Karen K Redding Ph.D.

Pole, Pole : Slowly, Slowly: Learning Life’s Lessons in the Kenyan Bush

By Karen K. Redding/ October 15, 2015

Learning Life’s Lessons in the Kenyan Bush

When I travel to ‘far away’ places to see and visit people in different parts of the world, I try to not only ‘see’ the person, but to feel what is present in the face, the gestures, and the verbal and non-verbal exchange. Sometimes people are surprised and curious about my interest in them. Mostly, it is a way to pause, to listen and learn about another’s way of life.

In a recent trip to Kenya, I met Jackson, a staff person at a Safari Camp, and Masai Warrior who embodied warmth and receptivity. We both shared an interest in hearing a bit about each other’s life journey…not only the ‘where are you from’ question, but the ‘what really matters to you’ inquiry.

Jackson shared glimpses of his life story: leaving home at an early age; living in the bush with other young boys; killing a lion (with the assistance of his peers); and learning the WAY of the bush. Feeling increasingly intrigued, I asked, ‘What IS the ‘WAY’ of the bush?’ Jackson replied with a smile that in the beginning, living in the bush with a group of young boys felt a bit wild and chaotic.

‘We were like a pack of animals ourselves,’ he admitted.

‘But with time, we learned about ‘Pole…Pole’…a Swahlli phrase that means

‘Slowly…Slowly’.

I learned that the ‘Way’ of the bush was learning to live life more SLOWLY…to really SEE what is here; to LISTEN to sounds; to SMELL what is present and be receptive to the TASTE of potential herbs and food sources; to FEEL and connect to one’s body…to care for oneself and others too. Ultimately, the Way is learning to be in harmony with nature…to witness the cycles of birth & death; the interconnectedness of all life forms, and its ever changing nature.

‘When we can learn the Way,’ he said, ‘then it all boils down to ‘Sawa…Sawa’…another Swahili phrase that means ‘it’s okay…no matter what, it’s really okay.’

Learning Life’s Lessons in the Kenyan Bush