The Art of Slowing Down

Photography:  Priscilla Du Preez  Words:  Elaine Ho

Photography: Priscilla Du Preez
Words: Elaine Ho

Being busy seems to have become a badge of honour. Operating at a pace that is frenzied has come to be the norm, and it has also become socially acceptable to hear friends across any industry (i.e. corporate, government or entrepreneurial etc.) declare how exhausted/overworked/frazzled/stressed/<insert trending adjective> they are. 

It seems like the price to pay for achievement is high, and the implicit assumption is that all of us should strive for high levels of performance. Therefore, not being seen as a 'busy person' with lots to do, may cause many people to develop feelings of guilt and resentment.

Don’t get me wrong: for many, aspiring to high levels of achievement is meaningful. 

But who defines what success means, and what truly matters? We do not talk about this enough – and yet it is exactly what we should do. 

Let us stop. Let us stop making way for a frenetic pace of life and over-doing. It’s not an achievement in itself, to be seen as doing something or another.

Let us slow down. Let’s regularly take our time to focus on one thing at a time; to engage in lengthy conversations over slow meals, meditate, long walks in nature, indulging in time spent reading, or being present with loved ones or savouring precious time alone.  

People often utter a familiar refrain, “there’s no time (to smell the roses)!” But is this really true? One cannot pour water from an empty cup, and likewise, how can we give love, attention and presence to others if we don’t renew in within our consciousness? 

Recalibrating Presence, Power
Even if I'm a life-coach, I am human too. I have found myself getting caught up in my schedule, i.e. coaching, teaching, and rushing from meeting to the next event – like a clockwork mouse running from task to task. On such days, I do catch myself forgetting to slow down, and at the first possible opportunity, I try to remedy the situation.

This is because my well-being suffers tremendously: I would have eaten less, reacted to situations with less thought, felt more tense and irritable etc. When I take note of how I'm acting/behaving, I become keenly aware of the need to slow down, tune in to what I need, meditate and clarify my intentions. In this state, I often notice I’m more loving, more energised, and more confident, and I make better decisions on what I eat, say and do.

Mindful Living is for Everyone
Slowing down in the moments between work doesn’t have to mean taking an hour to lie down and read a book (although that could work too).

It can be as simple as taking 3 minutes to breathe deeply, stretch and shift back into the power of your presence. It could also entail opening your senses through mindful actions e.g. taking the time to savour a cup of tea, inhaling essential oils, taking a warm shower (if you have access to that) or just dropping into awareness of how you feel. The goal is to carve out a moment of focus and ease.  

The Art of Slowing Down: Personal Rituals     
In my book, it is essential to make time for slowing down regularly.  I call this a 'personal ritual', which is loosely defined as a personalised sacred practice to make sure that you stay connected to your well-being. Here are some daily, weekly and yearly peronal rituals that I would like to recommend: 

  • Daily rituals: Small acts, when repeated, become our habits. Habits, in turn, are the mini but mighty steps that lead to self-mastery. Choose a ritual that cultivates #pause and elevates your emotional intelligence and awareness. You can start a gratitude journal, a forgiveness list, a gentle yoga practice that allows you to tune in (not tune out), dance or meditation on breath, body or mind.  It can last anywhere between 10 mins to an hour, depending on what you need.
  • Weekly rituals: Longer weekly rituals create lasting change by strengthening the brain’s neural connections for positive emotional, mental, physical and energetic well-being.  Every week, I spend an hour or two practising yoga outdoors, taking long jogs or meditating.  Practicing with a tribe of conscious and like-minded people (such as in our Pause signature sessions) can inspire us to learn how to relax with guidance and to connect with our inner-selves in a deeper and more nuanced way. 
  • Yearly rituals:  Yearly wellness rituals that 'unplug' us from our 'pesky' habits are highly effective for times when you feel like you need a 'factory reset'. I know what you're thinking about: perhaps you are envisioning a villa in Bali or a fancy stay-cay in a remote tropical island. Those ideas sound perfect, but you don't need to leave the country to 'disconnect' from a toxic way of living. For example, you can do a social media detox or a news-reading fast in the comfort of your own home – what's important is that it should remind you of the value of slowing down. With thought and love, we can reconnect with our natural rhythms and intuition and renew ourselves for daily life.

As the days turn into weeks and months, our brain starts to select the healthy emotional and mental habits we have cultivated. A real integration in your consciousness takes places – depending on what you’ve chosen to focus on, the energy of gratitude, forgiveness, focus, stillness and presence start to open up in our perspective and relationships, and life flows with the joy and grace that is our birthright.  

For the past eight years, my daily practices have been an anchor in my consciousness, helping me when life gets challenging, and inspiring and guiding me in good times.

Slowing Down Begets Clarity
Slowing down > finding clarity > understanding what our core values are = these are the essential steps to navigating the chaos in our lives victoriously.  However, societal definitions of achievement can drown out what truly resonates and has personal significance to us. Dwelling too much on it leads us away from clarity.

Clarity through slowing down and knowing what aligns with our most cherished values is a gift everyone can receive from themselves. One gets to re-balance, re-calibrate, re-energise and fine-tune in ways that manifest poise, presence & inner strength to take on whatever the world offers us.  

When we are daring enough to use the deliberate acts of #pause to redirect our energy to what is truly significant to us, we reclaim our joy, tranquillity, spiritual direction and well-being. 

Clarity for me was when I discovered that stepping into my 'power' as a life coach and meditation teacher allowed me to find the work-life balance I craved for in my life – Since then, I've never regretted learning and practising the art of slowing down. 

Have you slowed down today? 

Elaine Ho is another one of our lovely PAUSE Guides. When she is not leading a PAUSE Session, she is a mindfulness meditation coach, certified yoga instructor and Reiki healer. She is also the director and founding teacher at Yoga Tribe. Her practice and teaching focuses on the integration of mindfulness, neuroscience, dance, yoga, and somatic embodiment. She creates and delivers trainings, keynotes and workshops on mindfulness at the workplace and beyond. Have a question for Elaine? You can post them to us at