I am deliberately transitioning into living more ‘Slowly.’ One of the aims of the Slow Project is to share what some practical strategies I’ve explored to enable others to do the same, allowing others to learn from my successes, ongoing challenges and insights.
It is now 2 years since I began the Slow Project so I figured now would be a good time for a check in. There has been a lot of change in that time. I started by quitting my job, initial explorations into Slow and how to approach the project, early on with the view to cycle around Australia, but then changing approach and furthering my training with the Way of Nature and doing a 28-day wilderness solo retreat. I started a PhD, then didn’t have funding for it so went back to paid employment this year. This year also saw an eventful trip to Nepal; I was there during the earthquake and received some incredibly powerful lessons about my work in this lifetime. Then I went back to the US for further guide training with John P Milton, founder of the Way of Nature, which further cemented my commitment to purpose.
This leaves in a position now where I am working 4 days a week and trying to progress a PhD and my goals with The Slow Project and the Way of Nature… and trying to work on myself to live Slow at the same time!! Yes the irony is loud and clear and I feel the friction of the contradiction acutely at times. BUT this makes sense. Trying to live Slow in a Fast world is bound to throw up some tensions and challenges. Downshifting and living off grid may be possible and suitable for some but I think we all have to find our own definition of what living Slow means for ourselves. In some way that is connected to our reason for being and living true to that. For some, like me, that means maintaining a foot in the Fast world.
My Slow Scorecard
Slow Principle 1: Be Present
- I am meditating more regularly
- The witness aspect of myself seems much stronger so I am more able to stay with what I am attending to and not get swept up by judgements and associated emotional reactions
- Likewise I am feeling more centred and stable than ever which assists in not getting pulled into distractions
- If I need extra concentration while working I turn off notifications, internet connection where possible and set a limit to social media time
- Improving my ability to attend for longer remains a key area to continue working on. It is a foundational skill
- I still find it hard to maintain the single-tasking habit. If I don’t keep checking in on this one I find myself trying to work with music on, checking Facebook every 5 minutes and multiple screens open
- I’d still like to remove more mindless eating
- I don’t have a routine yet for this new phase which makes me more prone to distractions and multitasking
- The dopamine reward for being distracted can really fire up those old habit pathways pretty quickly!
- Deep experience has been such an anchor for bringing me back to presence – the feeling of refined presence is now familiar and I won’t forget it
Slow Principle 2: Be Receptive
- Willingness to let myself be changed and not just be the changer has opened up a while new way of being for me. I had to learn that lesson by getting it by a truck – it has been a dramatic lesson for sure!
- I’ve always liked adventure but I am a bit more intentional about putting myself out for my comfort zone and being open to lessons from things I may have otherwise dismissed
- The ‘gratitude habit’ keeps getting stronger. Gratitude has an incredible power to crack you wide open to receive.
- Asking… this is new thing for me, I’m still working out how to do it!
- Finding the balance of going for it and rest. I’m still predisposed to drive over relaxation.
- Funny that I would say this area is my weak spot but I’m still at a loss as to how to put words to it. More learnings to come, no doubt. Just hope I’m open enough that the lessons don’t need to come in truck form next time.
- Play is great for receptivity. No surprises that one theory on the reasons animals are wired to play is because it allows us to be open to trying things we wouldn’t normally and therefore we learn
Slow Principle 3: Connect to Self
- Stronger witness aspect and time in retreat has enabled a much deeper self awareness. This has been a massive enabler to personal growth (otherwise how do you know what to focus on or why?), a great source of entertainment (listen to your monkey mind and tell me that is not one of the most bizarre things about being human) and moreover a settling on sense of purpose
- This has lead to better sense of what is right and wrong for me to do and I more easily make important decisions based on feeling with my head out of the way (such as going to Nepal which really did not look like a rational choice)
- Finding time for stillness with a crazy pace of life remains a challenge and I find myself yearning for more reflection time
- An attitude of non-judgement is really important with greater self-awareness; as you learn more about yourself you must come from a place of believing in your fundamental goodness and accept even the parts of yourself that might not like. Acceptance precedes change.
- Settling on my sense of purpose in life at once feels Slow with inner stillness but it sure as hell looks like a storm of change on the outside. I feel like alignment with purpose is a current that sweeps you up and it is going to take you wherever it wants and you are going to stay with it because being in the current is a much better ride than fighting it or swimming in the wrong pond!
Slow Principle 4: Connect to Other (s)
- I’ve certainly learnt a lot about connecting with nature which I bring into daily life not just on retreat. I have a lovely little habit of making sure I stay with something long enough to feel the connection e.g. when riding to work past the river and birdlife or rock climbing and tuning into the rock
- With people I think I bring less of my own crap to the table
- Time poverty issues – we interact with so many people on a daily basis, I need time alone for my own work and do not wish to connect with everyone I cross paths with but sometimes I feel that this means I close other people down
- Time poverty also leaves me texting instead of calling or meeting up, which bothers me. The more commitments I have the less depth of relationships I can afford and it bothers me!
- I’m probably fussier than ever when it comes to intimate relationships – when you know what deep connection feels like it is difficult to settle for less! Perhaps this means a suitable match for me (and perhaps you but I won’t generalise because, let’s face it, this remains a mystery to me!) is someone at the same level of refinement, i.e. someone who has worked through some blocks that prevent connection
Slow Principle 5: Be an Agent of Balance
- In the periods where I had more time, I was grateful being more able to help out other people without considering reciprocation and being able to act more sustainability e.g. easier to avoid convenience products in plastic
- I’ve achieved more of a ‘wholeness of Self’ with acceptance of my dark side
- The flip side – when I’m in ‘Fast’ times I find it harder to be a giver not a taker
- I’ve always been quite a physical person but I’m appreciating anew the times when I get the just be in my body and with the senses whether that is dancing, climbing, qi gong, lifting weights, anything, for the balance that it brings
Slow Principle 6: Honour Natural Rhythms and Cycles
- I’m going to bed (a little bit) earlier
- I’m more aware of when I need to fully rest/let myself crash
- Too much coffee, too little sleep – perhaps if I could improve on these my rest strategy wouldn’t need to be described as ‘crashing’!
- Yes I still do a lot, possibly too much, but at least I can pull up before it gets too bad
- Being able to prioritise and say no based on an improved self-awareness is supportive
Slow Principle 7: Do less, but do it well
- However sometimes trying to realise those priorities is confusing; what is too much of a good thing?
- I guess the reality is that sometimes you’ll choose to spread yourself a bit in the short term in order to free yourself up to really apply yourself to our priorities in the long term… I’ll be interested to look back in a year and see if this has worked me!
NB These Slow Principles are from my theory on the essence of the Slow Movement, which I’ll be testing in my PhD. Feel free to quote them but please credit the source!
In summary it is fair to say that I feel myself very much in two worlds, to ways of being, but that is exactly where I chose to be. The challenge is to continue learning to do it with skill and finesse!
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