Tap into Your Extraordinary

November 4, 2012

Your environment matters. If you live in a dark place, chances are you won’t feel as bright as someone who lives under the sun 365 days a year.

The landscape matters. If you are in an urban jungle, you might not feel as consistently grounded as someone who lives amongst the red rock of Sedona, Arizona, for instance.

I had the pleasure of visiting Sedona this week. Known for its vibrating vortexes of energy swirling up from the minerals in the ground, Sedona holds a special kind of vibe I have never experienced in my life. Go there and you will realign with your highest self. That’s all I have to say.

Sedona, power of slow, energy vortex

Sedona, Arizona

Even if you aren’t apt to make your way there, consider where you live as your sacred space. If your office is lifeless, without plants, water or some kind of sunlight, consider placing a portable water fountain on your desk. Place special rocks or other meaningful items around you. They hold positive energy, something everyone could use a little more of!

It is easy to tap into your extraordinary when you have peace of mind. All it requires is a little time to reflect, go inward and really listen to yourself. Take a few breaths, light a special candle, and think about how extraordinary your life is. Every day you get a new chance to live that life to the very best of your ability.

Some times all it takes is a beautiful landscape to set you free. You can create it right where you are. You really can.

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!

 

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!

 

Some days it’s all you can do to shuffle across the floor. The art of slow movement takes practice. You need to learn to release the expectation that it’s going to go any faster than this.

I don’t know what expresses this sentiment better than this three and one-half minute video.

If you’ve ever been to airports with automated speed walk sidewalks, you’ll observe that about fifteen feet before the sidewalk ends, you hear a voice alerting you to your pending expulsion from it. Not so for real sidewalks on the street.

Photo courtesy of Ohio State College of Engineering

According to a New York Times report, a recent Ohio State University study about texting while walking and the 1000 reported injuries incurred by texting walkers points to an increasing issue of pedestrian traffic safety.  Ohio State University’s Transportation and Parking department is trying to offset the rising epidemic by putting up signs such as the one pictured here.

Or, as I like to say, “You text? You’re next.” That goes for pedestrians as well as drivers.

I can see it now. Sidewalks will soon be equipped with textured flooring just to alert texting pedestrians that a curb is approaching. Or maybe they’ll have recordings of soothing, yet urgent voices like the ones at today’s airports, pointing the way to safety and attention.

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Time-Swathing

November 18, 2009

We may bemoan the treacheries and time-sucking nature of the Internet, but it sure has introduced me to some of the most fascinating people on the planet. When used mindfully, the Internet offers buckets of useful (and not so useful) information. With technological advances such as web-based video calls (aka Skype), twitter and Facebook, we have raised our awareness of how entangled we all are with one another. In a way, the World Wide Web has increased our consciousness of oneness.

I stumbled upon…ummm… I digged…nope. Let me start again. I met a fascinating performance consultant by the name of Mark K. Petruzzi on twitter. the other day. He tweeted about me. I tweeted about him. And before you knew it, we were Skyping about God, spirit and work-life solutions.

Life can be that grand.

With more than 15 years in corporate training with IBM, CIGNA Corporation, and General Physics Corporation, Mark has spent over three decades in the study of expansive inner life practice and 25 years in the study of enhancing job satisfaction through employee self-actualization. In short, he takes a “personal value” approach to work. Ten minutes with Mark will tell you he enjoys working with individuals and small groups, in business or private settings, as he helps them enhance both their personal and work lives.

Curious about his view of time starvation, I tossed out a few questions to get a sense of his relationship with time.

“If you feel a paucity of time,” he told me, “you literally are compressing it. We have to start trusting others and ourselves more. We need to know our lives will work out. Our point of power is in the now. If you give in to fifty distractions at every moment, you aren’t really living.” You are, in effect, merely breathing. And that rather breathlessly! The basis of his work, like the basis of mine, is choice. When we live in a mindful state, we reclaim our personal power.

We talked about the nobility of pain and how we might very well be addicted to the ways in which we maltreat ourselves. If you run about being so ‘busy’, you might really be missing the whole point. Allowing our ego the space to dwell within us is a great first step toward diffusing its power over us. Mark refutes the notion of the ego being ‘all bad’. Like a houseplant, it needs care and feeding like the rest of our being. I tend to acknowledge its cry so it doesn’t get louder (any parent of an infant will tell you that’s the best thing to do, especially in the middle of the night!). Loving the ego fosters compassion for ourselves and others.

On the road to time abundance, we need to recognize there is more to us than what we do, own or look like (Mark says I look like Laura Linney. Now, if I could only act like she does!). We are whole beings. When we are one with time, we can wrap ourselves in it like kings’ robes. You might even call it time-swathing.

Mark offers Inner Life Practice* workshops including Choice-Level Living, Choosing to Stress Less in a Stress More World, and Bringing Your Spirit to Work. He is currently writing The Desire Engine, a book about reclaiming our personal authority, and developing an inner life practice that fuels our internal “engine” of expansion and purpose fulfillment.
 
I’ll be the first in line to buy his book. May the spirit of time abundance, and the miracles of everyday living, give you the oxygen to breathe more fully this day and always!

 *If you’d like to connect with Mark, he suggests you check him out on Twitter @INrLifePractice. You can also find out more about him at http://bit.ly/enlightened.

Give Forgiveness Pants a Try

November 16, 2009

Do your days thunder by in a flurry of activity? Have you forgotten where you got on to the carousel and, more importantly, where to get off? We often aim for perfection, squeezing ourselves into a mold made by someone else. It is on days like these when we seem to be spinning in an endless cycle of should’s and have to’s that Forgiveness Pants can play the starring role.

You may own a pair. I know I do. My forgiveness pants are made of fleece in the most impractical white you’ve ever seen. I dumped syrup on them once. They still got clean. They stretch and yawn to my body’s movement, allowing for full-sized belly breathing at any given moment.

Forgiveness pants tell you you’re okay just as you are. They permit unyoked days of freedom and kindness when your going gets rough. Forgiveness, in general, is a powerful force, which, when applied, can liberate you from the shackles of your own thinking. Take skinny jeans, for instance. In our supermodel-driven culture, we tend to think we should somehow be a size smaller than we are.

Forgiveness pants say that is not so. They shout, “To thine own fleece be true!” And they mean it.

So go ahead and give your forgiveness pants a try today. If you don’t own a pair, go find some. Chances are there is a pair waiting for you to discover the true power of knowing you are most magnificent just the way you are.

 Original Post from Psychology Today

A while ago I talked about space awakening. It is about freeing up space in our lives, both physically and mentally, to allow for an opening that can lead to a miracle.

I also addressed the notion of pockets of win, in which we can inspire ourselves to maintain momentum when things seem just a little dreary.

Today my pocket of win will be to clear out that dusty box that has been hanging out in the corner of my bedroom for nineteen months. I haven’t used what’s in it for that time so guess what? It’s leaving the building. For good!

The fun part about space liberation is watching what happens next. What miracle will you invite into your life as you clear the clutter around you?

On November 6, 2009, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its most recent data on unemployment in the United States. It has reached 10.2%, the highest rate since April 1983. In fact, it was reported that 9.3 million people are involuntarily working part-time as a result of the economy.

With all the depressing news of today’s economic forecast, it is no wonder people feel time is not a positive in their lives. With ‘too much time on their hands’ people are left feeling unproductive and unfulfilled.

The power of slow addresses time as friend for the super busy and for the super bored. Having lived through six months of unemployment in my own family, I understand how hard it can be to organize your life into meaningful chunks when times are tight.

One of the things my husband and I did during those dire moments was rent a yoga video from the library. We could walk to our local branch, which saved on gas, and check out a free video for the week. After we put the kids to bed, we would do the thirty-minute workout to clear our minds and cleanse our souls. It helped tremendously to work off the stress unemployment can bring.

At a recent talk at the New York Public Library mid-Manhattan branch, an underemployed actor asked me what she could do with all the time she had at her disposal. She spent hours playing solitaire on her computer. It was a devil’s circle. The more bored she became, the more time she spent playing meaningless rounds of video games.

So here’s a slow tip. Design pockets of win in your life. Whether you are overstretched at work or underutilized, create situations in your life in which you know you will win to keep up your momentum. For instance, when I know I’m going to have a particularly challenging week, I’ll place something on eBay that I know will sell. Then, in my moments of despair, I check in on how the auction is going. On other occasions I may cull through my book shelves and donate a few items to the local library. Passing things on can lift your mood automatically, granting you the necessary perspective to keep going. 

Perhaps your pocket of win is volunteering, working with animals or gardening. Sometimes that pocket of win can be as simple as an ice cream sundae shared with your best friend. Whatever it is, seek out those moments of yes in your day. It will help you sustain your energy and your mood as you transition from this moment to what’s next.

Original Post from Psychology Today

It’s a Slow Planet

December 1, 2008

in-praise-of-slowCarl Honoré, author of In Praise of Slow, sat down for a cyberchat with me today. He is not only an incredibly talented public speaker and journalist, but also the owner of SlowPlanet. It is a fabulous Web site for people looking to slow it down a notch. He kindly asked that I write a post there about the value of slowing down in parenting. Be looking for that piece soon!

CLH: Your message of slowing down throughout your book, In Praise of Slow, has resonated the world over. What motivated you to start SlowPlanet.com?

Carl: After the book came out, the Slow Movement began to explode. My personal website was creaking under the weight. I was constantly getting emails from people who wanted to connect with like-minded slow-planetfolk around the world – for instance, an architect in Uruguay would write in about his Slow vision, and I’d put him in touch with architects in Sweden, the US and Australia. But it all became too much. I felt the Slow Movement needed a global meeting place where people of all kinds could come together to  to ask questions, argue, make suggestions, learn new things, share success stories, analyze setbacks, disagree, have fun, test out theories, get angry, get inspired. That is what Slow Planet is for.

