Archive for September 17th, 2009

What do these two creatures have in common?

– Slower than slow movement.

The concept of anything moving that slow seems ludicrous to modern ( & certainly American) sensibilities, but there is a wisdom in it worth taking to heart. In the United States and the rest of the developed countries, the usual pace is swift and accelerating.

Here in the states, we take pride in multi-tasking and mad-dashing about engaging in what used to be more accurately called neurotic behavior.

It’s a wonder we really see or experience anything at all. Our passion for speed seems to know no bounds and even extends to the restroom where I have seen men at urinals having an animated conversation on a cell phone or, worse, while occupying a stall. Is nothing sacred?

We eat rapidly and often on the fly, while driving, standing in lines, talking on the phone, and while engaged in many other activities.

All of these habits have as their goal the supposedly more efficient use of time so as to wring as much productivity out of the day as possible. We are the culture that has inspired  fast food, short power-naps, e-mail chains, texting, and tweeting.

Deep and relaxed conversation is on the wane and it is being replaced by drive-by sound-bites. Is there an antidote to what is turning the person into just another utility ( captured linguistically in the shift from talking about departments of personnel to the departments of human resources)?

Italy offers one treatment strategy called, alternatively, “slow food.” Imagine it: a return to the primacy of the dining room and the long and luxurious enjoyment of good food, good company, and personal story-telling.Spiritually, we are shaped by the manner in which we live. If we sprint our way through life we will pass by many things and savor perhaps very little. Under such conditions, the soul becomes ever more two dimensional as we lose our spiritual depth and breadth.

Across world spiritual traditions, we are consistently reminded to “slow down.” In Japanese Zen Buddhism, “Kin Hin” ( or walking) meditation is practiced in conjunction with zazen ( sitting meditation) whereby the meditator walks mindfully: feeling each leg advanced almost in slow motion. Tai Chi ( the “Supreme Ultimate”) calls for the performance of almost balletic movements in slow, smooth succession. In yoga, the goal is, once again, the slow repetition of Asanas (postures) and pranayama ( breathing exercises) all aimed at mindful movement of the entire body.

How can we extract from these very specific forms lessons that we can simply apply in otherwise busy days so that we can recover the wholesome pace of humanity.

Slow Motion, Vigilance & Listening!

At the close of day, on arrival home after work, try walking into your house very slowly. Move as if time itself has slowed and feel your every movement.

Watch how the muscles interact, the sensations that arise, the textures you feel, the play of light and shadows,  patterns and forms. Of course, if other people are near-by, the practice will likely not be comfortable unless, of course, they join in.If you can, carry it further, as you very slowly move across the room and see if you can sustain this level of attention for 5 to 10 minutes.

On rising in the morning, if time permits, get out of bed the same way: with very slow and deliberate movements as you come to full alertness and take your first steps as you move through the rituals of the mornings. As opportunity presents itself, it is good to try this practice at odd times when practical: in your office with door closed, in your yard if you have one, etc.

In time, when you start running again too quickly and chronically, the practice of the snails and the sloths may automatically adjust your pace and remind you of the virtues of slow.

Every so often, couple this practice with a completely wasted hour: doing nothing, producing nothing, thinking nothing in particular, forgetting time, and just being in the world.

Molto Legato!!!

© The Harried Mystic, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Read Full Post »