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The Pleasure of Slowness

Here in Port Ludlow, we are in day two without power. A Friday night storm rocked the Pacific Northwest. No, not hurricane strength, but with serious enough winds to knock out power for thousands in the region. Big trees down, taking power lines as they went. With storms, I can see the advantage to giving them names. Like Ian in Florida. It helps emotionally to be able to say, “Look what Ian did to us.” Here, it’s just rain and wind. Which translates, normal Pacific Northwest November.
This much is very true: without power, life slows way down. No computer or TV or phone (as our service was affected here as well). Which isn’t a bad thing. Silence descends, and you read your book with a flashlight. (I’m reading And There Was Light, by Jon Meacham.) You fire up the BBQ to heat water for coffee (and tea) and get ready to tuck in around dusk, which now with the time change is right around 5 pm.
As a boy growing up in southern Michigan, many of my neighbors were Amish, and I remember envying so much of that lifestyle. I still do. But it messes with you in a world where you are enticed to “get stuff done” (items checked off the list, most all of which requires technology).

On my walks yesterday and today I wanted the geese’s wisdom on how they are able to live in the present so effortlessly, power outage or no. I had another Sabbath Moment planned, but power outages invite more interesting questions.
What hits me (when life slows or pauses) is how easy it is to wish for (hope for) a return to “normal” which typically means full and busy, somehow synonyms for productive.
I smile recognizing how easily we fill our days, as if we are somehow indefinitely preparing to live. ‘Tis the demon of our insistence that time is meant to be filled. If it is not consumed, it must be thrown away—like food which spoils—and deemed useless. What’s more, “wasting time” carries a moral price tag with a requisite of guilt, implying that we will look back on our days through bifocals of regret.
Lord have mercy, there’s an implicit indictment to fessing up. You know, admitting we don’t quite have a handle on “our time”, living betwixt and between and all that—that tug of war between obligations and personal sanity. (I’d like to stay sane is not a confession very impressive for someone fixing on getting somewhere very fast. Like the man who tells his doctor, “I’m learning how to relax—but I want to relax better and faster. I want to be on the cutting edge of relaxation.”)
When the to-do list precedes the to-be list, distraction (and depletion) surely follows.
However you slice it, slowing down is a tough sell. But sooner or later, an essential one. Growing up, I embraced the internal tapes that encouraged and promoted hell-bent pacing. Yes, living my life as if I were indefinitely preparing to live.

So. Let’s pause shall we?
What does it mean to embrace the pleasure of slowness?
Milan Kundera’s observation, “Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? Ah, where have they gone, the amblers of yesteryear? Where have they gone, those loafing heroes of folk song, those vagabonds who roam from one mill to another and bed down under the stars?… They are gazing at God’s windows.”
I like Kundera’s phrase, “the pleasure of slowness.” But here’s the rub: pleasure in slowness is not easy to find in our world. Yes, slowing down reduces the noise. But slowing down goes hand in hand with stillness. And yes, even silence.
It all feels exaggerated by the assumption that such a space exists only because we were unable, lacking either creativity or industry, to find something to do. And we miss the point. Because then silence is the enemy, and any empty space, a weakness. Of what, I wonder, are we afraid? What is so comforting about “noise” (or distraction)?
We forget Mother Teresa’s gifting endorsement, “God is the friend of silence.”

And maybe, just maybe, it’s our fear of loneliness that makes us forget that silence isn’t always synonymous with solitude. Meaning that we can enjoy silence even in the company of others. In fact, sometimes it’s a sign of health. Like my buddies Frog and Toad, who, in one of their stories, learned how to be best friends while stilling alone together.
The Society of Friends (Quakers) makes silence an integral part of their worship service (called a gathering meeting) to let the dust settle (so to speak) and to let the imagination and insight rise. Thomas Kelly in The Eternal Promise defined true Quaker group worship as a special time “…when an electric hush and solemnity and depth of power steals over the worshipers. A blanket of divine covering comes over the room, a stillness that can be felt is over all, and the worshipers are gathered into a unity and synthesis of life that is amazing indeed. A quickening Presence pervades us, breaking down some part of the special privacy and isolation of our individual life.”
Yes, we are indeed walking one another home.
Gratefully, silence (stillness) can let the particulate of daily nuisances (too often toxic) sift down to the bottom. Letting our being be filled with pure air, straight to the head and heart. To sit still is to practice Sabbath—meaning literally, to quit. To stop. To take a break. To make uncluttered time. It’s all about what we can notice—and see—when we slow down and let the silence descend. It’s about paying attention. Which is, novelist Jim Harrison use to say, the only game in town. Ah yes… the sacrament of the present moment.
My confession of course is that I could not post this Sabbath Moment without technology, so I drove a half hour to the town of Poulsbo (where they have power, and a brewpub with power outlets… that’s a good combo). On the drive home, crossing the Hood Canal Bridge, the Olympic mountains snow covered and magisterial.

