Friday, December 5, 2014

Slow Time Fast Time

"Water Pot"
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -

I've been reflecting on an article I came across yesterday about how we understand and use "time." "There are two kinds of time," the article suggested, "slow time and fast time, 'slow-cooker' time and 'microwave' time."  The article went on to conclude that a spiritual journey is always traveled in "slow time."

That made a lot of sense to me, 

Time is quite relative, sometimes it progresses very slowly and at other times it progresses quickly, almost instantaneously. That's why I really like the analogy of the microwave and the slow-cooker as a way of understanding the passage of time. 

Put something in the microwave oven, and most of the time it's fully cooked and ready to eat in less than five minutes - "no muss, no fuss." But using a slow cooker is a totally different scenario. The spices and sauces slowly marinate the food taking long hours to cook at very low temperatures. Yet when prepared in a slow cooker, food takes on all the very best flavors a dish has to offer. 

It seems to me that most people nowadays live their everyday lives in fast-speed, high-speed "microwave" time.  We go about accomplishing the everyday tasks of living as quickly and most efficiently as possible. We press a few computer keys, swipe a credit card, take a pill and we expect instant results- immediate gratification, "no muss, no fuss."

It also seems to me that,  since people are so accustomed to living in "fast time," they often try to walk a spiritual path at the same speed of "microwave" time - a quick prayer in the morning,  a stop for an occasional church service or a few minutes on a meditation mat, and that should just about take care of it.

Growing up as a boy in the Roman Catholic Church we were taught that we had an "obligation" to attend church every Sunday - failing to do so would constitute a serious sin.  I can vividly remember that the most popular Sunday Mass  in my parish church was celebrated by a priest who could conduct the entire service, from beginning to end, in less than 20 minutes. There was "standing room only" for that Mass, sometimes it was so crowded that people had to be turned away at the door - get it in, get out, get it over with. What a perfect example of walking a spiritual path in "microwave" time.

As I see it, it's just not possible to travel any sort of spiritual journey in fast time- the spiritual path is always walked in "slow-cooker" time.  On a spiritual journey we slow time down rather than speed it up. On a spiritual journey we clear the mind and open the heart, and then watch and we wait, awake and alert and paying attention to life as it comes to us in every single moment  of every single day. In the spiritual "slow cooker" we are slowly marinated and gradually transformed by the energy of love, by the Abiding Holy Presence, and all the very best we have to offer is brought out in us. 

Three weeks ago I broke my arm - it has been a powerful lesson to me about living in "slow time." When it first happened I was angry and resistant. I didn't want this to happen to me. It was more than a burden to be so impaired in my everyday tasks of ordinary living. I wanted to take a pill or have someone say some magic blessing and make it all go away.  But of course it didn't just all just go away; what happened, happened.

The process of healing a broken arm takes about 4 - 6 weeks, maybe more. It's a very slow and often painful process, but every day I get a little bit stronger, a little more healing happens. My broken arm experience has offered me a powerful lesson. It has once again taught me not to resist what "is," but to surrender to the process, and every day to enjoy getting a little bit stronger, day by day a bit more healing, gradually transformed. It's a "slow-cooker" time for me.

In these weeks before Christmas, when most of the world speeds up the already fast-moving pace of life, it's good to take a few steps back and slow time down rather than speed it up - traveling this road is the way to deeper peace.

The Buddha taught:

Drop by drop is the water pot filled.
Likewise, a wise man, gathering it little by little,
fills himself with good.  


  1. Aww, yes Paul, I always look forward to setting the clocks back but, for some reason it seems as if time hasn't slowed down as yet for me, Thank you for your words of wisdom!

  2. Great Meditation! Thank You.