Slack Cheeks and Where to Live Slowly

After almost a week of a very slow-paced “retreat” my cheeks were slack, like that of a sleeping chipmunk! There were new creases on the sides of my mouth, a strange outcome from taking it easy. Perhaps the jaw-clenched, quick-paced schedule suited me better. Probably not. Yet, how can we slow down and live fully at the same time?
There are promoted “slower places” in the world. According to a recent CNN article, “16 0f the Most Relaxing Places” include: Seven Sister, England; Ubad, Bali (for yoga) ; the Uber quiet village of Sidi Chamharouch, Morroco; Ise Jingu, Japan; Saruni Sabura Safari Camp, Kenya; Stanley Park, Vancouver; Mendoza, Argentina; Cape Elizabeth Lights, Maine (for lobster rolls); Nayara Springs, Costa Rica; Provence, France; Wilderness Hotel, Nellim, Finland; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Hoi An, Vietnam; Zermatt, Switzerland (in the summer); and Wategos Beach, Bryon Bay, Australia.
A slower pace infers peaceful living. A recent article from the online magazine, “Lifehack”, suggests the “20 Most Peaceful Countries in the World to Live in” include Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, Ireland, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Germany, Australia, Singapore, Portugal, Qatar and Bhutan.
Notice that the United States didn’t make the list? We, Americans, move fast, “work to live” and pack our daily schedules. Most likely, too, most of us aren’t traveling to the far reaches of the earth, adopting a new country or going on retreat to achieve Zen. And…we don’t have to go anywhere!  Amidst the marvelous flurry of our lives, there are a myriad of available moments for creating ease. Integrating simple mindfulness practices into our day is a key component for cultivating a “slower” lifestyle . No plane ticket required.
Here are some local “Go To’s”:
Walking Slower
Honestly it feels great to move at a fast pace, with swinging arms and an energetic step. Exhale and move. Conversely, the experience of walking slower enhances our senses and provides relief for our minds. Notice the foot on the pavement, ball to heal with each step. Observe lifting the knee and moving the leg forward, placing the foot on the ground and repeat. Walk slower sometime during your day, even if just for a few moments. Your nervous system will thank you.
Preparation  
Rarely does oatmeal make it onto my breakfast menu. Who has time to stir the pot in the morning? Yet, taking a few extra minutes to set the table, prepare some eggs, slowly spread jelly on toast will heighten enjoyment of meal time and create ease at the start of the day.
Flavors  
One of the best ways to slow down is to eat very very slowly. The knife and fork are placed down on the plate during each bite. Move the jaw slowly, deliberately taste the food between your teeth, around your mouth.  Even close your eyes to experience a burst of flavors. Suddenly the sweet tartness of an apple makes your cheeks pucker. Hot mint tea and honey lovingly soothes your throat.
The Sky  
Dogs or no dogs, step outside during the day or at night and look up. Breath in the fresh air.  Enjoy the vastness that surrounds us.
Thanks  
In the context of living a happier life and slowing down, it can be suggested again and again: every day give thanks. Pick a consistent time to review your gratitude list. Just taking the time for this easy task will slow you down!
Whether traveling or staying local, enjoy the whirlwind, relish the stillness and love all of it!

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