Year of Slow Living (May 26, 2023)

Audrey Cheng
5 min readMay 26, 2023

Over the past two to three months, I've found myself struggling to write this reflection on multiple occasions. I lived in incongruence, which Carl Rogers defines as a lack of alignment between the real self and the ideal self, as I tried to embrace slow living within a rapidly changing world. In this tension, invaluable lessons have emerged around the challenges and merits of embracing a slower pace, both for personal well-being and for fostering a more harmonious world. I’ve also come to recognize the significance of context and community in nurturing a culture of intentional living.

Slow Living: The Evolution and the Challenges

In January, being nestled at home in Taiwan with my mom, I was able to experience daily life connected, nourished and curious. Most days, we walked through the mountainous hiking paths behind our home, indulged in our shared love of Taiwanese food and stayed present in our conversations and each passing moment. While our bodies were active, our minds and consciousness were slow and present to the elements around us and the people with whom we interacted with everyday.

Coming back to the US in February, the pressure I put on myself from a whirlwind of work and personal trips and a decision to move cities compounded in a rush against time. Life, it seemed, had a way of moving at a relentless pace, and moving my attention to my breath felt like an elusive dance with time itself. In the last five months, I’ve experienced the difficulty in embracing stillness in a world pulsing with a constant buzz of activity, demanding our attention at every turn. It’s as if we’re flowing in a current of urgency which has the potential to sweep our time and attention away unless we set and maintain clear guardrails.

The moments where I have embraced slowing down have been an exercise in self-awareness. It’s about taking a step back from the chaos and recognizing that I have access to the source of peace within myself at all times. It’s a deliberate act of reclaiming my time and energy, recognizing that I am not defined by the speed at which I move or the tasks I check off a list. I am defined by the depth with which I engage with the world and the connections I forge along the way.

But slowing down comes with its own set of challenges. It means learning to let go of the constant need for productivity and achievement. It means surrendering to the discomfort of uncertainty and allowing myself to simply be. In a society that idolizes busyness, it can be difficult to justify or embrace moments of stillness or nothingness, especially when we see others around us flow with the rapid currents. Yet, it is in those quiet moments that we often find our greatest insights or our most profound revelations.

Slowing down is also an act of rebellion against the overwhelming digital noise that engulfs our lives. We’re bombarded with notifications, messages, and endless streams of information, all vying for our attention. The incessant pull of the digital sphere (especially now with AI) can leave us feeling scattered and disconnected from ourselves and those around us. Slowing down becomes a conscious choice to create space for reflection and genuine human connection.

In the past five months, I’ve stumbled and faltered along this practice to slow down. There have been days when the urgency of life has consumed me and when I’ve forgotten to savor the present moment. But when I am able to find moments to close my eyes and tune into the sounds around me, the temperature of the air on my skin and the light smells wafting through my nostrils, I’ve been able to appreciate the beauty and peace that is available to us at all times. Slowing down has enabled me to fully engage with each experience, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary.

Walks in nature have become a rather critical ingredient in slow living
Walks in nature have become a rather critical ingredient in my practice of slow living

How (And With Whom) We Live Our Days is How We Live Our Lives and How We Create Our World

My practice around slowing down reminds me of a passage from ‘The Truth About Stories’:

Here are our choices: a world in which creation is a solitary, individual act or a world in which creation is a shared activity; a world that begins in harmony and slides toward chaos or a world that begins in chaos and moves toward harmony; a world marked by competition or a world determined by co-operation.

We often hear visionaries share stories on how to create a more peaceful and harmonious world, but creating a world that embodies these values starts with retraining our minds and hearts to understand how we need to live everyday in order to create the world which we want to live in over time.

I’ve also learned in the last 5 months how important environment and community is in nurturing and sustaining a life rooted in the principles of slow living. How we spend our time alone and with others can either reinforce or deter us from living a slower life. What we talk about with our community reinforces or shifts our beliefs of what matters. Humans are interdependent and interconnected and we can feel more connected or more isolated depending on whether we’re in an environment that supports our inner growth.

Looking Forward

As I continue on this journey, I am reminded that slowing down is not about shirking responsibilities or retreating from the world. It is about finding time to gain perspective so that I may show up as my best self in all that I do. It is about carving out moments of stillness and gratitude within the whirlwind.

So I find myself in this ever-evolving dance with time, learning to slow down and finding solace in the spaces between moments. The challenge to live slowly holds the promise of a more vibrant and meaningful existence. And in each moment of stillness, I’m discover a sense of clarity, a newfound understanding of the world and myself.

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Audrey Cheng

Taiwanese American. Curious about ideas and solutions that support human flourishing.