About a month ago, my friend, Ed, and I rode the train to New York to hear Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh talk.
We arrived at Penn Station about thee hours before the dharma talk, and rushed to the Broadway theater where he would speak about slowing down to be more mindful.
That’s right, we rushed to hear about slowing down.
In his 70s, the author visited his dentist. “He said I had to get these implants over the course of a year [or] I would look older with denture plates …and my teeth would pop out once in a while,” Klein recalled. “And I thought, ‘what do I care if have a goofy old man smile? I am an old man!’”
So began his quest to find the way to grow old pleasurably. With a bag of philosophy books, he traveled to the Greek Island Hydra to study the wisdom of Epicurus and of modern day Greeks who age in grace and the pleasure of companionship.
On the island’s hills, Klein also discovered, at first by necessity, the pleasure of walking slowly.
Writing in Ladies Home Journal, Carol Mithers says, “Most of the time you walk with a destination in mind and the urge to get there as fast as possible. You hurry, head down, eyes anxiously scanning the phone for messages, fingers frantically typing a text, completely oblivious to your surroundings. But walking slowly…ambling…strolling…whether you’re going somewhere or nowhere in particular is a whole different experience. Slow walking — no iPods or cell phones allowed — isn’t a workout; it’s an exercise only in observation, a way to look at the places and people around you as a small child might, with curiosity and wonder.”
Thick Nhat Hanh frequently writes about the rewards of walking meditation. Since his talk in New York, my almost-daily hikes have become strolls, saunters. I do carry a phone because I am seeing so much more than I ever have, and I want to make photographs. And I try to follow the Zen master’s advice:
“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”