There are periods in our lives when it seems that we are more open for mindfulness. It might come with the age, reaching some milestones, can also be the impact of our environment, and usually have some relationship with how we sense ‘time’. In the meaning of trying to get the best out of the time we have. No matter how we use it, it tends to pass anyway…
The first time I met the ideology was the slow food movement, which was easy to agree with. Health impacts of being busy all the time and cut the breakfast, lunch, and unfortunately more and more often, the dinner-time had immediate consequences, not to mention the long-term effects. Things coming to your face are those that you tend to consider right away, although those that seem to be easy to postpone – a bit, of course – are the usual victims of your lifestyle. You try to keep up with our environment, your competitors, try to avoid negative feedback and perform over 100% wherever you go. But is it really possible? Is it worth even trying it? Is this the meaning of life?
We are living in a world – especially in Europe – where we are continuously pushed to comply with some idealized images of ourselves. To be the first, the greatest, largest, quickest, the best, the most interesting, outstanding, most powerful, simply the most of everything. The worst is that these expectations are not necessarily coming from our external environment, but we have become the masters of self-exploitation. We have become aware, highly skilled, we respond quickly, perform, deliver. The only thing we seem to bias is the reason of these all. Of course, we can always find a very good explanation (excuse?) to go on. The best ones are those which are related to our beloved family, friends or others we take care of. We do not have to feel selfish or egoist, and – the best is that – we do not have to face our own internal issues… Either admit it or not, we all have…
Coming back to the original question: why do we continue on our accelerated lives, if it seems that we cannot have more content in exchange, but rather tend to pay a high price in the form of exhaustion, stress, loneliness and the permanent feeling of running out of time?
The slow living initiation seems to imply that there is no proper answer to the question above, but a strong need in others to gain back the control over their lives and live according to their real needs to be satisfied with it, may tell something. So, It might be worth taking a chance. I must admit that for the first glance, for a hyperactive creature, like me, being “slow” had a negative connotation. However, only for the first glance.
I decided to shed a bit of light on this initiation, to give some explanation on the basics, in order to let you follow your own way afterwards, looking for those additional details that you feel necessary, useful, however you explain it to yourself.
First thing first: what does this term mean? Slow living is a chosen lifestyle, characterized by paying attention to the natural speed of things, instead of accelerating everything to the extent possible. Natural speed, in the meaning of being mindful, life-affirming, conscious of sensory profusion. Being patient to wait for certain things (decisions, choices, etc.) to mature. Concentrating on things which are important and prioritize them against those driven only by your compliant self. In a wider sense, when living slower, you have the possibility to experience connectedness, sustainability, and can feel useful and contributing to your community. A relatively simplified approach is to value quality higher than quantity, and long term balance to short term achievements.
There are also myths around slow living, so probably the best is to take them out of the way right at the beginning:
1. Slow living is NOT about doing everything as slowly as possible.
It is to proceed with things in their natural speed, patiently, to let things, decisions, choices, reactions mature, rather than accelerating everything to the extent possible.
2. Slow living does NOT equal to simple living.
Simple living is said to be more focused on things (materialism, consumption, etc) and slow living is more focused on time (energy, balance, etc). Nonetheless, you can choose to take the best of both worlds and live slowly and simply, as per your preferences.
3. Slow living is NOT about the aesthetics or outlook
Similar to the misinterpretation of being simple or slow, minimalism is also different from having a slow lifestyle. It is – again – about how you fill it and how you ‘process’ the elements, rather than how you expose or stage them.
4. Slow living does NOT mean to give up yourself and become less
Since one of the fundamentals of slow living is to eliminate non-essentials from your life, it cannot – per definitionem – lead to becoming less. It is like when you have to fill a glass with stones and sand: stones representing the ‘important’ or ‘meaningful’ items of your life, and the sand all those other things that you ‘must’ perform or live with. If you fill the glass with sand first, it is hard to add stones afterwards, and you can add only a few, if at all. With a different strategy, you may put as many stones as you can, and then fill the gap with the sand to have a full glass. I guess the analogy is self-explanatory.
5. Slow living does NOT mean anti-development or anti-technology approach
It means using technology and products in a way to serve your purposes, instead of letting them be the means of slavery for the benefit of someone else. Just to give some examples: you might use them to minimize the time spent on the non-essentials, by way of increasing efficiency and also to access things which are categorized as important in your life. Learn to say no, and do not think that you ‘must’ deal with something purely because you ‘can’. Be aware that most of the things you do are the question of your own choice.
This might be enough for start, to give you an impression. Once you have, the next chapter would be to translate it to your everyday life. You should find your own track, a new comfort zone, and not to let yourself washed away by the daily routine.
In the forthcoming parts, you will find some history, in order to put the whole initiative into context, and also some practicalities to help you establishing your own framework and new way of living.
See you soon.