Moving Slowly in a Fast World

Provided by WTG from Walk the Goats

Pixabay: nandhukumar. Free for commercial use; no attribution required
Photo source: nandhukumar on Pixabay

The world feels fast: fast food, high-speed trains, supersonic planes. Tech companies move fast and break things. People want things now, resulting in instant Jell-O, instant messaging and Instant Pot.

I’m slow. I read slowly, write slowly, learn slowly. I’m thorough; detail-oriented.

This fault-line between my slow-motion style and the world’s fast-motion expectations sometimes leaves me feeling deficient, concerned I lack a societally-valued trait.

My discomfort intensifies when I try to learn something new. I plod through my learning while images of Neo from The Matrix appear, skills and knowledge insta-loaded into his memory.

I’ve wrestled with this aspect of my personality, being self-critical when I take too long to learn something, aching to speed things up.  Expecting something other than what is.

I took up partner dancing at 41 and met a woman who started dancing after I did. She leap-frogged me with her dance skills, and I was frustrated.  A fellow dancer told me, “it isn’t the years spent dancing, it’s the hours on the dance floor.” It was a valid point; I was dancing once a week; she was out at least five nights. If I’d danced more, I likely would have gotten better more quickly; but I also suspect she was more gifted and got aspects of dance it took me years to get. It’s one thing to learn dance moves; it’s another thing to actually learn to dance.

After 20-years of dancing I concluded, yes, I put in less floor-time than certain other dancers, and in dance, I’m a slow learner.  It was actually a relief to acknowledge it; accept it.

I took up meditating four years ago using the Headspace app. After a year of listening to 20-minute guided meditations 3 to 4 days a week, I switched to an unguided meditation; the guiding voice came in only at the beginning and end.  The shock of not having a guide caught me up short. My first thought was, “omg, I still don’t know how to meditate.  I can’t do this without a guide.  I’m so slow at learning this.”

Initially I was dismayed. Then I remembered my conclusion that I was a slow learner in dance. “Maybe,” I thought, “maybe I’m a slow learner in this, too.”

With that, I decided to be ok with my meditation progress. I saw my year of guided meditations as a year of meditating apprenticeship. It felt right; it was where I needed to be. It was how I needed to do it.

I like learning new things. It’s been good to have dance and meditation to reference when I start worrying I’m not learning something fast enough; they remind me that I learn how I learn. At my pace.  It’s a welcome countervailing voice to my inner critic.

Originally posted on Walk the Goats

14 thoughts on “Moving Slowly in a Fast World

    1. Yes. I’ve definitely persevered. Thanks for reminding me of that. It’s helped me be easier on myself when I take up something new. Like blogging, for instance. Nice to get your comment.

    1. I agree. Susan Cain has done a great job celebrating introverts with her book Quiet. I’m glad I’m starting to more comfortably accept my slower learning style. I appreciate your recognition of the value to our society to accept as well. Thanks for your comment.

  1. This resonates with me so deeply. I often beat myself up for now progressing as quickly in life as my level of intelligence assumes I should. It seems like we don’t give ourselves enough grace. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Thanks for sharing that it resonated. I’ve read that most people underestimate how long it will take to do projects. If that’s true, we’ll regularly find ourselves disappointed when reality clashes with expectations.

      I like the feeling of grace you describe. For me, I’m experiencing more grace by accepting “what is” more readily. It’s even helping me be more gentle toward my blogging practice 😊.

      Nice to get your comment.

  2. I think in this fast paced world, it’s better to be able to take it slow. I sure wish I could slow down to learn things. I feel I should learn something in a week, and if I don’t, I’ll move on to something else 😕

    1. It just occurred to me, from your comment, that by breaking down learning into phases, that might offset some of the feeling of learning slowly. That’s kind of how I thought about my meditation. I’m still in my apprenticeship phase 😊.

      And it is challenging in a world where everything seems to be on a fast setting.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. 𝙶𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚝 𝚙𝚘𝚜𝚝! 𝚃𝚑𝚎 𝚒𝚍𝚎𝚊 𝚘𝚏 𝚝𝚊𝚔𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚝𝚒𝚖𝚎, 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚍𝚘𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚗𝚐𝚜 𝚌𝚘𝚖𝚙𝚕𝚎𝚝𝚎𝚕𝚢 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚎𝚡𝚌𝚎𝚕𝚕𝚎𝚗𝚌𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚏𝚊𝚛 𝚝𝚘𝚘 𝚘𝚏𝚝𝚎𝚗 𝚍𝚒𝚜𝚖𝚒𝚜𝚜𝚎𝚍 𝚒𝚗 𝚘𝚞𝚛 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍. 𝙼𝚊𝚢 𝚠𝚎 𝚎𝚖𝚋𝚛𝚊𝚌𝚎 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚜𝚝𝚛𝚞𝚐𝚐𝚕𝚎 𝚘𝚏 𝚕𝚎𝚊𝚛𝚗𝚒𝚗𝚐 𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚏 𝚐𝚛𝚘𝚠𝚒𝚗𝚐. 🕊

    1. I love your enthusiastic embrace taking our time and your description of our “struggle of learning and growing.” Great phrase. I enjoy learning a lot more now that I’ve softened my expectations re: how much I should learn in what time frame. Now I can enjoy the process and each stage of increased skill and understanding. I appreciate your thoughts and that you took time to read this. Thanks.

  4. I appreciate this post, WTG. There’s a slightly different, but I think very complementary, approach to exploring and affirming the slowness in a book by the Canadien journalist Carl Honoré. It’s called In Praise of Slowness. Maybe you’re familiar with it? It’s a little different in that it explores the choice to do things slowly, rather than slowness being a person necessity — but this gives a picture of the slow being not just acceptable, but in many ways preferable to all these expectations of rush and instantaneousness.

    1. I really appreciate you suggesting Honore’s book. I went to add it to my list of books to check out and, lo!, I already own it. Clearly the title called to me :-). I haven’t read it but, thanks to your rececommendation, I’m pulling it off the shelf. It sounds as if I’d really enjoy it. Thank you! And thanks for reading and commenting.

  5. I compatise with you. The educational system has a tendency to marginalize slow learners and also… very rapid learners. Being a rapid learner is for some moments as frustrating as slow learning. The “sentiment de décalage”, in my native tongue. I do not use polarities to define those who even refuse to be defined by others. BEfore the 20th century reform, educational institutions were more community-like, more rhythmic than standardized. Any education that individualizes to the rhythm of a person merits my vote and praise. I have been spiritually warred for learning my own way. What was “normal and healthy” and advocated by many a few centuries ago is now considered “alternative education” or “special education”. For lagging or repassing in one subject does not mean you are “different” or “behind”. Teachers often say “if a student tried hard enough, they would succeer far and lo”. Not enjoying the spiritual brainwash of watching movies with everyone “enjoying movies” does not indicate you must be culturally oblivious or have no tastes in life.

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