The “Slownessness” movement
I was intrigued when I came across a reference to “slow seeing.” I had heard about “slow walking”, “slow eating”, “slow cooking”, etc. So probably I should not have been surprised.
Did you know that
- the latest estimate of the length of the human attention span is 8 seconds.
- every April museums around the world celebrate Slow Art Day offering programs that guide visitors in looking more patiently and seeing what they did not see.
- the Philadelphia Museum of Art trains medical students to make better clinical observations.
There is even an interesting Wikipedia article dedicated to the “Slowness Movement”
Slowing down enables us to see what we don’t see.
Slow seeing as a “long, loving, look”
Walter Burghardt, SJ, defined contemplation as a “long, loving, look”.
Vinita Hampton Wright unpacks this insight in the context of the contemplation of our own experiences. See A long loving look at the real
“Long. This is a sustained gaze, not a glance. It requires time, but it also requires focused attention
“Loving. This can be tough. Especially when I’m contemplating something about my own life, I tend to be more judgmental than loving. If I contemplate in a loving way, this is what happens…
- I look but do not judge. My purpose is to become absorbed in what I am contemplating. I am contemplating because I understand the need to be open to it without “doing” anything.
- I look with the expectation of a good outcome. No matter what I’m contemplating—a conversation, a problem I face, a dream I have, a task I’m discerning—I expect that the Holy Spirit is in the middle of it and will show me what I need to see and then equip me to respond in the best way.
- I look with the understanding that the world is flawed and that forgiveness is necessary every day if I am to move forward and grow spiritually. Today I might need to forgive someone else, or I might need to forgive myself. But I begin my contemplation expecting to bump up against something that calls for mercy and grace.
“Look at the real. I think this is even tougher than the love part, because we are so skilled at fooling ourselves. I have so many defenses against the truth that sometimes prayer or contemplation is, first of all, an exercise in bringing down those defenses.
Again she continues…
I avoid “the real” because:
- I’m afraid that reality is unfixable.
- I’m afraid that I have messed up in some way, and I don’t want to experience guilt or shame.
- I’m afraid that, if I see the real, I might have to change or do something really difficult.
“Contemplation is an exercise in keeping your heart and mind spaces open long enough for the mind to see other hidden material.“
God contemplates us?
Still with me? Here is the insight that stopped me. God takes a long, loving look at us. God contemplates us!
She links to a further article on God’s larger gaze,
“One of the biggest revelations one can have in prayer is that he or she is loved, especially those who have experienced trauma or abandonment… Imagine God gazing down on you and ask yourself how God feels.
I had never thought of God contemplating me, “a dented coin”.
“(If) “God takes a long, loving look at us—we can grow courageous enough and hopeful enough to look honestly at this moment, this problem, this hurt, or this dream.”
“As God contemplates us, we can contemplate ourselves and know that we, even here and now, are loved and beautiful.
Yet another challenge
- Can we look at others, especially those we serve, as God looks at them with a long LOVING look?
Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk\