I'm frequently asked, What exactly is slow love?

And I'm frequently stumped for a fast reply.

Today was my first day of interviews for the paperback release of the memoir that kick-started this blog, Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness. What a strange feeling, to revisit those dark days of the magazine folding, and my life caving in. My journey of recovery has led me to unexpected places.

How to explain something that is not a thing? Slow Love is, rather, a feeling; perhaps even a state of being--if you really practice it; it is more of a process, or an approach to life. In honor of taking the measure of how I've been thinking about this for the last year and a half--wow, that's how long I've been blogging here!--I thought I'd make a series of deliberate attempts over the next few weeks to answer the question, So just what is slow love?

Here's what it isn't: It has nothing to do with living a "slow" life. In fact, I was first going to call my book Slow Life, but I realized, by the time I finished writing, that my life wasn't at all slow--and I didn't want it to be. I had come out of sad, even depressed days, busier, more productive, than I had ever been. But still, I had found something valuable in slowness, something useful that I wanted to hang on to. But it meant altering the rhythm of my newly busy days. Something in me had changed--and I liked the change. I wanted to nurture it.

Slow Love has nothing to do with retiring from the world, or being lazy, unproductive, unengaged, unconnected. Being undone. All those Uns. Undone is how I began this adventure. Undone, unhinged, from a way of life of many, many years.

I caught glimmers of profound peace, in my garden, or with my son, or watching an osprey, toward the end of writing my book. That's how I knew my journey was leading me to a new place.

And the end became a beginning.

Those glimmers gave me a feeling of such profound well-being, such deep connectedness to something that no one had the power to take away from me, that I had to give it a rather sweeping name: Slow Love. Because the feeling crept over me, gently, without my knowing it, or controlling it--and only because I let it. Because I was too weary and exhausted to fight it. Or because it was a gift.

I didn't travel far--much as I would like to be a person who hightails it to the Himalayas, in truth, I'm a homebody. I didn't go to an ashram. Much as I would like to be a person who retreats into a monastery, in truth, I like the challenges of the world.

I like knowing that there is a way to be in a place that feels good without having to go anywhere, or spend anything to get there. That makes it possible for anyone to practice slow love in everyday life.

But here's the thing: we usually stumble on happiness, peace, well-being. We think it is a stroke of luck, an accident, to find ourselves in that state. We don't think about how we got ourselves there. We take a passive stance.

And when that feeling of well-being--that slow love--vanishes, we flail about.

This feeling of losing the love has been on my mind lately. I've been in an odd, vulnerable, jangled, somewhat confused place--at the core of daily joy, gratitude, fun, happiness, productivity. I've been feeling, deep inside, somewhat adrift, oversensitive, hurt by the slightest digs or rebuffs, nervous about being alone. Perhaps this was triggered by both sons moving out west. Perhaps I'm entering another molting season--as I think of it. A time of growth, change.

The thing is, I want to feel vulnerable. I want to be open. I don't mind feeling a bit lost, adrift, I tell myself. I just don't want to be buffeted around. I want grounding. So what's bothering me?

That's when it hit me: I've slowly, insidiously, carelessly, lost my regular practice of Slow Love.

Why is it that we do things that make us feel great--and then we stop doing those things? We eat good, whole, clean foods. We move (exercise, we call it) through the world, stretching and strengthening our muscles, feeling that we are part of the flow of life, in the river of humanity. We sleep for the many hours we need to recharge. We meditate, or pray, or sit quietly to think things over, or just gaze at the miracle of life around us.

And then, we let those practices lapse. I should say: I do these things, sometimes for months on end. I feel great. And then, slowly, I stop doing them. Because I feel great, right? So I don't need to work so hard at it. (I'll come back to the idea that these things are "work".) I stop meditating. I eat sugar for days on end. I find excuses not to exercise. I get lost in the Internet. I work my mind hard, writing, but I let that activity take over all others.

For a while, I can drift along nicely, buoyed by a current that I've caught. But before too long, I lose momentum. And then I come unravelled. My heart slumps. My soul feels weary. I stop slowing down to notice The Beauty of the Osprey. (My catchall phrase for the moment a few years ago, when I realized, Love is all around us. We have to open ourselves to it. That's the key.) I might glance out the window and see there's a gorgeous sunset--but I don't sit still long enough to take it in, literally into myself--or perhaps, to let myself go into it.

