Nine years ago next month, I embarked on a life changing experience and climbed Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. As we began on our 5-day trek through the rainforest and up the 19,300 ft mountain, our guides oft repeated two words, pole, pole (po-lay, po-lay) … slowly, slowly. They would laugh and ask why we Americans were always in such a rush to get places. “When we go slowly, we see so much more, become so much more aware of what we’re feeling, and allow our body to acclimate and speak to us about what it needs,” they would say. That advice allowed all eight of us, in great spirits and health to reach the top, dancing to Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long,” drinking Mountain Dew and laughing.
It’s been my lifelong journey to learn pole, pole. I’m making progress and learning more every day that slowing down in my breathing and my zooming actually allows me to accomplish more of what’s important to me and feel more successful in my journey. The practice allows minutes to expand – more of my senses are able to be part of each moment, giving me deeper inputs and information.
Together this sense of growing awareness and expansion builds the power of our inner knowing and intuition. Our decision making, our choices and our responses become more effective and powerful – and the benefits to our physical health are huge. It is in this nuance (one I’ve long missed while running so fast with an endless to-do list) that magic can happen. And, as Mary Oliver says in her powerful poem “The Journey,” “there is a new voice which I slowly recognize as my own.”
As an example, for the third time this summer a raptor stood on the trail a few feet in front of me without immediately flying away. Maybe it’s an energy shift or maybe these magnificent hawks and owls have always been there, but I was walking too fast, lost in my own world to notice. And then I wonder, “what else have I missed?” That owl experience from Tuesday morning stays with me. It reminds me to breathe, to check in, to remember the expansiveness of our world if we just slow down enough to notice.
And then I remember the joy of standing at the top of Kilimanjaro and saying “YES!”
Here’s to pole, pole and seeing all the magic in between the spaces of our breath.