I spent last week away from home, work, studio, email, and Facebook in the city of my youth, Montreal. I remember it well, but only this past week did I really notice something strange: It is really hard to get a cup of coffee to go in Montreal.
Montreal is the sort of city in which, if you want to have a coffee, you sit down and you have a coffee. You don’t fill up a piece of waxed cardboard and run away with it. You sit down and drink your coffee.
It really made me look at how fast the world I live in feels. How on every single corner there is a place with so many cardboard cups ready to go that the server doesn’t even ask if you want it to go or not, they just fill that cardboard up. I think myself and everyone I know must look like white rabbits, panicking at the wristwatch pictured on their smartphones, racing to get to the rabbit hole. We’re late! For a very important date!
On this vacation, I had no plans: nowhere to be, nothing do to. We ate when we wanted to, drank when we felt like it (all the time, really), slept as long as we needed, and just existed in the world. How is it possible that I never have days like that? Am I a slave to the wristwatch pictured on my smartphone?
I chatted for a while with the woman next to me on the plane back to Vancouver. She remarked at how laid back people in Vancouver always are. I didn’t argue; I know she said that because so many people here do yoga and focus on wellness, and so many (like me) are yoga teachers. This woman must not know any yoga teachers. People who do a lot of yoga often do it because they are so sore from running around chasing their very important dates.
I’ve always appreciated the perspective shift of being in another culture that is only a little different from your own. I remember visiting Australia when I was a young girl, and noticing that all the stoplights go red at once and all the pedestrians cross the street at whatever direction they want to go. In that small moment, I realized how arbitrary most of our daily habits really are. Someone decided one day, in Australia, that all the stoplights should stop all at once so that people can cross diagonally if they want to. Someone in Canada decided that cars and people should go in the same direction together. There’s no inherent sense to either decision. Someone just made it up one day and everyone went along with it.
So I have a choice here. Not to cross diagonally; that would be unsafe. But all the pressure that I feel to go a certain pace, make a certain amount of money, have a certain kind of relationship by a certain age, all of it: it’s all just decisions someone made once that everyone is still going along with. There’s no inherent reason to live up to that pressure. There’s nothing inherently good about being busy.
As the Buddhists say, after all, busyness is the absolute worst kind of laziness. When you are too busy, you can’t be alone with yourself, so you can never grow.
So here begins my (re)commitment to slow down. To give more time and space to the people and experiences that nourish me, rather than the fast-food panic of trying to fulfil some long-ago arbitrary decision that one way of doing things is the right way of doing things.
I’m going to start with my coffee. In a big ceramic mug.