“Send them outside!” my grandmother used to say when we’d get too rambunctous for her inside the house. We’d roll in the grass, sweep the stone terrace and weed the pachysandra. At the time I didn’t appreciate being sent outside when the air conditioned house seemed much more inviting. But today I find myself fleeing to the outdoors when life is too much with me.

In a pocket of time yesterday afternoon, the sun kissed the Earth with such benevolence that I felt compelled to grab my broom and sweep up the leaves that continue to fall from our walnut tree. There I met our neighbor who was enjoying the afternoon off from his stressful managerial position at an worldwide furniture store. His pet pig (yes, he owns a pot-belly/dwarf pig) was rooting around the ground for the last walnuts he could find. My son appeared with his soccer ball and a spontaneous game of kick-the-ball ensued between the neighbor and him. With each sweeping motion, I felt the stress of my day fall away. My motions were accompanied by the thump of the ball,  the grunt of the pig and an occasional jubulation for a shot well-done. The smell of the rain-soaked leaves soothed my soul as I realized there is great joy in sharing a moment outdoors ~ with son, neighbor and a pet pig whose presence alone reminds me that no matter how demanding our 24/7 world can be, the beauty of the ever-present moment can be ours if we awaken to it.

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The Power of Connection

September 29, 2010

Scientists have long agreed that people in community tend to live longer. In the Middle Ages the greatest punishment was to be rejected by the community, banished for eternity outside the city walls. The word excommunication really does mean just that: no longer in communication with others (or the Church, in the Catholic tradition).

If you follow Buddhist teachings, you will know that our greatest suffering comes from being disconnected from our true selves. We are, in a sense, excommunicated from the Source of All Things. So when I am in disharmony with others, I feel a deep disconnect from that Source.

It’s a jazzy feeling to be in deep communion with others because, in truth, we all stem from the same place. And while many of us live the Great Lie of being ‘outside’ the realm of our connection, we suffer as a result of this belief.

There is a reason why pure love feels the same for everyone. We are all one.

In his keynote speech last year at the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment, Jim Carrey made a moving tribute to this connection. Since we all seem to believe celebrities more than even ourselves, take a look at what he has to say.

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Take 12 minutes to hear Ben Cameron speak on the healing properties of the arts. Happy Sunday!

What Slow Can Do For You

September 25, 2010

What’s in a name?

September 25, 2010

A recent discussion with friends at breakfast got me to thinking. Why do we use nicknames?

One of the couples said they are calling their baby daughter by her name only. They don’t believe in pet names for whatever reason. I, on the other hand, use pet names to express a closeness and contextuality.

For instance, my husband is Andreas to the rest of the world. I only call him that, thereby lumping me together with said world, when I’m either mad or other people are within earshot. Otherwise,  I have an array of names to express the situation. The same applies to him. I always know he’s about to ask me something a tad tenuous when he addresses me with ‘Babu’ ~when he had a business trip to Malta, for example, he called me that (I ended up tagging along! )

My kids have a variety of nicknames as well. To protect the innocent, I won’t, well, name them here.

Words have great power and how we choose to use them makes a difference. Just looking at all the names for God gives us pause to think about the meaning of names.

I always know when I let someone into my heart ~ it’s the moment  I find a nickname for that person. It usually unfolds naturally. My dear actor friend is ‘lovey dovey’, for instance.

Words are the ties that bind. And names matter. As Shakespeare’s Juliet so rightly said, ”

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

So, what’s in your name?

In my book, everything that makes you special to that other person.

Life means growth

September 24, 2010

Deep thought of the day: If life wasn’t about growth, we would have been born adults.

Just sayin’…

Liberty Mutual has a series of great short films celebrating the human spirit called The Responsibility Project (r).I highly recommend you take a look.

This short with Danny Glover touched me in particular. Entitled ‘Second Line‘ (aka street parade in New Orleans) the film shows the viewer how we carry missed opportunities to help others around with us until we allow for the energy exchange to actually occur. In the end, the protagonist understands the power in taking time and paying attention.

Happy viewing!

The Responsibility Project

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Take time to say thanks

September 20, 2010

The pencil writing was barely legible so I leaned closer to get a better look. The hand-writing revealed youth, vigor, vim and a gratitude that moved me. It was a thank-you note, scribbled on a Post-It note twenty-four years ago. It was a demonstration of thanks for a wonderful year as an exchange student who lived with a loving family in the outskirts of Bonn. That student was me.

I visited those people this weekend again and was amazed at the little notes they still had from me. My family is partial to surprise love letters and little sticky notes that we sprinkle around each other’s houses when we’re on a visit. I had no idea what kind of legacy it would leave behind. It strengthened my resolve to continue teaching my own kids the importance of saying ‘thank you’ in writing to people who are kind to you.

BeliefNet just ran a neat gratitude slide show that once again reminded me of the importance to take the time to say thanks. It doesn’t take a lot, but it means so much. Looking at the yellowed paper hanging on my friend’s bulletin board, I smiled broadly at the love demonstrated on two square inches of paper.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

-–Melody Beattie

Gratitude is more than saying thanks. It’s saying yes to your life and everybody in it. What are you grateful for today?

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Everyone can have abundance

September 19, 2010

“Everything changed the day she found out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.”

The New Haven Register wrote a lovely column about The Power of Slow today, ending with the quote above from an unnamed source. The writer points to our need for gratitude. I believe it is the founding principle of slow to realize you are abundant with all that you truly need.

We chase rabbits down foxholes, looking for the Holy Grail when, quite frankly, everything we already have is everything we’re looking for. As human beings, we have an enormous capacity to achieve great things, yet we often think what we need lies outside of ourselves.

Sometimes the biggest achievement is recognizing our limits, taking it down a notch and enjoying life at a saner, slower and more sustainable pace.

Managing the Older Worker

September 14, 2010

In the last century we’ve increased our longevity by thirty years. In 1900 folks lived an average of 47 years; by the year 2000 that number had jumped to 78. Although I am far from retirement age, I follow the conversation of the changing retirement laws in Germany because it fascinates me that people are forced to stop working when they hit that ‘magic number’. While they want to raise it from 65 to age 67, there have been protests in France because they just jacked retirement up to age 60.

Imagine the thought! Why, as the population ages and fewer people are born to replace them, are people being coerced to leave the workplace?

That’s where Peter Cappelli and Bill Novelli, co-authors of the newly released book, Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order, come in. They make a strong case for retaining talent and conducting smart knowledge management. After all, older folks are living longer, have more experience and, according to the authors, are motivated by different interests than their eager, younger colleagues. Dangling a promotion in front of their noses isn’t nearly as effective as giving them an interesting assignment that keeps them as a team player.

While I was slightly disappointed that the book didn’t delve into how younger managers can actually go about managing older workers, they did make a strong case for why older workers are so valuable. In a nutshell, they are:

  • more knowledgeable (no mystery there);
  • more flexible (most of them have their child-rearing days behind them; however flexibility for elder care remains an issue as their own parents’ failing health impacts their ability to maintain a regular schedule);
  • more loyal and conscientious;
  • just as costly (or not, depending on how the company views overall employee benefits).

In other words, older workers’ value in terms of knowledge and willingness to learn new things (thereby debunking the myth that people over forty somehow can’t or won’t ‘get with the program’) far outweighs any insurance cost, etc. Also notable is the fact that older workers are much less likeyl to have costly dependents so while their insurance premiums may be slightly higher, they are actually less costly in the overall scheme of things.

I thought of this today as I stood in line, waiting with one hundred other warm bodies, to buy my daughter’s last-minute school supplies. In high school, they like to tell the kids what they will need for class on the first day of school, leaving no time to prepare over a series of weeks. That means good ole Mom gets to push her way through the crowds for those ‘extra’ items she couldn’t foresee.

But back to my point: there were two lines. One had an elderly gentleman and a middle-aged woman working the cash register. The other had a younger team. One called out the price; the other typed it into the register. I couldn’t help but notice my line with the older team wasn’t moving as fast. Despite my ownership of the power of slow principles, I felt myself getting hot under the collar (literally ~all those people in such a small space!). When it was finally my turn, the woman advised me that I was buying the wrong pens. She kindly went back into the throng to get the right ones for me. She may have been slower, but imagine the amount of time she actually saved me in getting me the right pens the first time! That’s the very conscientiousness and customer care Cappelli and Novelli praised in the older worker. Amazing!

I smiled as the power of slow found its way back into my heart…and the right school supplies into my bag. Thanks to Managing the Older Worker, I will continue to view more experienced employees as the harbingers of slow because, as we all know by now, it’s faster anyway!

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