Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rushing vs Speed

The other day I was going (as we say in NZ) 'flat tack'... [Translation - doing things really fast!] - one of my good mates was around at the time, and said: "Whoa! Slow down bro!"

Whenever I get a criticism, complaint, or simply a suggestion, it is a habit of mine to ask "Is it justified?"
And in so many situations in life we can see, through this simple 'razor' some degree of truth in whatever someone is saying to us, and so take a learning from it, and thereby grow and evolve.

On this occasion I wondered - "Am I rushing?"....
And at least this time around I had to answer No.

There is a big difference between 'rushing' and moving fast. The difference between the two is mindfulness. We can be mindful of what we are doing. We can be present and complete in the moment and yet still be moving fast.
This is something I noticed particularly when competing in weightlifting. There is no way to do a clean and jerk slowly if you expect to do it well!....but the very best lifts in anyone's career are those in which you are so engaged in the process and so completely present that the lift almost seems effortless; it simply flows and there almost ceases to be 'Cliff' and a 'lift' (or any other frames that we may usually wrap around it) but instead there simply is the 'lift as process' beautiful synchronous moment.

However when we rush we are attempting to move quickly, or more precisely 'complete' things quickly, without being mindful.
In this way we are attached almost solely to the outcomes and we are not engaged in the process. We lose not only the value of the moment but we also are prone to doing a sloppy job and one that is not at all close to what we are capable of. We are sacrificing quality of time, and by extension quality of work simply in an attempt to reduce time to outcome - an outcome that without the enjoyment of the wasted moments of the process leading to it, is often unsatisfactory in it's realization.

The idea of 'rushing' vs 'speed' is analogous to the idea of really 'doing' what you are doing.
The Buddhist philosophy of eating when hungry, and sleeping when tired and simply 'doing' those things without distraction for example, can become equated with only doing those things at one time at the exclusion of all else.
Now this of course is a way that we can develop mindfulness (by for example only eating and not doing other things whilst eating - such as watching television), but it is not in and of itself 'mindfulness'.
I remember a story about a Zen master who was eating toast, drinking tea and reading the paper. His horrified students asked incredulously what he was doing - thinking that he should simply be eating or drinking tea - to which he replied "I am simply eating toast, drinking tea and reading the paper."

The tools of the practice of mindfulness must not be confused with mindfulness - just as mere velocity must not be confused with the errors inherent in the blurs of rush and haste.
There may be clarity with speed...and clarity without, just as there may be a lack of presence in even the slowest drudgery.



  1. Cliff,

    Clearly said and this what I try to teach our clients. We can have our entire body engaged in a movement while doing it fast and mindfully.

  2. Thanks Alfred. The analogies between the morphologies of the body, the mind and the spirit can be quite striking...and exceedingly valuable!