The Slow Series: Returning and An Introduction (Part 1 of 6)

I haven’t posted on this blog since August 2019, largely due to a lack of time as I embarked upon my post-graduate degree. I am thrilled to finally be able to return to minimalistmiri and blog again. August 2019 – August 2020 was a time filled with numerous highs and lows, surprises and lulls.  If nothing else, this past year has shown me what I really don’t want and several things that I do.  Most importantly, I found I wanted to honour my time and make the best use of it.  How I go about doing this, however, is what isn’t clear.  Taking time off after the completion of my degree has given me more free time, but it’s also left me feeling rather aimless.

Cue the need for slowness.  To slow down, to become creative once more, to rest, to do the things I love, to simply be.

This honouring of time means something different for everyone.  For me it’s a slower pace and time spent at home, caring for my family.  For other people, honouring their time may mean something completely different: a fast paced career, time spent travelling, or pursuing sports.  There isn’t a right answer.  We all chase our own dreams, but we equally set them aside, often by accident.  I folded my own dreams of slow and intentional living away during my master’s programme.  That’s not to say I regret my degree.  Far from it.  The experience (although not what I’d hoped due to covid) taught me a lot about myself, challenged me, and allowed me to forge some very incredible friendships that I wouldn’t trade for anything.  But certainly something was lost during this time, too.  Perhaps for a long, long time, well before the master’s programme.  Times of creativity and slowness and fulfillment seem long ago, and the hope of the Slow Series is to rediscover the joys found in slowing down and to see what transpires when living with greater ease.

The Slow Series is comprised of six blog posts (this being the first) in which I journal my experiences in slowing down, how everyone can incorporate aspects of slow living into their own lives, and what one can discover in times of slowness.  

I’m not sure what I’ll find by slowing down.  Life has been hectic for years now and this permission to slow down and simply be is new.  I’m hoping, certainly, to find greater purpose in slowing down.  What this purpose is, I’m not altogether sure yet.  I’d also like to rediscover my creativity and, in the process, lose the ever-present, background stress surrounding my creative pursuits.

If nothing else, this search for slowness can be summed up with uncertainty.  I’m not exactly sure what I want and I’ve even more uncertain how these weeks of slowness will play out.  But that’s okay.  That uncertainty, and accepting it for what it is, is part of the Slow Series.

What is slowness? 
I’d like to stay clear of a textbook definition and instead search for meaning within.  I think, for each individual, slow living will take a different meaning.  For me, slowness is moving with ease.  That’s not to say there is no stress or anxiety or that there are no days where things have to be done quickly.  Rather, slow living is being thankful for the mundane, everyday moments that are often overlooked and being able to engage in the activities that make us happiest.

Which brings us to creating slowness.  This is a journey that I hope anyone who’s reading this post feels as though they, too, can embark upon.  If ‘slow’ living doesn’t seem fitting, consider ‘intentional’, ‘purposeful’, or even ‘happy’.

Creating Your Own Slowness
We all need moments of slowness.  Even those of us with hectic careers, studies, and/or family life all have to have moments of rest and moments of nothingness if we are to keep up our busy schedules.  As I have been reminded frequently, it is so important to be able to simply be, with no other requirements.  It’s often overlooked, but it’s so crucial.

To create your own slow living plan, or simply to invite more slowness and intention into your life, consider:

  • Making a list of what you love most
    • Even remembering those things can seem challenging if you’ve been busy for a long time, but from the list I made it was clear that the things which bring me the most joy (reading, writing, cooking and baking, embroidery, knitting — basically any sort of “grandma” activity, if we’re being perfectly honest) were things done at home.  Your list may be similar or completely different.  Regardless, start doing those things.  Carve out time for what brings you joy, even if it’s just five minutes to begin with.
  • Reconnecting with what you loved as a child
    • As I’ve found during the start of this time of slowness, it can actually be difficult to determine what you love to do, especially if you haven’t made time for slowness in a while. One way to connect with slowness is to recall and reconnect with what you loved as a child. The things we loved as children are often things we love now, but in many cases have forgotten or abandoned.  Maybe you loved storytime.  Why not listen to an audiobook?  Maybe you loved playing in the dirt.  Why not take up gardening or get some houseplants?  Slow living makes time for the little joys that once filled our days.
  • Sitting with silence
    • Taking a quiet moment and simply being is rare these days, but it can provide us with ample benefits, from relaxation to greater clarity.  This can be difficult to begin, so if that’s the case for you (as it is for me) try playing some soft, relaxing music or sip a warm mug of tea.  Let your thoughts wander or empty your mind completely.  Even just a few minutes of quiet alone time, spent being present, can invite greater slowness into your life.
  • Starting a gratitude journal
    • Although it can be a hard habit to keep, starting and maintaining a gratitude journal (or even thinking about things you’re grateful for each morning or night) can invite more slowness and peacefulness into one’s life.  When I reflect on my lists of gratitude, it’s always family, nature, and time spent doing the things I love that I am most grateful for.  My gratitude lists are rarely, if ever, composed of material items.  It’s the everyday opportunities and little moments that bring the most joy and serve as an important reminder as to why slow living offers so many benefits.
  • Taking fewer shortcuts
    • In our busy day-to-day lives, we often rush through things and take shortcuts.  Takeaways rather than home-cooked meals; fast fashion rather than a sustainable wardrobe; watching TV rather than talking to family or playing a board game.  These shortcuts, in and of themselves, aren’t bad.  There’s nothing wrong with buying a takeaway or a night spent binge-watching Netflix, but when it becomes a regular habit we lose an important part of our days.  After I finished my dissertation, there was such happiness in making homemade bread and soup for dinner, in re-connecting with friends, and in simply curling up on the couch with the cats and a good book.  And, when I reflect back upon my master’s, I could have had the time to do those things anyway, but the constant rush and busy-ness so prevalent in our lives, made me feel as though I didn’t have that time.  Avoiding shortcuts when we can and relishing the commonplace tasks we need to do invites more slowness.
  • Living in the moment
    • I’m guilty of overplanning my future.  I’ve got a monthly plan, a yearly plan, a five-year plan, a ten-year plan, a twenty-year plan, and so on.  In many cases, I’d love nothing more than to plan out my life down to even the most basic aspects.  Slow living does not mean abandoning those plans, but it does mean living in the moment — in the now — and enjoying the present and worrying less about what is to come.  For me, and for most, I’d imagine, this shift is difficult and a daily challenge, but with it comes much less stress and unnecessary pressure.  Slow living does not mean letting life pass one by.  You can live slowly and still accomplish all your goals.  Slow living is simply about embracing each moment, savouring the little things, and finding purpose in the everyday.

Writing this blog post after such a long time away has been wonderful, and I truly endeavour to keep blogging regularly now that things are no longer so crazy stressful.  The five remaining posts of the Slow Series will come out every Monday (probably around noon BST) for the next five weeks, and I’m certain there will be more to come following the Slow Series.  

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves — slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.  Live the actual moment.  Only this moment is life.
Thich Nhat Hahn