These commitments mean that I’m sleep deprived (often), snippy (sometimes), not always fully present when I’m with my children (sadly) and my husband? (Hi Babe!) That might be the extent of our heart-to-heart for the day.
I know that I’m not the only one experiencing the side effects of the hustle bustle of life that has become so the norm, the expectation, the just-the-way-it-is, that we find ourselves having crazy-self-talk such as, What can I possibly get done now? if we happen to stumble upon a minute of blessed silence.
Enter the Slow Movement.
Slow living has been the answer to how busy, scheduled and fast life has gotten. Kids in a million activities, fast food on a more regular basis, shortened versions of stories to “get through” bedtime reading faster. More classes. More activities. More skills. More money. More resume builders. More stuff.
Green Sherpa over at Divine Caroline writes, “When you’re busy fulfilling the urge to be everyone’s everything all the time, there’s something incredibly restoring to closing the door, waving the white flag, and being unproductive.”
And I think that we’re all starting to get that. Many of us have backed off of the More!-mantra and have taken a slower, more balanced, meaningful approach to our children and our families. We garden, we play board games, we sign up for one activity at a time.
While we understand everyday pressures, I think that a similar tension exists for people to be “religious,” per se. Timelines, deadlines, expectations, traditions. They can be wonderful, for sure. But they don’t always feel that way.
For example, our family doesn’t currently belong to a synagogue. And most of the time, this works for us. But every so often I start fretting over that decision. For the community and the one-of-many feeling, for sure. But mostly, because of the dates and deadlines. Sunday School Classes! Confirmations! Bat and Bar Mitzvahs! Camps! I worry about our children missing out on important life changing events and activities because of the timeliness factor. ChopChop! We need to do religion? Really?
So this concept has been nagging at me. Are my children missing out on the sweet aspects of religion because we’re not affiliated? So, I did what I do and I reached out to people who strike me as mindful of their religiosity and spirituality. And simply asked, in an admittedly annoyingly vague way, “How do you do slow religion?”
Steve Frazee, of SBNR.org explains, “Maybe “slow religion” or “slow spirituality” is the practice of recognizing the moments when we feel deeply connected to The Divine and learning to savor those moments. For me, and other SBNR people, such moments don’t arise at weekly church services. They happen in nature or in the simplest wonders of daily life. Some come on slowly like a rolling thunder and others like a light switch. However they arise, the practice is to recognize the moment and stay with it as long as possible. Maybe “slow religion” is the practice of turning brief glimpses of God into a lifetime of bliss?
Melissa, of MamaMubba weighs in with, “One of my favorite opportunities to slow down is when I am able to attend our LDS temple with my husband. It’s an opportunity for us to reflect, ponder and meditate. Our worldly cares are forgotten and we are able to focus on our relationship with our Heavenly Father. We receive the perspective that we need to make sure that our lives are in order and our priorities in place. It’s a humbling experience that reminds me of my divine nature.”
And April, of BuddhistMama adds, “In sitting in meditation, we focus solely on our breath. We don’t think about (or try really hard not to) what comes next, what we still need to do. This helps us to slow down and reconnect with our bodies and with the environment around us. I do a hugging meditation with my kiddos where they sit facing me in my lap, just feeling each other’s heartbeat and breath, reconnecting at the most basic levels.
Sigh. Are the words “amazing” and “awe-inspiring” on the tip-of-your-tongue? Me, too!
These thoughts, experiences, moments-in-time are the slow religion that I was wondering about and trying to define. Each voice had so very much more to say, share and explain. Why? Because they live this mindfulness and can equate it easily and naturally to their respective beliefs. And that’s the sweet stuff that we all strive for.
Slowness can be found…pretty much anywhere. And just as I strive for balance in other aspects of my life, there’s room for that balance within my “religiosity” or my “spirituality.”
