We live in a high-speed world. Work and personal life are often rushed and mashed together in a blur of activity. Information streams into you faster than any time in human history. Thanks largely to advances in technology, the pace of life seems to be getting faster and more frenetic every year. It can feel as if your internal gear has only two speeds: fast and faster.
In Ayurveda, this frantic, harried, and excessive activity is a symptom of an imbalance in Vata Dosha, or the principle of movement that governs everything in nature from distant galaxies to your individual mind-body system.
A Vata Imbalance
If you look at some of the key indicators of a Vata imbalance, it becomes immediately apparent how deeply they are woven into our modern culture:
- Overactive mind
- Short attention span
- Loss of mental focus
- Worry, anxiety
- Inability to relax
Sadly, these traits have become the acceptable collateral damage of modern life and rushing through your day may be the status quo. You may routinely race from one thing to another, jumping from meeting to meeting, moving as quickly as you can, filling up every second with as much activity as possible.
While this high-Vata lifestyle may give the illusion of productivity and high performance, it can often take a huge toll on your mind-body balance, happiness, and quality of life. Here a few ways a fast-paced lifestyle can be a detriment to your well-being.
It Activates the Stress Response
When you hurry frantically from one thing to another, it triggers the hyper-arousal state known as the fight-or-flight response. Instead of running away from an enemy or physical threat, however, you run away from time itself, or at least the fear of being late.
In this perpetually rushed state, you place yourself in a state chronic stress and experience a host of physiological symptoms that are harmful to your mind and body. The stress response is also the breeding ground for worry and anxiety—two mental states that feedback into the urge to hurry and do more in less time. Rushing makes you stressed, and being stressed encourages you to rush.
It Degrades the Quality of Your Attention
As you hurry about, there is little or no time to take in the world around you; life literally becomes a blur of activity that you aren’t able to enjoy or be present with. You become perpetual motion machines, convinced that doing is more valuable than being. Yet, it is the stillness between the notes that gives music its beauty. In the rush of activity, there is no opportunity to integrate your life experiences. Precious moments and memories slip like sand through your fingers because you couldn’t take a moment to stop and be present.
In addition, as the quality of your attention wanes, you become increasingly prone to forget key details or suffer from accidents and injuries. In a nutshell, the faster you go, the more your quality of life suffers.
It Perpetuates the Illusion of Multitasking
A recent byproduct of the fast-paced world has been an ever-increasing aversion to doing just one thing at a time. More and more of us seem to struggle with the idea of single-tasking or focusing on only one thing until it is completed. Instead, you may have become accustomed to the concept of multitasking, or the apparent ability to perform several activities at once.
Paradoxically, studies have shown that the ability to multitask is actually an illusion and attempting to do so is counterproductive and makes you less efficient. So rather than helping you go faster and be more productive, multitasking literally does the exact opposite. Despite this, the cultural bias toward multitasking is very strong, and the need to do more in less time encourages you to engage in multiple activities simultaneously.
Now that you understand how your hurried and fast-paced lifestyle gets you nowhere fast, here are some suggestions to find balance by slowing down:
1. Consciously Recognise that Rushing Is a Habitual Mindset
Rushing is counterproductive to well-being, happiness, and fulfilment. Until you understand that moving through life at a roadrunner pace isn’t beneficial in the long run, there won’t be any motivation to interrupt your addiction to speed. Once you’ve recognised that you’re caught in the hamster wheel, you have to take responsibility to make a different choice.
2. Have the Intention to Slow Things Down
Intending to find balance and step out of the fast lane needs to be a decision made in awareness before any change can occur. It’s not enough to say, “I should slow things down.” Make the commitment to finding balance and putting your life’s rhythms in harmony with nature’s rhythms. With the intentions set firmly in place, refer back to it daily to keep it fresh in your awareness.
3. Develop a Healthy Relationship with Time
Realise that the clock is not the enemy. Your experience of time is based upon your perceptions, so adopt an attitude of having all the time in the world. Consider adjusting your schedule to create more buffer time between activities; get up earlier or eliminate the time-sucks from your life.
4. Know When You Can Do Less and Say No
You may often get yourself in over your head by over-committing or taking on too much. Look for opportunities to remove superfluous activity from your life. Know when you can say no to help maintain a healthy balance in your daily activities. In addition, explore the Law of Least Effort to help tap into ways to do less and accomplish more.
5. Meditate: Cultivate Mindful Attention of the Present Moment
By its very nature, meditation takes our awareness into the field of the timeless. In that stillness we naturally settle into a state of balance and equilibrium. Regularly experiencing the gap between our thoughts slows down the pace of life and diffuses the urge to rush. We experience our true nature as human beings, not human doings.
6. Break the Pattern
When you notice yourself getting caught up in turbulence of rushing, pause, close your eyes (if possible), place your attention into your body, and take five deep, slow breaths. Imagine yourself moving in slow motion as the rest of the world flashes by as if in a time-lapse movie. Ground yourself with the steady pace of your breath, remembering that your true nature isn’t the activity surrounding you; it is the ever-present witness that observes the activity from the field of timeless awareness.
7. Remember that Slow Is Smooth and Smooth Is Fast
This phrase often heard in martial arts training is a reminder that by slowing down, you can make more deliberate, mindful, and evolutionary choices in the present moment. With repetition, slow actions become smooth (more efficient and economical), until they ultimately become automatic and second-nature (fast). However, it is only when you slow down that you can make the most effective choice that will lead you to the happiness and fulfilment you seek.