For men, the traditional pant worn in India is a dhoti. A dhoti is one long piece of cloth wrapped around the body from the waist down to the ankles. Although this style provides some freedom of movement, there are certain restrictions placed on the body. One obvious restriction is speed. This garment does not allow a man to walk quickly. That fact alone can change the whole day and demeanor of the man. Because he has to walk slowly, he is able to be more relaxed, more aware, more available to the moment, and more available to life in general. The same can be said of women and their traditional saris.
I live in a culture that prides itself in the freedom of quick movement. In almost an instant I can have whatever I want: any drink of choice, any food of choice, access to temperature control to facilitate my comfort, the ability to order anything I “need” from an online catalog and have it delivered overnight or local access to 24 hour shopping, instant access to information and entertainment for my own pleasure and interest…and the list goes on. In my culture the speed of movement and availability are supposed to make my life easier; they are supposed to make my life enjoyable. But they don’t. In fact, what I notice is how much these things steal my life from me.
When I was in India, I heard it said that one of the biggest mistakes was the introduction of trousers to the culture because it allowed men to walk fast. It became easier for the preciousness of the moment to get lost. And with the loss of a slower pace, the ability to be too busy was now possible. Ambition and drive could take over.
I have to admit I had never thought of clothes being a part of taking life at a slower, more aware pace. But I am getting curious what it would feel like to go around at a more contained pace.
Wearing a dhoti or a sari is probably not the answer, but it does raise some interesting questions. Are there places that I could impose some kind of containment on my life to facilitate a slower pace? Are there places I could withdraw from instant access and actually wait for something? Are there ways I could refuse speed and cling to my own centeredness and presence to life?