Slow Listening in a park
Slow Down London is a lovely little project which encourages Londoners to slow down and look at the speed of life. One aspect is the Slow Club, an 8 week course with tasks to be done and Sunday's was a slow walk around the Kyoto Gardens in London's Holland Park. A delight for the eye and a wake-up to the senses.
We met at the park and chatted about how surprisingly difficult it was to fulfill our Slow Club assignments. Some were cyclists who never walked, and couldn't cycle "slowly", some couldn't find time to do the meditation and one couldn't eat breakfast and read the paper in slow motion. After the fold: ready to work...
Slow Walking in a park
Carried out in the splendour of a Japanese garden, the first task was a slow meditation on walking. We speak of being "grounded" and having our "feet on the ground" and now was the time to have some awareness of our feet. We were asked to consider the way our feet feel on the ground, the weight of our body on them and the feel of the ground under them. With no talking suggested, and only concentration on our feet, it made for hard work.
Then we were challenged to just listen. Take in the sounds of nature, with no judgement of the sounds or labelling. We stood by a waterfall which made it a glorious task but also made it easier for the mind to wander...
Vista of Kyoto Gardens
Luckily one of the participants was well-informed about Japanese gardens. She explained how they are created as a place for meditation and contemplation, with the stones and water artfully and carefully designed to give a grand sense of nature. Even the stepping stones are made of different sizes of rock so that the experience of walking on them is always different.
Her favourite slow down tip was to find even 5 minutes in a garden alone. There one should pick out the quietest sounds and try to take them in: birds, water, animals. Even 5 minutes will give you a sense of peace throughout the day.
We talked to Tessa Watt, one of the directors and a Canadian, who had started Slow Down London with two friends. She left the corporate world and was trying to find a way out of the fast-paced London life. Last year they organised the Slow Down Festival and this year she came up with the idea of the club. So far 40 people have signed up for the 8 week course; people from all walks of life and all ages. Over the next 7 weeks there will be visits to a gallery, a dawn course in listening to birds and a visit to a slow food market. Keep tuned for the slow progress... and follow it on Slow London's blog.