May 10, 2009

Going for a Walk

There’s a quiet little retreat center in the middle of nowhere, about two hours away from my house. It’s called Mystic Trace, run by a good friend, and I’m hoping to get back down there in the near future for some more quiet time away from everything.

I went to Mystic Trace the first time a couple of years ago, and had a wonderful experience. Ice storms decimated the trees of southwestern Missouri only a few weeks prior; there were limbs, branches, trees, small forests destroyed. It was truly an awesome and surreal sight. I decided to go for a walk in the woods, where many more than two roads diverged.

I’m a fast walker. I honestly have trouble walking slowly. I can take on any mall-walker with no fear. As I started walking, I started with my usual mall-walk pace. Almost instantly, the question crossed my mind, “Why am I walking so fast?” For the next hour or so, I purposefully strolled, sauntered, meandered, and ambled through the woods. The simple act of slowing seemed to breathe new life within me. It was as if the actual experience of walking slowly refreshed me not only physically, but in my deep places too. I made it a point to try and not walk so fast all the time.

It is amazing the speed with which I forget things.

At the Hillcrest Walk for the Homeless last year, I got caught up in a conversation with a couple of friends, and completed the three-mile walk rather quickly. I don’t recall now what we were talking about, but I distinctly remember looking back for my family, not seeing them, and thinking, “This is not good.” About fifteen minutes after I finished, my wife and a gaggle of children converged upon the lawn of the Hillcrest House. “Why were you walking so fast? Didn’t you see we weren’t with you?” she asked.

I had no good answer. I still feel bad for getting so caught up in the discussion that I missed the chance to enjoy the slow stroll and play on the walk with the kids.

Sometimes we get in such a hurry doing good things that we miss the beauty of the moment. In this world of hyper-everything, where we believe we’re developing patience by when we’re asked to wait at McDonald’s, we have forgotten the splendor of slow.

This week, I’m going to practice being slow. If I ride my bike, I will ride slow. If I play catch, I’ll throw slow. If I drive, I’ll drive slow. If I read, I’ll read slow.

And when Saturday comes, I'll walk slow.

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