Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Time Is On My Side

Does it pay to be slow? The world is in a hurry. Everyone wants everything at top speed and no one has time to wait. This is an age when people's lives are packed with activity and no one has time to sleep for long or to sit about doing nothing. And as for those who do nothing, they know that very few people waste any time on them! Which is why it was refreshing to read about an exhibition in Bogota, Colombia, which celebrated a week of laziness.

'A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.' wrote W.H.Davies, the hobo poet.
John Lennon sang, in the beautiful ‘I’m Only Sleeping’

'Everybody seems to think I'm lazy
I don’t mind, I think they're crazy
Running everywhere at such a speed
Till they find
There's no need, there's no need.'

And, even better,

‘When I’m in the middle of a dream
Stay in bed, float upstream, float upstream.’

It doesn’t pay to be slow -- but it just might be a good thing if you choose not to worry about what pays! (And this is definitely not a campaign to ask people to slow down at the work that they are paid to do.)
Maybe nobody actually likes waiting for trains or buses, at airports and restaurants, at the dentist's or the doctor's, but there are people who don’t really mind when they have to. How restful it is to empty the mind. How much more refreshing it is to let it fill with the impressions of the moment. It is nearly impossible to empty the mind entirely, but one could come close to it at certain moments before sighing deeply and picking up those burdens of daily existence again.
Why pick them up at all? Or why not carry just one burden a day? The Reiki Way teaches how to take just one step at a time, and each of the Reiki resolutions is made with the prefix, 'Just for Today'. One is 'Just for today, I will not worry'. It isn’t possible to do too much at one time without worrying, or panicking even, and definitely not without getting stressed out. Deadlines give you a heady rush, but that feeling takes away more energy than it gives.
There is a poem about some dry leaves by the roadside that are whirled into movement by a passing truck. They start believing that they have a life of their own. Once the truck has moved on, they lie dead and motionless again. The poem beautifully illustrates the emptiness of actions that have no meaning. All activity is not physical. There is a life of the mind, as well. Reading a good book, listening to a good piece of music, or watching a good sports performance can energise and enrich us. So can conversations with friends. So can a good daydream. ‘Stay in bed, float upstream, float upstream.’

Some people want to slow down; to stop to think, to savour and assimilate one experience before moving on to another. Most people today keep moving, investing every experience with intensity and never flagging. They have enough energy to make up for those who stop to dawdle, or take time off to rest and just be somewhere. You might meet holiday makers of both kinds. For many, a holiday means exchanging one set of activities for another, while some resolutely stay put at one spot, lazing and gazing. We cannot mock at either kind.

Everyone today realises how important it is to take a break. There is a lot of awareness about the value of relaxation, and people take to Tai Chi, Yoga, Art of Living, meditation or Reiki. Tai Chi teaches slow movements. Yogasanas, among all the things they do for you, also actually slow down breathing to a point where it is shallow and minimal. Reiki treatment slows down the breathing rate in no time at all and automatically brings about complete relaxation within minutes.

All this is not meant for young people. The young like to sleep or rest or ‘chill’ as they would have it, only so that they can move on to do more things.
Something like Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’:
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life!

My dad used to talk about how things should be done in a measured manner. He didn’t exactly say it like that -- I wish I could recall and reproduce his exact words, but he illustrated how things could be done with thought, and in a considered, deliberate way so as to make them meaningful. A daily routine became almost a thing of beauty. He enjoyed life hugely, laughed and made others laugh, and made a little happiness go a long way. When we were younger and we wanted to do a whole lot of things at the same time, or have several treats or goodies at once, he would advocate a little at a time - whether it was cashews, or plantain chips, or anything at all. He'd ask us to stretch the pleasures out, to make the happiness last awhile.
With middle age, and a natural slowing down, I recall his ideas with joy since I can understand them so much better.

There's much to be said for moderation.
There are people one comes across who career off from some hectic schedule of activity to a 'Vipassana' meditation camp where no activity or communication is allowed for fourteen full days. This crazy zigzagging between spiritualism and partying is like binge eating followed by crash dieting!
There are many people who cannot take too much. Not too much company, not too much food, not too many activities, and not even too much rest.

What of those who have no choice? The elderly, the very ill or the unemployed must have a very mature understanding to value the quiet life when it is the only life open to them. It takes wise people to value solitude and repose even when they have not been chosen consciously, but are a part of life as it is for them.



Everyone is rushing somewhere, hurriedly finishing a task, forever running, running, running on a treadmill....
Did not John Milton say, "They also serve who only stand and wait." Just to be still and do nothing, letting things happen quietly. Such pleasure.
Another line I love is "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." (Jesus Christ in the sermon on the mount.)
How much pleasure in just being, just the joy of existence.
I am all for the vicarious life - let others do the running around, I shall watch with pleasure.

PentaTwo said...

One of my favorite JL songs. Most coincdentally, I have been humming/singing that song for the last two weeks. Not that I can sing!
It is just past 4:30 PM on this dreary afternoon -- am sipping some of M's green tea. Something I got to like during our last trip to New Delhi in November 2007. Obviously made it Mohan style!

heckler said...

And I love to live so pleasantly,
Live this life of luxury,
Lazing on a sunny afternoon.
In the summertime

Kamini said...

Another lovely one, Gowri. As a life-long somberi, I read your words with a warm glow! I feel vindicated in my choice to eschew the rat race and run around madly "achieving" things round the clock. Not an easy thing to do in a forever-on-the-move place like New York!

shampa said...

wow..!! This is a refreshing way of thinking in an age that is sick with hurry and worry..

Even when we are in the midst of some hectic activity, there is a gnawing feeling that there's no need..really no need..but we seem to be tied to routine and deadlines..

Ma'am, I read your write-up at a time when I am over-burdened with work..yes, I now want to slow down and smell the roses..

Life really is beautiful..! just need to perceive it in small everyday seemingly "mundane" things..

Here's to life..!! :)