The benefits of doing things slow never stops amazing me. I just figured out the other day how to bake the most incredible root beer cake, using whole wheat flour, none the less! But the secret turns out to be, not so much the ingredients, but baking it in a sun oven! If you’re not familiar with sun baking, then you don’t know what you’re missing. The sun cooks slowly and evenly and doesn’t dry out the food. So delicious! This awesome cake got me to thinking about the virtue of unhurried, deliberate, leisure, relaxed, gentle, drawn-out, measured, slowness in everything…
For example, in my thirties, I had an opportunity to study Aikido with Karl Geis at his studio in Houston. During that time I would stay for several days at a time and train with some really great players. Then in the evening, I’d rush across town and attend meditation practices at the local Theravada Buddhist Vihara.
What I noticed then, was that the one thing these two seemingly different spiritual approaches have it common is an emphasis on “slowness” – walking slowly, performing movements with ease, being graceful, balanced, staying alert, watchfulness, being conscious of other people, eating mindfully, speaking softly, listening…
Back then, typical for most young people, I generally found “slowness” to be a drag - a hard thing to do. Have you ever driven on I-10 through Houston? You don’t go slowly, not without becoming somebody’s lunch! It requires a certain amount of offensive assertiveness (that’s why I avoid Interstates these days). Trying to exercise gentleness and softness in that kind of zoo-environment is a lot like trying to stop the momentum of a falling brick, especially in our stressed out, high speed age of anxiety.
Anyway, by the time I got into Karezza five years ago, I discovered the same underlying necessity for slowing down as well – to go slow, to not get heated up, or push toward too much stimulation. It wasn’t long before I noticed just how extraneous and unnatural Karezza is to the primitive, reptilian part of our brain. Consequently, it’s easy to get frustrated and want to give up.
The same is true in Aikido; you have to appreciate that learning how to blend with an attacker, takes a long time to rewire your brain “not” to react - but to welcome struggle - and learn how to embrace conflict with a sense of relaxation/expansion. In the art of love-making, you similarly realize that it is more fun when there is no fixed goal in mind, but instead, to relax and flow in the divine dance.
In the dojo where we practiced Aikido, there was a sign on the wall that read, “Fast is Slow – Slow is Fast”. And we were told, over and over, “Slow down, practice without trying to do the movements at break-neck speed.” (…because it could literally do that).
The instructors would say, “If you practice too fast, you’ll just cover up your mistakes… you’ll react without allowing your brain to work out a solution… you have to allow your mind and body to slowly integrate all the elements necessary for keeping yourself in balance.”
I saw many people quit this kind of training because it wasn’t flashy or exciting enough. They hated going slow. It was dang frustrating. They didn’t have the patience to go through the long process. I heard one karate guy angrily storm out of class saying, “this is a bunch of crap, if somebody attacks me on the street, they won’t be doing it like ballet!”
Our teachers would grin and chuckle silently as if to say, “Poor, ignorant schmuck – he just doesn’t understand his own brain.”
Still, it was repeated in class over and over “Fast is Slow – Slow is Fast”.
Karezza is no different. It is a pure art form, and it takes time to value the intricacies and delicate, sweet, subtle energies involved between a man and a woman. I don’t think a day goes by where I’m not in awe of the complexities required to develop the kind of willingness it takes “not” to speed up. You simply have to be determined to stay alert and watchful so that the primitive behavioral mating program doesn’t sneak up and throw you into the bayou (I cleaned it up here…)
Sometimes the pleasure between my priestess wife and I is so profoundly intense and expansive, with just the perfect balance between watchfulness and control that it feels as though I’ve risen above my body and am viewing it from another vantage point.
The other thing I’ve learned - being in a man’s body - is that my definition of “slow” is not the same as a woman’s. At first, my natural slow pace seemed somewhat faster than hers. Despite this timing issue however, I eventually learned to modify my tempo even more (and for her sake as well), which ironically allowed me to focus on my breath and consequently, to feel more and actually gain better control.
Before that, either one of us would sometimes slip into spasm-orgasm; so at some point, we decided to try practicing with a timer. I had bought one of those Enso meditation timers from Dharmacrafts (the kind with a temple bell chime), which can be set for various time intervals. We decided to loop our sessions with 9 minutes of movement, followed by 3 minutes of stillness. During lovemaking sessions, we’d run this for a total of an hour and a half.
And it was amazing, because within two weeks, we were able to monitor our pleasure level so well that we no longer needed the timer at all. Once our brains rewired, we discovered we could freely move continuously, effortlessly and maintain a slow, sensual pace, ebbing and flowing without slipping over the edge at all.
Going too fast really makes for slow progress, but to go slow is truly the fast way!