Written by: Kathie Houchens
Date: September 1, 2015
“So how is your summer going?” I asked. “Fast!” answered my friend.
According to NASA, “Light travels at a constant, finite speed of 186,000 mi/sec. A traveler, moving at the speed of light, would circumnavigate the equator approximately 7.5 times in one second.” Sometimes it feels like life is moving at least that fast!
I lose my bearings when I try to understand the concept of time. My sense of the speed of its passage seems dependent on where I stand in its stream. As a child I begged to be pushed higher on the swing, to be pulled faster on the sled. And with a freshly minted driver’s license, who was not tempted to see the speedometer reach the maximum? As a child, the time leading up to a birthday or a holiday always seemed to drag. Under twenty I wanted everything to speed up. But recently I find myself digging in my heels, pulling back on the reins of life, trying to slow the tide that is carrying me too quickly into a sea of unknowing.
A photo of my husband and me in Hawaii in 2005 surfaced recently. The trip was a memorable one, so as I absorbed the image of us seated beneath the palm trees, it felt like we had been there only yesterday. I could almost smell the tropical flowers and hear the lapping waves in the bay. Is it really 2015 now? Where did those ten years go?
My next thought took me by surprise. Yes, retirement is an invitation to slow down. But beyond the physical changes and less rigid time commitments, is there a deeper motivation? An inner wish to “control” the speed of life? A reaction to awareness that the sand in the hourglass seems to be in “rush” mode? I want to hang on to each day, each minute, every nanosecond. I see time continuously slipping through my grasp. Is there a healthy slowing, a way of being, that neither feeds on fear and desperation, nor drags its way into depression?
Attitudes toward and acclimation to the aging process are as varied as are people. Acute and chronic illnesses and disabilities bring emotional and social, as well as physical responses. Adjustments are not easy. Professional help may be needed. Life is difficult! M. Scott Peck awakened me to that in The Road Less Traveled thirty years ago. I didn’t want to believe it then, and I resist it now, yet experience makes it undeniable. Where do I find wisdom to see the hourglass half full, rather than half empty?
When so much can happen in the “blink of an eye” and “time continues to fly while I’m having fun,” I crave “some slowing as I move through adulthood – Act 2. Does slowing extend the days, enrich my experiences? I try mindful eating. I allow each bite to linger on my tongue and be savored for maximum enjoyment and better digestion. I remember to decelerate on my walk through the neighborhood. I notice a small flower in the sidewalk crack, and pay attention to the cicadas humming in the trees. I stop to engage in conversation with a neighbor rather than scurry by with a nod and a wave.
Learn to stay “in the present moment” say wise and spiritual leaders of every age. What helps you be in touch with your breath and heartbeat? How do you set the pace of your days? Do you ever take off your watch, cover the clock face, and spend some timeless time? Do you prefer yoga, prayer, a musical pause, or a stroll in nature to quiet your mind and spirit?
A couple of book titles related to “Slowing” as a positive way to fulfilled living are Barbara Mahany’s Slowing Time, and Richard Carlson’s Slowing Down to the Speed of Life. In the subtitles they suggest seeing the sacred outside your kitchen door, or creating a peaceful, simpler life from the inside out.
Christine Valters Paintner, author of Lectio Divina – The Sacred Art: Transforming Words and Images into Heart-Centered Prayer, suggests,
“We don’t gain wisdom by rushing through life and skimming across its surface, but by going slowly and diving deeply.” She asks, “How might you slow down and delve deeper into life?”
Her recent book, The Soul of a Pilgrim, Eight practices for the Journey Within, will be at the heart of an upcoming internet-based sacred journey of pilgrimage. Maybe a virtual pilgrimage could invite you to set a new rhythm of life as you look for a way to kick off 2016? Or perhaps a slow-paced reading of the book could provide wisdom for your journey right now?
In 2011 I participated in a seven month program called Personal Spiritual Deepening offered by Shalem Institute. I found wisdom for discernment and transition, tools for the process of living out of a place of hope, trust and love at a time when circumstances might have promoted fear and panic. Please share your wisdom for living at a pace that feeds your soul, fulfills your longings, brings compassion to the world around you. What challenges or surprises have you encountered in your “time travel?”