October 1, 2011

How to savour every mouthful of life (to be read SLOWLY)

Fiona writes: When I was a little girl, I would tear through books like a whirlwind. My dad would tease me about ‘skipping pages’, and threaten to test me on the chapters I’d already read. At the time I felt offended, accused of cheating. It’s only now that I understand what he was saying.

It’s impossible to properly taste a book if it’s gulped down. We miss the sentence about the field of shocking-red poppies, and we don’t stop to consider how lonely the central character might be feeling. We can’t properly digest the meanings of words if we don’t chew on them for a while. And life is the same.

I know that I prefer living my life at a slower pace. I prefer mornings when I give myself ten minutes in the garden with a mug of earl grey, listening to the sparrows chattering in the hedges & noticing the silvery light on the plum trees. I prefer days when I get my writing done, as well as the trip to the bank and the thirty other things, without feeling ‘used up’ by dinner time.

I’m not good at taking my own advice. I constantly catch myself rushing from one task to the next, or making endless mental lists of ‘things to be done’.  Last week I was in such a hurry to get to work that I backed my car into a skip. I manage to clear space in my diary, and then find myself saying yes to new commitments, filling it right back up. I let my body become hurried – a tense feeling in my stomach, a pressure on my forehead.

There are many reasons for this, but I still think the main one for me is that when I slow down I’m more likely to see the uncomfortable stuff as well as the good stuff. If I really contemplate meeting my friend for coffee, maybe I’ll notice a tight feeling in my throat, and realise I’m still angry at her for forgetting my birthday. If I spend a quiet morning at home, maybe sadness will rise up like floodwater.  If I slow the car down, I’ll see the red mess of road kill as well as the luminous blue cornflowers. We’d all prefer to look at the cornflowers.

I think I am getting better over time. I notice the tense feeling in my stomach a little earlier, and I begin more days by waking up earlier and taking things easy rather than cramming down some toast and leaping into the car. And certain habits and ways of thinking do help.  Writing small stones (my daily mindful writing practice) guarantees that I stop for long enough to notice at least one detail every day. Meditating helps me to practice letting go of the future, and of my self.

We can all move towards slowing down our lives. There are endless opportunities to practice – when working on an urgent report, when standing in the queue at the supermarket, as you’re reading this article. Sometimes all it takes is a small mental shift – ‘it’s OK if this takes a bit longer’, or, ‘I’m already going as fast as I can’. If we can begin to be curious about when we speed up, and what happens when we press the pause button, change will come.

And, of course, real lasting change is slow too…


If you’d like to practice slow by writing small stones, try our free seven-day experience which will give you step-by-step instructions and a chance to snuggle up closer to life…

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