Moving at the Pace of Slow
Transitions are a time of upheaval, confusion, joy, fear, and ambiguity—and of moving fast or slow. In our transition from CoreAlign to The New School I am reminded of the tension between needing to move quickly to get things done and moving at a pace that is sustainable for me.
As we prepare to enter the fall equinox, I’m also thinking about “moving at the pace of slow.” This idea was brought to my attention while listening to a podcast in which Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, the brilliant queer, disabled, non-binary femme writer and cultural worker, explains “disability as skill.”
Leah explains, “One of the many gifts of disabled culture is the gift of slowness.” She then goes on to say that we “don’t have to answer that call of the market or capitalism to produce this product in five minutes. And there is such richness that can come from that.”
I found her words particularly insightful, as we collectively move the organization that was CoreAlign into The New School. In this process of transition and movement, I have been asking myself; How do we move at the pace of slow, especially in the context of our political climate and the 24-hour news cycle? I haven’t figured that out yet, but I can offer a few musings.
In New York City, it’s easy to want to move at the speed of light! However, when I move more slowly, I notice myself, as well as the world around me, more. One morning after dropping my son off at school, I walked an extra ten blocks at a leisurely pace, and I found myself thinking about my sister who passed away five years ago. I recognized how tender I felt during that walk; while I miss her every day, in that moment I felt particularly connected to her and to my feelings of loss and longing.
Moving more slowly and deliberately reminds me of the blog Slow Walkers See More, by Black disabled activist Heather Watkins. I met Heather two years ago in Boston, and I learned quickly that her blog posts are virtual invitations to disrupt normative understandings of disability. Heather and Leah both advance the notion that disability is a gift or skill, and by doing so, they have offered me—an able-bodied individual—a chance to examine the ways I can bring disability into my life for enhanced self-awareness, planning, and pleasure. Here are three ways moving at the pace of slow enhances my life:
Moving at the pace of slow allows me to see more clearly when I’m falling into the habits of white supremacy. When I’m feeling overwhelmed with competing and often fungible deadlines, I end up reinforcing a sense of urgency. This sense of urgency prohibits my ability to make intentional and strategic decisions, hinders my long-term thinking, and often pushes me and others around me beyond our physical and mental boundaries. Recently, I rescheduled a convening to allow for me and my team to have more spaciousness—in our breathing and in our schedules. It was in that moment of slow that I was able to exercise a deliberate choice to create more space and time for more generative and impactful work.
Another habit of white supremacy is perfectionism. As a former honor roll student, I still battle the desire to get it right the first time. Even when I know that failure is crucial to learning, it still happens. Last week, I found myself holding up a deadline because I wanted the draft (yes, you read right) the draft to be “just right.” Being caught up in the idea of “just right” cost me time and energy that could have been spent on other priority items. By recognizing that I got stuck on being perfect last week, I became more gentle with myself this week and practiced getting out more “shitty first drafts.”
When I move at the pace of slow, the world around me becomes more pleasurable. I am able to deepen my appreciation for all the small and big things that happen. I am more present with family, friends, coworkers, and strangers on the street. I’m more curious and open to possibility. I’m less frustrated by the things out of my control. And, I’m able to sit in discomfort more. I recognize that there is actually pleasure in this discomfort because it reminds me that I’m learning and growing.
In short, moving at the pace of slow is a skill I think we could all stand to cultivate. To further that point, what if moving slowly with intention was just a natural way of life rather than something we have to strive for? If so, how might our movements, organizations, and home lives be different if we moved at the pace of slow?
Tell me how you are practicing moving at the pace of slow. Drop a note in my inbox or message me on Twitter @mvmt_innovation. Until then, let’s go out and enjoy pumpkin spice everything this weekend, because fall is upon us!