Slowing down our pace of life is getting more and more difficult. Taking a deep breath seems to just be a meaningless saying with no frame of reference though it is one of the first things that a therapist or doctor would tell us to do in a stressful situation.
Several years ago I slowly began to notice specific moments and events that would linger in my memory. These moments were typically found around a table, kitchen island, or fire-pit with new and old friends while savoring beverages, food, and conversations. The word ‘companion’ leads us to the table, originating from the Latin companionem, meaning ‘bread fellow’, someone we break bread with. Mary Douglas, a structural anthropologist imagines social situations as ever decreasing circles which each enclose greater familiarity. We each have concentric circles of intimacy.
"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Who we share our table with also influences what we have as a part of the meal. A proper meal typically includes a combination of contrasting elements – hot and cold, bland and spiced, hard and soft – as well as dietary requirements of protein, grains, and vegetables. Much like who each of us are wired to be, we are different, diverse, and unique. Eating is a communal act that allows us to savor the food, converse and relax. Yet the early 19th Century sociologist Georg Simmel argued that cultures put such an emphasis on communal eating because, ultimately, eating confirms our isolation. Finding others who share an interest in slowing their pace of life can sometimes be just as difficult as the act of slowing itself.
Find pace setters: Enjoy a beverage that requires sipping versus consuming quickly. The space for conversation and observation will heighten. The more noisy an environment, the shorter conversations tend to be. Discover spaces with ambiance. Exhale and enjoy a meaningful and inspiring conversation where listening, speaking, and learning take place.
A meal where you include others in the process. Converse during the creation as well as the consumption. Resist having every course at the table at once. Take your time. Discuss several subjects. Resist topical conversations that never have opportunity to get off the ground. Discussing several subject will enable more meaningful discussion possibilities.
Every so often I drop the top on the Jeep and drive along the Natchez Trace (a beautiful slow paced scenic path through a national reserve). Much like the posture one must take while entering a place of solitude in a monastary, driving along “the trace” forces you to slow down and breathe in the air while observing some wildlife along the way.
When I make these drives I make a deal with myself and my Creator. No social media, no texting. Nothing but me, my Jeep, and creation. Because of this arrangement, I tend to be more present in the moment. I am more aware of the sounds and smells around me. What would happen if we had that presence most of our days? Would we be more aware of others, their needs, and how we could assist instead of drive to our own goal and expectation?
There have been many moments where I sensed the Divine presence. One day specifically, I was headed back towards returning home. Radio / playlist was off, wind flowing through the vehicle, leaves beginning to turn color and float down from the towering trees above - then I felt compelled to simply look up. The floating leaves overhead already had my gaze, so as I gentled lifted my head skyward for a moment, I noticed a rare bald eagle soaring effortlessly. I remember laughing out loud and saying “of course there is a freaking bald eagle flying along with me on the Natchez Trace”. Coincidence or not, I took it as the Creator giving me a bit of a head nod. It was an environmental communion unlike I’ve ever had.
Take the long way home. Drive with the windows down.