Even though we as a family spend very little time in synagogue, I think it’s very important to try to be a member somewhere. These are community institutions that we will rely on at important times in our lives – life cycle events, both happy and sad, communal holiday celebrations , and when we want to have any experience that involves reading Torah or hearing a Torah scroll read, to name but a few. These options will simply not be available to us if we aren’t willing to pitch in and financially support the institutions, even modestly (we pay reduced dues, for example.) You can still go slow, and nibble here and there, once you join.
Here’s a post I wrote about joining:
I like slowness (even though I don’t practice it enough). With religion, what’s the goal? To overload/indoctrinate or to let the parts wash over a person that will be held dear & important?
I have written about slowing down a bunch recently, in dribs/drabs in the midst of an overfilled life. Like here: http://www.valleyadvocate.com/blogs/home.cfm?aid=11968
I’m going to mull this in terms of religion, & wonder what I’ll find tomorrow when I nab the seven year old from two weeks at an overnight (Quaker) camp–will he have anything to say about Meeting (if they had it)?
Beautiful ideas here, & I want to ease your mind & say first grade’s pretty much nectar of the whole elementary school ride (but you know that).
For me, attending services is largely about slowing down. I rush! to get to the synagogue on Friday night, and then I hit the brakes, take a deep breath, and spend the rest of the evening being there and soaking it in.
The slow continues on Saturday morning with Torah Study, morning services, and a nap in the afternoon.
It’s all about slowing down, taking the time to re-center myself, and making space to focus on what really matters in life.
If you can do those things without being affiliated, that’s great; you must be more evolved than me.
Of course, I could give you lots of other reasons to affiliate, but that’s not what your article is about.
You know, it is funny. I just wrote a post about how sometimes I wish upon wish that we could find a community. But it is just not an option for us. There is not a family friendly sangha for us in the area. But I am coming to find I am ok with it. Sure I miss the social interaction, but is that what worship is supposed to be about? I have come to realize that where I practice my faith is not near as important as just practicing it. The fact that my family is sitting close to me (or on top of me in many cases) is just the cream on top of my latte!
I would be a really bad one to talk to about advice for stress about sending your kiddos off to school. Why do you think I homeschool? LOL!
Hope you had a beautiful break!
Interesting article- which pertains very much to our lifestyle.
While we are orthodox Jews, we live in a very remote part of the world. It is completely up to my husband and I to instill a true feeling of Jewish spirituality in our kids and the many Jews living where we are.
There is no Shul, Jewish schools or anything Jewish community oriented here.
But… both my hubby and I grew up in Jewish communities, went to Shul, Yeshivas, Torah classes etc. but I feel that the true beauty of religion lies in the love instilled within your family, approaching each holiday and Jewish custom with warmth, and joy, tradition and meaning.
It almost forces you to slow down. Shabbat for example- its my favorite day of the week. We have a delicious meal Friday night surrounded by good friends and all our kids, and then spend the whole day together, singing, playing games, reading, taking walks.
So yes, slowing down is great. It is so important. It keeps things in perspective.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom~!
I was on the fast track to religion for so long that I didn’t even get to appreciate the finer moments, as they flew by in a blur.
Take your pew, prayer, peace, hymn, amen. Wake up and do it all over again.
I vaguely recall what was going on around me, which now seems so self-serving. What’s the point of congregation, community, if the experience isn’t shared?
I love how you get my hamster wheel spinning. 🙂
amy, hi! thanks for the note and link. i always love reading your work! i for sure see the value in the institutions. thats why every once in awhile we do shul-shop, hoping that something will “stick.” but what i’m searching for there is the community, not the prospect of spirituality.
sarah, hello! your question at the beginning there is absolutely perfect, thanks for that! and i love the link and the nectar, too! 🙂
susan, hi! thanks so much for your note. the description of your experiences of synagogue sounds absolutely lovely. right now, the rushing and shushing and the prospect of day care-ing that tends to be our experience just doesn’t give me that same sweet feeling!!
april, thank you for your note and thoughts. they’re really…perfect and truly resonate. i love the latte analogy, crave the community and i totally & completely adore your words about worship, faith and location! thank you lady!
mommzy, *sigh* i am so glad to have connected with you! your experiences are fascinating and your practices, beautiful. thank you for the glimpse into your beliefs. “the true beauty of religion” line was absolutely perfect! truly.
