Speed

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My dear friend Jen sent me the perfect text the other day. “This has been the weirdest longest shortest year ever.” It’s hard to believe it’s now December, nine months since everything came to a grinding halt. In some ways it feels like just yesterday that we were trying to figure out what this virus would mean to all of us. And in other ways, it feels like years ago. Time has actually gone by just as it always has, but it has felt different this year.

Prior to the pandemic we were a society moving at breakneck speed. Our devices are made to work quickly and efficiently so that information, goods and services, and communications are all at our fingertips. That in turn helps our lives do the same. Then we were forced to slow down. For many of us that has been a difficult thing. Moving quickly can be a way of not allowing ourselves time to dig too deep into what is going on around us.

Being forced to slow down can actually be a great gift. I found a quote relating to this by Pico Iyer in Tias Little’s book “The Practice is the Path,” and I think it resonates with that idea.

“In an age of speed…nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.”

Tias’ book has a whole chapter devoted to how speed gets trapped in the body. Our bodies have become addicted to the adrenaline rush of speed. According to Tias, “Speed gets trapped in the diaphragm, fascia, gut, arteries, and nerves.” This speed trap results in exhaustion, lack of concentration, high blood pressure, restlessness and lack of awareness. Tias says: “How do we take our foot off the accelerator? It begins in the body by slowing the heart rate, reducing the sympathetic drive (responsible for the flight-or-flight response), slowing the breath, lowering blood pressure, and sleeping longer and deeper. On the mat, we learn to break out of the “habit body” that is compelled by urgency and motivated by acquisition. We must learn the art of being through ease, stillness, and silence. In yoga this is called satchitananda – the joy of just being.”

It is my hope that, as the winter Solstice approaches and the days slowly become longer, we learn from slowing down. That we notice the passing of an hour, a day, or a week. And feel satchitananda.

Gifts

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‘Tis the season to be thinking of gifts for those we love. And along with everything else this year, Christmas has a different vibe and we may not get to be with those we love. I have been struggling myself with the idea of meaningful gifts for those I love and ways to spark some holiday cheer. Here are a couple of ideas I came up with:

The gift of a meaningful compliment Do you recall how it feels when someone gives you a compliment that really hits home in your heart? It’s one of the best feelings there is. For many years, I struggled to really hear and take in what people were saying when they paid me a compliment. I did not have the self worth to acknowledge my gifts. Now, I take them in and really feel them. I was given one this week by a dear friend and it brought me to tears at how heartfelt it was. Sincere compliments are the best free gifts there are!

The unexpected gift Is there someone you know that is typically not on your gift list? Why not surprise them with an unexpected gift. My neighbor just recently surprised us with a beautiful cheese board in the shape of a lotus flower. She saw it, thought of me, and it made my day. It’s amazing how it great it feels to receive an unexpected gift.

The pay it forward gift I love the surprise on people’s faces when their coffee or groceries get paid for by the person ahead of them in line. I just saw this week that the longest “pay it forward” chain started on Dec. 3 at a Dairy Queen in Brainerd, MN and lasted 3 full days. The 900 vehicle chain resulted in $10,000 in sales. I sure wouldn’t want to be the person that broke that chain! While we may not be out in public as often these days, the need is real out there. And what a great way to spread some holiday cheer.

Desmond Tutu puts is beautifully in The Book of Joy. “So… our book says that it is in the giving that we receive. So I would hope that people would recognize in themselves that it is when we are closed in on ourselves that we tend to be miserable. It is when we grow in a self-forgetfulness-in a remarkable way I mean we discover that we are filled with joy. In the end generosity is the best way of becoming more, more and more joyful.”