By Jeanne Hunt
“Slow down, you move too fast. Ya got to make the morning last….” These lyrics were humming through my mind one morning as I was surprised by a driver who ran a red light, cut across two lanes of oncoming traffic and nearly caused a major collision all in the name of getting somewhere in a hurry.
As I drove on, I thought of how fast we move as a culture. We are encouraged to multitask. The more we do, the more we are worth. In the secular world, idleness is wasted time and money. Yet, in God’s world, being still is considered a grace.
To consciously choose to do nothing, to slow down and listen to the world around us, to even listen to God’s voice is pure silliness in the eyes of many. Yet, the constant drive to be “doing” erodes the soul. Soul time requires quiet.
So many overachieving, career-oriented people have lost touch with their soul because there simply isn’t time to think about such things. Many others refuse to open the doors of their souls because they fear what they might find within their own hearts. This overdone society is creating adults who routinely work 12-hour days, children who are hustled from one activity to the next and mid-lifers who wonder what happened to their dreams.
So, the time is ripe to begin to embrace slow time. Slow time permits us to observe a sun set down to the last ray and breathe in the first strains of “the dark sacred night.” Slow time encourages us to spend a full day without a watch or a clock as we do what comes to us without regard for the pressure of a schedule. Slow time calls us to listen to those we love with our full attention, not becoming impatient for him or her to finish. Slow time teaches us to be still and know God.
So how do we, bedraggled, watch-wearing, iPod-using people stop our revving engines and get them down to a graced idle? It will take discipline and purpose, but the results are engines that will not explode in the fast lane.
First, begin every day with a quiet time. Whether you call it prayer or time with yourself, just sit in stillness for a few minutes. Every time your thoughts go to your overwhelming schedule, take a deep breath, exhale and just be still. Spend these moments getting in touch with how you feel inside: What is causing you stress? What worries do you carry into the day? What is good about the day you are about to begin
Next “do what you are doing” or “Age quod agis.” This old Latin adage is full of wisdom. We must try to be fully present to the task, the conversation, the work of the moment. When we are single-hearted and focused, we work better, there is more clarity, and most importantly, we are released from the tension of multitasking.
Finally, pause often during the day to enjoy what you see and hear. God means to surprise us with priceless gifts all day long: the smell of pot roast when you walk into the kitchen for the evening meal, the sound of your aging father’s voice on the phone, the touch of a coworker’s strong handshake as you welcome her into a gathering…each is a treasure in the world of the Divine One.
So what are we waiting for? Can we stand to waste one more day in a hurry and miss what is really important? Can we afford to race through our lives and wonder when it was that our souls shriveled up and turned to dust? Slow time invites us into a gentler, kinder existence in which God is watch-less and just sitting on a bench waiting for us to be with Him.
Hunt is the catechetical and evangelization advisor for St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications.