In high school, I had read a story by H. G. Wells about a child who wanders down an unfamiliar street and spots a door in a plain white masonry wall. He opens it and discovers a garden where everything is welcoming and full of peace – a place where he belongs. The next day he tries to go back, but the door has disappeared. Three or four times after that, as he grows into manhood and climbs the ladder of success, he turns a corner and happens to see the door again, just as he remembers it. He hesitates, but always he has something urgent to attend to and lets the moment go. The years pass and he attains fame and fortune, but he is haunted by regret that he never ventured through his door again.
When I read that story again in the middle of my life, I realized it applied to me. One detail that hadn’t meant much when I was younger jumped out at me: every time that fellow sees his door in the wall again and decides to pass it by, he first looks at his watch. He can’t take the time to stop to discover what he has always longed for. In fact, the Buddha says, our constant hurrying is often a kind of anesthesia. It’s not convenient to stop to ask big questions; it can even feel threatening. So long as we keep moving, we can put it off. “Wake up!” the Buddha says. “It is time to wake up. Why do you go on sleeping?”
I was almost forty; my alarm was ringing. It was time to step back, take a long view of my life, and reevaluate my priorities. What did I really want? What was life for?
– Take Your Time: The Wisdom of Slowing Down