Slow Holiday

February 15, 2010

According to an American Time Use Survey graph, Americans spent 17 minutes a day relaxing and thinking. Today is President’s Day in the United States ~ now’s your chance! Forget the great sales at the local car dealership. Never mind the alluring slashed prices at the mall. Today is your day to  sit and merely think.

For many in Germany, today is a day to celebrate and turn off the thinking cap altogether. We are in full-blown Carneval season during which time it is normal to see merchants dressed as clowns or barmaids ~ today is Rosenmontag. The fun ends on Ash Wednesday, but for now, people in Cologne are joining the throngs of bystanders, nipping on flasks while waving to the parade marchers.

For me it is a day off with the kids at home for school break. I slept in, read some more of Twilight, and pondered how marvelous slow holidays feel. The kids aren’t really into Carneval either ~ they’d rather go sledding, read or play with their friends. We might watch some of the Olympics later on today when Vancouver wakes up; I might read some more. If we were in the US, we would certainly tip the statistics in favor of more relaxing and thinking.

Let’s bump those relaxing minutes up to twenty a day, people. Come on. What do you think? 🙂


Yesterday I had to navigate very icy roads to bring my son and his best friend to a Carnival party. It was stressful as people around me seemed to be driving at a normal speed while I was turtling along, sweating bullets.

Robert Butera offers great insights into why traffic jams are neutral and what we can do about our reactions to stressful events. It all begins with how we frame things.

Read on and enjoy!

Yoga Psychology on Stress Management

By Robert Butera, PhD

How do you face your daily challenges? How often do you feel subtle or extreme stress? Are you constantly reacting to your surroundings without awareness, or are you paying attention and discerning your choices?

Let’s take the universal example of traffic. What do you experience when you are stuck in a serious traffic jam? Often the answer to this question is some kind of negative emotion such as anger, frustration, or pressure. But what if you thought of the traffic jam as a small blessing that allowed you some unexpected time to reflect, relax, or enjoy some deep breathing? It is interesting to note that 20 people stuck in the same traffic jam will have 20 different reactions to the situation. This phenomenon offers a simple yet profound lesson – the traffic jam is simply a traffic jam. It is how we react to the traffic jam that creates and sustains unnecessary levels of stress in our daily lives.

This concept that everything is neutral is one of the primary underpinnings of traditional Yoga Psychology. It is a unique perspective, because when we contemplate this idea, we must ask ourselves: If everything is neutral, then why does stress exist? Yoga teachings tell us that anything that clouds our understanding of reality causes a corresponding amount of struggle in life. To understand how to have positive reactions to life requires us to understand the deeper reasons, values, beliefs, and life events that have shaped our approach to living and relating.

The traffic jam is really just a metaphor for any challenging situation we face throughout the course of the day. When we are emotional, it is hard to take a step back and see things as they truly are. Learned emotional responses trigger unaware reactions.  When we become aware of our triggers, take a deep breath, and review the situation, the possibility of emotional transformation arises. In those few moments, a situation that might normally bring stress into the mind/body can instead bring about a sense of equanimity.

Six Ways to Apply Yoga Psychology to Daily Life

Every time you recognize and understand a personal stress, there is an opportunity for positive change and personal growth to occur. Use stressors you identify as a way of learning more about yourself. Whatever you learn will be interesting!

This six-step process can be used any time, but for many, the end of the day (before falling asleep) is best. Even the busiest person has 5–10 minutes before bedtime to reflect on the events of the day.

  1. Think of one minor stress from the day – something as simple as traffic is better than a profound catastrophe.
  2. Think of the emotion you felt during that situation. Refrain from stating the cause of the emotion. Phrase the statement, “I felt (emotion) while I sat in the traffic.”
  3. Consider how the situation could be neutral. The traffic is just the traffic. It did not force you to have any specific emotion. You had the emotional reaction to the traffic. Some people like traffic, such as salaried workers who get a break. Notice how your perspective toward a neutral situation affects your emotional response.
  4. Understand your underlying belief pattern that creates your reaction to the situation. For example, “Traffic is annoying because I do not have enough time to spend with my children after working all day.” The issue to be understood is not the traffic but the fact that you feel as though you don’t have enough time.
  5. Re-evaluate how you can tailor your belief pattern in a fashion that allows you to have your deep values without evoking stress reactions. “I accept that working will alter my life with kids. However, this is my life and I will accept that children are raised by a village – and I trust my village.”
  6. Let your stressful situations be permitted. Let self-understanding be permitted. As you understand your situations, see yourself as a wise person and integrate the idea that all things are neutral, and you can reduce stress to a minimum.

As you work through these six steps and apply these lessons, remember that the easier part of the process is recognizing that all things are neutral and that you have the power to react without stress. The harder part of the process is accepting the pain that you find when you examine the “whys” of your reactions. Stay present with what you uncover, and use it as a learning tool to positively transform your experience of daily life.

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Robert Butera PhD is author of The Pure Heart of Yoga: Ten Essential Steps to Personal Transformation (Llewellyn, $21.95), publisher of Yoga Living magazine, and director of The YogaLife Institute in Devon, Pennsylvania, where he trains yoga instructors as well as students. Visit for more information.

