Kathleen Hirsch | Advent, Day 4: Tools that Help Us Go Slow
Writing and musings by author Kathleen Hirsch.
kathleen hirsch, writer, spiritual director, boston, ma, spiritual writing
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Advent, Day 4: Tools that Help Us Go Slow

Advent, Day 4: Tools that Help Us Go Slow

Remember the birthday party game of long ago, before those events rivaled weddings?

Someone’s mother, perhaps ours, would bring out a small tray covered with homely and familiar household objects.  We would get 20 seconds to look at the array, then it would be whisked out of sight.  The game — contest, actually — was to see how many of the objects you remembered.

Those party afternoons were invariably warm, and we were keyed up and a little sweaty.  But not at that moment.  I will never forget the atmosphere then.  It was one of the few times that a gaggle of busy, antic girls grew quiet enough to hear the distant traffic.  We were swaddled in a concentration and focus that we’d created by ourselves, and it was delicious.  Who needed cake?  It paled in comparison to this pleasure.

I have no one to offer this diversion today.  Quite the contrary.  I face the menace of distractions at every turn.  “Faster” is the delusion that we can outrun the list of things that need doing.  If this were a 12-step moment, I’d be confessing that yesterday I imagined that I could bake a batch of granola cookies at the same time that I ran out to buy a toy for a Christmas charity, finished a book on Dante, and prepared for my final class of the semester.

I know that I’m not alone.  So today, I’ve taken matters in hand.

In lieu of the birthday party game, I have created a small mindfulness altar that I will look at every time I pass through my office.  It contains the following:

A wooden clothes pin.  A wooden spoon.  A pair of knitting needles.

Only these.  They are laid out on a simple wooden cutting board, along with an acorn given to me by a friend.

These objects tell me the truth about myself.  They require me to quiet down, to remember who I am when I am engaged with each of them.

I am focused, content, and productive.  I am simple and slow.

When I know such moments, I shift into a deeper center.  I can feel something in me unfurl and claim its freedom.

On this day, perhaps you might try a similar altar.  A photo will do.  A table top cleared of newspapers and magazines.  My wish is that all of us reclaim a few moments of freedom from “faster,” so that we can know our inner wisdom and move in something more meaningful than circles.

  • Anne parker

    December 6, 2017 at 9:42 pm Reply

    I just bought a laberith that is the size of my hand. It has a small stick that you follow the path to the center. It’s a reminder of slowing down my pace. Wonderful daily today Kathy

    • kathleen.hirsch

      December 7, 2017 at 6:27 am Reply

      After the early shock of the inevitable December pace, thankfully we all have a chance to take ourselves in hand and do just this kind of slowing down. Thanks so much, Anne.

  • Nancy Rappaport

    December 6, 2017 at 9:15 pm Reply

    I often think that “busy” is short hand for people to find a way to avoid the centering you are relishing.

    • kathleen.hirsch

      December 7, 2017 at 6:29 am Reply

      I had lunch with a psychologist friend today, and he noted that often busyness is a defensive reaction, a way of avoiding, just as you are identifying, Nancy. Meditation is the antidote. Thanks so much.

  • Sue O'Reilly

    December 6, 2017 at 7:38 am Reply

    I did something similar in my walk yesterday. I treated each “segment” as it were the only one that I would be walking that day and I savored its riches. It brought a great sense of quieting and awareness. It felt delicious!

    • kathleen.hirsch

      December 6, 2017 at 7:44 am Reply

      Sue, I learn so much from your steady insights!

      • Sue O'Reilly

        December 6, 2017 at 5:42 pm Reply

        Actually, my initial reaction to your day’s reflection was that all those who have touted multi-tasking have not done us any favors and we need to start walking it back.

        Then your word “delicious” just stuck in my head and I thought: “Yesterday, I had a delicious experience!” and I wondered if it were the same deliciousness. I think, yes.

        • kathleen.hirsch

          December 6, 2017 at 6:01 pm Reply


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