The classic fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” is a personal favorite. The story is about a Hare that mocks a slow-moving Tortoise and challenges him to a race. With cocky confidence, the Hare quickly leaves the Tortoise behind. Then, with a strong lead in the race, the Hare decides to take a nap. He awakens to find the Tortoise crawling slowly and steadily across the finish line before him.
Our minds are like the Hare, jumping around, racing ahead in spurts and starts, yet asleep on the job. The Tortoise is like our deeper selves: consistent, true, and steady. To find lasting happiness and fulfilment in our lives, we must learn to trust that soul-filled place within. It is core to our life, a sacred center with which we must connect. We eventually see that the slow and steady ways of the Tortoise are like a cool stream of consciousness that arises effortlessly within a greater whole, in harmony with nature unfolding. It continuously moves forward, yet never pushes, strains, resists, or delays.
The Tortoise is also like the loving force of life in which we can rest. With the zippy vigor of the Hare, we may find our tasks done, but with eventual exhaustion and not necessarily having enjoyed the journey. We also zone out on auto-pilot from our tasks, and remain asleep to the richness of our lives.
We can learn a lot about surrendering to the moment from the Tortoise. The Tortoise is not driven by the “look at me!” ego of the Hare, or any self-deflation. It moves steadily with a quiet assurance along its path, focused on the goal without fight, without resistance, in humble surrender to what is.
The more I practice yoga mindfully and the more I meditate, the more I go deeply within and find that place of immense perfection and expansion. In turn, and perhaps surprisingly, I also get more done during the day. I have fooled myself at times, and thought I had too much to do and could not possibly find the time to meditate that day. So I would cut my practice short and dive into my tasks ahead, just like the Hare. Sure enough, as the day progressed, my mind would become scrambled, my thoughts less clear, and my actions would lack clear direction. In a fog-like daze, I might as well have been asleep or taken a nap.
When we take the time to slow down, we actually get more done. We also enjoy what we do far more than if we were in a stressed hurry. When we witness how the breath animates our body, how life-force pulses through our form and leads us to action, we practice a retraining of our mind, from the slick ego-attached Hare to the humble Tortoise. In slowing down, we meet the fullness of what is.
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