Friday, May 05, 2006

Slow

Sonja's blogging about living more slowly, which she describes as mindfulness and enjoyment of life. Like many people, it seems, she learned the lessons of slowness after falling ill.

I remember my early 20s when I lived on cigarettes, beer, Coca-Cola, coffee and adrenaline. Then this all came to a spectacular halt in 2002 when I had 2 major surgeries in 24-hours. I lost my gallbladder to my lousy lifestyle and ended up with liver surgery to repair damage caused by the incompetence of the surgeon who performed the gallbladder surgery. Today I live with high blood sugar problems and Chronic Fatigue. The Chronic Fatigue isn't bad anymore because it was an effect of the surgeries on a cellular level; so it can be beaten. After my almost one-month stay in Vancouver General Hospital, I came to a new awareness which naturally lead to my interests in Wicca, Witchcraft, Taoism, Yoga and Ayurveda.

I stopped being a monkey on a typewriter fueled by caffeine and pop-culture and turned inward and gave myself over to the Earth.

My own lessons in slowness came when I was living in Slovakia just over ten years ago. I didn't have a TV, phone, or refrigerator. The World Wide Web was nascent at that time, and there was no such thing as a computer, let alone an internet connection, where I lived. (Of course, now my town has a web site, albeit a quaint one.) My monthly teaching salary was the equivalent of 25 USD, and it was plenty to live and travel on. The trains were terrifically slow. I lived perhaps four hours by car from Prague (I don't really know), but I spent nine hours each way on trains to make the monthly trip. My teaching schedule was leisurely. I bought my food each day, and had to remember to buy food on Saturdays because all the shops were closed on Sundays. I wrote in my journal. I ate in restaurants (delicious pizza and a pivo for $1.50; a family of four would usually share the modestly-sized pizza, but I ate the whole thing myself and still lost weight while I was there). I read whatever books were available in English at my school, all donated by former American, Canadian, and British teachers. I wrote long letters to my boyfriend back home. I hiked in the mountains. I sat by the river. I drank coffee with my students. Being invited to dinner at someone's house meant picking up flowers or red wine (one kind, available everywhere for about 50 cents a bottle) and spending at least five hours drinking, eating, telling stories, laughing, and drinking some more. The Slovaks had few of the luxuries of modern Western life, and they weren't able to travel easily even in that newly post-Soviet era, because their salaries were so low. But their pace of life was enviable. I met one American who packed in his old life, married a Slovak woman, and stayed because he wanted to raise his children in that culture.

The lessons have slowness have stayed with me to some extent, even as they're harder to live in my culture. I love having to take an hour or two every day to walk in wild places with my dog. I love not having to commute - I don't know how people do it with any sort of satisfaction. My partner has taught me a lot about being committed to time with friends and family and not prioritizing work in the way we're "supposed" to; he still does excellent work, is productive, and earns recognition for it. I've also met a lot of people who place a premium on healing themselves and the world, on building spiritual community, and on cultivating health in the broadest sense. I'm steadily learning how to do what I love - including trying new things to love - instead of just doing what I think I ought to be doing.

I thought I wanted to be a university professor and scholar. Yet the two times I took teaching jobs - wonderful jobs that were truly gifts - I had health crises. I'm still surprised that my body has told me that those seemingly ideal situations were not what I should be doing. Similarly, I love my dissertation topic. But I haven't been writing my dissertation. Good, trusted friends are starting to suggest that maybe my not writing isn't about being blocked (and I haven't been blocked; when I manage to sit down to write, I write), about being lazy, about procrastinating, about refusing to grow up, or what have you. Maybe I'm not writing because some very deep part of me knows it doesn't want to be writing that project. This seems crazy to me - but crazy in the way that true things often first appear.

Slowness. Mindfulness. Awareness. Being fully in my body and fully on the earth. Knowing what I truly desire. These are the difficult, surprising, authentic, and only things.

3 comments:

Cosette said...

You are not kidding. I'm one of those people who is always moving. I can barely sleep at night because I can't shut my brain off. I tell myself that if I can just get things organized or to a certain level, I'll be able to relax. That it will be easier. But, of course, that's not true because there's always another five demands.

Slow and mindful were at the top of my list of New Year's Resolution. I haven't failed, but it's a struggle. I work at it everyday, just giving myself permission to stop, breathe, relax, and enjoy the moment.

Rubicon said...

wonderful post Inanna =) It's so cool you understand. Most people think I'm all babble and nonsense.

just to say something to Cosette :) trust. just have trust to let go. You don't have to give yourself permission or even believe; just trust in letting go. Choose. Then act. :)

Sravana said...

Wonderful post, Inanna (nice name, too!).
I have friends overseas who marvel at how insanely fast our lives are, here in the US. I'm wishing for milder times for us all