It would be an advantage for anyone to make everything appear to move in slow motion. It would give you time to analyze the situation and the actions of everyone and everything around you. It gives you extra time to determine your actions in a pressure situation. This would be incredibly useful in business, driving your car in traffic, playing games, military combat, sports and life threatening situations.” — Enoch Tan, How to Slow Down Time in Your Mind

In the past 20 years facilitating Speaking Circles I have been guiding people to master the skill of slowing down time in front of groups.

Speaking anxiety activates our freeze or flight responses. How can you possibly be articulate when your mind is racing or stalled and you feel like everyone can see right through you? I lived with that misery into my late 40’s, when I developed the exercise of being in front of a supportive group for finite periods of time practicing presence with one person at a time without even having to speak. From here, participants found themselves able to breathe, slow down their mind, and allow the appropriate words to arise naturally. And this is why breakthrough miracles occur at every Speaking Circle.

Effective leaders–whether of businesses or families–know how to slow down time in their mind to bring out the best in themselves and others in the many opportunities for mindfulness that each day brings.

The direct way to develop the capacity to slow down time is through regular meditation or other stillness practice, but most leaders don’t seem to have the time, inclination or capacity to sustain such a practice. But I’ve discovered that slowing down time is a kind of stillness that I and many others can experience when we place our attention on holding stillness for each other.

In place of struggling to access stillness within, I put my full priority on holding stillness for another.

I know how to be still for you so that time seems to slow down for you. Serving you in this way completely takes the focus off me. In front of a group, when I hold stillness for one person at a time I breathe freely and my words flow. And my calm is contagious. You breathe and listen better; you hold stillness for yourself. The room relaxes. Scientists would say that I am self-regulating my autonomic nervous system to reduce stress and focus on communicating. And as the group feels engaged, they mirror my autonomic state of calm and we connect socially. Calmness is highly contagious!

In Vietnam, there are many people, called boat people, who leave the country in small boats [to cross the Gulf of Siam]. Often the boats are caught in rough seas or storms, the people may panic, and boats may sink. But if even one person aboard can remain calm, lucid, knowing what to do and what not to do, he or she can help the boat survive. His or her expression – face, voice – communicates clarity and calmness, and people have trust in that person. They will listen to what he or she says. One such person can save the lives of many. –Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace