I’m on the way in to central London this morning, a short journey from home to meet someone. I’ve left in good time, and as I step out of the door the autumn sun, reflected from the windows on the other side of the street, catches me with its warmth.
I’m already heading for the bus. Quick, quick, my inner-critic says, so much to do. If you rush you’ll have a few more minutes to get everything under control. My chest tightens, and my jaw clenches just a little, and my shoulders turn inwards and upwards. I become something of a getting-there machine.
But this morning I’m fortunate that I spot what’s happening and question it. Yes, there’s a long list of things to do… isn’t there always? But I did not set out early in order to go faster. I set out early in order to go slow.
The bus journey to the station will save me five minutes, and I’ll arrive for the train squashed-in, ruminating on things done and not done, body more clenched than before, another step into a machine-like understanding of myself.
Instead, this morning, I walk.
The sky is exceptionally crisp and clear today, orange-tinted clouds against a striking, high blue. And the leaves are turning to match the sky. Deep green outlines early-autumn red. I slow my pace so I can feel my body and my breath, and allow myself to open to the beauty around me.
And I reclaim myself. I remember that I am human – not a machine. That productivity and efficiency are but one part of a fully-lived life. That beauty, and the sky, and the rhythmic pace of walking and breath, and the deepening stillness of my mind are all foundations upon which I thrive.
The critic is, for now, silent. And my sense of time is greatly expanded. I see again how long the world has been here before me, and how long it will be here after me, and that now is but but one tiny aspect of a vast world of which I am a part.
We live deeply embedded in a narrative of efficiency and productivity, in which we measure our own worth and that of others by what gets done. In this understanding we understand ourselves as units of production, forgetting ourselves and our humanity so very quickly.
And we forget the simple practices, invisible from our narratives of busyness, that can restore ourselves to a fuller life.