Slow Camping

August 29, 2011

The time has come, folks. It is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. We reached Southwestern Utah’s Ponderosa Ranch & Resort yesterday around 3:30 pm Mountain Time (again, confusing, but we’ve finally figured it out. Arizona is on PT time from spring to fall, and MT time from fall to spring because it simply doesn’t change its clocks. Ever.). With a nervous eye, we rounded the shower and pool area to find our Chuckwagon cum Hotel Room at the base of the hill. It looks like this.

All the clothing you see on the picnic table is ours. It’s the entire contents of one of our bags that was the unlucky recipient of our 5 gallon water jug that dripped unwittingly on it allllll afternoon. Nice.

Hey, at least we’re number 1 (as in Wagon #1, pronounced “way-gun” in, um Montanian – our receptionist is from Montana, dontchaknow). And, as Husband joked, when we have dinner at the lodge, we can put it “on the wagon” as in “on the room”. As you can see, there isn’t much of that either. But the upside is it is indeed the kids’ favorite overnight place thusfar. And it’s like camping (it rained buckets last night), only you’re on a full-blown mattress with sheets and all.

And you stay dry. Oh, and there’s maid service.

You gotta love the West for all its amenities. Slow camping at its best with air conditioning in the main building (and free WiFi) when you need it most. After hiking five hours in 100F heat in Zion National Park today, we were ready to flop and feed. We did just that and are happier for it!

In 2010 281,303,769 visitors swept through the 394 National Parks this nation (and its surrounding areas such as Puerto Rico) has to offer. Every state in the United States has one, with the exception of Delaware. An annual pass costs $80 and it’s well worth the price.

In just three days we have visited three different national parks (we did this all very slowly, honest. They are very close to one another!). And I must tell you we beam at the rangers in those booths when we flash our annual pass that Husband graciously paid for. He was wise. A seven-day pass to just one park costs $25-30. So as we breeze past the pre-paid booths, we smile, knowing yet another fabulous educational program awaits us.

Bryce Canyon National Park

The simplicity of it is astounding. The signage is always informative with lots of pictures, maps and guides. The rangers are friendly (one of them at the Grand Canyon admitted he passed his phone interview by smartly answering the question: “What are you going to say to tourists when the Canyon is filled with fog and they can see nothing?” “It is Nature’s cycle,” he replied. I smiled. Yes, it’s Nature’s cycle.)

So when the rain pelted our heads on the way to the car after devouring an amazing meal at the Bryce Canyon Lodge, we knew the sky would clear soon. On the way back to our hotel, we were rewarded with two mole deer staring at us as we trolled past in our rental car.

To all you rangers and National Park Service folks, we say thank you. You are beautiful in every way. The cost of admission may be eighty bucks, but the value of experiences like these are priceless.

Slow Simplicity

August 26, 2011

The pace of life out West is certainly slower than on the East Coast. For one, the temperatures are in the hundreds (Fahrenheit!) so no one is really in a hurry to move anywhere quickly.

Second, there are fewer people so relationships are cherished as the selection is rather slim. At the local Starbucks we saw the same people each day we went to get Husband’s daily java jolt. In fact, many of the cashiers also moonlighted as tour guides, whom we recognized. The waiter at the Dam Bar & Grill also worked the breakfast shift at Denny’s.

"Let's Go To That DAM Bar & Grill," said the kids. So we did! :)

And so it goes. Go with the slow is what we are learning as we tour the vastness of this country.

They say the Grand Canyon is a timeless place. This photo, taken yesterday, says it all.

Nature is an astoundingly restorative thing. Surround yourselves with the beauty of it, wherever you are. If in a city, go to a botanical garden. If in the country, run to the nearest tree. Nature is the fastest way to slow!

We’re three weeks into my five week sabbatical, and I have to say my email volume has shrunk considerably. On both my work and book-related accounts, I activated an auto-reply that explains I’m checking in intermittently, but that I’m pretty much off the grid until September 2.

Nice.