& christine, hi! i think that we could share that hamster wheel!! 🙂 appreciating the finer moments, sharing the experiences…religion and spirituality are *meant* to work that way, right? always great to hear from you, lady! 🙂
I slow down when meditating. I slow down in synagogue when surrounded by the Jewish community, I slow down in my heart, mind, spiritual and religious core, when praying.
Reading this, once again, reminds me of my youth….My parents, along with 12 other familly’s, started the very first Temple in the town where they lived, and in which I grew up and went all through school there…In fact, The Temple was started the year I was born. By the time I was old enough to go to “Sunday School” this is where I went, along with my three older siblings. It was a reformed Temple, so it didn’t seem like a difficult thing to do….We went to Friday Night services, etc….Then, my parents seperated and three years later, were divorced. Things changed for my mother at the Temple. She was now a kind of outcast in a way..(It was 1942–NO ONE got seperated and divorced.)—Hard to believe, I know…but that IS the way it was then).
How my mother was treated effected how we all felt about the Temple and Organized Religion, in general. I don’t regret the Social aspects of The Temple life—And I was confirmed there. But, we left the Temple and never returned—not to that Temple, or any other.
This probably has no bearing on what you are struggling with or considering…But, for me, organized religion has left a very bad taste. Yes, I enjoyed the social aspects–No, there was no Camp.
It seems to me from reading your blog that you and your husband have a pretty good involvement with your Religion and your Spirituality. Would a Temple enrich that? I guess it would depend on what Temple it was.
Slowing down spiritually is what I really needed to read heading into this coming Shabbat. Many thanks for sharing these thoughts.
The rest of your post reminds me of a conversation I recently had with some parents (I’m working with a small group of parents to begin a Jewish Cooperative Preschool.) We were talking about the need for community and I suggested that perhaps we were talking about two distinct needs: the need for a community of preschool families (many of the kids in our program are oldest children) AND the need for a Jewish community, so that their kids (and by extension, the parents) have a group to share like experiences with. The PreK community need is easy to “get” – especially for parents of first children. The Jewish part was a little trickier for some of the parents to understand. I shared some of our life experiences where it would have been easier for kids if we’d been part of a Jewish community. For example, being the only family in their school that didn’t celebrate Christmas – and it’s not because the kids were “such bad kids that Santa won’t come” – or when the kids took matzah for lunch during Passover.
I’m hopeful that our Cooperative PreK community will help meet both those needs while families are involved with us, but meeting the Jewish communal need after they leave PreK is important too. (Note – doesn’t have to be a synagogue – can be a group of friends, a JCC, Jewish social action group, etc).
Good food for thought during this month of Elul.
jew wishes, hello! that was lovely and meaningful. thank you for sharing your quiet moments!!
naomi, thank you for your thoughtful comment. i always feel like i’m right there with you as you describe your experiences and stories. i love that they intersect with my stories in so many ways. and as for your question– that’s what we’re exploring as well!
morah mary, thank you as always for your eloquent, thoughtful comment. what you’re doing for the families around you is absolutely amazing! the need for community is certainly not lost on me. i imagine all of those shared experiences as well. i’m just not 100% clear on the path to finding them! i love the way you brought it all back to elul– quite appropriate! 🙂
Nice post. My community is in Paris (so to fr for weekly services) and our local community is tiny and almost extinct. However I’d love to be able to connect more every now and again. This is something I truly miss.
thanks so much for sharing that, ilana! i do feel that same way, but here in mn and *not* in france! great to hear from you, as always!
See the post that this inspired on my blog here: http://a-farbrengen.blogspot.com/2010/08/gradual-growth-for-beginners.html
I love that you posted this. I’ve been questioning the motivation behind my need to find a church and you brought up many of the same questions I’ve had. Thanks for giving me another perspective to ponder.
mecarol, thanks so much for the visit and note. it’s nice to know that i’m not the only one muddling right on through! 🙂