Friday, July 24, 2009

Slow Down and Pay Attention!

With the longer and warmer days of summer, I have been doing more walking and running outside in our neighborhood. On fine weather days, Todd and I like to end our day with a brisk walk and a reluctant Sophie (our Bichon Frise) in tow. She likes to stop and investigate EVERYTHING, especially fire hydrants and flowerbeds.

Indeed, we have something to learn from Sophie. In our fast-paced life, we allow the world to fly by and don't really even notice what is going on. Think about it... When you're in an airplane, you pretty much don't see anything that is happening in the world. You're traveling at jet speed (literally) and clouds often obscure your vision. If you slow down to a car ride, you see more things, but everything is buzzing by so quickly, that you can barely register them. How often has your child (or somebody else in the car) exclaimed: "Look, a deer!" and by the time you get around to looking, you're down the road and the deer is out of sight.

When I started biking to work, my appreciation for the route changed drastically. I could smell the trees and the flowers. I saw bunnies hopping across the bike lane. I noticed houses I have never noticed before. It was exhilarating! I also felt my muscles working hard to get up the hills and sweat forming on my forehead as I reached the top. The whole experience created a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction which is not possible with a car ride.

I am able to take in even more of the world when I am running or walking outside. The other day, I was joined by a deer on my morning run. I saw her out of the corner of my eye as she pulled up next to me and then veered off to nibble on a neighbor's landscaping efforts. How magnificent! When I walk, I notice trash on the ground that I sometimes pick up to throw away. I see people that I pass and have a chance to offer them a smile. Perhaps I am able to brighten somebody's day. That is my hope.

The point of this illustration (or is it an allegory?) is to show that the more we slow down, the more we will be able to see the world more clearly and joyfully. This is important for a lot of reasons:
  • You'll know what's going on with the people around you and be able to act accordingly. "Did you have a tough day at school today, honey?"

  • You'll know what's going on in your community and find ways to get involved. I've found an organization called Urban Ecology Center that helps restore and maintain neglected parks in underserved areas of Milwaukee. I've signed up for Park Ranger duty (i.e. picking up trash).

  • You'll know what's going on in the world and may be compelled to help. Have you noticed how many people in the world are starving? Over 1 billion... That's 1/6 of the population.

  • You'll be a healthier person. "Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness." (Richard Carlson)

  • You'll enjoy life more!

We live in a beautiful world. Yes, it's a little messed up, but it is beautiful. Slow down and enjoy the small pieces of beauty that are all around you: A child dancing to the music, a blooming tree, fresh strawberries, a flowing river, a warm smile, a cup of Chai tea, a good book. The list goes on.

Slow down and make the world a better place!

NOTE: Photo by Bev Lloyd-Roberts at stock.xchng.

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