A few days ago, I was revisiting a book that lives on my bedside table. “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future,” writes Buddhist monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh. The first time I read this a few years ago, I’d already been forced to slow down by the muscles in my lower back which emphatically brought my speedy life to a grinding halt. For the fourth time in 3 years, repeated spasms led to a ruptured disc in my spine and all the quick-fix, bandaid solutions I’d tried to adopt fell to the wayside. Suddenly, it felt as if all I had held important, my strong identification with being ‘busy’ and ‘productive’ were taken away. Up until then, I hadn’t really paused to think about the pace of my life or the absence of time to sip slowly on my morning cup of tea. There was pride in being able to do-it-all—that purported holy grail of multi tasking in which ‘busy’, ‘hurried’ and ‘stressed’ were go-to words I’d toss out whenever concern was expressed by a loved one. The physical collapse and enforced pause that ensued brought with it a new set of questions: What is my body trying to tell me? How can I learn to listen? How do I cultivate a life around it?
Over the next few years, albeit ungraciously at first, I began to pay attention to what slowing down was doing to how I perceive and engage with the world. Walks, that up until then had always been at a trot, arms moving like pistons in as I went from one place to another, now included rest stops on benches, moments of pause. Even as I felt the loss of speed and the purposefulness that came with it, other sensations began to kick in—wind against skin, the sound raindrops make when they meet the earth, the expansion of time watching a spider weave a sheet-like web on the ground. Relationships that I had no time to nurture slowly began to rekindle as I found myself making connections. Almost of its own accord, it felt as if the living world was communicating in myriad ways and I only had to listen.
One of the earliest proponents of the Slow Movement, Carl Honoré in his 2004 book, In Praise of Slowness, writes: ‘Fast and Slow do more than just describe a rate of change. They are shorthand for ways of being, or philosophies of life. Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity. It is about making real and meaningful connections—with people, culture, work, food, everything. The paradox is that Slow does not always mean slow […] It is also possible to do things quickly while maintaining a Slow frame of mind.’ In a world where speed and dizzying expectations of productivity are the lauded as a way of life, the Slow Movement challenges this very premise. It makes a case instead for meaningful connection and the time it takes to do so. ‘To take part, you don’t have to ditch your career, toss the iPhone, or join a commune. Living Slow is not about living like a snail. It means doing everything at the right speed—fast, slow, or whatever pace delivers the best results. Many micromovements are already thriving under the Slow umbrella: Slow Food, Slow Cities, Slow Work, Slow Sex, Slow Technology, Slow Education, Slow Parenting, Slow Design, Slow Travel, Slow Fashion, Slow Science, Slow Art,’ writes Honoré.
Over the course of this month, we’ll slowly unpack slow philosophy and what it means to practice it in the increasingly busy, demanding world we inhabit. As always, we would love to hear from you about how you practice slowness, what moments of the day help you bring consciousness to breath and a sense of connection with people, work, nature, and your own body. Do write in to us or share with us on our social media spaces.