What a great line in Sunday’s New York Times from adventurer Tim Cope: “There’s a wonderful saying among Kazakhs that if you have to rush in life do it slowly.”
Faithful TLLP blog readers know that I’m always on time for my own life, but now that I no longer find myself rushing to and from my previous four jobs, I’m really letting this wisdom sink in.
Yes, you read that correctly: Four jobs! Hey mon! Gotta go to work! Before I finally left a politically stressful job passing a
referendum to continue funding children’s programs, I was working 30 hours a week in the office, then teaching six or seven Yoga classes a week, writing freelance articles for magazines whenever they were thrown my way (which was a lot) and also doing energy work as a Reiki master for those who came into my life in need. On top of this, yes, I also was fairly active as a marketing consultant, helping non-profits and small business owners rework their web sites and envisioning success beyond their current sights. And I had a life! I surfed, dated, met friends out for drinks, traveled and petted my kitty.
But once I decided to slow down, I realized how unmanageable that all was. For starters, I wasn’t healthy. My adrenals were all messed up. In my 30s, I had stress acne, which wasn’t helped by my obsessing over the imperfection. I didn’t get my period for a while. And no, I wasn’t pregnant. Sheesh.
It was beyond feeling unhealthy. I wasn’t me. I was rushing from me, rushing as a way to avoid being. It’s part of our smartphone culture now: When you have a moment to breathe in your fast-paced world, you better be checking in with social media or your email. With your face in your device, no one can accuse you of slacking off. And yet, of course, nothing really comes of that.
I saw my friend Jim out tonight while roller skating, and he told me another good quote by James Taylor (you know, with the whole “Suzanne the plans you made put an end to you” b.s.): “The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time.” I’m on it.
Living on the boat now with only two jobs, really – I’m still teaching Yoga, mostly privates and subbing whenever needed since I let go of all my regular daily classes, and also freelance writing – I have more time to myself. I exercise now, everyday. I’ve become one of those people walking the bridges of whom I used to be so envious while speeding from here to there, usually late. I take daily naps, sometimes for 20 minutes and sometimes for two hours. And you know what? That’s helping me lose weight because I’m not desperately trying to fuel up to continue a crazy pace. I allow myself to take a break.
I’m also moving slowly as I learn how to sail and live on a vessel. Clamping the extra sail on the bimini won’t work if I’m struggling and cursing, but taking my time makes it possible. Bundling up the main sheet, storing foodstuffs, maintaining the composting toilet … sometimes I feel like I am SCUBA diving, moving in slow motion while I complete a task. And then it’s done right, I’m not injured and I’m relaxed.
It’s not easy to slow down. Yoga tradition teaches us about the gunas, three ways of being that describe life around us. Basically, you’re either tamas (the couch potato), rajas (the go-go-go) or sattvic (with your head in the clouds). So by slowing down, I’m able to balance all of these ways of being. Like today, I went to the gym, then met a publisher to work on an upcoming editorial calendar, then over to a private Yoga session, then back home for a nap before writing. That’s pretty rajas. But then on Sunday I allowed myself to lounge about and read the New York Times and listen to Ethio-jazz. (Ohh, that link is the soundtrack for the blog!) And Monday I spent time reading Be Here Now to plan a Yoga class. Now when I realize I’m all go-go-go, I stop and be-be-be.
American culture doesn’t give much value to being. What a shame. We’re so worried about making money that we don’t
register the negative impact that makes on our lives. By slowing down, I’ve found that I’m more patient with myself and those around me. I’m not so demanding. There’s no need to shoehorn everything into one moment; instead, I can honor the moment just as it is.
The key to this, of course, is recognizing the abundance of time. During the busy day today, as I was heading into the shower in between the gym and my meeting, I saw a friend who told me a long story about what’s going on with her. And I stopped and listened. She needed someone to listen. I was glad to be a sympathetic ear for her. Then I looked at my watch, and booya! Right on time for my life, baby.
Do I have a long to-do list right now? You betcha! I’ve got four writing assignments, going to bake a cake for my friend’s birthday (did someone say rum cake?) and I have to finish the bimini project on the boat. But I’m rushing slowly. I know I don’t have to do it all immediately. And if you have someone in your life that makes you feel that way, I encourage you to reevaluate your relationship with that person. Especially if that person is you!