I realized that, for me, taking slow steps is not about trudging ahead with heaviness, but about taking life—indeed, each moment—at a more contemplative pace. The slow steps are the reverent steps of a priestly procession to the altar. A row of monks processing into the choir, chanting. A walking meditation across the cool floorboards of a meditation hall, or down a tree-lined road. The prayerful pace of a seeker on pilgrimage to a holy place.
Is this not what I am doing when I close my eyes and go inward in search of my own soul?
Slow steps up the mountain are about being where I am, each step of the way. Not rushing ahead to get to the top, to see farther than I can see down here on the slopes. Slowing down to a more natural rhythm, the rhythm of the earth, of nature, of trees growing quietly in the dark, of stars silently rotating overhead, of grains of granite imperceptibly eroding from the face of the mountain itself, rolling for millennia toward the sea.
The more urgent and breathless the pace of life becomes—especially as the annual holiday season ratchets up, with all its commercial noise and glare—the more I want to slow down. To take a lifetime getting wherever it is I am going. Not to waste time. And not to accelerate it. But to consecrate time, to treat each moment as holy and worthy of my complete attention. To treat each step, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, as a blessing upon the earth, from which we have emerged over billions of years.
What would it be like, I wonder, to think of my journey each day—whatever I am doing, wherever I am going, even if it is only to the grocery store—as a sacred journey, a monastic procession to the altar of life, where all things commune?
- Jay E. Valusek