We’ve all heard these old cliches, but what do they really mean? Could they actually be useful mantras on one’s spiritual journey?
If you find you’re trying to juggle too many plates on too many sticks, or have more stuff than you know what to do with, it may be the perfect time to take it down a notch, back off from the urge to accumulate and consume, and strive to find more meaning, purpose, and simple joy in your life. These ideas are at the heart of slow living.
The Japanese have a word to describe slow living: ukino, which means to live in the moment and be detached from the bothers of life. It means taking a step back and following a slower course in every area of your life.
The slow-living lifestyle was born out of the slow-food movement as an alternative to fast food and fast living, as well as shifting from a place of want into a place of need. Minimalism—releasing life’s excess in favor of what’s most important—and slow living go hand-in-hand. Slow living isn’t a lifestyle filled with lacking; in fact, it’s a way of living with abundance. It’s being rich in the areas of life that really matter.
One of my favorite quotes about slow living is from best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert:
“I would like to spend the rest of my days in a place so silent, and working at a pace so slow, that I would be able to hear myself living.”
The way our world is set up, we’re typically disconnected from living in this deeper, richer way. We’ve been conditioned to believe working longer hours or harder than everyone else, or both, is the only way to get ahead.
When we’re running on empty—exhausted by our demanding schedules and chasing after whatever brass ring we’ve set our eyes upon—it’s nearly impossible to have a true connection with ourselves and others. That is not powerful living; that is frivolous living. More often than not, it leads to depression, anxiety, and a feeling of emptiness.
When we live with purpose, when we slow down and take stock of what is really important to us, voluntarily letting go of what isn’t, we begin to live more truthfully, on our own terms.
This can only be accomplished through awareness—both honest, authentic self-awareness and intentional living. Fortunately, built into all of us is the power to identify and live our truths. We just have to shift gears to get to that place.
To turn your back on the false narrative of busyness, boost your awareness, and begin to set yourself free, follow these three tips.
1. Remove yourself from the rat race you’ve become accustomed to. Acknowledge that how you’ve been moving through this world is no longer working for you, and make a commitment to living with more joy and meaning.
2. Accept that this will be a big lifestyle change. If this slow-living boat is going to really set sail, you must take stock of what adjustments are needed in order to give your lifestyle the makeover it needs to produce the results you want. That might include: moving out of a bustling city into a quieter environment. It could mean changing careers to a source of income that complements, rather than destroys, your nervous system. In other words, determining what you really require to live with contentment in your heart is going to involve some personal soul searching, and it’s a necessary part of the process.
3. Embrace minimalism in all aspects of life. A substantial amount of the power of slow living comes from embracing a minimalist lifestyle, which enables you to live a life of greater freedom. All the stuff we think we need can actually be keeping us stuck in jobs we hate, relationships we might otherwise not choose, and debt we may never settle.
We all want more personal freedom, but we weren’t taught how to live in an unfettered manner. Instead, we’re told to go to college and acquire massive debt, get married and start a family and get into more debt, and find jobs that will allow us to pay off all the debt we’ve accumulated following society’s spoken and unspoken rules—regardless of whether or not we hate or are bored to tears by this job we end up doing.
When you decide to live simply—when you’ve said “yes” to embracing slow living as your path through life—you decide to live on your own terms. You decide that you make the rules. You’re proclaiming, “I’m in charge and I’m living my way.”
Slow living is the antithesis of living with anxiety. It means living a life filled with awareness, creativity, and peace.
True power resides in the limitless reservoir inside each of us, not from anything outside of us. Slow living is a portal into that place of power. It’s a place you can access with some courage and conviction, and it will lead you into a new day, a new life, and a new way of being.