November 1, 2012
Whenever I board a plane, train or automobile to a new place, I am guided by my internal GPS. Every interaction I have or person I meet opens my eyes in new ways. I am informed by the novelty of the situation, but also by the ever-unfolding plan of the Universe that places me right in the middle of whatever I need to experience. It is particularly astounding to me how many cool people fly on airplanes.
Waiting at the Dulles International airport with Husband, I noticed a cute young couple in the corner, sharing food and body warmth as we waited to board our five-hour flight to San Diego. Husband and I had to change seats at the gate to ensure we sat together so our once randomly assigned seats were once again rearranged for that purpose. In other words, I wasn’t supposed to sit where I did, but I am so glad it worked out that way. I met the most fascinating doctor-in-training who laughed with me across the continent. When we got up to stretch our legs, I noticed the cute couple was right behind me in the next row. That’s when the girl engaged me in some small talk. It turns out she and her husband were returning from their honeymoon cruise just in time to miss Hurricane Sandy. Then, to my delight, she asked me if I might go to lunch with her.
“I just love your light,” she beamed. I beamed back and we made a date. A few days later we spent a lovely few hours together, chatting over lunch then walking on the beach. We revealed that neither one of us was supposed to be in the rows we were sitting (she was supposed to be on a different flight altogether). I shared with her the mystical-magical that we all possess. She already knew that. What impressed me most was when she said we already have everything we need. At 24 years old, she knows who she is. I was encouraged that the next generation’s consciousness will be higher than ours.
Travel brings us closer to who we are, guiding us to people of all ages and backgrounds. It shows us that no matter where we are on the planet, we expand a piece of who we are when we are engaged with each other, just like the Universe itself.
Dance in the light, my friends, wherever you are. Know that everything will work out just as it should. And that you are not alone. Ever.
October 23, 2012
Behold the gift of silence. It marks the spaces between our thoughts. It cleans the edges of our minds. It gives us room to breathe.
Martin Heidegger once said: “We make space inside ourselves so being can speak.”
But do we really? Many people struggle with silence, as if it is the absence of something, like air or water or food to eat. But silence is a necessary, yet sorely lacking part of our day. When we enter the silence, we are greeted with our inner core. For many, it is a sad sight to see. Ruins formed by neglect float on the inside. It is painful to observe how poorly fed our true selves have become.
For years you may have had the habit of filling your time with distraction, not wanting to look inside yourself for what will truly make you happy. Then one day your body, the emissary of all thought, finally strikes you down with an illness or malaise. You are forced to notice something is not right. It affects everything about you. Your body knows.
Or perhaps you have forged on as a result of your circumstances. You held on to a belief system so tightly, even as it strapped you into a straightjacket of your own making. You knew something wasn’t right, but you held on for dear life to the only thing you were taught was true.
Only, it turns out, it wasn’t.
Then you receive a wake-up call, as we all do, to what is really going on inside your soul. It cries out for the nourishment it needs so badly. Some of us have pretty strong pain points. We can go on for years without paying attention to the deep-seated pain caused by ignoring our truest reality. Others more attuned to themselves feel it much more quickly and take action right away.
Wherever you are on your journey, know that this is your life. There are no mistakes, just experiences that change your direction. We each have a personal bank account of time. The choice is ours as to how we spend it.
Bathe in the silence today. It will speak louder than any words you can tell yourself.
October 16, 2012
Listening. It is a hard skill to learn.
The irony is we have an innate ability to listen. In fact, it has been necessary for our survival as a species.
Before we learned to speak, we had to listen to our parents.
Before we lived in safe housing, we had to listen for predators.
Before we had radio, television or the Internet, we had to listen to each other.
Before you can learn a foreign language well, you have to listen to a native speaker.
In observing my children, I have noticed that their adolescent brain development has made them unable to absorb certain kinds of sounds, such as the words “Clean up your room.”, “That dish belongs just left of where you put it, namely the dishwasher!”, or “Do you really think muddy shoes belong on your feet going up the stairs?” But teenagers aside, we adults have similar issues about listening to one another.
