To understand what the slow movement is and what it could mean in our lives, we first need to take a look at what life is currently like for most of us today. We have schedules that are generally jam-packed full of things to do ranging from work, to errands, to chauffeuring kids to after school activities. Often times our schedules are so full during the week that it is often hard for some of us to plan meals and cook a decent dinner… which of course can mean purchasing take-out foods several times a week. Proper nutrition and the connection we have with family at meal times should be one of our biggest priorities and yet we are so busy that they get sidelined for faster and easier.
The slow movement is a completely opposite lifestyle. Instead of cramming as much as can be crammed into the schedule, slow movement advocates are purposely slowing things down so they can pause and enjoy life. The slow movement is a cultural shift that touches on a number of areas in life, including:
• Food – As mentioned above, a lot of folks are eating fast-food several times throughout the week. I used to be one of them. The slow movement though emphasizes mindful eating, which is not compatible with the fast-food culture prevalent today. Advocates of slow food believe in eating the right foods, carefully picked, at a slower rate so they are thoroughly able to enjoy their food and relish in the nutrients that are bringing health and wellness to their bodies. This is why many slow food fans enjoy artisan fare, local markets, and foods celebrating various cultures and heritages.
• Travel – Even our vacations seem rushed and not relaxing enough. We try to pack in as much adventure as we can and end up feeling anything but refreshed and relaxed by the end of our “vacation”. Slow travel advocates focus on slowing down when they travel. Instead of rushing from location to location while on vacation, slow travelers often choose destinations where they are able to mingle with the local residents and connect with the community there in a meaningful way.
• City Life – Believe it or not, entire cities are considered “slow.” The concept of “slow cities” originated in Italy. These communities generally have no more than 50,000 people who all agree on meeting certain principles and “slow criteria.” Often, these cities have a slower feel to them as they have less noise and traffic. I actually love to read about living in countries that value this slower lifestyle so I can see how to incorporate some of that into my day to day life. Good books that come to mind are Go Slow Italy, Under the Tuscan Sun, and The Olive Farm: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Olive Oil in the South of France. I have an entire shelf in my bedroom of books like these.
• Education – Advocates of slow schooling place more emphasis on teaching children how to connect with the world than the information found in text books and test scores. Slow educational practices focus more on discovering how individual children learn best, finding out what they love, and combining these with real life experiences and adventures to enhance learning.
• Investing – Advocates of the slow movement believe in shopping local and investing their money in the communities where they live, work, and play. They believe that by investing in small enterprises and businesses within the local community, they will be able to better stimulate the local economy, which helps everyone. It also makes them more mindful of where their money goes and what it goes to support.
• Reading – Yes, believe it or not, the slow movement even touches literacy. Today, there are a number of reading aids available to people… tablets, e-books, e-readers, blogs, etc., which is making the traditional book rare. The world is becoming so wrapped up in the “do-it-now, do-it-fast” mentality that we are losing the simple pleasures in life… such as reading physical books. There is nothing wrong with reading e-books on your tablet or e-reader, but it is helpful to unplug and pick up a real book on a regular basis. Reading helps reduce stress, improve motivation, and start inspiration.
Even though I am always taking steps to go slower I frequently have moments where I know I could be doing more. This past weekend I went to see a new release movie and I ended up taking my seat 35 minutes before the start time. I brought a book but it was too dark to read so I played on my smart phone until it went dead. The realization that I was uncomfortable to just sit and do nothing for 15 minutes without something to occupy me and entertain me, really bothered me. I made a conscious decision to embrace that time and be content with having nothing better to do than people watch and be with my own thoughts. It was refreshing. Why is it so hard to be mindful of this all the time?
Now it’s your turn. What steps have you taken to “go slow”? Do you struggle with it?
Recommended: In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed
Wednesday, March 28th, 2012