Now I know why Italy is the birthplace of all things slow. Its magical sun, the food that sprouts from the earth, the smiles on people’s faces…with all that goodness, how could you not want to decelerate to enjoy it all?

Four years ago in this very place, I outlined the steps to Slow. In under a week I had read seven books and started to absorb the powerful message that Slow can bring to all of our lives.

I am here now again. And it feels wonderful to reconnect to the source of so much.

May you enjoy the beauty of Slow today, no matter where you are!

 

To Bid the Norm Adieu

May 27, 2012

“Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly” ~ Mae West

It has been three years since The Power of Slow hit the stands. It has slowly (pun intended!) infiltrated numerous cultures: from India, to South Korea, to China, to even the lovely country of France, which, with its joie de vivre and 35 average vacation days, leaves me a little breathless. One would think a place with so much good wine would not have issues about stress. But in my travels, I have learned even in one of the most beautiful places in the world such as France, people feel the crush of modern life.

It’s time to do things a little more slowly.

Slow resides within. It is a mindset, not a speed. It cannot be measured in units, but in the quality of your life. When we embrace time abundance, we no longer shoulder the weight of too much in too little. Instead, we reverse the relationship to have more resources than are needed. We then simply have more than enough.

An actor friend of mine cried into the phone that she had received an invitation to walk the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival alongside Nicole Kidman, but due to circumstances, was not able to make it in time to do so.

“So here I am on top of this villa, overlooking the Croisette at all these people…and the red carpet.”

I had her repeat her words. Did she really hear them?

“You could be sitting in front of your television set doing the same,” I smiled into the phone. She laughed. C’est vrai!

Life is abundant, if you see it that way.

A reader on my Psychology Today blog recently told me he is a European trapped in an American body. He wants four weeks off every year as most Europeans have (and live in a place where the word “vacation” is not substituted for words like “out of the office” and “on travel”), yet if he even gets one week between Christmas and New Year’s, the work piles up to staggering heights.

Something is wrong with this picture. When you cannot extrapolate yourself from work long enough to catch your breath, the quality of it suffers. We need to bid the norm adieu.

Google has learned the truth of this, at least to some extent. In his widely publicized book Search Inside Yourself, Chief Relaxation Officer Chade-Meng Tan offers up ways to unleash your fullest potential.  Google’s Corporate culture supports the notion of workplace wellness. Whether it is truly put into practice in such a competitive industry is left up to interpretation. I’ll be blogging about Chade-Meng’s book soon. In the meantime, enjoy his 54-minute talk.

Where Surrender Lives

May 24, 2012

The story of these flowers defies natural law. Now I’m not a botanist, but it is my understanding that non-blooming bulbs aka widows do not just up and decide to bloom on a whim. If they are widows, they remain as such.

These flowers are different. After four years, they decided to surrender to the beauty of themselves this year. They showed up in a completely different form. And for that, I am most grateful.

We can learn a lot from nature.

The axis of our power lies in our surrender. How often have we pushed things to the limit, only to be left depleted, exhausted and burned? While our culture rewards those who go faster, higher and longer, it isn’t healthy. It’s a lie to live that way. We have limits and it’s time we recognize them.

When we surrender to any given moment, to the “What Is” in our lives, we become fuller, richer and more available to possibility. The amazing thing is that when we surrender to what is, we expand to limitless possibilities. So the very thing that keeps us from experiencing no limitations is the thing we attempt to apply to reach that state.

It is a paradox. I know. And it is the truth.

Imagine your life without all that pushing, striving, hunting and gathering. Consider a world in which you plant a seed, then watch it grow. Dip, bend, plant, rise up. That is the motion that informs effortlessness.

Surrender is a beautiful word. It implies totally release to the tensions of our days. It allows us to soar to higher ground by the sheer act of letting go. Surrender also indicates acceptance, no matter what is happening now. Getting into that empowered head space may not come naturally to you, but it is possible.

Start by asking yourself what you are withholding? Is it your love for another? Is it your anger, frustration, fear? We all hold on to things at times, whether it is a grudge, resentment or the fear of imperfection.

Surrender yourselves to all those levels of emotion. When you do, you will find an expanse so rich that you will be liberated to receive the very things you were striving for. Only this time, you need do nothing at all.

The phrase “Go for it” gets lifted from your vocabulary because there is nowhere to go. You need not hasten to the next thing. It will come to you.

Since life, like the planet, moves in circular motion, what you put out there will return ~ perhaps in a new form, but it will be there for you to embrace with all your might.

What is required is trust in its simplest form.

How will you surrender today?

 

The kingdom of God resides within us all. Whatever your belief system is, know this: you can change the world. In fact, you do every day, with every action, with every encounter. All that you need already lies within you. The question is how will you change the world today?

