This 4 letter word has captivated my curiosity for quite some time. The meaning of 'time' itself first impressed upon me in my late teens when I moved to Brussels, Belgium. People seemed to live at a different pace than I was accustomed to back home in the Midwest. If you were enjoying what you were doing, there was no perceptible rush to be anywhere else. Coffee was a drink to be savored over an equally delicious conversation. Lunch was an actual meal you sat down to during the middle of your workday vs. something you inhaled at your desk while knocking off a few more tasks from your trusty to-do list. Siesta and afternoon tea, although beginning to lose their place in the bustling hub of the European Union, were still regarded highly by many as a sacred daily practice. Dinner was an event that religiously drew people back together as the sun set on the activities of the day. Exercise was a leisurely stroll in the most beautiful and serene of green spaces, an atmosphere that was maintained even when teeming with Sunday guests.
Aside from the camping outings and retreats of my youth, Europe was my first impressionable taste of life lived at a slower pace. Moments seemed to spread out more and time itself was something to be luxuriated in and enjoyed. A return stateside for university and work and the accompanying frenzied pace made me hungry for more of 'slowed time' or timelessness altogether. An invitation to travel through some of the most remote and pristine provinces of Argentina via mountain bike held the allure of satiating that craving. Days were marked by the rising and setting of sun, pangs of hunger and the satisfying feeling of ‘full’, the need to relieve oneself of bowel and bladder and the welcoming bliss of pillow and pad at the end of a long day. Sore muscles or an invitation to tea or traditional barbecue gave good reason to pause from pedaling and resume when the rest and merriment felt sufficient. I was distinctly aware that in the absence of ‘time’ and schedules, there was some kind of solace in daily routine...wake up, fetch water, break fast, clean up, pack up, pedal til you drop, settle for the night, rise with the rooster or barking dog and repeat all over again. The scenery, terrain and witnesses to our journey changed but the daily routines grew fairly consistent.
After Argentina, I returned to work and to a more hurried daily grind once again. I grew ravenous inside to stop the clock altogether. I felt a deep internal hunger to experience the meaning of each moment and the impact I had on these moments, if any. In hindsight, this longing began on the bike as I battled against my own will to keep going. When I applied meaning to the moment, I realized that the courage and stamina to overcome the external challenges before me, or the physical limitations of my own body, came from an internal mindset as much as anything else. While pondering the meaning of life and my purpose in it, in between thoughts of "what the hell am I still doing on this bike?!!", I also devoted much mental energy to planning my next big adventure. The impending return to western civilization with its inevitable ticking clocks made me anxious to create a life in which I had some control over its pace. I loathed the idea of settling in one place amassing a lifetime of stuff I knew I could live well without.
While planting the seeds of a global bike tour volunteering at spiritual retreat centers along the way, I sought out ways to help me cope with a deepening sense of restlessness. The outer world felt as if it was flying by at break neck speed but few around me seemed to take any notice or feel visibly disturbed by it. Discovering and cultivating a daily interior spiritual practice gave me the experience of boundless time that only my restless soul could know to long for. Quickly this practice shifted all of my priorities in life as I yearned to teach others who were hungry for this same internal experience above all else. Fast forward several years through living in spiritual community, ministering to others, marrying a fellow priest and birthing a family of our own. My longings began to shift once again. Life was happening all around me and I felt as if I were missing it while immersed in my own world of spiritual practice and ministry. Everything around me had to speed up so that I could afford the time to slow down in those seemingly self-serving experiences. My spouse, kids, co-workers and patients got my leftovers.
Aside from how I felt while engaged in spiritual practice, I lost all sense of me. I was on auto-pilot performing a role and a function that looked good on the outside. On the inside I grew more and more numb to the world of sense and tangible life experience. It’s as if I could see it through a looking glass but I couldn’t taste or touch it anymore. Mealtime and mothering were chores to get done so I could move on to the ‘work’ and experiences that really mattered. Something felt painfully off-kilter and time felt all out of wack, stretching out in some areas while cramping up in others and in ways that began to feel all wrong. Once again I found myself needing to right my relationship with time and the things and people that occupied it. Don’t get me wrong, the people I ministered to were important and deserving of all the attention they were given...but at what expense to my partner and children...and even my own self in the end?
Fast forward a year or two beyond our departure from the ministerial life when my husband took up rustic Italian cooking and the dinner table replaced the altar as our place of daily sacrament. His culinary journey led him to the concept of ‘slow food’. That discovery inspired in me the idea of ‘slow living’. After naming my Instagram feed accordingly I discovered, with joyful surprise, that it was an actual thing...a movement...a lifestyle that growing numbers of people around the world are aspiring to and working intentionally to create! While my Aries-nature derives satisfaction from being a trail blazer and a leader of the pack, I am happy to know there are way-showers before me who can teach me a thing or two about slowing down and getting the most out of life’s most precious and fleeting moments! 'Slow' has become my daily mantra and a form of spiritual practice. The word itself begs me to pause, reflect, take in the beauty and gift of each moment. It shifts my perspective to the bounty and abundance of the minute I am living in. Incorporating the concept of 'slow' has transformed ordinary segments of time into extraordinary experiences.
I hope you enjoyed hearing a bit more of my own journey to slower living. Please share with me yours! Where are you at in it? What do you struggle with? What daily rituals have you put in place to help time spread out? Sending you good thoughts for your journey to a slowed down life rich in meaning and purpose.
I'm Kelly Isabelle.
Full-time workin' mama & spouse aspiring to live a slowly paced, sustainably minded, creatively expressed, clutter-free life shared with kindred folk.