By Leo Babauta
“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Recently I got a running watch, and have been keeping most of my runs below a certain heart rate, to build up my heart’s aerobic fitness with lots of slow running.
The pace of my runs has been incredibly slow for the last month.
It’s helped me to fall in love with running again.
I’ll share more about that, but it has me wanting to share a more general thought: slowing down can have us falling in love with anything if we let it.
Let me share a few examples:
- Music: Often we listen to music while rushing through our day — while going somewhere, while working, while cleaning. But there’s a sweet pleasure in just sitting around listening to an entire album, the way we used to do, not doing anything but enjoying the music.
- Work: We often give work a bad name, because it can feel burdensome, overwhelming, exhausting. We have to coerce ourselves to do work. But if we slow down with our tasks, give them some space and allow ourselves to fully immerse ourselves in each activity … it can transform the experience. It can feel spacious and luxurious.
- Eating: Many of us rush through our meals, scrolling on our phones as we eat, watching TV or videos, doing work. It’s hard to enjoy food this way — the food has no flavor if we’re not paying attention. There can be something delicious about slowing down and giving our full attention to our food, even for 5-10 minutes. Savor, and find gratitude for this nourishing beautiful meal in front of us.
- Walking: Usually if we’re walking, we’re in a hurry to get somewhere (at least, I am). Or we’re walking for exercise but we have music or a podcast loaded up so we don’t have to pay attention to the walk. But there slowing down and just enjoying the way — even if it’s on the way to get somewhere — can be transformative. Enjoy being outside, enjoy the short journey to go from one place to the next, enjoy the space between things, enjoy moving your body through space.
Of course, the same idea can be applied to anything, not just these examples. Reading, exercise, relationships, drinking tea, a bedtime ritual. Let me return to the topic of falling in love with running again, before I talk about the way to slow down in order to fall in love all over again.
How Slowing Down Helped Me Fall in Love with Running Again
I read a bunch of articles (and a book called 80/20 Running) that inspired me to slow my running pace down to an easy breezy conversational pace. Running slowed way down, but that allowed me to run longer (in distance and in time) and not feel very tired or risk injury. I started running almost every day.
These longer, slower runs became a place to reconnect to myself. Sometimes I load up an audiobook or listen to an album. Other times I just enjoy the outdoors going by at a slower pace.
The biggest surprise is how much I started to look forward to my daily runs! Instead of this hard, tiring workout that I would have to “overcome” … it became a place of peace and play. Running slower comes with its own challenges (I often feel I’m going too slow), but it came with unexpected joys.
After a couple of weeks of this, I realized that I had fallen in love with running again, for the first time in a decade.
The Way of Slowing Down to Re-Fall in Love
So how can we apply this not only to running, but to anything that we’re not excited about anymore?
The Way of Slowing Down starts with simply setting an intention to slow down. I did this with running, because I was convinced of its benefits. If you think there’s a beautiful possibility available to you if you slow down with a particular activity, set the intention.
Then find a way to remember. For running, I had the running watch to give me feedback if I was going too fast. For eating, it helps to put technology away and only have the food in front of you. Same thing for reading, writing, or drinking a cup of tea.
Next, find a way to savor the deliciousness of the activity. What is there to love about the experience? What joys can you discover, if you keep your mind and heart open? Can you allow yourself to relish in it?
Finally, I love having a sense of anticipation. It’s the feeling of “I can’t wait to be with my lover again!” It’s the sweetness of looking forward to play, joy, pleasure, spaciousness. Always leave the activity with a little longing — don’t exhaust your desire. This way, the next time you are about to do the activity, you’ll feel a lift in your heart.
What would you like to fall in love with again?
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.”
~ Winnie the Pooh
p.s. if you’re interested in practicing slowing down with me, join me in my London retreat in April: the Practice of Slowing Down.