One of the great wonders is how in the world the Polynesians set out over 2000 miles – long before GPS, radar and Google Maps – and discovered remote island chains like Hawaii, some 2000 miles from the nearest shore.
The theories abound, but my favorite, the practice of their beginning with great time and care to center themselves. To orient their sight not to something way out there, but with what is right here – their breath, their boat, their crew.
Much as I am inspired by the technique, I am much more like my European ancestors, who strove sea and storm, battled wind and wave to make their way to islands like Hawaii. It’s somewhere deep in my DNA that working hard – pushing, shoving, striving ever forward – is in fact the only way to get somewhere.
And personally, I’ve found this approach quite satisfying. Enjoying the energy rush, the sweat and sheer exhaustion of it all. But lately, I’ve decided I’m kind of done with it. Whatever “charge” such breathless anxious rushing used to give me, isn’t so gratifying anymore. So, I’ve been trying on getting there differently, Polynesian style.
Last night on my bike ride home, instead of looking ahead at those 15 telephone poles stretched up the long hill on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, counting my breaths, huffing and puffing my way to the top, I tried on being right here. Here, sitting on my bike. Just, being present here. Noticing this blooming tree, this parting of clouds.
I mean, there is still the pedal power necessary to reach the top, but I must also say that pushing my way forward to get there doesn’t in fact get me there any faster. Neither, have I noticed, does jumping lane to lane in a traffic jam, trying to measure my progress ahead of that little blue car beside me. Satisfying as it is, cutting lanes doesn’t get me any faster to work. In fact, much to my chagrin, I look out and see that little blue car I have been trying to stay ahead of all these miles, buzzing by in front of me while my lane screeches to a stop.
Sure, like you, I’d often like to get there quicker, but I’m learning that quicker isn’t always better.
It reminds me of one of my favorite Biblical passages, a favorite because I’ve needed to remember it so often:
Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall rise up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
We were drifting, a gentle breeze pushing us along, Jim, Cathy and I in our little boat. And then suddenly, above us, a rustling of wings. An eagle. It was the first time I’ve ever seen an eagle out here on Lake Union. I hope it won’t be my last.
Centering a little deeper,
connecting a little truer,
and letting the islands,
come rolling in to me.