Are You a Life Architect?

November 16, 2012

Actually, you are. Everyone is. Each of us builds our lives by the decisions we make.

Because I am susceptible to gloomy thoughts on gloomy days, I carefully contemplated how to spend my fall and early winter. It occurred to me that I could avoid what I used to think was the inevitable seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that plagues me at this time of year if I were to reconstruct the way I do things around the holiday season. So, like an architect, I drafted up a blueprint of how I’d like to feel.

“Cheery, joyful, at peace,” I wrote at the top of the page. Knowing that lack of sunlight makes me less than happy, I booked a flight to California, the sunniest place on the planet, or so it seemed, the morning after our arrival. It helped tremendously.

Even though I am back under a blanket of fog, just looking at the photos and videos I took remind me that the sun will shine again.

If you feel trapped, take a moment to consider what might be causing that feeling. Is it your circumstances or merely your feelings about your situation that are holding you back? Do you need a mindshift or a physical shift to release blocked energy to put you back into the flow of life?

Life architecture doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to deconstruct every aspect of yourself or your life to alter your plans. Perhaps you only need to tear down a wall or two to make room for new space. Or maybe you require an addition to your already fabulous construct to make yourself feel complete? It could be that you need a complete overhaul, in which case you’ll need to invite some friends to help you out.

What I have learned this year is that those friends are there, waiting for you in the wings, if you ask them. With hammers and pencils and casseroles in their hands, they want to contribute to you just as you have always contributed to them.

Architects rarely work alone. It takes a village to build something new. Assemble your award-winning team and get on with the business of life.

Your dreams are waiting for you. Build a life that welcomes them and I promise you they will come true.

~~~~

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How Big is Your Stress Box?

November 14, 2012

As I peered out into the night sky last night, I smiled at the inky darkness and thought what a sleepy little town I live in. An occasional beam of light shot through the air as commuters returned home after a long day at work. Breathing in the nocturnal dampness, I wondered how such a place could also be a showcase for so much stress: not externally, mind you. But internal turmoil can be found even here.

I began an inquiry as to how big our stress box needs to be to handle the daily demands of modern living. Even in as pastoral a place as this cow town that I’ve called home for ten years, I wondered what it takes to push the limits of that stress box to one in which you never touch its sides. What is required to leap from the box into a state of peace and calm?

We all have stress boxes of various sizes. Some of us touch the sides of our self-imposed cage rather quickly. We hit the edge, explode (or implode, depending on your nature), and lash out about us. Others rarely touch the sides of their box, having recognized how much room they need to expand and contract with ease.

Lately I have seen the sides of my stress box a tad too often, but once I recognize that it’s a box of my choosing, the sides seem to vaporize like an apparition of my own imagination.

How big is your stress box?

The Lessons from the Moon

October 26, 2012

Do you doubt the moon’s existence, even if it is not in sight?

In times of darkness, do you wonder if the sun will ever shine again?

If you have ever witnessed the passing clouds on a dark night, you will know that the Unseen often speaks louder than that which you can see. Like feelings that soar through you, it is an ephemeral moment of grace. It is a reminder that you are alive as you search inside for your deepest truth.

We never know what curve balls life will throw at us. At times we feel as though we are the moon itself, floating majestically on its elliptcal path around the Earth. At other times we see ourselves as the hidden moon, caught behind a web of clouds for no one to see us as we truly are.

There was a time when people believed the Sun revolved around the Earth. Gallileo got in serious trouble for questioning that belief. But he stuck to his principles even in the face of anger and fear. He was a brave man in haunting times. I would like to have that much courage.

We are lucky to live in times when we are not persecuted for believing whatever we wish to believe. And yet we are often held hostage to the beliefs of others, forced to conform even when we know what we believe to be true. If you are feeling a moment of weakness, look to the moon for answers. It will tell you that this too shall pass.

At times the moon appears to be half-full, when in truth it is always the same. It holds itself back in the shadows of the Earth, waiting for the moment to shine in its entirety for just one night.

No matter where you are on this planet as you read this, you have your own unique view. You have every right to the view you hold. The question is whether the view you have is allowing you to live in your most empowered state? Whether hidden or in full view, you are here.

You may not always be able to shine in the fullness of you. But know that every part that you have is worthy of that light. You are worthy of being seen, heard and experienced in all your glory.

The moon has taught me so much about the staying power of perseverance. The moon knows what it is here to do. I think I know it too. Do you?

 

The Power of the Night

October 24, 2012

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, fretting that you cannot sleep? Does it distress you beyond belief that you are awake when it seems that the rest of the Earth is not? Have you ever considered what an opportunity it is to be aware in that moment of wakefulness? That it is a gift to be alive?

A friend once told me that before electricity, people would sleep at odd hours, wake up whenever they did and used their time to make love, think or even talk to one another? The clock did not dictate their days.

In our modern age of productivity, we are forced into a rhythm that our bodies often reject. If you “suffer” from insomnia, I ask you to consider the power of the night.

Nighttime has a special quality of solitude and introspection that we don’t often get during the day. No phones are ringing, no demands are tugging at you, no secretaries telling you to sign this paper or that. All you have is the sound of your own heartbeat, pumping in your chest as sure as night follows day. In those quiet times of wakefulness, you have received a gift that we often deem a curse. It is time for you to simply be.

Nighttime offers you the moon, bright and shiny, smiling down at you to remind you that the sun is shining somewhere on the planet where you might not be. It gives you the stars and the brilliance of the planets that encircle themselves with the force of an ever-expanding Universe.

The night offers you the sound of the trees and the last falling leaves before they make their final descent, saying farewell to the time they have spent with you.

It gives you the hoot of an owl, resting placidly on a branch to let you know you are not alone. You are never alone.

The night encompasses you in its dark cloak, hugging you with a power far greater than you can imagine.

It gives you a chance to listen to your breath and the sound of children laughing in their sleep.

When sleep alludes you, remember that the rhythm that keeps you awake has a story to tell.

That story is your life. Your time.

That story, my dear one, is you.

The Art of Listening

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.


Then, as with any kind of language acquisition, we start to talk and talk and talk, but rarely really hear.

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?

The Oneness of Us

October 15, 2012

The Golden Rule says: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The idea isn’t new. It is a standard that rests on the belief that we are all one.

What we do to others really matters. And what we do to ourselves matters too. If we engage in negative self-talk, we aren’t only harming ourselves; we are also cheating the world of our best contribution. You wouldn’t inflict violence on someone close to you so why do you think it is acceptable to do that to yourself, the person to whom you are the closest of all?

As I have mentioned before, we all have a personal echo that resounds much farther than we realize. During a recent conversation with 10-Second Philosophy author Derek Mills, he helped me see that our impact on others may sometimes be invisible, but can be felt nonetheless. We don’t know what kind of effect we have on people and the ripples that occur as a result. Something we do, such as a smile, a kind word or a lengthy exchange, could change the entire chemistry of the room without our being aware of it.

The fun part is becoming aware of your impact and acting in the trust that what you do makes a difference. How? All you need is love ~ love yourself and others. Let it be your interpretor. It will guide you to the right path every time.