We only hear a fraction of what is really being said. A lot of it has to do with our filters through which we process information. She said, “X” so she must mean “Y”. We make up all kinds of meanings to interpret what a person has spoken based on our past experience.
But all we have is now. Every moment gives birth to a new possibility, a new world, a new way to enhance your relationships with others. If you let that world in, you wouldn’t believe what happens! All that tangled energy gets released. Blockages, like an ice cube in hot water, dissolve.
In Paulo Coelho’s book Aleph he writes:
“In magic -and in life – there is only the present moment, the now. You can’t measure time the way you measure the distance between two points. “Time” doesn’t pass. We human beings have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we’re always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn’t act as we should have. Or else we think about the future, about what we’re going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don’t want and how to get what we have always dreamed of.”
If we stopped for a moment to really be with that person who is talking instead of with our own brain chatter, we might hear the intended meaning more clearly.
We all have our assumptions that we carry into conversations. But imagine what it would feel like to remove those assumptions for just one of them you will have today. Instead of assuming your neighbor will be grouchy, thereby affecting how you will greet her, take away those pretenses with an open mind. Or what if your boss, whom you assume isn’t a morning person, is someone you don’t avoid this morning, but instead approach with the intention to listen to whatever he says. Draw closer and you might find he is dropping clues as to why his face is so mean every morning.
Every one of us leaves a trace of what we are really saying in the room; a deep listener can hear it.
I’m up for the challenge to listen better today. Are you?
August 26, 2012
“You always seem to know what you want,” a friend of mine recently told me.
Maybe I was born that way. I don’t know. However, one thing is for certain: you may not always get what you want, but if you don’t know what you want at all, you’re certain not to get it!
Mike Dooley’s Notes from the Universe recently said, “Go ahead. Want it all. Just be happy now or you might miss it when it comes.” Being abundant means you already have everything you need, want or could possibly desire and you’re just living all wrapped up in your own juicy with a big fat smile on your face. I am the happiest when I live that way.
But here’s the rub: if we make our happiness dependent on externals, we’re in trouble. That’s like giving away all your megawatts of power to everyone else but yourself. That’s like paying for everybody else’s gasoline but your own. That’s like, well, you know what I’m saying. And who wants that?
In his work entitled The Book of Secrets, Deepak Chopra writes:
“Doubt is a symptom indicating that you aren’t in contact with the knower inside. It usually means that you are looking outside yourself when you have to make a choice. Your decision is going to be based on externals. For most people, the strongest externals come down to what other people think because fitting in is the path of least resistance. But fitting in is like embracing inertia. Social acceptance is the lowest common denominator of the self – it’s you as a social unit rather than you as a unique person.” (page 96)
Now that explains it. I never fit in as a kid. And apart from your typical teenage angst, I have never doubted myself to the point of paralysis either. Perhaps it really is an innate sense of knowingness that we were born with and I was lucky enough to have people in my life to allow that part of myself to thrive.
Finding the knower inside is possible for anyone, even if you grew up in a strict society where conformity and social acceptance dominated your life. The trick is not to mix up the knower with the ego, which is the one usually bouncing around in your head saying, “Hey! Whattaboutme?!!” Yeah, that one. I know you know who I’m talking about.
So here’s a little guide that I’ve found helpful to getting to that still small voice within:
- First step: acknowledge that you have an inner voice that wishes to speak to you.
- Second step: Close your eyes and place your awareness around your heart where your inner voice resides.
- Third step: Ask that voice to say whatever it likes. Be patient. It may be hoarse from being silent for so long. Eventually, as your awareness deepens over time, it will begin to sing its song. Listen carefully.
- Fourth step: Practice listening to your inner voice every day. Before you get up in the morning may be a good time to offer it centerstage.
- Fifth step: Act on one thing your inner voice tells you to do. See what happens.
My guess? Magic will happen. Just you wait and see.
August 11, 2012
Pictures, pictures, look at all the pretty pictures! We have so many of them swirling around in our heads that they wouldn’t fit in even the largest museum.
