The Virtue of Slowing Down

© October 2015, by Prashant Shah,

Quote from a song by Simon & Garfunkel: “Slow down, you move too fast; you’ve got to make the moment last; just sitting around and kicking the corner stone; looking for fun and feeling groovy.”

In the modern world people try to get things done fast and play busy. Hence, we show the great virtue of moving slowly and not hurrying through life.



When we are at peace with ourselves, we rarely choose to be in a hurry. Hence, hurrying up is an egoistic movement that pushes us to get things done, as though that is all that matters right now. But when we keep on hurrying, our life becomes superficial. Although we can be satisfied with the results we have for a while, the joy does not last. Soon we become dissatisfied or bored and begin to rush into doing something else. Let us try to understand why this happens.

When we rush, we act like an automaton or a machine. Then we are consumed by doing things that can increase the ‘quantity’, but not the ‘quality’ of our life. Further, it makes us respond to the ego’s wants and not to the deeper wants of our true, inner being. Then, we don’t seek the joy from living, but we seek it from getting more money or more power. It can give us some temporary satisfaction, but we have to keep on chasing things to sustain it.

When we slow down our pace of life and combine it with a devotional attitude, we can access a spiritual presence that is itself joyful and filled with wisdom. On the other hand, when we combine hurrying up with personal ambition, we view our life through the lens of fear, scarcity and competition. Then we cannot trust life and allow it to look after us. Instead, we have to cope with our fears and insecurities by constantly pushing ourselves to do something. It gets us caught up in the ego’s world, where we can never be at rest or just be. It makes us we lose our touch with a spiritual presence which seems to tell us all is going to be well.

If we are truly thoughtful, we can understand that our life is much more than just getting things done; that there has to be something deeper and more mysterious behind all this outer activity that makes sense of the drama of our life. We can intuitively begin to understand that there is a spiritual presence behind the happenings of life; and that it is guiding us to move us naturally and spontaneously in various ways.

However, as long as we keep on hurrying through our activities, we march to the drumbeat of our ego. Then we don’t notice what else is there besides the ego’s voice in our head; and we don’t notice the spiritual presence at the core of our being that is continuously seeking to guide us.

Further, we don’t take the time to do the little things that this spiritual presence suggests — like just hanging around peacefully; being patient with other people; playing with animals or children, being present to the situation that you are in; or simply sending off a kind email to a friend. The ego doesn’t initiate such acts because it does not perceive any value in them. Such acts are motivated by our spiritual being, and not by our ego.

The strange thing is that when we slow down, we actually find the time to do such little things. We do them because it makes us feel good about doing them. We feel that doing such things is worthwhile. However, if we keep up a fast pace of life, we only amplify the ego’s voice that says: “Hurry up; you still have a lot more to do; you’ll never get it done in time; you didn’t do that well; you cannot have the time for doing such little things…

The voice of the ego not only disconnects us from the ‘quiet voice of our higher consciousness’, but it also keeps us stressed-out and not feeling too good about ourselves. So, when we find that we have gotten into such a state, all we have to do to regain our perspective is to simply slow down. It will make us look at life through different eyes and feel it with a different heart. Then, instead of being lost in the ego’s ideas about what our life should look like, we can accept life as it is and as it comes. It will make our life more joyful, meaningful and valuable to us and to others.

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The Dread of Failure

You have been burned before and are afraid to be burned again

© September 2015, By Prashant S. Shah


How to Overcome

Here is an approach that you can use to overcome your fear of failure. The aim is to prepare you for something new or different and possibly lead you to the place of better opportunity.

You begin by ADMITTING that things didn’t go your way. It could be due to some faults in you or in somebody else, or just in the circumstance. The reason however is not so important.

