Sunday, March 03, 2013

Starting Slow

My Slow living room
Following my surgery, I was put on restricted activity for the six weeks in order to prevent developing a hernia in the insicion area.  This restriction gave me time to reflect on how I would incorporate the principles of Slow living into my life. Moving slow and contemplating how this would become a framework for my life was rather easy while recovering from surgery. However, now that I can resume my normal activities, the real challenge of Slow living comes in. 

I am not by nature a slow person.  I think fast, I learn fast, I read fast, my movements tend to be quick.   Over time, this became normal and as the speed of society increased, so did I. However, some time ago I began to recognize that living mindlessly at increasing speeds has not helped me very much.  Rushing to just get things done leaves a feeling of dissatisfaction at the end of the day and a lot of projects left in various stages of completion. Now that I have comprehended the need to slow down how do I do it?
"There is more to life than increasing its speed." -- Gandhi
I recognized that in order to begin shaping a Slow lifestyle I would need to begin with the following:

  • Restructuring my life and develop a schedule that supports Slow living while allowing me to meet my personal needs and responsibilities.
  • Introduce mindfulness, the sacred and sacred ritual into my life.
  • Include regular activities that reinforce the practice and principles of Slowness.

I will address each of the above points in separate blog posts, starting with the first item in this post.

Restructuring my life and develop a schedule that supports Slow living while allowing me to meet my personal needs and responsibilities.

I recalled my time of training at the Buddhist temple in New York City and how following the monastic schedule offered a sense of peace and focus that permeated my entire day. I found through mindfulness practice and staying focused on whatever task was before me, my life was simplified and stress was reduced.  The schedule also allowed for more time in silence and stillness, which was healing and also helped reduce stress.  After leaving the temple, the structure that had shaped my life gradually fell aside, like the way a fragrence slowly disappates. The busy, hectic life focused on production and multi-tasking re-asserted itself. There were moments when I recognized the pace I was moving was too fast and I would pull back, or an illness or injury forced me to slow down. The rhythm of my life became like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other. Fast, slow, fast, slow, etc.  I needed an equilibrium. 

When I was in South Korea, I remember a particular Buddhist monk I spoke with. He had been excommunicated from the temple because of his insistence on leaving the temple to teach Buddhist practice to young adults. The elder monks believed this monk should stay at the temple and teach those who came. The monk believed he needed to go out and meet the people, especially the young adults who were rapidly being converted to Christianity. This monk told me over dinner that while he had been officially disrobed, he still saw himself as a monk. He lived his life like he was still at the temple, following the daily structure as it was practiced in the temple, living solely by the support and generosity of the people.  He told me that I could be a monk who lives in the world doing the work that is needed in the world rather than hiding away in a temple in the mountains.

Recalling this conversation I realized that one way to invite living Slow in my life is to create a structure that gives me the space to be slow, while still meeting the needs and responsibilities in my life. As a self-employed artist who's income is dependent on my ability to create the pressure to over work can be intense. Again I recalled my time in Buddhist training and how, despite the structure and many hours of meditation and prostrations I practiced, I still managed to be productive and meet my responsibilities and needs.  
"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop." -- Ovid
So I sat down and began to devise a schedule of practice, work and living that will help support living Slow. This is a work in progress and over the next few weeks I will adjust and make changes as necessary. Here is the schedule I came up with:

6:00am -- wake/morning prayer-cleansing
6:15 - 7:45 am -- yoga/stretching/walk time
7:45 - 8:30 am -- breakfast & prep work for lunch
8:30 - 9:00 am -- meditation/reading/journal time
9:00 - Noon -- work time (include a few minutes of light stretching)
Noon - 1:30 pm -- lunch (largest meal of the day)
1:30 - 6:00 pm -- work time (include a few minutes of light stretching)
6:00 - 6:15 pm -- walk/light stretching/meditation time
6:15 - 7:00 pm -- dinner (light meal)
7:00 - 8:00 pm -- meditation/reading/walk/quiet time
8:00-11:00 pm -- free time 
11:00 pm -- bedtime/lights out

Lian teaches Slow living
I will put this in practice and see how it works for me and make changes as necessary. This schedule is meant to be a guide, not a straight-jacket to confine me. There will be times when adjustments will be needed based on the particular situation at hand.  In fact, right now, my energies are still quite low and I am rarely capable of much after 8 or 9pm. I expect, when my health improves, this will change. However, I believe having a guiding structure that can be superimposed over the day will be beneficial in practicing my Slow goals, much in the way the temple structure aided me. 

It is important to keep in mind that living a Slow lifestyle doesn't mean sitting around doing nothing. It is just that one becomes more discerning about what activities to include and to what extent they take up space.  This schedule is custom designed to meet my personal needs and responsibilities, it is not meant to fit all people's needs. We each need to examine our own lives and make the adjustments necessary to encourage Slowness. The first step will be identifying what you need to embrace and what to eliminate. Of course, this is only one element in incorporating the principles of Slow living into my life. Next I will work on practicing mindfulness and introducting sacredness and sacred ritual.

Yours creatively,

Tapestry News
I have completed my third tapestry sampler and shared in my Patron blog what I have learned about weaving so far. 

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi Anthony I like your blog....nice to know another artist is right around the corner. Shannon

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