Back in my career-focused days, I rarely paid attention to the natural world around me. I spent a lot of time indoors: in the office, in airports, in shopping centres, in the lounge room watching television. I rushed from place to place not seeing anything but the next appointment or event ahead of me. In my rushing, I was not only disconnected from the nature of the world around me but also from myself.
Then, I went to Thailand on my 12-month sabbatical where my life instantly slowed down. On my first night in Phuket, I experienced this sunset...
...it was so beautiful that it awakened something in me. All I knew was that I needed to see more.
Throughout my time living in Phuket, I went as often as I could to watch the sunset over the sea. Some days they were vibrant and magnificent. Other days the sun was shrouded in grey haze long before it touched that imaginary line between sky and sea.
Regardless of the outcome, I felt called to show up day after day and just watch and appreciate whatever presented.
During my time living in Phuket, I was surrounded by nature: sea, jungled hills, sky. I spent most of my time outdoors, riding a motorbike, at the beach, swimming in the sea, eating meals outdoors.
When I returned to city, corporate life in Melbourne, I started walking to and from work through the local parks and lane ways to feed my spirit. I also used a mindfulness practice of writing small stones to help me connect and really see the world around me. As a result of both of these practices, I learned to love the city around me.
When I walked the Via Francigena pilgrimage route, my average walking speed was 4 kilometers per hour (4 km/h). When we slow down, we connect more strongly with the deeper essence of life. If you are not sure what I mean, pick a task whether it be cooking, washing dishes or even go for a walk around your local area. Do it fast and notice how you feel. Then do it again but slow it down. Did you notice the difference? Which did you enjoy more?
Walking 4 km/h, I was able to connect deeply with the world around me as I passed things slowly and could give them my complete, wonder-filled attention. By slowing down, I was also able to reconnect more deeply to my own spirit and clearly hear the guidance of my own soul.
Eventually, even walking 4 km/h was too fast. Instead of constantly moving from one town to the next, my spirit wanted to stop more often and savour the landscape around me. However, my need for safety, to arrive at the next town and find shelter for the night, kept me walking forward.
I passed through many wonderful towns on my way from Canterbury to Rome: Laon, Reims, Lausanne, Vercelli, San Miniato, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Siena and of course Rome to name a few. I noticed when compiling my video that I didn’t film any of the main towns and this is why:
For all the time I spent wanting to arrive at an answer for my life, I discovered it is the time spent in-between, exploring and journeying that I enjoy most.
Here is my short video of my Via Francigena journey. For a better quality viewing, click on HD then click on 'watch in HD now.' May it inspire you to slow down and to walk onto the path that calls to you.
With love and courage,
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