“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
― Edward Abbey
Have you ever noticed that busyness and frenzied activity are contagious? You walk into work, intent on going about your business in a relaxed and calm way, only to find that by 10am, your shoulders are up around your ears, and there is a sense of Hurry Up or Something Very Bad Will Happen, and you are scurrying around like a squirrel desperate to stash the last of the acorns before the winter storm hits. Then you stuff down your lunch, grab two minutes on Twitter to scroll through around 300 tweets, and scramble back to your work in a buttcheek-clenched march, spend the afternoon getting faster and faster, your colleagues scurrying to do the same, all of you winding each other up. Hit the traffic, make the dinner, hurry, hurry, hurry, onto the next thing, multitask while bathing the kid, read the story, hurry, hurry, hurry, read the story as fast as we canandnothere’snottimetoreadtwochapterstonightit’saschoolnighthurryupand (sharp inhale) gotosleepquickDaddy&Ihavetowatchthemovietogetitbackinthemailtomorrow.
Does it sound familiar?
Since when did the very act of living become such a dire emergency?
In the mindfulness stress management workbook I am reading (among my foot-high reading pile), this week’s task was walking meditation. Righto. We live on 20 acres, I can do this. Easy. Get it out of the way before I spend time studying and then go grocery shopping and figure out what we’re having for dinner. So off I walked, deliberately making myself go very v e r y s l o w… and listening to the prerecorded MP3 from the book’s accompanying CD.
It was maddening.
I noticed my multitasking brain kick in. “Why aren’t you walking fast? You could actually get some exercise. Come on! This is a WASTE OF TIME….hurry UP.”
“Why are you doing this, it’s pointless.”
But I stuck with it, making each step as if in slow motion, concentrating on feeling the soles of my feet inside my shoes make contact with the grass. Feeling the air on my face. Noticing the cardinals in the woods. And eventually, the slavedriving voices stopped, and my mind kind of let go of the struggle to keep up with *everything* going on in the world. I thought of all the people who make an artform out of having and/or doing The Next Big Thing, and having to have a Pulse On What’s Going On, and made a deliberate decision to step out of that and not participate. A gentle but firm refusal to hurry up, and make a conscious effort to actually be slow. It felt like an exquisitely Naughty thing to do, this act of rebellion (which when you think about it is a pretty sad indictment on the state of our society.) And it made me smile. I now know why so many people the world over value T’ai Chi.
So, Chicken Littles…the sky is not falling. The sky is up there, as it always has been, if we take the time to notice. There’s very little in life that is a true emergency (even in my nursing job). Time to turn off the lights & siren.