Here’s Charlie Chaplin’s suggestion. I agree. Do you?

The Cannes Film Festival is a great place to meet and greet just about every mover and shaker in the film industry that you can imagine. For four days I tumbled about with the rest of the throngs, looking to connect with new people, get good story ideas and basically lift myself off the carpet to see the Big Picture for a long weekend.

It was inspiring.

Films in the competition were voted on; other films were shown in hopes buyers would come to distribute them. Like any trade show, it was a 24/7 event. You saw more people at 2 a.m., walking about the place, than you normally do at mid-day on the streets of most hometowns.

Winning a competition has different meanings for different people. For some, simply being there was a win of a lifetime (I count myself in that category). For others, they wanted to win the Golden Palm award so their stakes were set higher. For others they simply wanted to win a few new business cards and enjoy seeing old friends.

When I think of competition, such as the Olympic Games in London this summer, there are different degrees of winning there as well. Bryan Clay, who is  most likely competing in the Olympic decatholon this July, just penned a book called REDEMPTION. It just arrived in the mail today, but from what I see, winning to him means enjoying his family life.

I love that.

I too would like to win at the Olympics this year. But a different kind of win: as a blogger. If you are so inclined, please visit this 30 second video and click on the blue bar “unterstützen” (German for “support”) to help me make my way to an Olympic dream as a citizen journalist bringing positive stories to the world.

Erica Chase, the talented young singer-songwriter (“We Can Fly”) was an English major at Pitzer College in Claremont, California when she met multiplatinum producer, Dana Strum (Slaughter bassist) . Through connections her father’s business partner made in Las Vegas, Erica met Dana on February 1, 2006. That date will forever burn in her memory, not only because of the amazingness of the moment, but because of what happened the very next day. Riding on her bicycle on the way to meet a friend for lunch, she was slammed up against a truck windshield, flying through the air and onto the ground. She awoke in a helicopter with a mask over her face.

“I will never forget that day for as long as I live,” she told me in a recent phone interview. While she had dabbled in songwriting as a high school jock growing up sandwiched between two brothers, she hadn’t realized how much her dream to become a rock star outweighed her upper-middle class upbringing of doing the smart thing such as becoming an educator. “I was on my way to Seattle to become a teacher,” she revealed. But after her accident, from which she miraculously walked away with minor injuries, she realized how short life could be. It was time to take the bull by the horns and live out the secret dream she truly harbored.

What fascinated me most about our conversation was the feeling she had when she met Dana Strum. “I knew something big was about to happen,” Erica said. She didn’t know what that was, but she knew she was on the edge of something indescribable. It was a heavy energy that can be equated to the onset of depression, a significant weightiness that one simply cannot ignore. The very next day, as she was flown to the hospital, she knew she couldn’t live without music. “It was my wake-up call.”

The life of a rock star is an irregular one, not necessarily what one thinks of when one thinks of slow living. But late nights and loads of travel don’t phase this twenty-something artist. One of her big dreams now is to do a multiple city tour via bus.

When I asked whether she was worried she might burn out, she revealed an inner truth that I share. Like myself, who simply cannot live without writing, she cannot live without music. It is so deeply entrenched in her soul that to live any other way would mean certain death. In true power of slow style, she is living her life on purpose. It took a severe knock-down to put her on the right track, but luckily she chose to listen to the message right away. As a result, we get to profit from her stellar Sheryl Crowe-meets-Beatles sound. Now that’s a track we like to hear!

 

Big Mama busted out of her cage this morning. A svelt glossy grey rabbit the size of a shoebox tore around the neighbor’s yard with impunity while we, Husband and I, stood in our pjs with utter helplessness. The rain pelted our faces and despite the alluring rabbit food bag that crackled in my arms, Big Mama was having none of it.

Ah! The sense of freedom beneath those paws as she clawed the neighbor’s lawn! I began to admire her for her smarts as we shooed her back into the garage. She hid under our sports car whilst we closed the doors to catch our breath.

“Maybe she’ll tire out.” Husband said flatly as he shuffled back into the dry house.

Strengthened from our breakfast, we set back outside to corner Big Mama in the garage. She slipped our grasp, scampering out into the rain. After chasing her 360 around the house, I finally nabbed her near the garbage cans. Wild-eyed and ready to box me with all her might, Big Mama seemed to give a sigh of relief when she returned to the safety of her cage.

“Freedom’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” I could almost hear her say. Sprawling out on her warm bedding, she immediately fell asleep to the licks of her grateful  brother.

