I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Karly Michelle Edgar's reflection, "The Spiritual Practice of ‘Not Rushing’."
I began offering a weekly church service as part of my lifestyle work in an aged care facility when the church that had been coming could no longer continue. The service was squashed in between my other daily activities and every time I finally sat down and began to read the first line of the liturgy I noticed how strong the impulse was to read quickly, rushing through it as I had rushed through the rest of the day. I would remind myself how important this service was for many of our residents, as often this was the only church service they could attend. I would then force myself to pause, breathe, and to read more slowly.
With that breath I could feel how much my body hated rushing. I knew it was why I felt run down at the end of a shift. It wasn’t simply that the job involved a lot of walking, lots of activity, and being emotionally ready for whatever might happen. It was that I felt I should be perpetually rushed no matter what I did. I always felt there was more that could be done. So I walked faster, wrote notes quicker, and prepared more swiftly in order to try and get more done.
As I reflected on this moment I knew was in danger of being swept back into the world of rushing after I had stepped back from a life of rush due to ill health. A chronic illness tried its hardest to stamp out my habit of rushing through force, but as a deeply ingrained mindset it flung itself back at me like a rubber band. Even though I was aware that along with the increased health I was experiencing, I needed to be careful not to fall back into rushing habits, I was teetering on the edge, toes in the water.
So I began to experiment with ‘not rushing’, no matter what.
It was hard.
I quickly identified that no matter how early, prepared, or on time I am, a feeling of rush and anxiety develops the minute I sit in the driver’s seat of the car. This is a feeling that was given to me by someone else and I hadn’t realized I was still carrying it. It’s not about speed – it’s about feeling rushed even if I have all the time in the world. A feeling that driving is a waste of time and therefore as little time as possible should be allocated to it. But driving takes as long as it will take. It should never be rushed. And yet I felt rushed even when I was driving slowly and with plenty of time.
This highlighted how deeply I carry the expectation of rushing within me. I become aware, once again, of how difficult it is to let it go of rushing at the end of the day. Even if I collapse into ‘not rushing’ when I get home, the hum of rushing stays within my blood stream, racing around perpetuating the feeling of moving even when I am still.
Over a number of years I have been practicing developing my awareness of God’s presence in my everyday life and I could see how quickly rushing leeched this away and so I wondered if ‘not rushing’ could be a spiritual practice. I began by simply trying to become aware of when I slip into rushing and giving myself permission to take the time it actually takes to do the task. Slowly, I am beginning to expand the practice, incorporating it into my artistic practice and hopefully, simply my way of being.
I don’t feel I’m very good at it just yet. It is easy to get swept into ‘rushing’ – the feeling slyly creeps up on me and then all of a sudden I realize I’ve been rushing for the past half hour. But I think I am becoming more aware of at least identifying it is happening, and I am learning to identify it earlier. This doesn’t deny the fact that sometimes we have to move quickly, and sometimes things have to be decided promptly. This is to be expected and not ignored. But this process is not necessarily about the speed at which I am moving, although at times it may be. Rather it is about identifying the internal pressure of expecting myself to rush and slowing down. And then noticing that the benefits are a far greater awareness of what is happening around and within me; of being more present to life around me.
I’m not quite there yet, but I’m practicing.
Karly Michelle Edgar is a mixed media artist currently doing a PhD researching biography in palliative care. She is interested in story, faith, and reflective artwork. Her current ‘One A Week Psalm Project’ explores creativity as spiritual practice. Karly lives with fibromyalgia and lives on Wurundjeri land. You can visit her online at KarlyMichelle.com