Finding my Rhythm

an opening

an opening

I made the decision this week to extend the internship that I am in at the CG Jung institute for another year. It was a difficult decision. The part of me that walked when I was 9 months old and finished high school at 16 was intolerant of the idea of slowing down and giving my self what felt like extra unessential time when what was called for was getting out into the world and going to work. The part of me that recognized the depth of experience and value in receiving more training was terrified of disappointing that inner autocrat. I struggled to make the right decision even as I knew that there was no “right decision”.  I was at a fork in the road.

Both paths would eventually lead me to the same place, but the quality of the journey would be different. On one path I could walk without feeling pressured and take time to experience the beauty of the trail. I would have to take the other path at a sprint, with my head down and my focus on my obligations. In our culture the pressured sprint is the correct choice. Most of my life I have chosen that path. I have always been in a hurry. I have always worried about the needs of others first. I have always been responsible. The decision I made about my own future left me acutely aware of how little support there is in our culture for the slow path and how hard it is to have compassion for our selves.

I wonder how we came to be a culture that values quickness and short cuts. I am curious about how and when we lost patience and acceptance for our own needs. I understand this intellectually. But beyond my academic understanding of history, psychology and theology, I don’t understand how this happened.

I have been reading the new memoir by Leslie Marmon Silko, The Turquoise Ledge. In it, Silko writes about her childhood on the Laguna pueblo with grandparents who paid no attention to an external clock. She describes a childhood without the feeling of time ticking away. Her elders lived life in the moment they were in, in the present. Because of this there was no pressure and there were always enough hours in the day. Silko experienced a way of living in which there was always plenty of time. How different this feels from the world we live in now. What she briefly describes feels like a relaxed stroll through the woods or a walk in the park. The lives of children today feel more analogous to being on a roller coaster or a treadmill. When and how did that happen? Why did we begin to ignore our natural rhythms and start to squeeze our lives into the confines of measured time? Who was the first person that had the impulse to ignore or go against the flow of nature in this way?

Every year on the day we switch over to day light savings time I curse Benjamin Franklin and his desire to get more hours out of a day. Silko describes a time before Benjamin Franklin and day light savings time, when the people who lived around Tucson would wake up and tend their fields at midnight when the temperature finally dropped and every living creature came out to enjoy the soft night. In the summer a few hundred years ago, the indigenous people of Arizona and all the other animals would sleep through the 110-degree afternoons. When did we begin to distrust what felt right and in stead do what made sense?  How did we arrive at this place of constriction where we squeeze every second out of a day?  It is impossible to squeeze, to constrict ones self, and move freely through life at the same time.

I am curious about how this transformation happened in much the same way that I have always been curious about how it was that we came to eat acorns or artichoke or how people learned to cure olives. I look for these answers in natural occurrences. It makes sense to me at this time of year, when the acorns cover the ground where I live, that people learned to eat bitter acorns. They could see them being collected and eaten by other animals. They knew that acorns were food and used human ingenuity to wash away the bitter taste. I imagine the story behind olives is similar. My son believes someone must have tasted an olive that had fallen into the ocean. There is however no model in nature that explains our impulse to control and constrain the hours in a day and in our lives. I can’t imagine that there was a moment when an animal was seen up and working in the heat of the day to get more accomplished and get the jump on the others in it’s den. The notion of time and of efficiency originated as an idea. I know this but I cannot understand or see the value in the split between our rational selves and our natural selves. I understand that we contain both parts but I do not recognize the benefit of the hostility that exists within us and towards Earth, as the rational side of us struggles for dominance. I do not understand what transpired to cause us to turn this critical energy on ourselves and to disregard the natural world that we live in. How did people go from loving kindness to punishing authority and why does the punishing authority inside of us take up so much room and have such a loud voice? As a culture we have lost our inherent kindness, choosing instead the scrubbed raw knuckle approach to life of our pioneer ancestors.

As I made my decision I was aware of a battle for control waging inside of me. It was not easy to convince both parts of myself that I could afford the time of a second year of training. The timekeeper in me is ragging today: rattling an inner cage, howling in frustration, and sending forth a barrage of undermining sentiments. She wants to know what I am thinking and how I am going to support myself next year. I am not listening. My almond tree is in bloom today. It is a beautiful breezy 80 degrees.  A neighbor stopped by just now tell me that yesterday she had seen the first rattlesnakes soaking up the sun on a trail. I think I will take myself out for a walk in the park.

4 comments to Finding my Rhythm

  • Yvonne Fried

    Lovely sentiments. I was wondering why I wasn’t taking a siesta today after lunch when I had this overwhelming desire to lay down and take a nap. I’m glad to know others are pondering these ideas, too. Especially so, because I cram so much into every moment. Except on Saturdays. I sit around the house and spend all day just wandering around in the world of the internet exploring ideas, listening to music…….

    Love to you,

    Yvonne Fried

    • Marlene

      hi yvonne,
      i love the image of you slowing your body down on saturdays while you thoughts still roam freely.
      nice to see and hear from you here! love to you too, marlene

  • Carrie Dinow sent me to your site. This post is so thoughtful and beautifully written. I write quite often about the speed at which our culture lives and the need to slow down. For me, it happens on Shabbat, and I try to make sure to allow for vast amounts of “being” time in our kids’ lives. Your post reminds, yet again, to observe the “need for speed” even more closely. Thank you.

  • Marlene,

    Your words are beautiful poetic prose. As I read them, I can feel the deepening of connection that can only arise through allowing the time for “being”. Thank you for your eloquence.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>