No Quantum Leaps Required

November 5, 2012

Stumbling blindly through life is something I have found myself doing whenever I leave the path of my vision. When my inner sight is clouded, I get lost in a place much like a damp, dark well. The only thing that accompanies me is the drip, drip, drip of my weirdest thoughts.

Vision questRecapturing your vision takes courage, especially if you are apt to think of everyone else’s welfare but your own. To stand in the strength of your own truth is a daunting task when it is at odds with what society deems acceptable. Rather than carry the inner conflict out into the world, we bury it deep inside, fearful of the reaction our environment might have about our wildest dreams.

Mae West said good girls don’t change the world. Stepping out of our self-made prisons is the first thing required. Self-understanding informs everything we do. So if we think we can’t do something because it’s not proper or we’re worried about what other people will think, we’ve totally missed the point that this is our life and we get to decide how to live it.

Building a vision is a lot like building a house. You first need a plan. How many rooms do you want to build? How big should they be? What is the reason for the space you are creating?

Then you need to find the resources: what can you afford to take on, what not? What kind of materials will you need to support the house you want to build?

Then comes the execution. Will you build the house yourself or hire help to do so? How long do you anticipate the implementation will take? Are you flexible enough to accept delays or last-minute changes? Can you live with the outcome, even if it isn’t perfect?

Coming to the light is what your vision is all about. When you have a focus, things fall into place more easily than if you have no clue what you are doing. You don’t need to know every last detail. Trust that what you feel is right. It will guide you to where you need to go next.

Baby steps will get you there. No quantum leaps required.

It never ceases to amaze me how selective our memories can be. My best friend remembers things from our school days that I can’t even conjure up in a dream. I have no recollection whatsoever of some experiences, while she can’t remember other things I do. I am not certain whether it was our adolescent minds, not yet fully developed, that allowed for such lapses in our memories or if we are simply wiser today and carefully choose what to remember.

We place blinders on to filter information. Our world would otherwise be too overwhelming if we were to take in every nuance in our surroundings. But lifting the blinders, if only a little, would also widen our lens and our view of things.

They say we tend to get more narrow-minded as we get older. Our horizon shrinks, our attention span shortens. But what if we were committed to fully embrace every aspect of a moment as it is laid out in front of us instead of putting it through our translation machine of meaning-making nonsense? What if we were to take on the entirety of the experience, such as eating an ice cream cone on a sunny day, instead of checking our smartphone while we lick away at it? Would we have a different memory of it then?

There aren’t many things we do with a singular focus, except perhaps sleeping. Even then, our subconscious mind is active, feeding us dreams and processing data in its memory bank of time.

Dreams can be helpful for memory recall. I recently had a dream about an actual car accident I had ten years ago. In my dream, the car swerved toward another car. All I could think in my dreaming mind was :”This is it.” I had a similar thought in real life as the car turned 180 degrees one way, then bounced back in the other direction, but luckily there were no cars in sight. In my dream, I was ready to take on death with a singular beat. It was a moment of full acceptance of the experience.

In our dreams we are capable of doing things we can’t do in real life, such as fly. But the symbolic meaning behind the dreams, such as the one I had, can tell us a lot about what we are really thinking.

Pay attention to your dreams for they are the land mine of our memories. If you can’t remember your dreams, go to bed at night telling yourself you will remember at least one aspect of the next dream you have. As you wake up, write it down right away. After a time, you might start to be able to remember more. You might also start to see patterns.

In your waking moments, absorb the entirety of one experience today. It might not help you remember your dreams any better, but it will help you remember the life you lead.

Out of Control

September 28, 2012

Our modern age has given us so many new tools to manage ourselves. iPhones, laptops, PCs, traffic navigators, you name it. In effect, these gadgets offer us a semblance of control. And feeling in control is necessary for our mental health.

And yet we really aren’t in control as much as we think we are. That is why Facebook is so intoxicating. Updating your status, checking in with others, posting feelings, thoughts and memories provide us with pseudo-connection with others. But we don’t really hear their voices, feel their feelings or see their faces as they express these things. In addition, Facebook is another way of controlling our image. I like to call it Fakebook because in reality, who is going to admit that they just did something less than reputable, yet perhaps very human?

