On Slow Living

conversations about the joys of mindful living

Often we feel paralysed by the state of the world. The weight of the damage can make one believe that their actions can never make a lasting impact. At such moments we turn to our friends to inspire us to keep going no matter how small a deed or how tiny a step. We spoke to five inspiring women who have made these acts a part of their lives in small and big ways. 

Charlyne Weiss

I am Charlyne, I am from France. I have been living in India since 4 years, first in Kerala and now in Goa. Currently I manage Alliance Française Goa, an Indo-French  Institution. I am passionate about self development. I practice pilates and I try to meditate everyday.

I started to be more conscious few years ago, I was 25. I realised that some brands I used to love in France, were decreasing the quality of their products while the price was constantly increasing. The clothes were not produced in France anymore, not even in Europe. I decided to stop buying those brands even if I loved their design. When I moved to Budapest, I started to buy second hand garments, because there were a lot of very cool second hand shops and it is very common for people to shop second-hand. It is also in Budapest  that I started to be more conscious about all that I consumed in general. It was really easy to consume organic and local produce at a low cost over there.

I am certainly not the perfect example of “good consumption.” According to me, I am still consuming too much but slowly I am cultivating the habit of whenever I buy something I question myself about the origin of the product, the condition of production and if I really need it or not. 

My style has been more or less the same since I was twenty. I know exactly what suits me and I am careful to buy something that I will still be able to wear in five or ten years.

I find it difficult to always buy the best products, especially when it comes to local and organic food. With my work, I don’t always find the time to go to the market and cook everyday. Sometimes, I choose the easy way and feel guilty about it.

I can see more and more people becoming conscious in France and in India. In France plastic bags are banned, I think it is a big progress. 

Last year, I organised with Alliance Française the first “Conscious Fashion Festival” in Goa, a two day event with panels, discussions, popup stores and an alternative fashion show. I became even more conscious when I organised this event, meeting all these professionals and creatives from different backgrounds but all working towards the same direction. It inspired me to strengthen  my personal convictions.

With my work, I meet a lot of people taking small actions which eventually lead to a big impact. There is still a long road ahead for us but all actions, individual and collective, makes a difference. I am really optimistic, I believe in the future.

Gayle D’Souza

I am Gayle D’Souza, 26 years old and someone who has always found comfort in cooking. I’ve lived most of my life in Goa, moved to Spain and now to London, all due to my constant love for food by learning as much as I can on how to treat and respect what the Earth has painstakingly offered  us for free. 

It all started when I was 24 years old, my sister, Jane had introduced me to Bea Johnson, who lives a zero waste lifestyle. Even prior, I have always tried to do my part in a few ways I knew, but after coming across the zero waste lifestyle I was inspired to do more. It is amazing how small adjustments in our lives can make so much of a difference to our state of mind as well as the planet.

I started out by not accepting plastic bags. Today, we turn all our food waste into compost, we have been mindful of the amount of plastic wrapped items we buy, stopped accepting anything we do not need hence decreasing drastically how much garbage we generate. I have this ultimate goal of saying no to everything in plastic (that will be a task, but again, it can be attainable)

Its as simple as, getting adjusted to a new phone  from the one you previously had. At first, you might make a number of blunders with the different placement of keys, options etc. But eventually with constant use, your brain gets wired to that way of working and  it becomes a part of your routine.

My advice to someone new would be to take baby steps. Start small. You don’t have to make changes all at once. Its all about decision making. Be mindful each time you make a decision and maybe ask yourself “Is this adding any value to my life?” or “Is there a way I can attain the same result by doing things that are kinder to the environment?” or “Am I spending my money at the right places on the right products?”

Jane D’Souza

I’m Jane, a photographer, born, brought up and based in Goa. I have a 14 month old son who is the centre of my life right now. I love my laid back village life and can’t imagine how I survived seven odd years in Mumbai. I love food. I like to read, to paint and of course, the great outdoors. I’m also a tad bit lazy, so these days it’s my son’s love for the outdoors that motivates me to get out.

