We have written on many topics but slowing down has not been one of them. And that is basically because it has never been my favorite thing to do. But I am slowly learning from being with Amana. The reason is that I enjoy hanging out with her and connecting. To really connect, slowing down and not being busy is pretty essential.
One of my biggest challenges has always been a slow meal. In my childhood, food was not something to take time over. It was to get over with so that we could get on with something more productive. Amana’s childhood was totally different. In Denmark, they linger over meals. And Amana enjoys gourmet food that takes time to cook and for most people, except me, time to eat. At first, I thought I would die. Because as the hours go by, I could only think of all the time I was wasting.
Only last night, we were sitting in a beautiful restaurant in the South of France and I was noticing how much I had changed. It took two hours to finish our meal because as Amana told me, “they are taking time between courses so that we can digest.” In the past, my response would have been, “Give me a break! I could have plenty of time to digest later. All that happens while I am waiting is that I keep eating more bread.” But last night, I was able to just hang out and enjoy the environment. Still, old habits die slowly – they could have been a bit faster with the food!
But I have to admit that hanging out has its merits. When we first got together almost twenty years ago, we did a seminar in Pune on the Barry Long method of making love. Basically it means learning to make love without orgasm, excitement, or moving. It is now, and has been for years, the way we make love most of the time. We have discovered from working with many couples that are looking for more compatibility in their sexuality, that this is a wonderful alternative to only making love with excitement. Generally, men have a harder time with this way. I did too, at first. But now I find it incredibly nourishing. However, it takes much longer time, so slowing down and taking time is needed.
For couples to enjoy slowing down and hanging out together, they have to like each other’s company and take time away from the regular stresses of life. It is all too easy for couples to get into routines and become overloaded and overwhelmed with the practical details of life. Then they forget to take time to connect. We have to make a point of taking time away from work and practical details and just having time with each other to share, make love, and take walks. We have a very full schedule when we are leading seminars and when we are working; it is hard to find time to really connect. But we take time between groups to do nothing. In the past, doing nothing was not in my vocabulary. Now, I can enjoy it. Recently at a lovely holiday resort in Turkey, we were faced with the difficult decision of which beach to spend the day of the five choices they offered. Imagine, a whole day just lying under an umbrella! When I tell my older brother (who doesn’t do holidays – two days is his limit) about my new habit of doing nothing, he is speechless.
But don’t get me wrong. In between our beach time in Turkey, we also swam, went to the gym, took grueling bike and sea kayak tours, and I played tennis everyday with the local pro. Usually, we book holidays where we can also do sporty things since we both love it. All hanging and no activity wouldn’t work for either of us. I guess over the years, I have moved Amana in the direction of more activity and she moves me into nothingness.
Speaking of nothingness, one of our dynamics has been that I have needed to learn to wait. I get ready in two seconds. Amana gets ready in two days. I once heard Eckhart Tolle talk about how much he loves to wait because he hangs in meditation. I try to meditate while I am waiting but up to now, I am still working on it. There is still much room for improvement.
It’s also hard for a couple to enjoy spending empty time together, undistracted by doing, if there are unresolved issues between them. When issues are unresolved, resentment builds and slowly both partners end up spending more and more time apart. We learned that lesson early in our relationship and have never allowed much time to go by without cleaning the space between us.
Finally, if a couple is going to enjoy slowing down and hanging out together, they will need to have much in common including being in silence together. Fortunately, Amana and I like mostly the same movies and television programs. That could be the most essential thing a couple needs in common. But a common love of meditation also helps.