|Greek tortoise. Athens, 2012|
Ndànk-ndànk ay jàpp golo cib ñaay
(Senegalese saying, meaning: you have to go slow if you want to catch the monkey in the bush.)
I've been reading "In Praise of Slow - How a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed", by Carl Honoré.
I must be a little slow myself, because the book was published 10 years ago, and I hadn't read it yet. In any case, it's timely because I have been forced to slow down drastically in the past month or so. The string of various illnesses was interrupted briefly, only to give way to new and improved afflictions. At the moment I have both a vigorous sinus infection and a debilitating runner's knee. The former is helped by long, steamy showers; the latter is helped by applying ice. I hope alternating between the two won't ruin me irrevocably. And thank goodness for modern pharmaceuticals.
But the details of my decrepitude are not what matters here.
What matters is what I am learning from this change of pace.
As I am - slowly - discovering, slower can be better. I can feel some benefits already.
In his book, Honoré makes the apology of slow food, slow weightlifting, slow sex and slow work, to name but a few.
We've already heard of the benefits of taking our time at the table and in the bedroom (in that vein, haven't I celebrated the value of a long, slow kiss in a previous post? - click here)
As for weightlifting, I thought I was already going slow (making each movement last a few seconds), until I read about the extreme approach that recommends you lift as slowly as you can. According to those who have tried it, you don't even sweat, yet it has the same benefits as "traditional" weightlifting. I gave it a try, and it's true: I remained fresh and dry, all the while feeling the burn more than ever. Interesting! We'll have to see if there is an effect on post-workout soreness.
Intense activities like weightlifting are not the only ones that can benefit from slowing down. Based on what 2 different, rather healthy friends have experienced recently, I think we can generalize to gentler activities, namely, yoga. Yes, 2 of my friends got seriously injured at yoga. I can see how. Yoga can be demanding, and it's easy to overdo some postures. To all my yogi readers: please be careful!
As a general rule, to enjoy life and enhance wellness, slowing down could be the overlooked panacea. Feeling good, really good (as opposed to simply numbing some kind of pain, physical or emotional) often arises from such simple things: drinking when you're really thirsty; eating when you're really hungry; sleeping when you're really tired. This applies to all basic needs. Remove the source of pain or discomfort, then enjoy life. Frantically chasing pleasure has no role in that equation. I know Epicurus would agree:
Although Epicurus has been commonly misunderstood to advocate the rampant pursuit of pleasure, his teachings were more about striving for an absence of pain and suffering, both physical and mental, and a state of satiation and tranquility that was free of the fear of death and the retribution of the gods. Epicurus argued that when we do not suffer pain, we are no longer in need of pleasure, and we enter a state of ataraxia, "tranquility of soul" or "imperturbability". (Wikipedia)
In the work arena, I, for one, do not have to be convinced that slowing down can make you more productive, while helping maintain your sanity. Instead of rushing from one task to the next, taking the time to breathe and allowing ourselves real breaks can make a difference for the best. Multiple studies have shown the positive impact of pausing in the midst of a busy day and of taking real vacation on a regular basis. And while at work per se, it is entirely feasible (and beneficial) to slow down as a general rule. It's all about focusing fully on one thing at a time. The most interesting part of this is that despite slowing down, we get as much done (if not more) at the end of the day. Bonus: we're less stressed!
One chapter I haven't read yet in Honoré' book is entitled "Leisure: The Importance of Being at Rest". I cannot wait to get to that chapter (slowly but surely!) I know leisure and rest are an issue for me. I don't allow myself to rest much (apart from a good night's sleep). Everything has to be useful or productive, including my pastimes (e.g. running, working out, writing a blog, etc.) I need to learn to take time and do things solely for fun. That does not come naturally to me. Even on vacation, and even when said vacation is far from home, I make lists of things to "accomplish". Up to now, the only way I've been able to really take time off was to go on a yearly retreat where I have nothing to care about but my own enjoyment and relaxation.
What about you? What would you say about the pace of your life? Have you tried other paces? How did it feel?