If you don’t know TED, drop what you’re doing and run, do not walk, to this site. An actor friend of mine got me turned on to this organization that hosts conferences on the most diverse subjects.

TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design. It was originally created to foster discussion about these areas by professionals in those fields. But it quickly went viral as countries around the world wished to partake in the conversation. In 2009 TEDx was born. It stands for independently organized TED event. On Friday, I attended one in Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart with a town center so quaint that it almost hurts.

My new friend, Albert Frantz, held the first talk of the day. He discussed the meaning of music and how to embrace dissonance because that is the very thing that makes the music interesting. Later he played a piece by Beethoven that gave me chills. In that moment I realized how healing music can be.

One of my favorite inspirational quotes about music is

Music is what feelings sound like.

I couldn’t agree more.

In the spirit of the mind-body connection, SANOSON is an example of a therapeutic approach to healing through music. It has been scientifically proven that you can regulate your heartbeat, blood pressure and more through its process. From a subjective standpoint, music has a centering and calming effect like nothing else.

So how can music help you bring more slow to your life?

Listen to a recording of African drumming or some other rhythmic beat. Dance to it. Let yourself really go for it as you become one with the instruments. We did this technique in my acting class yesterday. It was incredible how everyone in the room was transformed when they let the music flow through them. We were more concentrated, productive and, ultimately, happier for it.

I bet you will be, too.

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Where in the world is it legitimate to kiss a stranger, drink wine at lunch and ride on the water even during a lightning storm?

If you guessed Italy, you’re right.

If you have spent any time in Italy at all, you will know why it is the birthplace of the Slow movement. It’s not that Italians are, per se, turtle-like. In fact, they are quite efficient (even their trains are on time!). But what informs their unique power of slow is the way they embrace life itself.

“You want to stay all day? Okay! You want to leave, okay, too!” the resort manager exclaimed in June when we found ourselves not wanting to depart after having enjoyed a week of Italian sun. He ended up giving us a free night (and a bigger place at the week’s beginning). When we spent another two weeks there in August, we started to think maybe he was giving us the special treatment.

One day, he stopped by on his bike and smiled.

“I have an idea.”

I winked at him over my glass of Chianti and said, “I like your idea already.”

He told us of a friend who has a sailboat. He’d take us out for a four-hour sail around the harbor of Trieste, “if we felt like it.”

Boy did we ever! Despite the two-foot jelly fish that rolled around the harbor waters, we managed to get on and off the ten-meter sailboat without trouble. It was a perfect, windless day so the sailing part was definitely sloooow. We topped off the evening with a sunset dinner at a nearby restaurant whose salmon made me weep. It was that good!

The last day was a tad cloudy so I headed to Venice while the kids and my husband stayed at the resort for a final day of frolicking. There I learned the water taxis are as punctual as the trains. As we skippered along the ocean to the island of Lido where the Venice Film Festival is being held, I pretended to ignore the lightning flashing behind my new friend’s head. He distracted me with his recounting his latest film in which he plays a priest murderer. I couldn’t help but notice there was a priest sitting in the boat so I felt a blend of relief and fear that my actor friend may have had ideas!

The next day, we unwillingly left our beloved Italian resort on the island of Grado and returned to Germany. We couldn’t help but notice the different pace of life immediately.

It’s good to be home with Italian memories in our suitcase, waiting for the next time to unpack the joy of slow under the Adriatic sun.

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All that we’ve ever looked for has been within us all along. That is the lesson of Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist.

In Power of Slow terms you might find this quote to be the same thing. When we love the moment, we unleash exponential possibilities.

Love the moment, and the energy of that moment will spread beyond all boundaries. -Corita Kent

How will you love the moment today?

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Shifting Left of Center

July 19, 2010

True inspiration comes from a deep listening that we seldom embrace in our go-go existence. As a writer, I have found it essential to take pause to capture the Voice within. Creative articulation is relentless in granting itself expression. If I don’t pay attention, the Voice finds someone else who will as I’m busy doing something else. It is a sad moment when I look up to see Voice’s dust cloud galloping off without me.

Janis Hui from The Heart Forum left a most wonderful comment about my piece On Savoring that is most appropriate to this notion. She writes:

Not only we do we need quietude for the creative process, we need it from time to time to maintain our sanity.  Without making a point to slow down and reflect, it’s all too easy to get lost in the rat race and forget if all that we are busy doing is aligned with our authentic selves.  We might think what we do is aligned with our center when we set out to do things but our centers also shift as time goes on. If we took the time to check in with ourselves, we would be able to notice these differences and make adjustments along the way.

Isn’t that so true? If we clutched doggedly to a purpose that no longer serves us, wouldn’t we tend to go faster and harder, thinking more effort will lead to a better outcome?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Moments of reflection are necessary, not just for the writers among us, but for everyone on the planet. That is why meditation, retreats and renewal ceremonies are so important. Whether you are renewing your marital vows or celebrating thirty years in business, we need to formally recognize our commitments. It helps strengthen our resolve and place us back on task.

Yesterday I met with a dear friend whom I have know for a while. She helped me on several book projects and has been my champion in so many ways. As we caught up each other on our lives, she paused for a moment and said, “How do you do it all?” I thought for a moment, then answered: “I only do things that serve my ultimate purpose.”

Like an interwoven tapestry, one thing feeds the next. Everything we do must feed our soul. If it drains us, we must move on. That includes listening for the shift in our center, checking in with ourselves every now and then, and allowing things to unfurl naturally.

My motto today? Let it happen and be witness to the grace of this lifetime for it is here, nestled deep within.

