Snail’s Pace Race


Would embracing a slower lifestyle eliminate the need for psychiatric drugs?

When I was on 7 or so psychiatric drugs, I had a near death-like experience where I went through a dark tunnel, saw a white light, and received a message of my purpose in life. The message I received was threefold.  My purpose is: 1. To write without getting attached to it, 2. To Love, and, 3. To slow people down. I didn’t quite understand the part about slowing people down until today, ten years later! While I have questions about #1, it makes perfect sense. Writing feeds me like nothing else. “To Love,” seems obvious, like #1, 2 or 3 on everyone’s life purpose list. But the last one, to slow people down, sounds unique and like it’s for me personally.

I live a slow paced life. I meditate every morning, refuse to get a smart phone (yet), and it takes me generous amounts of time to do things. This isn’t because I am “stupid” or slow to get things. Sometimes I wonder how others get so much done each day – yet the quality and vibration of what I do is unique. It needs time. It’s fermented, then slow cooked; it comes about from a slower-paced life. My writing and teaching require me to live in the slow lane; as does my body, my mind, everything about me and the structure of my life. I basically can’t be rushed.

So I go slow, but it only occurred to me today how, of course, by going slowly, those around me are sometimes slowed down too. I don’t respond to messages/emails/phone calls right away most of the time. My phone is frequently on airplane mode. Emergencies need to go through my slow pace filter and often aren’t responded to the way many others would. Meditation, writing and other forms of quiet reflection are my primary urgencies. Ha.

By not being able to relate with me on Type A timetables, people who are in my world are sometimes inadvertently slowed down. I also often gravitate towards slow friends who listen slowly and who I can listen to slowly, making sure nothing is missed or misunderstood. Of course we talk quickly sometimes (I am from New York and actually talk and think very fast) and I certainly write longhand faster than anyone else I’ve ever witnessed- but there’s a deep, thorough processing going on in the conversations and writing that doesn’t often happen in the average chat or article I am aware of.

How does this relate with psychiatric drugs? Psych drugs are rooted in impatience, urgency, emergency. Sure, there are real emergencies that have their time and place, but the psychiatric system rushes situations to a place of emergency and encourages emergency mentality, when often times slowing down and seeing more clearly are the best medicines. The chronic crisis consciousness in the mental health system is the “short long way” because it usually takes longer to recover from the trauma of being rushed/forced/coerced, not being given informed consent or options, and from the damage of the drugs than it would to slowly and patiently work with whatever is going on to begin with. The psych drug withdrawal process can take a very long time too.

Going slowly from the beginning might mean taking a few months or longer to sit with our challenging, even torturous, feelings, and to reach out to people willing to slow down and listen without diagnosing. This requires patiently processing our feelings, thoughts, memories, symbols, fears and longings. All of this requires time, air, breathing, going slowly and having others who can appreciate the slow pace, the right now; who can accept the stuckness, are okay with boredom, monotony, feelings and intensity. Slow pace is required for the “long short way,” where things actually, ironically, happen faster because we aren’t trying to force them to, we aren’t resisting life or pushing the river.

Going slowly is my new/old medicinal offering to myself and others. I offer it as my very being so you know there is someone out there going slowly, waiting to respond. Whatever the pace our souls move at is what it is; it cannot be altered by drugs. In the words of Robyn Posin: You can leap forward and slide back as many times as you need to. Or you can just take smaller steps.

What an “aha” for me to realize that going so slowly, the thing I’ve been criticizing myself for, is a big part of my life purpose, not only for myself, but to slow others down as well.

When we have a health problem of any sort, Western medicine and our current culture (which many of us are stepping away from) tell us, “There’s no time for this. How can we eradicate it as quickly and easily as possible?” Perhaps the real question is, “Do we have time for that view?” Do we have time to ignore our body/mind messages? Do we have time to deal with the long term ramifications of rushing, crashing and being inundated with a whole new set of problems?

Even more pertinent, what does slowing down look like? How do we listen to our symptoms? My ways are through writing, meditation, time in nature, and other practices that fine tune my intuition. These include connecting with others in the slow lane, others who are exploring life as a mystery, a process, an opportunity for communication. As I slow down and practice being honest with myself first, I begin to see the fears I have that keep me stuck in symptoms. Does this make it easy to overcome them? Sometimes, but not necessarily. It does make it easier to connect with others and attract people I can connect with deeply and genuinely. By slowing down enough (externally) to find self communication that is honest, it becomes easier to express myself to others and to intuit who will get it. As for fear-based symptom eradication, which I still find myself knee-jerking towards: good luck. Take as long as you need to, try as many quick fixes as you can find. When you’re done and ready to return to the slow path of soul, I’ll meet you on the dirt road, unpaved, picking berries in the sunshine, or being poured on in the rain.

Sure there’s a time and place for efficiencies- for raincoats, cars, airplanes, the internet – no doubt. But mostly, we’re headed for the unpaved road in the country, the slow path of our souls, the unavoidable, undeniable underbelly of life. It’s unpredictable, unmapped and undocumented until we take the time to document and map our own course. When we live there, rushing through to eradicate our “problems” becomes less and less of an option, and life is actually worth living and learning from – slowly, kindly, with heart.


  1. I’m with you, Chaya. A big factor in my recovery was deciding to work only part-time so that I could spend more time, as you beautifully put it, “on the dirt road, unpaved, picking berries in the sunshine, or being poured on in the rain.” I don’t know how we (society) got into this insanity that we have to work harder and harder to obtain the things that we don’t need and don’t even have time to enjoy because we’re working so hard.

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  2. I so agree with you and I think that a lot of so called “mental illness” is brought about by the constant rushing about, by the incessant demands we and others put on ourselves. I certainly brought my own breakdown upon myself by not giving myself a rest. I have read a lot of real stories about depression, psychosis and manic depression and in every of these stories I found too much ambition, too much pressure, not enough sleep, sometimes too much pride etc…

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  3. Very well said Francesca! As I slow down, my life seems to follow suit without any real problems of urgency…just my own fears of urgency. Thanks Alix! I think you are right about the pressure. Nothing important I’ve ever done in life has required pressure or rushing. 🙂

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