As a child, I would sit in the back seat of my parent’s old car with my dog, Sherman. As the car wound through the countryside where we lived, Sherman and I would stick our heads out the window during the summer as the wind whipped through our hair. There was such simple joy in this experience of speed, of motion. Of being carried through carefree space.
When we think of the speed of our lives as lawyers we cringe, don’t we? Our lives aren’t just lived in the fast lane, they’re lived at warp speed. At the periphery of our vision, we see only problems and other stressors. Any hope of joy gets sucked right out of our days like the grains of sand slipping through the narrow gap in a hour glass.
We hear so much talk of “time management”; of the next simple ten things we all need to get our lives together; to be a successful end product. Such talk has its place, but it seems that we never catch up with ourselves. We are warping onto the next thing on our “TO DO LIST”.
In his book, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, poet and corporate trainer, David Whyte, uses the metaphor of a sea voyage to depict the journey through the world of work. He views work not only as a means of support, but as a means for interacting with the world and developing self-expression and identity. This is not a self-help book of step-by-step pragmatism, but rather how to forge one’s relationship with time and daily ritual. In one passage, he speaks about his friendship with Benedictine monk, Brother David Steindlrast. David is speaking to him about his stressed out life. Brother David tells him that the antidote to his exhaustion is not rest, but “wholeheartedness.” See this interesting clip on David giving a talk.
Put aside the appointment book for today. Turn off the ignition switch of your life for a bit. In his book, David notes that the poet Keats believed that truly great people have the ability to accept that not everything can be resolved, that they can thrive on uncertainty. As lawyers, it is so easy for us to emotionally shut down when faced with the grind of uncertainty. Maybe we have lived lives like this for years; we have closed our hearts to our own hearts. Yet, there may come a turning point in our lives when we are ready. When we are ready to listen to what the poet Keats called “the holiness of the hearts affections.” Part of David’s poem, The Opening of Eyes, reads:
“It is the opening of eyes long closed. It is the vision of far off things seen for the silence they hold. It is the heart after years of secret conversing speaking out loud in the clean air”.
Listen to that heart within you today. Let it speak out loud into the air of your day.