The Important Concept of Yutori
This morning I began a new plan, or rather, I have revived an old plan. As soon as I dropped my grandson off at school I went directly to Dow’s Lake for an attention walk. This walk is not to get my heart rate up but rather to lift up my spirits. Although heart related, it is a measurement of a different kind. This practice requires slow walking, awareness, and my camera. What a beautiful 40 minutes I spent walking by the cattails, listening to the red-winged blackbirds and sinking into the wonder of nature.
Stopping to take a photo at whatever caught my eye or simply to listen to the feathered choir and notice the graceful draping leaves of the weeping willows bursting forth all along the lake shore of my stroll transported me for a time. The short 40 minute journey highlighted how easy it is to involve ourselves in beauty and how easy it is to miss out. Not, just with this unfolding of spring but so many other aspects of our life too. We need to take the time and use our attention if we want to activate our senses to the life around us.
On Being Project
There is a concept, brand new to me that I also discovered today. The Japanese word is Yutori. One of my most favorite poets, Naomi Shihab Nye, discussed it on an interview with Krista Tippet and the On Being Project. (link in the notes) Naomi tells how she encountered this word.
I just came back from Japan a month ago, and in every classroom, I would just write on the board, “You are living in a poem.” And then I would write other things just relating to whatever we were doing in that class. But I found the students very intrigued by discussing that. “What do you mean, we’re living in a poem?” Or, “When? All the time, or just when someone talks about poetry?” And I’d say, “No, when you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem. That’s what a poem does.”
And they liked that. And a girl, in fact, wrote me a note in Yokohama on the day that I was leaving her school that has come to be the most significant note any student has written me in years. She said, “Well, here in Japan, we have a concept called yutori.” And it is spaciousness. It’s a kind of living with spaciousness. For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around. Or — and then she gave all these different definitions of what yutori was to her. But one of them was… and after you read a poem just knowing you can hold it, you can be in that space of the poem. And it can hold you in its space. And you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently. And I just love that. I mean, I think that’s what I’ve been trying to say all these years.
Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of numerous poetry books, including Famous (Wings Press, 2015). Excerpted from interview
I encountered this word, after I came back from my walk. I then tracked it down in several places and understood that it accurately explained my outing this morning. It was the conscious slow down to allow me to savour the world around me. The refusal to rush. No talking. The stirring of what I love and have been missing for too long. I simply stepped into absorption with nature and with no agenda except to see. Spaciousness opened up.
I can imagine that all of you have had experiences of spaciousness. It is easy for me to imagine how it happens with a poem, music, and other meaningful moments. Yet this snippet from the interview hints at the many more opportunities we have to savour our everyday.
There is a spot on my walk, where I will take a photo each day to see spring unfold. Slow time is underrated. I picture the bridge as the path to slow and spacious time. Just like the young Japanese girl intimated. You don’t arrive early by going fast; you leave early to arrive early.
Note 1:)Here is the podcast and transcript to the interview for those who are interested.
Note 2:) An angle on the bridge – April 7th, 2021
Note 3:) Thank you all, for reading last week’s blog and sending me comments and emails. I was touched by all of them. I appreciate each and everyone of you and send all my best wishes that you stay safe and resourceful through this next challenging phase of the pandemic. More importantly, “may you take time to notice that you are living in a poem.” Warmly, Trudy
PS I took the banner photo this morning too. It is the small pond in the marsh.
oh yes, the spaciousness of slowing down, holding a poem and being held by it – how different the world would be if we could all practice a slow walk around a lake! Hurrah for slow time! xoxoxo
Oh, yay! There’s a word for that, and now I know it — “yutori”.
And that banner photo is just my kind of photo!
Such a gift to have the lake and arboretum. Always changing and always beautiful.