The Art of Slow Living / by Emma Mead

When I was finishing up my senior year of high school, I remember a family friend was over for dinner and he came up to me and said, "So majoring in costume design, eh? About how much money does a costume designer make per year?" I was taken aback because I had no idea what a costume designer made annually, nor had I ever thought about money as something to contemplate when choosing my career and ultimately I was offended that was the first thing he thought to ask. I replied saying I had no idea and didn't care because it's what I wanted to do.

That story pretty much sums up how I feel about what I call the "real world." To illustrate why I put quotes around that phrase, here's a slice of my worldview: I like to think of the intangible world as made up of lots of layers that humans inhabit and move through. What I call the "real world" is one of the very top layers. The humans who live solely in that layer tend to view the world in terms of ideas like: separation, money as power, seeing things in black and white, disconnect from nature and soul, judgment, etc. The further down in the layers you go, you begin to find humans who connect with concepts like: oneness, openness, creativity, compassion, self exploration and not just that but they also understand that these things can be used as a way to heal ourselves and our world. I think many of us start somewhere at the top, caught in a world where we have so much to prove to the outside world. I truly think Life wants us to explore and dig deeper and deeper. I do find that once one starts the downward dig it becomes harder to go back to the surface.

I've been thinking about the "real world" mentality lately because it's so loud in our culture and it often sneaks into our thoughts, making it hard to tell what is true from what is... less true. I don't think it's bad or evil per say, I just think it's a self serving and not very intuitive world that can be dangerous if mistaken for the only one to live in.

Anyway, the reason it's been on my mind is because since I've healed to a place where I can function more like real a human again, I've also started hearing a voice in my head that says, "Heeeyy Emma. So listen. You're thirty and living with your parents. You don't really have a job or a clear idea of how you're going to proceed. You don't really know how you'll get from point A (living at home with your parents) to point B (buying a place to start your Artist Homestead.) So... are you kinda, maybe, sorta a loser?"

When this voice starts tricking me into a reality that I really don't want to be a part of, I must force myself to take a step back, re-calibrate and dive into a different reality- the one of slow and simple living. Today's blog is dedicated to that world. I reject a world that tells me I'm doing nothing with my life.  This is exactly why living a slow life is an art form.

In my experience, it takes practice and/or crisis, to find joy in living life with timeless ease. It takes a lot of reorganizing neuropathways to actually enjoy the feeling of having nowhere to go and nothing to do. It takes compassion to let yourself be OK with taking any, all and as much time as you need to breathe, heal, smile, cook, walk. And I'm beginning to see that it is perhaps the most worthy practice to base one's life on.

To know what the wind feels like on your skin, what it smells like in your nose and tastes like on your tongue, you need focus. To notice how your eyelashes look like rainbows in the right light with the right amount of squinting, you need presence. There is a dedication to the act of being still, noting how much is happening around you all the time. There is deep joy in simmering soup for a full day, watching the contents cook down and transform from solids to liquids. Overwhelming beauty is found in soaking up sunshine from the moment you wake up until you start seeing the moon and stars peek through the sky. There is happiness in being mesmerized by sparks flying up from a fire beneath a galaxy of stars. And there is nothing better that spending a slow, warm, book reading day with a smiley dog beside you.

My theory is that when you slow down and give yourself the time to be gentle and here, you realize how little you need to be happy, that happiness actually consists of simple, intimate and detailed moments strewn together. I've also noted that the practice of being deeply satisfied by doing nothing (which also feels a whole lot like doing everything) goes hand in hand with being close to nature. When I step out my door and my lungs fill with fresh air and the sounds of birds and trees and the crunch of leaves beneath my feet, my mind goes clear and sweet.

Starry Sky

Starry Sky

Just like everything- this timeless, floating life isn't really sustainable. Nothing lasts and this beautiful, here and now presence is ebbing away from me as my armor and identity returns. As much as I would love to drift in that world all day, everyday, I also recognize I do need one foot in "reality." A friend and I have this running joke about balance. We always say that the moment anyone responds by saying "it's all about balance," the conversation has nowhere to go because it's true and is always the answer. I guess what I'm trying to say is that in the end, the real art of living a good and happy life all comes down to how well you balance a slow, timeless life with a hyper-speed, money- driven, ambitious one.

I'll leave you with something I heard recently in one of my meditations:

"Man is strange. He sacrifices his health to make money, then uses his money to regain his health. He lives as if he'll never die, then dies having never lived."

All I can think when I hear this is, "Dear God, let that not be me. But my God, isn't it just."