Sunday, February 20, 2011

Slowing Down to Sustainable Living

Getting pushed around? Probably. 

One of the hallmarks of the 21st century so far is that people are increasingly pushed to do more things faster so that they can do more things, period. This is how people have ended up having crucial conference calls while they drive 70 mph down a freeway.

In response came the rise of the Slow Movement, which is said to have been ignited in this century when someone tried to build a McDonald's in a scenic part of Italy. Now there's Slow Food, Slow Parenting, Slow Gardening, Slow Travel, etc. Plenty of well-written material on this is found at the Slow Movement and Slow Down Now, home of the International Institute of Not Doing Much.

It's a good idea - although counterintuitive - to slow down when you are asked to do more. My experience in cutting back to a 30-hour work week is that I had two choices: a) work at warp speed or b) figure out what has to be done and what can be left undone.

When you are a caregiver, slowing down is a morale imperative. Burning yourself out will damage more than just you. So you need to take care. Some of the best advice I've ever gotten from this comes from Berkeley's famed meditation teacher Eknath Easwaran, particularly his book, "Take Your Time: Finding Balance in a Hurried World."  He notes that all negative emotions are fast: anger, fear, compulsive cravings. Slowing down makes it possible to think more clearly, even in an emergency, and to be more caring.

His thoughts on how to do this:
1. Get up early.
2. Don't crowd your day.
3. Ask "What is important?"
4. Take time for relationships.
5. Take time for reflection.
6. Don't let yourself get hurried.
7. Respond with patience.
8. Slow down the mind.

Slowing down to me doesn't mean missing deadlines or being late. Punctuality has always been more about integrity (doing what you said you would do when you said you would do it) and respect for other people's time. But it may give all of us clearer thinking. The way the century has turned out so far, we certainly need that.

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