The front cover of the book ‘Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down – How to be Calm in a Busy World’ includes an endorsement that reads; “Universal truths, beautifully expressed, lovingly illustrated.”
Having spent some time with this book over the last few years, I wanted to share my own thoughts on its insight and offerings and I have to say that I do agree with the cover sentiment. Firstly, the illustrations really do evoke something in me, bringing about a sense of calm and stillness. One example depicts a vast sea of daisies with a bright orange sun and two people, barely noticeable, in the top right hand of the picture – you can just make them out amongst the flowers. I found myself wanting to step out into this field and be immersed in it all. Turning several pages and there are two people in an origami boat looking up at a huge round moon, set against a fuchsia night sky, decorated with stars. Straight away I am out of my head and sitting in that boat.
And it’s not just the illustrations that have this impact, the section themes and chapter headings are cleverly presented as questions and relatable statements for anyone who is experiencing the daily challenges of modern life. ‘Why Am I So Busy?’ – is the question we are all asking and it is no accident that this is where the chapter entitled ‘Rest’ begins. Other examples include, ‘Temper Your Eagerness’, ‘Three Liberating Insights’, and ‘The Journey Of Forgiveness’. As with the illustrations, these titles immediately ignited something inside my mind and I needed to know more.
The chapter on Mindfulness is of course of particular interest to us at 3b, and I was delighted to discover that it began with a call to ‘Befriend Your Emotions’ – something we definitely advocate, although we appreciate it isn’t always easy. Thankfully, this chapter lives up to the heading by providing useful insight into how we can approach this. Making the distinction between ‘labelling’ and ‘being’ when it comes to our emotions, and sharing tips on how to better understand ourselves through observation and developing awareness.
“Within each of us, there is an inner witness
quietly observing what goes on inside and
outside of us.
Born from a place of silence and wisdom,
even when the world churns up a storm of emotions
the witness sits calmly in the eye of the storm,
unharmed, luminous, and all-knowing.”
The author is a Korean born Buddhist monk who also shares stories and anecdotes from his own experiences and travels which, even if they are not directly relatable, can serve as a source of inspiration or metaphor for whatever is happening within our own lives. And it’s those splashes of inspiration that make this book such a welcome addition to my mental well-being toolkit. It contains wisdom and insight that has a light touch; never dictating the steps to take, simply providing a nudge or opening up a different way of looking at something, enabling you to decide what you do with it and how it might be helpful. These ‘universal truths’ certainly get you thinking, yet it’s in a ‘what else is possible?’ kind of a way, rather than ruminating on the lack or the stumbling block that we may be experiencing.
This is a book to keep close by and dip into when you find yourself slipping into a headspace that isn’t necessarily helpful. It’s also an excellent way to start or begin your day, to support a more intentional way of being. I have found that simply picking it up and turning a page helps me to slow down, and when I do, I definitely see something I hadn’t noticed or wasn’t able to see so clearly beforehand.