We grew up being happy with what we had. Thanks to my parents, we learned early the value of money and were very particular about spending it. I don’t think I was ever a hoarder. Or a compulsive shopper. Did I buy things I wasn’t 100% sure I’d use? Yes. But I’ve always had few things. However, one year, when I was moving back to Goa from Mumbai, I wanted to save money. I was 25 years old and I used to just blow every bit of my tiny pay check, so this was a conscious effort to save. What I realised was that I spent a large amount of said pay check on food (still do) and fashion. I stopped shopping for over 8 months and all that money went into travel. So I think that set off something in my head. From there, the learning has extended to why I should shop not just less frequently but more consciously as well. I stumbled across Bea Johnson’s and Lauren Singer’s Ted Talk and was really moved by their amazing lifestyles. This was the real kick starter to taking things to the next level.

I saw this very achievable wardrobe project called Project 333 and decided to adopt that for 3 months and see how things go. In short it asks you to assemble a 33 piece wardrobe including footwear but not including lounge, workout, sleep and underwear which you will use for 3 months. You box up all your other stuff and keep it away. When the time is up, you bring back all the old stuff and again go through the closet for the next 3 months only buying what you really need and understanding what you haven’t really needed. As it is I’m a no frills dresser, so going down to just 33 pieces was so liberating. It took, I think, hours of combined time off the decision making process of dressing up.

Fashion wise I have also decided, when I go shop, to shop more consciously in terms of clothing. I also started to compost my wet kitchen waste which has also been very rewarding. And since I now have so much compost, I’m planning to finally start my own vegetable and fruit garden. I already have a bunch of vegetables and fruits I grow, but I want to be more active and expand even further. I already carry my own vessels and bags to buy fish, meat and groceries and I have started the arduous process of ridding my house of plastic, it’s going to take a while, but it’s begun.

Oh and I use cloth diapers for my son. 😀

I think it takes a conscious effort to change. At least for me, it’s very easy to fall back on old patterns. Convenience, in this respect, is a 4 letter word. It gets in the way of changing. Of going back a bit to the way our parents did things. Now its easy for me to go shopping with friends and not buy anything. It’s easy to go to a store and say no to plastic. I am still new at this. I want to start carrying my own steel containers everywhere I go so that when we eat at a restaurant, I can tell them to parcel the remainder in there instead of in foil or plastic.

I often wonder whether there is a point to it at all. But then I see the result of my efforts and it makes me happy and gives me fuel to go on. Like a shopkeeper applauding me for not taking a plastic bag, my rich beautiful compost pile which was once what people consider waste, a friend being more mindful about shopping because of me.

My advice is start small. I don’t think anyone expects you to go cold turkey. My cousin got rid of her microwave and that made it easier to get rid of plastic in her kitchen. You can start by greening up your house, invest in plants. Start by repurposing your income and time towards ‘experience’ based things rather than ‘tangible’ things, like travel, cooking, helping out a friend. Declutter and donate things you don’t use to those who need it or to an organisation. I keep a box in a corner of my house and I keep dropping things in there I don’t need or want. That way when someone needs something, I have it ready. Support your local grocers and meat/fish sellers. Carry cloth bags. Say no to plastic (especially straws).

I once had a very low moment where I was in fact wondering just this. It seemed futile. And I voiced this to a few friends. What they said really made me rethink my negativity and the ‘supposed’ futility of my efforts. They said that what you are doing might seem like close to nothing, but what if what you do makes just one more person change what they do. What if then that person changes others. The chain reaction could in fact lead anywhere. Even to global change. And that is all the reminder I need, to keep going.

Edlyn D’Souza

I am 30, currently going through a huge life-changing moment. I love creating, staying active and creating recipes for my family and my blog.

I have always been conscious. I don’t mean to sound boastful but the messages I got from my parents as a child were always along the lines of being good to others and shunning materialism. Over time, I have sought my own meaning to these ideals and I try to keep to the spirit in which they were taught to me.

I was only able to change my way of living once I moved out of my parents’ and into my own place (honestly I didn’t have much of a say in these changes as my move meant living in a new country). As I tried to feel at home again, I realised what would help me the most was not trying to fill the void with things but rather create new experiences. I started dirty hands therapy also known as gardening. I tried to spend more time outdoors in nature. These connections helped me build this new sense of self and it slowed me down a lot. I learnt to value the importance of tiny steps leading to big magic.

