5 steps to Slowing Down

By Tor McIntosh

True to the slow movement concept, it has taken time for me to fully embrace "slow" – discovering my inner slowness has needed time to mature. For me, my teens were spent racing around a tennis court or a hockey pitch; my 20s consisted of chasing PBs in running, cycling and triathlons while living and working at a frenetic pace in various urban environments; but my 30s have had a distinctly different flavor – I’ve slowed down. These are the 5 steps I’ve taken to Slowing Down:

Claud crossing the Loire | July 2015

Claud crossing the Loire | July 2015

Step 1: Buy a touring bike

It was a sad day when I was forced to sell my too-expensive-for-my-salary lightweight racing bike to buy a much-needed laptop on the cusp of entering the world of freelancing. What followed were two very sad bike-less years. When I’d finally saved enough pennies to buy a new steed I opted for a steel touring bike, a Claud Butler Daleman, complete with pannier racks, Brooks saddle and hefty tyres, rather than a carbon racing machine. In my 20s I dreamed of high-spec lightweight gear, but in my 30s it was clearly all about style and comfort over speed.

Recommended read: Full tilt: Ireland to India with a bicycle by dervla murphy

Step 2: Fall in love with yoga

Breathing was the last thing I was thinking of as I desperately tried to balance on one leg. But breathing was precisely what the yoga teacher kept telling me to do: “just breathe into it…” This was my first foray into the world of yoga, and for a sports-mad being the concept was entirely alien. But once my initial gung-ho need to push myself to the limit in a yoga class waned, I morphed into a fully-fledged yogi. Falling in love with yoga naturally led me to explore meditation and mindfulness. After a few false starts – “now, just focus on your breath: breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly... ” *starts writing a shopping list in my head* – I got the hang of the meditation thing and for the first time in my life I allowed myself simply to sit and breathe. I highly recommend it.

Recommended read: DO/BREATHE/ by Michael Townsend Williams

Step 3: Move to a rural location

Clearly a dramatic move like this is not a simple or logistical option for everyone. However, living in a remote, rural location certainly means that you’re forced to slow down, especially when faced with intermittent WiFi and non-existent 3G; infrequent public transport services; films arriving in the local cinema months after they’ve been released; shops religiously closing at 4pm (and not opening on Sundays), even in the height of summer; and the everyday pace of life being far slower than the hustle and bustle of urban living. Adjusting to life in a rural setting after city living can admittedly be a bit of a shock to the system, but it doesn't take long before you consider "getting dressed up" as changing into something other than wellies and a waterproof.

Recommended read: once upon a time in the west... country by tony hawks

Step 4: Grow things

Sow, water, heat, wait, and wait, and wait… And then a tiny knuckle of life bursts through the soil. Pure joy. Over these past few years of trying to turn my fingers green, gardening has taught me two things: firstly, pinching out seedlings feels like mass murder; and secondly, you’ve got to be patient. As the prophet Guinness once stated: “good things come to those who wait.” You can’t force nature; however, you can provide it with the right environment and then wait for the magic to happen. Sometimes it doesn’t – RIP Echinacea purpurea, April 2015 – but when it does you will feel like you’ve just given birth to a tray of plant babies. And then you have to pinch them out…

Recommended read: Making a Garden: Successful gardening by nature's rules by Carol Klein

Step 5: opt for quality over quantity

The situation: with £10 in your hand do you buy three bottles of plonk or a single bottle of fine wine? This is when we need to tap into the concept of the Slow Movement, which Carl Honoré, "the spokesman on slowness", sums up here:

The Slow Movement is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. It’s not about doing everything at a snail’s pace; it’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savouring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast a possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.

The answer: the single bottle of fine wine. It's all about savouring the wine (quality) rather than glugging it down (quantity). I've learnt to apply this belief to all situations in my life.

Recommended read: In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré

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