The art of slowing down
Modern life is fast: we run through our lives like never before. We have more efficient ways of communications, faster transport than ever, devices that connect us to anyone, anywhere, anytime… But despite all the ‘improved’ technology, one thing is becoming increasingly scarce: Time.
One of the characteristics of modern life is its fast pace: we run through our lives like never before. We have more efficient ways of communications, faster transport than ever, devices that connect us to anyone, anywhere, anytime… But despite all the ‘improved’ technology, there is one thing that feels like it is becoming increasingly more scarce: Time.
There is a principle in Nature that says: the faster energy moves through a system, the more the system degenerates. Alternatively, the slower energy flows, the more generative that energy becomes. Why is that?
Imagine a rain storm.
Rain hits the roof of a house, flows down the gutter into the street, then into a strom gutter, and straight into the sea. Has anyone, anything, benefited from that rain? Most likely not… Probably, it has even degraded some parts of the local ecology in the form of soil erosion or compaction, underground water supplies depleted, urban pollution being thrown into the sea, etc… This is what happens in a degraded environment such as a concreted city landscapes: this is a good example of a degenerative cycle.
Now take the same rainstorm, in an environment in which nature has been either maintained or reintroduced. Imagine how some elements of nature could easily, and effortlessly, create a regenerative cycle: rain falls from the sky, hits the leaves from a tree and is being slowed down; as it gently touches the ground it is absorbed by biomass and infiltrated into the soil by plant roots. In the process the soil is being opened and nourished, biodiversity is being fed, underground water tables are being replenished, water is being filtered. This is what we call a regenerative cycle. In this process, not only is the energy of water being used, it is shared and its benefits are being multiplied: a lot of other natural services are also being supported: shade from the trees, healthy soil hosting life, atmospheric CO² sequestration, free food supply, etc.!
All of this comes from slowing down water. What happens when we slow energy down is that it is being made available to more parts of the ecosystem. More animals, plants, and humans are using it, and as a result more value is being produce : we have a greater diversity and scope of services. This is because in nature cooperation plays a larger role than competition.
One of the lessons we get from a careful observation of such phenomenon in Nature, is that cooperation creates abundance. The same amount of energy can be used any number of times as it is being passed on to different elements of the ecosystem: this ‘working with’ mindset allows emergence and regeneration. On the other hand, when we ‘work against’, when we are fast to grab and possess energy for ourselves only, we create scarcity and degeneration.
Maybe we should also consider this in our personal lives. The fast paced, individualistic lifestyles that have become the norm in modern industrialized societies DO NOT create abundance, resilience nor happiness. At best they create a very limited form of material wealth for a handful of humans only, the cost of which is the alienation of nature, our sense of belonging to something greater, our global resilience… and an unbearable amount of suffering for all of life on Earth.
When we want stuff right now, we do not appreciate the work it takes to get it. When we want results immediately, we do not learn the lessons along the way.
When we jump towards conclusions and opinions, we do not consider the complexity and subtlety of a healthy thinking process.
When we want fast food without the effort of growing it, we miss months of intimate relationship with it.
When we rush through our lives, we pass by surprising opportunities without seeing them.
Slowing down is very difficult for me: even if I see the benefits of it, there is always a part of me that says: “if you go faster, you’ll go further, you’ll do more, you’ll have more, you’ll be more”… Do you feel that too?
I have recently started a regular sitting mediation practice. After years of proudly practicing mindfulness (the art of keeping a meditative state of mind even in action, which has been more than life saving since becoming a father), I have come to realize that this was also a trap, another mind-game to pack more and more things in my overloaded days. Sitting meditation on the other hand puts me in a situation to accept stillness and tell myself: “It’s ok, everything is being taken care of, you don’t have to do or think about anything. Slow down. Be still.”
One of my commitments to myself for 2022 is to slow down.