I am a lot less wasteful when it comes to every thing from cooking to shopping. With cooking, I consider how time consuming and labour intensive it is to grow vegetables and try to use every part of my food once it enters my kitchen. I only buy things I know I’ll use and everything else is either from my “buy nothing” group or a second use shop. I generally avoid buying clothes and if I do, I make sure I donate what I’m not using. Of course I’m not Miss Perfect-only-salvaging-the-reject-pile but when I do shop, I avoid things that only perform one function. I have a lot more borderline obsessive habits thanks to my anxiety but this life is for learning and I’m on that journey just like everybody else.

It helped me a lot to get rid of the clutter. Not just physical clutter but also clutter in the form of life hacks online. There is no one way to be and you don’t have to figure it all out instantly. It helps to write your thoughts down. It will make them seem more real. Just find what you’re passionate about and work from there.

Nobody has it all figured out. We are all students, as human and imperfect as can be. What binds us in our humanity is the desire for good. I would like to let my actions dictate this passion even if it might seem meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Mallaika Kamat

When I was 18 I began following more social activism accounts on my social media, the bite sized pieces of a variety of different causes helped me understand “societal ills” from multiple perspectives. And made me question myself, beginning with my diet. I never really thought about why I ate chicken. I didn’t question it, it’s what my family did, I was always a sensitive child but the cognitive dissonance encouraged by our culture led me to think it was okay. I started questioning norms, such as the idea of teenage rebellion, typically advertised as sex, drugs and alcohol. But why? Those things just chain you in different shackles. Nothing liberating about it. I rebelled by going vegetarian (and now vegan), rejecting societal ideas of femininity (much to my mother’s disdain I didn’t shave or wax religiously like I used to because it dawned on me that I don’t owe looking “presentable” to anyone), and starting my own business with my Best friend Sara, so I could be financially independent. The idea that I can do what I want, for myself, by myself, I think that’s true rebellion.

I changed my diet, I stopped caring about my appearance, (wearing thrifted second hand clothes, whatever was comfortable) and then I began to make things. I was always interested in beads, I find the process almost meditative, passing each bead one by one. But I get bored easily, so then I wanted to work with more mediums. I didn’t want to work with conventional mediums I wanted to experiment so I started with polymer clay, then moved on to crystal resin, and now my medium of choice is copper electroforming. I think I’ve grown through my art and my art has grown through me. It is definitely overwhelming to realise that we don’t actually mean much in the grand scheme of things, and our actions mean even less. But the realisation that life is inherently meaningless can either scare you, or liberate you.

There’s this philosophy that there are three ways in which humans deal with their mortality— First was to make children, ie. continue your “lineage” live through them and their children. Second was believing in religion and heaven, deluding yourself with illusions of grandeur of life after death and better things to come. And the third is through art, to create something which is yours and live through it like Da Vinci lives on through the Mona Lisa. I have chosen the third route at the moment. I am aware at the apocalypse nothing will remain, till then somewhere, someone has a little piece of Mallaika in their jewellery drawer. Tucked in with it is a tiny memory of me. So that’s how I deal with feeling overwhelmed, if I die today, I know that even if everyone forgets I existed I have left tiny reminders of the life I lived.

I enjoy documentaries and reading non fiction, I think that had been a big effect on how I think and perceive the world. Learning more about the butterfly effect. And definitely to not stop trying. Progress isn’t always an upward trend, there are ups and downs, the point is to try. That’s enough I feel, if nothing else, just try. 

— Photography & Styling by RHEA GUPTE

Charlyne is the Director of Alliance Francaise Panjim, Goa

Gayle is a pastry chef whose love for food has taken her across the world and transformed her from a student to a culinary creator. Follow her adventures here.  

Jane is a photographer, low impact lifestyle advocate, plant lover and proud mama to her baby boy and co-founder of SST Goa. Follow her journey here.

Edlyn is a writer, photographer and proud aunty. She spends her time reading books by themes, making art, lol-ing at memes, looking inwards and tending to a small patch of urban land. Get to know her better here. 

Mallaika is a handmade jewellery and curiosity artisan with a flair for chemistry, crystals and flowers. Join her explorations here.