Columnist Daniel Cantor Yalowitz: Can we all please slow down?

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz



Published: 10-08-2023 9:19 PM

The pace of our lives and the ways of this world continue to speed up, unabated. Driving around town today, I observed at least eight yard signs asking for us to “Please Slow Down.” Why are so many of us rushing about to get things done, checking off our respective to-do lists? Why have impatience and lack of delayed gratification reached an all-time high?

Although we call ourselves as a species “human beings,” it often occurs to me that with our minds, hearts, bodies and mouths racing to complete our tasks and whatnot, we are more like “human doings.” The “being” element in our species title has retreated largely to the point where perhaps it is even a slight anachronism.

Does moving quickly just to get things done serve us in terms of living quality lives? Does speed help us to develop and maintain our familial and collegial relationships and our friendships as well? In order to even reflect on these queries, it is nearly imperative that we simply slow down.

Slowing down does not have to affect our efficiency and effectiveness in our roles and relations. Yet we are so often told and reminded that “there’s never enough time,” “I’m busy,” “Could that wait for later?” and “I’m not available.” Let me say at the outset that I am guilty as charged, and am working in my life to be accountable and responsible for making a sincere effort to minimize these brush-offs as often as possible. It also gets hard to hear (and respond as gracefully as possible) these refrains day after day.

This is not about trying to guilt or cajole anyone into thinking that this is “their problem” or that they are at fault. The racing and speeding we do, sometimes day after day, is indicative of our cultural mores and priorities, whether or not doing so is good or better for any one person at a given moment. We live in a “get things done/don’t procrastinate/finish already” world, and it gets more and more challenging to step outside of this box.

Rather, I am suggesting that we each take some time (as in “time out”) to reflect on how this pacing impacts our lives, our work, and our relaxation. In getting (enough) things done in a given day, I sometimes feel as though I am an automaton, forgetting even to take a measured, easy breath now and then, let alone get up and walk around for a minute, stretch, and rehydrate.

When I slow down enough to do any one, two, or all three of these things, I know that I am the better for having done so. My body and mind tell me so.

It seems to me that we pressurize and actually punish our bodies and our minds to work and/or move more quickly than suits us — and others. Speed limits exist for many reasons, but we still need “Slow Down” signs to remind us that going 10 mph over the posted limit will only result in getting somewhere a few minutes earlier, but our minds will still be racing from having done so. Speeding up actually can have a deleterious effect — car accidents, work project sloppiness, missing or skipping a step, or not focusing appropriately on the present moment.

The very concept of time is based on seeing and experiencing it as a commodity. Have a look at some of the words that precede time: managing, spending, wasting, using, and killing, to name but a few. And yet, there are also many positive terms that come before time, including beautiful, loving, happy, relaxed, easy, moving — and many more.

So, “time” itself is not the problem here. Rather, it’s our attitude and approach to it that so often gets in our and others’ crosshairs. As Tolstoy once said, “the two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Lao Tzu wrote that “time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time’ is to say ‘I don’t’ want to.’” For myself, I want to remember Michael Alshuler’s notion that “the bad news is that time flies. The good news is that you’re the pilot.”

Slowing down, even minutely (pun intended), has a powerfully positive effect on our bodily systems, especially our central nervous system. Slow allows the body and mind to reset, recalibrate, and reenergize. Sleeping is slow, even if our mind is racing at the beginning. Taking an outdoor walk can help to slow us down. For me, both time and my inner self slow down considerably when I meditate, or do t’ai chi, or read a book.

The list of possibilities and their supportive effects when we slow down is long enough to be almost endless. We can each find our own ways to slow down; the world will look and respond differently to us when we do.

Daniel Cantor Yalowitz writes a regular column in the Recorder. A developmental and intercultural psychologist, he has facilitated change in many organizations and communities around the world. He is former chairman of the Greenfield Human Rights Commission and his two most recent books are “Journeying with Your Archetypes” and “Reflections on the Nature of Friendship.” Reach out to him at