For a few weeks now, the pain of a swollen knee has induced a combination of caution and conscious, deliberate movement. More pain, for no obvious reason, and with no clear cause. It affected me mentally as well as physically, and although it has improved gradually, it’s still not quite right. Given what I wrote in the previous post, I have looked deeper to see if there is something I can take from the experience.
The first lesson is to listen to my body. Pay attention to it in the way I experienced during a Qi Gong workshop. That makes an immediate difference because, as with every single one of us, the body wants to be heard (and it has something to say). The second is to slow down.
These are not new insights. I have been here many times before (see the related posts at the end). The cycle is always the same: learn, forget, revisit. Over and over again. The forgetting arises out of distraction, or stress, or the sheer force of our old, established habits – in this case, haste and a lack of awareness. Fortunately, each time we remember or are shown, the new habit strengthens. It’s just that, as we shall see, it can take years to get there. (Which is okay, by the way.)
Lesson one, listening to my body, is in line with the experiences from those Qi Gong workshops, as well as being a prominent goal from 2014. It is also commensurate with another book of Charles Eisenstein’s I’m reading, The Yoga Of Eating (p.76):
‘Your body tells you what it wants. Don’t overcomplicate the matter. The proper attitude towards one’s self, with all its flaws, all its folly, all its selfishness and hurting of others, is one of pity, compassion and understanding.
Your body is like a child […] that tells you its every need, if only in a very quiet voice. Be kind to yourself.’
Listening more closely helps me with lesson two: slow down. Slowing down in this context means becoming more mindful. More aware. It’s about being able to explore the depths in each moment, instead of rushing from one to the next… to the next… to the next. Slowing down is necessary, unbelievably overdue, and clearly very difficult for me. In my book, for example, the subject is raised multiple times, going back as far as 20 years. Here are some examples:
- Sitting on the beach listening to the waves was a lovely way for me to slow down and find my way back to myself. (p.57)
- …slow down, relax, and experience the unfolding of events as the universe and everything in it simply creates. (p.75)
- Slow down – thought, word, and action. Everything. (p.76)
- …everything has started to slow down, and, although I have no real evidence for this, I feel more perceptive and more focused than usual; as if things are making more sense. (p.87)
- If I don’t start to relax, slow down and have some fun, then I could wreck all the foundations we have built up to this point. (p.207)
- …we chatted about my real need to slow down… (p.214)
- I am growing and becoming empowered. Slow down, don’t get cocky. (p.245)
- Things are going well for me and I am motivated, but I need to slow down. (p.578)
In the midst of this latest reminder, I listened to a discussion between Eisenstein and Martin Shaw, a storyteller and mythologist. Towards the end of their conversation, Shaw explained that sometimes he has to sacrifice growth for depth. I felt the immediate relevance of his words. That’s what this post is about. Sacrificing what I think is necessary for growth – movement, effort, progress, something to display to the world – in order to slow down (or stop) and deepen my insight or experience.
There is richness and value to be found beyond the veneer, but it’s not a view that is easily held in a world so comfortable with the superficial. Unsurprisingly then, it has taken discomfort to get me to slow down and be mindful. How loudly my body must shout for me to hear! Ironic, because it doesn’t necessarily require any effort to look beyond. Quite the contrary:
Slow down. Stand still. Observe quietly. Move deliberately. Breathe consciously. Listen closely. Connect intentionally with the Earth. Know that there is something to be discovered. And seek to inhabit the depth of all things.