By Greg Paine

“Time”, as a pressure or constraint on how we live our daily lives, has become a fetish, a reason for not creating sufficient (temporal) space to think more deeply, be mindful, and become aware.

“Running out of time, so needing to buy disposables or takeaway food.” In a society that seems to be forever speeding up, the idea of taking time out can seem indolent or simply passe. However, many involved in sustainability are reassessing this: “time and planning the two big things.”; “…not enough time to think … too rushed … I need to slow down.” “Consumption – a symptom of busy-ness and lack of focus and lack of clarity. Patience is also seen to be important when working with the earth: “… solutions always bloom in their own time.”; “What is the value of being patient in a sustainable world?”: “… probably just slowing down; spinning out the resources you’ve got … .”

We can also transcend the idea of indolence: slowing down and opening up time for awareness is infact assisted by activity and exercise – the joining of the mind-body split captured in the idea in Feldenkrais practice that “movement is life”. “I realised as I reflect, breathed deeply, relaxing, giving into experience … I saw all these things. … When you breathe deeply, then your spirit soars, you feel good… .” “… patience and persistence is important to get anywhere.”

Similarly, the importance of simple but aerobic activities like walking and gardening in re-engaging with community, nature and sustainability is now realised. “I have joined community gardens … for both community and environmental reasons.” Walking is being seen as an antidote to stress, anxiety and depression. Some also point out that air itself needs to be re-considered – as being far more than empty, invisible space. Rather, it is the thing that joins humans to the rest of nature and “… the very matter of awareness…” and so should be appropriately valued.


Breathing deeply activates both the body and the mind, and encourages a slowing down that assists reflection.  Take time out to engage in activities that allow you to breathe deeply.

This is part of our Walk with the Elephant Series – on the lessons, or patterns, on how to remain mindful to the task of sustainable development through personal action and change.

Greg Paine is an urban planner interested in sustainable development.  These articles draw on his research work in the field.