Route of Spirit
The highway, notoriously known for speeding up, is where I learned how to slow down. I know myself and I know my nature. In yoga, my teacher says that, “the way you do one thing, is the way you do everything.” We use this tidbit of teaching to take a closer look at our yoga practice in order to see how our personal trends on the mat manifest out in the world. Using this same theory… I’m a fast walker. I am also highly impulsive and exceedingly restless. Once I catch a glimpse of point B, I want it immediately and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there, oftentimes compromising my sense of stability, and sometimes sanity. Perhaps I’m just a supreme example of the millennial mindset of instant gratification, or perhaps this is simply the way that I choose to acquire my personal freedom—unbound and untethered.
I am also one who thoroughly enjoys dissecting my behaviors, noticing my patterns, and creating sick little challenges for myself to find a new, better way to be. This is my game of life. So, when I set sail across the country in my ‘94 Ford Econoline, I had many little challenges for myself, one of which was slowing down, letting the wind catch my sails, and steering off towards whichever horizon beckoned my name.
The long stretches of road became a sort of metaphor for me. A fast walker might look down the road yearning to reach the end, but I was challenged to walk slowly. I’ve always been intrigued by Native American culture, so as I was driving through the Navajo Nation, which expands across the Arizona/New Mexico border, I was beckoned in every direction—from the farm stands sprinkled across the desert to the women selling Navajo art on the bluffs of Interstate 40. I was also in awe of the landscape. I am from the South and I’ve spent about 6 years in between California and Idaho. I had never seen a landscape so bare but beautiful with its red, dusty hue and natural, ancient architecture thrusting itself from the ground.
This is where a slow walker would pull her car over in order to let the scenery soak in through her skin. This is where the slow walker might stop, close her eyes and meditate in the energy of the Earth’s profound and delicate design. This is where the slow walker would stop at the farm stand to talk to the locals in order to gain some firsthand insight. This is where the slow walker would forget about point B in order to live presently.
This is the challenge of today’s world. We’re constantly inundated with distraction. It comes from our phones, our TVs, our computers. It comes from our mind’s incessant worries, anxieties, and fears. It comes from our desire to live within our future—a completely unattainable whim in and of itself. Rarely do we come to recognize that anxiety runs in correlation with the future and the instant and widespread connection of media is actually driving us further away from the connection that we crave to find within ourselves. I slow down—I pull over—in order to find myself. I want to hear what I really think. I want to notice the things that elicit feeling, whether it’s anger, dread, contentment or elation. I want to understand my own perspective about the world around me, uninfluenced by the distractions. This is how I might come to know my ever-fluctuating self.
The road became my teacher as I traveled across her. But here’s the thing—I didn’t stop at the farm stand. I didn’t meditate in the shadows of the towering stone structures. I didn’t slow down. I had planned to be on the road for at least a month and I made it across the country in two weeks. Just because we acknowledge a lesson—some new way to be—doesn’t mean that we’ve incorporated it into our way of being. If only it were that easy. I learned these lessons from the road, but I wasn’t totally successful in the integration—at least, not right away.
The integration is where the real work happens. The acknowledgement of the lesson takes only a moment—a flash of insight—but actually reaching a state of being where you live rightfully by that lesson—well, that might take years.
I stopped here and there, I meditated, I spoke to locals, but at the same time, there were moments when I was so wrapped up in point B that I only saw the road. I was completely unaware of the staggering cliffs surrounding me. The road is my teacher, but I am still learning. I’m able to walk slowly, but I am not a slow walker—at least not yet.
Written by Team Writer: Sally Smith