Quote for our week — We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. Mother Teresa


Today’s Photo Credit: “Grateful to have grown up, lived and loved as close to Ocean Beach as we have in SF. Was in a car on bike accident over ten years ago (I was the helmeted bicyclist following Chicago traffic laws at the time). Didn’t grasp the verbal and cognitive bandwidth changes until much later… Your writing has brought much healing, space and reprieve after dealing with onslaughts of word salad, grief and loss emotions entwined with that accident–helping to remember that all that is needed is here still within. Now it’s not only that date of the collision that marks my days, but these small every day moments that grace my life… Thanks for helping me remember and not only take stock or anger sadness disappointment frustration but embrace them to better embrace the rest,” Rose Dias… Thank you Rose… Keep sending your photos… send to 

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December 9 – 11 — Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, AZ, Men’s Retreat

NEW Book – Stand Still: finding balance when the world turns upside down

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Letters that do my heart good…
–Terry, “Yes papa… but I am not”   What an ‘aha’ moment for me! You see, I have always naturally gravitated to the quiet places, and since I got my license I would drive for hours to get to a good spot for a walk on the beach, or in the upstate woods of PA! This reminds me that I must put forth the effort to get to some quiet places again. Thank God the weather is cooling down and I can take advantage of the incredible Casa grounds, or maybe my own backyard in Phoenix! Thanks for the gift! Barb
–Good morning Terry, I have a desktop daily devotional calendar and today’s quote went so well with your Sabbath Moment that I wanted to share it. “At the sound of a child’s pure laughter or the sight of a father holding his baby for the first time, incredible joy pushes upward, spilling over. Our hearts were made for joy. Our hearts were made to enjoy the One who created them. Too deeply planted to be much affected by the ups and downs of life, this joy is a knowing and a being known by our Creator. He sets our hearts alight with radiant joy.” Thanks for your sharing a message of encouragement every day. You give me a jumping off place every morning. Have a joyful day! Kate
–Hi Terry, just want to say thank you for all the wonderful words of wisdom you share with us each week. During these chaotic times we live in, we all need a place of sanctuary to find peace of mind, heart, body and soul. You always give us choices to consider. My place of sanctuary is my hot tub every morning. I have arthritis and I take my coffee and head for the hot tub every morning around 8am. Although this is therapeutic for my joints, it brings me a sense of peace thanking God for another day.  I also have a screened in deck with a swing. Several times throughout the day I sit and take in the beauty of nature all around me. God bless you for all you share and enjoy this beautiful season of Autumn. Donna
–Every morning before reading the day’s news or plan my day I read Sabbath Moments, Richard Rohr and Luther Seminary devotions. Then and only then am I ready to face the day. Thank you. Kent


“There’s a light in this world, a healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometimes lose sight of this force when there is suffering, too much pain. Then suddenly the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call, and answer in extraordinary ways.” From the film ‘Mother Teresa’

Deep within our being where truth and peace yearn to reign over chaos and confusion; we pause to listen
In the midst of our daily activities and the many thing to do that haunt our calendars; we pause to listen
Among the people who come into our lives–our loved ones, our friend, our colleagues and companions, even our enemies; we pause to listen
As we move into the heart of prayer and hear the call to be more in union with you; we pause to listen
When we feel empty, distraught, frustrated, and lost; when we wonder in what direction we are to go; we pause to listen.
God, give us ears to hear You as we listen for Your voice
in calm and in the wind
in busyness and in boredom
in certainty and in doubt
in noise and in silence
in this day to pause with you and others on the journey.
Accept our gratitude for the many times you have sought us
and have invited us to recognize you
in the home of our true self.
Sisters of Charity, Cincinnati

Maybe it’s all utterly meaningless.
Maybe it’s all unutterably meaningful.
If you want to know which,
pay attention to
what it means to be truly human
in a world that half the time
we’re in love with
and half the time
scares the hell out of us…
The unexpected sound of your name on somebody’s lips.
The good dream.
The strange coincidence.
The moment that brings tears to your eyes.
The person who brings life to your life.
Even the smallest events hold the greatest clues.
Frederick Buechner

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