Bella and the Spiritual Practice of Slowing

Bella decided she was going to bite the bullet and go to the Ignatian Centre for an eight-day silent retreat. Anyone she told did a type of shiver at the thought…because it sounds like you have to actually be silent for eight days! This is when Bella gathered up her enthusiasm, climbed over her own shiver and said, “Well, you do get to talk to a spiritual director once a day.” That didn’t change anyone’s idea that this was not something they would sign up for.

It was June and the weather was just perfect – sunny days with breezes and blue skies. She arrived at the retreat centre with enough stuff to last her a month. A plug-in cooler with her own goodies, the baby Afghan she was crocheting for the next grandchild soon to be born, her special pillow, a blanket, rain boots for bad weather, a good umbrella, a number of books…there wasn’t a situation she wasn’t prepared for. Except for the overall situation she was placing herself in!

Along with the other retreatants, she gathered in the chapel to find out who her spiritual director was and be given the instructions for their stay. There was a young man, maybe in his late thirties, a Jesuit priest. He reminded her of long-gone hippy days. His colourful shirt and non-matching shorts, hair that looked like someone had ruffled it affectionately, and a face that was marked by softness just oozed gentleness and kindness.

He said other things but only one thing powerfully stayed with Bella. He looked out at all who had gathered and said, “Walk gently on the earth – there is no need to rush.” “Walk gently on the earth.” She knew she would never forget this line. Throughout the eight days, she often saw this dear man passing by, either in the common room or in the cafeteria. She knew he must be busy in his leadership role but he always walked gently on the earth. Just watching him walk that way made your heart lay down and feel a sense of the gentleness of Christ. It was so beautiful.

Bella had never walked gently on the earth except as a child when she would wander in the fields or through the woods lost in her own thoughts. She moved at a fast clip even when she wasn’t in a hurry. She believed the lie that her body liked being quick; it gave her a sense of importance and efficiency. Sometimes things couldn’t move fast enough for her. But watching this man gave her a deep yearning to slow, just to slow.

She practiced during those eight days and it was lovely…walking slowly, noticing things along way whether it was a corridor or out on the many acres at the centre that one could walk on.

When she went back to work, she tried to walk gently around the building. There was a long corridor from her office to the main office. She would take off, as it were, out of the gate of her office door, remember part way down the hall and slow it down. Always, the memory of the Jesuit Priest helped her to keep working at it.

From the book:

We can get so busy doing urgent things and so preoccupied with what comes next that we don’t experience now. Afraid of being late, we rush from the past to the future. The present moment becomes a crack between what we did and what we have yet to do. It is virtually lost to us. We don’t get to our futures any faster if we hurry. And we certainly don’t become better people in haste. More likely than not, the faster we go the less we become.

Slowing is a way we counter our culture’s mandate to tend to the bottom line, to move it or lost it, to constantly be on the go. It is a way we honour our limits and the fact that God is found in the present moment. Through slowing we intentionally develop margins in our lives that leave us open to the present moment. Slowing ourselves down doesn’t happen automatically. We may need to incorporate some practices that make us conscious of our haste. Perhaps we drive in the slow lane for a week. Or we may try to eat more slowly. Buffering in the five to ten minutes between appointments can also slow us down. Sometimes I choose to stand in the longer line at the checkout counter. When I do this, I become aware of the internal compulsion to hurry and how it can rob me of the now. As I slow down, I see the young mom with her kids in two and send up a prayer. Or I notice the old woman who can’t get her change right and help out. Ask God to help you live in the now. The present moment is the only moment we ever have to live. It is here, and it will never come again.

Photo by Brett Jordan-Unsplash

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All