Mindfulness and the Slow Movement #PoCoLo

tortoise+and+hare

I recently read a post by a blogger I haven’t come across before (found through the Britmums My Best Post of the Week linky) called Josie, who’s post on managing and coping with motherhood (primarily, I feel aimed towards a complete newbie who hasn’t yet had a chance to get their head round the life-altering change a baby brings) got me thinking about mindfulness and how to live more ‘in the moment’ in general.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I tend to be quite an anxious person and often find myself worrying about one thing or another. I get stressed out quite easily and having a child exacerbated this no end! Having two children has cranked it up to stress volume overload! I even began developing a ‘stress rash’ – a small area on my left arm which flares up into an angry, itchy, raised rash the day after a particularly stressful, angry or overwhelmingly negative experience. Its a classic example of the mind alone bringing  something that’s not really real into full physical existence.

In the last few weeks I’ve had two or three really stressful experiences and my arm has been flashing itchy red like a demented traffic light.

A few years ago I wrote my Masters dissertation on the subject of Information Overload – another experiential stress zone. I now remember that while I was researching this piece of work I stumbled across Carl Honore’s paen to something called the Slow Movement, “In Praise of Slow”. (I’ve just discovered he has a website www.carlhonore.com) He talks of the way in which our culture teaches us that speed is the key to everything – from fast cars to multi-tasking and earning a fast buck. I love the fact that he was inspired to write his book after reading a newspaper article encouraging parents to condense well-loved classic children’s stories into minute-long soundbites in order to get out of the nursery quicker and pick back up on all those must-do adult activities.

At first glance, the One-Minute Bedtime series sounds almost too good to be true. Rattle off six or seven “stories,” and still finish inside ten minutes – what could be better? Then, as I begin to wonder how quickly Amazon can ship me the full set, redemption comes in the shape of a counter-question. Have I gone completely insane?

I think this thought captures what so many of us think and feel on a daily basis. I want to be a good parent, but do I have the time? And then there’s “I want to be a good partner, but do I have the time?”. Life with small children can not only be a stressful experience in itself, but can also make you feel like everything else you do that doesn’t involve them has to be done at breakneck speed in order to make the most of this precious little time. Hence if I find myself with one day off while they’re both in paid childcare I must squeeze in a house-clean, cook two casseroles, fill out a passport application, do two loads of washing, write a blog post, have a cervical smear, etc, etc, ad infinitum – sod relaxation and escapism! And fitting in the needs of a relationship on top of this? Forgive me for the utter selfishness but if I find myself with ten spare minutes I’m going to want to pick up a good book/soak in a bubbly bath/research some fun activities that I like the look of and help me remember who I am and who I want to be.

I feel that sometimes I’m on the edge of a minor breakdown and something has to change. I need to slow down, live more in the moment, let go of this constant need to “keep up with the Joneses” (which is exacerbated no end by the cult of social media one-upmanship) and learn to live on less and value more of what I’ve got.

Linking up to #PoCoLo over at http://vevivos.com

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11 thoughts on “Mindfulness and the Slow Movement #PoCoLo

  1. I met up with a friend last night who does Native American spiritual groups. He said he carved a peace pipe, it took him hours… but all the time he was desperate to get it finished, to finish the task. And the first time he tried to use it? It exploded.

    The next one he made took him a year. But he understood then that if he rushed it, he would be wasting his time. He had to slow down and enjoy and feel its creation. This pipe’s still going strong.

    • Great story to illustrate the need to slow down! I have more to say on this subject so no doubt anther post will be coming! I do feel like Carl Honore’s idea of slow doesn’t quite work for me as a mother of small children but maybe I need a re-reading! I have just bought a book on meditation and one on time management for mum’s so maybe there’s a whole new chilled out me just round the corner!

      • I never found the secret to it – not with young children anyway – so very much hope you do better than me!

        Looking back I was definitely over anxious to do too much because my overall loss of identity was so difficult to cope with. But my sense of my own worth was never strong to begin with at that point.

  2. As you said, very similar sentiments to my post! At a parenting group I attend we were encouraged to think about and write down what we would do if we had 5 mins, 15 mins, 30 mins or a couple of hours to ourselves. Then we stuck the list on our fridge. Often if we do find we have some unexpected time out we suddenly can’t think what to do or end up just doing chores. I think it is vital to spend some time on ourselves, not selfish, otherwise we have nothing to give in a relationship (with partner or kids).

  3. It is so easy to fill every minute, as we’ve so much to do. Take me now – we’ve eaten, cleared away & there’s 10 mins til bath-time so I’m quickly catching up on blogs & comments. I can’t recall the last time I chose to just sit down at this point. Generally, I like being like this, it makes me feel happily organised and doesn’t stress me, but there are times when I feel myself burning out and it’s hard to slow it down. We all need to build in more time for ourselves, however difficult, and thank you for that reminder. And that article condensing stories is just terrible, and so symptomatic of today’s society.

    • I think the really stressful moments are when one of them has an awful tantrum – particularly in public – but it doesn’t help if you’ve got a messy house to go home to and no food in the cupboards! I think that I feel at my most serene and happy when I’ve done a clean, stocked the cupboards and on top of tasks – having tidiness and order around me makes me feel like my mind is more tidy and ordered!

  4. A really considerate post, that really reflects the way young children shift your perception of yourself and your world.

    Tidy and ordered is good, but you need to remember the mindfulness bit too! I worked full time when my two were babies (‘LOAD UP THE BABY SLING, I HAVE VAT RETURNS TO SUBMIT!’ two days after The Girl was born, and The Boy was 3yo) and I got totally lost in it all. Looking back, I’m not sure how I managed to work, care for them and be the one who did the meals & school stuff. Housework has never been a strong point…

    A thing that really works for me is a walk. Just twenty minutes walking to the shop & back for a pint of milk on my own. That peace and quiet, knowing I won’t be disturbed, that my time is entirely my own. A lot of problems get resolved in my mind on those walks.

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