Dawdling and Discovery in a City Addicted to Speed

The verb ‘dawdle’ means to waste time, to idle; it also signifies moving slowly or languidly. I used to think dawdling was for toddlers and tourists. For five years I raced through my days and ignored my chronic back pain until walking, working, sitting and sleeping became impossible and surgery inevitable.

In April 2014, my rockstar neurologist discharged me from hospital with minimal pain relief and instructions to take a daily walk. The first outing around my west London neighbourhood was tentative. I had nowhere to be and nothing to do except move one foot in front of the other. Something unexpected happened

This new pace allowed me to observe hidden treasures and enjoy the present: a quirky shop window, the whiff of fresh gloss paint, an exchange of smiles, childish chatter from a local playground, the warmth of spring sunshine on my cheeks, a magnolia tree in full bloom, the distant rumble of a Tube train.

The lens through which I saw my native city had changed and it was exhilarating. I ambled home inspired to write for the first time in many months. These daily strolls healed my body and reconnected my frazzled burned-out mind with my creativity.

Dawdling opened up space for me to think and reflect on how I really wanted to live. It gave me the courage to choose slow in a city addicted to speed, to cultivate my curiosity and later, to embark on a new way of working. How could any of that be labelled a waste of time?

In these pages you will read about inspiring pilgrimages, adventures and quests. Remember the power and simplicity of dawdling, idling wherever you are right now. Wander, wonder and make space for connection and discovery. Meaningful revelations await. Are you ready?

[This post was first published in Beyond The Field of Stars]

 

Why Do I Feel So Alone?

Why, if there are 7 billion people on Earth, do I feel so alone? This is what Ruby Wax asks in her book A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled.  The author, comedian and TV writer talks of the horrible realisation that she hasn't spoken with her 'mouth or seen the flesh of a real friend for twelve years.'

I do so much with my fingers to keep in touch with people that I’ve forgotten that what I need to do is get up and go somewhere to meet them.
— Ruby Wax

Another thing she can no longer remember to do is how to say 'I miss you'. Emoticons are her go-to tool for expression and everyone from her husband to her bank manager and her plumber get a similar digital sign-off. And yet all this interconnectedness doesn't help. Despite all the methods of communication available to us today, many people still feel lonely (at times, or all the time).  Because the less we feel the need to emotionally connect with each other, the more our ability to [diminishes].

You can spend the rest of your life online but it will never make you feel the same as when someone covered in skin smiles at you. We might just have lost that human touch of togetherness because sending a smiley face doesn’t say it at all.
— Ruby Wax

Prompts

  • When did you last meet that friend or relative in real life? 

  • Will you choose to articulate your feelings instead of selecting that pumping heart emoji? Is it difficult or easy? What impact does it have on you? 

  • Do you ever feel lonely? What steps can you take to remedy this?

What Good is Information?

Hands up if you reach for your smartphone when you're in a coffee shop queue or standing in line at the supermarket?

Yep, thought so. We all do it. Because how can we be bored when we have google, right? Free, accessible and, well, there in our pocket. 

The internet promised to feed our minds with knowledge and so we consume as much as possible. What have we learned? That our minds need more than that. Writing in Aeon Magazine writer Dougald Hine argues that knowledge has a value when it helps us make sense of the world and our place within it:

It is the difference between memorising the bus timetable for a city you will never visit, and using that timetable to explore a city in which you have just arrived.
— Dougald Hine

The brief moments 'in between', the downtime on station platforms or in doctor's waiting rooms are opportunities for making human contact or creating space for thoughts to percolate and emerge as solutions or revelations. We limit this potential because we are uncomfortable with allowing our thoughts to roam. Plus we get an endorphin hit from that email ping or new tweet or celeb update. So we stuff more knowledge into our brains but it can leave us feeling empty.

When we follow the connections – when we allow the experience of knowing to take us somewhere, accepting the risk that we will be changed along the way – knowledge can give rise to meaning. And if there is an antidote to boredom, it is not information but meaning.
— Dougald Hine

Next time you want to plug a gap in your day-to-day, ask yourself why you're reaching for your smart device. Notice whether the knowledge you gain is meaningful and life-enhancing or simply digital noise. 

Urban Food Fortnight 2016

Press the pause button on daily life and take a minute to walk, talk, reflect and (of course) eat at this walking and cooking session in East London. [Enjoy] tasting meditations and make delicious meat-free dishes with local ingredients in a serene urban workspace. A unique blend of ‘om’ and ‘nom’, this event is part of Urban Food Fortnight and a great way to reset while enjoying the good things in life.
— Homemade with Sainsbury's and the HuffPo UK

Join Meredith from Food At Heart and me, Clare, from Urban Curiosity for an East End afternoon of mindfulness, creativity and flavour experimentation. If you're looking for an original way to switch off and switch on, our Mouth & Mind workshop is for you. 

Are you coming? 

Indulge Your Curiosity Today

Indulge your curiosity today and pursue your desire for more information - it might just make you sharper and help you live longer. Instead of allowing those wonderings to float into your head and out again, take five minutes to explore the answer or context to those musings.

Just think of how much time we spend browsing the Internet, reading, or just gossiping. Nature seems to have endowed us with a desire for information that’s so strong it operates even when it doesn’t help us go out and hunt down a woolly mammoth.
— Benjamin Hayden

Our curiosity is what differentiates us from apes and yet often we ignore the questions that arise daily because we're ruminating on the past or fretting about the future. Bring yourself back to right now. And consider this: how easy is it to resist the urge to plug your question into the search engine? What happens when you find alternative methods to discover more? How does it feel?