Learning to recognize and acknowledge even the smallest steps in our own growing process.
Going 75 mph
You are never any "where" until the slowest part of you gets there…
You can leap forward and slide back as many times as you need to…
And, you can also choose to advance by taking smaller steps!
I spent most of the first 32 years of my life constantly hurling my self forward at great speed, pushing my self mercilessly to the next step, stage or level. To that earlier me, anything less than the emotional equivalent of 75 mph looked like being stuck. My journey was full of dramatic cycles of careening forward, crashing into emotional walls of one sort or another, getting battered, winded and my knees full of gravel.
After each crash, I'd be frantically busy for a time tending my wounds: metaphorically picking the gravel from my knees, bandaging cuts, wrapping bruises and sprains. By the time I'd finish this repair and regrouping process, I'd invariably look up to find that the wall I'd crashed into had, by then, disappeared. Surprised and delighted, I would be on my way again: doing 75 mph, hurtling (unawares) toward the next wall, crash, etc.
My life was full of exciting and dramatic movement (albeit often of the ten steps forward, nine step back variety). It was also pretty exhausting and often devastatingly hard on me.
Late one night, a friend and I left a board meeting at the Santa Barbara Freedom Clinic on our way to a café for a delayed dinner, she in her Volkswagen Beetle and I on my bicycle. She would get to each intersection much faster than I would. Then, every time, she'd have to stop and wait for the light to turn green, with both her motor and the car's at fast idle.
Tootling along on my slower bicycle, I'd get to each of the corners just as the lights turned from red to green. There were many such corners on our way. More than enough of them for me to get that it didn't matter how quickly or slowly we got to each intersection (threshold), neither of us could go through it until the red light turned green.
It was an "aha!" moment, a turning point in my life. I realized that the way I had been choosing to deal with the time before the red lights in my world turned green – the time before the slowest part of me arrived at the crossings/thresholds – had been the source of much of the exhausting drama in my life. Till then, it had felt too scary to move slowly, to take small or even intermittent steps. Only careen-crash-batter-regroup had ever registered as aliveness or progress to me or, it seemed, to the world around me.
It took time and living for me to fully assimilate this new understanding. But, on that night, I began choosing to look at life with different eyes, to change my scale for measuring movement. I started viewing everything through magnifying rather than usual, culturally approved, minimizing lenses. As I looked with these different eyes, I could recognize the progress in baby steps. I grew less afraid of and more able to risk moving slower and choosing smaller steps.
It has taken a whole lot of practice, (and lots of lovingly reminding my self that this really is an honorable and righteous way to live) for me to comfortably choose to go more slowly and gently along my path. These days, I'm more likely than ever to get to the thresholds of shifting in my life just as the lights are turning green, with even my slowest part right there with me. There's something comforting and comfortable about that. I love it.
There is richness and vibrancy to life lived more slowly and gently. Going slowly allows us to more fully feel both what we're moving through and how it's actually affecting us. This widening awareness allows us to know sooner and more clearly when something isn't right for us. It also allows us to need less because we're actually taking time to savor and experience whatever it is we are in the middle of rather than always zipping unfeelingly through it to get onto the next accomplishment or acquisition.
The more we risk practicing to choose the gentle path, the harder it becomes to be taken over by the cultural more-bigger-faster-yesterday trance. Yet, starting the practice without support can, in our crazy world, be scary and isolating. Think about starting to practice with a friend or two as a mutual support network.
Consider being tender and careful with your self as you explore the gentle magic of slowing down.