If you doubt how interconnected we all are, consider the image of each of us as a wave in the ocean. One wave is small; another is large. Sometimes two waves meld into a larger wave; sometimes they give birth to a third. But every one of the waves is headed to the shore and will eventually land there. We may be going in different directions, but the cycle of life dictates that the push and pull can only occur in concert with one another. Too much pushing leads to a tsunami, a state of destruction and radical change. But even then, the water eventually recedes.

The water that is in the Indian ocean will evaporate into a cloud and possibly move to another body of water as a raindrop. Such is the nature of all things.

Whether you are a raindrop or a wave today, how will you touch the world? I want to kiss the sky like a raindrop and ride the clouds for a while. And you?

That last statement of the pitch was what really hit home. As a long-time blogger, I receive countless pitches from PR folks about their various products, causes and ideas. It is rare that I respond to one, mainly because a good story is really hard to find amongst the massive onslaught of commercialized messages.

But this one is a story worth telling.

Christy Turlington Burns, Every Mother Counts

It is a fact that when women are healthier, societies overall are healthier.

Global health advocate and former model Christy Turlington Burns is participating in the ING Marathon on November 4 along with Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter, World Renowned Tattoo Artist Scott Campbell, The Smile Co-Owner Carlos Quirarte, Oiselle Founder/CEO Sally Bergesen and 45 other runners, to raise money and awareness for her non-profit organization, Every Mother Counts (EMC). To expand the reach of this effort, Every Mother Counts is calling on supporters everywhere to create their own team, and participate in a 5K run/walk in their town on November 4 while the EMC team hits the pavement in New York City.

Did you know that 5k is less than the average distance a pregnant woman in the developing world must travel to receive the basic health care she needs to deliver her baby?

Let’s face it. 5K is simply too far to walk for a woman who is 9 months pregnant, in labor, and has no access to transportation.  By walking or running in communities across the country, Every Mother Counts aims to raise awareness of this simple but devastating barrier and empower people everywhere to get involved in helping women to overcome it.

How to join: It is as simple as grabbing a couple of friends and going for a 5K run/walk during the official ING New York City Marathon. Make a sign, tell friends on social media about your efforts. Then share your photos and stories with Every Mother Counts on our facebook page or by email at info@everymothercounts.org.

Three additional ways to help support the un-official run:

1.       Purchase the official Every Mother Counts marathon team shirt for your team and all proceeds will go to EMC. This year, team EMC will be outfitted by Oiselle, a growing women’s apparel company dedicated to female runners and EMC’s official athletic apparel sponsor. You can purchase team jerseys from the “EMC Collection,” on oiselle.com, and 40% of the proceeds will go to Every Mother Counts.

2.       Join our Team by setting up your own CrowdRise page here and have friends and family sponsor your run by making donations through CrowdRise. All proceeds will go to EMC.

3. Please use Charity Miles, a free app that enables you to earn 25¢ per mile for Every Mother Counts, whenever you walk or run. It’s a free, easy way to raise both money and awareness for Every Mother Counts.  And you can use it any time you walk or run— even if you’re not doing a full 5K.  Please download the app to your iPhone or Android today. Every Mile Counts!

I’ve downloaded the app, which is based on your GPS so it is best to use outside (and not indoors where I tried to log exactly how much distance I run up and down the stairs all day).

You win through exercise. Pregnant women win through the help they need.

Let’s run/walk so others don’t have to.

Busting Buddha’s Knees

October 12, 2012

It was not one of my finer moments. Eyeing the soft, dry grass, I knew it was a now-or-never moment to whip out the lawn mower for the final cut of the season.

In between phone calls, I raced around the house, collecting the extension cord and my tennis shoes for a quick jaunt around the yard with our electric mower. I read Buddha, power of slow, slow living, slow movementsomewhere that grass clippings act as a natural fertilizer so I opted to mow without the clipping basket, making the mowing experience a tad louder and messier.

That’s when my neighbor decided to say hello through the hedge. In my breathlessness, I waved her off, although I hadn’t seen her all summer.

“Things to do!” I shouted over the mower’s drone.

“That’s right,” she said flatly. “You never have time.”

Ouch.

How could this be? Did I really give my retired neighbor the feeling I never have time for a chat over the fence? Did she feel slighted because I wouldn’t turn off my mower and have a gab in the light of the setting sun?

Maybe she heard the ticking of the clock in my cranium. I was busy and gave her the feeling she wasn’t important.

Back at the task, I sloppily pushed the mower around for a few minutes until our tiny lawn had been slaughtered into a diminutive version of itself.

As I flew back into the house, I caught the extension cord on the pedestal where my Buddha statue placidly rests. He tumbled to the ground, leaving a dent in the wood floor and shattering his right knee.

It was a sign that I needed to slow down. Now.

In that moment, I knew what I had to do. I headed back outside and called out to my neighbor.

“Where have you been, my friend?” I asked her calmly. She smiled. A warm exchange ensued. She suddenly felt heard, important, loved. It made me smile from the inside out.

I’m sorry, Buddha, for shattering your knee in the process. But since my mom saw the Dalai Lama live last night, I hope you’ll forgive me.

It’s a lesson I hope I’ve learned for the last time.

A Genuflection to Nature

October 10, 2012

Nature, in all its beauty, waves a last goodbye before winter. As a harbinger of the coming cold, it bursts with color one last time. A sweet, yet sorrowful moment of another season departing. But as with everything, the seasons go full-circle.

What is dawn without the night? What is warmth without the cold? What is connection without moments of disconnection?

Nothing is ever lost. It merely transforms. As you enter a new phase in your life, remember there is a reason for every season. Beauty in all things, my friends.

Fall Foilage, power of slow

Your Life: Summed Up

October 9, 2012

The average American spends nine years of his life watching television and two million commercials. Only two weeks of his life is spent kissing another person. Imagine if those numbers were reversed (and probably are in some countries!).

The average Joe spends 4,050 hours at a standstill in traffic (that is the equivalent of 506 nights of sleep), 4,320 hours at traffic lights, 5,365 hours talking on the phone and 122,400 hours working. He will have walked 35,000 miles in a lifetime, which is equal to walking from Paris to Shanghai and back ~ twice. At the same time, he will drive 798,000 miles: That’s 3.5 times to the moon and back.

If you look at these staggering statistics, it makes you realize how much of our time is spent with machines, not Nature or even each other. It makes me want to hug a tree and remember that we are all connected to everything: Not just through Facebook, but through our ultimate purpose in life, which is to love each other with all our might.

How will you spend your day today?

Life Summed Up

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