“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.” — Saint Francis de Sales (1567 – 1662) via BrainyQuote.com
This sounds a lot like Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais (1904 – 1984), who would often direct his students to move quickly, but without hurrying. What does that even mean? At first hearing, it seems like a zen koan, one of those paradoxes that leaves you scratching your head and no closer to enlightenment. But as I practiced the Feldenkrais Method, I experienced what he was talking about. Beyond teaching people to notice when their muscles contracted in uncomfortable and inefficient patterns, he was also teaching a way to find peace of mind. He taught that straining, hurrying, or over-reaching are signs that we’re being driven by some unconscious notion – or habit – that has nothing to do with being present in the moment. One might say that our ego takes over, and achieving our goal becomes more important than the way we get there.
Saint Francis de Sales, a Roman Catholic mystic during the early years of the Protestant Reformation, recommends a practice of mindfulness when he says, “. . .do everything quietly and in a calm spirit.” When “the whole world seems upset,” in any moment, his solution is to return to the spaciousness and peacefulness of a quiet and calm mind and spirit. My common first reaction is to want the upset to be solved immediately. When I try to “muscle my way” to a solution, my ego is in charge, and even more difficulty ensues. To act from a quiet and calm mind takes a lot of practice!
Saint Francis de Sales makes it sound very simple. But I have the sense that he knew such a practice would not be easy. I think he knew the world would always seem upset, in countless small and large ways. I imagine that he spent a lot of time in stillness, waiting with a quiet and calm spirit for guidance from the still, small voice within.