I have been working away a lot recently (the reason for few posts, tweets, etc) and whilst I was away I fell spectacularly off the Slow path and found myself thrashing around the undergrowth. A few things went horribly wrong, I got stressed out, I found myself becoming flustered, tense, short-tempered, lethargic and easily distracted. I started to jump from one task to the next without focusing or finishing anything and become utterly unmindful. I would go places and forget what I was doing there.
Basically I was a mess.
And what was worse, much worse, than all of this was when I realised what I was doing I started to beat myself up about getting flustered and stressed. I treated myself rather badly and shouted at myself on several occasions, telling myself to “pull myself together MAN!”
Which didn’t help at all. In fact it made the whole thing worse.
In Taoism, particularly the Taoist martial arts such as Tai Chi, they talk about interacting with things with just 4 ounces of pressure. This, of course, is not a literal measure of pressure required, (there is no need to carry a hygrometer around with you!),it is a metaphorical idea of only using the bare minimum of effort, to be gentle.
It ties in with the principle of Wu Wei, which translates rather paradoxically as the “action of non-action”. It can be described as “going with the flow”, but it is much more than that. It is about acting intelligently and in harmony with the surrounding environment (and with yourself). It is about recognising when and how to act and when to just wait or yield to external forces.
Shouting at myself and getting all worked up because I was not being “slow” enough, really didn’t help at all. If you find yourself getting flustered, unmindful and speeding up, don’t beat yourself up, just gently take a step back, relax and guide your mind back to acting how you would like to feel. If you cannot manage to slow yourself down, don’t panic, just go with it, you will soon be back on the path.
To develop your tortoise mind, you need to be gentle in thought, speech and action. Never apply more than the metaphorical “4 ounces” of pressure.