“When do we ever find such deep permission, to stop, to see that it is good, this world, this life, this day? Just as it is, without our effort or interference? When do we hear the call, when do we allow ourselves to surrender so completely to non-productive time, to be allowed to be stopped, to rest, to allow things to be as they are, and to marvel at the unattended miracle of it all? — Wayne Muller, author of Sabbath and A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough
Wayne Muller, an absolute gem of a human being and writer on the unhurried life, has offered an exquisite piece on Sabbath and the need to slow down and savor the miracle of our lives for the Patheos June Public Square on “Slow Living.” You must take a moment to read his words today. You will be the better for it, I promise. Other writers from around Patheos are contributing to the topic as well.
This conversation on slow living just so happens to coincide with my own experience of both childlike glee and adult confusion about what to do with all the “white space” on my calendar this summer. In some mysterious twist of fate, the calendar gods have conspired in such a way that my normally densely dotted schedule of work events, church meetings, choir practices, family affairs, and projects to do has opened up entirely … so much so that I keep wondering if I’m forgetting something I need to be doing (kind of like that recurring dream I have about getting to the end of a college semester and realizing I never attended one of my classes!). In fact, I’ve noticed I’m slightly uncomfortable with all the white space. Should I take some vocal jazz classes? Should I join a community service project for the summer? Should I learn how to knit? Paint? Speak Spanish? It’s almost as if I can’t handle the slow, the nothing, the free time, the open space. While I rejoice in the slowdown of my life, I’m also strangely resistant.
And as wise spiritual directors have told me over the years, listen to the resistance. It has something to tell you.
So I’m listening. I’m trying to listen to what my resistance to slowing down is trying to tell me.
And here’s what interesting. While I’m listening for the deeper lesson lurking within my resistance, I’m also listening to what leaning into the open spaces is trying to tell me about living. And I’m noticing some things.
I’m noticing that I’m listening to my boyfriend less hurriedly and with more compassion, and looking into his eyes more deeply. I’m noticing our family is cooking together, eating slower and savoring the flavors. I’m noticing I’m sitting down to play Monopoly with the boys, and taking bike rides with them with no agendas or time limits. And I’m noticing how that’s changing the nature of our relationship and drawing us closer.
I’m noticing how I’m actually writing a blogpost, the first in a very long time, and following an idea to the end. I’m reading a book. All the way through. I’m noticing how, when I get home and get out of the car, I drop my bags, walk to the grass and turn around, taking in the big trees, the blue sky, the fading flowers, the unruly garden. I’m noticing how my body feels when I do that, where I need to stretch out, or roll my shoulders. I notice I’m laughing out loud, at the goofy energy and playfulness of the dogs as they race out of the house to greet me.
I’m noticing how relaxed and less agitated I am when I wake up (and when I go to sleep). I’m noticing that I’m purging my house of clutter. I’m catching up on some really good movies, and they’re making me think and feel deeply. I’m noticing a deep sense of joy within me for the simple things. I’m noticing gratitude.
Self-absorbed? Maybe. Or maybe … other-absorbed is the better way to put it.
Work is always there. But open space, in this world, can be fleeting. So what if we embraced it, lingered in it, for a season, and noticed what happened?
Again, from Wayne Muller:
“This is what it is to live in Sabbath time. To see, taste, touch, smell, listen to the still, small voices, rejoice in the simple elegance of Life itself, in all its sensual splendor. And, nearly giddy with excitement, to drink long and deep from the sheer magnitude of experiencing all of it in this body, with all our senses, an ecstatic prayer of gratitude erupting in our hearts, grateful for the astonishing privilege of being alive, free of struggle or striving, awash in the midst of this unimaginably beautiful creation God made for us.”