Slow living, Uncategorized

Slow living:Live by your values

As discussed in my previous post about exploring slow living, today I want to explore the first principle, namely that of living by my values. It’s surprisingly difficult to hone in on the essential values that I hold dearest. It’s easy to produce a laundry list of values, but much harder to boil them down to what I consider absolutely fundamental, which are those that motivate my actions and guide me through life. People’s personal values vary; none are more important than others, as these are all subjective choices. Personal values can change over time, so I want to focus on a handful that have been with me for most of my life. Part of slow living is learning to focus on what you consider to be truly important; having a comprehensive list of personal values can actually defeat the purpose, as the point is to be focused and intentional. This process is not easy and, for someone who is as prone to analysis as I am, it can become somewhat akin to falling down the proverbial rabbit hole, so I relied more on my intuition and focused on the first values that popped into my head, in a similar process to word association. I won’t go into the process in any detail, but the values below are what emerged as my top contenders, which I list in alphabetical order:

  • Beauty
  • Kindness
  • Knowledge
  • Religion (or Faith)
  • Responsibility

Beauty: I’ve always been drawn to beauty for as long as I can remember. While beauty can manifest itself in several ways, I have always been drawn to visual and aural forms of beauty, such as art, sculptures, architecture, and music. I’m a reserved person and not prone to wearing my heart on my sleeve, but beautiful objects, music, and so forth, can move me to tears, even if they are not necessarily visible to others. I take such pleasure in finding beautiful objects: they don’t need to be famous works of art, sometimes a simple and elegant candlestick can make me smile. I’m usually at my happiest when I’m in a gallery surrounded by beautiful objects, or in a magnificent church (this is related to my Religion value). I will strive to take time every day to revel in beauty and to immerse myself in it, even if it’s just for a moment, as a bulwark against a sometimes ugly world.

Kindness: Kindness is the sincere and voluntary use of one’s time, talent, and resources to better the lives of others, one’s own life, and the world through genuine acts of love, compassion, generosity, and service. This is a value to which I strive but of which I often fall short. Learning to be kinder to others, as well as to myself, is something that I need to work hard on, particularly since my desire for competency, a deep-rooted aspect of my personality, can make me intolerant or impatient.

Knowledge: This is perhaps not a surprising value for someone who has pursued an academic career. There is an irony, however, to having a career where knowledge can be pursued more as a means to an end, rather than for its own sake. By this I mean that there is a complusion in my profession to translate that knowledge into a tangible outcome, such as a journal publication. I find that this pursuit can sometimes serve to commodify knowledge, if you will, and rather takes the fun out of it. I want to place a greater emphasis on knowledge for the sake of knowledge, without a specific end goal in mind, career advancement, or the like.

Religion: Religion has been a part of my life since I was a baby. I was educated in a religious school until university, and have been actively involved in various churches for most of my life. I consider myself to be a religious person, in that I adhere to the beliefs (most, but not all) of a particular religion. My faith has always presented me with an interesting conundrum, as it often battles against my very rational and logical brain. I do know that my religion provides me with a sense of purpose, guides my values, and provides a sense of perspective on what is truly important. It’s an area where I profit immensly when I give it the time and attention it deserves.

Responsibility: A former colleague once told me “you suffer from a surfeit of responsibility.” I’ve always placed a very high value on personal responsibility; it can drive me to be a better person, but it can also lead to harmful behaviours, such as taking on too much, driving myself too hard, and having unreasonable expectations of others. It’s likely a word that could be etched on my tombstone. My slow living approach to responsibility is to use it to help me focus on monitoring my own behaviours and well-being, while to be forgiving of both myself and others if we fall short of my (sometimes unreasonable) expectations.

Slow living, Sustainability

Re-examining sustainable living

For the most of my adult life, I have tried my best to live in a way that does the least damage to the earth and the environment. I have embraced several sustainable practices in my daily and work life; it’s never enough of course, but it’s a path to which I am committed, which includes always striving to do more.

It’s becoming increasingly evident to me, however, that I need to focus on another, and equally – if not more – important aspect of sustainability, namely that which affects my mental, emotional, and physical health. I’ve discussed previously my concern over society’s increasing obsession with busyness, and how it’s become equivalent to an Olympic sport, where people compete with each other over the extent of their busyness. I’ve been trying to pursue a slower way of living, but my efforts have been far from consistent, so I’m going to challenge myself here to treat myself as sustainably as I do the environment.

Slow living isn’t a new concept; it sprung from the Slow Food movement, which traces its origins to 1986, in response to the proposed opening of a McDonald’s in the Piazza di Spagna. Several Italians expressed anger at this proposal and, while McDonald’s did open the location, which is still there today, this reaction led to the establishment Slow Food International 1989. This movement espouses the following principles:

Slow Food envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet.Our approach is based on a concept of food that is defined by three interconnected principles: good, clean and fair.

  • GOOD: quality, flavorsome and healthy food
  • CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
  • FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers

I have adopted various slow food practices, such as shopping from local farmers, making my own food, eating at local restaurants that support local food producers, and avoiding fast food. My attitude towards food is one of joy, since I consider cooking to be a creative pursuit that nourishes my soul.

Related to the concept of slow food is that of slow living, which is defined as a mindset whereby you curate a more meaningful and conscious lifestyle that’s in line with what you value most in life. It means doing everything at the right speed. Instead of striving to do things faster, the slow movement focuses on doing things better. Often, that means slowing down, doing less, and prioritising spending the right amount of time on the things that matter most to you.

While I’ve tried to embrace the concept of slow living, I haven’t done so as consistently as I would like, so I’m challenging myself in the next months to do this more deliberately. I’ve fallen off the slow living wagon over the past few weeks, and I’m seeing all too clearly the negative effects this is having on my mental, physical, and emotional health. I’m good at burying and ignoring mental and emotional health, but my physical health sends me the loudest alarm bells, since it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the significant increase in the manifestations of chronic health conditions, especially my widespread arthritis (the result of years of martial arts). I’m thus making a commitment to living a life that sustains me, as well as the planet, and to explore in more depth the three primary principes of slow living:

  • Live by your values – simplifying
  • Everyday deceleration – looking inwards
  • Live consciously – looking outwards

I will explore each of these principles in the next few posts as well as tangible steps I can take towards living them daily. Some useful resources that I will consult include:

Slow Living LDN

Seeking Slow: Reclaim Moments of Calm in Your Day

In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed

The Slow Living Guide