Hug Your Inner Buddha

February 11, 2010

One of the greatest sages of slow is Buddha.

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
— Buddha

Many thanks to the folks at BeliefNet for providing the inner sanctum for my thoughts on slow today. If you are looking for some free inspiration (even on the weekends!), consider subscribing. They rule!

Yesterday’s slide show on living in the present moment reminds me of something a crew member said on the TV set I was working on last week.

With one foot in the past and one foot in the future, guess where your present rests?

Square in the seat of your pants. Hmmm…Food for thought on this lovely Thursday!

If there is one thing that is not in short supply, it is information. No matter where you turn, television screens flash their messages. Billboards on highways and busses tell us a story. Cable programming offers a 24/7 data delivery system. Twitter users imprint the planet with their up-to-the-second updates about the goings on virtually everywhere and anywhere. We are in the know at all times.

The current generation of children is being raised in a hyper-media environment that can save time…and waste it, too. They can access instant information for their schoolwork, then move on to something else more interesting. Internet, video games, mobile phones and iPods are fascinating distractions in a world gone fast.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study in March 2005, children ages 8 through 18 were found to consume eight and one-half hours of media a day. Interestingly, their media consumption was actually compressed to six and one-half hours in real-time due to their multitasking. That is to say, they would listen to their iPod while instant messaging and so on. Across seven days a week, their 44 ½ hours of media usage equals a full-time job plus overtime. On January 20, 2010, the findings for a second study were presented at a forum in Washington, DC. In just five years, children’s media consumption has increased to ten hours and 45 minutes worth of media consumed in seven and one-half hours.

A brief breakdown of actual media usage is illuminating.

According to the study in 2005, children ages 8 through 18 spend 3 hours and 51 minutes a day watching TV (which includes videos, DVDs and prerecorded programs).That number jumped to 4 hours and 29 minutes a day by 2010. Five years ago, children spent 1 hour and 45 minutes using the radio or other music devices. In 2010 it increased by 46 minutes to 2 hours and 31 minutes. Interactive media, meaning non-homework related computer usage, came in third in 2005 with just over one hour per day while it is now 1 hour and 29 minutes. Forty-nine minutes were spent on video games in 2005; it is now 1 hour and 13 minutes. Non- schoolwork related reading came in dead last with an average of 43 minutes a day. It has dropped off to 38 minutes today.

At this juncture, I would like to interject that I am a proponent of the Internet, television, print and online news outlets. After all, I work in media relations as well as in television and film. I use Twitter, FaceBook and LinkedIn like any other mere mortal, and even my ten-year-old daughter recently got her own email address. My concern lies more in the lack of discernment about what our children are actually consuming and for how long. It is so pervasive that we aren’t even aware of how much our children absorb in a day.

We may not be able to control what’s on the side of a bus or flashing on a screen in a restaurant, but we can determine what happens at home.

A few power of slow principles may help.

1. Less is more. Be clear that media usage is a privilege, not a right. Grant the privilege to watch television, use the family computer or play video games at your discretion.
2. Be a role model. If you watch three hours of television a day, it is hard to justify why your kids can’t, too. Evaluate how much is enough.
3. Use parental controls. Identify which Internet sites your children are allowed to visit. Set up restricted access on the computer.
4. Spend time with your kids. Ask them questions about which TV shows they like and why. Watch them along with your children.
5. Encourage smart integration of media into your routine. It should be an augmentation to, not a replacement of, your life.

One day our kids will have full-time jobs of their own. Maybe some of them will even work in media itself. Even as our media landscape continues to shift, our focus on what’s truly important can remain steady. The days of Ozzy and Harriet are long gone, but the love for our children is eternal.

This post was originally published on Psychology Today.

How to Get More Free Time

February 10, 2010

Free time doesn’t have to be expensive because it is indeed ‘free’. The first step to having more free time is to decouple your understanding of time as money. When thinking that time equals money, they treat time as if it were very expensive. In fact, ‘free time’ is the most valuable time you can spend.


Because when you take time off, you are more productive on the days you are ‘on’.

I’ll give you an example.

Instead of going to the gym to ‘workout’, I shoveled snow with my family. I was outside, got light exposure, and had a great time while doing something productive and helpful (the neighbors were happy, too, as we shoveled part of their driveway free). In the afternoon, my husband and I went to the gym for a visit to the sauna only. What a thought! It was a great way to spend our free time. An hour there gave us an extra hour in the evening of wakefulness because we were so relaxed.

How will you spend your free time today?

Leisure Time in the U.S.

If Today Were Your Last Day

February 9, 2010

Cruising down the road today, I really listened to the lyrics of Nickelback’s song, If Today Was Your Last Day, for the first time. Since I have written about what my last twenty-four hours would look like before, I thought this musical version was pretty neat.

Happy Viewing, All!

In just a few weeks, we’ll be changing the clocks forward once again. Does Daylight Saving Time make you sleepy and disoriented just like jet lag?

Take this poll!