Letter to a friend in a hurry
I hold you gently in the quiet of my thought. The stillness tells me clearly that this crisis in your life, which most call a breakdown, I would name a listening time.
As you told me when we visited a few weeks ago, the pace of your life had become utterly hectic. You've become a great success -- from the world's point of view. The world had crowned you, and its laudings were like sweet promises that you'd one day own that realm. Then you suddenly woke up one morning to find you had lost the keys to your own inner kingdom.
You are at a crossroads, sensing there are less worldly paths you can follow, paths that feed on profound inner peace, a more encompassing joy, ever-renewed freshness of vision and inspiration, a more rhythmic sense of quiet progression. There is, deep within you, a spring so pure, one cup of its clear waters will refresh you more than all the soda fountains of the world.
For 29 years I lived under the hour by hour pressure of time. Its shadows closed in on me -- at work, at home, on outings, at mealtimes, everywhere. Then, one day I decided to abandon all this rushing and running. If I achieved a little less, tant pis! What I achieved would at least be done with joy. There and then, I composed a little poem to put on my desk:
Spirit of Truth, I thank you
That I have an abundance of time
To accomplish all I need to do
With unhurried grace
Within 24 hours, 29 years of headlong rushing slipped off my shoulders like an old, tattered cloak, because I no longer clutched it around me.
No one can "be" in a hurry, I mean "be" in the sense of living from the center of one's real inner being. One can either rush -- or be. Never both at the same time. Most people in the West have decided to rush. It does not mean you have to follow the same path. You are the one who chooses. You make for yourself the life you wish to live. So take possession of your life.
Learn to possess all things -- your time, your pace of work, your moments of rest, your privacy -- all. Life gives us dominion. All we need to do is exert this dominion which is ours.
"But how do I take possession?" you may ask.
Realize in the stillness of your inner being that, despite any outward chaos, all ideas have an order. You are a thread in a universal weaving. It is like a Persian rug: on the backside of the rug, strands of wool hang in a mess; there are knots here, knots there -- knots everywhere. But from above, what a pattern you see, what order.
This conviction you need is that life is not a rat race or an Olympic marathon, but the gentle, unhurried unfolding of your real being. It is not so much what you do that counts, but who you are.
I believe all things are given to those who share with rejoicing. Dear friend, practice rejoicing and giving thanks. They're the keys to rejuvenation. A thought filled with gratitude has no room for self condemnation or sour reminiscences, feeling of failure, or unsatisfied wants and desires clamoring to be fulfilled. It's even possible to give thanks for this trial -- it can become the stepping stone to unhurried living.
I enclose a picture I love very much -- that of a Tuareg mother in the Sahara. It expresses so beautifully the quietness of the heart which grows from unhurried grace. Such grace has very little to do with material conditions. These Berbers of Niger have as only home a tattered tent in the burning sands, and their life is a constant struggle with the forces of nature. Yet -- what serenity in this face.
So, dear friend, rest in the knowledge that this unhurried rhythm is a seed already sown inside you. It needs a little water, some sunshine, and a quiet spot to grow. It needs also your tender care and the gentle virtue of patience.
Finally, and above all, learn to love yourself. This might surprise you, but I believe real self-love is the most needed quality in the world today. If you truly love yourself, you will never be able to hate, resent or feel bitter or envious of another man. You will stop judging and condemning yourself -- hence judging and condemning others.
There is in us all a deep sea of calmness.
Your friend, Pierre (Pradervand)