To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual – Oscar Wilde
Lately, I’ve been trying (sometimes in vain) to live a slower life. I’ve been trying to quieten my mind and focus my attention on single tasks in order to cultivate productivity and efficiency. I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness, notice my surroundings, eat slowly and enjoy each bless’d bite (which I’ve actually discovered requires lots of chewing). I’ve been trying to smile more at people too, which is easier said than done, because more often than not, smiling catches people off guard. Ain’t that a sad reality.
Ultimately, I do these things because I’m an anxious person, and in order to experience some sort of restfulness, some sort of peace, I need to go slow.
By slow, I am not necessarily talking of physicality. I don’t mean that I intend to do things at the same pace as my darling grandparents, more so that I do things with intention, with awareness. And with a restful mind and a gentle heart.
So far I’ve noted some practices which are working quite well for me in my pursuit of slow. But perhaps “pursuit” is too strong a word… my exploration.
The executing of slowness:
- Catch trains (or perhaps any form of public transport). I catch a train three days a week to and from the city, and while I don’t particularly enjoy sitting down for the entire trip, I do find this a productive and mostly peaceful time in which to write, read and ponder. In fact, I write many of my blog posts on the train. I find my creative juices are most potent here. What better place to be slow than when there is no where else to go. Plus, it’s cheaper than driving a car, requires no effort on your part and is far better for the environment.
- Get off one stop earlier and walk to your destination, time permitting. I do this often, wandering from Redfern to my university campus on Broadway. It’s a beautiful walk full of changing scenes and dynamic landscapes. First there are the terraced streets of the inner city. I fancy I’d like to live in one someday. Next the leafy green gardens of Victoria park, where the CBD can be seen from afar. And all the while, people walk and venture out into the day, drinking coffee at hole-in-the-wall cafés and going where they need to go. It all feels rather feels hopeful, really. But not rushed.
- Walk. Lots. And often. Just as I catch the train three times a week, I also walk to and from the station each time. It does require me to leave the house 20 minutes earlier than if I were to drive, but the benefits are invaluable. This is time for me to gently move my body, to fill my lungs with fresh air, to wonder at the world around me and to let anxious thoughts float on like clouds. Mountains, trees, sunlight, oceans… all these things are good for the soul. And good for the slow.
- Become your own story teller. When I find it hard to clear my brain of pestering, anxious-y thoughts, I become my own story-teller. That is to say, I narrate to myself what I am seeing, what I am hearing, what I am smelling, what I am tasting in that small and precious moment. I like to pair this with walking. It helps to keep you present. For example: “I can hear kookaburras, and wind rustling through the gum leaves. And – oooohhh, what is that smell? I think it must be jasmine. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Leaves underfoot. Oh that wind is chilly”. NB: I don’t do this out loud, for obvious reasons. And I don’t think there is a wrong or right way to narrate.
How do you go slow? I’d love to know!
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