An advertisement for slow holidays on a national radio station recently reminded me of the Slow Movement I came across in the late 90s. In essence, it is a cultural revolution against the idea that faster is always better. Instead, it is about seeking to do everything at the right speed.
The Slow Movement has gained momentum since it was established in the 80s in Italy and its first association with food. It reflected the fear of globalisation and the impact on farming and traditions with food. Its purpose was to defend and protect regional traditions, gastronomic pleasures and a slower pace of life.
The Slow Movement can now be found in areas such as fashion, design and even journalism. In Britain the BBC recently experimented with Slow TV and featured a two-hour canal boat journey down the Kennet and Avon Canal. The journey was without commentary or music and with only the sounds of the countryside and the lapping of the water to accompany the visual aspect of the journey; very relaxing and calming.
It is, however, a concept we find very difficult and the word ‘slow’ tends to be associated with being lazy and someone who doesn’t pull their weight. Many cultures, and the west in particular, value speed and producing as much as we possibly can in less time. We have come to value quantity over quality. We also associate success with busyness, but often it leads to burnout.
It is the latter that the Slow Movement questions and challenges us to shift our focus for the benefit of quality over quantity in everything we do, including how we live. The purpose is to structure our lives around meaning and fulfilment. In other words, the quality of your life. We have lost the art of doing nothing and merely just being rather than cram every second of the day with some form of doing.
The movement advocates connection, a connection to life and above all a connection to ourselves and the natural rhythms that guide our lives. To achieve connection, requires us to slow down our mind in order to see what we need for the wellbeing of ourselves and others. Not only are there external rhythms that guide our daily activity such as the rising of the sun, the changes of the seasons but also internal rhythms.
We have lost touch with the various rhythms in nature and within ourselves, to our own detriment. Women in particular are aware of the daily and monthly cycles that affect and guide our energy, moods and sleep. When our lives are in sync with these rhythms life flows a lot more easily, resulting in a heightened satisfaction with life.
Each one of us has our own rhythm as well as the different rhythms of the stages of our lives. The Slow Movement advocates developing the awareness and connection to these rhythms and cycles to enhance the quality of our experiences. This whole concept becomes a reality when we either retire completely or reduce our hours of employment. It is also the perfect time to reflect on how the philosophies of the movement can assist us in creating a rewarding and new phase in our lives.
The challenge is in allowing ourselves to slow down and consciously make an effort to change our approach to life. From personal experience it potentially takes a long time in achieving this and the sooner we start the sooner we will be prepared for a rich and rewarding new phase in our lives when we eventually reduce our time in employment.
My advice and suggestion is to start daily with a few minutes of just being. Instead of having a coffee or a sandwich while working, take those few moments to connect to the taste and the quality of the food and simply to enjoy what you are eating or drinking. Rather than check emails or planning your next activity when finding yourself in a queue, take the time to consciously observe your environment and the people around you.
Above all, take time to truly connect and be present when engaging with your loved ones.