Slow life in a big city

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In order to live according to the slow life philosophy, you don’t have to immediately quit your job, move out of town and spend whole days walking in the forest. Living in a city with a 2-million population, we can also switch to the rhythm of slow life. But how to get around that? All you need to do is make some small adjustments to your schedule.

How to get on with that?

From the very start, that is from your morning routine.

The first rule in slow life says: GET UP EARLY. What for? So that you don’t have to rush from the very moment you wake up and, above all, so that you have enough time for your morning rituals, such as a short meditation or yoga session, taking a walk, etc. The most important thing here is to try to get up before the rest of housemates wake up, especially when you have small kids.

In order for your body to wake up in the slow fashion and get ready to the tasks the day is about to bring, you need some time just for yourself. How to arrange such a slow morning? There are many concepts, from which you can choose this one: alarm clock rings at 7 am, you roll over and stretch your arms in bed, then you get up, go to the bathroom, take a shower (remember to do each thing mindfully and be focused on the “here and now”) and prepare your oatmeal. Before your breakfast is ready, you can do a few sequences of yoga sun salutation or meditate for a while. You eat your oatmeal, get dressed, do your hair and make-up and.. go to work.

Rule no. 2: COMMUTE MINDFULLY. Zendriving Foundation, based in Warsaw, teaches drivers how to apply mindfulness to driving. The research it publishes shows that your car commute can substantially influence the level of daily stress, depending on your attitude and behaviour behind the wheel.

Practicing mindful driving means to drive at a slow pace and instead of thinking ahead that you have just 5 minutes to get somewhere and pondering about the slim chances of finding a right parking spot, you start to notice what is going on around you here and now. When you wait at the red lights, you can do some breathing exercises (e.g. diaphragmatic breathing). If you live in a very large city, come to terms with the fact that you will get stuck in traffic jams. It can also become a great opportunity for a short meditation behind the wheel.

And what if you use public transport? The most important thing is to log out, that is keep yourself from surfing the net in your smartphone. Instead, you can read a book, observe the world through the window or, if you go by subway, close your eyes and try to meditate. When you get off, you don’t have to shove and push ahead, but simply wait for your turn and walk at a normal pace, which allows you to breathe easily through your nose.

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Slow life at work

As soon as you arrive at your workplace, make yourself tea or coffee and start to practice the Zen to done (ZTD) method. ZTD, which was created by Leo Babuta, is a perfect solution for people who have a lot (of tasks) on their plate, regardless of the kind of work they do.

It is based on the best productivity systems available, such as GTD (Getting Things Done) by David Allen or the 7 habits of highly effective people by Stephen Covey. What do we get from practicing Zen To Done? First and foremost, more space for our mind, which gives a sense of relief and brings in fresh energy. Do you know this feeling of overwhelm and tiredness from the obsessive thoughts reminding you about each task? There is a way to get rid of that. Once and for all.

At work, it is also important not to try to be perfect in everything. The art of letting go of certain things is crucial in slow living. It might refer to actively participating in all meetings (Americans have long proved that meeting is a total waste of time), paying too much attention to your outfit and makeup (you are supposed to feel casual, your workplace is not a fashion show), replying right away to all emails (you can send emails, for example, every hour or once a day) or surfing the social media. You don’t have to be the best in everything. Don’t look for faults in everything you do. Learn to let go at a certain point. Don’t let yourself be constantly dissatisfied with the effects of your work when you find yourself endlessly looking for a better solution to the same problem. It really isn’t as important as it might seem to you today. Think that in a year from now you won’t even remember what the problem was all about.

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Slow life at home

You can experience slow life especially while doing everyday home chores. As far as cooking is concerned, you don’t have to always do it in a haste or end up heating up ready meals in the microwave (that’s exactly what I used to do until recently). Make cooking a mindful ritual and an anti-stress therapy. When washing the dishes, as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, be in the washing the dishes, think about the water flowing down your hands, think that you are doing something good for yourself, for your home, feel the joy in this activity. Cleaning, on the other hand, can be a ritual of meditation in motion. Zen adepts know that perfectly well and you can learn that, too. Zen teaches us to "clean everything thoroughly, leave no marks behind, sweep away the past and all the worries." Introduce mindfulness into your life, choose to do only the things that serve you, consciously reduce your standard of living. This way slow life will soon become your way of life and fill you with a simple day-to-day joy of being. It can be done. Honestly.

Another reason for not living slow life is overtask. Unfortunately, we take on most of our excess duties of our own free will. First of all, living in a big city entices everyone to spend more, buy more, entertain more, and then ... well, you have to afford all that. So, we do after hours, work double shifts, take on even more work assignments. That’s the shortest way to knack yourself out, feel beat and live on autopilot: home-work-home-work-home. Wojciech Eichelberger once said that "in order to increase the level of happiness in life, you first have to reduce your standard of living". I think that's key to slow life.

Simple as that, to lead a slow life in a big city you need to be able to resign from some of its "attractions", try to be a minimalist and never ever take on too many responsibilities. Then you will be able to live mindfully, and practicing mindfulness is an inseparable part of slow life. This also applies to your children. Instead of signing them up for more extracurricular activities (after all, other kids from the class attend them, too), it is better to pick just one, or two tops, but such that will make your child happy and not overload their weekly schedule.

Last but not least, don’t worry if your slow life doesn’t get approval of others. Nourish this life style and hold it dear as a precious treasure and remember to take a break from the big city life. Leave the concrete jungle once in a while for a place where you can see no blocks of flats on the horizon. Good luck!

Slow life coach, balance yogi instructor, editor
She runs workshops “Slow life in the big city” and rejuvenating classes of balance yoga for workaholics. She started Joga magazine and was its editor-in-chief for many years. She regularly writes articles on slow life and minimalism for glossy magazines and online portals. You can learn more about Natalia from her website: www.nataliakraus.pl

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