November 12, 2013

In Celebration of Slowness. ~ Stephanie Troy

Lately my body has been telling me to stop the madness, and yesterday I began to listen.

I had a day when I woke to find myself spent from expending so much energy, that lately my body has needed rest. Because in the flurry of activity and challenge, my body and brain was on speed from stress, which wore me down.

Ever had a moment like that?

I bet.

We all experience these times.

My day off, filled with self care, told me that while my body was craving slowing down, my mind had been competing with the messages my body was giving me. It is easy to listen to my body when I am at my favorite place (Crane Beach, Ipswich, MA) but harder when I am in the city caught up in the fast paced energy.

Recently I listened to a TED talk about what is now being termed the slow movement, as Carl Honoré discusses in his talk, “In Praise of Slowness”.

Honoré discusses that he came to research the concept of slowness by realizing how his fast paced life was deeply affecting him physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. His light bulb moment was when he read an article in the New York Times about a new line of bedtime books for children that was called, “The One Minute Stories.”

He shared how part of him thought it would be awesome to cut down the amount of time it took to read to his son, yet another, much larger part said that he knew there was something deeply wrong with this feeling.

He discusses that nowadays everything is fast-paced, including work, relationships, and sex; even things that are meant to be about slowing down (such as yoga) are getting faster and faster.

Honoré also discusses that there has begun a global shift towards slowing down, which has even spread to many European cities. He cites that statistics have also found that those living in designated slow cities are not doing any worse off financially than their fast-paced counterparts.

It does not appear that Boston is one of those cities. Slowing down in the East Coast still involves multi-tasking at a fairly fast pace. A lot of people no longer work 40 hours, as they are working more like 50 to 60 hours a week. And while this may be the lifestyle, it is leading us towards obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety.

The concept that adopting a slower pace of life increases the quality of our relationships is nothing new, but it is still very difficult for people to fully grasp how to integrate this very important life lesson into our daily lives.

I have been intrigued by the concept of slowness for quite a while, and yoga was my entry point into this fascination. I came to yoga as a form of exercise and practiced very fast-paced in hot studios, at the onset.

My Type A, anxious personality could not slow down for the life of me. I would do yoga, or go to the gym, then come home to eat and go for an hour long walk only to continue burning off my anxious energy.

Today some of this energy remains, but with a much kinder and slower edge to it.

Some of the sharp edges of my beach stone have been gently worn by the practice of yoga, meditation, and the influx of supportive, like minded friends. And while the edges have been softened, the energy to be the best version of myself is still here. The competition comes, but only when the old vision of my best self bumps up against the newer, kinder version that has been cultivated over the years.

A handful of years ago I was at a flea market with my mother and found the book “The Simple Life,” by Charles Wagner. It was a very old and beautiful book that had been copy written in 1901. I took to the book from its first paragraph:

“The sick man, wasted by fever, consumed by thirst, dreams in his sleep of a fresh stream wherein he bathes, or of a clear fountain from which he drinks in great droughts. So, amid the confused restlessness of modern life, our wearied minds dream of simplicity.”

He goes on to state,

“The thing called by this fine name—is it a vanished good? I do not think so. If simplicity depended upon certain exceptional conditions, found only in rare epochs of the past, we must indeed renounce all idea of realizing it again. Civilization is no more to be brought back to its beginnings than the flood-tide of a river to the peaceful valley where alders meet above its source. But simplicity does not belong to such and such economic or social phases; rather, it is a spirit, able to vivify and modify lives of very different sorts”

Wow. This was written in 1901! He speaks about how life was complex back then?  If he only could see where we were headed now—right?

Simplicity is not about escaping, it’s about being. So yesterday, I took a day to be.

I read a book just for enjoyment and I practiced a little yoga.

I had hot chocolate and I watched a favorite movie.

I spoke to a new like-minded acquaintance, and I took a long walk on Halloween to my tap class.

It was simple because I made it simple. I did what my body and spirit wanted me to do without forcing solutions, and it was beautiful. I had a plan for this morning, but my body seemed to need to rest longer than usual, so it didn’t happen.

Listening to the ebb and flow of our body is the same as me listening to the leaves being blown by the trees outside my window today. It is there for the taking, and it is what’s happening right now, should I want to pay attention to it. When I choose to pay attention, I learn so much information about what is going on inside.

During a walk last night, I was able to access important information deep within that I needed to help manage a conflict that has arisen. I would never have been able to do this if I stayed moving at the speed of lightening.

So, just for today…how will we slow down and listen to our bodies?

How might we cultivate a more loving and kind relationship with our body and spirit’s needs?

Cheers to cultivating the space to celebrate slowness!


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Assistant Editor: Kathryn Ashworth/Editor: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: courtesy of Rose}

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