Slowing Down to Open Up

By Beth Barbeau

We hear along the way that different stages of life bring different mindsets and perspectives. “Sure, sure,” was my younger response; I believed it, but could not conceive it. The bold present can be quite dazzling, or at least demanding, when we are filled primarily with the future. And now, a bit over that 56-year-old line in the primordial dirt, the horizon has a different flavor.

The present is slower, and there seems to be more space available between the molecules. The ability to breathe deep seems to be growing, and the willingness to catch up by taking a nap is too. As a midwife, I spend a considerable amount of time with young parents to-be, and they often expect to birth their baby and mostly get back to their lives. “Babies,” I tell them, “are not on iPhone time.” We need to slow down for them, and take the time to do quite a bit more being with these fresh ones. Pretty consistently, the mothers who take the time to spend a few quietish weeks with the babies on their chests, “skin-to-skin,” seem to ‘luck out’ more often with calm, bright-eyed babies who settle into life pretty comfortably alongside their families. Perinatal psychology has been discovering that when the adults slow down and pair the baby’s pacing…baby and parent more comfortably synchronize together. The pause creates space for growth and adaption.


What about us grown-ups slowing down to synchronize too? Couldn’t we also benefit from space to grow and adapt as we move through our lives? Perhaps we could synchronize our breath to our own heartbeat, to hear our own dreams, or to connect to children, partner, or community… 

I’ve quite frankly found it pretty challenging to routinely bend to the gifts of quiet time. Not being much for coffee, cigarettes, or wine, it seemed I even missed the American rituals that build in a pause.

I found a pause recently, though, in a gift from a wise friend. A modern, clear, silicon hot water bottle. So handsome in it’s simplicity, just fill with boiling water. Then retire, cradling the hot little pillow.  And let the heat creep across, from silicon to bones. Nothing one can do to rush a hot water bottle. No dial to crank up.  But there is something about a capable hot water bottle that encourages sighs of release. An unwinding. A melding.

Hot water bottles are also not on iPhone time. They lay steadily on one’s chest, or quietly on a pain, and they are the model of being present. Their heat lasts, unbelievably, for hours. Sometimes you can even wake from your nap to a still-wonderfully-warm hot water bottle. And it calls you to come back again soon.

It seems that the busier the world gets, the wilder our calendars, the more multi-tasking the gadgets… the more that quiet spaciousness stands tall within us when given a chance. Perhaps we could bring our patient curiosity to our breath and our pauses… NOT as another thing to do. But as another moment to find our feet on the floor. Breath in our lungs. Space in our hearts. And the hot water bottle in our arms.

Babies and hot water bottles are not on iPhone time. And neither are souls.

Posted on February 8, 2019 and filed under Children, Daily Rituals, Health and Wellness, Issue 71, mindfulness.