“Slow down” are two words that I’ve felt right into my kneecaps this week. I felt a lot of hurt. And growth. And I’m so thankful and excited about that.

I heard the message “slow down” from three different people, in three different ways.

I’m celebrating the beginnings of being able to hear “slow down” not as a criticism or a demand – but as a gift of open-hearted compassion and empowered choice.

Hearing wisdom, waist high

Since she could walk and talk, my daughter has been teaching me to move calmly. When she was smaller and my legs were moving faster than hers around a shopping centre or getting to and from school, she’d say: “slow down, mum!”.

I remember feeling a mix of shame and frustration. Frustration because I wanted to get where we were going faster. And shame because I told myself I “should” be a kinder, calmer mother. I think my core belief was something like “I shouldn’t have to be told to behave with more care for others, especially my children. I should know this instinctively!”.

Transforming shame into connection

Ah, the wonder of noticing that judgement. Now, through the lens of nonviolent communication, I see my daughter has been speaking the language of life. She was simply making a request that would make her life more wonderful. She probably wanted more comfort and peace and consideration and safety. While I would love to have been considerate, I accept my limitations and also celebrate her voice. Because, for the rest of her life, it will take such courageous confidence sometimes for her to ask for what she wants without censoring herself. I celebrate that she asked so spontaneously and unafraid — confident that it could well be a gift to those around her too. Aren’t we all wanting calm and peace and comfort and safety?

Want to feel safer?
My daughter continues to remind me to slow down, well into her teenage years now. Today, I thanked her for it. And she lit up – telling me how she and her friends have learned that if they are out somewhere and feeling frightened, when one person starts walking faster the others follow and it sets off a sense of being in danger because their hearts are pounding. “In fact, we’re not in danger at all. We’re just acting like it and it’s affecting each other.  Slow down and we feel safe”. Made sense to me.

Public feedback – red face?

I encountered some shame again this week when I received some feedback on a podcast. Amid the appreciative paragraph, I also saw the words “speak more slowly”. Again, I am grateful for the skill of self-empathy which helps me to have awareness and tenderness for the pain I am experiencing. My hurt has nothing at all to do with the intention of the person who gave me feedback. They were offering me a gift – their view, telling me they would enjoy more space between words. I’m guessing that would make it easier for them to connect with the content and process it. Sharing their feedback also gave them an opportunity to be heard.

The pain I experienced gave me an opportunity to do some more healing for the habits I learned before I even had words. When I was young and physically dependent, I learned to see myself as being “wrong” or “right”. I learned that I “should” win praise in order to have safety and respect. Now, I know that those are qualities that are always with me – no matter what anyone thinks or says.

My worth as a human is innate, and people’s opinions are as various as stars in the sky. Another listener might have enjoyed the pace, as it might have helped them to keep focussed. It’s not the opinion that matters – it’s being able to connect to needs and a sense of choice. I can now treasure that someone gave their precious life energy to tell me what they would like. And I am tender for the part of me that is worried I won’t be able to change how I speak. And I am calm too – having acceptance of limitations as well as the freedom to hear, choose, express and grow.

Aha! … in a safe space for growth

The breakthrough moment about “slowing down” came when I felt pain in a group situation. On Saturday morning (Friday US time), I joined Miki Kashtan’s trial session with a hundred other people. It was the introductory webcast for her upcoming 34 week series on leadership. The theme that attracted me to this course is that no matter what our “title” is (mum, boss, grandma etc), we are leaders if we choose to make decisions about our homes or workplaces or community with care for the whole. 

I chose to speak up during the call because I was exploring whether I wanted to commit and pay for the full course. I wanted to see how authentic and courageous I could be in responding honestly from my own heart and needs, without slipping into embarassment and the sense that I mustn’t “disagree”. (I often find myself “folding” inside to defer to someone who I perceive is “in charge” or has more knowledge or is “more respected” than me). I was received with tenderness and honesty.

