Slow Down

            *  let's get reacquainted with nature's pace  *                                  ________________________

                    Life isn't all  GO GO GO * FULL SPEED AHEAD

        

           ... maybe a bit too busy to notice that we're living at a self-punishing pace!

  Living fast. Living large ...
  And thinking its all good and normal ? Surely it doesn't need to be this way.
Back in the 1960's, there was an article in Time magazine, that predicted that by the year 2000, we'd have
so much free time on our hands ( thanks to the modern marvels of technology, science and industry) that                  we'd need a legion of new lifestyle counselors to help us rethink & reinvent our lives of leisure.

  It certainly seems that with all our technological advances, we should be able to take care of the basics of day-to-day life, in a minimum number of hours - leaving plenty of time for creative pursuits, time for our children, sports, volunteer work, and the like.

In reality, we're working more than ever. In "2000 the average married couple with children was working
almost  500 hours a year
more
than in 1979."  Workers in the United States are putting in more hours than anyone else in the industrialized world. ( Jeffrey Kaplan in the May/June 2008 issue of Orion.)

 And, 93% of Americans ..." agree that we are too focused on working and making money and                    not focused enough on family and community." (David Korten "The Great Turning")

     
 
                     How can we turn this around? We'll certainly need to, if we're going to embrace this Great Turning                                         we find ourselves in. We'll need to create a more reasonable, humane and natural pace of life.

                A slower pace of life allows us:                                                                                                                * Time for social & political activism ... and community building.
                           * Time to heal the damage we've inflicted on our Mother Earth.
                           * Time for reflection and personal healing, art and recreation.
          "citizenship requires a commitment of time and attention, a commitment people cannot
           make if they are lost to themselves in an ever-accelerating cycle of work and consumption."
                                           (Jeffrey Kaplan)

                           So, we'll want to create fewer time constraints in our lives.
                                                  More flexibility. 

                     If we're too tightly scheduled, where's the wiggle room for change & adaptation ?


                                 
                                                                               (photo by Yoshiaki Nagashima)
                     
           The natural pace of life has its ups and downs.
                                             There are slow times, and seasons of pulsing abundance as
well.
             Each year we are renewed right along with the shoots and buds of Spring,
                          which blossom and fruit, bringing the ease of Summer,
             followed by the gathering-in of the harvest and the brilliant decay of Autumn,
                                     and the slow, deep darkness of Winter.
                                        An endless turning of the seasons.
                                   We are truly one with this timeless ebb and flow.

                                     Except - paradoxically - we're not - not really.
      Too many of us spend our days in climate-controlled offices, classrooms, homes and cars ...
     staring at screens for hours on end
... barely aware of what's going on in the natural world,
     except maybe
when it inconveniences us.
               If we're going to live in better harmony with the Earth,
                we'll need to get back in sync with nature's rhythms.


    
                One of the best ways to Slow Down is simple - Drive Less.

When we're regularly hurtling ourselves around at 60 miles an hour, it skews our sense of time.


                                

It wasn't that long ago that we, as a society, walked considerably more in our
 day-to-day lives ... getting chores done ... visiting with friends.

          Just 25-30 short years ago, people drove fewer miles, and walked to places
          like the post office, the corner store, and neighbors homes.
                               Walking is what humans are designed for.
It puts us in touch with our neighborhoods, and the people and critters who inhabit it.
Even in the midst of big city life, walking gets us out in nature ...
... feeling the seasons, the chill of winter winds and the fragrance of spring on the air.

                 
                             We tend to be healthier when we walk regularly.
             You know you can do it - just drive less.
             There are places you drive to regularly, that you could probably walk or bike to.
  "Forty percent of all car trips we make in the U.S. are less than two miles."
   Could you cut down on your weekly mileage by 10%, 30 % or more?
                                How about scheduling days that are car free?

               Some folks take a broad approach ...they
bike and walk a lot, use public transportation,                                        and flex cars, and friends' cars ... maybe end up completely car free in the bargain ...                                                                 ... no car payments ... no insurance or maintenance costs!

   Automobiles account for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries.
 "If every family in the United States gave up one car, it would reduce the amount of                              carbon dioxide emitted by around 413 billion pounds a year." ("Go Green, Live Rich")
 
        So let's say goodbye to our love affair with the automobile.
                   
