Is Slow Living the Answer?

The Slow Living summit’s symbolic question was, “What can we learn in the slow lane that we can't learn in the fast lane?”

Is Slow Living the Answer?

Nascent movement in U.S. brings new language, spirituality, to economic & social transition

Martin Langeveld stepped away from a 30-year career in the fast world of media about five years ago to what he describes as a rewarding and interesting experience working with a local farm and food group — what could be considered the slow lane.

  Martin Langeveld

Since then he’s been trying to bring people creating sustainable solutions — from slow money to slow food — most of whom are working in silos, under one big tent.

For three years now, he and a like-minded group have organized what they’ve dubbed the Slow Living summit.

In some ways, Slow Living offers new language to describe what’s also been called the social and economic transition or living local — the renewed commitment to patient, community-minded and wise economic and social exchange.

Where Slow Living could differ is in its evolution over the last three years to include a significant emphasis on the role of one’s spirit and inner personal positioning in attempting to “live slow.”

“We came to a realization that you can pay a lot of essentially lip service to living sustainably, building resilient communities and so forth, but there really has to be a kind of inner transformation, a personal transformation that is part of this in really understanding the change in lifestyle and really living it,” Martin tells Axiom News.

The third and most recent Slow Living summit, held in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont, June 5-7, began sessions with music and an invitation to reflect in preparation for the discussions ahead. The sessions ended with delegates taking time to mull over lessons learned and share how their thinking and emotions had evolved and where they saw themselves going next.

  Participants in the 2013 Slow Living summit.

Workshops were also dedicated to providing guidance on balancing spirituality with the more practical aspects of creating sustainable solutions, and the speaker for each topic — which ranged from ownership models such as co-ops to slow design, which focuses on designing public spaces to improve public interactions — was invited to provide his or her perspective on the role of inner transformation in this work.

While he’s not sure Slow Living could be considered quite a movement yet, Martin says some thinking has been done on what Slow Living leadership would entail and how its development might contribute to amplifying this phenomenon as a practice and way of being.

Committed to striving for authenticity, a love for community and a desire to protect the environment, Linda Weil, a return delegate from Palm Beach County, Florida, says she went to a Slow Living workshop last year on transition “and it changed my life.”

She followed up by reading Rob Hopkin’s Transition Handbook, which shows how the inevitable and profound changes spilling out of climate change and peak oil can have a positive outcome, most significantly “rebirthing” local communities, which will grow more of their own food, generate their own power, and build their own houses using local materials.

  The locale of the 2013 event, Brattleboro, is a small community in Vermont renowned for decades for its commitment to local, sustainable living.

Linda has been working to apply the book’s wisdom in her home county ever since, including with the launch of a time bank — a system of economic exchange using participants’ equally-valued time rather than dollars.

“The Slow Living summit opened my eyes to the many alternatives that people are engaging in to meet the threats of climate change, peak oil and inequality of wealth,” Linda says, adding what’s worked on her most since this year’s summit was the emphasis on the importance of place, “the significance of our connection to a particular locale.”

Her experience on this front was made especially poignant when singer Erica Wheeler invited participants to write their reflections on place, which Linda did and shared aloud — inspiring the singer to write a song for her on the spot.

“It was a beautiful experience that has stayed with me,” Linda says.

The greatest possibilities she sees in slow living are in people “learning to slow down long enough to hear the yearning in our hearts to return to more natural ways of living that are good for the land and the soil of the Earth that sustains us,” Linda says.

“Joined in a more sustainable economy we can begin to repair some of the damage we have done to ourselves and the planet.”

To learn more about this year’s summit, including to view workshop videos, click here.

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Michelle Strutzenberger

Michelle Strutzenberger has been a Generative Journalist and curator with Axiom News for more than 15 years.

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