Typically, my email inbox swells to the size of a voluminous tidal wave on a daily  hourly basis. But somehow folks have recognized they’re not going to get an answer from me unless it’s really big news or an immediate request that simply can’t

Because some things just can't be missed. 17th Anniversary in Virginia!

wait. As you know from another post, I am on an iPhone diet. Thusfar I’ve lost about one thousand emails that simply aren’t rolling in. Apart from the occasional random pitch, I’ve been left alone by just about everyone.

It was the best decision I could make so I could free up as much time as I needed to attend to my life “on the ground”. I reconnected with almost every single living family member, visited five of my closest and oldest friends (who are so not old – really gang, you look fabulous!) and even managed to go shopping a few times for back-to-school items for the kids.

As we enter what I’ve coined PHRASE III of our August sabbatical, we will experience new adventures out West (from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon to, yes, two overnights in a Chuck Wagon – stop snickering. Believe me. It will be blogworthy!). I promise to pop by occasionally because slow does not mean stop; it merely means a mindful pace that allows you to soak it all in.

Under pressure! That’s what many of us feel right before taking a vacation. Locking down the house, arranging for pet care, stopping all mail delivery, etc. It’s almost as if you need a vacation from your vacation planning before it’s even gotten started.

I don’t know about you, but renting a car at the airport after an international flight has to be a seamless experience, otherwise I am even more stressed. So when we got to Dulles International Airport two weeks ago, we were astounded at how fast the check-in service at Dollar Rent-a-Car went. Until we discovered they didn’t have any more economy cars available for another fifteen minutes. No big deal, I thought. I live in a time abundant state. We’ll have some snacks and wait. When the newly washed car was driven up, we were thrilled.

But what I didn’t know was the rental car agency had rushed through the detailing process such that the air tire pressure was uneven. A light indicator for the air tire pressure illuminated in my car about a week later. We even went to a tire center to have it checked. All but one had fifty pounds in it, but they couldn’t add the tire because the supervisor hadn’t turned the machine on yet (it was almost 10 am – you have to love slow country living!). We found an air machine at the local convenience store. Following the tire guy’s instructions, I added enough in the one tire to match the air pressure in the others.

That is, until my dad suggested I look at how much air pressure is SUPPOSED to be in the tires. It turns out the “lowest tire pressure” was actual the accurate one. So I went back to the rental agency and asked them to please check it. I wasn’t about to spend anymore money on it. Indeed, the tires had been overinflated by the agency itself. I suggested he let the detailers know to which he snippily replied, “I would if they spoke English!”

Hmmm…I was starting to feel less enamoured of Dollar by the minute.

So my slow travel tip to you is to ask that they check the air pressure for you before you leave, or travel with a gauge yourself. You can find the proper air pressure on the inside of the driver’s door. Apparently at Dollar, the buck stops with you.

 

Cool meals for hot days

August 10, 2011

Now I know it is not hot in my resident country (Germany) right now, but it is sweltering just about everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. For those of you looking for wholesome, no-oven meal choices, you must look to the August issue of DASH. They’ve got cool picks when it’s gotta go quick. And you can have slow food that goes fast if you think ahead. The ingredients are what matter. So give it a look. On stands or on their blog now!

Time is our friend, not our foe. So it goes in The Power of Slow. One great way to introduce your child (ages 4 and up) to the concept of time as friend is to get a fun alarm clock. Now I was approached by the folks at Nickelodeon, who gave me a SpongeBob Square Pants alarm clock to try out on my nine-year-old son. We tried all the alarm clock sounds, which were jolting until we found the volume dial to turn it down five notches. The clock itself looks like a giant wedge of cheese. The eyes only appear when the alarm goes off. We tried Seagull, which I envisioned to be a placid caw-cawing. If you’ve ever watched an episode of SpongeBob, you will know nothing is placid about the show. So of course the Seagull sounds was acerbic squawking instead.

The clock itself is digital, so telling time is less difficult for younger kids who know their numbers.