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Publishing a book about slowing down can be a daunting task for any self-respecting house. The publisher engages in a game of risk that the author might not deliver on time because she has drunk the Kool-Aid too much, bringing her project to a screeching halt before it has even taken off. Will she take her slow principles so seriously as to dodge deadline and head for the beach instead? Truth be told, I’ve never written a book so fast in my life.

The irony of writing a book such as The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World is the method in which it was created. I went about applying the very principles I discuss because, after all, practicing and preaching go hand in hand. While the title implies a turtle’s pace, I actually found myself in a semi-permanent state of flow, as if forces beyond my understanding had housed my writer’s mind. Not unlike my other works, the title took form first, followed by the structure. Because I work well with a framework, it seemed to make sense to design the book with an equal number of principles in each of the first ten chapters, then leave the most powerful, and most simple, principle for last. Without my knowing, the final principle was the same one that informed all the rest, making a neat package to present the reader with a satisfying ending. When I huddled with my agent about the idea, it seemed to stem from nowhere. In reality it was a compilation of various germinating ideas that bloomed at the right moment.

Writing a book can be overwhelming, bringing about what Germans call the innerer Schweinehund, the inner pig-dog also known as our procrastinating selves that offer textbook reasoning as to why now is never a good idea. If you lack a certain level of organizational skill, the inner pig-dog licks its chops as you suffer the consequences of your own behavior. Any publisher would agree procrastination leads to a domino effect. You simply can’t afford to put off today what you can do tomorrow.

While not a procrastinator, I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly well-organized person. One look at my desk reveals a lazy chaos of deserted thoughts: the cell phone charger interlaced with a stapler; unusable pens in an upside down CD tower top; two TV media clips from recent segments I’ve done; and old tickets from performances that haven’t made it to the scrapbook I’ve been meaning to do since my first child’s arrival (she is eleven). Bobbing above the chaos are two pictures of my children whose encouraging faces remind me why I engage in storytelling on virtually a daily basis.

The power of slow is a mental state, and while some organization experts would chastise me for my failing discipline, I know exactly where everything is. I consider the creative chaos to be visual cues to our human dilemma: life isn’t all sharpened pencils and dust-free surfaces. If my desk were battened down in controlled rows of calm, I’d never be in a position to unleash the creative fury dwelling deep inside. I managed to write a book in record time (before the January deadline), despite the uneven stacks of paper gracing my office floor. Sound like I’m making excuses? Perhaps I am.

Productivity is a term with deep implications in Western society. If we obtain it, we are considered successful. If we don’t, we are not. While writing The Power of Slow, I examined why we do the things we do such as obsessive email checking or excessive texting. It’s not particularly productive, nor does it add to our well-being. Why do we spend so much time with our gadgets in a virtual realm of connectivity? We ignore the people standing right beside us, interrupt them when our phones ring, and talk more animatedly into a headset than to our fellow peers in the next cubicle. In effect, we waste the units in our personal bank account of time, often engaging in useless activity.

Where are our manners? Where is our mindfulness for ourselves and others? We are in danger of becoming drones in a drama of our own making. We need to act fast in order to slow down.

Unplugging for two weeks, I gathered up my family, who had already begun showing signs of book fatigue by late August, and took them to the Adriatic coast for some fun in the sun. Saddled down with seven books, I had read and highlighted every single one by the last day of vacation. Living the slow, I strolled along the pool one day when it hit me. I could actually hear the sound of my own flip flops as they slapped my heels in rhythm to the burbling water before me. Inspired, I grabbed a notebook and jotted down a few ideas about walking speed and the pace of life. The flip-flop principle of checking how fast we walk by noting the speed of the slap was born. Many more ideas followed in rapid succession. In fact, the modernized fable of the unplugged tortoise and the online hare in the prologue arrived right on time as I banged out chapter after chapter while sitting in a hotel room in Budapest.

The beauty of the Internet is a writer’s ability to work and live virtually anywhere. With this malleability comes the danger, not just for writers, but for any transient worker, of an unabashed, hyperconnectivity that zaps our life force for all its worth. Admittedly, I had one media interview (ironically about slow living) while in Italy, and a client call while in Budapest. These minor distractions reminded me that there is a world waiting for us all whenever we choose to visit, but that how we live now is all there truly is.

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The Power of Why

May 12, 2010

 During a recent acting workshop with the gracious and gorgeous Gabrielle Scharnitzky, I learned the importance of asking ‘Why’ above all else. The motivation of the character informs everything that follows. Ask yourself what the character believes (the ‘why’) and the actions (the ‘what’) and the movements and words (the ‘how’) will automatically fall into place.

Simon Sinek also speaks of the power of why in leadership. When we are clear about our beliefs, we attract others who believe as we do. And that is the beginning of a movement.

I believe in the right to determine our own pace of life. Why do you believe in the power of slow?

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Slow going

February 9, 2009

If you have ever tried something new, you know how slow going it can be. That is perhaps one reason why we procrastinate. Vacuuming the home office floor is ultimately more appealing than facing our inner demons. blubThat’s when you create a plan in your head. Bite-sized pieces make your progress seem more visible.

I’ve started thinking about a screenplay idea. In fact, I have so many ideas they seem to be a jumble in my mind. So I’ve written the ideas down to clear my head for the most creative thoughts possible. You have to get rid of the junk to get to the jewel. The writing process can be slow going, especially if you don’t have the practice. Since I’ve never written a screenplay before, I have to amass lots of knowledge first, and pay attention to the ideas by writing them down on colorful cards.

What types of projects have you always wanted to start, but never had the patience to finish? Perhaps it is time to dust off that idea and go for it. It’s amazing what energy you can unleash when you do.

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