I believe in the power of slowing down. I believe in tranquility. I believe in the beauty and intrigue of stillness.
The first time I ever got a glimpse into what it means to truly slow down was the summer after my junior year of high school. That summer, my family (6 of us in all) piled into a pickup truck that barely held us pulling a trailer behind that barely slept us, and took 10 weeks out of our chaotic, busy lives to simply explore the country we live in. We went as far North as Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies to the Southern tip of New Mexico, from Pennsylvania to the coast of Oregon. The only thing we knew for certain when we left was that we had to be home by August 17th. Everything in between was completely up in the air.
That summer we all slowed down. For the first time, life wasn’t about hurrying around doing things. We did our fair share of hiking, driving, kayaking, and canoeing. But we also had our fair share of just being. We sat around countless campfires, spent countless hours just talking, getting to know each other better, and took in countless breath-taking scenes. We learned to love and cherish this new found stillness, this lack of pressure that was so foreign to us. Some mornings I would wake up and not remember what state I was in, much less what park I was in or what city I was nearby. I came in contact with the most awe-inspiring, beautiful scenery I believe God has ever created. The beauty of the natural world brings out such stillness, such serenity, that sometimes all I could do was gawk, and leave inspired. It left me with a sense of power, a sense of being something far bigger than myself.
This whole new experience of slowing down and recognizing simply beauty for what it was, was something that intrigued me. It was not something I could just give up once the excitement of the trip was over. I felt so inspired by it, so centered, and so whole.
Health teachers teach us that, to stay healthy we are to exercise at least three times a week. Today, exercise for me is not just exercise. The reason I get up every morning at the crack of dawn to take a run along the Millrace is not just about fitness. It’s about taking time out of the craziness of life to breathe. It’s about the river, the leaves, and the colors of the sky. It’s about slowing down and taking time to feel my own power and realize the beauty of the moment and the potential of that exact time, that exact day. It’s a time to think, or sometimes not to think, to pray, to just enjoy the complexity of nature, and to enjoy being with myself. With the stresses and pressures of everyday life, a quiet center is often hard to find. Slowing down is not something our society promotes. Tranquility isn’t popular. But, for me, it is something that is essential. Life loses its sacred meaning without it.
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