The Slow Movement Movement

“Slow down, you’re movin’ too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy”

– Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel,  “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”

Not to be confused with the various types of “the slow _____ movement,” an umbrella term for a host of cultural practices that together comprise a reaction to the fast pace life has taken on in the last 50 years or so: the slow food movement, the slow education movement, the slow travel movement, and similar crusades have helped millions get off the treadmill long enough to realize how unhappy they were hurrying through pointless tasks in pursuit of questionable goals.

Today I’m offering a new category to the blessed coterie of slow movers: slow movement, by which I mean exactly what it sounds like—the practice of moving more slowly.

Do you leap out of bed the moment the alarm rings and race to the shower? You’re mad.  Do you spend three or more days a week at the gym, sweating and panting to up your pulse rate? You don’t get that time back.  Is your day scheduled so tightly that you leap from one task to another without time to shift gears? You need my help.

Here are six reasons why you need to stop moving so fast and start feelin’ groovy:

  1. The scientific jury is in. Moderate regular exercise improves physical and mental health.  Longer periods of faster exercise don’t in themselves prevent diabetes or heart disease or help you lose weight, live longer, get smarter, or be more productive.  Exercise programs like yoga, tai chi, and walking meditations, on the other hand, have wonderful effects on longevity and are actually quite pleasant to carry out.  If you’re concerned about your cardiovascular health, there are plenty of slow exercises that can raise your heart rate long enough to build fitness.  Swimming, cross-country skiing, cycling, hiking, and many other activities can all be done slowly, granting health benefits with less risk than you’d face on a squash court.
  2. Doing anything under time pressure increases your level of stress for the duration of that task. This tires you out, weakens your immune system, and demands longer recovery time.
  3. If you rush to finish a task that would normally take an hour, you might, if you’re lucky, shave ten minutes from the job. If you do that all day you may end up with an extra hour.  What amazing and world-changing thing are you going to achieve in that hour, if you don’t pile it up with more rushed jobs or use it to flake out after having pushed the stress button repeatedly all day?
  4. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit that what you really want to do is to just stop. Stop worrying about time, stop performing meaningless tasks, stop long enough to enjoy life and feel at peace.  The world says that to gain a peaceful, happy future you have to always be in a hurry now, but that’s only because the world doesn’t want you to stop long enough to realize how absurd its demands are.  Tell the world to shut up; you can stop, or at least slow down, any time you want.
  5. Slow movement with plenty of pauses is the best thing for reflection and creative inspiration. Sitting beside that stream might help you solve that engineering problem, come up with an idea for a book, figure out that formula, or decide on a change of course in your life.  Doing yoga can teach you tranquil contentment in the now.  Prayer and meditation can bring meaning and fullness to your life.  These are the things that money can’t buy.
  6. If money does matter, which it does for all of us to some extent, slow movement may or may not fatten your bank account (time is funny that way), but it will most certainly increase your time wealth. Having ample time is better than money in the bank, which is why rich people will pay so much to get it.

Slow movement doesn’t mean wasting time.  It’s a way of taking control of your time.  This may mean limiting the time you’re willing to give certain tasks, both to train yourself to get them done faster and to reduce time stress.  This will free up more time for important things like drinking tea by the window and watching the rain fall before moving slowly through your day.