                     
ALL TOGETHER NOW   Let's collectively agree to reduce the time                                                                   we spend behind the wheel, and see how quickly things change.
                         IMAGINE:    * clearer, cleaner skies.                                                                                                                            * quieter communities, without the incessant roar of traffic.
                                                    * fewer deaths of loved ones in vehicle accidents.


                                
                        
                        Talk about being sped up!  What about all the jet travel we do?
               Vacations and business conferences and family affairs, you name it ...
               Air travel has become commonplace, though it's an absolute marvel really.
               Journeys that might previously have taken weeks, even months, can now take place                  in a single day. In a matter of hours we can easily get halfway around the world.
                       But all this jetting around can really meddle with our sense of time and reality.

                                           And jets are incredibly polluting energy hogs!
                                "Many people are surprised to find out how unfriendly air travel is to the environment."
..."aircraft generate a large amount of carbon dioxide, a global warming gas ... as well
 as sulfur dioxide and particles of soot, that also contribute to climate change. Other
 pollutants include nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog and are lung irritants."

                                                      ( from National Geographic's "Green Guide Families"
)
"One 747 arriving and departing from JFK airport in New York City produces as much
smog as a car driven
over 5,600 miles, and as much polluting nitrogen oxide as a car
driven nearly 26,500 miles."

 Hopefully, there will still be some vestige of the airline industry left in 100 years or so, but you've got to wonder. Such an extravagant use of petroleum - keeping those hefty chunks of metal airborne! It's only natural that we'll cut back on air travel eventually.
           So, could you slow down the pace of your own life by cutting back on air travel?

                                                   Try more teleconferencing ?
                                      Maybe vacation in the scenic beauty of your own region?
                                  Maybe reconsider your travel plans and hop on a train instead?
           
"A train uses about roughly half the energy and generates less than a third of the greenhouse
 gas emissions as a large commercial aircraft."
They're our most efficient form of motorized
 mass transportation.

 It takes a lot of energy to get all those train cars going, but once they're in motion, they want to keep on going.  A body in motion tends to stay in motion - it's the Third Law of Physics (right?).                            
When it comes to hauling goods, trains are way more efficient than trucks. I've come across estimates suggesting that trains are somewhere between 8 to 20 times more energy efficient
than long haul trucks.
       
                   
It makes you wonder, why doesn't America embrace the use of trains more? As energy efficient
 as trains are, I can't understand why our rail system isn't better utilized
!
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(I learned in Eric Schlosser's book,"Fast Food Nation", that way back in the 1920's, the automobile industry - General Motors
and its allies - "was determined to wipe out railway competition by whatever means necessary." They bought up rail systems all throughout the U.S. - in Chicago and LA and New York -
and a hundred other cities - and then they ripped up the tracks ... tore down the overhead wires. It was a case of corporate malfeasance that went to trial to 1947, resulting in fines of one dollar each
 to corporate heads of GM, Mack Truck Firestone and Standard Oil ... a mere slap on the hand of men who consciously destroyed America's first inner city rail systems.)

And for decades since, corporations have gotten in the way of more efficient transportation options. Look at gas mileage of our modern cars, with all the tinkering and re-engineering that's done each and every year on automobiles, you'd think that by now, we'd have excellent fuel efficiency. In reality, it's not so very different from the days of Henry Ford and the Model T.
              So let's support a resurgence in the use of efficient, steady trains.
                             Enjoy the downtime that trains can afford.
                             Enjoy the gentle rhythm of rolling down the tracks ... the romance of the rails.

                         


                                 

  While we're slowing down, and cutting back on our usage of gas and petroleum
... we might also want to cut back on our own personal jet fuel -

     --- caffeine --- and other stimulants, like sugar and cocaine.
       There's so many ways to get pumped up these days -
    designer coffees and 64 oz. sodas, energy drinks and even some types of bottled water.

Sure, it's fun to get all revved up. I love the delightful rush of coffee, too ... it's a special treat once a week or so. Just a daily cuppa Earl Grey tea keeps me going fine

Come on ... let's face it ... we can't keep living at this artificially amped up pace.
            This relentless pace burns out our adrenal glands.
            It's unnatural. It's unsustainable. And it's hard on the planet.      
          The very notion that we can somehow always go
  FASTER, ONWARD, UPWARD and BIGGER, is a total fictional conceit.
     No natural system (including those created by humans) can grow larger, indefinitely.
                                 What goes up, must come down.

