I want to be a snail. Or snail-like, at least. I want to move through my days at a steady place, taking time to enjoy the scenery. I want to taste every mouthful of leek and potato soup, which I cooked myself, slowly, after growing the leeks and potatoes myself, slowly. I want to do things properly, one at a time. I want my body to feel open and relaxed. I want to engage with every single second.
Some days I manage this, and some days I don’t. Most of us have lives that move pretty fast. We have children to take to football practice, busy jobs, and a million things to do around the house. Technology encourages us to speed up, with emails and text messages interrupting us every three minutes. There is a pressure to ‘succeed’, to make even more money, to cram even more activities into our schedule.
Breathe. If you’re yearning for a slower life, here are my tips to get you started. Changing your speed setting takes practice – be patient with yourself. Take it slow.
Learn to recognise when you’re speeding up.
How do you know when you’re starting to feel rushed? Do you feel tight in your chest? Do you start making endless lists? When do you speed up – first thing in the morning? When you’re spending time with a particular friend or colleague? What beliefs do you have that are driving you (shoving you) forwards? The first step towards change is always becoming aware. Once we bring something into our awareness, it automatically starts to shift something. Keep an eye on yourself and see what you find out.
Simplify your life.
It is possible to ‘take it slow’ when every second of your day is accounted for, but it’s not easy. To give yourself a head-start at slow, take a hard look at your life and remove everything that isn’t necessary. Do you still enjoy that French class? Will your boss really notice if you stay an extra two hours on Thursday? Take the same approach to your surroundings – get rid of all that clutter. Be brutal. If you’re a hoarder, ask a minimalist friend to help you out.
Practice ‘concentrated slow’
Certain activities can help us experience slowing down in a ‘purer’ form, and their beneficial effects will leak into the rest of our days. Meditation is probably the ‘purest’ of these – just sit for ten minutes every morning with your back straight and pay attention to your breath. This is NOT as easy as it sounds, but it doesn’t matter – just keep doing it. Other concentrated slow activities might be fishing, walking, reading, gardening, washing up… you can turn almost anything into concentrated slow if you approach it in the right frame of mind. Make time for these activities once a day or several times a week.
Cultivate your appreciation of slow. Living slowly can be an acquired taste – we can get used to the adrenaline rush of living in the fast lane. Cook slow delicious food and eat it slowly. Gaze out of the car window at the clouds (unless you’re driving). Listen to slow music on your i-Pod. Re-read a book you love slowly – sentence by sentence. When you catch yourself trotting along the pavement, slow down and look up at the intricately carved buildings or down at the luminous irises outside the florists. Write down one shining detail a day – the exact colour of the sky, the scent of your jasmine tea. Savour. Relish. Luxuriate.
Don’t do it alone
If you’ve been rushing through your days for years, it will take a sustained effort to change the way you live. Big changes are always more attainable and more fun when we involve others. Could you pair up with a friend who wants to slow down? How about joining a watercolour class or meditation group? What about a long weekend at the seaside or a lunchtime walk with a colleague along the river? Could you ask your family to gently remind you when you’re speeding up? How about joining a self development group or getting some therapy? Spend some money or time or energy on yourself. This is your life. This is important!
I hope you enjoy your adventures in slowing down. My book about slowing down is A Year of Questions. Also recommended are Carl Honore’s ‘In Praise of Slow’, or ‘How to be Idle’ by Tom Hodgkinson. You can also see how my character Leonard enjoys living slowly as a gardener and as a reluctant detective in my novel, The Blue Handbag. Here’s to snails.
Causes Fiona Robyn Supports