Murals of how our relationships should be; canvases splattered with paint, depicting our perfect job, children, life. In our minds we create so many images of how we think life should be.
Then life happens.
The source of our greatest unhappiness stems from the clash of our pretty pictures with what we see before us. Our brains try desperately to converge the two, but to no avail. The result is confusion at best. Or maybe denial. Or in some cases, depression.
So what can we do?
Start with the gallery in your mind. Change out the pictures to reflect a new reality. Look at the outside from a different height and in a different light.
In other words, get real.
You’ve got an image in your mind that isn’t coinciding with the one on the outside. It simply isn’t jiving with what you thought should be.
In that case, you have some choices. By changing what you project from the inside out (from a new set of pictures of your own creation), the outside automatically changes. But it all stems from the inside, your ultimate source of light.
In his sixty-fifth book, Spiritual Solutions, Deepak Chopra speaks of three levels of awareness.
- Contracted awareness (the state of unhappiness, fear, anxiety). At this level you experience all problems, obstacles and struggles. You feel conflict and no way out. If you stay at this level, you become exhausted. And who wants that? Pas moi! So let’s move on.
- Expanded awareness (where solutions reside). Obstacles are easier to surmount; struggle dissolves. Your vision moves beyond conflict to what is possible.
- Pure awareness (bliss). Problems don’t exist on this level. Challenges are viewed as creative opportunities. You are in complete alignment with your highest purpose, with nature, with All That Is. You recognize your true self.
I have caught a glimpse of level three on numerous occasions in my life, but the truth is we move up and down this scale as we slide back into fear, remorse and sadness, then bounce up again to a renewed understanding of what happened and why. Deepak claims level three is our natural state, the state of pure consciousness. It is Enlightenment.
I’d like to get there, turning those pretty pictures into a warm mass of loveliness. Want to join me?
And if you haven’t had enough of Deepak and his wisdom, you can view him on Oprah’s Life Class taped from Radio City Musichall in New York City is just one more reason to view this video. The pulse of NYC vibrates through the screen.
August 1, 2012
If you are fed up with the pace of your life, you’re in luck because there’s a new book out dedicated to hard-working folks like you.
Susan Lipman, the brilliant blogger over at Slow Family Online, just penned a book aptly called Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World.
In it she provides parents a fail-safe guide to slowing down to offset the frenetic pace we all seem to be on. It’s a gentle invitation to get off the carousel and step back with doable activities that often require nothing more than our imagination.
The book is divided into Slow Activities, Slow Games, Slow Crafts, Slow Kitchen, Slow Garden, Slow Seasons, Slow Celebrations, Slow Travel, Everyday Slow and finally, Slow Parenting. My favorite section is the slow garden one because I love the outdoors and the simplicity of sending the kids outside to explore their backyard (I am reminded of the intention behind TurfMutt, a plant science curriculum for which I also work).
Fed Up with Frenzy gives readers very doable ways to reclaim family connection with simple activities that are also low-cost solutions. It’s every parent’s answer to “Mom! I’m bored!”
I swear I’m keeping it within arm’s reach during the kids’ summer vacation (which just started by the way. Yeah. Bavarians are weird like that).
Run, do not walk, to your nearest online or bricks and mortar store to get this guide. You, and your sanity, will be glad you did.
July 29, 2012
Gazing at the picture of my thirty-year-old self with a baby in my arms, I had no idea what life had in store for me then. Soon after the picture was taken, I was confronted with the dilemma so many working women face today: dueling priorities of both work and home life. Having arranged a part-time position in the marketing department of a major investment firm, I managed to work a forty-hour job in thirty. There was no balance: just 5 a.m. wake-up times, baby fevers and early pick-ups at child care in the middle of the day.
It was a nightmare.
In the sage words of Vickie L. Milazzo in her 2011 release Wicked Success is Inside Every Woman, “[i]f you haven’t been reduced to your breaking point one or more times in your life, you’re either very young or probably not a woman.”
Forget what self-help gurus tell you. Work-life balance does not exist.
