We too often leave our souls behind. Caught up in urgency, we forget what is truly important in life. Pushed on by the demon of haste, we forget our souls -- our dreams, our warmth, our wonder. From this viewpoint, it is clear how patience is a part of kindness, for how can we be kind if we do not respect the rhythm of others? We forget the soul -- theirs and ours. The next time you surprise yourself while hurrying your child, or pacing up and down waiting for a late train, or forgetting to breathe in your haste, ask yourself where you left your soul. Kindness has a slow pace.
~ Piero Ferrucci, The Power of Kindness
Recently, I gave a discourse on the importance of feeling the rhythm of life and aligning with its flow, and it brought back fond memories of a journey through France my wife Diane and I took several years ago. I returned to my home turf after that trip only to discover a part of me was still there and is yet today. The part of me I left behind (metaphorically, of course) is a piece of my soul. It is not that I don't love being back home, it is simply the fact that I really got into the rhythm of a different culture -- a culture that honors the need for the soul and body to be in sync and harmony with life. It seemed that within 12 hours of my return home, my body and mind were once again running far ahead of my soul. I then became aware that there is still more for me to learn regarding the rhythm of my life.
I found it interesting that before I left for France, a number of people admonished me to "be ready for an experience with brash people who don't like Americans." The only thing I can report to you is that we drove more than 2,400 kilometers, from one end of France to the other, and never had even one such encounter. If anything, our experience was laced with kind people. The French people were friendly and, on more than one occasion, very helpful in giving us directions (including a map drawn on the wrapping for a baguette -- truly). Language differences didn't seem to get in the way of heartfelt communications. Kindness seemed to be extended to us at every turn.
I would like to think that was because Diane and I are such exceptional people they all instantly loved us, but that wasn't the case at all. The only thing we did was observe the rhythm of the culture and make a conscious decision to merge with it rather than push against it or try impose our American rhythm on them. By rhythm, I mean how they "do" life -- how life flows in their culture. As an example: We rented a car, which alone was an "interesting" way to experience their culture. Learning how to let go of my expectations of when and how traffic "should" flow through the roundabout's and one-way streets, I just put the pedal to the metal and did my best to stay up with the crowd. It was amazing how everyone just sort of merged in a lane-less unity of one massive flow of traffic -- a perfect harmonious blend of bicycles, motor scooters, Renaults, trucks and us. It was an interesting dance of energy to become part of and, I have to admit, it was more of an adrenaline rush than any ride at Disneyland. I continually reminded myself of the old adage, "never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly." No doubt, our angels were on duty while we drove.
While in France, Diane and I did our best to live as the French live. We commingled with the rhythm of the culture and began to really enjoy the differences. The hours the French sleep and dine are far different from "ours," the food they eat is considerably different from "ours" -- there, everything is freshly prepared and the closest thing to fast food is a baguette strapped to the handlebars of a bicycle. The pace, while energetic, was never rushed. In my estimation, the French people have mastered the art of enjoying the moment, which even includes sharing it with their pets as part of the family unit.
Without question, the French people are not wound nearly as tight as most of us. The French give themselves ample time for eating and connecting with one another, and I noticed they laugh a lot. They even allow dogs to join their families in the restaurants. Perhaps that is because of the ever-present wine being served, but I think it is far more than that. I think they enjoy the moment because their souls are in alignment with their bodies. As one Frenchman told us, "life in France is not about the quantity of our possessions but the quality of our lives; we value our relationships and the time to enjoy them." Perhaps we came across no "brash" people because we didn't expect to come across them. Then again, perhaps it was because we let go of any attachment to imposing our rhythm of life on them. Perhaps it was because we really had a chance to allow our souls to catch up with our bodies. Perhaps it was all the above.
How about you? Are you sensitive to your own rhythm and how it may differ from the rhythm of others? Are you giving your soul a chance to catch up with you on a daily basis? You don't have to travel halfway around the world to be reminded how important it is to honor the rhythm of life -- both yours and other people's as well. Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others by honoring the rhythm of life. You deserve it and so do they, oui?