Today I find myself practising (and hopefully practicing!) the Art of Slow. Slow is not my natural default setting (by a million miles) and yet I’m currently finding it one of the most rewarding and enlightening places to be.
My sense is that the general expectation of society these days is that fast is good. The faster you climb the career ladder. The faster you get to your destination. The faster you finish one job. The faster you cook the dinner. But I find myself questioning why I put so much value in going fast. Yes, the job gets done but what of the experience of the activity? What am I missing because I’m rushing my way through? What delights and joys will I simply never discover because I’ve dashed past too quickly? The pressure to keep going fast, to squeeze it all in, to have a busy (“and fulfilling”) life, is strong. And is probably one of the societal pressures I have found myself most bowing to. But having never been one to baulk at the idea of pushing against the grain I now find myself wanting to buck the trend and explore the Slow Stuff.
When was the last time someone said to you “Slow is good”? Have you ever heard it said? And yet it’s by slowing down that I feel like I actually manage to connect with me. Connect with the whole of me (not just what my mind has decided is important, but linking that up with where my body’s at at the same time) and discover a deeper layer of enjoyment.
Yesterday was a prime example. The task in hand was to repair / cover over holes in broken panes of glass in a greenhouse, primarily to reduce the chance of little hands (and arms and heads) deciding to poke through said holes in the glass. Working with another WWOOFer we found a good rhythm but the work was, inherently, fairly slow paced. Rushing around carrying pieces of glass and mending already broken pieces of glass is a recipe for disaster. But there was no disaster. In fact, there was a lot of enjoyment, the space to find a way to appreciate even the rain dripping on my forehead and at the end of it, a job well done. Not lots of jobs. Not hoards done. But the job done was complete and robust and (hopefully) will stand the test of time. At least until the next gale.
Likewise today I arrived at Knightshayes and not knowing entirely what I wanted to be doing I took myself on a walk through the formal gardens and into the woodland area. Following my nose I ended up in a very quiet corner of the garden, with beautiful tall trees towering round the edges and an array of large floral shrubs. Wandering slowly I decided I really wanted to stop in this space and having found shelter (the grass was wet and light rain was threatening) under a tree I paused. I lay down. And I simply listened to the stunning symphony of the outdoors. A very different outdoors from the forest garden of last weekend but similarities there all the same – layering of shrubs and trees, open space and canopy, significantly fewer edibles but significantly more showy blooms. Looking up through the canopy I witnessed for the first time small drops of water cascading through the trees directly towards me. And as the rain passed overhead the drops increased and I closed my eyes to focus on the sensations of these beautifully light raindrops hitting my face. It was utterly divine. And only came about because I’d slowed down. Totally priceless. Totally wonderful.
Another theme at the moment is the joy of barefoot walking. Not like barefoot running which so often refers to a different technique of running but still wearing a protective layer over the sole of your foot. But actual barefoot walking – shoes, socks and any other foot coverings cast aside in favour of the simplicity of sole to earth. If ever I want a way to slow myself down, barefoot walking is it. Yes, I’ve been known to run and dash around barefoot but overall the sense is of slowing down and wanting to feel everything I can (which is a great deal) through my feet. And wanting to keep my wonderful feet protected from any nasties that might be waiting for me which, in moving too fast, may do me some damage.
De-shoeing in itself is a process of slowing down. Taking the time to recognise I want to de-shoe. Taking the time to de-shoe. And knowing there’ll be even more time required at the end to re-shoe. Time is precious but full appreciation of the here and now seems, to me, to be even more precious and the de- and re- shoeing time gives me the opportunity to sink that further level down into now. Wonderful.
I still often feel in my life that I don’t have time to slow down. That I need to rush to fit everything in. But I also know that on the days I take a step back and get clear about what really needs to get done (versus the impossible list of things I think I should get done) I feel more satisfied and generally achieve even more, at an even better quality of “production” than I would have done on a “crazy busy rush rush rush” day. The resolve to take the time to slow myself down remains my biggest challenge.
And as if to ring the bell of the Wonder of Slow even more forcefully, I fell in love again today with grandfather clocks. One in particular (made in 1975, interestingly) was stunning beautiful and had a wonderful tick. When I took the time to pause and watch the second hand I noticed that the pendulum driving the clock was such that the move of each second on the dial was not even – instead they came in couplets, one slightly quicker than the next. And even that was wonderful. The technology I find myself surrounded by (including the devices I’m using to compose this very piece of text) is incredible and brilliant and I really value it in my life – but the “old and slow” way of doing things is one I certainly don’t want to lose. And, in fact, want to increase as a presence in my life..