Luckily, my son understands the clock is going to his cousin instead as a full-blown fan of the Bobster. It’s a great way for kids to wake up in the morning, but parents beware. You may enjoy it as much as the show itself.

I’ll leave that one up to you!

According to this year’s  Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Employee Outlook survey, the economic downturn continues to erode people’s standard of living. It looks like it’s time for some slow.

The survey of 2,000 UK-based employees revealed that more than half of workers (54%) claim their top motivation for wanting to change jobs is to increase their salary and benefits, with improving job satisfaction cited second most commonly (42%). This is a reversal from last year when 61% cited job satisfaction and 48% said improving pay and benefits. The trends are uniform across all sectors.

So no matter where you are, it appears job satisfaction is a distant second to job security, salary, and benefits. In other words, people would be grateful for a financial boost rather than more job joy.

In light of the world financial landscape, it is no wonder.

Nonetheless, we can still find satisfaction in what we do if we look for it. My job (as a PR agent) keeps changing. Every day it is redefined based on the client’s current needs. It is exciting and daunting and causes one to stretch beyond one’s perceived limitations.

Power of Slow principle: Challenge yourself daily.

There are months when I write those invoices, feeling as though I’d accomplished so much, beaming with satisfaction and looking at a smaller bottom line than I realized. While good work was done, it didn’t translate to a greater paycheck, but a larger heart filled with the magic of a job well done.

You might be able to put a price on time (though I’d argue you really can’t ~ I’m working on that aspect of the marketplace, people, but the world’s bigger than me), yet you can’t put a price on satisfaction.

 

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Intuition, the sweet voice of our internal navigation system.Without it we bumble. With it, we grow humble. Intuition is the guide of consciousness. It’s truly a lovely thing.

Jackie Gilbert, Professor of Management in the Middle Tennessee State University College of Business, offers her wisdom about intuition in her guest blog below. Please visit her site, which is chock full of wisdom and thoroughly researched. Besides, she’s a great writer!

Take it away, Jackie!

~~

A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans which it receives through listening to Wisdom that is not its own (A Course in Miracles).

How often have you felt frustrated as a result of either a failure to plan, or an attempt to plan too much at one time? Our sense of timing, intuition, and content of our very plans are all impacted by our state of mind. I love the following quote from A Course in Miracles:“The mind engaged in planning for itself is occupied in setting up control of future happenings. It does not think that it will be provided for unless it makes its own provisions…The mind that plans is thus refusing to allow for change. What is has learned before becomes the basis for its future goals. Its past experience directs its choice of what will happen. And it does not see that here and now is everything it needs to guarantee a future quite unlike the past without a continuity of any old ideas and sick beliefs. Anticipation plays no part at all, for present confidence directs the way” (p. 210).      

Intuition and the resulting sense of what to do can be channeled through our deliberate focus. In his study of lucky people, Wiseman (2003) found that they were more relaxed (less anxious) than their non-lucky counterparts. His findings suggest that creating our own future is more a state of mind than of circumstance. At every juncture we have the opportunity to choose our thought, rather than to be controlled by our cognitive wanderings. Buddhists refer to this quality as “mindfulness,” or full attention on a task, absent the background fast forwarding to something else.

The Dalai Lama describes mindfulness as the recognition that a negative thought has taken root, an “early warning system of sorts,” and the subsequent desire to change course. The byproduct of relaxation is then the ability to harness our thoughts in a way that is beneficial for our purpose, which is (in large part) to nullify negative voices, and to find our inner guidance system, or intuition.

Intuition can also be nurtured through freehand writing in response to pressing questions: e.g.: What should I do next? (Canfield, 2005). The immediate dictation, followed by subsequent directed activity, will facilitate an increasing number of instinctive responses. Journaling permits repressed feelings to surface so that we can take appropriate action, and it promotes catharsis through written self-expression. Hohlbaum (2009) explains journaling as an “unloading” technique, particularly for chronic worriers. When we list every single thing we are worried about, we realize that many of our concerns are inconsequential.

