Two-day shipping. Instant smoothies made from dehydrated fruit. The one-minute meditation.
There’s no denying it: we live in a culture of convenience. Faster, easier, and with the least amount of effort is often celebrated as the most innovative of inventions. Everything is delivered to — or picked up from — our front doors. Books, music, and maps are all accessible by the push of a button. Long gone are the days of wandering local bookstore or grocery market aisles to discover new finds and things that catch your eye. We now rely on apps on our phones to connect us to others across the globe, and to give us directions to where we want to go.
All day we’re bombarded with Instagram and Facebook ads, articles on wellness blogs, and varying strategic marketing tactics, all trying to save time and minimize effort. We can hack our ways into mindful morning routines, throw together a gourmet meal, or heal our guts in a matter of minutes. However, while those things can seem helpful, fun, and exciting, I’ve realized that we’re completely missing the point.
Mindfulness, meditation, and stillness is not something to be sped up. The magic (and medicine) is in its ability to slow us down.
Don’t get me wrong, I, like everyone else, enjoy the conveniences. I have lots of friends I’ve met on the Internet, and when I’m running late to a meeting Waze always finds me the most convenient way to go.
But what about the impact this drive for the least amount of effort has on us, as humans? What’s it doing to our health? To the environment? To our ability to be mindful and present? I deeply believe that our declining health as a nation, and our declining environment, are inextricably linked. I’m not out of the woods either — recently Deborah Hanekamp (aka: Mama Medicine) told me I was too “plugged in and tuned out” and that I needed to get into nature more.
The more we put our lives on auto-pilot and rely on simple fixes from others, the quicker we lose our ability to bridge inwards, to come up with our own creative ideas, and to connect to mother earth.
How would we foster our creativity and intuition if we just drove around and got lost? How much more mindful would we be if we viewed our morning smoothie as a ritual that took a full five minutes instead of one? What if our book recommendations came from the local book store, from actual interactions with members of our community? What if we stopped trying to hack life and just lived… to the fullest.
Convenience and fast living can often mean cutting corners. While something may be easy, it might be sacrificing others wellbeing or the environment. For example, packaged foods and meal delivery services end up creating tons of waste that you wouldn’t have if you simply enjoyed the art of shopping and cooking for yourself. Fast fashion may be cheap and make trendy clothes accessible, but it is often made in conditions that put workers’ lives at stake and have massive implications on the planet. Amazon’s two-day delivery might seem hard to beat, but they are known for mistreating their employees (not to mention the environmental impact of shipping anything and everything, all of the time).
Personally, I’ve taken to slowing down and mindfully participating in my life, including moving out of the fast-paced NYC environment to Denver. I recently started composting my food myself in my backyard, realizing that even the compost drop-off opportunities were an “easy” way of getting rid of food and pulling me back into the cycle of “out of sight, out of mind” that ultimately leaves me disconnected from the processes.
It often feels like swimming upstream to be the one who doesn’t use Amazon, and I know that with technology moving in the direction that it is, things are only going to get faster. But what would happen if we just tried to slow down even just one aspect of our lives? I think we, and the planet, would be much happier and healthier, more mindful, and more kind to ourselves and each other.
Sara Weinreb is a writer, sustainability consultant, and design thinking facilitator on a mission to support people and businesses in being kinder to themselves, each other, and the planet. She is the host of the Medium Well podcast and writes for Forbes, mindbodygreen, Cherry Bombe, and more. She recently moved to Denver, Colorado, in pursuit of a slower and more nature-driven pace of life.