by Philippa Bellis

“Teacher is always telling me to speed up my writing, but I can’t…I’m naturally slow,” was the comment, voiced by my indignant daughter, that set me on the path to explore the “hurry-up bug.”

My initial reaction was to explain that she needn’t adopt this self-limiting belief and she could always speed up when she needed to. That she wasn’t slow, it was just that her actions were sometimes slow, and that she needed to, wellspeed up sometimes.

As I heard my own words, a big WHY? formed in my mind. Part of me – the part running on old patterns and perceptions, replied: “Because everyone else will get ahead and she’ll be left behind and she won’t get on in life!” It anxiously declared that she would be “TOO LATE!”

Another, quieter, voice insisted that I explore these beliefs more deeply, asking curiously: “too late for what…?”

This quieter voice requires that I listen more keenly and consistently and to do that, I have to slow down. As I slow down, the benefits are immediately palpable. I know all this – it’s what drew me to yoga in the first place and then on to Mindfulness.

And I know that keeping a check on my own inner “hurry-up bug” is a daily practice and  part of a much bigger picture.

Normally  I’m the one harrying my daughter to hurry up – for my own convenience, or so that we can walk at my (fast) pace, to stave off some latent fear of “not getting there in time.”

But was hurrying a habit I wanted to instill in her? When I thought about its opposite, slowing down, words like peacefulness, spaciousness, contentment, equanimity, floated into my mind.


When I’m under the sway of busyness and “hurry-upness”, I am less mindful and lose connection with what Thich Nhat Hanh describes in this beautiful quote:-

When a child presents herself to you with her smile, if you are not really there – thinking about the future or the past, or preoccupied with other problems – then the child is not really there for you. The technique of being alive is to go back to yourself in order for the child to appear like a marvellous reality. Then you can see her smile and you can embrace her in your arms.”

So this winter, as part of my mindfulness practice, I’ve been taking extra care to let go of the “hurry up bug.”  I’m discovering the addictive quality of rushing and a need to remind myself on a daily basis to slow down.

As daughter and partner strolled to school, I found myself a few paces ahead. As I consciously slowed my pace, I took in the sky, the smell of crisp, cold morning air, my daughter’s chatter, the feel of warm clothing against my skin. At the computer, I paused before replying to e-mails, leaving some replies till later. I ate more slowly to truly savour the food on my plate and let go of the thoughts which told me that I’d better do x, y AND z right now.because they were all VERY IMPORTANT!

Here’s what else  I discovered:

As I slowed down, I encountered impatience, anxiety, worry. But as I continued to go slowly, these began to morph into something else. I began to let go of self judgements, noticing that they just didn’t sound right when said slowly – sillier somehow. I  felt softer and kinder.

The more I slowed down the richer my experience of my day and the more time I seemed to have.

Yoga teacher Donna Farhi, comments in ‘The Breathing Book’:

“Observe this week how many times you hold your breath “in order to ………..” Phrases like “when I finish this report, then I’ll relax:” and “when I’ve finished the laundry, then I’ll relax” are clues as to how you may be constantly holding the present moment hostage for an imagined future. All of these skipped moments sometimes add up to a lifetime.”

Fancy challenging your own “hurry-up bug”?

  • Set your alarm five minutes earlier so that you have time to wake up slowly. Take a few steady breaths, perhaps setting an intention for the day ahead.
  • Try driving more slowly, being mindful of hands on the wheel, your breath, your surroundings.
  • Pause before answering the phone, before replying in a conversation, before acting on or believing the first thought that pops into your head.
  • If your habit is to walk quickly, try slowing down your pace, aware of your body’s response.
  • Spend time around people who appreciate slowness and absorb their qualities.
  • Devote time on a regular basis to mindfulness practices and to things that take you “outside time” – things that you love doing.
  • Keep asking yourself: “why am I hurrying?” ….. and breathe out.

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