Life’s not a race, it’s a slow dance…

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Photo by Phil Barnes Photography

I’ve hurt my knee. I’ll pause there to allow for the violins to play because I can’t deny it, I do feel rather sorry for myself and expect everyone else to as well. I’m usually one of those busy, rushing, clock-watching people. Always telling the kids to hurry up and catch up. Only now I’m not.

There is one advantage to living life at a gentler pace. You see so much more and appreciate so much more of the world around. As local naturalist Mark Cocker recently wrote, taking a more leisurely pace brings fascinating natural encounters, in his example a weird longhorn moth; “Almost at every step in this season something remarkable makes our acquaintance. Perhaps it is because as I get older I walk slower and have more encounters of this kind.”

Children too, take life at a different pace, one minute haring at break neck speed, but then suddenly stopping to look at things that interest them on life’s journey. When you want to get somewhere with young children, it can be infuriating that the snail on the wall must be studied in detail, and then the red spider mites on the pavement must be counted (impossible). Yet when you switch off that permanent internal clock, always tick-tocking noisily away, then crouch down and look too, you can have an entirely different experience of life, one that is rich with little moments of discovery.

Slowing down is good for us on many levels. Firstly, it’s about doing things properly; quality over quantity. It’s about slow food that is locally sourced and cooked from scratch. It’s about breathing deeply and calmly rather than the short, shallow inhalations that make many of us feel permanently anxious. It makes us nicer people to be around too – we listen more and give other people a little more of ourselves before the next thing claims our attention.

Secondly, it is vital for the environment. Faster travel is generally more polluting (I’m willing to make an exception for train travel here). Taking the self-propelled, slower option will always save carbon and be more sustainable. You can learn to love the journey rather than just the destination.

Slowing down means taking a moment to feel the sun (or rain!) on your skin and to smell the air. Look up into the sky and see if you can see any birds like swifts or swallows up high, and to find out what the clouds are doing. Are there flowers on the grass verge, or insects? Connecting with nature takes time, but not much. It is all around us, wherever you live, but we choose to rush on by, checking our phone as we go.

Many of us are missing out on a lot. I still expect those violins to play when I mention my knee troubles (it really does hurt you know), but I’m hoping that even as it heals I’ll keep my pace gentle and not waste my time by rushing.

First published in the EDP and EADT

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