Learning to live slowly

Sometimes I feel a little duller around the edges, not quite as alert. It’s a little harder to think, to reason. I feel slightly out of focus. I talk more slowly, move more slowly.

And yet, living more slowly, I feel like I live more gracefully as well. None of the sharp jitters when my mind works at its fastest, none of the zigzags and interruptions, none of the words tumbling over themselves in their haste. More meditative.

I know why this is so and I don’t seek to avoid it. The real question is: How can I embrace this state? How can I make the most of it? It is natural, and will only become more so over time.

Coding currently feels better with a sharp mind, but there are still a myriad tasks to do and things to learn even when I don’t feel at my peak. Over time, I’ll learn to code in a reflective state instead of the intense one I carried over from competitions and quick prototyping. I think this will be good for my growth as a developer. After all, speed is not as useful as insight and care.

Reflective writing feels better than rapid writing. I don’t feel brilliant, but I feel methodical: following threads slowly, watching my own thoughts.

Cooking has become something that gives me pleasure. It’s one of those activities that I can indulge in, knowing that I can reliably create value where sometimes writing or coding does not. There are no blocks when it comes to cooking, only the steady slicing of ingredients and the textures and tastes of alchemy.

This slowness is perfect for listening, for talking. When I was younger, I felt an almost physical itch to be elsewhere, to be away, to be within the world of a book or a computer instead of in conversation.

Tidying benefits from deliberate thought. I organized my closet and my drawers by colour, and suddenly the patterns are visible. It takes just as much effort to maintain this order as it would to mess it up, and so I keep it.

Most days, I get very little done. But somehow, looking back over the week, I find that I’ve covered more ground than I thought.

I have the perfect foundation for learning how to live slowly. Few commitments, few expectations. I’ve lived this first part at a speed that other people have found remarkable but also, perhaps, uncomfortable: speaking, reading, coding, enthusiasm. It might be interesting to experiment with the flip side of that: the kind of stillness that the nuns in my grade school carried with them, the calm of late-night relaxed conversations, the serenity of quiet. I think I can translate the things I’ve loved about my faster life. Enthusiasm and delight don’t need to be breathless. The world is frantic enough. Let me learn how to be contagiously restful. =)

  • Delmania

    Sacha, have you done looked at all at Coursera’s Learning How to Learn course? The state you’re describing sounds like the diffuse mode of thinking. It’s a good state to be in as it lets your mind subconsciously process things. Utilizing it is as easy as following the example given of Dali and Edison, both men would relax in a chair with either keys or ball bearings, and when they started to sleep, the objects would drop and wake them up. I suggest setting a phone alarm for this, or something that can basically jolt you into the alert state.

    • Yes, I’ve taken that course, and I often enjoy taking advantage of that mode of thinking. Instead of dozing off and having some kind of built-in alarm, I like using the time when I’ve just woken up but I’m not completely awake yet, and so I’ve rearranged my mornings to have few commitments that require me to actually get out of bed quickly. ;) I usually use the time to simulate ideas or scenarios, and I’ve realized quite a few things about myself because of that!

  • Don’t forget, we overestimate how much we can get done in a day, and underestimate how much we can get done in a year. :)

    • Hah. =) I correct for the former by thinking it’s optimistic if I get _one_ good thing done in a day, and that I’ve had an extraordinary day if I’ve done three. ;) But yes, it’s amazing how things accumulate when you look back over a month or a year, because it’s so easy to forget your progress… That’s why I really like blogging. Lately I’ve been building this daily habit of drawing index cards to capture the small everyday things that wouldn’t otherwise have made it into blog posts. I roll those up into weeks and months, and I’m surprised by the distance that covers. Some people wake up in their fifties or sixties and ask, “Where did all that time go?” I want to have a good answer when I ask myself that question! =)

  • Andreas Eder

    Thank you for this blog post. A lot of insight in just a few words. Learn to live in the slow lane. It is a matter of quality, not quantity.
    Thanks so much for this post.

  • I enjoyed reading this post Sacha, and can relate. Have you read the book, “In Praise of Slowness” by Carl Honore? You might find it interesting. I’m just started reading it, and highlighted this line in my notebook last night: “Life is already too short to waste on speed.”

    Will continue to be following along on your journey…and love your sketchnotes!

    • I haven’t yet, but that sounds like a great recommendation. Thanks!