Relaxation broadens our perceptual lens. Achieving inner peace is the precursor to a self-induced state of “flow” in which we can work at peak capacity with minimum effort. Flow has been defined as “…the state of consciousness in which you find joy in the simple execution of a task, often losing yourself completely in it” (Hohlbaum, 2009, p. 21). Similarly, Maltz (1960, p. 264) describes this space as “being in the zone,” and “as entering a time and place and emotional state where [individuals] are totally relaxed, totally confident of the outcome.” Presence, “being in the moment,” and the “holy instant” are when:

  • All senses are firing on five cylinders
  • The world is in high resolution
  • The little things don’t bother you
  • You experience full engagement
  • You feel enthusiasm and excitement for whatever you are doing
  • You react without worry[1]
  • You are single-minded in your determination to concentrate on the task at hand
  • You are in the moment absent the baggage of things past

Remove mental obstacles so you know what’s truly important, and can refocus on your priorities.

When the mind emanates peace employees’ work proceeds effortlessly of its own accord, and they experience the negotissimum otium, or complete leisure that is intense activity (Russell, 1991).

Carr-Ruffino (2001), in her book Creative intelligence model: Building innovative skills provides a table of emotions. The more positive emotions are associated with serendipitous occurrences, with insight, and with a “can do” attitude. Conversely, negative emotions lead to learned helplessness, to despair, and to a lack of creativity.

 Map of Emotions

Expansive emotions engender a non-combative way of expressing feedback which creates feed forward, or dialogue between two parties where communication is a tool of empowerment. Similarly, Robbins (1980) mentions that “enabling states,” or conditions in which we experience peak resourcefulness, consist of confidence, inner strength, joy, and ecstasy. Positive states are created by the mental images that we conjure forth in our minds.

Our mental schema can in fact be so programmed for success that our subsequent behaviors have no choice but to follow suit. In Towards a New World View, DiCarlo (1996, p. 149) explains the effect of love on the human spirit: “When a person allows love into their field, the field becomes very soft, very flowing, resilient. The whole field blows up like a sort of balloon. It becomes very energized and energy flows out of the field in a very healthy way.” Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt (2000) describe the most resourceful state as “conscious and awake,” or a state of self-reliance, consisting of high self-esteem and inner validation. We can conjure forth positive emotional states by our deliberate actions. To be more positive, today engage in the following:

  1. Focus on what’s working in your life. What things are going well at this particular instant, and what actions can you take to create more of the same? Success begets more success, and a desire to work harder to produce results of the same caliber. Keep feeding your productivity engine with positive thoughts.
  2. Give gratitude. Being thankful for the many gifts that you have removes the focus from what you may think is lacking. According to Sarah Ban Breathnach (author of Simple Abundance) “all you have is all you need.” In this regard, service to someone less fortunate produces a contrast effect that forces you to focus on your blessings. See also The Minimalist’s Guide to Inner Peace
  3. Realize that our thoughts are of our own choosing, and consciously work to eliminate the unwanted. When you sense your mind wandering in a negative direction, choose to refocus. Remember that happiness is in fact a choice.

[1] The first six bullet points are from Morgenstern (2009).

References 

Canfield, J. (2005). The success principles: How to get from where you are to where you want to be. New York: Collins.

Canfield, J., Hansen, M. V., & Hewitt, L. (2000). The power of focus: What the world’s greatest achievers know about the secret of financial freedom and success. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications Inc.

Carr-Ruffino, N. (2010). Leading Innovation (p. 127). Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.

DiCarlo, R. (1996). Towards a new worldview: Conversations at the leading edge (p. 149). Erie, PA: Epic Publishing.

Hohlbaum, C. L. (2009). The power of slow: 101 ways to save time in our 24/7 world. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Maltz, M. (1960). Psychocybernetics: A new way to get more living out of life. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Morgenstern, J. (2009). Shed your stuff, change your life: A four step guide to getting unstuck. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Robbins, A. (1986). Unlimited power. New York; Fawcett Columbine.

Russell, J. B. (1991). A history of heaven: The singing silence. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

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