One thing people ask, wherever I go, is how to incorporate Slow Love into a busy life. Great question--and note, I didn't call the book Slow Life. That's because most of us are busy; we have to be, if we are making our livings, raising our children, supporting our parents, tending our gardens. Engaged with life. Even most of the people I know who have "retired" are quite active and have fully scheduled days.
When I was flattened after losing my job, I longed to be busy and productive. My job was to learn how to build a new life, reinvent myself for the midlife part of my journey. Being slowed down gave me the chance to stumble upon--and appreciate--an ancient concept, and reinterpret it for my life.
Not slow life, but slow love: one of those simple, but radical, concepts that can profoundly alter a life. Leaving yourself open to the miracle of the world all around us. Taking a moment, or an hour, or a day, to savor it. Learning to slow down from time to time. As I write in Slow Love, knowing what you've got before it's gone.
Last night brought me a lesson in how easily we slip out of the habits of mindfulness. I was writing up my field trip notes on Pasadena, but I'm now in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Jim Wolcott warned me that it was important to write up your blogs immediately, lest the energy slip away from them. So right. To which I would add: lest you slip into another place entirely.) Anyway, I'm in New Mexico, thinking about California, and suddenly the bells from a nearby cathedral begin ringing madly, lustily. They are giving off huge, deep, melodious sounds. I lifted my head from the computer to listen, amazed at their sonorous beauty.
The bells kept ringing. After thirty seconds, I put my head back down and continued writing, hardly hearing the bells, dimly aware that they were still pealing. I thought, what a gorgeous noise, I never get to listen to that. But I was acting as though I couldn't handle such beauty; I tuned it out. And I kept being in my memory of California while I was sitting in New Mexico not really hearing what was going on around me. Actively resisting it, I would say. And why? So that I could stay "on task"?
Until suddenly one bell gave off such a round ring that it reached my heart.
I stopped typing, put the computer down, laid my head back on a sofa cushion, and let myself fall into the magic of the bells. I thought about how bells were once such an important part of communal activity, ringing in daily prayers as well as seasonal changes, town gatherings as well as personal rituals. I wondered if the vibrations really could reach me, physically, in a cleansing way, and wondered too about how anyone ever invented a bell in the first place. And I listened, and felt, and basked in the concert. What a gift. Available to anyone in earshot--should they choose to listen to it.
I almost missed the bells. I almost missed that wonderful, soul-stirring music. I caught my Slow Love Moment just in time. And those bells wove their way into my dreams, and have been with me all morning.