a hectic day and all i want is to sit, breathe and mentally digress; reality escapism if you will.
wandering up one of my favourite streets in melbourne my interest is suddenly piqued by what looks like a rickety cupboard door in an otherwise deserted strip of ‘for lease’ signs and refurbished construction.
curiously, i stroll inside to what looks like a reflection of a farmhouse kitchen. this little gem of a cafe, branded slowpoke espresso, is exactly the kind of space and ambiance i am in need of – a space where i can slow down – even if for just 20 minutes – and take a time out from a obsessivly chaotic, manic day.
upon ordering a coffee, reading the simple chalkboard menu and gazing outside the window pane with deep, strong breathes i become aware that i am once again caught up in the white noise that distracts me from life and i am having to ease my mind, telling myself to relax. unwind…slow down.
and as each thought peels away one in particular from a yesteryear or so is uncovered – a quasi life mantra that i adopted as a resolution when the calendar’s age turned 2010: reduzca velocidad.
the term, which loosely means “slow down” in spanish, is something that i read in several articles as 2009 wound down. the world was running amuck as per usual and i recall that it was then i began to feel suffocated, trapped. by applying reduzca velocidad to my life that is when i really started listening, really started looking…really started living. somewhere within i interpreted this slogan as “leave behind the familiarity, pack your bags and move across the world to the obsolete unknown.” clearly, i don’t speak spanish very well. but alas, this ‘lost in translation’ enabled me to put the brakes on life without fretted guilt.
and slow down i did. in this quiet space i started practicing many things that requires a moderate pace in order to fully appreciate gorgeous experiences. i made time for marathon conversations, yoga and stretching, rural retreats, long distance correspondence, lessons in music culture, hugging a book, playing in the kitchen and most recently, reflection and meditation at the end of my day to prepare for a restful sleep to awake to an energized day.
yet after about a year and without really noticing it…life switched gears from riding the speed limit to unjustifiably exceeding it.
so, here i am, sitting in this quaint nook of a cafe and rewind to reflect on the contents of a book i read about five years ago, in praise of slow by carl honore. a delicious book that explores just how intoxicatingly indulgent the meaning of living slowly really is – from food to sex and everything in-between. it wasn’t until i finished reading these pages of brilliant prose that i realized just how fast we, as human beings, live our lives.
what i remember being so brilliant about the book’s message now is how the emergence of the slow movement in the beginning of the second millennium reminded us to yield when life gets too fast; disasterously-out-of-control-frantic. a visit to honore’s website (www.carlhonore.com) still promotes this message:
[the slow movement]…is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. the slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. it’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. it’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.
rediscovering the slow philosophy, i take stock in some of my current daily practices – relieved to learn that with some concentrated effort i can gradually merge from the fast lane and coax back into the passing lane; not necessarily looking to halt the brakes but perhaps switching gears and cranking up the cruise control. recent embraces such as vegetarianism and attempting to only consume natural foods and purchase recycled goods are a couple of things to help me refocus and silent some of the white noise.
i can’t be naive though – i thrive on 12 hour work days, quick overnight naps, volunteer commitments, balanced exercise, addicted to meeting new people, and weekly hobbies of cultural outings, reading, writing and testing new recipes. despite this motivational pace in which i live, i will never rush through a chance to skype with my niece as she kisses the webcam good night, to read between the lines of a piece of philosophy or poetry, or to interpret lyrics to a beautiful song. reading will forever be my perfect lullaby and a morning stretch is worth getting up an extra thirty minutes for. i would rather be late on a deadline or for an appointment if it meant meeting a stranger or extending a helpful hand. i will never be the one to end a conversation but i will listen in silence. and i will always be an old-fashion romantic when it comes to courtship and hand-written letters.
yes, i truly think that amidst this all one can live slowly while living fully.
here i am, tucked into this gorgeous, homemade cafe, daydreaming out the window absorbing the wonderful scenes of life, patiently and enthusiastically watching it and its fascinating people go by. alas, without knowing it, 45 minutes has passed me by and my coffee is now cold. it is time to go back outside, return to the noise. but it is ok, because for a couple of rejuvenating minutes, i slowed down. and that is all i needed to be reminded about all of the lovely things mentioned above.
i encourage you to be a slowpoke today, tomorrow, or whenever you read this….because sometimes, life, is just worth sitting down for.
(the following link is to a 2007 TED talk given by carl honore – he summarizes the theory of his book in 20 minutes…slow down, listen to it and go even slower – perhaps press pause, and read the book http://www.ted.com/talks/carl_honore_praises_slowness.html.)