The overriding assumption of our industrial growth society is that we are and should be making progress. It urges us to do better. Better than we did last year. Better than previous generations. Better than our peers. It exhorts us to go faster, do more, achieve. And so we all rush to a goal that can never be reached.
For a few generations in recent history, this haste and endless striving was rewarded. People did get a better standard of living than the previous generation, and could see their own lives get easier as their wages grew. Rushing off to work, rushing home to feed their families, and falling into bed exhausted every day at least had some visible advantage.
Young people nowadays still hear the same promise: if you work hard, you will make it, you will have a happy and comfortable life. But nowadays, the myth is wearing thin. For many people, the same rush just means they stand still at best as living standards stagnate and drop. Young graduates struggle to find employment that lives up to the promise of their hard-earned degrees, and less privileged youngsters are lucky to find any stable employment at all. All of that makes life feel very precarious.
And because of that, people feel trapped in the rat race, needing to work harder and longer just to keep their heads above water. It means that nobody has time. There is no time to appreciate the beauty of Nature. No time to make meaningful connections with our neighbours. No time to question the wisdom of our endless rush.
In our Western world, slowing down is an act of defiance. It is an important step towards the permanent, life sustaining culture we need to create. It can also help us implement some of the Permaculture design principles and make them part of our everyday life.
When we slow down, we have time to notice what is going on around us and make changes before a problem gets worse. We have time to notice our levels of energy and are able to respond appropriately, rather than always pushing through our tiredness. We are able to appreciate the abundance we have and realise that we don’t need much to be happy. We can make deeper connections that are capable of supporting us. We can build the strength that allows us to look at the problems facing our planet and become part of the solution.
Changing the rush of our culture into a slow appreciation of and interaction with all living things is a big task. The ninth Permaculture design principle reminds us to ‘use small and slow solutions’. If we want to make big changes, it’s often better to start with small manageable steps. When we can see the success of our work, and have a handle on a small area, we can build on that and allow it to slowly and organically grow.
I like to think of my daily meditation practice as a way to start this process. Just sitting down in my garden every day, to listen to my breath, my body, the song of birds and the wind in the trees is a big part of my Druid practice. It brings me a sense of open awareness that extends into the rest of my day. There, it has the potential to slow me down enough to listen and notice and respond gently.
In the middle of my day, slowing down allows me to let go of the rush and creates a new culture of connection with the life that surrounds and sustains us.