More Haste – Less Speed
“Haste is speed without rhythm.
Life with Haste has no rhythm.
Once we find the rhythm of Life then we abandon Haste.
The Rocks of Life are always present.
Yet once we abandon Haste, the road seems less rocky –
Whilst in Haste we encounter the rocks of Life very easily.”
We will have all heard – and perhaps had the adage, the proverb More Haste Less Speed, thrown verbally at us from perhaps quite a young age. I certainly did, and whilst now I align it with a coaching invitation I often make – Pay More Attention To – I used to think that it WAS all about urgency.
Urgency, defined as importance requiring swift action, is one of those daily compulsions in our lives. We encounter it at work, at home, at play, and – crazily – even at rest sometimes.
“Hurry up and have a rest – we’ll be on the move again soon!”
In the animal kingdom, where how we might understand the rhythm of Life can be most easily noticed, there is – at certain times – urgency.
Here we have urgency on the highest possible scale – a matter of life and death! Each animal has one objective and, in the moment, nothing else matters. If we were to trade places with the wildebeest, then we would also have only one objective too. We may be thinking creatures, yet in this context there is no time for the luxury of paying attention to our thoughts.
“Oooh gosh it’s SO hot today out here on the Serengeti! I wish I had remembered to bring my sunhat. I’m really looking forward to having a cocktail by the pool later!”
No! In the right here right now moment called the present, we are single minded and paying 100% attention to ONLY ONE THING. And we are bringing Urgency to our Actions.
Take a look at the metaphorical aspects of the above picture and see the lion as the boss and the wildebeest as the employee required to carry out the important task with the utmost urgency.
OK, the boss isn’t going to devour the employee – even though he might make a meal of it if the task doesn’t get done in time. Still, there may be longer term consequences for the employee, and perhaps the boss and his business, if the task doesn’t get done in time.
Consequences such as survival, of his job, the firm, everyone’s jobs … etc.
One of the aspects of the urgencies in our lives is the fact that we can allow our thoughts to both build up and play out the drama. “If I don’t do THIS – then THAT might/could/will happen.” Our thinking takes us out of the present moment and into the imaginative projections of countless possibilities. We do this, over and over again – because we are ONLY human, AND we have the tendency to believe our thinking far too much.
So where does this impinge upon More Haste Less Speed, you may ask!
The Rhythm of Life
The rhythm of Life is always present. It can be a bumpy ride, or a smooth journey – or anywhere in between. We may sometimes consider our lives to be at a standstill, or on hold, yet this is an illusion. Things are always on the move – even though we may be grazing, rather like the wildebeest. Nothing ever stands still, for that is because of the energy in the Universe.
Life, all life, flows with a rhythm and is propelled by that energy.
If our perception is that things are proceeding well for us, that we are in sync with the rhythm of life, then we will feel carried along with the rhythmic flow of the cosmos.
Cosmic Order prevails.
If our perception is that things are not proceeding well for us, that we are out of sync with the rhythm of life, then we will not feel carried along with the rhythmic flow of the cosmos.
Cosmic Chaos prevails. We will feel every bump, every rock, in the road.
When we are IN the rhythm of Life – no matter what the speed may be in every moment – then there is no Haste.
In Joe Hyams’ book Zen in the Martial Arts, he tells of when he was having tea with Master Bong Soo Han and an important letter arrived.
Knowing the Master had been eagerly anticipating the letter, he expected him to pause the conversation, tear open the envelope and hastily scan the contents. Instead, the Master put aside the letter and continued their conversation.
When they met the following day, Joe Hyams remarked on the Master’s self- control. The Master replied that he had put the letter aside until he had conquered Haste.
“Then, when I set my hand to it,” he continued, “I opened it as though it were something precious.” The point the Master made was that the Patience that leads from conquering Haste, will stand for us in both trivial things as well as great and important things.
Doing anything with Haste points us AWAY from the rhythm of Life. Impatience really is an anti-virtue. We can do things with urgency and ALSO be in sync with the rhythm of Life, for Urgency is all about Speed and nothing about Haste – regardless of what the dictionary definition may be saying.
The proverb, therefore, is reminding us – in Cosmic terms – that our verbal language can often play tricks on our understanding of what IS.
In his book The Practicing Mind, Thomas M Sterner talks about experiencing Impatience.
“Experiencing impatience is one of the first symptoms of not being in the present moment, not doing what you are doing, and not staying process-oriented. Staying in the present moment is one of the hardest lessons to learn. We are always dropping out of the NOW, and letting our minds lead us around by the nose to who knows where.”
Sterner also writes about how to stay process-oriented with all the things that you do – whether at work, at home, at play and at rest.
He calls this “The Four ‘S’ words” which are – Simplify, Small, Short and Slow. As a way of working and practice, bring these four approaches into everything you do and they will serve you well, often in ways that seem to defy logic!
In terms of More Haste Less Speed, the ‘S’ word SLOW is the most defiant, let’s say, and really comes to the fore. It does require some practice and conditioning however! As Sterner says,
“ … with SLOW allow yourself to work at a pace that allows you to pay attention to what you are doing.”
Slow will vary from task to task of course yet here, too, is an example of how we “manage our attention.” No more – no less.
When we are in total absorbed 100% attention, then we are experiencing all the NOW moments in total flow with the rhythm of Life. Compared to me, and certainly their parents, ALL of my grandchildren have the ability to be in total flow – and the youngest is pretty much there all of the time. At seven months old, he DOES what he DOES and he IS where he IS – there is no errant thinking going on, getting in the way of his Life.
There is a simplicity to how life unfolds for him and – to be fair – that same simplicity will accompany him every day of his life, until his THINKING starts to get in there and complicate matters.
Yet, all the while, for either the grandchildren OR myself – the ability to be 100% absorbed and in total flow is always there. It is INNATE!
More Haste Less Speed
So, in conclusion, I invite you to notice how different Life can FEEL once you start to gain the ability to conquer Haste. For Haste is what starts to happen to our every experience when we are not 100% attending to each and every NOW moment – purely because we are distracted by the multi-layered illusion of our thinking.
Zen in the Martial Arts – Joe Hyams
The Practicing Mind – Thomas M Sterner