Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Living An Unhurried Life

The whole point of a vacation, if you are fortunate enough to have one, is to get away from your life for some rest and relaxation. Most of us are busy and we live frantic lives trying to keep up with all the demands of modern life. Sadly, our vacations are often as frantic as the rest of lives as we stress ourselves out trying to have as much fun as possible during five vacation days squeezed between two weekends. I fell into the trap like most people. On my first vacation day I got out of bed at 5:00 AM, drove 300 miles and almost immediately plunged into family activities. There was little time to decompress from regular life before being pumped full of new activities. Now I am back in the rat race, little rested, and immediately thrown back into the demands of daily living. I am tired from my vacation. In view of this it was very poignant to pick up the Tao Te Ching on my first morning back to work. Verse 15 could be titled "Living an Unhurried Life". I thought that was what I was going to do on vacation and I strive to do this in my day to day life. I would like to quote a small section from verse 15 .

But the muddiest water clears as it is stilled, and out of that stillness arises life.

This is very similar to a line from Psalm 46. Be still and know that I am God.

The author of this translation of Lao Tzu offers a few excellent thoughts. Stop chasing your dreams and allow them to come to you in their own time. Slow down your frantic pace. Make stillness a regular part of your daily life. You don't really need to rush or force anything. Be an observer and receiver rather than the pushy director of your life. Give up struggling and start trusting. What you need will come to you. In other words.....relax and live.

How can a man's life keep it course if he will not let it flow?Those who flow as life flows know they need no other force.They feel no wear, they feel no tear,They need no mending, no repair.

How well do we know one another? The reality is that most people do not intimately know the other people in their lives. I have sat at many family functions over the years thinking how little I know my own family and how little they know me. I could say the same thing about people I have worked with for many years. At the same time, people I don't even know write to me sometimes and say, "I feel like I know you.". It is true that many people know a lot about me because of my daily thoughts. Of course, even my daily thoughts do not reveal everything about me. I have always thought about the depth of the relationships in my life. I remember being challenged a few years ago when I was asked to write and deliver the eulogy at my father in laws funeral. How well did I know this man whose dinner table I sat at many times? Could I write and speak of this man and capture his essence with little time to prepare or to deliver? I am told I was able to do it but it would be a very difficult challenge to do it for many others. A lot of this "knowing" of other people requires listening and paying attention when you are around them. Too often our relationships are superficial and done on the run. Relationships take time and effort. Relationships are often difficult. Many people are exhausting. Sometimes when I am with people I am sincerely trying to listen to them while planning my escape at the same time. I don't doubt that sometimes people are also doing that with me. There are some people in my life that I am emotionally intimate with but they are few. I feel like I have many "friends" and acquaintances but few that I am really close with and with whom I feel comfortable sharing my deepest feelings. I am very grateful for the few that give me the luxury of truly being myself. I think my experience is pretty normal. You really can't have intimate friendships with fifty people. It's like the difference between a dinner party and a wedding reception. At the dinner party you can often open up and have deep conversations about life and your experiences. At a wedding reception it is all you can do to say hello to everyone. Admittedly I think it would be nice if my knowledge could expand and I knew a little more about the hopes, wishes, and dreams of those most important in my life. I do care about a lot of people even if I do not know everything about them. Maybe we can all make a little more effort to know others and allow them to know us.

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