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

  1. So honest. And so freeing to hearing you both talk about things that need to be said. I thought l was the only one who checked my likes on Insta or fb to get approvals a million times a day. Haha. Wonderful to hear you talk about so many things l have struggled with over the years and have come to “live in the tension” with Much food for thought to take away and ponder and appropriate. Now I’m just going to wander.

  2. Embrace your weirdness… love it.

    The minimalism as an aesthetic thing, the organic obsession! So much truth.

    Loving that you’re bringing guests that talk about resources, using up stuff, don’t waste. Quite aligned with the previous episode with Annie Raser Rowland. So wonderful to hear.

  3. What a great conversation! Loved every minute of it. I was already a fan of Sarah’s (now even more so) and have now found a great new website to ponder over and visit, thanks Brooke!

    My question is, can you recommend wear to buy “ethical leggings” or good transitional pants that can cross over from yoga/exercise to everyday wear without looking like active wear?

    I’m trying to minimise my wardrobe and well as my footprint.
    Would prefer natural fibres too.


    • Hi Alicia, have you looked at the “boody” leggings, made from bamboo? Website is “boody” and can order on website. The most comfy leggings ever.

      • Hi Karen.
        Yes, I’ve bought my partner trunks and he absolutely loves them! I had a tank top I wore when pregnant that I was a great too. I think what put me off the leggings was I wasn’t sure of size. But you’ve inspired me to check them out again.
        Would they be thick enough for exercise?

  4. I absolutely love this podcast – love the wisdom Brooke and Ben share, and their interaction with each other. Love all the take home actions, guests and general discussions. I am only new to this podcast, but actually find myself wanting to go back and listen to old podcasts. I’m learning, and getting so much out of it. Thank you so much!

    There was just one thing with this podcast I feel I want to comment on – I only usually provide positive feedback, so this is new to me – I was really disappointed with the negative comment that Sarah made about The Minimalists, and their documentary, saying something about them using plastic coffee cups in the beginning of the documentary, and how wasteful that is. I am a huge fan of Sarah Wilson, and what she stands for, however I feel to focus on that one piece about the documentary wasn’t helpful. Those guys have done so much for many people, and simply offer their own recipe for living a more intentional life – they don’t preach, which I love. I have friends that are ‘Maximalists’, that, after watching their documentary, are starting to have conversations about intentional living etc. I don’t think there should be any hierarchy or better / bad class of (insert here whatever you want to call it…. minimalist / intentionalist / slow home living way etc etc) – everyone is doing their bit. I am concerned comments like that may scare some people off wanting to look at making changes, as they feel they can’t live up to how you are ‘meant’ to live by some people’s standards. Everyone has their own receipe. Small steps lead to big steps. Everyone should be encouraged for even giving a damn, in this world where we are only taught to give a damn about possessions etc.

    Thanks again for your podcast. xx

  5. Great episode. Really enjoyed listening to both you ladies banter back and forth with great ideas & tips from you both. Thank you for doing the show.

    There were also some other books mentioned between both Brooke and Sarah in the show that weren’t their own. Could we have those books added to the show notes? I didn’t catch them as I was driving while listening.


  6. […] [**]I listened to a Slow Home Podcast episode where the guest said that doing 8 minutes feels like more than 5 minutes—which does tend to have the feel of “it’s so short, what’s the point of doing it?”—but is less than 10 minutes, which seems like a bit of a commitment starting out. Eight is the nice happy medium. I’m 95% sure it was this episode. […]

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