Taking the Slow Path

***This is a re-purposed blog post from May of 2010, as relevant today as it was then. In one way or another, this “chaotic time” has been going on for a while. We should have become used to it, but we aren’t. Here’s the good news: You’re still around four years later, and still reading; I’m still writing. That’s something.


Last week, a student snuffled at the next desk. He muffled a couple of coughs in his elbow as kids are taught these days. “Go home,” I said to him. “You’re sick.” He nodded. “Are you speaking tonight?” He nodded again, muffling another cough. “Then leave after your speech,” I said. He shook his head. “I can’t. I can’t let my group down.”

That’s what I get for teaching a focus on community in Public Speaking.

I could have moved desks to observe and evaluate the speeches, but I didn’t. I handed him tissues and admired his dedication. At the beginning of each semester, I put an emphasis on responsibility to their small group as well as to the larger class as a whole. Maybe that’s what he was thinking by isolating at the back of the room. What could I say?

I hadn’t been sick all semester and thought nothing more except to hand him a tissue from time to time. By Friday, my soft palette was achy and I began the regimen of Emergen-C and Air Borne. By Saturday, my throat felt like a marching army in dirty socks. More Air Borne, more Emergen-C. Sunday morning I felt okay so went to church. Cliff said stay home, but I didn’t. And by Sunday afternoon, I was bona fidely sick.

The past few weeks have been pretty chaotic. For us all. Too much going on and too much to do and too many sudden changes in direction. Not much down time other than an evening stroll into the yard before dinner to cut asparagus, see how the flowers are doing.

“Behold the lilies of the field;

they neither sweat nor toil.”

Most spiritual traditions say the same in one way or another: Slow down. See beauty. Take time with your life. Or else (there’s always an “or else”) you get struck down in one way or another – this time with a cold, another time with a heart attack, another time with a broken leg. Take time. That’s exactly why I walk into the garden in the evenings, to take time – but one fifteen minute stroll in the evening doesn’t solve the challenges of the other hours.

No matter how many times we read or hear the same message, we get caught in the whirl. It’s even possible to be conscious we’re in a whirl and still be caught.

So, if being conscious of the whirl isn’t enough to stop, what is? I’m reminded of the play, Stop the World I Want to Get Off, first produced in London in 1961. It isn’t as if this particular time has the dibs on chaos. It’s been around; it will come back. So, is stopping when we are caught in chaos the answer?

In reality, being conscious of chaos doesn’t necessarily allow us to sidestep; the task is learn to live with it. To stop being afraid (I wasn’t afraid, just unwise) or in my case, cranky because my head filled with gunk and my chest hurt.

In modern-day vernacular, that’s some of what the Buddha said: suffering is part of the human condition, but you can choose how to live with suffering.

Today, I’ll take the slow, winding path, watch the sunlight, be at peace. Come sit with me. Well, I’m contagious, so do it in your imagination. You won’t hear my sniffling.