birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

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Because I Didn’t Resist the Whirlwind in Time to Write This

A friend told me years ago that Thomas Merton said “To rush is violence.” This particular quotation sounds too koan-ish to be a direct quote but I have no doubt that famous monk said something like it, because everything about a monk’s schedule, focus, ritual and life in general challenges the men (or sisters of a monastery) to slooooooow down and contemplate holiness.

I am grateful for the monastery I’m affiliated with as an oblate, because the monastic way of life demonstrates a method to help me cut down on my madness of haste and activity and worry and being, as I sometimes sardonically refer to myself, an “activity ho.” I pray my attempts to focus on the sacred do indeed help me to battle all the profane temptations out there, but it’s hard to center in peace when I think I’m addicted to excitement and novelty.

“Slowing Down.” It feels like retardation. Ineffectuality. Lack of momentum. Also-ran. Secondary, not cutting-edge. Icky. Running out of time. Lackluster. Aging. Losing. Winding down. Sad.

But it also feels like peace. Sensibility over Sense, in an Austenian way. Wisdom. Openness to hear, breathe, receive, rejoice, weep. Feeling feelings and taking the time to process them. Food of quality. Time with friends. Knowing myself. Loving others. Incremental joy. Crafting a life.

If I know that the benefits of slowing down far outweigh the consequences—and I really do—why do I not consciously slow down more? I do not know. There feels like a battle between worldly and heavenly constantly warring in my core. That’s why I return again and again to the Abbey in the desert. It is the school of my soul.

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