Slowing Down to that Inner Voice
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” ~Lao Tzu
“And so taking the long way home through the market I slow my pace down. It doesn't come naturally. My legs are programmed to trot briskly and my arms to pump up and down like pistons, but I force myself to stroll past the stalls and pavement cafes. To enjoy just being somewhere, rather than rushing from somewhere, to somewhere. Inhaling deep lungfuls of air, instead of my usual shallow breaths. I take a moment to just stop and look around me. And smile to myself.
For the first time in a long time, I can, quite literally, smell the coffee.”
~Alexandra Potter, The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather
Today was the first day back to work after a two-week break. The intensity of the schedule had me feeling “pulled backwards through a hedge,” as my English husband might say. Looking ahead to the rest of my week, nearly every hour of the day is booked with classes or meetings, and I wonder how I will get everything done that I need to do.
When I got home today, I planned to run, but I realized that, if I listened to my inner voice, what I needed on this particular afternoon was, instead, to stop running. I had been running all day from responsibility to responsibility, duty to duty, and what I really needed was some gentle time outside in the warm sunshine doing something physical and enjoyable but not strenuous, not driving myself. And after that, I felt I needed to take whatever time I could to be still and to write.
I looked around at our winter-battered yard and started casually carting branches to a scrap pile, inwardly inviting the grass beneath these fallen branches to revive. I added ample birdseed to our bird feeders that welcome sweet chickadees, nuthatches with their funny tufts, regal cardinals, infamously greedy blue jays, and plump bluebirds, along with, it seems, just about every kind of woodpecker in the known world. “Come, birds,” I silently beckoned. “Grace our yard with your colors, your song, your jaunty movements.” And then I scoured the yard for evidence of new life. This is our first spring in our new home, and we each are eager to see what surprises unfurl around us in terms of plants, flowers, and bushes. I found a patch of earth that at first appeared entirely covered in long, bleached out grasses lying flat against the earth in a kind of criss-cross pattern. To my delight, as I got closer, I spotted many green shoots barely visible trying to find their way through the woven grass matted above them. I thought of grabbing a rake or some other tool to help me set these shoots free, but instead I bent down and used my cool, bare hands. Soon my hands were warm from the effort, and I didn’t mind when I felt dirt under my fingernails. I wanted to feel the soil on my own skin while liberating these tulips? daffodils? crocuses? I cannot yet tell. They retain their secret identity for a while longer. I found the sensation of late afternoon sun on my back delicious while I worked with a slip of a smile on my face until most of the light green shoots were revealed. And now I am writing on our porch with the late March sun streaming in, and through the old, paned windows, I see evidence of bits of green grass surfacing just beside receding snow. This is just what I needed.
Some days I work late. I don’t always have the time to enjoy a sun-drenched afternoon or to write, but I am grateful that today, when I had a choice, I didn’t force myself to run when my soul was saying, “Slow down! Spend some time in nature, yes. But allow room for expansion and meditation. Quiet yourself, and reflect, and just be. And then write about it!”
So many of us find ourselves rushing from thing to thing to thing. Can you relate? Are you exacting with yourself, seldom listening to your spirit or what your body is telling you? Are you getting outside, doing something physical when you know that you need it? Are you slowing down and reflecting and being okay with less productivity when your spirit is calling you away from the daily grind? I want to spend time this week listening to the inner voice that whispers wisdom, the voice that knows what I need and that always prioritizes my welfare. Instead of silencing it, I want to pause and listen. I know that when I do, I will find myself reinvigorated and refreshed.