My friends who are doctors say that one of the hardest things about treating people who need medication for depression or anxiety is getting them to keep taking it. Their patients feel better, then they stop taking the pills that help; they don't need them any longer. And of course they get worse, again.

My friends who are athletes talk about how quickly their muscles deteriorate when they revert to sloth-like behavior--and how easy it is to do that.

I started thinking, isn't it the same thing with habits of training the soul? For I do see, now, and believe that for most of us, that grounded sense of well-being (underpinning all changeable emotions) comes of training. I feel better, I stop the training, I slip into a condition in which I am sloshed around in the rich, delicious stew of everyday emotion. But I don't feel nourished. I feel dizzy.

Why is Slow Love work? For one thing, we live in a culture in which multi-tasking is required. We have forgotten how to mono-task. For another, we're highly distractible. And resistant to changing even the ways that cause us suffering, because we're used to that discomfort. And finally, we always trust complicated things more than simple things; I'm not sure why. One interviewer today asked me to describe some Slow Love moments. When I did, he said, That's it? it sounds too simple.

I told him that sometimes the simplest things are the most profound. Song, for instance. What's simpler than opening your mouth and belting out a tune? Laughter, for instance. What's simpler than losing yourself in mirth? Prayer, for instance. What's simpler than closing your eyes and losing yourself in a transcendent conversation? All these things are so simple. And all of them can be ways into what I think of as Slow Love.

So. What is Slow Love? I'm not going to describe it--because there isn't a formula. I'm going to approach it, because there are ways to be open to it.

At the risk of sounding impossibly sentimental and squishy, I'm going to try, in the upcoming days, to capture some of the ways I've found--and you, my readers, have taught me, for which I am so grateful--of opening to slow love.

Slow Love training.

To the jaded, it will all seem too simple.

To the whole-hearted, it will all seem so simple.

We have a choice.


Pamela Terry and Edward said...

To me, slow love simply means paying attention to the grace and beauty that's all around.

If you have time, watch this...

It was in my inbox last week and it reminded me of slow love.

Warren said...

In only 50,000 years or so we humanoids have EVOLVED. Looking back one might not notice the change. But change we have. Our tool making and use is way different than our grandparents.

But deep inside we and our forebears are still searching for that unknown, indescribable, unfathomable Ommmm where we can stop the mind, the clock, the inner critics. Your photos, your observations, your gift with words are a window for some of us into that part of us we cannot reach as we should when we should.

If the Dalai Lama cannot describe the Unknown, why should we think we can?

Good luck with the tour but there is no quicky soundbite for where you are taking us.

Dana said...

I, too, wobble between the behaviors I know are nourishing and those that are unbalanced and ultimately draining. Developing sustainable practices seems to be needed in soul work as much as in the world outside. One thing I've noticed subsiding as I get older is the secret rebellion that used to sabotage my efforts to "be good". My intentions are clearer now. Thanks as always for your beautiful articulation of the things I am thinking... and good luck to us all in the practice of Slow Love.

Lindsey said...

This is just so beautiful. I loved your book and love how you address the meaning of the title here, the way you reflect on the journey you describe in the memoir and how it has unfolded even after the last page. You're so right that these habits are insidiously difficult to keep up - they should be simple, but somehow their continued practice is a real challenge, counter to what the media and social pressures tell us we should be doing. Thank you so much for this beautiful post, for your lovely book, for your gorgeous blog. For you! xox

Dominique said...

Grace. That's such a beautiful word. (I always thought I'd name a daughter Grace, if I had one...) A good word to contemplate. Thank you so much for kind words...I'll try to stop feeling like I've written the wrong book because I don't have a quicky soundbite. What an interesting idea, that we've evolved, and yet, perhaps something inside of is constant and ineffable....."wobbling between behaviors", another great phrase, and I notice too that a benefit of getting older is that the "secret rebellion" loses its fire--we realize we are fighting ourselves, not our demons...And thank you all again for the support....

Cristina said...

"Slow Love: something that no one has the power to take away from me".
you put it beautifully in that single sentence.

david terry said...

