Saturday, April 3, 2010

Abandoning Hurry and Appreciating Slowness

The links between speed, aggression, impersonality and stress are quite obvious when we look around at our amped-up culture. Physician/author Larry Dossey calls it time-sickness. There's never enough time, as people rush from one thing to the next, often quite proud of their awful busyness. Even little children suffer from overscheduled days which bring a sense of pressure and confinement.

There's a move on in various countries to counter the speed-driven lifestyle. Slow Food which began in Italy was its start. Now the value of slowness has begun to influence urban design, medicine, parenting and family life. In America, where people work so much more than most other industrialized countries, everyone wants to work less and enjoy life more. More leisure and less pressure. More openness and aliveness.

I don't need to be converted to the beauty of life in the slower lanes and alleys. As an artist and meditator, I have always made sure that I've had free time. I've used it to relax in stillness, to daydream and explore the inner life of imagination and spirit. I have grown to appreciate slowness more and more and I age. It's natural to slow down in the later years.

I recently read two books on slowness because I wondered what others had to say about it. Slow is Beautiful is by Cecile Andrews who is a founder of the Phinney Ecovillage, a project to build sustainability and community in her North Seattle neighborhood. Andrews describes how slowing down helps grow community and a culture of connection. She also discusses how developing a slower, simpler lifestyle naturally decreases stress and increases joie de vivre. Conviviality, neighborly connection and slowness provide opportunities to serve others and bring an increased enjoyment of the present moment.

Canadian journalist Carl Honore's book In Praise of Slowness takes a broad look at many areas in society where speed corrodes everyday life. He talks about various countries and how they are approaching efforts to slow down. He investigates the value of leisure, rejuvenation and adventure, working less, raising an unhurried child,taking naps, vacations and enjoying meals in a leisurely fashion. Both books are well worth reading, even if you are already an advocate of slowness.

Last Friday, I took a fall while trying to collapse a cardboard box with my foot. It slipped out from under me, and now I have 4 fractured metatarsal bones in my left foot. So I am especially slowed down for the next few weeks. But it's not so bad at all. I have been enjoying switching off between crawling around like a little kid and using crutches and a wheelchair. Different forms of locomotion than I usually use.

I think it's a pretty funny coincidence that I read those two books and now am being given the opportunity to slow down to a very slow pace indeed. It's quite a gift.

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