I’ve come to appreciate some of the catchy phrases and quotes we use to remind ourselves to take a breath and slow down the pace of life. Slow and steady wins the race. There is more to life than simply increasing its speed. Slow simple solutions. Slow ride, take it easy. And as much as I adore the soft cuddly fur that blankets the strong powerful body and legs of the snowshoe hare and jack rabbit, I admire the tortoise for the passion to go the long distance at a comfortable pace, not racing the clock or placing unnecessary expectations on his arrival.
And so when I have had the great fortune to spend time in places that require me to slow down, shift my pace, I find it challenging to come back to a world that embraces “world’s fastest” and “land speed records.” A few years back I visited Knoll Farms in Waterbury, Vermont for a week long retreat on climate and energy issues. I knew some of my colleagues that attended the retreat but we were given permission to strip ourselves of titles and positions within our careers that week and just simply be humans working collectively on solutions at a pace that unfolded naturally. The minute I arrived, my watch, that had faithfully ticked on my wrist for several years, broke. The band snapped off and the dials stopped moving. I folded it up carefully and placed it in the bottom of my backpack. I guess I would have to borrow a clock from someone. But there were no clocks. There was no keeping of time, there was only the asking that you woke with the sun and slept by the moon. At first, I found myself glancing often at my naked wrist, for guidance on when to be where but after a few days, my body and mind knew when to move and my pace was slower, more thoughtful, more purposeful.
I found a similar pace on the Appalachian Trail. When the thru-hikers woke up early, unfolding their maps and guidebooks to plan their pace and mileage to make it to Katadhin before snowfall, I simply let the weather, my feet, the air and my intention for the day dictate my journey. It was a beautiful way to live. And again, last summer, when I visited the Omega Institute for a week, sure, I needed to be “on-time” for my workshop sessions but I was once again living simplistically, eating slowing, walking from place to place, without a care in the world and life slowed down once again.
What is fascinating, and honestly a bit jarring, is the transition back to your “normal” life after having spent time in these slower realms. I remember my dear friend and colleague who I carpooled with to Knoll Farms, making a side trip into Montpelier on our way home. “Let’s take our time. We are in no rush,” and as we meandered the sidewalks at a snail’s pace, others blew by us, nearly knocking us over on the rush to get somewhere seemingly important. When I got home, I sat in the backyard as close to the woods as possible every morning eating my breakfast in silence. The sound of the TV sharing the weather and news, rattling off as much information as possible in a five-minute segment was rattling to my bones. So I found solitude and silence in nature. And as much as I tried to bring that slower pace into my work and commitments, those that had not had the same experience and benefit as I had grew tiresome and impatient with my slow smile, wandering gait, lazy gaze.
I’m looking forward to moving to the land in Lyman and looking forward to some upcoming events that ask me once again to slow down, take it easy. And I hope this time I don’t ever fully transition back to the demands of the rabbit’s world. I often think how different this world would be if everyone took some time to experience that pace of life and how much more we would accomplish by slowing down and letting things unfold at a pace they were meant to unfold.
As Lily Tomlin once said, “For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.”
(Picture: A turtle on the Appalachian Trail)