, and your overall sense of self in general. Don’t rush through life and miss out on opportunities for growth because you didn’t make self-care a priority. Taking care of yourself (mind, body, spirit) will let you be able to take effectively care of others in your life and be more present with them.
Slow down and appreciate the day-to-day. Be present to yourself and to others. We don’t want to rush through life, look back, and realize we didn’t actually live. There’s something to be said about Slow and Steady, the tortoise, taking his time and winning the race. Not only that, but he probably got to take in the beautiful surroundings of the forest as he walked down the road. 🙂 Let’s follow in his (webbed and clawed) footsteps and tread through life at a pace that lets us enjoy ourselves, our surroundings, our loved ones, and our life in general. See you at the finish line!