Elephant Speed

Posted by on Jan 20, 2014 in Blog | 3 comments

Elephant Speed

“Why are you in such a hurry?” the elephant asked in a booming, resonant voice that echoed against the cave walls. It was my first journey circle. Eyes closed, I tranced to the repetitive sound of the drum. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. The looming presence of a giant, shadowy figure with huge palm-like ears and a long waving trunk came into my mind.


“Yes,” I thought, “why ARE we in such a hurry?” Just where are we trying to get to so very quickly?


Guilty as charged. In a world of short cuts and quick fixes, it’s easy to forget – even distrust – the benefits of going slow. Egged on by the stereotype that bigger-better-harder-faster gets the goal, we put our lives on cruise control, close our eyes and drive, full speed a head.


But what is the cost?


This week, driving across country on my way from San Francisco to my new home in Philadelphia, I got a chance to taste the thrill of speed, along with the downside it can bring.


It was late in the evening. Winding around the highway curves at eighty miles an hour, I made my way across the Eastern part of Wyoming. I was intent on reaching Colorado in time for dinner with a good friend. We’d made a date, and nothing would get in my way. I could feel the anxiety of having a deadline rise in my body – something that wasn’t present on the earlier legs of my trip.


A warning sign flashed: “Heavy winds ahead; high blowover risk.” Noted. Good thing I’m not a truck. Right?


Having received a warning for my speed a few hours earlier, I decelerated to seventy-five, and locked into cruise control. There, that would keep my lead foot from getting the better of me.


Yet it still felt fast. Gusts of wind blew snow across the road, obscuring my vision for ten to fifteen seconds at a time. Then again, clear. I braced my body and tried to relax my grip on the wheel. I can do this.


But suddenly the road curved sharply to the left. Blowing wind scattered a thick layer of snow across the pavement and reduced my vision to the tail-lights of the two cars in front of me. It happened too fast to disengage cruise control, and I knew better than to slam on the break. Breath.


A gust of wind gripped my car, and I lost control. It was as if time stood still. “I might be going into the rail,” a voice in my head whispered matter-of-factly. I knew it to be true. Relaxing my arms, I focused my gaze on the clear road just meters ahead on the other side of the curve. The car swerved, first left, then right. Once, twice we were rocked harshly side to side. The pile of luggage on my passenger seat slid toward me, a heavy bag falling from the top of the pile onto me, bruising my arm. For a few seconds my breath hung, suspended.


Then calm.


We were coasting along smoothly again, the tail lights of my fellow travelers moving slowly ahead and out of sight.


It took a few deeper breaths to realize that I was, in fact, now coasting. The weight of the bag had knocked my gear shift into neutral, probably saving my life.


“Why are you in such a hurry,” I thought, remembering the elephant who questioned me a few weeks before. “You don’t have to rush anymore.” It isn’t the thing that will get you there.


This week I invite you to check the speedometer on your life. Ask yourself: Are there places I hurry, when I’d be better off moving at Elephant Speed?


In your movement practice, take it easy!

Try choosing slower, earthier music and moving with Tai Chi like pace and presence in concert with the sounds. If you jog or bike, set your sights on a longer, slower course. Rather than accelerate until you are out of breath and your heart is beating out of your chest, hang at the moment just before. Feel your heart rate want to rise, and gently resist. Up your presence rather than your pace. Notice what’s available in terms of sights, sounds, feelings and sensations from this new location.


In life, take stock of all the ways you judge yourself for not getting there “soon enough.” Notice your mind chatter: I haven’t written that blog yet. I should be farther along in my career at this point. If only I had saved up more money in the bank by now…


What if you gave yourself permission to go at Elephant Speed? Are there projects, tasks and relationships in your life right now that would warrant you taking more time? What’s in the way of you trying on a slower, more forgiving pace this week?


Maybe… just maybe… you’ll discover a few new things you might have missed along the way.


Taking my time,





  1. How lovely to read your words again, LeeAnn :-)
    I’ve been forced to go slower for months now, recovering from my knee replacement operation … and every week I still can’t resist check with my physio “am I on track? am I making as much progress as other people?” to which he always replies “it’s not a race, but yes – you’re doing very well”.
    Enforced slowness is an exercise in patience for me, but also a chance to go gently, observe the smaller details, and smile more – usually at the kindness of strangers who give me room to be slow. It’s been a chance to get intimately acquainted with the muscles in my leg as they wake up again, the gardens of my neighbours as I stroll past at casual speed, and the varying shapes of clouds up ahead (literally and figuratively!).
    I’m now wondering whether I’ll ever find top gear again? Yes – the joy of running is beckoning …

  2. Yes, I believe in “Elephant Speed”. Pace is everything, it is about enjoying the journey, not getting somewhere!

  3. Thank you LeeAnn. I’ve had much elephant input this week as well as a seminar on speeding. My family are in South Africa walking with elephants and I watched a programme last night on rehab for elephant baby orphans. Today your lovely words. I particularly love moving to the drum. It goes deep.
    I’m glad you had an escape on your travels. Personally speaking, I love your blog.

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