"Take the time it takes and it will take less time".
I've ridden horses all my life, and years ago I was fortunate enough to spend two days learning from renowned horse trainer Carl Merganthaler. This wise adage that he bestowed has resonated with me for years, and has come up again and again in my yoga practice, teaching, business growth, and life in general.
If you've ever seen the movie The Horse Whisperer, you'll remember the Robert Redford character, a man so deeply connected to horse spirit its as if he and the horse are communicating in their own language. This character is Carl. Using none of the traditional "breaking" methods that include whips, spurs, fatiguing the horse into submission, Carl employs an incredibly effective energetic approach, using body language, repetition, and touch reward. This technique has a tone of inviting the horse to collaborate, building connection and trust. This process cannot be rushed, there is no shortcut, it just takes the time that it takes... and guess what, it takes less time.
Within one hour the young skittish horse I was working with was following me around the ring without a lead (we never even started with one), changing direction when I did, and allowing me to pet her neck while her head was down (a very vulnerable position for a horse). It was one of the best days of my life. Scary and hard at first as I had to abandon all of my preconceived training measures and ideas about horse nature, trust Carl, trust the horse, and trust myself. Rewarding beyond belief to connect this deeply with another creature in such an intimate and energetic way.
What does this have to do with our yoga practice, and furthermore our life at large? Pretty much everything in my opinion.
Our modern world moves fast and demands that we keep pace. We are expected to fit more into less time. Our exercise classes are shorter to accommodate longer work hours. Working through lunch and even dinner sometimes is how we manage to meet ceaselessly growing expectations and deadlines.
It is mind breaking and back breaking.
We step onto the mat and begrudge our bodies for being tight and tired, so we push our bodies into submission and over exert to compensate. This results in complete frustration, complete fatigue, or even worse, injury. Our body and mind buck at one more thing being demanded, and progress comes to a standstill. So then we are forced to circle back, re-approach, and take more time than it would have taken if we had perhaps moved more slowly and mindfully, or rested more.
There is no shortcut for building strength or flexibility, on the mat or in life.
Its an equation of (awareness x action) over time = results
I used to have a Russian roommate that would always say to me (as I'd be running around LATE trying to get out the door forgetting about 5 things) the translated Russian saying "rush, and you'll see yourself a fool". I still hear her voice every time I drop the ball in someway from rushing and cutting corners. I think this axiom echos this idea of taking the time it takes so that it takes less time.
Is it possible for us to slow down so that we can properly learn, effectively apply, and actually enjoy what we are doing? I think so! It may be so hard at first, as we strive to be one step ahead, making the most of every minute. But after some practice, I believe that slowing down and truly observing and engaging will give us more than it will cost.
I invite you this week to take more time, even if it feels stupid and slow, doing anything that is part of your normal routine. This could be at work, in your relationship, in your exercise. The first thing that comes to mind that couldn't possibly be slowed down, that's where to look. Carry one less thing and go back for a second trip. Focus deeply like a beginner on just one aspect of the task at hand. Take an extra couple of breaths.
When we slow down we open bandwidth to remember more, prepare, problem solve, study, adapt, appreciate. These assets create a foundation to not only be more productive, but to really soak in the richness of our experience.
May the practice of taking our time ultimately serve to honor the unknown duration we have here on this earth by cultivating meaningful interactions with nature, other humans, and ourselves.