Late Spring 2014 -- Seeing More Clearly
Sometimes I think I must be crazy to want to get up so early, but my alarm goes off nearly every weekday at 4:45 a.m. Minutes later, I am out the door to take my walk. I love being awake at that hour — up and about as the sky turns from black to a fragile blue. Occasionally a bird will sing and I realize that up until now the pre-dawn has been perfectly silent and that this is the first birdsong of the day — and I've had the good fortune to hear it!
I notice these things on my good days. To be honest, most of the time I am preoccupied with any number of issues of questionable import — from a shoelace that's a bit too long to when I'm going to find time to prune the rosebush. When I do slow down and simply reach out to hold the new day with all of my senses, I am always happy that I did. It never ceases to amaze me just how challenging that slowing down truly is!
Not too long ago, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk, was conducting a retreat on the college campus right across the street from where I live. One morning during this time, I decided to take my walk through the campus, for a change. It was as dark and as quiet as any other Tuesday at 4:55 a.m. My legs and my mind were going a mile a minute. As I turned a corner, I found myself barreling full speed into a group of about 200 monks and retreat attendees inching toward me, doing their walking meditation.
Now, if you have never seen a Buddhist walking meditation I don't think you can possibly understand how slow walking can truly be. It makes taking a stroll with a 15-month-old toddler who wants to investigate every pebble seem like a sprint! The stillness and peace that emanated from these people took my breath away. Just being in their presence was healing for me — if only because seeing them short-circuited my morning;s mad dash. I yearned to join them, but instead kept going until I rounded a nearby corner. I needed to find out if I could do this, myself. So, in the silence of the still-dark morning, I came to a dead stop, then oh-so-slowly put one foot in front of the other, and attempted to empty my mind of its chatter.
I'm horrified to say I lasted less than a minute. The too-long shoelace or the scraggly rosebush — or whatever it was that morning — quickly got my attention and my legs sped up to the pace they are used to in the pre-dawn. I have to admit it is not good news that I found it impossible to come to a near standstill of body and mind and simply be. But simply learning how difficult that was for me was a gift in and of itself, for I understood in a profound way just how intentional the act of slowing down is.
In these confusing times, when we find ourselves re-evaluating, re-prioritizing, and yearning to tap into that which is truly priceless, may we see more clearly. May we understand that in slowing down we literally create space — space that holds each of our experiences in a way that acknowledges its preciousness, its gifts.