As connected and controlled as our lives appear, it is a virtual world we create when we use these social media platforms. Our real lives on the ground are the ones we need to nurture the most because there is no substitute for a physical hug when you need it.  It takes a moment of thought. It takes a human touch. And it takes time.

Everything else is a neatly controlled world, a cartoon version of ourselves.

I’m for being real. Are you?

 

3 Steps to Nirvana

September 10, 2012

Strolling across countless Tuscan piazzas from Florence to Siena to Pisa to Lucca, Italy, one cannot help but see the birthplace of the Slow Movement with Slow Eyes. The three-hour siestas, the wine, pasta and beautiful shops are breath-taking. Around every corner is a new sensation in which to immerse yourself. Even the air tastes good in Italy, at least in Tuscany where we spent six glorious days with the top down in our two-seater, pretending we lived there without a care in the world.

Nirvana under the Tuscan Sun

Perhaps it is the sea that tightly hugs both coasts that brushes away the soot and smell of modern life. Or perhaps it is the sun that kisses your face in relentless delight. Your skin absorbs the light, entering your heart in a constant wave of glowing warmth.

Can you tell that I’ve fallen in love?

Yes, Italy is an amazing place. For the past two weeks that I’ve been on vacation, I have experienced the world with immeasurable delight. As a writer, I must live in order to feed my creative source. So it was my mission to live life to the fullest and report back to you on what I found.

And what I found was Nirvana.

It started in Paris where I began my Slow travel. The city cast a spell on me as I wandered about the cobblestone streets, practicing my French and remaining in constant awe at the grace and refined, yet celebratory nature of the people there. Whoever says the French are arrogant are simply wrong. They know how to live…and eat. Three-hour lunches? Absolutely!

I realize now that anyone can experience Nirvana at any given moment (a beautiful setting helps expedite the process, of course!). It takes practice to get there, but it is possible. In my view, there are three essential steps one must take to reach that place.

1. Harmony

One must first enter a harmonious space. It starts with our thinking about things. If we are in conflict over something, harmony is hard to find. When we adapt our thinking to embrace change, challenges and upsets, we enter a state of Flow. Flow leads to better decisions, which leads to better action, which leads to more Flow.

See what I mean? Harmony is a habit based on your thinking about, then reactions to, the things that happen.

2. Bliss

Bliss is the next step. Once we have reached a level of harmony in our every day lives, we are open to the sheer joy of being without conflict. Everything passes through us without judgement or scrutiny. We reach an inner peace that passes thinking to a true state of beingness. Our brains are still operating, but our emotions have been disengaged from their dependency on external circumstances.

This state is Flow to the nth degree.

3. Nirvana

Also known as Enlightenment, this stage is pure Heaven. Everything is in alignment with everything else. There is nothing to do, want or even be. You are in complete Oneness with All That Is.

Getting to Nirvana is a highly personal experience, but it is a journey worth taking. We all have our own path with many bumps, twists and curves in the road. Slow Travel helps get us there if we are willing to take on the world with a different set of glasses.

And who knows? Your Nirvana might co-mingle with someone else’s. Imagine the fun that would be!

 

Simple Pleasures

August 19, 2012

Last year was the year of leisure travel. We visited the United States twice. A little over the top maybe, but we wanted to visit relatives and take a family vacation too. Living biculturally as we do, we often feel obliged to spend the majority of our vacation time visiting our US family, which is nice. But it also takes a lot of time, planning and preparation.

This year we declared the year of flow, which meant not meticulously planning every moment of leisure we had at our disposal.

And it has worked out beautifully.

We made room for life’s simple pleasures. An overnight jaunt here (me without the family ~ imagine!), a day trip there, a concert or two, a walk through the English Garden with friends and intra-European fun without jetlag, passport control or super-strict-dead-eyed-US-aiport-security-personnel whose killer glance could slay you eternally if you let it.

In other words, we allowed awareness to take over: the pleasure of awaking to a bird’s song; the beauty of observing the hops fields grow pregnant with their plump buds; a carefree trip to the public pool simply because it’s hot and we have the time.