The failure has left you feeling angry or hurt. You may blame yourself by saying: “I’m just no good; I messed up; I made a fool of myself; or I don’t deserve anything better.” It only indicates that you are not strong right now. However, to move on, it will be sufficient to acknowledge that you are vulnerable. So, if it hurts, let it hurt. If you must cry to let out the frustration, cry. Whatever it is you are feeling, feel it; but don’t leave this experience behind without taking your LESSON from it.

To learn from the experience, take a good hard look at what really happened and acknowledge both the good and the bad that has come out of it. Then, answer these two questions: What part did I do really well? And what part of the work did I like the most? The answers will identify your areas of STRENGTH: What you do best and what you enjoy doing. What you do the next time must build on your strengths.

Your self-worth will also be lacking, and so you have become hesitant. To overcome this hurdle you have to reassert your self-worth. You do that by trying something new and making it worthwhile. You can start the process by identifying what you need to CHANGE: Do you need to change your path? Do you need to learn something new? Or do you need to be more determined to keep moving forward? When you identify the answer you come out of the experience of failure knowing yourself better. Hence, it is a success; and you can build on this success in the same was as you allowed the failures to make you reluctant.

To increase your success, simply do more of what succeeds and less of what fails. However, a problem arises when what you really want doesn’t succeed and what you don’t like to do succeeds! People who work with a sense of mission or purpose often get stuck at this point. So what should you do? Then you have to make some difficult choices.

Comments on observations by our readers

  1. SAKET: A person with low confidence or self-worth would lack the emotional energy to gather the strength that is necessary to make a fresh start. Hence, the basic problem is not what such a person should do, but how can they can gather the necessary strength to do what they really want.

The methods are commonly known: Celebrate little successes to fan your enthusiasm; write positive affirmations daily; dream of success and believe it is going to happen; cultivate optimism (see opportunity in difficulty rather than difficulty in opportunity); the list is long and I’m sure you can add to it.

  1. CHIKU: This is a great piece, but here is a question: “If the expectation has not been met and the person is psychologically reacting to this fact, should the person temper their expectations?”

The event and our inner response or self-talk on it are two very different things. When we do something, we should try to enjoy the activity, the work, and take care to discard our ego’s reactions to the outcomes.

  1. VIVEK: Many great men have risen up after repeated failures. There is the example of Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Abdul Kalam. However, people make the mistake of trying to imitate some someone else’s success formula. Personally, I feel more often success is the result of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right mindset.

Yes, success is more often a coincidence that happens. To be recognised you have to fulfil some genuine need of the time and then appeal to a critical mass of people who can set off your avalanche of success. However, there will always be an unexpected turn to events. Hence, success cannot be planned nor is it a true measure of the value of your work.

Looking Deeper

Generally speaking, we can take two different views to life – the Traditional or the Eastern view and the Modern or the Western view. They are as follows:

In the TRADITIONAL view, you are responsible for your actions, but the outcome or results will depend on many other factors: They can be the results of your past actions; they may be what you need to mature your inner life; or they can be a part of a greater scheme of things. Hence, the focus here is not on improving your chances of success, but on maturing. The events and happenings of life serve as opportunities to organise your consciousness at a higher level. Hence, your task is to do what is necessary or proper and to overcome your craving for personal success or reward.

In the MODERN view, you regard personal shortcomings and failures in life as outcomes of a faulty mindset or bad management. Hence, you focus on making changes in your mindset and management style to somehow generate success. Here you practice techniques like positive thinking, affirmations, creative visualisation, psycho-cybernetics, tactics and strategies.

Both these views have their proper place. When you play a game, you have to try to win. Otherwise the game is not on. Your deeper purpose may be to develop some personal or interpersonal skill, or to simply enjoy the thrill. However, you cannot participate in the game without trying to win or succeed.

In the same way, you learn the ‘lessons of life’ while you try to succeed. The only difference between the modern and traditional view is that you consider winning or achieving as only a part of the game and not as the true purpose of playing. Hence, you look upon a failure not only as an opportunity to correct the mistake, but also an opportunity to mature spiritually.