There is a walk I love to take while I’m here. I leave my home, walk down the stairs, through the streets to the water. The sea shines with hues of blue and grey and a clear blue that one nearly only sees in water. Along the shoreline are restaurants each displaying their menu with hopes to allure the passing tourist. Shops also line the shore, one can buy anything from a rug, to gadgets, to rocks. Men selling knock off Marc Jacobs bags and pashminas walk up and down the walkway seeking to make a sale.
In the summer this walk is crowed and there is a bustle of activity from morning til, well, morning. In February, on days where the temperatures reach numbers rarely seen by this Mediterranean shoreline, the tourists are few and the locals fewer. Every passerby was bundled up as if it were snowing, and to my surprise the hills, visible from where I stood, were covered with snow and more was falling.
I was cold.
I walked the 3. 5 miles to a neighboring community and found a coffee shop I have visited in years past. It’s coffee is single origin, organic and fair trade. They use words like pour over and single filtered. There is no other shop of its kind near by.
There were no seats inside, so I was glad I had purchased a scarf before I began my walk, though I must admit the scarf is more decorative than warm. I sat by a heater, covered my legs with a blanket and pulled out my book. I’ve been making my way through Dallas Willard’s Hearing God. It has been a good companion to the start of this experience. I am challenged, brought to tears, have questions, and want to verbally process so much of it, that I can hardly stand it.
I’m learning a few things by being alone. I have not yet been here a week and I feel like an addict who has gone cold turkey. I swear I get the shakes at the thought of 20 more days without my friends near by. In some ways I may be an addict. I am addicted to the pace of life a city, phone, car and work bring. I am addicted to being with others. I am addicted to noise.
Wading through the noise seems more difficult than I realize. But, yesterday as I walked along the sea, I realized that for the miles it took me to walk, I did not have a profound thought. I didn’t, in fact, think of much at all. Instead, I looked. I felt. I listened. My senses were awake and my mind, which is often off to the races, was stilled by the cold, the wind, the bursts of rain, the snow, the sound of the sea, the dogs who walk their owners and the grey that blanketed the day.
It felt lazy to not think, as if the noise of my mind is proof of work or accomplishment. In fact, I’ve noticed how I am quick to calculate hours of productivity while I’ve been here. I wonder, have I been so influenced by the need to be productive that even my internal life is a to do list of accomplishments waiting to happen?
As I made my way, up the stairs and back to my home I felt a surge of fear. Just for a second. Not a fear that would actually cause me to be frightened as if I were watching a horror film, but a surge of fear that I am being irresponsible with my time. This theme has been profound for me as I’ve been here. I confess it. I believe in a new story, one where stillness, hobby, play, frivolity, and delight are just as important as accomplishing tasks, checking off to do lists and having a good report card for human accomplishment.
My spirit is hurried. The disconnect between my soul and self is, I believe, a result of living a hurried life, seeking to be a human production, rather than a human being.
This morning, it is only 9:52 and I’ve already counted my hours of responsibility, evaluated my time spent and energy exerted and notice that grace is not an easy friend for me to access.
I am grateful to have eyes to see. I pray that as I am here, my spirit, soul, mind and body will collide in a beautifully harmonious melody and that I will leave the addiction to productivity to enter a life lived in grace and overflowing with the same.
Be still my soul.
And prayerfully, yours too.