Odd, I suppose, but I read this posting and immediately recalled the passage (from "Around the House & In the Garden", I think)in which Browning recounts being taken aback by discovering that various folks (who could scarcely be regarded as "friends) had made a point of sneaking up into her driveway and later broadcasting the presumably appalling revelation that the Editrex of H&G had PLASTIC LAWN CHAIRS.

I, too, would have a hard time establishing some sort of zen/"slow love"/philosophically-transcendant purview if I had to deal with that sort of nattering bitchery regarding what I'd naively (apparently) considered to be "my" home&garden-personal-refuge.

I'm lucky in that, for various reasons and by dint of some quite conscious choices over the past ten years, I'm now allowed to lead a distinctly Emily Dickinson-ish "I'm Nobody./ Who are You?" daily life.

That said, I couldn't agree more with Ms. Browning's closing, simple statement: "We have a choice".

And THAT said?....We leave for the annual l-o-n-g trip t France in two days. For now?...I'm going out now to buy new&improved cowboy and indian-princess costumes for the 6&7 year old French niece and nephew. These are the children who BEG to visit "North Carolina in AMERICA to see the cowboys and indians". According to my sister-in-law, they've completely worn-out the Pocahantas and Wyatt Earp costumes they got from me just this past Christmas. I did the same to my own "Indian Warrior" costume when I was about 6 (I insisted on sleeping in it every night and would have worn it to skool if I'd been allowed to do so).

So, no "slow Love" life for me until we hit Newark Airport on Saturday afternoon....at which point in the journey, everything's likely to get VERY slow......

thanks for the fine posting, Ms. Browning,

David Terry

Tru Dillon said...

what about when life goes too slow it seems like slow purgatory?

sarahsbooks said...

What a lovely post about the work of daily living, the choices we make, and where we decide to put our attention. Don't be too hard on yourself for lapsing from your slow love ideals and practices from time to time. We can't all be totally good, all the time. Perfectionism is for the birds. Consider the lapses as seasons, perhaps. Then when the season changes and you return to the activities that truly feed your soul, isn't it like coming home? Real home - close at hand, satisfying, comfortable, and as you say, simple.

Violet Cadburry said...

Sometimes you just have to eat the whole carton of ice cream even though you know you will feel disgusted - why? Feeling satiety is just as important as knowing what it is, and we forget what it feels like after awhile. Whose to say that going through unsettled times isn't giving you more opportunities to learn about yourself and dig that much deeper. Don't hold back, venture a toe into a pair of new Manolos --I think some retail therapy is in order;)

Susan said...

Making the conscious decision to stop and read your blog is a lovely part of slow love. I smile when I see
it in my inbox but often save it for
a "better time". This post is particularly touching and resonates with me to the core. Thank you.
Susan in Louisiana

Anonymous said...

Yes, Tru Dillon I think I know what you are saying. Maybe its a current state that we are in...that until something (usually major), changes we nust sit where we are, uncomfortably.
Maybe its economic, or maybe someone you love is suffering, life just seems to sit with nothing changing.
If you are lucky enough not to have been impacted by the economy, bad health or a life circumstance that has not been altered, you probably would not understand this.
People always say ...hang in there, life will change soon... I read somewhere (from a prominent phsychiatrist) that any problem you are dealing with will be solved in 10 days. I never understood what he meant. People are dealing with problems that will not solved for years right now. Yes, life can seem like its going to slow.

Ms. Benita said...

Ms. Browning,

I just shared the link to this post on my Facebook page, introducing you as one of my favorite teachers and your blog posts as among my most important lessons--Carrie Newcomer, anyone?

This morning I am patiently deadheading my spirea bushes. There's an orange flash, and I see my 11 month old rescue cat joyfully leaping up the old Transparent apple tree for no other reason than he can. And I recognize the gift of being able to see and be grateful for the Slow Love, for the gestalt, for the opportunity. Thanks for a lovely lesson today, Madame.

Sarah said...

I agree with Susan: YOU are slow love, YOU are my Gracie, and thank you for shining the way for all of us frantic lemmings. xoxo

suzanne rico said...

