I started thinking about this post a few weeks back, but in the true spirit of slowness, I’ve been letting some thoughts bubble around and simmer a bit. However as today is the summer solstice, the longest day of light in the northern hemisphere, it felt appropriate to finally type these words on to my screen.
Now, you might think as a meditation teacher and someone who ambles around the kitchen quite a lot with chocolate, that I fully embody the concept of slow living.
But the truth is, while I’ve embraced some slower ways of existing, my mind still runs around at a hundred miles an hour at times. I STILL get stressed by some small things and, on occasion, big things. And yes, I do rush to events and meetings on days when I’ve tried to squeeze a few too many things into a visit to London.
I’m very much working on what more mindful and slower living actually means to me in reality.
While I’m in the fortunate position of generally having more control over my time and what I do with my work compared to my previous working life, at times I feel like I’m still skating across the surface of genuinely embracing acts of slowness in my life.
By why do acts of slowness even matter?
At the heart of this, for me at least, is the importance of a connection with myself, others and the world around me.
When I rush, when I panic, when I hurry hurry, there’s no time to really take in what’s happening and how I truly feel about things. I can react in ways that are overly emotional and not always helpful. And I don’t always make the best choices for my energy and wellbeing.
One of the (many) reasons I started meditating was that I felt this loss of connection and awareness very keenly. This manifested in the digestive troubles of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I do completely appreciate that in the scheme of troubles, this is very minor versus, say, depression, homelessness or addiction, but what it meant was that I wasn’t really existing in the world in the best way I could.
I wanted to contribute more than I felt able to at that time. I also wanted to feel like I had a greater sense of purpose, particularly in the work I was doing.
Embracing acts of slowness in business and in life
My body initially forced me into slowing down. I can now see in hindsight this was actually very fortunate as it gave me time to reassess what felt truly important, rather than being guided just by ego, money and what I thought I was supposed to do to be “successful”.
But going a little slower didn’t mean doing nothing and lazing around in front of the TV all day. It also didn’t mean doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s actually more about acting with consideration, more mindfully and allowing pauses; to be aware when you need to go fast and when you need to go slow.
For me it also means building in breaks and time for rest, which is something I’m not always very good at in relation to my work. When you’re self-employed, as I am, and work can be variable, it’s sometimes a bit tricky to say no to work. But I do, for example, try as much as possible to keep Sunday free from work commitments, and to have at least a couple of days a week when I can work at home. In addition, I’m much more careful about guarding my energy around social commitments.
Slowness is also about focus.
It’s why I’m so passionate about chocolate tasting. You really only get the full flavour journey and taste experience by tasting slowly and with focus, elevating what can be an everyday experience into something special. Or at the very least, something a bit more interesting and different to the normal approach of chomping chocolate very quickly.
A more considered, slow approach to work involves consciously completing one task at a time, rather than trying (unsuccessfully) to multi-task. Multi-tasking just dissipates attention and means everything, ironically, takes longer.
This slowness is also about generally bringing more intention to work and life, really getting to understand your why.
Oh, and something I’m still working on, making time to day dream and mind wander.
A slow movement
Slow living is not something new. Many people in the religious life, for example, have been following tenets of conscious and reflective living for centuries. However, in our modern, always-on world, it has become even more important to infuse a little slowness into everyday life, whether you are pursuing a spiritual belief or not.
In fact, this post is actually a starting point from some different elements of slow I’m going to be exploring for myself over the next 12 months, including the research behind these elements and why they matter – or not!
As with everything, I think it’s important to explore what works for you (and me), gently incorporating changes and seeing where they lead. I’m actually quietly excited about where the exploration is going to take me.
If you’d like to join me in a bit of slow exploration, here are some suggestions to get you started:
1. One step at a time
I’ve written before about the importance of walking in my own mindfulness journey.
I love walking, but my natural pace is normally quite fast. Having a dog to walk has definitely slowed me down as he stops to smell all sorts of things! But I also actively choose to walk a little more slowly when I’m in London at times, to take in what’s going on around me. I still find walking is one of the best ways to bring in a bit more slow – plus it has the benefit of helping boost creative thinking and shaking off a little stress.
While I’ve been typing this, WhatsApp messages have been popping up, I’ve dropped over into my email a few times (I had to close the tab on my laptop in the end), and I got up to get myself a drink of water or two. I’ve also had to stop myself getting up to test a new hot chocolate recipe. It’s taken a little strictness to get myself to finish writing this article before starting anything else. Yes, mono-tasking, rather than multi-tasking, can be quite tough.
However approaching tasks consciously and completing one thing before moving to the next is a great way to work with more intention and focus. I’ve also found it’s helped me learn my distraction triggers (you might be surprised at how often you get distracted or sidetracked if you try this for yourself!).
3. Savour a sip
Of course I had to include something related to food or drink, which is one of my loves and also one of my common distractions. Most people have at least one warm drink in a day, whether it’s tea (herbal or caffeinated), coffee, warm water or hot chocolate. It therefore gives you the perfect excuse to pop a little pause in your day.
When you warm a drink up, it has the benefit of being both soothing to touch, and helping to release and intensify the aromas in whatever you’re drinking. Whether it’s first thing in the morning, your mid-morning tea break or a spot of afternoon coffee, taking the time to stop, feel the warmth and breathe in the aromas of a drink is a great way to infuse your day with some slow.
You could go even one step further and take small, slow sips over the course of a few minutes, really savouring the experience both inside and outside your mouth.
And, in that spirit, now I’ve finished writing this post, I have some new hot chocolate to go and slowly taste!
What one act of slowness could you incorporate in your day?
Some further reading/listening on slow living
Slow Your Home podcast
The Simple Things magazine