I Go Slow
I’ve been slowly writing this in my head for weeks! The limitations in my mobility are still new to me and I remain a bit self-conscious about the speed with which I traverse any given path. Given the miserable weather we’ve had, I notice I am just as slow in the pouring rain as I am in the sunshine. I generally lack any speed or gear other than slow. I chuckle when people holding the door encourage me with, “Take your time.” I certainly hope they don’t think this speed is me rushing!
I realize I am self-conscious about my speed because slow is not a prized value in today’s culture. Even personally, as a professional, single mother I prided myself on multi-tasking and disposing of tasks efficiently. It still feels foreign to find myself calculating how many steps and trips it will take to accomplish a simple household task and trying to minimize the walking. Occasionally it is on the tip of my tongue to suggest an outing to my daughter. Then I stop myself. How exactly could I balance myself to play miniature golf? How far would I be able to hike or is there a trail that is accessible.
As I acclimate myself to going slow, I’ve been reflecting on slow as a quality we value or discount. Mostly, in this country, we discount slow. Some cultures enjoy leisurely meals, while we have elevated “fast food” to new heights. There is a lane on the highway if you want to drive slow (or even the speed limit) and you leave your lane at your own peril. We have traded “slow cookers” for “insta-pots”. As parents, we lament the speed with which our toddlers and teenagers dress themselves. “Hurry up” we urge them. Then suddenly they are leaving for life on their own and we are not in such a hurry.
Most of us have little patience with slow. When we label intellectual challenges as “slow learners” it is not a badge of courage for their perseverance but a disdain for their need for repetition and support. We avoid events in which we might have to suspend our usual haste and wait with those whose disability slows their pace of ordinary activities like walking, eating or speaking.
Slow is also a comparative term. Slow is a measure of speed compared to the speed of something else. Comparisons lead to fear and stifle our creativity. In comparison, we often find ourselves lacking and then our ego mind has to strategize how to survive. One gift of my earliest introduction to spirituality was that it was grounded in an indigenous culture with a lack of comparison. I knew Great Spirit was in the chipmunk and the bear; in the turtle and the eagle; without one being superior to the other. Different but not better than or worse than is not how the Western world usually does comparisons. I learned this when I went to school.
I wasn’t picked for teams and I couldn’t keep up at recess or on field trips. I didn’t get asked to go to dances and often wasn’t invited to parties. The message I received was that slow and small were less than and definitely not preferred in peer groups. In a culture that measures speed in gigs and nanoseconds, slow has no value.
Spirituality, like nature, has a different rhythm than humans dictate. The seasons don’t hurry. The seed takes as long as it takes to sprout. A leaf lets go gradually, not anxious or fearful about the next phase. Awakenings arrive slowly or in flashes but there is no skill or force that can determine that. Spirit is patient and allows us as much time as we need to learn our lessons, presenting them again and again until we master the insight. Grace gives us the benefit of unearned blessings and spares us the fruit of our own folly without a measure of time. Time disappears in the immersion of oneself in the silence of Oneness. There is no slow nor fast—just being.
For “animal medicine” or the wisdom that comes from our animal brothers and sisters I reflected on sloth and tortoise. Tortoise is more familiar and I know they are different than turtles but the medicine card I could find says turtle. I found Tortoise symbolizes longevity, endurance, and being grounded. Tortoise is ancient and wise, never needing to rush or worry. It knows that it always has everything it needs within its shell. Sloth is a newer symbol, not originally found in this country. Sloth symbolizes relaxation, conservation, grounded-ness, and patience. Sloth is a conservation master and uses only the needed amount of energy for any given activity. Wow, that is exactly how I calculate my activities! Both are grounded and patient. What extraordinary qualities to possess in this hurry up world!
I go slow. It is with pride and not shame or embarrassment I claim the value of this quality.