I have recently felt as though I’ve had more to juggle than a clown whose chums have bolted midway through the circus act. I have been a little carried away in my busy-ness which has left me feeling slightly frazzled. I call it being in ‘Fast Mind’.
When I’m in Fast Mind I take on more than I need to and I drive myself quite hard to accomplish all that’s on my ‘to do’ list in too short a timescale. Fast Mind is the opposite to being in flow. When I’m in a state of flow, I achieve everything effortlessly and time doesn’t seem to matter so much. Flow requires that I relax a lot, which Fast Mind doesn’t like.
Fast Mind works in a different time zone to my body and to life itself. It drives me to work harder so that I can afford to buy all my new bedroom furniture, book that holiday and go and see all the bands I want to see next month. Fast Mind hasn’t got the patience to wait. I spend the weekend clothes shopping, doing (or in my case ‘attempting’) DIY, washing, planning, biking and working. Yet when it comes to Sunday evening I wonder why I’m so pooped. It’s because Fast Mind wants me to do it all and have it all now.
However the reality is that Fast Mind isn’t necessarily effective and productive since when I attempt to do it all, I end up becoming stressed and my life starts to show the signs of a mind in a mess. I lose keys. I forget things. My house gets messy. I leave DIY jobs partway through because I have no patience for them. The road to hell becomes a route littered with my good intentions and waymarked by undone ‘to do lists’.
As a mindfulness practitioner, I have recently observed the illusion that Fast Mind spins and have sought to regain a bit of control, patience and composure in my lifelong endeavours to become superwoman.
I have sought to let go of rushing. Have you noticed that whenever you rush, the world conspires to put things in your way that makes you feel marginally psychotic and which thwart your Speedy Gonzales trajectory? For example, you have ten minutes to drive to your exercise class before it starts because you mis-timed your evening (Fast Mind packed in five tasks too many for you). The world’s slowest driver in a Robin Reliant pulls in front of you or you get stopped at all the red lights. Fast Mind tells you that you are going to get there slower than you anticipated and the unexpected lights or driver irritate you and make you feel frustrated and irritable. If, however, you were operating in real time you would realise that perhaps you never in fact have control of what happens en route to somewhere (as Fast Mind would have you believe) but that if you leave enough time you can cater for any unforeseen occurrences. If you’re in flow, even better – everything tends to unfold naturally and calmly. Fast Mind thinks it is in control of time and lacks patience. It thinks ‘it’s my way or the highway’ (on the highway). This is not based in reality.
To use another driving analogy, have you noticed that if you drive on the motorway at 60 miles an hour and maintain a steady speed oftentimes you don’t in fact lose time than if you had floored it at 80, getting flashed at more often than if you were sunbathing in the local city park? The reality is, if you take things slowly and calmly, you get there just as quickly. (My parents would always say that to me and I would absolutely hate them for saying it but unfortunately it’s true).
Busy-ness is the gear of choice these days. Have you noticed how when you ask someone how they are they say ‘ I’m well’ and that there is pause before they add, ‘ you know – busy’ with some degree of enforced optimism, as though it’s in fact better to busy and well, than to just be well. There is nothing necessarily wrong with busy. However, it is possible to be in busy mode but in a calm way. That is where the mindfulness comes in.
The more you are patient in each moment and the more you bridle your Fast Mind, the more open you will be to creatively or gracefully achieving what you need to do. If I am doing DIY and I’m in my Fast Mind, I will be so determined to bash a misaligned screw into a hole with all luddite vigour that I will keep bashing and will wind up becoming frustrated and defeated by the task. If I am in a calm and mindful place, I will realise that it is better not to bash the screw in but instead to pick up the screw carefully with the screwdriver and gently direct it into the hole at a ninety degree angle. Similarly, when I am stressed and I lose my keys, I can’t find them and then I get more stressed. If I slow down and stay in the moment, I am more open to looking around and with a little mindful faith, hey presto the keys turn up.
The irony is that while Fast Mind might tell you that you have to hurry, hurry, hurry and that there is no time, this is again not true. You create your own time. If you choose your time to be slower and slow your moments down you are more likely to make a better fist of things and in a calm manner which is better for your overall efficiency, mental health and happiness.
That said, I have quite a good relationship with Fast Mind when she appears. She makes me laugh. She swears at the slow drivers and makes judgments about people who aren’t as fast. She likes saying the f word a lot and has an impressive repertoire of different words for the male organ so that she can say them under her breathe when anyone gets in her way. I love her. She is only trying to be fabulous. Her sweariness is a cue that I am in Fast Mind and that perhaps I need to slow down a bit: perhaps by taking things slow for an evening or having a bath. Fast Mind will then tell me that I’m being boring. Fast Mind is clucky – a bit like a chicken. Indeed, Fast Mind lives in the small part of the brain.
Ultimately however, when Fast Mind takes over the steering wheel, we have to press the slow switch and dive into the spacious, expansive part of ourselves that exists in the moment; the part that is magnificent in its being-ness rather than in its busy-ness – the part that is already fabulous without having to effort. We have to remind ourselves who we actually are – the amazing person that is rather than the amazing person that does.
Here are some top tips for slowing down and cultivating more patience (even when it’s boring):
1.Be a bit more allowing
Recognise that people, life and events happening do not always work to your desired timescale. Be more allowing of the natural unfolding of things.
2. Make each moment more spacious
If you are not focused so much on your desired outcome and in ‘driven doing’ mode you can make each moment very spacious by doing something to take yourself away from being ruled by your mind. Feel your feet on the ground and connect to your breathing so that you are more present. Ironically, being more present means that you have a lot more time in the moment and you’re more open to what is going on around you so you will be more likely to be more efficient.
3. Be kind to yourself
Driving yourself into achieving all that you set out to do is laudable but your priority must be you. You don’t whip the Uber driver for not getting you to the station fast enough so you shouldn’t whip yourself into achieving your daily, weekly or yearly goals. The kinder you are to a child the more likely they will co-operate. Similarly, the kinder you are to yourself, the more likely you will do things from a place of inspired enthusiasm and things will then flow much better.
4. Take time out
If you’re feeling stressed, let go a bit. Take some time to decompress even if your mind is telling you you can’t because you won’t get everything done. You will be more effective if you have given your brain and body a well-deserved rest. When you give yourself an opportunity to rest and repair, you re-set your nervous system so that you are able to pace yourself better and get out of Fast Mind.
5. Be flexible and think creatively
When we are in driven doing mode we are not open to the natural unfolding of life. We can be so driven and attached to our desired outcomes and expectations that when things happen that we don’t expect or which scupper our plans, this can make us frustrated and stressed. Be aware that life is creative. Things happen. Things are not usually within our control. Also, we always have many different options available to us at any given moment. The more open, the more we have. The more driven, the fewer we have. Don’t get too attached to the way you think things ought to be. Be open to the possibility of thinking, being and doing in new ways and or in different directions.
Ally Frazer 3rd November 2019