The latest buzz is to ‘slow down’. Metaphorical or otherwise. Wisdom has it that if we do slow down we “increase our productivity/health/happiness/work-life balance” – or insert your life goal of choice. Whether it is a meme on your social media platform of choice or a well-meant lunchtime chat, the sentiment is the same. Our way of life is hectic and stressful and can only be improved, our life amplified by the speed of which we do things.
On the surface there is nothing really to object to, really. Yes, most of us are busy. Our schedules seem to be filled to the brim. We chase from one commitment to the next. The to-do lists grow by the minute. We’re anxious, stressed, exhausted. Then we hear the well-meant advice to slow down. Breath. Be less stressed. Be more mindful.
Somehow this feels like adding another layer to the chores. A bit like telling someone who is close to drowning to stop worrying so much or stop paddling so hard, perhaps instead breath more and add a smile to your face while you’re at it.
While the sentiment of choosing mindfulness, of consciously living in the moment may have I incredibly positive impacts on our lives, its attempts to incorporate this set of thinking into the contemporary ‘busy-bee’ lifestyle has warped it into another challenge to be accepted and another idea to be marketed.
And yes, why wouldn’t you want to attend a workshop learn to be more happy, healthy, productive or connected to people around you?
The problem with the idea is the proposition that if you incorporate mindfulness into your day you can continue your lifestyle just as an ‘improved’ version of it when that’s simply impossible.
Let’s say I spend more time on consciously devouring a custard tart. I stop multitasking, put my phone away and really focus on the sweet stickiness on my tongue and feel the pudding texture in my mouth. No doubt will I have maximised the experience of eating said dessert, which may increase my overall well being and happiness. That doesn’t mean that now that I’m more mindful I have the ability to now catch-up on all the other things I had planned on doing.
In other words, more isn’t more of everything. It’s less of some things. I’m consciously choosing what I don’t want to do and increase THAT part’s quality.
And that’s crux – beauty and challenge alike – of slowing down.
What on earth does it have to do with active transport? Very simple: using bicycles for transport is literally and metaphorically slowing you down. Yes, it is not as fast as a car (depending on your route, traffic and time of the day), but the quality of the journey is improved: your exercising, connecting to your place through experiencing the season, the weather and people around you. The point isn’t to be fast and the consequence is that, yes, I may have spent 15 or 20 minutes longer to get home from work/school/uni, but have increased the quality of that experience.
Living in a time when we can seem to purchase anything the proposition of willingly choosing something we give up and say ‘no’ to in order to experience, treasure and enjoy what we do have seems to be the biggest challenge.
When did you choose to say no last time in order to slow down?