When you are out driving and it starts to rain heavily, you will subconsciously find your shoulders stiffening up with neck extending forward, both hands firmly grabbing the wheel, brows frowned, eyes focused on the road ahead and the ‘All Alert’ light of your mind glowing bright red. This is all very natural and happens instantly. Inevitably.
This is our instinctive way of bracing for the urgent situation at hand.
Go on, we are listening…
Now imagine yourself on the road again, driving, with slow drizzle this time. You would find yourself leaning back with shoulders eased out, all muscles relaxed and facial expressions soft. Your mind beaming with 'At Ease' status and lips wearing a pleasant smile – probably humming out your favorite tune too.
This transformation, almost entirely, is natural too.
And the point is?
While the first situation plays out life in allegro, the second expresses it in lento. The first being very quick in pace with sharp focus and high stakes, while the other being mellow, more expansive and gracious.
Now what tempo of life would you rather pick, if given a choice? I would, of course, prefer the latter.
Still lost? Well, the point I am trying to make is that not just me but no one wants to be put in an emergency situation – where one has to respond rapidly while being continuously stressed out. In such instances, our cognition is rather compromised. We panic and act out of anxiety; chances of going wrong are immensely amplified in moments of haste.
And it’s not the fear of erring that makes us opt for a smoother life experience over a thrilling one, it is the desire of being able to extract more meaning out of it.
Oh come on, dude! Who doesn’t want a thrilling life?
A one-time thrilling experience – yes everyone would want it. A whole life based entirely on such experiences – wants no one ever.
Tell me honestly, who inspires you more? That smartguy who has Googled through the synopsis of a gazillion books and goes around boasting them without having actually read a single one or that uninterestingindividual who has true knowledge of and even carries a personal opinion of (may be fewer) books they’ve actually read? When it comes to impressing others, you may suggest taking the way of the ‘smarter’ guy in this example. For the sake of true learning, however, you would definitely want to take the longer, more difficult and uninteresting route.
Similarly, the entire life cannot be played out at constant high paced notes, just to make heads turn towards you. It cannot be lived skimming through the surface alone. More often than not, it requires some pause, pondering, persistence, and patience. It requires us to go through each word slowly, carefully, while grasping its meaning. Now you wouldn’t really want to just glance through the masterwork of Divine pen without appreciating every analogy, the sentence structure, every punctuation, each word, or would you? It requires slow reading – one where you absorb what’s being communicated and not just hop through days and events keeping your mind away from the current and more into the preemption of what might come next.
Speaking particularly on reading and generally on hasting away this is what Seneca, one of the great Stoic Philosophers, has to say,
You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind. Everywhere means nowhere. When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends. And the same thing must hold true of men who seek intimate acquaintance with no single author, but visit them all in a hasty and hurried manner.
Food does no good and is not assimilated into the body if it leaves the stomach as soon as it is eaten; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent change of medicine; no wound will heal when one salve is tried after another; a plant which is often moved can never grow strong. There is nothing so efficacious that it can be helpful while it is being shifted about.
So you say that the symphony of life is meant to be played in a lento?
Yes. I am saying that the symphony of life can be best enjoyed in a lento. With shoulders relaxed, mind at ease and lips smirking and singing to your favorite tunes – not just skimming over the surface of passing moments but actually diving in to extract the essence and connecting with them.
And yes, I saw this while realizing how busy your life is - I can totally relate with your tight schedule where going lento seems like a romantic fallacy. But trust me, it's all about managing your time properly and training your mind accordingly.
Shams (Tabrizi) has some great words to share on connecting with the current moment:
The past is an interpretation. The future is an illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through and within us, in endless spirals.
Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness.
If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment