Slow doesn’t always mean stress-free, without mindfulness

In the latest leg of her transformational journey, Suzy Walker discovers that an unhurried life isn’t always a stress-free one


Slow doesn't always mean stress-free, without mindfulness

4 minute read

Combining some of the lessons I’ve learned in a year of slow living, last month I performed an epic declutter, rented out my house and bought a canal boat. My first task with my son, Charlie, was to motor gently down the River Lea into Regent’s Canal towards our residential mooring. What I thought was going to be a relaxing 24-hour cruise turned into an 11-day saga. For starters, we broke down opposite a sign warning of brutal muggings at knifepoint. Hysterically, we waved at potential predators in the blackness and hoped for the best.

What now, universe?

We ran out of water and electricity and our toilet overflowed. I had to move our remaining worldly possessions onto the boat and, because of a mix-up, had to drive a behemoth of a lorry through the Blackwall Tunnel, forgot about the height restrictions and nearly got stuck. A slow life means a stress-free life, right? This was anything but! I recalled the adage ‘you can’t change your life by changing location’. Wherever you go, there you are.

One morning, after another sleepless night in mugger central without a loo, I was traipsing along the bank in search of ablutions and took a moment to gaze at the water. A regal cormorant, stretching his black wings towards the first sunbeams of the day, appeared before me. It felt like a message. ‘When a cormorant appears,’ I read later, ‘there will be a new opportunity that will enable you to accomplish what didn’t seem possible.’ My new opportunity doesn’t feel like merely swapping a house for a boat, but rather a chance that we all have – to shift our habitual ways of reacting, not responding; to be mindful, not mindless, to notice and be present, not just existing in our stressed-out heads.

We were eventually towed by kind boating strangers and, seven locks and 878 metres of Islington Tunnel later, we arrived at our desired destination.

The cormorant came along for the ride. He dips, splashes, dives and greets me each morning, inviting me every day to ‘accomplish what didn’t seem possible’ a year ago. As I watch from our new home, I wave back and, this time, I am smiling.

Image: Getty