Monday, June 28, 2010

Real Life Tao - Slow and Steady

It is when we slow down that we can better be able to notice the small and often fleeting moments that add up to a life. Life is not one big party after another, nor is it one terrible tragedy after another either. Much of the times our lives may seem boring or even trivial. But that is only when we are programmed, by television or unreal expectations, that life will always be exciting and fulfilling or else we are missing something grand and important. We must learn to treasure the small moments as well as the grand ones.
~ from Cha Dao: The Way of Tea, Tea as a Way of Life by Solala Towler ~
I certainly realize that, as a disabled individual, I possess a luxury that I bet most of you don't: I'm rarely in a hurry and slowness aptly describes my everyday existence. While so many of you are tossed about because of family, work, church and social group expectations and responsibilities, you often can't spare the time to sit in solitude, focus in on the beautiful, yet trivial, aspects of life and to reflect and ponder the sort of ideas and concepts that are part of my daily routine.

While my disability and social anxiety/isolation have set the stage for my slowish lifestyle, it hasn't always been this way. During the majority my working years as a social worker, investigator and political activist, I lived a fast-paced life. No matter how many items I moved off my plate, there always seemed to be hundreds more to take their place. I always seemed to be in a frenzy of activity and it was not uncommon at all for me to work myself to exhaustion.

Even worse, I couldn't seem to shut off the spigot in my head. Every waking nanosecond (I think it was just as true when I slept) ideas, concepts, images and words streamed through my mind. My few vacations were not very relaxing because I couldn't seem to relax. Falling asleep was extremely difficult because of the constant conversations ricocheting around in my cerebral cortex.

When my work output began to diminish because of my fibromyalgia and ongoing difficulties in navigating the social world, I thought this might aid me in slowing down the running commentaries in my noggin, but they actually increased. It got to a point about a decade or so ago that I thought I would drive myself mad. No matter how hard I tried to turn down the spigot, nothing seemed to work.

Completely frustrated, I threw up my hands and quit trying. I thought I would be relegated to suffer with this demon for the rest of my life!

It was around this time that I began to investigate Taoism. The more I read and contemplated, the more the Taoist perspective spoke to me deeply. It was during this time of study and deep reflection that I began to notice that my mind was slowing down. Initially, I thought it simply was an anomaly, a brief pause in the torrential downpour of my inner life.

In time, however, I realized I was undergoing a major shift of some sort. I couldn't put my finger on what it was, but I slowly began to realize that the traffic jam in my head had dissipated. By not overtly attempting to shut it off, it somehow shut itself off. Today I can sit for long periods of time with nothing or a few lazy thoughts meandering here and there.

Now that both my external and internal self has slowed to a crawl, I notice little imperceptible things I never had the wherewithal to notice before. I can become mesmerized by dust balls floating across the carpet or watch the birds or listen to the wind and not feel as if I'm neglecting some expectation or responsibility. I feel far less stressed and I now revel in all aspects of life.

Really. That's what slowing down is all about: taking the time to be present in every moment. When we're constantly rushing to and fro -- physically, mentally and/or emotionally -- we don't give ourselves the chance to catch our breath and enjoy the lives we've been blessed with.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.


  1. Wow! I am exactly where you are. And, in fact, I have been thinking about it as well.

    I'm half-heartedly looking for work. I really love the quiet of my home and the small things that I get to do, like canning food, baking for my special needs diet, researching about my aches and pains, reflecting about life and stuff.

    I really don't miss being out there busy all the time from disasters to parties from success to failure.

    But unlike you, I feel guilty about it. I feel that I SHOULD be out there.

    Actually, if it were up to me, I would move to a small town somewhere to live happily with little money and even less pretense.

  2. Why isn't it up to you (with consultation with hubby, of course)?


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