Sarah Wilson on going slow and the power of a good flâner

Sarah Wilson on going slow and the power of a good flaner - Episode 157 of The Slow Home Podcast

The conversations I’ve had on this podcast have been some of the biggest highlights and most electrifying moments of realisation of my life. The opportunity to talk to people and pick their brains about simplifying, or intention, or making cool stuff or living according to their Why is amazing and I’m really grateful for it. But can I tell you something? I get so nervous. Every single interview has me tied in knots before I begin, hoping I’ll do it justice, worried I’ll sound like an idiot. Once the first question is out of my mouth I’m golden, but until that happens I’m a jittery, sweaty mess of half-formed ideas and the vague notion I’m about to make a fool of myself.

So let me tell you that I was very excited and a little [lot] nervous before I sat down to chat with my guest today. Sarah Wilson is someone I’ve admired for years – not only for the work she’s done to promote the notion of drastically cutting sugar in our diets and her more recent work in preventing food waste – but also the way she goes about that work. She is honest and open, prepared to stand for something regardless of whether people agree with her, and she’s also funny and smart and good at not taking herself too seriously.

Since the release of her most recent book ‘first we make the beast beautiful: a new story about anxiety’ my admiration has kicked up a notch. In it she talks honestly and beautifully about her own story of anxiety, depression and being diagnosed bipolar. She writes about the highly uncomfortable and life-affirming experiences involved in facing her anxiety, learning to move through it, live with it, and eventually embrace it as a vital and valuable part of herself. And she writes about the ways she has learnt to live most comfortably with it – through meditation, exercise, mindfulness, bush walking, learning, recalibrating, building awareness, simplifying life and understanding the importance of slowing down.

In this conversation we dive deep in to this topic of anxiety and how Sarah slows down in order to both strengthen herself against its more harmful side, and simultaneously go deeper in to it. We talk about the discomfort of true reflection and her growing boredom with shallow conversations and external grasping (and why cocktail parties are the worst example of this!) We also talk about the idea that it’s not necessary or even helpful to slow down simply for the sake of slowing down, but rather aiming to slow down in order to be or do something meaningful.

As an avid bush walker, Sarah talks about why she chooses to head off in to the bush every second weekend (more if possible) and what the rhythm and solitude of solo hiking provides her that other exercises can’t. Sarah shares her cure for insomnia and why one of her two major tenets of slow-ness is to simply walk. She also introduces me to the French idea of ‘flâner’, an urban wandering, and why sometimes it’s enough to simply walk through our own neighbourhood, noticing, paying attention, watching people and observing the comings and goings that surround us.

We also talk about meditation and why it’s the second key tenet of slow-ness for Sarah, and why it’s not only OK to suck at meditation, but why it’s actually incredibly useful to be bad at it.

I so often finish my conversations by saying that I could have spoken to my guest for hours and it’s the case here too. Sarah is a fascinating, open person and I loved chatting with her. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 

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