Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Speed of Magic

by Troy Chapman

(published August 03)

Today I noticed the August morning fog, saw it in the form of dew collected on a window screen, as a slight breeze stirred and moved the little droplets then came in to touch my skin. I felt time connected to the past and the future and remembered how I used to love taking coffee out on the porch in another life. I remembered the smell of our family dog after she stretched luxuriously, then tried to knock the cup out of my hand and stepped on my bare feet with her cold muddy paws, all in the interest of making contact, being touched.There was nothing to consume, nothing to do that couldn’t wait a few minutes, as I felt the universe and the mystery of my being there.

I’ve been trying to do that lately — get out of “consumption mode” and into “communion mode.” I’m setting aside a little time in the morning to just remember the sacred. I don’t necessarily meditate or spend time in prayer, but I might read the Bible or some other thoughtful material. Maybe I’ll just listen, noticing the birds outside or the sounds of my building. The point is to just take some time for things that aren’t on my “to do list.”

Whenever I set aside such time it points up the painful truth of how entrenched is the mind-set of consumption in my life. Even after so many years of inner work, the impulse to consume that has been conditioned into me — into virtually all of us — almost from birth, is still with me. We’re taught in so many ways that consumption will speak to that emptiness and anxiety within. This conditioning is so thorough that even when consumption fails again and again to fulfill its promise to give our lives meaning, we still don’t abandon it. Instead, we merely switch the products we’re consuming.

In place of the partying we did when we were young, we may shift to some political ideology, or to some ideal of romantic love and family. Or we give up pot smoking for Prozac. If we decide we’re really going to change our lives we begin consuming self-help teachings or even spirituality. But so often it’s all treated as product, something we can acquire and add to ourselves. I’m learning that consumption is a mode of being. And when we’re in this mode, it doesn’t matter if we’re pursuing love, wisdom, and God or sex, drugs, and rock and roll — it’s all still consumption.

Now we do need to consume in order to give back to the world. From food to love to information, we cannot give without getting. But consumption as a mindset doesn’t have to be the only mode we live in.

Communion doesn’t seek to acquire, possess, or add anything to who we are. It seeks rather to connect, participate, and make contact on some deeper level. Where consumption tells us we are separate and hungry beings competing for things to devour in the big supermarket of life, communion tells us we are simply single points on an infinite, multidimensional web of relationship and that our hunger comes from breaking the strands between ourselves and other points on this web.

The most effective way I’ve found to shift from consumption to communion mode is to simply slow down physically. Whether we’re pouring a cup of coffee or dressing the kids for school, when we slow the activity down something magical happens.

Magic travels just a little bit slower than modern life, and when we slow down, it has time to catch up. We’ve been deceived into thinking that magic is traveling faster and outpacing us and we’re running full-tilt trying to catch up with it. That’s consumption mode. It’s always about getting through whatever we’re doing as quickly as possible so we can get on to the “real” stuff of life. It leaves us with a never-ending sense (called dread) that we’re being left behind.

The truth is that we’re leaving life behind. When we get this and slow down — literally, in our physical movement — we shift into communion mode.

You can feel the difference between the two. The next time you feel yourself tripping to either get ahead or catch up, just remind yourself that what you’re chasing is behind you. Tell yourself gently, “Slow down and wait up for life’s magic.”

Soon enough it will come ambling along like it doesn’t have a care in the world. Let it remind you that the world won’t end if you get to your own cares five minutes or half an hour later.