Toward a Curriculum for an Institute for the Cultivation of Slowness

For Lindsay


Morning Aspiration: Upon first waking up in the morning, recite this gatha from Thich Nhat Hanh:
“Waking up this morning, I smile:
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
And to look on all beings with the eyes of compassion.”

Experiment:  On the highway where the speed limit is 60, go under 55.

Reflection:  Consider the following from India mystic, Meher Baba:
“A mind that is fast is sick.
A mind that is slow is sound.
A mind that is still is divine.”
When and how is your mind sick?
When and how is your mind sound?
When and how is your mind divine?

Reading: Marx, “The Working Day,” in Capital, v. 1.

Experiment: Go for one week and eat your meals only when sitting down (not standing, not driving, etc.).

Training in appreciation: Take a stroll along Flora Avenue and notice what catches your attention. Do one block in 10-15 minutes.

Experiment: Get up a half hour early each day for a week. See how this affects the rhythm of your day.

Training in focus: Instead of doing four things at a time, try doing two.

Reading: Tolstoy, The Emperor’s Three Questions

Training in letting go and being present: On a weekend, leave your cell phone at home when you go out (A) in the morning or (B) in the afternoon. Enjoy being unreachable for this short time.

Experiment: Slow down in speech.  Practice the Suf Three-Gate Rule for an afternoon: “The Sufis advise us to speak only after our words have managed to pass through three gates. At the first gate we ask ourselves, Are these words true? If so, we let them pass on; if not, back they go. At the second gate we ask, Are they necessary? At the last gate we ask, Are they kind?” (Eknath Easwaran)

Training in unflappability: Deliberately go to the grocery when it is crowded.  Take 2 (or even 3) times as long  to do your shopping. Move your cart calmly; let other people go ahead of you. Maintain an attitude of courtesy and consideration for others. If you’re in a long line at checkout, use a breathing gatha to stay in the present moment.  Afterward, write about the experience for 10 minutes.

Reading: Wendell Berry, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Writing practice: Imagine a future society that manifests a healthy pace. Go for 30 minutes.

Experiment: In the midst of a  very busy day, take two one-minute pauses to regain your composure.

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