In all the things we do during this quarantine, we may find that slowing down is one of the most potent actions we can take to bring ourselves to a serene state. Mindfulness in everything we do has that effect.
Let’s pay attention to each of our actions, even the most mundane like cooking something healthy and hearty for our loved ones, or even washing dishes.
After years of earning a living, commuting, taking care of our families but spending less time with them because of the daily grind, being always in a rush even on weekends since household chores have to be done, this time of quarantine (despite the difficulties) may be a gift.
The First Days of Quarantine
The day after the quarantine started in March, I remember waking up to an unusual sound at about half past five in the morning. The loud chirping of the birds as they carried on an energetic conversation woke me up. Huh? Birds? Where is that commotion taking place? I sat up on my bed and looked out the window and realized that of course, the trees in the gated community, the church and the school across the building I’m in must be their habitat. Judging from the volume of their song, the choir must number about a hundred!
With the quarantine, there is hardly any foot or vehicular traffic on the streets. There is no noise to mask the bird song. They must have been living there all these years but I just never noticed because of the cacophony of Manila.
Adjusting to the Quarantine
The first week of the quarantine was a weird one. I work from home so that didn’t change. But there was much to process, getting to know the virus most of all. I devoured articles about Covid-19, as I’m sure you did. Along the way, we’ve picked up a lot of medical terms; my favorite is comorbidities because I’ve never heard that word before. Then we got to see another world, that of data analysts and modelers whose responsibility is to interpret the numbers and find out if we are on our way to flattening the curve.
But lo and behold, another world opened, slowly in the beginning but faster as the days and weeks went by. Presented to us on a silver platter with gold trimmings—films, plays, dance performances, concerts, tours of museums—all of which we could watch for free in the safety of our homes. Added to these are the free or heavily discounted classes we could follow. FOMO kicked in as I scheduled performances, workshops, and classes in my agenda.
It took me a couple of days before I made a 180° turn to JOMO.
What a relief!
Slow Living Movement
Slow Living is not new. It started out in Italy during the 80s with Slow Food, a pushback to the birth of McDonald’s. It’s a lifestyle that values a most precious resource: our time.
Slow Living is also known as Downshifting, Simple Living or Minimalism. It is believing that faster is not always better, that quality is better than quantity. It means living with intention, and knowing at all times that we are doing what we are doing because that is where we want our focus to be right now.
It means not plugging into social media to be mindlessly entertained or distracted. It is allowing ourselves some downtime so we can rejuvenate and do things that help us connect with ourselves, such as meditation, yoga, listening to music, contemplation, doing a DIY project, gardening, or prayer.
We have spent so much time in our homes in the past months. We should know by now how we would like to rearrange or reorganize our spaces to fit the life we want to live. Is there an extra room or corner we can convert into a home office? Is there a terrace or a garden where we can practice our newly-acquired gardening skills? Even an empty wall (preferably in the kitchen) will do for some vertical planting of herbs or greens. Is there space in the living room for us to practice yoga or do our stretches? Can we retreat to our bedrooms for quiet activities like meditation or reading?
Marie Kondo’s famous line of asking yourself while decluttering if a thing “sparks joy,” is a good reminder. We don’t even have to limit it to things but to actions.
Many times we stick to automatisms or habits, even if they don’t serve us at all. Yet we do them anyway because they are familiar, easy and convenient. We’re in quarantine; we don’t have to be anywhere but here. So let us shake off routines and start something new. Let’s explore a different path. Maybe we will (re)discover the beauty of an object or an experience because we approach it from another angle or in a different way.
Let us be more protective of our attention because as Antoine de
How do we live life to the fullest? By thinking of our intention before we act. By paying attention to the little things. By knowing what our priorities in life are and giving these our time.
The Acronym SLOW
I find this acronym quite helpful when thinking about Slow Living:
S …….. SUSTAINABLE
L …….. LOCAL
O ……. ORGANIC
W ……. WHOLE
Thinking about how we can minimize our impact on the planet is nothing new. Consistently doing something about it is another story.
I think most Filipinos conserve energy just like we do with water. The price per kwh of electricity is an effective reminder not to waste energy. We turn off the lights when not in use. We use the fan instead of the AC when we can bear the heat.
