Monday, June 15, 2009

So you want to slow down

Today we got the results from the voluminous neuropsychological testing I just undertook with a Dr. Rick Whately. Three sessions, over two hours each, my internist's idea after I told him I felt I'd lost a lot of memory.

It turns out I haven't, that all sorts of cognitive function are just fine, including a normal amount of forgetting names, that kind of thing that happens with time, even as most of us also put on a few pounds. The only thing that isn't great is the speed of my processing. I knew that. The tests confirm that my processing is slower than something, I'm not sure what - maybe than the average 30-year-old - but still above average for my age.

Sigh. On the other hand, slowing down some, is that so bad?

Remember how in the old economy we all talked about slowing down? In those frantic days of work-and-consume, a "slow food" movement even rose up, that valorizes foods made for quality, cooked with care, and enjoyed. And there are still lots of ads for spa treatments and massage, one-day yoga "retreats," things to help people "get out of the rat race" so they could get back on, refreshed. Ahh. So many of those busy busy people came to our meditation groups once or several times and then dropped out because they couldn't stand the way their minds raced when they sat still. We would try to say, "That is your mind. That's what it does all the time - you're just seeing it now. This practice is the answer, you just have to keep doing it." But spiritual practice is long-term, and though you might have some interesting breakthroughs, generally speaking, growth is slow. You have to kind of forget about making progress.

It turns out there is another way to slow down - get old. You can be disabled by many, many things, like Tom's post-polio syndrome, which came as a great surprise to us, or my declining kidney function - not predicted by my family history. I'm not talking about "staying young" by maintaining your looks with face lifts and belly-dancersise. Whatever you do like that, your body will still age. You will probably not beat your genetic endowment by very much; might not even make it anywhere near the age you feel entitled to, might not dodge cancer and diabetes and swine flu and accidents nearly that long.

But if you are lucky you will have at least a while to be old, like us, and able-bodied/able-minded enough to live independently. Even to keep driving, though a bit more slowly.

I started out to contemplate slowing down. What is it about, anyway, that frantic feeling? I remember it from my fifties, before I got cancer. What it was about for me was not working too hard, but doing the wrong things, expending my energy helter-skelter, giving my time to random responsibilities that stressed me and people who annoyed me. So often I felt, I don't have time to write.

So I knew what I wanted to do. I just didn't know I knew it. It's like all the teachers say, You already are a Buddha - your job is to realize it.

Here's a sentence from what I was reading this morning -
If we really look in our daily lives . . . I think we would be amazed at how little peace we have, how we are always plugged in, driven, compulsive, dependent, and ill at ease in ourselves.
I hate to end there, I could go further, to the part of the talk about how we can all be free, but I need to get in the kitchen. Tom and I are working on a tart for lunch, made with the rainbow chard we are getting from our CSA right now. We are using a pre-made pie crust, but it is still relatively slow food. Working in the kitchen with Tom is one of the things I enjoy now that I am finally slowed down.

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