“The self has become anxious for what the next instant might bring. This greed for destination obliterates the journey.” –John O’Donohue
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” ~ Ferris Bueller
Does hurry infect your life like it does mine? Hurry is hard to treat, hard to change, and its consequences aren’t pretty. That is why I think the daring practice of slow may be one of the most important spiritual practices I’ve stumbled into. Slow is not only an opposite, but an antidote to hurry.
When I was in high-school, my family spent a day running around Disney World. We were determined to experience both Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center in the same day. My dad’s long legs led the charge as we zipped from Space Mountain to the Pirates of the Caribbean and then on to other attractions that I’ve forgotten for some reason. I think we had lunch at Epcot’s Japan, and we probably bought marzipan in Germany. That’s what we did the first time that we visited Disney. It’s probably what we did the second time we visited. We are creatures of habit. I don’t remember too much about that day. I couldn’t tell you what the weather was like or anything about the day’s textures and tastes and sounds. I think we had fun, when our sides weren’t splitting. But I don’t remember a favorite ride or attraction or experience. I remember the running.
Isn’t that how we spend so much of our lives? Hurrying from one experience to another, trying to pack in as much as possible. When I was in high-school I bought a t-shirt that said: “It’s not the pace of life that concerns me, it’s the sudden stop at the end.” For some reason, I thought that sentiment was great. Now, I’m trying to live by another motto: Be Slow.
Slow is hard. Especially when there are places to be and getting my little people out of the door is a lot like herding cats. Being late brings out the stress-ball in me.
But hurry makes it nearly impossible to pay attention. Hurry makes it difficult to see, let alone appreciate, what is right in front of you. Hurry is the opposite of being, really being, where you are. When I hurry, I am going through the motions of living; I am not really inhabiting my life.
I don’t want to look back on my life and remember the running. I want my children to have the opportunity to taste, touch, smell, and see their way through childhood. I want to move slow enough to notice–to move with reverence rather than hurry.
“When you take the time to travel with reverence, a richer life unfolds before you…. Take your time and be everywhere you are.” — John O’Donohue
I have not perfected the practice of Slow, but here are some of the ways that I try:
Permission to Say No
My time is valuable. So is yours. It is okay to protect it. It is okay to say no.
It’s important for me to realize that while some people might thrive on busy, I am not one of those people. I try not to compare myself with people who appear to be accomplishing superstars. Saying no means I won’t accomplish as much as somebody else. I’m learning to be fine with that. Being busy doesn’t mean that you are hurried, but I find that the two often go together in my life.
Saying no is really hard if you want to make everybody happy. When you say no, you imagine that you are letting all sorts of people down. In reality, people probably aren’t as disappointed as you imagine. If they are, they’ll probably get over it fairly quickly. It’s okay to disappoint people; it’s inevitable. But sometimes saying no is necessary in order to journey slowly. If you ever want permission to say no, talk to me. I’m all about encouraging my people to just say no.
When I find myself hurried, I breathe. I notice the way my breath fills my lungs and then slowly leaves my body. I try to slow down my breathing and to breathe deeply. We breathe all of the time without noticing it. When we stop to notice our breath, we bring our attention to wherever we are at in that moment. We can’t help but slow down, just a bit when we connect with our breath.
Touch, Taste, Smell, See
Engaging our senses can be a deliberate act of slowing down. Savor that piece of chocolate; taste its rich, sweetness as it melts slowly on your tongue. Inhale the smell of outdoors and fresh air on your boy’s head when he finally comes inside after dark. Let your eyes delight in the way the light and shadows bring out countless shades of pink on the blooms sitting on your kitchen table. Listen to the raindrops as they hit the windowpane. Take time to look into someone’s eyes. To see them. Feel your feet on the ground; let them remind you where you are at right now.
Keeping our senses open helps us to keep our hearts open. Have you ever met a hard-hearted wonder-filled human being? At least, I would imagine that it’s nearly impossible to be both at the same time.
“The invisible and the visible world meet and join ever so briefly, but constantly, in this world when our eyes are searching for God’s presence.” –St. Hildegard of Bingen
Slowing down helps us to pay attention. Paying attention helps us to slow down and prepares us for glimpses of the holy in the midst of the ordinary everyday.
Do you try to live slow? Have you noticed a difference when you do? What practices do you use to slow down?