Welcome to the first in a new series on the blog, where we dive into some common misconceptions about what it is to live more slowly and sustainably. We’re here to clear things up a bit, and to show you how a more sustainable lifestyle is achievable for everyone, no matter what the circumstances, with great benefit to your personal well-being as well as the health of our planet!
MYTH #1: “I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR SLOW LIVING”
So, who has time for slow living? We all have jobs, kids, houses to run, bills to pay, meals to fix, more responsibilities then there are hours in the day. It’s a good question, one that we think deserves some serious unpacking. Yet, an all-too-common response that we hear frequently is something like, “Sounds nice, but it’s not for me.”
Here’s a story (origin unknown) retold in The Lady Farmer Guide to Slow Living that might help us think about the idea a little differently:
A man was walking along the side of the road when a car pulled up beside him.
A younger man leaned out from the driver’s seat and asked, “Where you headed?”
“So am I! Would you like a ride?”
“To get there faster!” The older man stopped and turned to the driver. He seemed honestly bewildered.
“Well, I thank you for your offer, but why would I want to do that?” he asked.
“To save time, of course,” said the younger, trying not to laugh. But now it was the old man’s turn to laugh.
“Son,” he said, shaking his head. “Don’t you know? You can’t save time.
You can only decide how you’re going to spend it.”
What do we even mean when we’re talking about slow living? First of all, it’s not necessarily about doing things slowly or taking more time, and it’s not about putting your feet up or shirking responsibilities.
“Our own understanding of slow living has to do, quite simply, with making conscious choices about how we live our lives. It’s about paying attention to how we spend our time, money and resources, and taking a step back from the industrialized systems that have come to provide our daily needs. It’s also about observing our own consumer habits, where and how they intersect with quality of life and perpetuate an unsustainable paradigm.”
If the first task on the slow living journey is awareness, then what do you do when faced with the feeling that you have no choices about how you live your life? You have no choice but to go to work, to take care of your children, to pay the bills, etc.
This is truly the point from where you can begin, by recognizing that even if you’re not at a place of having choices about the outer circumstances of your life, you do have a choice as to how you’re going to react to those circumstances. If you feel stuck in that job, you can choose to notice moments that lift that feeling, such as a smile or a friendly chat with a coworker, a sense of pride for a task well done, or even a glimpse of a beautiful sky sometime during your workday.
Overwhelmed by chaos in your home and feeling like you can’t ever catch up? More than ever, the solution is to choose the briefest of moments to lift that feeling, to notice the loveliness of the light through the window, the deliciousness of that one sip of tea, the moment of laughter, the one minute pause. From there, you will discover that the feeling of choice grows, the crack-in-the-door towards a different way of being widens, and before long, your life is opening up to the bigger and bigger choices as to how you really want to live.
The last century represents barely a blip in the long history of our human presence on the planet, yet it is during this span of time that our collective seduction with more has been exponentially accelerated. We are trapped by the notion that more is better– more money, more things, and more time– thus the vicious cycle of endless “time saving” products for us to buy. Yet, as the brief story narrated above points out, time cannot be saved. Our time on this earth is only granted as a gift, to be spent by our own choosing.
Once we condition ourselves to an awareness of the decisions we are making daily (such as what to eat, what to wear, what to buy, what to do next) we can begin to notice which decisions are contributing to the life we really want to live, and which are not. Knowledge is power, as they say, and the sooner we know what’s holding us back, the sooner we can start choosing another way.
So, who has time for slow living? The answer is, anyone who makes the choice. Even if in the beginning, the choice is as tiny as noticing a beautiful sky, the taste of something delightful, a favorite song, the smell of supper cooking, a shared hug… all the things that in the grand scheme, really take no time at all.