Most days, my husband’s work takes him all over our county; he sees miles of farm land and ranches along the way. He took this picture* and sent it to me via his phone–the sign must have struck a chord with him, I know it did with me. ‘SLOW DOWN’ : I think this can well be applied not just to our driving speed, but also to the pace of our daily lives.
Later on that evening, I commented to him how we as a society are always anticipating ‘the next thing’ — the ‘next event’. We go from one celebration to the next, seeking stimulation, seeking excitement, fulfillment, distraction… from what are we seeking distraction from? Ourselves? Silence? God? Can we not simply sit and ‘be’?
Christmas, New Year’s, Valentines Day, Mardi Gras, and most recently St. Patrick’s Day, are now in our rear-view mirror, and Easter is fast approaching. I’ve already heard talk and plans for Memorial Day weekend! Is there something wrong with celebrating holidays and events? No, but I’m questioning as to whether the ‘high’ of anticipation can be an end in itself — that we find ourselves bored if we aren’t counting the days til the next opportunity to distract ourselves from a meditative, introspective life. I am certain that as much as we all enjoy the anticipation of an event, it can prevent us from enjoying the present moments in our lives.
I have found that silence can be a scarce commodity. This past weekend, I settled down on my couch and watched the 1962 movie, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. I enjoyed the movie for many reasons, first being that the movie’s small town setting was during a much slower and quieter time –1932 — America’s ‘Depression’ years. As the narrator said at the beginning of the movie, “There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go and nothin’ to buy, no money to buy it with…” Lack of money will definitely limit one’s activity! In fact, it can weed out many useless distractions. During the 1930’s children were playing outside with friends, hanging out with parents, or reading, building play forts or tree houses with what scarce materials they had. Life just seemed more quiet and less hurried in those days. Secondly, after viewing the movie I felt calm, and I realized it was because a I had sat still for the entire length of the movie. No flipping TV channels, jumping from show to commercial, nor the camera jerking and swinging around from face to face, object to object. Watching a movie requires far more concentration, thought, and stillness of one’s physical body.
I am reminded of the verse, “Be still and know that I Am God.” Psalm 46:10, (and) “…He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul…” Psalm 23. I have found my soul to be restored and refreshed when I have stilled my attention from many things to one or two–that’s difficult to do in a fast-paced society that is just now coming to the conclusion that multi-tasking can mean doing many things at one time, but none of them not all that well. Yesterday at my place of employment, our Internet radio was on the fritz, and it felt a tad disconcerting. Customers came through the door and there was so much silence, I could almost hear them thinking… I even found myself apologizing for the lack of music and explained it’s absence. However, one customer expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to browse in peace. Later on that day, the business traffic slowed, and from inside the store, I could hear the tenant in the apartment above walking around and the church bells up the street chiming the hour. I stepped outside the back door and stole a few restful moments soaking up the sun and outside sounds which were more natural and purposeful than our worldly, human-made noise.
I slowed down… I cleared my mind of needless distraction… and for the moment, my soul was quieted, calmed, restored. With soul and body stillness, we open the door to clarity in our life; we not only arrive at decisions, we find direction and peace.
* Have you ever come upon a cattle drive on a country road? If so, you will realize that you can’t hurry cattle, nor can you blast right through the herd. You are forced to Slow Down, and in doing so, you will find yourself appreciating a single moment in time. Relish it! Cattle drives don’t come along every day.