Fast Time/Slow Time

Fast Time/Slow Time

On left, whitewater rafters in bright green helmets on a blue raft with red lifejackets. On right, a lightskinned hand palm up letting shallow water flow over it against brown and taupe river pebbles.

Can you tell which of these is slow time? Rafters: Anne Nygård. Hand in water: Nicholas Ng.

What is Fast Time?

Fast time is the mode we are in a lot in this culture. Things move quickly, decisions are made, work gets done, we feel effective! If our minds work well in fast time, we are rewarded. But we do not always find it rewarding.

Fast time can feel:

    • exhausting
    • overwhelming
    • chaotic
    • too busy
    • stressful
    • unclear
    • unclever, and even
    • uninteresting. We may think slowing down is more boring than speeding up, but most of the time, we’d be wrong.


When we are bored, what we probably need is to take a breather and drop down into our experience. Into slow time.

Why Do We Need Slow Time?

The Gifts of Slow Time

We need slow time for
    • wisdom
    • creativity
    • complexity
    • looking back on the past to forecast for the future
    • pattern-seeing
    • the detached reflection that helps us be smart during fast time–yet avoid making mistakes.


Slow time is the kind of time we are least likely to get enough of, however, because…

It Must Be Named to Be Claimed


You can’t structure something into your life til you know what it is!

How would you know what kind of time you were in unless you learned to ask the question? And then learned you could switch gears if you wanted to claim your mind for a different mode of being.

Slow time is a different mode of being,as well as thinking.

What is Slow Time?

The simplest way to describe slow time is how it feels. For one thing, it feels the opposite of the bulleted list of how fast time can feel (above).

It feels:

    • clear
    • engaging
    • restful
    • zestful
    • engaging
    • spacious, like being held within large, generous hands. 
    • and even scary if you are so used to speeding (including in your thoughts) that you do not know what to do when you slow down.
Many of us are like this at times. We get scared of our own fear, and we avoid slow time!

You Cannot Reach Wisdom in Fast Time

Let me repeat:

fast time cannot produce wisdom.

We can certainly reach wisdom during slow time and then use that wisdom in fast time.

But we cannot attain wisdom while our minds are speeding.

That’s why there is so little wisdom in our culture. It’s not an accident. It’s a direct result of speeding around.

We can change this. Very simply. By structuring into our lives and work enough time where we are not speeding around.

It’s important to get enough slow time.

How Do We Get Enough of It?


To get enough slow time, you have to schedule it.

This sounds odd or even paradoxical until you realize that if everything else in your life and work is scheduled except this, it will be an accident if you get any of it. You need to set aside time for slow time.

What Do We Do When We Get It?

Ah, how do you reach all the wonderful things and states I list above as the gifts of slow time (starting with wisdom)?

You set aside time for it and have an intention for what to do with it. A slight intention at first. Like, “I’m
      • going to reflect on my work or my home life.
      • interested in the pattern between what I want and what I get in [this area of my] life.
      • curious why that movie I watched [or song, or billboard, or quote] keeps coming back to me. I’m going to sit with it and maybe sketch or journal to find out what it connects to in my life.”

These are just examples.

You keep your date with yourself.

You sit there, if need be, for a little bit and let your head stop spinning.

(This is just you changing gears. Give your bodymind a minute to catch up with your intention. There is nothing wrong, including with you, and this is normal.)

You keep sitting and begin to focus on your intention gently–this feels like reflection. You reflect. Or analyze shamelessly. Or pattern-seek. Maybe you write it down, or sketch it.
You make another date to do this again if you want to.

The Origins of This Post

This post came out of a conversation with one of my rare corporate soul-colleagues. “Corporate” means group. Most people I coach are solopreneurs, healers, artists, farmers–individuals. They are also soul-preneurs. Even my executive coaching takes this form.

But in rare cases, where a corporation (group) of people have shown a desire for greater-than-average consciousness, I am happy to coach them and consult to them. This is because I could not help them otherwise, since everything I do starts from consciousness: RAISING CLARITY.

Where our consciousness is, and where we want it to be.

The conversation that inspired this post was about changing organizational practice and culture to include a small amount of reflective, slow time that would be paid. Staff would be not only encouraged to take this type of time at work, for work purposes, they would be taught how.

We talked about the way to structure it, which includes Terence McKenna called “set and setting.” Set = mindset. Setting is the physical location we find ourselves in, or set up and create.  Sometimes, simply changing location is enough. Often, we must choose a location that is even in a small way  more restful than the usual one, to encourage ourselves and those we work with and for to take slow time so we can use it purposefully.

Because that is the other bottom-line, and secret to what I am telling you: slow time is purposeful. Structuring it into your life allows you to set a purpose for it, and realize and fulfill that purpose.

To deepen into what I mean by slow time even more, try my “Time Zen” post.

For more of my writing on how to use your time for RAISING your own CLARITY, click here.

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