Hi--Sometimes I get annoyed with the number of posts you send out--wondering how in the world can this woman practice "slow love" with all that she writes and all that she does. And then I hit delete without reading. But today I read, and I am so grateful--for the explanation and reminder that "slow love" does not HAVE to mean a slow life (which mine certainly isn't). Something keeps me coming back to your blog--perhaps because sometimes I find exactly what I need for this day. Thanks. Suzanne

Lost in Provence said...

I will admit it. I have not read your book. Yet.

I devoured your editorials, then writings in the press, then luckily found this blog and didn't look back.

Or forward as the case could be, especially as I am not working right now (and I live in France where that act is met with grave suspicion if not outright hostility) and face the choice of how I wish to take the large bounding echoes of free time on a daily basis. Burden? Gift? Opportunity? Curse? Well, curse is exaggerating but yes, I agree, we choose. And are always in the act of choosing.

Thank you again for communicating the workings of your heart and mind,


profA said...

It's a joy and a privilege to roll along with you on the SlowLoveLife blog. It reminds me each time to stop, to listen, to taste, to feel, to see, to use my senses, to reflect...and then to practice the loving response. This loving response is not always what I want. Dang! But later... As I said in a post last week, it involves getting down off the throne. Sigh. I am not always successful, but God willing... and because she is merciful, I get to try another day.
I very much appreciate the time you will spend sorting stuff out over the next week and am glad that you trust us to listen and respond.
PS I think you have a terrific group of readers, btw!
Linda B.

david terry said...

For "Ms. Benita"....I just read your comment (after reading Ms. Browning's posting) and was once again glad to see that Newcomer's work strikes such a chord among so many of Ms. Browning's readers. I first mentioned Carrie's work because I thought it would have that effect. Both women, as far as I can tell, are doing/making very similar work....and it's good (for me, at least) to read some very heartfelt responses.

I expect you and Ms. Browning will particularly appreciate "I Do Not Know It's Name" (by Carrie Newcomer and from her quite recently-released recent album "Before & After". As ever with her songs, this one is somehow more than merely the sum of its parts...). There's a fine, live version available on youtube (which I've just discovered...amazing what's available on the thing...). go to:


"I Do Not Know Its Name"

"He leaned in and whispered as he turned the page,
And he said "Make yourself into a flame"
A crazy old lion with his hair all backlit,
Grinnin' like a little boy who has a secret

I do not know its name
Though it's ever intertwining,
But I believe it must look like an old man shining

We were eating summer peaches by a roadside stand,
Juice running down like laughter on our chin and on our hands
When we were done we looked around and smiled at each other,
And you said, Come on Carrie, let's have another"

And I do not know it's name
No matter how I try
But I believe it must taste like peaches eaten by the roadside

He drove a rental car shuttle to the airport on Sundays
We chatted that grey morning about the choir he sang with Wednesdays
He sang a haunting gospel hymn, shameless and clear,
With only me, a wandering stranger, sitting there to hear

I do not know it's name
Elusive and subtle,
But I believe it must sound like that man singing in the shuttle

Standing in the river barefoot in the current,
I hear the sound of a birdcall and try to learn it
The water is a wonder, it's cold and fast and deep,
I saw fish go swimming out too far for me to reach

I do not know it's name,
Swimmer or watcher
But I believe that there is always something,
Moving beneath the water

If holy is a sphere that cannot be rendered,
There is no middle place because all of it is center
I do not know it's name
I do not know it's name
I do not know it's name

Quite Sincerely,

David Terry

david terry said...

P.S. (to "Prof A".....)

i just read your comment (what's with this "she" stuff?), and i feel obliged to let you know:

god is a boy, not a girl.

just look at the pictures in your childrens' bible. OBVIOUSLY, god is a boy.

girls don't get long, white beards. at least not the normal ones that your average folks want to know and/or worship.

warily yours as ever,

David Terry
www.SlowLoveLife is AboutKeepingOurDistinctionsWellDefined.org

Judith Ross said...

For me you encapsulated Slow Love in your post about seeing your boiled egg through from beginning to end, rather than checking email or doing something else while it cooked.

Its also about awareness and just being present to the world. That's why I love having dogs. My yellow lab, who died almost a year ago, taught me that even when one is almost 100 years old (in dog years) you should still go for the joy (in his case rolling around in the grass).

