Slowing Down

by | Sep 11, 2020

Barton Nature Area, Ann Arbor

I have been trying to slow down on the golf course.  The negative effects of hurrying in golf are much more noticeable than in other areas of life.  It is uncanny how much farther you can hit the ball when you swing slowly and smoothly.  I started playing golf this past summer after taking a 25-year break.  I never used to feel I had the time for golf.  We all are given the same amount of time in a day, and yet some people feel poor in time and other people feel rich in it.  Time poverty can create so much stress.  It takes the fun out of life by causing you to resent anyone or anything that is slowing you down and stealing your time.

If you find yourself impatiently waiting for a microwave, you probably suffer from time poverty.  The problem isn’t that the microwave is too slow.  The problem is that there is something churning too fast within you.  There is a Yiddish word sphilkes that is basically the opposite of mindfulness.  With mindfulness, you embrace the present moment, while with sphilkes you’re perpetually hurrying to get to the next moment in hopes that it will be better than the one you’re in.

Another word for shpilkes is restlessness.  I happen to come from a long line of sphilkes sufferers.  I once asked my dad why it always seemed like he was hurrying to catch a train.  He smiled and said, “Because it’s harder to hit a moving target.”  He seemed pleased with his response, but I didn’t find it so funny that my dad felt like a target.  This meant I was the son of a target and would have to figure out calmness on my own.  I have done a decent job of blazing a calmer trail, but it continuously needs maintenance as trails often do.  That’s okay.  I don’t feel above inner trail maintenance.  I accept that all fitness requires practice, including spiritual fitness.

My dog has helped me to slow down, as she has slowed down with age. She used to have shpilkes too and would roam the woods in search of groundhogs and raccoons to kill. I no longer let her off a leash in the woods, because I got tired of all her fighting and killing.  Our walks are more peaceful now.  As she ages, I think of how dearly I will miss her when she’s gone, assuming that I am healthy and fortunate enough to outlive her.  It is easy to see my mortality through her mortality.  Sometimes people hurry in hopes of trying to squeeze in more life, but I find that I am happier when I slow down and try to appreciate the life I have.

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