Tag Archives: creativity

The satisfactions of slow

Part 1 of 2

Bike in forest, Finland

Bike in forest, Finland

What do we mean by slow? This question came to me during a thought-provoking and fun conversation that I had with psychotherapist, counsellor and advocate of slow living, Bonnie Grotjahn, on the topic of slow.

The overriding theme that emerged for me was satisfaction. We often talk about things satisfying our needs. But are they actually needs that need satisfying? What if we turned to slow instead as a methodology for satisfying us? And what are the conditions that are required for this?

The satisfaction of slow awareness
Through studying psychotherapy and changes she has incorporated into her own life, Bonnie is aware of the importance of being more conscious about her thoughts and feelings. Before, she didn’t know as well what satisfied her, and was more reliant on outside stimulation.

Many of us turn to our favourite crutch outside ourselves, whether it is food, alcohol, drugs or even excessive exercise, in trying to find satisfaction. But this often just leaves us wanting more.

So, as Bonnie said, the alternative is to stop to ask, “What is going to feed me from the inside?”

The poet Tess Gallagher said “You can’t go deep until you slow down.” And whilst it might not be as true to say that you can’t slow down until you go deep, there is some truth in this reverse formulation as well. By becoming more aware of your own internal experience, you become more aware of where you are going too fast and where it would be beneficial to slow down, aware of what you are feeling and experiencing in a non-judgemental type way.  And from the basis of awareness you can choose what you do, rather than acting out of habit.

The satisfaction of slow moving

Bonnie is a keen cyclist, enjoying the journey from one place to another – and it is about practicality as well, as she lives in a small town and her and her partner don’t own a car. It is the quality of experience that primarily motivates her to cycle rather than strong environmental reasons, although that is important as well.

She told a story of how one very cold weekend she cycled 25 miles with her partner. They stayed in a B&B and cycled back the next day. A few weeks later, they borrowed a car and happened to drive near the place where they had been. And she was struck by the contrast in the experience that she had of the place on the two journeys. “It’s not very often you say that, ‘That was a really satisfying drive.” Bonnie reflected on how when you are cycling there is satisfaction of moving yourself, breathing, stopping, enjoying the journey. The same is true of walking as well.

In my definition of SMCG (slow moving creative good), I touched on slow and moving, but not so much on the effect of the two combined – slow-moving. Many writers are also keen walkers because of the way slow-moving stimulates and allows room for their creativity. And the satisfaction of creative ideas that might bubble up is another satisfaction of moving slowly.

The satisfaction of slow making – and self-reliance

Bonnie also makes preserves and sourdough bread.  She started making marmalade about 5 years ago, and now has branched out into jams and jellies.

She described vividly the experience of making marmalade, and its therapeutic soothing qualities. “It is about bringing my attention to what is in front of me. Noticing the oranges as I am cutting them, the smell of the oranges. The sense of ‘here I am, I am making something’. The physical grounding. I’m creating. And it’s got its own pace, you can’t rush the process”. Listening to Bonnie, I wanted to get in the kitchen and start making jam, have a pot bubbling away slowly, filling the kitchen with the smell.

Play is also an important element. Every batch of jam is slightly different, and Bonnie takes pleasure in honing the recipe each time, seeing how she can improve it.

Bonnie challenged herself to see if she could make enough to last her through the year, and the cupboard is certainly full now. This is another source of satisfaction – of not having store-bought goods, of enjoying what you have made yourself. That aspect of satisfaction of self-reliance applies to slow-moving as well – you are not relying on other people or machines, and that contributes to an enhanced sense of self and your capabilities. At the same time, paradoxically, this enhances your connection with the world around you because in order for you to be self-reliant, you need to have a direct relationship with the environment rather than a mediated one.

In the second part of the article (to be posted),  I receive good advice from Bonnie on learning to slow down.

Bonnie practices at Cotswold Talking Therapies and can be contacted through their website.

