Interview: Do Something Radical: Slow Down -- An Interview with Shannon Honeybloom
When was the last time you felt bored?
Think about it. In this hyper-connected, social media-soaked world, it's hard to feel bored these days, isn't it? Taking a quick Twitter break at work, texting a friend at a red light, posting anew on your Facebook page. And it's all good, right? We finally defeated boredom! Hooray!
But stop right there. Author Shannon Honeybloom is pro-boredom, and she's in good company, too.
"Isaac Newton needed those quiet hours under the apple tree, pondering the fall of an apple, in order to develop his theories on gravity," says Honeybloom. "Creativity needs space. Being constantly on, connected, engaged, and tuned in to various media sources and stimuli is not only exhausting, it leaves little room for new thoughts and expressions."
A "slow home" advocate, Honeybloom helps people create nurturing dwellings that Newton would have appreciated. Her new book Making a Family Home is a room-by-room guide to slowing down your home, and infusing your entertainment, your cooking, even your table settings, with thoughtful intention.
"Slow doesn't just happen anymore. You have to make the effort," says Honeybloom. "I truly believe that slowing down your life is a radical choice. During high school I spent some time in Europe, mostly in Germany in France. Life seems a little less frenetic there. There is a rhythm happening, with little rituals and traditions. Everything didn't feel quite so rushed. So now, at home, I try to bring that ritual quality to the things my family and I do. Even if it's something small, like lighting a candle for meal-time. Those warm gestures remind us how nice it feels to be present."
Below, Honeybloom talks with Planet Green about the healing power of a slow home, how a McDonald's in Rome sparked a worldwide "slow resistance," and why she is a newly-minted bath convert.
Planet Green: What is "the slow home movement?"
Shannon Honeybloom: In the 1980's, McDonald's opened up a franchise in Rome, at the Spanish Steps. A group of Italians were very displeased at this symbol of fast food in their beautiful city. So they started the slow food movement, encouraging people to eat local, sustainably grown food, while retaining local and family traditions and cultivating a mindfulness about what we eat and how we eat it. The idea caught on, and not just with food. Since then we've seen slow living spread, well, rather quickly, in the form slow sex, slow parenting, slow love, and slow home, and more.
"Slow Home" is about creating a home that is nurturing to the family, environmentally sustainable, and connected to the community. It's about choosing products for the home that are made in a sustainable way, with quality craftsmanship and natural materials. It's about conscious consumer choices and mindful living. It's about taking the time to make a home, and about nurturing the family that lives in the home.
?PG: Do you think we are raising children in too fast of a world?
SH:The truth of the matter is, modern life is fast. And it gets faster every day, with our constant stream of information, and juggling all of our activities and responsibilities. The rhythm of the 21st century is decidedly speedy. But constant racing pace is not good for us, and this fast pace is arguably not even human.
This speed is especially challenging for children. The natural pace of childhood is slow. Children need time to just be and to just breathe, time to play, time to be quiet and dream, or climb a tree and perch on a branch for an hour.
But because we are going so fast, we yank at our children and hurry them along, over-scheduling them in too many activities. Some call this mindset over-parenting, or "helicopter parenting." But we need to stop, take a deep breath, settle back, and slow down. And let our kids be kids.
PG: I loved your recent blog post on boredom. Why is boredom a good thing? In this hyper-fast, constantly-connected world of Facebook / cell phone texts / etc., it seems like it's almost impossible to get bored these days.?
SH: Creativity is a little bit like having a baby. You can't rush it. You have to give your thoughts time and space to develop and grow. Sitting in a hammock, humming a tune, staring at the clouds, or idly spending an hour doing nothing - it's almost unheard of these days. Who has the time for that?
But to get back touch with one's own intuition, we need that kind of boredom, that kind of nothing-to-do time. Without it, we simply regurgitate whatever it is we are filling ourselves up with from the outside, instead of allowing something totally new to arise from inside ourselves.
PG: You describe yourself as a "bath convert." Why are baths soothing/healing???
SH: Once upon a time I did not bathe. I never took a bath. Never ever. I was a shower girl. But after having three children, and becoming busier than ever, I suddenly realized I needed (really needed) some alone time. And then one day, I found myself in the bathtub with the water running, and I never looked back.
Taking a bath is a wonderful way to slow down. A quick bath doesn't really work - you need the time to soak, to let go, to release the stresses of the day. Water itself is incredibly soothing. Its ability to purify, cleanse, its easygoing nature, always changing form and adapting itself: These are qualities we need. A simple bath is cleansing, relaxing, rhythmical, soft.
PG: If someone looks around, and notice that their own home is a chaotic or frantic, what is the first thing you would advise to slow things down?
SH: Well, sometimes jumping right off train or slamming on the brakes can cause its own problems, so just ease up on the gas, and start putting on the brakes, slowly. I would advise someone to take a good honest and loving look at their lives, their activities, and their stuff, and find places to pare down. We can all do this.
Most of us are juggling more than is healthy and most of us have more stuff than we really need. Maybe little Johnny doesn't need five different extracurricular activities. Cut out one, maybe another. See how it goes. Maybe the five volunteer committees you serve on is too much, and it overwhelms you. Resign from a couple. Maybe then you will have the time to do something you have always wanted to do, like learn how to make croissants or learn how to knit a scarf. Or maybe not. But you might have time to take a bath.
The rules are the same with physical, tangible clutter, too. If you don't need three blenders and twenty pairs of jeans, give something away. Go through all the clutter and donate the usable stuff to someone who could really use it. Take a break from shopping, and focus on releasing stuff instead of gathering it. Clear your life a little. Soon you will be able to breathe again.??
PG: Talk to us about slowness and rituals. What are some rituals you have at your home?
SH: Though we are often busy in the mornings (like any family with school age children), a hot breakfast with tea, on a nicely set table with cloth napkins, is something we try to do from time to time. My children love to flip pancakes, fold napkins, light a candle - even for breakfast!
I spent some time in Germany during high school, living with a German family outside of Bochum, close to the Rhine. The mother there taught me a little time-saving trick. You can set the breakfast table the night before - even put out the jams and butter (unless you live somewhere really hot), the sugar and honey. You can even mix the pancake batter ahead of time. So when you wake up, it is all ready to go! Also, taking the time to make your meal setting really beautiful is a little gift you give to everyone at the table. Folding the napkins just so, adding a vase of flowers, putting out a pretty candle. It's about enjoying life and enjoying breakfast, not just rushing through it.
We also try to bake bread once a week. Baking bread is not as hard as it sounds, and it is a slow process, requiring patience. In the evenings, we have a nice routine which helps support bedtime in a loving way. After pajamas and teeth brushing, we read to the children, say a verse, and sing songs. Then we give the children a little massage on their backs and then tuck them in and blow out the candle for lights out. Routines give children security. In a crazy and unpredictable world, we can rely on our little bedtime moment to help center us at the end of the day.
PG: What is the "slowest" room in your home, and why?
SH: I guess I would have to say the bedroom. It's tranquil, meditative, quiet. It's definitely a place where I go to take a break from the wild world and just relax. It's not a cluttered room. I try to keep it pretty spare, except for some books, a few pieces of comfortable furniture.
For most people, night time is a slow time, for resting and sleeping. And if it's not that way for you, try and cultivate a little slow time into your 24 hour race. One way to do this is to meditate a little, and you don't have to be a yogi to do it. Really all you need is a couple of minutes alone to stay in the moment and let your mind rest." ?