This secondary assembly encourages students to consider the benefits of slowing down, in terms of greater enjoyment and health, referencing the principles behind the Slow Down London festival.

Engagement

Leader: Fast food, fast-track, fast lane, speed-dialling, speed-reading, speed-dating, drive-through food outlets, same-day delivery, instant access – we live in a society where doing things quickly is an essential element of living; we’re not prepared to wait. We want it, we want it now and we’re quite prepared to hurry to get it.

People who live in London have recently been encouraged to ‘slow down’. The first Slow Down London festival took place in April and May of this year. Londoners were offered the chance to explore slow music and arts, to try meditation and yoga, to sample slow food and crafts, and to discover ‘slow travel’ in their own city. There were opportunities to debate ideas about ‘quality time’ and the ‘pace of life’ Londoners were encouraged to challenge the cult of speed and to instead spend time appreciating the world around them. The festival organisers aim to incorporate ‘slow living’ principles into daily life; not merely in London but in cities throughout the UK.

Reflection

Reader 1: A fast lifestyle can have a number of harmful effects. Firstly it can alter our attitudes to other people, and damage our relationships with them. Have you ever found yourself fuming in a queue behind an old lady who can’t find her purse, who insists on having a little chat with the checkout girl? Or found yourself wishing someone would stop chatting to you because you’ve got a piece of homework that needs finishing for the next lesson? We have less time for the important business of making relationships work as our lives accelerate.

Reader 2: Secondly, a fast lifestyle can be risky as mistakes are more likely. Rushing and multi-tasking can often result in chaos as our minds focus on the next task before the present one has been completed. We’re tempted to take shortcuts in order to save time. Have you ever seen your parents jump a red light to save a few seconds? We don’t fully take in what’s going on around us when we’re in a hurry and accidents can happen.

Reader 1: Thirdly, speed living is not good for our health. Rushed meals can result in indigestion, sometimes leading to longer term digestive problems. The pressure to hit deadlines leads to stress that can affect our mental and physical state. We don’t sleep well because we can’t unwind. Exercise and adequate diet are sacrificed because of the amount that we feel needs to be done.

Leader: In contrast, going slowly has many benefits. Firstly, it allows the mind to refocus — to process what it has taken in and to clarify what the consequences might be. It also encourages us to think laterally and imaginatively, to play around with possibilities rather than gambling on our first responses. Going slowly allows room for all the alternatives to come to the surface so our decision-making is likely to be better. We’re more likely to get it right first time.

Secondly, taking things slowly leads to greater enjoyment. Think of eating, for instance. Remember the series of Marks & Spencer food adverts — ‘This is not just any lamb steak, salmon fishcake, ice cream, potato chip, etc’? The music, voice and images are deliberately slowed down in the advert because the intention is to make the viewer imagine how enjoyable it would be to consume such tasty morsels at their leisure. Taking your time to eat — chewing slowly and relishing each bite — often leads to greater enjoyment of the food you’re eating, whether it be an apple, a packet of crisps or a prime beefsteak. It will also give your digestive juices more time to deal with the food, which is a healthy by-product of slowing down.

Finally, going slowly allows time for listening to people, and listening is at the heart of good relationships. Whether it’s listening to a lonely old lady, a frustrated teenage mum or your friend who’s just had an argument with his or her parents — taking the time to listen is likely to relieve their feelings and also make you feel good.

The message in simple terms is: why not do less, take longer and discover how good it feels?

Response

Leader: So how do we persuade ourselves to go slowly? Here are some practical suggestions from the Slow Down London website:

Reader 1: Take up swimming — it’s impossible to sprint in the water.

Reader 2: Lie on your back and watch the clouds. Allow your mind to wander.

Reader 1: Switch off your mobile phone for an hour. If the call’s really important then the caller will leave a message.

Reader 2: Learn yoga.

Reader 1: Take a tortoise for a walk. Make sure the tortoise is always in front of you.

Leader: So why not get in touch with your own personal tortoise? Meanwhile, think about the words of this prayer. Make it your own if you wish.

Time is precious and not to be wastedIt will not come againMay we not overload the minutes, hours and days we have.May we not allow them to speed by without us noticing, so we never look back and wonder where the time wentMay we instead savour and enjoy each momentMay we be purposeful in what we try to achieveMay we prioritise and focusMay we, every day, find time to share with others

Amen

Further info

This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 2009

About the author: Brian Radcliffe

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