Creativity for the Rest of Us

Slow Work


The Slow Food movement began in Italy in 1986 as a protest against McDonalds moving into Rome. Slow Food emphasizes local production and sourcing of ingredients, mindfulness in preparation, and community sharing in the fruits of the labor. It now has over 100,000 members in 150 countries.

Under the umbrella of the Slow Movement, Slow Food has  spawned everything from Slow Cities to Slow Ageing, Cinema, Fashion, Parenting, and even Technology; tapping into a cultural shift toward slowing down the pace of life and appreciating quality over quantity.

I think the conversation about simplicity, clutter busting, and the rise of the maker movement – making, building and growing things we used to buy – while living with less busyness and fewer things are part of the same longing to slow it all down.

I don’t know if this is a stage of life or quality of life issue. It’s not uncommon for those of us in the second half of life to be divesting of responsibilities and possessions. That said I’m also hearing it from those much younger and witnessing it in the newest generation to enter the workforce who are choosing to engage with work in new and healthier ways.

I started wondering if there was such a thing as Slow Work and what that means in this world of fast, faster, and fastest. I experience an actual breathlessness with some of the clients I work with. Higher and higher expectations with more and more on their plates and fewer resources to get it all done. All this in a culture with a high degree of uncertainty and ever changing goals and expectations. Stress levels are at an all time high.

Some kinds of work simply cannot be done in the fast lane. Their very nature requires a slower pace:

Reflection – time for contemplation, review, re-balancing, and redirection

Creativity – sometimes it does come in a flash. Deeper expressions can take time to incubate, like noodling on a new idea or learning a new medium. It can also take time and courage to find your own voice or move in a new direction.

Integration – incorporating learning from a significant transition, loss, or initiatory experience in life can be a slow process. Many of us aren’t current with who we have become; still telling old stories that are no longer true .

Breaking unhealthy patterns of behavior – co-dependency, the need to be in control, looking outside of ourselves for validation, and all types of addiction each take persistent commitment to break the cycle and take on new behavior. This includes lots and lots of course corrections when we stray off the path.

Resolving conflict – I was once asked by a teacher if I was willing to be in the resolution of the conflict as long as I had been in the conflict itself. The truth is it’s often easier to cut and run than do the work of resolution and reparation.

Cultivating authentic and trusting relationships – in intimate relationships, family systems, with teams, and in community – trust develops in the stumbling, forgiveness, and rectification work we do with one another. Can we surrender into the vulnerability of learning in public?

Restoration and renewal – many of us have no idea how exhausted or burnt out we are. We’re running on adrenaline and continually postponing our own self-care. If I can just get through this day, week, quarter, project, crisis, then I’ll take it easy. “If I can just get through…” is not a sustainable wellness plan. Healing happens in its own time. We can only deny our body wisdom for so long  before it slaps us upside the head to get our attention.

Character development – this is our life long work. As we grow, advance and mature in life we are continually faced with new challenges to strengthen our sufficiency, self trust and self respect.

We’ve come to expect the handout offering 3-5 quick ways to fix our problems. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. It doesn’t work that way. There is no fast lane in slow work.

We’ve become addicted to our comfort zones. Breaking any pattern or addiction takes continual vigilance and maintenance to stay aware. Trusting, healthy relationships are nurtured over time and must learn how to work with conflict. Self-care is unique to each individual and changes with age; teaching us about limits and pacing.

Slow Work calls us to live in the present moment, aim for excellence over perfection, and remember we’re all beautifully imperfect as a species. Patience, honesty, objective assessment, and radical self-acceptance are trusted allies.

Slow food is cooked long and without hurry, with love and attention, respecting the time for the subtlety of flavors and tastes to come to come together in new, interesting and surprising ways. No two pots are ever exactly the same. Likewise for our Slow Work. There is no rushing the work of relationship, healing, and the heart. Wisdom emerges slowly with time and experience. Savor it all.


One Response to “Slow Work”

  1. Liz Austin says:

    Love this idea! A recent trip to Italy reconnected me with the idea of slow food – from the ingredients to the cooking to the enjoyment. Thank you for sharing.

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