In my view, work-life balance is a media sound bite that tries to remedy the conflicts working parents face every day. It is a myth primarily because the image evokes the sense that work and life are on opposite spectrums of our existence. In fact, they are not.
Anyone with a smartphone will tell you work bleeds into life after hours. If you are an entrepreneur or freelancer, such as myself (I soon discovered Corporate America would not support mothers they way I needed it to), you find yourself working at odd hours. Partly, it’s because we are passionate about what we do. Partly, it’s because our global world demands it.
What is possible is aligning your life with your truest purpose. Everything else cascades from that centerpoint. If you know what you are passionate about, your focus will be laser-like and the extraneous distractions that tug at your attention will fall away.
I recently chat with CBS This Morning correspondent Lee Woodruff, who is doing the opening keynote address at the upcoming Women’s Leadership Conference in Las Vegas August 14-15, 2012. When she offered up her view of work-life balance, I sat up and listened because her priorities have really been put to the test in her life. For those of you who are familiar with her husband’s story, Bob Woodruff replaced Peter Jennings in the ABC news anchor chair. For 27 days. That is, until a bomb in Iraq struck him while reporting there in 2006. His amazing recovery has been recorded in various places. Here’s one.
For someone who has been to hell and back, Lee is a remarkably resilient personality whose sense of humor is certainly her recipe for success (just ask her about the power of flannel nightgowns). Spending a few minutes on the phone with her was enough to boost my spirits skyward. Her writing will do the same for you. She’s just penned her first novel entitled Those We Love Most, which will be released in September 2012.
According to Lee, “there isn’t a balance. It’s a myth that we’re chasing. And we’ve done women a big disservice to say they can have it all.” She referenced a recent Atlantic Monthly article by former director of policy planning at the State Department Annie-Marie Slaughter that claims the current workplace and society at large are not equipped to deal with family life as a holistic part of an employee’s existence. The personal and the professional are held separately and not valued equally. Slaughter suggests that someone who trains for a marathon and puts in the early and late hours to reach his goal is considered disciplined, committed and admirable. Someone who puts in the same hours caring for a family is not regarded the same way.
Glibly put, family life, should it interfere with work at all, is regarded as an unspeakable part of yourself, like gastrointestinal issues. In current times, it is unprofessional to mention you might have a life beyond your cubicle.
Society dictates that you are ‘less than’ when you show you have family commitments outside of work. You are somehow subpar to those who really ‘dig in’ and don’t let pesky distractions such as a sick child or school matters interfere with more noble pursuits such as the bottom line. In fact, I have been told to say I have an off-site meeting to clients when really I’m attending my child’s concert. I was instructed that it is unprofessional to speak of such matters because it would indicate my attention is not 100 percent on the client himself. No one places 100 percent of their attention anywhere. That, too, is a myth.
We need to redefine what professionalism means. We are not robots. We are social beings in a broader network with other social beings. When will family life be as hip as Facebook?
Lee admits that she cannot have it all and that, whilst on the speaking circuit, her children aren’t going to get that home-cooked meal. She says you can still be a great mother and miss a few sports games. The trick is self-forgiveness.
“We’re calibrated as working women to have an entire sense of guilt because we can’t chase it all. Once we become kinder to ourselves, the whole thing is a lot easier to manage,” she admits.
In those moments when she has her kids on the phone complaining that she’s not there for a special event, she gives herself a pep talk afterwards. She knows she is there for the big things in their lives. With twelve-year-old twins and two older children, Lee has come to realize they will survive without helicopter parenting. In fact, they will do better as a result.
“Stay the course,” Lee advises. “We are the best judge of what is going on with our children.” Mindful parenting does not mean you are a hovercraft.
It’s time to toss the balance beam out the window and get real. Alignment with self, family and work is where it’s at.
July 24, 2012
Byron Katie asked herself a simple question as she lay in a half-way house, not sure if she would survive the next day.
“Is it true?”
It was the first time she actually challenged her own belief system, and what she found out was indeed much of what she had told herself was not true at all. She has since go on to become an international best-selling author and speaker who inspires thousands with her simple approach.
