The other day, my father-in-law fell head first on to the smooth, polished mosaic flooring in the house. I saw him fall before he fell and winced a micro-second before I heard the “thump” that an old, wizened head makes when it comes into contact with the ground.
I first saw blood. And then noticed the inch-sized gnash that his broken walking-stick had left upon his forehead, while sparing his eyes at the same time. Despite holding an ice-pack for close to half hour on the wounded gentleman’s forehead, the bleeding proved to be relentless. The cut was too deep, and the victim too old.
My husband arrived to drive his father to the clinic and I went along to help. Right from the time his head hit the floor to the time we got back home after dressing the wound, I had lost three crucial hours of work.
And gained almost two hours of chat time with my husband, an opportunity that comes by quite rarely these days.
Why do we Need Speed-Breakers in Life?
The incident with my father-in-law, despite the unfortunate situation, turned out to be a speed-breaker for me, and my husband. We both stopped our respective, money-making (name-making, in my case) lives to take care of family, creating meaningful time for the two of us, in the process.
When we did not slow down our racing time, time, slowed it down for us.
As is the case with one of my friends, whose over-ripe, over-worked schedule has been interrupted by a bout of stress-fueled ailment, injuries, and reluctant meetings that are cutting into her much-awaited holidays.
When we do not slow down our racing time, time, slows it down for us. And in ways that we wish it never did. Time, is kind of weird like that.
What is wrong with speed? Why do we have to slow down?
Good question. Considering the fact that the speed of our thoughts is faster than the speed of light, are we not designed for a high-flying life?
But human thinking has never always been faster than the speed of light. The brain’s evolution has made it that way. The primeval, “animal” brain that has descended from the apes, was how do I put it…um…slow, as slow, and as nit-picking as the great apes themselves.
There were no books, movies or stories to stimulate imagination. Communication was restricted to grunts and growls, as allowed by Nature. It is the age of wisdom, the age of industries, the age of information, and the age of AI that has co-created the age of man, where our thoughts have grown into currents that travel faster than the speed of light.
I still don’t get how speed can hurt…
Imagine yourself to be an auto racer. Your entire being is driven by speed. Now let’s get into your brain and take a look at what is happening out here. Inside your head, you have already won the race – you have zoomed through the laps and past the finish line. Your heart thunders along with your head. You live to race. There is a name for this feeling, and it is called adrenaline rush.
The rush begins in the brain, even as you are thinking about probable situations – the excitement of the finish, the stress of the beginning, the danger of losing control of your vehicle, or the threat of the racer ahead or behind. Pure adrenaline rushes from the brain and takes over your complete system.
This adrenaline is what helps you complete the race.
It is also this very adrenaline that sucks you into unforgiving spiral called a “high.”
But I am not a racer
Neither am I. And yet, you and I race every single day. We race to get out of bed, race to get the kids ready, race to work, race back home, and well…we are racing through life.
Even if we are staying at home, reading books or watching TV, we are still training our brains to race.
Take movies for instance, and observe the speed at which the time-lines zip past us. It does not take a micro-second for the character to go from talking about a place to actually getting there. Likewise with books, although a tad-bit longer.
Whether it be fiction or non-fiction, gaming or surfing, everything is an information. So, information that we receive and spread (like this post, for instance) bypasses the time lines determined by real-life, and thereby bypassing real life itself.
Alternative reality, does not fall in line with the whole time-space rule.
What the brain sees, the brain also learns. Through our love affair with information, we have taught our brains to fall in love with speed. And what the brain learns, it longs to enact.
If the brain observes speed, it learns to speed
And just like that, we are back to speed racing. Except now, we are talking about speed-racing through our lives. Or speed-racing our lives.
If we keep the brain addicted to the rush of speed, we are also keeping it addicted to stress, excitement, danger and threat, none of which, is healthy in long, continuous, measures. We notice and read enough to know that.
Nature has designed the whole adrenaline rush to help her creatures run away from danger. There is a reason she has restricted the curiosity-fueled, risk-prone, high on speed time of childhood and the high-risk, experimental attitude, high on speed time of adolescence to a total of only 20 years. There is a whole big number allocated out there for us, adults, simply because we are expected, by Nature, to behave wisely (The unseen lady is “aheming” us right now).
But as with everything else that we do, here we are – us humans – using this rush to get ourselves into danger.
Speed thrills, but kills
When we do not slow down our racing time, time, slows it down for us. And in ways that we wish it never did. Time, which is traveling through the currents of speed – high or low, is kind of weird like that.
How on earth do we un-train our brain?!
It’s too late for that now. We are all going to die a painful death.
I don’t want to, though. So, what I have decided to do is, value the natural speed-breakers in my life, instead.
And how do you do that?
Nag the kid: It gives me great pleasure to announce that since my son is almost a teenager now, and has been acting like one for the last two years, my husband, and I have become even more passionate about nagging him over…just about everything. And we are having great fun, because our intention is to relish his teenage years, just as much as he relishes it.
My son is the numero uno natural speed-breaker in my life. As are all children to their parents. Truth is, you don’t necessarily have to be a parent to spend time enjoying all the emotions that children bring into your lives. All you have to do is take yourself to a park, and catch the stories between humans and their micro-humans as they unfurl.
Look for shapes in the clouds: My favorite moments are the ones that I spend in the balcony catching sight of the birds, bees and butterflies. There are definitive flashes of peace in just sitting back and observing Nature move herself around. I think them trees are the wisest beings around, cause they grow right from where they are, and live longer than we do. Noticing Nature at work is the most interesting speed-breaker from our own work.
Digg boredom: You know how we are constantly reaching for that mobile phone, or trying to figure out what to do next. Well, guess what, we don’t have to do that. Or at least, not all the time. Giving in to boredom is kind of like playing the dark-room game – you are in the dark, looking for something that is hidden. According to neuroscience, it is during times of boredom that the brain tries to find and activate hidden neural connections or create new ones. So, yes, boredom does slow us down enough to create room for creativity.
Make time for the dirt-bunnies: If I had a choice, I would spend the rest of my life not doing any household chores. Fortunately for me, I don’t have a choice. If I did, then I would either be writing or reading constantly eventually running my thoughts only between reading and writing, and little else. I am indeed grateful for the frustrations of managing a household that hammer me into slowing down my over-loaded brain. If we are able to understand this, then we will also realize that there is something cathartic about cleaning and organizing.
Indulge in a hobby: I have filled so many notebooks with so many scribbles and doodles that I have lost count of how many. Taking up an interesting hobby is to answer a call from our inner child to take a mental break from our high-flying lives, and do something that gives us a sense of contentment.
Imagine contentment, what is your image over this simple, yet elusive word? Bring it to the most basic visual. You will realize that contentment is always accompanied by a deep breath and a beatific smile. Contentment comes with slowing down.
Here’s to valuing the speed-breakers in our lives!