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Slowing down

Japanese Gardens Kildare - Byrnewithmy photo by Mike Andrews

Featured image taken in the Japanese Gardens at the Irish National Stud by Mike Andrews

This piece was originally written for and published by an online magazine called The Olive Foxes, which has since closed down. 

I have a tendency to walk fast. I’m quite tall so I cover more ground in fewer steps than people who are shorter than me but, add to this the fact that my natural pace is very fast, it doesn’t take me long to get to the places I need to be. Whether I’m walking to work, running to the post office, popping out to buy something for lunch or simply just going for a ‘stroll’ (the definition of a stroll is to walk in a leisurely way so maybe this doesn’t apply to me), I can’t seem to help but walk quickly.

I have noticed, though, that this fast pace of mine can impact me in more ways than I might realise. On the one hand, it’s positive because I can get to places quickly and I’m often early for things. However, on the other hand, I’m usually left waiting for everyone else when I get to my destination. I’ve also noticed that whenever I’m walking somewhere, I’m often overcome with a sense of impatience. Wherever I’m going, I want to be there already. I tend to tense up my muscles and get frustrated at all the slow people around me, something which is much worse in cold weather because I’ve got the added need be warm. This can often be even more stressful when I’m walking with other people because I’m constantly monitoring my speed to try and match theirs, since I don’t want them out of breath running along beside me. Even the simple task of trying to break up my day with a walk can even be difficult because I end up back at my starting point in half the time I intended to be out.

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None of this is good for me. Doing something so basic, something that many of us (if we are fortunate enough) do every day has turned into something that causes me frustration, stress, and impatience. What way is that to live your life?

So I’m deciding to slow down.

Conor Pass - Byrnewithme - Photo by Katelyn Rose Landis

Looking out over Conor Pass, Dingle, Co. Kerry. Photo by Katelyn Rose Landis

As spring rolls into summer, there is no better time to slow right down and start appreciating the things around me. I’m going to be more mindful and pay attention to every step, every sound. I will look around to see how the sun shines on buildings and highlights architecture I might not have noticed before. Stop once in a while to look at the flowers, or anything I think is worth stopping for. Relax my shoulders, take a deep breath. Remind myself that it’s okay, I’ll get there. If there is no reason to rush, then don’t rush.

I have been living in the future all this time – where I’m going, when I’m going to get there, what I’m going to do once I’m there. The thing is, once I get there, I’m already thinking about the next thing, and so it goes on. If I continue to live in the future, I’m going to miss the present. But the present is all we’ve got, so I want to appreciate it while I’m in it.

Mindful walking

  • Instead of walking with your eyes on the ground or on your phone, look ahead and around you
  • Notice the breeze against your face or your fingers as you walk along
  • Pay attention to how it feels when your feet hit the ground
  • When you find you’ve drifted off into your mind – and you will – pull yourself back to the sensation of walking
  • Be aware of any movement around you – birds, leaves in the wind, cars, cyclists, people walking
  • Pay attention to sounds around you, whether these are people chatting, cars beeping or dogs barking

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