My 'new' pup, who joined us in January and is almost a year old, takes the time to notice everything: she looks up when geese honk overhead, seems fascinated by butterflies and windswept leaves, and delights in 'herding' me down the hall by nibbling the edge of my shorts and nudging the back of my knees when she knows its time for our morning walk.

Their innocent delight reminds me to notice, to savor, and to wonder about this world.

profA said...

Ah, what would I do without you, DT!
Have a safe trip.

Deborah A said...

It sounds like Slow Love is taking care of yourself. I know how easy it is to get off track. Especially if you are the nuturer, the one that makes things happen, go smoothly ect. I can be going along just swimmingly when, the next thing I know I'm overwhelmed and taking shortcuts, usually on my routines or good mental and physical health habits.
When I recognize it, several weeks later, I can usually pinpoint who or what led me astray. I think it goes with the territory, some of us are conditioned to put everyone and everything in front of our own needs.
Sometimes it can even be a happy event...something we enjoy that leads us down the path...we are enjoying ourselves so much..that we let our inner guard down and we listen to the voice that says "its only for a day or two", then I'll go back to good habits.
Anyway I just thought I would let you know, Dominique, that your post today sounds very familiar and very on target to me.
The good news is its easy to get back on track, everyday is a new day, with a new fresh start.

Anonymous said...

Dear Danielle,

I want to share with you the afternoon I spent- on
the deck lost in SPARTINA. Oh, how to thank you
for guiding your readers to this gem of a book. It
has brought a tender tear to my eye this day as I
share the unveilings of the fisherman's soul- the
gentle giant of a man. I am slowing the read to make it last forever. Surely in my heart.
Thank you for sharing 'the current that you caught' that is this book. Too, I must tell you I have not purchased my wetsuit yet. But I found the sea off the point in Newport last week was warm in its embrace. Wetsuit will wait. Hope you are in the swim. Helene

Anonymous said...

Dominique, pardonnez-moi! Alors, mon amie
s'appelle Danielle.. I must have been thinking of
her when I wrote to you. Helene

Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, Interiors said...

Dominique, your book is brilliant. It made me cry, laugh and realize... "Slow love... Is as you starting. Belting out a song, laughing out loud until your sides ache and the ability to be grateful... In prayer and meditation.

I love this article...thank you!

patricia yarberry allen, md said...

Dear Dominique,

You and I know that Slow Love is so much about love of the self and self care. Mindfulness, the motif of the dreaded diet, allows one to make choices that are often difficult at first but then provide relief from the too-muchness of what to eat, when to eat, where to buy it,and on and on.
The diet is just a metaphor for giving up over indulgence for a period of meditative practice in the realm of simplicity and order on the plate.

You are in another and healthier place than you were five long years ago. Cherish this thought!

jeancbrown said...

Beautiful post! As a blogger, I think it's great to occasionally revisit the original purpose behind the writing. I am also dealing with some grief myself after the loss of my sister and I have definitely found that it is a constant effort to take care of myself and do the things that make me happy. It's so easy to slip back the moment you stop paying attention. Thanks for the reminder!

Thea said...

slow love life is not listening, it's hearing...through the pores. guess which book shall be my no. 1 holiday gift this year???? hugs, t

coffeehousediscussions said...

This is such a great post. I've only just found your blog so i haven't read any others but I can't wait to read your book. My partner is struggling badly with depression at the moment so I read this blog out loud to him and plan on structuring our lives to finding slow love, maybe that will help me. I've also been a great lover of the small things since I got sick with CFS. You or your readers might be interested in reading a blog post I wrote a while ago about when my life took a turn which forced me to come to find pleasure in life's free and small pleasures, you can read it at: http://wp.me/p14PGT-2X I also post blog posts about 'simple pleasures' you can read more here: http://wp.me/P14PGT-K

p.s. if you want me to take those links out of my comment then just let me know.

Vivien said...

Thanks for this blog - very heartening. I think the sort of person who kept up their resolutions day in day out for years would be rather difficult to talk to, and just too virtuous to be approachable! What on earth could one say to them if they had so few human faults?

I agree that backsliding when you feel fine is a bit of a problem!

Warren said...

David, the French have an idiomatic expression about 'mon uncle d'Amerique....' Be sure to ask your French relations. You seem to be the perfect example!

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