A four-day trip to Paris with Daughter may sound extravagent by any measure, yet I am certain her greatest memory will not be  the sights we saw, but the taste of that first chocolate crêpe at the base of the Eiffel Tower. She talked about it the whole time. Who needs Versailles when you can have Nutella wrapped in a warm pancake?

What juicy pleasures can you bring to your own life? Celebrate their simplicity. They are the fabric of your existence. And the best ones really are free, especially when you experience them with the people you love.

Take some time for the little miracles that await you today. They are there, ready for the taking if you have the eyes to see them and the heart to embrace them with all your might.

The papers in my office must copulate at night because I swear to you I have recycled, tossed and filed for weeks and it keeps on coming.

The Grand Canyon

In yet another vigorous act of purging, I recently threw out reams of grade school notebooks that my children will never glance at again. In doing so I came across an archived document of my own that brought me to my knees. It was an old book proposal for a kindness project I so firmly believed in that I even contacted the Dalai Lama to see if he wanted in on it.

He politely declined.

But what moved me more than my unexpressed passion on those pages in that moment was the inner knowing that we can all move the world with our special kind of awesome, even if things, such as my book project on kindness, don’t work out as you’d like.

In the wise words of singer-songwriter Lori McKenna, sometimes your life turns out better than you can even imagine.

If you read my post on the pretty pictures in our heads, you will know that what we envision and what really happens are often two separate events. The arc of our suffering is determined by the level of our attachment to the outcome of our expressed desires. With the law of attraction, we are led to believe we can fully manifest our destiny. And to some degree I believe that is true. We have more influence over our lives than we care to admit. We can consciously engage in the universal energy force field that pulls in whatever we call out to. That is what happens anyway, whether we do it consciously or not. We bring in the lessons we need to learn time and again until we have really learned them.

If we take full personal responsibility for our lives, we would no longer look around at others to blame for our unhappiness. Do you want to be happy? Guess who you’ve got to love first?

Yup. That’s right. You.

If you spend your time trying to please others, you will be left depleted. I continue to learn that lesson and recognize my own conditioning in that area. If you raise others up while doing the same for yourself, you are on a path to joy. And your awesome will grow in kind.

Maybe one day that kindness book will get written and His Holiness will decide to play with me after all. In truth, it doesn’t matter either way. If I live the principles set out in that untold work, all the effort I put into writing it will have been worth it just the same.

How will you move the world with your awesome today?

The Choice is Yours

August 6, 2012

I’m going to tell you a secret. Life is based on choice. Every bit of it. Whether you choose to wear white or gold or red or blue; whether you choose to react this way or that; whether you choose pancakes and sausage or fruit and yoghurt for breakfast.

You are the summary of all your choices. You are the progenitor of your reality.

That is not to say you are not influenced by external circumstances. Where you live (and with whom) informs a lot about your every day being. But it changes nothing about your true self, the soul that you are in eternity.

You get to be that spirit no matter where you are.

So when I see images like this one, I am blown away by the vastness that our lives can offer. It inspires and, yes, humbles me to think what a great opportunity we have to choose how we spend our time every day. And that awareness makes me more grateful than you can imagine.

Can you feel it?

 

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?

The Energy of Slow Food

June 15, 2012

When you live life with an open heart of compassion and love, the most amazing thing happens. You start to resonate with people on a level you may not have thought possible.

Take my recent visit to the butcher shop as an example. As I watched the sales lady slice the ham, I was enthralled by her loving hands. You could simply tell she respected her work and the products she delivered. Slow food at its best! It made not only for a great shopping experience, but for a great ham sandwich afterward!

Food is energy, like anything else. If you have seen the movie Like Water for Chocolate based on a Mexican novel by Laura Esquivel about a young woman who passes her love (and other emotions) on through her cooking, then you will know how much food can affect a person.  It’s not only the quality, but also the intention that is passed on through it.

For a fun Friday treat, enjoy watching one of the best clips of the movie. It puts mindful eating into a whole new light. Yum.

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!

 

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