               Yes it's true - no matter how clever our technologies & tinkering may be -
          - we humans are still subject to the Laws of Nature.
             
           All systems rise and fall.
   
       Yet "
constant growth" is the operating principle of modern capitalism.
        In the real world, unchecked growth is Cancer, it's War, it's Hell on Earth.

                       
 
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       So, let's see.... How else can we Slow Down?
 Turns out, most of us could use more SLEEP.
.. lots more sleep in fact.
 It might seem a bit counter intuitive. I know there's a lot of work to be done, but how are we going to make this Change sensibly if we're all a bit addled from a lack of regular, deep & sound sleep ?
 On average, we sleep about an hour less than we did a few decades ago. One
 sleep survey shows that nearly three-quarters of us don't get enough sleep nightly.


        Unfortunately, a lack of sleep impairs our mental functions.
It can cause memory loss and depression, slow reaction time, and create a whole host of other problems, such as:  aching muscles
                                    
... decreased concentration
                                    
... weakened immune systems
                                    
... headache and irritability          
                                    
      Relax.
    When was the last time you lingered in bed, until you really felt like getting up?
    Do it again soon OK . Be good to yourself. You deserve a rest ... We all do.

            
                                      It's OK to Slow Down - Really!
   Take the time to love yourself ... your family ... your community ... this beautiful planet. 

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                                   Are you rested enough to remember your dreams?
If you had an important Dream - the kind that might afford deep insight into your True Path - would you be able to recall it ? Or is all your REM time bound up in making sense of all that media/drive/work/family time, with no space left for creative dreaming ?

        
                            
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 In our efforts to slow down and reclaim our lives, perhaps we should consider putting in fewer hours at work. I know it might be a difficult adjustment to work less. But I think many of us could trade-in some of our material abundance for more free time. And end up happier in the bargain.

Yes, I know life just gets more and more expensive.
 Look how much the cost of basics like food, housing and fuel have shot up in the past few years! Ouch ! I can't believe how expensive it's gotten to heat our house, and we don't even keep it all that warm really.

Still, it bears repeating: 
a pleasant, more natural life is less expensive than the rat race. Slower, more self-sustaining lifestyles require so much less energy and money to get by, and yet afford us reasonably comfortable, healthy & interesting lives.
        "Cutting back on work hours can take many forms, such as:
                 
            * reducing your commuting time


  * switching to a flextime work schedule

  * saying no to overtime and to promotions that mean more time and pressure


  * not taking work home
 
  * working fewer hours
 
  * even quitting to work from home as an independent contractor/freelancer."

                                          (from "Living simply with Children" by Marie Sherlock)
       
                                              

               
                  Let's go ahead and enjoy whatever vacation time our work allows us.
There's a significant chunk of the population that doesn't even take the meager vacation time they're given. But look what I read in the local paper recently:

      "Men who don't take vacations are 32% more likely to die of heart attacks."
                "Lack of vacation time doubles depression rates for women."
              "Americans take less vacations, and more anti-depressants,
       than people in every other civilized country and most uncivilized ones."

It's a shame how little vacation time American workers are given, in contrast with the weeks and weeks of paid vacation time enjoyed in so many European countries.

       What is it about Americans and our obsession with work and productivity anyway?
             That old Protestant work ethic is still deeply woven into our culture.
  High productivity is not a mandate from God. Idle hands are not the devil's playground.

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 Apparently, hunter/gatherer cultures (past and present) spend about 4 hours a day taking care of the basics, leaving plenty of time for singing and crafting, playing and dreaming.

                            Surely we too, with all our technological advances,
could get the basics taken care of in a minimum of time.
    
      When we slow down to a more natural pace, there's more time to celebrate,
      and truly enjoy friends and family ... time to linger over lovingly prepared foods.

              More time just to be yourself ... * pursue your own interests.
                                                             * reweave our communities.
                                                             * heal our scarred Planet.

                        So come on ... Slow Down ... the natural pace is way more fun!
                                       It genuinely feels better.  Less stressful.  
                                More relaxed ... naturally.

                            

   

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