As I spoke, I became teary. And Miki invited me to: “slow down”. She showed us how it’s quite a common habit to believe we must “hurry up” and “talk faster” when we’re feeling upset or scared or embarassed or angry. In fact, we have such choice. We can invite ourselves to pause and breathe and find our inner steady ground. We can say we need a moment to find some calm, and ask the other person if they’re willing to be silent with us and breathe for a few moments. Why not?

At the time, when Miki demonstrated this point about slowing down in response to my comments, I felt some embarassment. Yet, I also knew from the way I’d been received that what she was offering me was a gift. Permitting myself to go slower, anywhere any time, could make not only my life more wonderful, but my children’s and my workmates because I’ll be calmer and more confident about both speaking up and also staying open-eared to them.

The learning takes root

This morning, I was feeling overwhelmed as I unexpectedly needed to attend some medical appointments with my daughter when I was due to be at work. Remembering that slowing down was a possibility, I did. My breath. My hand movements. My words. In the end, I enjoyed such relief and gratitude for having access to those appointments and time with my daughter in the car as she chatted with me. And such gratitude for my manager who is also a mum and understood. I had one of the happiest and most productive afternoons at work that I can remember for a while – contributing to a colleague by showing them how to do something that will save them time in a software application, and submitting two proposals to our enterprise innovation program that I’ve been “greenhousing” for almost a year now.

So, I’m thankful for those who have invited me to slow down. And who have shown me how it contributes to them too when I do.

Thankful to have compassion for my body’s history 

However, tonight as I drew this picture, I connected with thankfulness for myself. I’m thankful for being open to learning. And for the tenderness that has helped me to be open to growth. I’m thankful for having compassion for my body’s history. As a child, my body was often at physical risk of being thrashed with a cane if I didn’t “hurry up” and do what I was supposed to. And my mental wellbeing was also at risk of being awash with shame, being called names if I didn’t “hurry up”. Names like stupid, lazy, deceitful, selfish. That humiliation, terror and isolation is something I want no human to ever experience again. So no wonder my body habitually tries to protect me against the discomfort of being vulnerable enough to see what’s not working for me and make another choice.

As oil pastels moved across the page, tears fell sweetly, tenderly. Another layer of posssibility has opened up. My body will remember sooner: I’m safe now, I’m safe to act with compassion and care for all life around me. Even if I regret something I have or haven’t done and want to “rush” to fix it – especially then! I’m reframing that now: letting new neural pathways form. I’m breathing deeply. I’m moving slowly. I’m treating myself with the care and respect that my daughter showed when her little legs were hurting and her lungs were burning and she cried, “mum, slow down”.  And, when I notice I’m rushing … I’ll know how to shift pace, each time with more tenderness and ease.

Ready to let go of more labels

Oh, and that’s the other gem I heard Miki impart. How calling a person “child” can block us from fully seeing, hearing, benefiting from their wisdom … and from fully nurturing their needs. Miki also made the point that adults and teenagers aren’t destined to be in conflict. The conflict arises from believing that our needs aren’t shared. When I remember how my wellbeing and her wellbeing are interdependent … well, there just might be more hope of pausing in the moment and listening for each of our feelings and needs.

So, after wondering whether or not I was “up” for 34 weeks of encountering new ways of looking at situations … which will probably also bring up mourning and regret about choices I’ve made … I can see it will also open doorways to tender, empowering growth.

So I’ve signed up. If you’re interested, click here to see the course information and an introductory video.

I think registration is still open for a couple more days at least.

Thanks for your leadership Bernadette

This is week 4 of my participation in Bernadette Haddon’s 52 weeks of thankfulness. So glad to have that challenge to cultivate a new post each week! 

Bernadette’s blog is another reminder of the reason I signed up to the full 34 week leadership course with Miki. We are all leaders when we choose to respond to the world in a way that grows compassion and hope. Bernadette’s thankfulness post this week sums that up exactly for me:

Bernadette Haddon –  thankfulness post – week 34