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From FMCG to SMCG – Slow Moving Creative Good

My Po-Zu shoes - slow, moving, creative, good

My Po-Zu shoes – slow, moving, creative, good

We live in a world dominated by FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) brands. It’s a fast-moving world. We are all consumers. And it’s all about the goods — the things we buy.

But there are signs of change. I believe that we are shifting to an SMCG world. One which is about Slow-Moving Creative Good. And seeing these signs of change as inter-related will help to consolidate and accelerate the shift.

Let’s take each of these elements in turn.

Slow — There is Slow Food,where we think about where the food comes from, and enjoy the process of how it is made, not just the consumption. There is Slow Fashion or Slow Style, the counter to Fast Fashion, clothes that are made to be worn again and again, and made in conditions that we do not need to be ashamed of, from raw materials that are recycled or produced in less environmentally-harmful ways. There is a general Slowing-Down, with more people turning to activities like meditation, yoga, walking and cycling as an antidote to the fastness of life around them.

MovingOriginally, I thought of this as part of Slow-Moving, and it works like that. But, whilst stirring some soup,it came to me that moving deserves to stand alone as well. It is about that which moves us, that which connects with us on an emotional level. It is the being in the present that enables us to be moved. I think that this was front of mind because of this morning reading Laurie Anderson’s obituary to her husband, Lou Reed. In it she writes of how he spent his last week “being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature”. It is about the movement that comes from inside when we are still, when we stop moving.

Towards an alternative modelCreative — We are not just consumers anymore. We create online all the time. Young people are using their creativity building apps. MakerFaires are pulling in the punters. We’re collaborating in our consumption. More people are growing their own vegetables and getting creative in the kitchen. We are the people formerly known as the audience. We are no longer an audience of consumers. We are creators, I firmly believe this innate in all us and needs to be expressed if we are to be fulfilled. And we want to be part of the brands that serve us. 

Good — It is not about the goods, the things that we buy. It is about the good that is generated and shared from what we do — whether it is the things we buy, the things we make, the love that we spread. It is a shift from physical goods to the network of good. My Po-Zu shoes shown in the picture above are an example of good, with every aspect of creation carefully thought through,from the coconut husk foot mattress to vegetable tanned leather, they are slow-made with love, and they encourage me to slow down and walk (Po-Zu means ‘pause’ in Japanese. Towards a new model, where we are not separate consumers.

I make some generalisations, and there is a long way to go until we are living a SMCG life. I know myself the journey that I need to go on. But the point is that the seeds are there, and growing. We have the research to show that more money does not make us happy once our basic needs are met. But qualities of slow, moving, creativity and good do.

What does this mean for you? What topics would you like me to see explore further within this, or who would like me to speak to? Do you think that there is more of a need to focus on what this means for brands, or for people, or both?

All the world’s a stage

I suspect that the welcoming of constraints is, at bottom, the deepest secret of creativity’. (Douglas R Hofstadter)

Reading these words, quoted by John Simmons in his inspiring book ‘Dark Angels – How writing releases creativity at work’, I was reminded of Ben Todd. Ben is the Executive Director of the Arcola Theatre in London, and he spoke recently at UK Aware in his capacity as one of the London Leaders. He explained how the Arcola Theatre has sustainability as one of the three key strands of its work, along with art and community.

Constraints fuelling creativity

Now, when they are planning a new show, the theatre will ask ‘Could you power your show using this fuel cell?’ And the theatre group will see as this as a new challenge to their creativity – demonstrating the point that what is a seeming constraint can fuel creativity. It is this attitude that business needs to bring to sustainability as well.

The rational and the visionary

Ben also made the interesting point that they need to combine the rational with the visionary in their work to incorporate sustainability into the theatre. Waste and heating fall into the category of the ‘rational’ – areas in which the theatre needs to take action as they have the biggest impact in terms of sustainability. Lighting and set design are in the category of the ‘visionary’. In footprint terms they don’t have so much impact, but because of their high visibility for the audience, making changes here will have the biggest influence in raising awareness amongst the public, demonstrating the Arcola’s ethos and inspiring people to think what they can do. A useful distinction for companies to bear in mind.