Jonathan Franzen knows this. He penned a gargantuan novel aptly called Freedom that takes us to Minnesota, New Jersey and even West Virginia. A family tale of triumph, defeat and deviance, Freedom teaches us readers that while we may get what we truly desire, it’s not always what will make us happy.

Big Mama learned that lesson this morning. She taught me a great deal  in her cheeky  attempt at escape. Sometimes we need to break out of our cages to taste the other side of the grass. It is then that we realize our side of the fence is just fine too.

If you find yourself wanting to break free, do it so you know what it feels like. You may just find, however, that after all that effort, everything you were ever looking for has always been within your grasp.

Say what?

Huh?

You gotta be kidding me!?

Those are all ways of saying ‘no’. They may not be eloquent choices, but they get the job done. If you have trouble being that direct (and most of us do), there are gentler versions of ‘no’ that can be equally effective without the collatoral damage to your relationships. At any rate, one can consider the word ‘no’ as a powerful way to say ‘yes’ to yourself.

Building boundaries that empower you while encouraging others to respect you is a none too easy task, especially for the people-pleasers among us. It has been proven, however, that always saying ‘yes’ to others can lead to conditions as severe as burnout and depression.

Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald recently penned a book called Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love that shows readers how to set personal boundaries that will actually strengthen personal relationships. According to the authors, saying ‘no’ helps us to figure out who we are and who we want to be in our relationships. By setting boundaries, we keep our personal identities alive — and our personal relationships honest, balanced, and intact.

To directly quote Tina Turner: What does love have to do with it? In a word, everything.

Self-love is not narcissism. It’s a life-sustaining force. The authors offer several ways to build beautiful boundaries to let love in ~both from others and from ourselves.

How you are going to say ‘yes’ to yourself today?

What Do Your Boundaries Say About You?
By Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald
Adapted from Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love

In our lives — and in relationships — we create personal boundaries to define the space we call our own. We set boundaries and say “no” with our words, but even more so with our behavior and actions: we may tell white lies, come up with excuses, or throw ourselves into activities like work, working out, or volunteering — essentially creating boundaries by making ourselves unavailable.

Boundaries may sound negative, but in reality, they are very important and help to define our personal identities. For example, being the nurturer or a people-pleaser comes with boundaries that fit those roles. Being the boss or the guru comes with a different set of boundaries that keep those identities intact. In this sense, personal boundaries allow us to “locate” ourselves within relationships (or within the world) in a way that’s familiar and safe. Our boundaries help us to honor the balance between taking care of ourselves, and taking care of others.

Here are four practices that will empower you to update your personal boundaries and take ownership of your life:

Honor yourself. What parts of your life are in need of care or attention? On a daily basis, find simple ways to honor yourself. Choose three things you like doing every day, and then do them. You might pick something as simple as taking a walk, reading, or having lunch with family or friends. Whatever you choose, know that you deserve to have pleasure, so let pleasure be your guide.

Soothe yourself. Are you living the life you want to live? Or do you feel like you are stuck and don’t have a choice in what’s happening? In these moments, stop and recognize the feeling of “choiceless­ness,” check your assumptions, and acknowledge the needs and desires you’re afraid won’t get met. With practice, you will find that cultivating the awareness of choice is profoundly soothing to your soul.

Embrace choice. Every time we make a decision, we have an opportunity to determine a course of action: “Do I stay here and face the situation, or do I run out the door?” By recognizing that you have control over your own reactions, you’ll also have the opportunity to reinforce, change, or alter your boundaries.

Accept yourself and your life lessons. Shame and disappointment about our lives causes us to create false boundaries and interactions with the people we care about most. It’s important to accept who you are and what has happened in your life. When faced with a challenge or disappointment, ask yourself: “What is my lesson here? How is this challenge a way for my soul to grow?” Use your answers to create boundaries that reflect acceptance of your true self.

*****
Cyndi Dale is an internationally respected author, cross-cultural healer, and spiritual scholar with over 35,000 client sessions and trainings across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Andrew Wald, LCSW-C, is a psychotherapist with advanced certifications in Imago Relationship Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Together, they have co-authored the new book, Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love (June 2012).

Unless you live in a box, or maybe were offline for the last, I don’t know, few weeks, you must have heard about 2012′s supermoon, the full moon that appears to be the largest all year. That is because it is actually 14% closer  and 30% brighter than it is at its farthest point. Given its elliptical orbit around the Earth, the moon loomed last night at the apex of proximity called “perigee”.

At its peak, it cut through the crack between our curtain and the wall. Although it was cloudy last night, its illumination pushed through the sky like a rocket. I rolled over, gave it a smile and a wink, then rolled over again to my dreams.

Here’s NASA’s take on the supermoon. They should know. They’ve been there!

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