s-t-i-l-l-n-e-s-s and s l o w n e s s

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The lesson of slowness keeps reappearing in my life. I find it when I go for walks and everyone tells me that I move through the world with an unnecessary swiftness. I find it when I am trying to read poetry and I pass over the words too quickly. I find it when I cannot sit still or when I feel like I am not doing anything that is ‘productive.’ I find it when I try to meditate but my awareness of everything else moving around / through me is too overwhelming. S l o w n e s s and s-t-i-l-l-n-e-s-s.

The last full day that I was in Sydney, I walked with Lily to Rustic Pearl in Surry Hills for hot chocolate before she went off to work. We both have the tendency to walk faster and faster, to move our bodies from one place to the next with an unintentional speed. We did not speak, we just walked, which is typical for our time together -we are often immersed in a welcomed silence. After drinking a rose hot chocolate that tastes of Turkish Delight (a halved strawberry on the side of the bowl) and chocolate chai, we walked together until we reached Centennial Parklands. Lily went off in the direction of Bondi and I crossed the threshold and passed the gates into the park. I hadn’t planned on spending a lot of time wandering around, but I felt the slowness settle around me because I had nowhere else to be, I had nothing else to do.

One of Lily’s new roommates from Holland, who is studying philosophy and film, mentioned during one of our conversations the word ‘meander’ and the Greek root coming from a river in Turkey, Maeander. Since this conversation I have been fixated on this motion of moving through the world, and conversation, with an unfixed and nonstrategic agenda -ie, no agenda. This is how I had decided to walk about the Centennial Parklands and beyond, to meander. Moving through the world with this lack of purpose guided me to many mystical places. I had only Bon Iver’s most recent album downloaded to my phone, and so he was my guide through each place that I passed through.

I saw the roots in the ground like bones or fossils from an ancient creature and the bark of the trees were like scales on the back of a dragon.

There were sticks / branches strung together against a tree to create a small place to take shelter – a magenta shoelace used to string together the branches / sticks.

I climbed up three dozen steps and came across an empty green field filled only with birds and wind.

It felt silent in this park when I first began my meandering as I was farther away from the people. I did not feel like there was anyone else around for a long time and I sat with the silence to cultivate stillness.

When I moved closer to the commotion of others I saw a sign that read, ‘Labyrinth.’ There was a small arrow pointing the way and I followed the way. I thought because I was in a park it would be a garden labyrinth that I would come across, but instead it was something much simpler and much more interesting. Labyrinths have never been seen as good throughout my life because I have thought them to be something that is created for confusion / disorientation and to trap anyone who wanders into the labyrinth. When I finally reached the labyrinth, however, I was surprised that it was only a circular stone monument in the ground. There was a plaque that stood before the labyrinth to provide greater context and it read : “The Labyrinth is an ancient pattern found in many different cultures -a truly universal symbol, used by people around the world as a place of reflection and renewal. It differs from a maze in that it has only one path and there are no dead ends. The Labyrinth is an inclusive and sacred space, welcoming all faith traditions. There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. Simply find your natural pace and feel free to overtake if the need arises. It’s a two way street, so you may meet others on the path. The Labyrinth offers an opportunity to quiet the mind and open the heart. Some people come with questions or to simply relax, and others come during times of grief or loss.” I saw at the beginning the slowness of moving from one instant and into the next. I saw how this can create an entire world by allowing the sacred details of living be sacred and seen. Sacred and seen. I walked towards the labyrinth and walked on the first stone, to the next stone. A deliberate slowness that directed me from one moment into the next. The entire outside world faded away and instead I was in the moments inside of my being and they directed my movement. I could hear the outside world but it was still outside of me and the moment and it could not penetrate the reflection that was necessary for the moment. It is all just a journey that I am always partial to begin and be part of, the journey of life and of awareness of the moment in a stillness -a moment suspended in amber. I remember walking with such a grand slowness that directed me and I did not want to reach the end of the labyrinth -the place that I was once afraid of, the place that I once thought to be a place of confusion was transformed into a new space that I did not want to leave. Once I finally found the end after moving without seeking I felt a sigh of satisfaction and rest settle over me. The thinking and the walking led to a prismatic room that led to many other rooms where I knew other wary travellers were resting their heads until they were ready to begin their journey anew. I felt as if I had reached one pivotal moment of my life and now was a time for rest until the next time for bring presented itself -and it came soon, but also slowly. Being in Centennial Parklands was an exercise in slowness for me and this was the first day in Sydney that I experienced a sense of uninterrupted being. I left the park to go on an extensive four hour walk throughout the suburbs of Sydney and experience new places and new sights.

The moment that I first became cognizant (ie, I wrote something down for another person to read and share in my awareness) was sitting in Kyle’s apartment after he had left for work and he laid out a poem for me to read. It was a decent length, and sitting at his dining room table in the silence and the stillness of his home I felt the world become caught in the moment. Each word took up more space, each word taking up an entire breathe cycle. I found that I could not finish the poem because I was overwhelmed with the first two pages that moving forward, finishing the poem in that moment would not allow me to take it into my being fully and instead it would be a poor imitation of what I could have from the entire experience. I stopped. I wrote a short note on three pink sticky notes. I left. I did not return to the poem until I was sitting on the floor in a bookstore in Sydney with Lily sitting next to me. I read it out loud for both of us to hear, and I read it slowly. I let my tongue linger over each word, each syllable. I wanted to be as invested in the moment as I could be as well as invested in the human that was sitting just a few inches from my person. I connected both this poem, the person who shared this poem with me (Kyle), and the human so near me (Lily) into one experience and was able to both live in the present as well as the past. Each experience created deeper ridges in the memories that have helped shape the person who is typing now. The slowness and the stillness in my life have allowed me to love deeper and be present in more ways than I have in the past. I know how to linger over things longer, and the labyrinth has shown me how I can wander from one instant into the next, but I will always return to that large cavern of a room where others are resting and I will rest with them and we will exchange the stories of adventure and life that have helped fuel us. I will not lose sight of those who cultivate the same sense of life that I cultivate for myself because we will all return to this place and find the other waiting. It is time for a deep breathe and a soft good-bye until we return again. To be able to recognize the time for experience, the time for reflection, and the time for company that can see / understand is important for walking the labyrinth -there are many ways to walk about and find yourself back to the center. It is about finding alignment.

I remember watching others move with harsh movements as if racing from one broken moment to the next. Sitting outside on the patio of Lily’s home in Glebe I saw many people that did not understand the importance of being slow / still, and I saw in them how some may see me. The un-reflected, or disconnected, movement that some put out into the world is something that I want to avoid for myself because it adds to the confusion. In contrast to the labyrinth, something that I thought would contribute to confusion, there is a greater sense of gathering together when walking along that meandering, wandering, path. Instead, many treat life -moving from one moment and into the next  -as a maze instead of a labyrinth. People find confusion and say things like, “I don’t know” (something I often do and must stop doing), when really they know and they can find the clarity that they seek if they approach life as a labyrinth that leads to a room of rejuvenation and other soft souls that can connect to the experience and honesty of life.

Being in Sydney and being with Lily and being alone and being far away from everything I have grown up in is important in helping me understand the person that I am, the person that I want to be, and the person that I have always been. I wander about the two-way street of the labyrinth and I come into contact with others who help illuminate the parts of myself that were once shrouded in a death mask. The time has come for silent solitary reflection.

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