being human,  writing

The Art of Slow Writing

In our digital age, we’ve moved from everything slow to everything fast; anything and everything we need we can get now: food, news, a new relationship, the delivery of goods (directly to our homes); you name it, you can have it immediately. We are changing as a race because of it. Our brains are adapting to the speed at which we can get everything, and I’m wondering if that speed is also creating a constant craving and setting us up for future failure. There have been studies of such things. You can read two articles here and here.

Perhaps a slowing down is in order. Perhaps it will balance our nervous systems. Perhaps we’ll become kinder people when we slow down enough to pay attention to ourselves and others? Perhaps.

As a yoga and embodiment educator, I’ve seen firsthand the effects of a slow conscious breath. I teach people these tools every day. And today, I want to introduce the concept of slow writing as another practice of embodiment.

While I write here and other places professionally (on a keyboard), ‘slow writing’ has been a lifelong practice of mine. Simply put, ‘slow writing’ is putting pen to paper, writing by hand. I’ve kept a commonplace book on and off for decades now. It keeps me grounded and sane. For me, jotting down how I feel on any given day is therapeutic. My commonplace book makes space for that, but it also makes space for clearing my brain. Each day, I write lists, tasks that need completed and things I don’t want to forget. I journal. I write Morning Pages. Writing by hand is medicine. Yes, I could use my phone, in fact I did for a while, but I learned that doing so took me further from myself, whereas my commonplace book drew me in.

But whether or not you keep a commonplace book, writing by hand is an intentional act of slowing down, and can perhaps change the shape of your brain. It can open channels of creativity. It’s a practice of seeing oneself through the mechanics of handwriting; it’s a tangible act of accepting our imperfections.

Writing is an outward reflection of our inner journey. Watching my hand move across the page feels like magic when I slow down and pay attention to the act/art of doing it. I see the parts of me that don’t know what to say next, and the flashes of insight that reveal themselves spontaneously. I see my scared, unsure self in one moment and the fortitude to not let it continue on that path the next. It is a practice of empowerment.

The physical act of writing, holding pen in hand, watching it glide across the page is meditative. Anatomically, our hands are directly connected to our hearts. Our hands represent the ways we reach out to the world. Our hands literally grab and pull the things we wish to keep close to us, it keeps the things we wish to create for ourselves close to our hearts.

Slow writing is embodied writing, or it can be anyway. Embodiment in writing is the noticing of all bodily sensations as we write – our butts on the chair, our feet on the floor, our breath as we write (whether we hold it or breathe consciously), our emotions as they arise, the shape of our backs, necks, all of our physical parts. Embodiment practices also have us pay attention to the sound around us, the softness of the paper, the ways we are taking in the world with our eyes. Embodiment relates to all of our senses. We can be mindless or mindful; the choice is ours. Embodiment is mindfulness of the body and slow writing is a physical way to invite these practices while also exercising our brains.

I am not suggesting we abandon our computers altogether. They are powerful tools. I am simply suggesting we incorporate slow writing into our days. Handwriting is a contemplative practice, a counterbalance to a world that has consumed us. It’s a simple way to ground and connect us to our innermost beings.

If you’re a digital gal (or guy), try your hand literally at slowing down by putting pen to paper, and watch what unfolds over time.