The Virtue of Slowness, and Doing Absolutely Nothing

I’ve been thinking a lot about both the virtue of slowness – and the essential practice of doing absolutely nothing. Transferring these things to parenting a toddler is an interesting endeavor, and I have to use myself and my own experience and actions as a starting point. I don’t want to always be ‘busy.’ I want to create time and space for being available to whatever arises, without planning. I want to model just sitting, without always having to ‘do’ something. This feels particularly challenging in light of my little guy who is a non-stop playing, moving, jumping, running organism of energy (who constantly invites me into the fold of play). So – how to balance?

One vehicle I’ve found (at least during warmer weather) is to venture outdoors to the small open space corridor across the street. Rowan and I would go and reframe our lenses to the world of the very small. We would sit still in the grass and simply observe the insects, the blades of grass, the cattail, and the clouds. I’d point out the passing light of the day into dusk, or the shifting patterns of clouds, or the flutter of wings of a bird flying by. I’d welcome him to lay down with me, close his eyes, and listen. In this way we both found a quiet stillness of just being that is not quite as replicable indoors or at a playground or on a walk… Since winter’s wind and chill has blown in I’ve struggled to unveil those moments as often. Even in my endless pursuit of a cultter-free, simple home with minimal stimuli, I often feel assaulted by things and schedules (hmmm…something tells me I’m not alone in this)… And it occurs to me that a gift I want to offer my children is the capacity to navigate 21st century urban, industrialized, tech swarmed reality with some semblance of grace and sanity – where they are seated in a calm center of gravity and can self-regulate even in the midst of an onslaught of things and information and chaotic human energy. How to offer options and an experience that promotes reflection, slowness, thoughtfulness, focus, concentration and the like? It feels like a never-ending uphill battle – and the best I can do is model slow-moving, careful interaction with my surroundings.

Harkening back to my last post: there is no rush. There is plenty of time. We don’t have to do anything. I can model a restfulness and groundedness even in light of swirling toddler energies converging. No need to rush the transitions. The journey down the stairs is equally as fascinating as the impending grocery sore trip. Sitting on the couch and looking out the window with Rowan is just as valid an “activity” as my plans for play dough making or art projects. (Where on earth did the idea emerge that we need to have activities for our kids all the time?) Sometimes over scheduling has become an antidote to my own fear of restlessness that has arisen for me in moments of solo parenting. When the literal playing field is empty, there is a sense of uncertainty for me about how to be. Playing trucks doesn’t come naturally. Nor does jumping off the couch 50 times. How to stay present and authentic even when I don’t want to push the monster tow truck? The invite is to participate in the unfolding moment with a sense of unhurried openness – and to rediscover deep engagement with imaginative play… And, to offer structure and guidance when needed. Sometimes, the best next thing to “do” is NO thing.

Let’s just lay here!

Look at the infinite possibilities in the pattern on the ceiling!

Wow! The wind is blowing the trees outside. Let’s look!

I wrote this several days ago, and I smiled to myself when I heard an exchange between Chris and Rowan tonight before dinner. Rowan was begging Chris to watch the trailer to the new film The Lorax (which is his current book obsession). Chris said, “Rowan, I actually just want to sit here and watch the sunset.” Rowan at first didn’t understand and asked whether it was something to watch on the computer (!???!!!? OH GOD!) Chris chuckled and showed him how to sit on the couch and look out the window at the brilliant oranges of mountain sunset behind our house. While the moment only lasted a split second, therein lies the seed to be planted in this crazy making era of stuff and entertainment: Just look outside and marvel at the colors of the sky…

This Divine Moment

A poem to share from James Lane Prior, from The Divine Moment:

Whatever has been

is gone.

Whatever will be

does not yet exist.

In this space

we reside.

Don’t give it another thought.

Expand this space.

Sustain this moment.

Those who would distract you

with notions of speed, growth

and decay are merely nervous.

Remain steady in the Stillness.