“And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?” – Rumi
It’s a beautiful summer morning, clear and still cool. I’m sitting outside on our patio, sipping tea and listening to the birds, watching the sun catch the tops of the cedars, and counting my blessings for the holiday time that stretches before me. Now I can really slow down.
We’re in a season of transition for everyone in our house: the youngest boys have just finished finished middle school, our 18-year-old graduated a couple of weeks ago from high school, and our eldest completed his undergraduate degree and graduated in mid-June. In the middle of all this, my husband was offered a new job. June was crazy.
Now, with the year-end concerts and celebrations and graduation ceremonies behind us, I feel as though I can take a deep breath and unwind. But as I sit with my tea, listening to the distant voices of neighbours drifting through the trees, I’m not feeling the calm I expected. In the quiet of the morning, I’m noticing anxiety fluttering within.
And this is the big surprise for me about slowing down: it doesn’t automatically leave me feeling all calm and centred and grounded. When I slow down, I also notice less comfortable states. Hello sadness. Hello anxiety. No wonder it’s so easy for me to keep myself busy.
When I began my journey toward simplicity, I wanted to reduce the stress and distraction of a too-busy life. I wanted to feel calm and healthy and centred. I began slowing down in a very deliberate way, saying no to additional work and social obligations, and making space for meditation and journalling, walks in the woods and extra rest. Slowing down has definitely been a pathway toward greater calm. I just didn’t anticipate where else it would take me.
Today it’s a fluttering of anxiety. Some days it’s sadness. Those uncomfortable states I’d rather avoid. But somehow in slowing down, there’s also patience and compassion enough for me to stay with the feelings and explore them a little. What’s that fluttering in my stomach? Anxiety? What’s that all about?
Slow down and listen. Underneath today’s anxious flutterings is some sadness. My middle boy has finished high school and I’m watching as he takes his first adult steps away from me. My impulse is to hold on tightly. And I know that I can’t. I know that my work now is to stand back and let him stand on his own. It’s the way things are supposed to be – and it’s unbearably sad for me.
When I’m running at full speed, I can ignore these states, the anxiety, the sadness. When I slow down, I can’t help but notice what’s happening. I have to pay attention. And if I’m patient with myself, gentle, I can live a while with the feelings that arise. I can hear what they’re telling me, let them inform my direction.
Today I might give myself some time to celebrate the adult that my son is becoming – and to grieve the inevitable endings that come along with this passage. I might pour another cup of tea and sit outside a little longer, listening to the birds, listening for the wisdom that sometimes comes in slowing down.