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Fiona Robyn : Writing Your Way Towards Slowing Down

Writing Your Way Towards Slowing Down

By Fiona Robyn

"The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit." ~ Moliere

I had a hectic morning this morning. I wanted to make a simple video, but mastering the technology took me much longer than I thought it would. As the time ticked by, I started thinking about my to-do list. There was this to do, and then this… I tried to work faster. I started making more mistakes with what I was doing. A tense knot formed in my stomach…

Most of us have hectic lives. We juggle our careers with our families, and we fret about how we're going to get everything done in the time we have available. Days, weeks and months speed by.

We all feel better when we slow down. We breathe more deeply. We savour our slice of coffee cake rather than wolfing it down. We enjoy a call with our friend rather than rushing them off the phone so we can 'get on'. We notice the luscious glossy leaves of the fig tree, just outside our window all of this time.

It's time to breathe more deeply. If you're yearning for a slower life, here are my writing tips to get you started.

1. Write small stones.

In a nutshell, a small stone is a short piece of writing based on something you've observed. Paying attention is the important bit — the first step is to become quiet and then open your ears, fingers, eyes, mouth and nose. Notice something around you. And then write it down. That's it. Write down one shining detail every day — the exact colour of that crumbling wall, the feel of cotton under your fingertips, the scent of your jasmine tea.

2. Keep a 'slow diary'.

Get yourself a note-book and make brief notes every day on your relationship with 'slow'. Learn to recognise when you're speeding up. How do you know when you're starting to feel rushed? Do you feel tight in your chest? Do you start making endless lists? When do you speed up — first thing in the morning? When you're spending time with a particular friend or colleague? What beliefs do you have that are driving you (shoving you) forwards? The first step towards change is always becoming aware. Once we bring something into our awareness, we automatically begin to change it. Keep writing notes and see what you find out.

3. Practice 'concentrated slow'.

Certain activities can help us experience slowing down in a more 'pure' form, and their beneficial effects will leak into the rest of our days. Meditation is one of these — just sit for ten minutes every morning with your back straight and pay attention to your breath. This is NOT as easy as it sounds, but it doesn't matter — just keep doing it. Other concentrated slow activities might be fishing, walking, reading, gardening, washing up… you can turn almost anything into concentrated slow if you approach it in the right frame of mind. Make time for these activities once a day or several times a week. Add your reflections to your 'slow diary'.

4. Enjoy slow.

Cultivate your appreciation of slow. Living slowly can be an acquired taste —the adrenaline rush of living in the fast lane can become compulsive. Cook slow delicious food and eat it slowly. Gaze out of the car window at the clouds (unless you're driving). Listen to slow music on your i-Pod. Re-read a book you love slowly — sentence by sentence. When you catch yourself trotting along the pavement, slow down and look up at the carved buildings or down at the luminous irises outside the florists. Write about it. Savour. Relish. Luxuriate.

5. Don't do it alone.

If you've been rushing through your days for years, it will take a sustained effort to change the way you live. Big changes are always more attainable and more fun when we involve others. Could you pair up with a friend who wants to write small stones? Take a writing class? Could you ask your family to gently remind you when they notice you speeding up? Ask for help.

After I'd wrestled with technology this morning, I went outside (with a knot in my stomach) and sat in the garden with a cup of tea. I gazed at the wide blue sky, which was stippled with cloud. I let the sun warm my cheeks. I thought, slowly, about coming in to write this article. The knot in my stomach untangled itself. My breathing slowed down. Aaaaaaah. •

© 2011 Fiona Robyn. All rights reserved.

Satya RobynSatya (formerly Fiona) Robyn is a novelist, psychotherapist, Buddhist priest & the co–founder of Writing Our Way Home with her husband Kaspa. More »

Updated 1/5/14