The recent earthquake in Nepal has led me to reflect a bit on the importance of observation. Just over a year ago my wife and I were in Nepal, visiting various locations in the Kathmandu valley as well as Pokhara and Begnas Lake. It’s a beautiful country with a beautiful people that work hard every day to scratch out a living.
We got to see many of the numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country, including Durbar Square in Kathmandu. I’m glad we did – here’s the photo we took, and what it looks like now after the earthquake. A heartbreaking loss of culture, architecture, and history.
We went, we observed, we learned the other stories, and, as often happens on our travels to what are now over 60 countries, we were humbled.
I have a long list of places I still want to see, and the earthquake in Nepal has added a sense of urgency lest something similarly unfortunate happens. One of our other favorite places, Puerto Varas in southern Chile and across the Lakes Passage to Bariloche in Argentina, is currently dealing with the Calbuco volcano.
But urgency can be dangerous, especially to observation.
When I was first starting my career someone told me to “walk with purpose” – strong and quick. It projected authority and created confidence. Who knows, perhaps it did help. I rushed here and there, and climbed the ladder. The years flew by, never to be experienced again.
Then one day I learned about the Ohno Circle and I paused. I stood, watched, and learned. I realized how much I was missing by moving quickly. I began to move slower, taking care to observe. I also began to plan observation. What was I going to observe? How? What is the problem or purpose? What would I do with what I learned?
Outside of work I soon developed a habit that has become my favorite daily activity: a nice slow kinhin – walking meditation – on the beach a couple blocks from my house. One step per breath, slow and deliberate. It’s amazing what you notice – both about your surroundings and about yourself – by moving slowly.
According to my wife I also began to drive slower or, in her words, became a “grandpa driver.” Is there truly a rush? Usually not. We’re just socially predispositioned to want to go fast, to compete, to get someplace faster, regardless of necessity. What are you missing? You may not know.
So think about that slow driver ahead of you, causing you to speed and swerve and bolt ahead to probably just meet again at the next batch-creating stop light.
Is he old and senile, or happy and aware… and observing? Or maybe that’s me in front of you. Slow down and observe, otherwise you might think you’ve arrived but not know where you’ve been or the interesting things you’ve passed.