CLH: What strategies have you developed to maintain balance? Do you believe it is about balance when you talk about ‘going at the right speed’?

Carl: Yes, balance is the key word here. Trying to find the right speed for every act in your day; giving everything the time and attention it deserves. I have definitely changed – there is for me a very clear Before and After. Before I was always trying to do more and more things in less and less time. It was all about speed and quantity. Now I approach each thing seeking to do it as well as possible instead of as fast as possible. This has made a big change in the way I feel about time: I no longer feel a slave to it. I feel like I have enough time for things and I don’t very often feel rushed (even though I have an exciting, full life). This is not a paradox.

It’s about finding the right equilibrium and not being obsessively neurotic about time. My first step was realizing that I had got stuck in fast-forward, and that too much speed was doing me damage. Then I began making concrete changes. I cut back on the things I was trying to cram into my schedule to allow more time to rest and to devote to the things that are more important to me. So I dropped one sport (tennis) and reduced my TV-watching to a few hours a week, instead of a few hours a day. I also stopped wearing a watch, which seemed to make me less neurotic about time.

I take breaks during the work day to relax, eat and do a bit of meditation. And I switch off my technology (email, cellphone, etc) whenever possible, instead of being always connected. I have learned to say ‘no’ to things – work, social offers, etc – to avoid getting over-scheduled. This is especially important in my work. I get lots and lots of offers to write, speak, consult and it is tempting to do them all, but if I did I would become the opposite of what I’m preaching. So I choose the jobs that I think are the most important in order to keep a balance in my life.

CLH: What advice do you have for others who struggle with today’s pace of life?

Carl: I offer you my top ten tips for starting to slow down in a fast-paced world below:

1. Downsize your calendar. Nothing makes you hurry more than a schedule stuffed to bursting point. Instead of giving in to the temptation to do more and more, try doing less. During the holiday season, cut back on shopping, streamline your social calendar, watch less TV. Easing the pressure on your time takes the rush out of life and makes everything more enjoyable.

2. Question your inner speed demon. We are so obsessed with going faster and saving time that we end up hurrying everything. Next time you catch yourself racing through something – the morning shower, Christmas lunch, opening presents – stop and ask whether you really need to be going so fast. If the answer is no, take a deep breath and slow down. You will find that you get more out of life, and feel more serene.

3. Take up a slow hobby. Activities such as gardening, yoga, knitting, reading and painting can teach you the habit of slowness – not the easiest thing in our turbo-charged, hurry-up world, but a first step for anyone hoping to escape the speed trap. Christmas is a perfect time to discover how slow hobbies can cultivate an inner calm that carries through the rest of your day.

4. Stop clock-watching. Try to be less neurotic about time. Think of it not as a bully to be feared or conquered, but as the benign element we live in. Take off your wristwatch during the holidays. You may start to feel less beholden to the clock. Accept that the old adage “time is money” does not always hold true: you can’t save up time for a rainy day the way you can save up coins in a piggy bank. Also, remember that the best way to get “value” for your time is not always to go faster. Put quality ahead of quantity.

5. Rediscover the joys of the table. A convivial meal with friends and family can be fun, healthy and relaxing. Try eating Christmas dinner round the table, instead of balancing it on your lap in front of the TV.

6. Take a walk. Walking—and we’re not talking speed-walking—is a soothing way to connect with nature, with other people and with yourself. It is also good exercise. Next time you are about to hop in the car for a short trip, go on foot instead. On Christmas day, stroll in the park or through your neighborhood. Your body and soul will thank you.

7. Meditate. Meditation is going mainstream. Ten million Americans now practice it regularly, and meditation rooms are popping up all over the industrial world, from airports, schools and prisons to hospitals and offices. Meditation soothes mind and body. You don’t need to attend a fancy retreat to learn it; anyone can start meditating right away with a few basic techniques. Why not escape the hurly burly of the holiday season by sitting in a quiet room for 15 minutes, breathing slowly with your eyes closed?

8. Consider an alternative approach to your health. About half the population of North America now seeks care outside the mainstream health system, thus enjoying the benefits of unhurried, holistic healing traditions such as massage, acupuncture and reiki.

9. Vacation slowly. Visit a place that celebrates slowness. Official Slow cities make more room for pedestrians and cyclists, and encourage farmers markets. Stroll around the traffic-free streets, indulge in local wine and cheese, linger in restaurants with your partner or family.

10. Turn it off. Find moments to turn off the electronic devices that keep us buzzing. During the holiday season, set aside a few hours without the computer and email, mobile phone and home phone, television and PDA. Let your devices recharge so you can do the same. Give yourself the freedom to unplug, to be slow.  

CLH: You’ve given us a lot to think about. Thanks so much for this inspiring chat!

Carl: Thank you!

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