Beyond Brushstrokes

The term “Time sickness” refers to the neurotic belief that time is always running away from us. People feel the compulsion to keep up and go faster and faster. They think that it’s the only way to get value for money. Dr. Larry Dossey coined the term to describe the western attitude “Time is money.”

The idea is absurd — putting quantity and speed ahead of quality.

“The best way to get value from our time is to give things the time they deserve,” he wrote. “We need moments of inactivity, of boredom even, in order to relax, reflect and recharge.”

There is a movement that challenges the cult of speed: Slowness

Our pace of life has accelerated to a breathless, adrenaline-charged heart-stopping, backbreaking speed. As a result of the high-charged momentum, things are spinning out of control.

Multi-tasking is a talent that is cultivated and encouraged. It’s a can do superhuman attitude — the ability to juggle and accomplish many things simultaneously.

The high-powered Alpha male can speak on the cellphone, write on the laptop, sip coffee, nibble a sandwich, attend two separate lunch meetings, give a speech in one room, shake hands with dozens of associates in another function room — all within the span of a few minutes.

The speed is dizzying, relentless.

Superwoman does multiple roles with élan. Multi-faceted, she is career girl, wife, mom, hostess, chef, driver, tutor, gardener, and civic worker. The non-stop whirlwind uses a smartphone most of the time.

Stress levels are very high. People are collapsing from various disorders — chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety, and exhaustion. It is like being on a perpetual treadmill — “Running on empty.”

The symptoms are hypertension, hyperacidity, palpitation, cramps, shortness of breath, angina, fever, allergies and insomnia.

People hardly have time to inhale and exhale — they rush to and fro until they are blue in the face from lack of oxygen.

A foreign correspondent Carl Honore experienced a “bedtime epiphany” during his flight to London. He chatted on the cellphone with his editor, skimmed a news article, “The One Minute Bedtime Story.” Then he realized, “have I Gone completely insane?”

He decided to take time off, do important research and write a book In Praise of Slowness: How a worldwide Movement is challenging the Cult of Speed.

He revealed, “I am Scrooge with a stopwatch, obsessed with saving every scrap of time, a minute here, a few seconds there. Everyone around me — colleagues, friends, family — is caught in a vortex.”

The workplace is considered a critical battlefront. Corporate America has “a pathological fear of slowness,” he added.

It is possible and desirable to decelerate. Business could gain much from a sense of work-life balance. The payoff would be in higher productivity and good staff retention. When the staff is more relaxed, there is more time to think creatively.

On the personal and professional aspects of life, Mr. Honore wrote that his life as a free-lance journalist is busy. However, he changed his whole approach and attitude.

Here are some suggestions.

1) Cut back the activities that take more time than they are worth. This eases the pressure.

2) The family can spend one day of the weekend doing nothing, just hanging out at home. The kids would be more relaxed and attentive. The family would be calmer.

3) At work, it is better to space deadlines and resist the temptation to take on too many assignments, no matter how irresistible.

4) Switch off the cellphone when one is not expecting an urgent call.

5) Leave the desk and in a quiet space by a window or a corner for a few moments — just to relax the mind.

6) Turn off the TV and read a book.

7) Listen to music.

8) Listen to the rocks grow in the garden. (This Zen practice is peaceful.)

9) Daydream. Watch the clouds and look for animal shapes in the sky.

10) Unplug to de-stress. On a vacation trip, resist the urge to stay wired via cellphone, laptop and Internet. It is time to switch off.

11) Stop to smell the flowers.

Multitasking should have limits. For example, some people can converse while surfing the Net. How would anyone get anything interesting out of the conversation if they were distracted?

We are rushing though life rather than living and vaporing it.

We should have tranquil time to connect with our inner selves, with the people and things that matter most.

When we have a yearning for slowness and focus on it, we can attain serenity.


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.