Tag Archives: cycling

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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Learning the skills of slow – or zen and the art of bike maintenance

Milanese bike

Milanese bike

It was a fine autumn day today and I was visiting a friend who lives on the other side of south London to me – 18km to be precise according to Google maps. It would take me 1 hr 10 mins to cycle there, Google told me. I decided I would give it a go. I needed some fresh air and exercise.

But first I had to get my bike ready as it has been a few months since I have cycled. An hour later, and after all nearly giving up, I had managed to get a working bike together, taking a wheel off one bike and putting it on another. Set to one side, I had one wheel that needs a new inner tube, and another which needs a puncture fixed. And, thanks to a flat tyre on the way back, I now have another one that needs fixing.

My first thought was that I will take them to a bike shop tomorrow and get them fixed. But I can do the fixing myself, even if I have to look it up and remind myself of how to do it.

My experience today in trying to get a bike working reminded me of the skills that are actually required to live a slow-moving life. Because we are more self-reliant, we need to know how to be able to do and fix stuff. But these are not skills that are widely taught – and it is the type of skill that it is easier to learn from someone else rather than trying to teach yourself. I learnt what little I know from an ex-boyfriend. But if I wanted to up my skills where would I go?

I read in The Big Issue this week about The Cycle Hub in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which is a bike shop/café/repair centre and runs workshops – the two upcoming maintenance workshops are fully booked. Doing a quick Google search revealed that there are numerous places in London where you can learn the skills you need to keep your bike on the road. I like the look of the ones at the London Bike Kitchen.

What I was reminded of today is that slow (some types at least) actually require preparation and skill. But that the actual preparation is a form of slow in itself (albeit rather frustrating at times when you don’t have the skill), and that learning the hands-on skill is a form of slow too. One thing leads to another. I’m actually looking forward to getting my hands dirty at a bike maintenance course. Next thing you know, I’ll be building a bike.