Back in America, I was well known for the fast pace of my traveling. My “walk” was fast enough that those trying to keep pace with me would often resort to a jog. If I were driving, I was the one who was changing lanes back and forth trying to get around all those others who were dawdling (in my mind).
“Why was everyone taking so long getting between things that had to get done?!” I would often repeat to myself as a tried to get past someone who was not moving fast enough for me. Even my son who is 6’1” with very long legs would tell me to slow down.
Why was I in such a hurry? I don’t really know, it had just become the pace that I felt I needed to keep up in order to make sure everything that needed to get done that day would be completed on time. Did it add to my stress level? You betcha! Did I notice it? No I did not, I was too busy moving fast and ticking items off my To Do List.
I remember taking a Thai Chi class (for distressing no less) that was teaching me to walk so slowly that it took 15 minutes to move 15 feet. I remember doing it, but I did not really comprehend the exercise. The point was not to move so slowly that the movements would become an exercise in themselves, as I had thought. Yes a bit of that was true, but the real lesson I should have learned was to slow down, pay attention to each tiny movement and most especially, to be present in the NOW.
So how did I finally learn this lesson? I moved to Thailand and learned the Thai Stroll. Being the good Buddhists that they are the teeming masses of people in Bangkok walk as if they have no where to go and no one to see. Their “to do” lists are just as long as yours and mine but they seem to have conquered the American mind mess that leads us toward headlong rushing to the next task and completely missing all the great parts on the way.
How would I have ever noticed the monkey climbing up the terrace of an urban Bangkok tenement, if I hadn’t been forced to slowly walk behind a million other slowly strolling Thais in front of me. I would have missed the beautiful monitor lizard sunning himself on a log in a canal if the tuk-tuk wasn’t stalled in traffic. I wouldn’t have been able to try a fried grasshopper from a street merchant if the bus wasn’t running a half hour late.
The Thai stroll is a walking meditation and has taught me to walk slowly and enjoy what is happening in the here and now. Draw my mind back from the next task to check off and enjoy the person I am “haggling” with about the price of bananas at the night market. They are enjoying giggling at my mispronunciation of my few Thai words, why shouldn’t I?
So next time you are rushing from one task to the next, take a deep breath and stop in mid-stride. Take a look around you and really notice what is happening and enjoy it. No matter how familiar it is to you. Even better, next time you say, “How are you?” stop and look the person in the eye and really mean it. Maybe walk slowly next to them and repeat the question, “No really, how are you?” Then slow your pace to a nice Thai Stroll and enjoy a real conversation.