"George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the many others - my heart is heavy. You and your families flood my mindful moments and my prayers."
A few false narratives are circulating right now that have to be addressed.
MYTH 1: COVID-19 equates to Slow-Living
Not only is this a myth, but it also oversimplifies and belittles the idea of slow living.
The concept that slow-living means sitting in one space indoors all day is missing the entire message and maybe digging us in an even greater ditch of social isolation and technology dependency. Not leaving the house doesn’t equate to simplicity and slow-living. Just like running errands doesn’t mean you are living a fast-paced, chaotic life. Slow-living is about mindfulness, being present, and staying focused on essentials. Ultimately it’s saying no to things to be mindful of your purpose. It's about sustainability (of you, those around you, and the causes that burn within you).
In the words of Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed,
“It's quality over quantity. It's doing things with presence, being in the moment. Ultimately, it's about doing everything as well as possible instead of as fast as possible.”
You all, let's not be fooled into believing that COVID has forced slowness into our lives. My favorite definition of slow-living comes from the Slow-living Summit (it's the vision) :
“The Slow Living Vision is of an Earth where humankind, honoring and celebrating the profound connectedness of all people, places and living beings, gives back by co-creating mutually supportive communities, bioregions, and economic systems — and where we combine the wisdom of the past with a vision for the future to ensure a balanced, fulfilling way of life for all generations to come.”
That's a lot. But the organization goes on to discuss the folks working towards new pathways into slow living. These pathways include:
new economic models
"But also deeper explorations into the wisdom of indigenous people, feminine and masculine wisdom, and the roles of the arts, ethics, philosophy, science, spirituality, and religion in healing the Earth."
Slow-living is about rejecting society's "fast" tendencies and all the harm that fast has done. When we think about it, fast is often unsustainable. Think of fast food and the effects on our bodies and communities. Then there is fast fashion and the impact on our environment. And the violence, corruption, and burnout behind fast money.
Think of a slow-living lifestyle as a resistance movement. I'm not going to move so fast that I cannot see what's in front and around me. So "no" a pandemic doesn't automatically equate to slow-living.
Second Myth: Essential Workers are Superheroes
With mindfulness of our interconnectivity comes realizing when our language puts others at harm.
Leah, my friend, was the first person that said that the phrase "black girl" magic didn't sit well with her. The statement confused me because, at the time, I was such a fan. But she went to explain (in a far more articulate way than I can) how the phrase takes away from the hard work it takes to be great despite racism, sexism, and glass ceilings. She was right, it took away from the hard work, it took away our space to be vulnerable, and it separated us from our humanity.
I always think about this conversation as I see the superhero signs for our essential workers. While I run, I see tons of posters: "Essential workers wear capes." I run in the evenings, and so many times, there are adults in their lawn chairs, smiling as their children do somersaults in their yard. I think about that superhuman essential worker - working in our hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, cleaning up our buildings while I take a jog, and they enjoy an idyllic spring evening.
Calling essential workers superhumans gives us the space to step back and say they got it - they can handle the trauma and fear. They aren’t like us. I couldn’t risk my life going out there and ensuring that people are healthy, transported, have food, and/or everything is cleansed. I have to stay healthy, but you...you are Spiderman and can survive falling off a building. Or Batman and wear an ironclad suit.
But we know this isn't true. Our essential workers are dying - they are dying at record numbers. Our transit workers, our healthcare workers, retail workers, etc. are not surviving COVID-19. And the truth is, they are just like us. They are us.
Some of our essential workers don't get paid a living wage. Are we voting for politicians and policies that will ensure a higher minimum wage for our "heroes?" Or do they just get a poster? Sorry, I got derailed.
But it shuts down our empathy when we start to add superhuman titles to people. As mindful humans, in our quiet moments, we have to be aware of how our actions affect other people. When we put "super" traits on others that separate their needs from our own, we are in trouble of becoming apathetic to others' needs. Moving fast-paced and solely being inwardly-focused are an apathy-creating duo.
So, please, friends - truly slow-down. Take a moment to pray for, meditate on, and consider our essential workers. Think about their sustainability. Then put on your mask. Add a layer of kindness and consideration to your daily flow.