Lessons from a lint filter, water bottle and electric toothbrush

Somehow, as much as I’m trying to slow down and simplify my life, I always seem to be in a hurry.

Every time I do my laundry I’m reminded that hurrying through my tasks isn’t the most efficient way to get things done.  I always seem to want to quickly empty the lint filter in my dryer before starting a new load of wet clothes.  But this filter needs a gentle touch and doesn’t move easily when I try to pull it out in a hurry.  Almost every time, after my first aborted attempt, I have to take a breath, get loose, slow down and softly lift the filter out of its frame.  I can’t force it out or do it fast.

I have a stainless steel water bottle that I take to yoga class with me.  I love the color and shape, but the top is a problem.  I can unscrew it easily, but it requires a lot of focused attention when I try to screw the top back on.  It goes off track very easily and this is a problem for me when I’m trying not to take too much time out of my yoga practice.  I’ve found  that I have to consider the act of taking a drink of water another posture, if you will, and to have the same quality of soft attention as I do every other posture in the class.

I’ve learned something similar from my electric toothbrush, which from old patterns with manual tooth brushes, I automatically apply pressure and move the brush up and down in rapid motions as soon as I turn it on.  The speed and pressure of this gesture is really counter-productive when the toothbrush is already doing it for me.  Invariably, I have to remind myself to relax my grip and slow my brushing motion down so that the electric brush can do the work.

The ability to slow down and be gentle with ourselves is key when we feel especially anxious prior to or during a presentation.  This anxiety is especially apparent when the speaker is working too hard, pushing out his/her content, and talking very fast.

Instead of reacting  to the urgent anxiety that causes people to speed up, my clients learn to slow down, take a breath, soften their internal environment and relax into their connection with the audience and their content. This most often requires that they take a figurative step back and loosen their grip on themselves and their material.

I often suggest to clients that they use the mantras “Soften into the talk” or “Rest in the relationship” as a way to release the anxiety and find the conversational tone that can be so effective.  As I write this, I’m reminded of a Haiku poem that I wrote years ago to help people discover this softened state:

Gaze resting gently
Listening to the river
Essence to essence

If we allow our gaze to rest gently on our audience, our content and ourselves, we establish a way of being that is much less about pushing and much more about relaxing and receiving.

The idea of “listening to the river” conveys that quiet center we all have within us where we can attend both to our internal and external world and receive rather than drive our content.

“Essence to essence” speaks to the ability to speak humbly from the simplicity of who we are as human beings to the essential human beings in our audience.

This Haiku can provide a steady reminder to help us slow down, to stop pushing, to stop trying so hard to make something happen, and to simply allow.  And, from that place, we can be so much more effective as speakers.

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