Maybe the time will come when we can switch to renewable, clean energy like solar panels. With all the sunlight we get throughout the year, using solar energy in our homes would be a logical move. In the meantime, other innovations like the roof paint Cool Shades can favorably impact our electric bill. The paint contains heat-reflective pigments that repel light before it turns into heat.
Sustainability can also pertain to travel. That’s out of our hands right now with the quarantine and the travel restrictions in many countries. But when travel becomes possible, I hope we remember to minimize our carbon footprint by visiting places which practice sustainable tourism, where respect for the environment and for the local culture are given importance.
Speaking of travel, maybe it is not such a big leap for some of us to get around using a bike instead of a car. During the quarantine, a bike is deemed as an essential mode of transportation. Now Pasig is starting to create bike lanes in the city. I hope other cities in the country will do the same.
‘Buy Filipino’ makes sense. We can help restart our economy by patronizing local businesses.
Architect Uy mentioned in his interview that for the construction of living spaces, we could look into a more domestic approach on material development for the near future. Use what’s available in the Philippines in building homes and commercial spaces.
Fashion and design trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort said that countries will embrace their uniqueness. Cottage industries will thrive, and handmade arts and crafts will be cherished. There is such a wealth of creative talent and skill in the country that buying local would be a joy.
Organic brings to mind something natural and healthy. The organic certification is used today by many companies as a commercial feature of their products to close sales.
There are a lot of people who veer towards organic, from food, cosmetics, clothes, medicine, to household items.
But organic is more than just a certificate. It is the reconnection with the food we eat and the things we use. Our curiosity has been piqued and we want to know more. We want to know the story of where our food comes from and the farmer who produced it. Do our eggs come from free-range chickens? Is our pork free of antibiotics? What kind of fertilizers were used for the veggies we eat?
For a race that has been exposed to so many cultural influences throughout our history, it is not surprising that we have very rich gastronomic traditions. With the Pinoy’s love for food and creativity, we eat Ilocano, Kapampangan, Bisaya, Bicolano, Tagalog, or Maranao… with an Indian, Chinese, Spanish, or American twist. Many people during the lockdown are cooking up a storm despite the constraints of getting the ingredients.
The joy of making food from scratch is good for the health and well-being of families. I can understand those who want to go a step further and have their own backyard garden.
Our busy lives have weakened our connection with the earth and nature. The quarantine has made a lot of urbanites think about a different lifestyle, romanticizing about rural life and expressing that in social media with Cottagecore-inspired posts. Some are even seriously considering a switch to a healthier lifestyle by moving out of the city to get closer to nature. For now they give in to the yearnings by trying their hand at planting.
Maybe the government’s plans to decongest cities with its Balik Probinsiya program is something those who want to relocate to the countryside could look into.
Have you ever heard of the European Union’s Commission Regulation (EC) No. 2257/94?
It’s the regulation that lays down quality standards for bananas. Media called it the bendy banana law. I thought it was a joke until I was told that this was serious business. A banana should be “free from deformation or abnormal curvature…and should be free of any foreign smell or taste.” Excuse me? Say that again?
After years of perfect bananas, I am happy to be back eating lakatan, latundan, saba, mondo, kardaba, buluñgan, domino, morado, señorita, etc. Long live the bananas in the Philippines!
What I am trying to show here with the bananas is that Slow Living is about embracing imperfection and making the most out of life. Any “abnormality” adds to the uniqueness of the life experience.
It is similar to the Japanese world view of wabi-sabi where imperfection and impermanence are accepted as part of life, and are in fact integral to the beauty of it.
Gratitude can also help us see the beauty in our lives, whether we are experiencing something joyful or painful. Not working towards an image of perfection brings us the space and the freedom to appreciate what life brings. Just like heritage or heirloom plants grow as nature intended, we human beings are also given that gift. We just need to give ourselves the time and space to nurture ourselves to achieve that wholeness.
Slow Living’s biggest benefit is connection—to ourselves, to the people in our lives, and to this planet we call home.
Now that we are still in quarantine, maybe it’s time to ask ourselves some important questions.
What does this time of staying at home telling us? What kind of realizations have we reached about ourselves and our lives? How do we intend to go on when the quarantine ends? Will we be doing the things we used to do before, or will we find a “new normal,” a life that moves us closer to our purpose and meaning?
Whatever our answers are, let us unwrap each day slowly and with care. Let’s give our hearts a chance to speak. And in these slow moments, let’s listen.
(For articles about other lifestyle trends, click here.)