Have you noticed how life just gets quicker and we are squeezing more and more into our already jam-packed schedules?
Time-poor parents can now buy one-minute bedtime stories to read their kids at night (seriously), there are express lanes in Fast Food Restaurants and in our drop-and-drag society it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight – even on a Sunday.
Our modern way of living teaches us faster is better. Speed is the new king and our lives are measured in bits and bytes, dissected into milliseconds and micro-detail. Is it any wonder our health, relationships, sex lives and performance begin to suffer?
We are not designed to go flat out, around the clock. Life is meant to be a series of sprints interspersed with periods of rest and recovery. It is impossible to be 'on' 24/7. While we regularly need to boost the throttle into turbo drive and plough through those to-do lists, it is equally and vitally important to spend time in cruise mode, time going slow.
The challenge is our culture has conditioned us to think that slow is evil; slow is seen to be the enemy of achievement. Slow is perceived as weak, passive, soft. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Slow Movement
The Slow Movement was founded by Italian Carlo Petrini in the late 1980s as a "foodie fightback". Petrini reacted to the opening of a McDonald's restaurant on the Spanish Steps in Rome and wanted to challenge the "throw it down as quickly as you can" fast food phenomena.
The Slow Movement is about reconnecting with food, people, places, and life: these are the things that offer us meaning. It isn't anti-work or even anti-capitalist; in fact, as Carl Honoré says in his book, In Praise of Slow:
"The secret is balance. Instead of doing everything faster, do everything at the right speed. Sometimes fast. Sometimes slow. Sometimes somewhere in between. Being slow means never rushing, never striving to save time just for the sake of it. It means remaining calm and unflustered even when circumstances force us to speed up."
Around the world
Japan has launched a Sloth Club. The 900-strong membership is dedicated to a less frantic and more environmentally friendly life.
There are now Cittaslow National Networks in England, Wales, Germany, Norway, Poland and Portugal, with other countries working towards setting up their own national networks.
The Long Now Foundation, formed in America, is building a giant clock that only ticks once a year to encourage everyone to take stock and slow down. Anyone got the time?
The idyllic South Australian town of Goolwa was named Australia's first Cittaslow. Situated near the mouth of the Murray River, Goolwa fits the brief nicely.
Each year in October, Canberra stages a slow festival (I know the obvious joke here, but in respect to my friends from the ACT, I will refrain) ... throughout the week events are held to celebrate the Slow Movement, Slow Food and other Slow opportunities that Canberra has to offer. This includes diverse activities such as slow cooking classes; local foods and produce; meditation techniques; slow cities and architecture; slow education, parenting and more.
Lessons in Slow from Kenya
When I was a middle-distance runner every year we'd get the opportunity to train with athletes from Kenya who would come out for our summer Grand Prix series. Each year a different set of athletes would come out, and amazingly a new name would always pop up and a new champion was born. There seemed to be an endless pool of talent flowing from Kenya. We also learnt that the elite Kenyan runners had developed training patterns based on listening to their bodies' needs. They would train when they felt good, and take time off when they needed it. It's not unusual for a Kenyan world record-holder to take two to three months completely off running every 12 to 18 months, simply because they feel the need to slow down and recover.
Eight go slow tips
1. Slow stretching: ease into Tai Chi or very gentle, rhythmical stretching. Try doing a gentle 5-to-10 minute stretching routine before going to bed at night and concentrate on diaphragmatic breathing and lowering the heart rate.
2. Slow walking: emulate my dog, Cougar. He's a 48kg Rhodesian ridgeback who stops and sniffs absolutely everything at the start of our early morning walk – until I drag his lead and get him to speed up with me.
3. Slow weekends: stay in bed and read the papers – without feeling guilty (this might be a little more difficult with young children). Avoid cramming as much as you can into every weekend. Don't race from event to event keeping up appearances every single weekend. Occasionally try shifting back a few gears and getting rid of the weekend to-do list. Practise cruising.
4. Slow "mini-breaks": try getting away for a three-day "mini break" and practice as many slow activities as you can. Avoid scheduling every waking hour with sightseeing and checking off every museum, church, amusement park and significant site.
5. Slow food: copy the Italians with a three-to-five course meal that takes a couple of hours to get through, and wash it down with a couple of glasses of hearty vino. A blowout every now and then forms part a balanced life, as long as you're exercising regularly and eating well most days.
6. Slow gardening: potter in the garden and take stock of the beautiful smells and lovely plants. An oldie but a goodie, "just stop and smell the roses".
7. Slow sex: James Gleick, author of Faster, reports the average time we spend making love in our fast-forward society is four minutes. I can hear some of you saying "wow – do some people actually last that long?" Tantric sex is not just for hippies and Sting. This 5000-year-old discipline advocates slow, mindful sex as a way to increased awareness and spiritual enlightenment.
8. Slow thinking: lie down on soft grass on a lovely sunny day and just stare at the clouds, dreaming slow thoughts and allowing time for idleness. It's amazing how often your biggest breakthroughs come when you turn off the conscious chatter and allow the subconscious mind to bubble to the surface.
Final thoughts, slowly though ...
As humans are becoming more and more disconnected from the things that really matter, the Slow movement offers a return to a connected lifestyle. Try squeezing some "Slow" into your life each week as an alternative to today's fractured, fast-paced, and frantic world. Performing at your peak requires a balance between being on when you have to, and off when you can.
How do you build slow time into your life?