“Sitting still is a way of falling in love with the world and everything in it; I’d seldom thought of it like that”
– Pico Iyer
Years ago I heard the poet, David Whyte, say: “When you race through life at one hundred miles an hour, the only things you notice are whatever else is going that fast.” Information and communication technology have put all of our lives on the fast track. It is difficult to slow down and almost impossible to stop. I noticed while hurrying through the check-out line at Randall’s that the cover story of Time Magazine in June was “Who Killed Summer Vacation?” “Uh Oh,” I thought, “This is more bad news.” Of course I didn’t have time to read it. But it has occurred to me that there are other things missing from my life because of the speed at which my friends, family, co-workers and I all seem to be moving. I don’t have time for hosting dinner parties and even cooking seems to take too long. Leisurely drives through the Hill Country don’t seem so leisurely anymore because of the traffic that is speeding by me. And my neighbor and I have been trying to find a time to share a glass of wine for at least a year now!
I know I’m not alone in feeling the burden of all this speed because a slim little volume called The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer is on the New York Times best-seller list. Mr. Iyer has put his finger on our fast-racing pulse and felt the longing for stillness. This longing has been growing greater as evidenced by the many articles, books and classes on mindfulness—not just in spiritual circles but in the Harvard Business Journal and in companies like Google.
If sitting still is a way of falling in love then maybe all of this speed has caused us to fall out of love. We can’t love what we don’t take time to notice. And it is impossible for me to love when I’m obsessed with micro-managing and being in control. This came to me in a gentle and simple way in the desert last week. I had been teaching in Tucson and my husband flew there to join me for the weekend. We didn’t have much on our agenda just relaxing. But because we only had a few days to do this, I began to feel an urgent need for it all to be perfect.
And as soon as this idea took hold of me, I noticed my mind and heart racing, my blood pressure climbing.
“What if,” I thought, “what if you just pretended everything was perfect just as it is?” I’m sure I was only capable of this thought because I had been in the sacred space of the Sonoran desert for almost a week surrounded by grace-filled people. Once I let go of the impulse to control, I was able to slow down and eventually be still. And I did fall back into love. I saw that everything is perfect—not just the cottontails that nibbled the grass outside our room, not just the purple tinged Tucson Mountains, not just the gift of time with my husband but everything that is –is what it is meant to be. I would never have been open to the grace of this awareness if I hadn’t dropped my agenda—my preferences–and been still.
It is difficult to maintain such awareness in the midst of suffering, overwork, and our hundred-miles-an-hour lives. But when we lose this awareness we miss opportunities to experience joy and practice kindness; we lose the gift of being in love. That is why I’m grateful to Mr. Iyer for reminding me “in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”