The other day I was driving Oscar (the Outback) around town when Lynyrd Sknyrd’s Simple Man came on. Great song, right? As I listened to the lyrics “Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast. Troubles will come and they will pass,” it occurred to me that if I had a song to live by it might just be this one.
The preparations for this quest have taught us that some things will quite simply slow down. And that’s a good thing.
A Forced Slow Down
During our six days on the road recently, we saw how many conveniences are out the window. There are no appliances, no shower or toilet around the corner, no bed to hop into, not even a desk to clutter up. Everything has to be taken out of the car, set up, prepared, taken down, put back, planned, and neatly organized. Any extra warmth at night comes from a campfire, where permitted. Repeat the next day.
Not creating trash as much as possible adds a whole new layer of slowing down since we can’t tear open a pack of mac n’ cheese (oh but mac n’ cheese mixed with tuna tastes sooo good). Leaving no trace means doing our best to buy every item in bulk and cook meals that don’t require packaged food. My favorite so far is Sri Lankan Dahl, basically lentils and rice with optional veggies and creative spice combinations. This lovely video shows how it’s done (jump to 2:22 for the food prep).
But. It. Takes. Time.
Yes, but I also get to feel calmer, breathe deeply and then actually enjoy the food. Slow food means eating healthy while spending more time with good people, and you don’t need to be on a quest to do that. We’re simply forced to do it, and although our time is valuable, slow food forces us to actually stop and take a full hour break three times a day – which still leaves 13 hours to do other things if we really want to break it down by hours.
As Alice Walker put it in this brief video, a fast food culture is making us all crazy. When I used to drive to work I remember seeing angry speeders on the highway spreading their stress as they darted through lanes. Guilty of this myself, I once thought, “What am I really rushing toward?” If you move too quickly through life, you’re just getting faster to the inevitable end.
Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast. Troubles will come and they will pass.
In this day of social media (i.e. social pressure) and on-demand everything, it’s easy to get caught up in the do more, do it now mindset. We’re seen as lazy if we take a nap. We get frustrated if we have to wait for things. We roll our eyes at “slow” people blocking sidewalks.
What if you could find peace of mind, better health, more focus, and greater happiness simply by slowing down?
To borrow from the article 20 Benefits of Slowing Down, slowing down helps us to:
- Form healthy relationships
- Concentrate on the task at hand
- Prevent disease
- Be aware of our surroundings
- Improve efficiency
- Feel calmer and happier
- Gain perspective
- Become satisfied with less
- Learn patience
- Be more creative
- Feel proud of yourself
- Focus on quality over quantity
Now you must be thinking:
Sounds great, so how do I actually slow down?
Well my friends, I am a new student of slowing down myself, but have found many great resources I want to share with you.
Take time to walk and admire your surroundings.
The first is a book called A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf by John Muir. If you’ve been reading this blog you know how much we admire John Muir, a founding father of the National Parks idea. The book chronicles his journey by foot from Indiana to Florida, during which he encountered a number of challenges like sleeping in a graveyard for days while he waited for the local post office to receive some money sent to him.
John Muir’s entire life is a lesson on slowing down, as many of his beloved quotes imply. He lived a life of walking and seeing, spreading his quiet wisdom with folks who ventured into the California wilderness. Muir’s inventive genius could have elevated him to a career of fame and fortune, but instead he chose the quiet forests and pen and paper to write about our natural world and the human role within it.
The book is a great place to start for those seeking inspiration for a life of wonder. You’ll inevitably see how living slowly and taking the time to admire things is what brought wonder to his life.
Choose three things to accomplish each day.
For more modern sources of inspiration, check out Enjoying Life in the Slow Lane, a brief but rich article with easy tips to start slowing down right now. One is “choose 3 things to accomplish each day”. I would even dare to reduce that number to 1. It might sound unproductive, but I actually achieve more if I set out to accomplish just one task. You see, no matter what happens in the day, if I lower my expectations to get just one important thing done, I end each and every day satisfied that I got something big done.
Get rid of unnecessary things.
What do you really need to survive, be productive, and be happy? You don’t need to say yes every time your friend asks you to dinner. There are practices we can reduce to simplify our lives and therefore feel we have more quality time. They’re not always easy to let go (like TV or that shopping trip), but ask yourself: Is this thing really adding value to my life?
I’d highly recommend reading the Focus Manifesto: Slowing Down. It’s a beautiful article addressing all of the above in more depth and offers clarity to those who seek it.
As an artist, I am grateful for opportunities to slow down. The work we create is layered, detailed and hand crafted, a process that takes time and focus. By going on this quest we are leading a lifestyle that focuses on our art. Yes, we need to take more time to do daily tasks like eating from scratch, but it’s all part of the philosophy of the art.
Just like feeling the peel of ginger root cutting away for Ayurvedic tea, we take the time to see a stroke of color and place it where it belongs. We take the time to be in the parks that inspire us, to sit on a log and just look at light or listen to the wind or say hello to someone on the trail. We value our time more because we can’t take it for granted.
Doing each task mindfully enriches your spirit, it makes you feel proud of the work you do. Even if it’s baking a simple brownie from scratch or making a handmade grocery bag. Pride in this sense is not a sin, it’s a force that sends ripples into the universe and inspires the people around you. We feel happier about the work we do and in turn share positive moments with our peers.
So take your time, and remember: don’t live too fast.