So much of what we tell ourselves is based on conditioning and filters we have placed over our eyes, shielded from the truth of ourselves and others. If we are able to build belief systems that disempower us, we are certainly capable of building truth-based ones that bring us more joy.
What good does it do the world to build broken systems that only serve to put ourselves down? What if Byron Katie, who continues to help the world, had not asked the question, is it true?
So much of our lives is ruled by our thinking. We say we don’t have time, we’re too busy, we’ll do it tomorrow. Did you know that tomorrow is a myth? We only ever have today.
It is time for us to move beyond our ears and eyes to let our hearts live too.
I’m game. Are you?
July 2, 2012
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~Aristotle
A few weeks ago I read a book by Google’s self-proclaimed Jolly Good Fellow, Chade-Meng Tan, aptly entitled Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).
Before you groan, “Not another self-help book whose content I’ll forget the minute I click off here…” hear me out. This book is based on an actual mindfulness training course given internally at Google. That the author has a quirky sense of humor makes it all the more enjoyable to read his work. Plus it has lots of pictures that made me laugh.
But on to mindfulness! Do you want to feel a natural high? Then read on.
The most memorable exercise for me was the Just Like Me/Loving Kindness Exercise adapted from Buddhist meditation practice. The objective is to increase your compassion and kindness, which thereby raises your own happiness level and, most likely, that of others too. It goes something like this:
Get into a comfortable position (I found sitting cross-legged to work well because lying down inevitably put me to sleep). Take two minutes to breathe deeply and quiet your mind.
Now visualize someone in your life. Say to yourself: “This person has a body just like me. This person has a mind just like me. This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me. This person has felt disappointment, fear, hurt, pain and confusion, just like me.” You could go on for some time, saying various things you know you share with this person. Then you end it with “This person wishes to be happy, just like me.”
The Loving Kindness part of the meditation involves wishing the person well. For instance, “I wish this person to be free from pain, to experience joy, to be extremely happy. Because this person is a human being, just like me.”
End the session by resting your mind for one minute.
I have only done this exercise once, but I was ready to hug the world after I did it. The book is filled with powerful exercises like this one. And it does require that you search inside yourself for your own golden nugget. You know, that lovely jewel resting deep within that wants to shine.
My jewel is blue. What color is yours?
June 28, 2012
What would people say about you if you left the room? Are you living a life of true intention?
I know it’s a heady question, but it’s one worth asking. Luckily, Bryan Clay, Olympic hopeful for this summer’s Olympics in London, started to ask himself that question before it was too late. In his new book, Redemption, Clay reveals his life story in great detail, such as how he had a very troubled childhood with parents who made their own share of mistakes. Throughout high school, and then later in college, he continued to ignore his highest athletic potential by drinking too much and engaging in dangerous behavior. It wasn’t until he met the woman of his dreams that he started to see a future beyond his current one.
Love can do that to a person.
Even then, however, he nearly lost his girlfriend because it took him a long time to realize the impact his partying was having on his relationship. The moment he changed his way of thinking, however, everything changed. A religious man, he began to see that he could indeed worship God through the sport instead of seeing his athletics and his spiritual practice as two separate things. He moved away from believing sports were a way to glorify himself; instead, they were a way for him to glorify God. Magically, his extreme partying dropped off.
The Big Picture can do that to a person.
“Keeping my priorities in the right order had brought me there,” he writes. He found Slow through God. Pretty darn cool.
So what do you think people would say about you if you left the room? Would they say you are kind, generous, emotionally available? Or would they consider you closed, disruptive, shut down and unreachable? As Maya Angelou says, people may not remember what you say, but they’ll always remember how you’ve made them feel.
My guess is you can make someone feel really good today. Maybe in the form of a hug or a smile. There is redemption for us all, and it only takes one baby step toward your own truth. Don’t be afraid of it because it is there to show you the way even when you are lost. Embrace that beacon of light for all it’s worth. When you do, you will be set free.
Slow can do that to a person.