Slowing Down to Wake Up

Anyone with a remote control, a finger and the ability to read is familiar with the concept of a pause button.

You push it and whatever it is that has been the focus of your attention stops -- enabling you to either do something else for the moment or, if the object of your attention is especially compelling -- reflect on the meaning of whatever it is you've been focusing on.

In today's hyper-caffeinated, attention deficit-disordered world, most of us long for a pause button powerful enough to stop more than just our electronic devices. Like our endlessly spinning hard disk of a brain, for example. Or the downward spiral of the economy.

Unable to find it, we seek out both reasonable and unreasonable facsimiles: vacations, absurd TV shows, movies, alcohol, drugs, yoga, meditation, online poker and sleep.

Barbara Bash, in her groundbreaking book, True Nature: An Illustrated Journal of Four Seasons, offers us another choice, one she made a few years ago -- seasonal retreats -- an experience she manages to turn into an art form, both figuratively and literally.

The soulful Ms. Bash, armed only with a suitcase, art supplies, food, water and a healthy amount of self-deprecation, courageously adventures into the unknown to discover what she deftly refers to as "true nature" -- a phrase the reader soon learns has two deeply connected meanings; 1) The authentic essence of the natural world; 2) The authentic essence of the one who seeks the authentic essence of the natural world -- two sides of the same coin which Ms. Bash tosses high into the rarified air of her ancient quest for authenticity.

An accomplished children's book author, illustrator, watercolorist and Buddhist practitioner, Barbara chronicles, in exquisitely crafted word and image, the birth, growth, dying and death of a world few of us ever pause long enough to notice, much less see.

Make that two worlds -- the world around us and the world inside us -- two worlds that, by the end of the book, are experienced as one.

As a man who toggles back and forth between the nanosecond 21st century business world and my own ancient quest for timeless meaning, I found True Nature to be a highly refreshing, enlightening and inspired reminder of what it really means to be alive. Kudos to Barbara Bash for slowing down just enough to wake us all up.

Mitch Ditkoff once lived in a tent for three months and ate nothing but fruit. He became very skinny and thought he was having some kind of "God" experience, only to realize he was protein deficient. These days, he is the President of Idea Champions and the proud papa of a newly published book of poetry, Full Moon at Sunrise. Excerpts here.