“Deliberation is born of joy.” Rumi
The Evolution of Slowness
Andrew Taylor Still, Osteopathy’s founder, said the body contains all the healing substances it needs. And indeed humans have within their nervous systems equally the antidote we need to the social epidemic of excess stress. The autonomic system embodies the advantage of a speedy, whole body response to changing circumstance. However, we have evolved a yet higher capacity. We have, even during the most trying of circumstances, the ability to slow down and to decide how we shall respond. The ability to make decisions deliberately is perhaps our most uniquely human characteristic. Between stimulus and response there is a vast realm. We have the ability to sort through our feelings, our thoughts and sensations and to consciously decide how we are to respond.
This is the unique capacity of the human cerebrum. The cerebrum, housing the conscious mind, is, essentially, a mechanism we use to slow down our processes and to decide who we want to be and how we want to act, as opposed to speedy and automatic reactions that characterize all lower levels of the nervous system. The ability to consciously slow down is one of the great privileges of being human.
Advocates for Slowness
Massage therapists and practitioners of meditative disciplines represent advocacy groups precisely for the social necessity of slowing down, contemplating our situation, our habitual responses and then making deliberative, balanced responses.
A whole hour spent not moving but yet not asleep is the sacred hour spent in a massage session. It may be said to be a whole hour filled with contemplation. How many of us spend a whole contemplative hour outside of the everyday rush? The joyful experience of being out of the normal experience of time and mind and body is an evolutionary lever of tremendous power.
For we need to expand not merely our physical range of motion, but our psychic range of motion as well. Most people spend their time in a rush of activity or fast asleep. What if we could explore the fertile mid-ground between sleeping and waking?
Edison, it is said, used to lie down on a couch and extend his arm with a rock in his hand. When he would fall asleep, the rock would fall down on the floor and wake him up. Gradually he got to where he could be almost asleep but not drop the rock. Why? It was out of this vast but rarely explored realm between sleep and wake that he came up with all his inventions! Between the strictures of the conscious mind and the dream-saturated realm of sleep, he cultivated the state in which the fertile meeting ground of conscious and unconscious could yield its fruits.
Why Should We Slow Down?
Because of the deep social and personal crisis-epidemic of excessive stress, the ability to be not in a hurry and to be at peace with our decisions appears to be the prerequisite for the further evolution of human kind. For automatic, autonomic reactions only recreate the problems we have and our dysfunctional habitual responses to them.
We hope, in this new century and beyond, that we cannot just repeat past mistakes. We can indeed have a spiritual progress in this century to rival the technological progress in the past. For this, the capacity to slow down is paramount.
Visit our current massage continuing education page. Learn how to incorporate meditation into your private massage practice for both the benefits of the practitioner and client.