Anxiety. It crawls up your scalp, threatening to devour your everything. It’s never satisfied, always looking for its next victim, a predator lurking beneath your skin.

Yes, I’ve had my share of anxiety in life. It never ceases to amaze me what we do to ourselves when we let anxiety in the front door.

Take a recent phone call I had. I was nervous about it as it involved some very sensitive issues, but something inside said “Trust. Take care. All is well.” So I followed that voice into the conversation et violà! We ended it with laughter, connection and a really good feeling.

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You really do get what you’re looking for. If you fear pain, it comes. If you let go, magic occurs.

The fear of pain exacerbates the pain itself. Pain is a phenomenon. Our fear intensifies the experience of it.

When you allow for space between things, you create an energetic pathway for positive energy to run through you. The key is to become the channel through which all things flow. It’s a scary prospect to let pain in. But pain is a part of life. If you fear it, it will grow.

A few weeks ago I had the most liberating experience while having a migraine. Sounds strange, right? Having suffered from migraines since I was a young adult, I typically would fear their onset. Once the blurred vision set in, I would panic, inevitably making the pain worse than it already was. But this time I decided to embrace the pain, really hug it out, as my dear friend Brian Hilliard likes to say. Lying there in the morning light, I envisioned what the migraine was trying to tell me.

“Slow down. It’s going to be alright. I need to do this for you right now. Be patient.” So I settled in for a while, listening to it talking to me like a good friend over coffee might. I thanked it for its immense courage to enter my life, knowing I would most likely reject it. But this time I didn’t. And I was filled with a level of gratitude I can barely describe.

And wouldn’t you know? That migraine left faster than ever before.

In less mindful times than the one I just mentioned, my Anxious Beast growls deep within, taking a stranglehold around my inner voice so all I see are shadows and the ever watchful eye of fear. It haunts me into the night, shaking the bed and my bones. But then, like the migraine that recently pierced my skull, I give that awful beast a gargantuan hug. I mean I really love it with all my might, looking it squarely in its beady eyes. That’s when I see the tears that motivate the beast in its incessant quest to torture everything in its midst. It fears being alone.

Silly beast. We’re never alone. How can we be? We are all one. Our shadow and our light dance together in a perpetual pirouette. When we feed the beast fear, it magnifies itself. When we feed it love, it slumbers.

The Anxious Beast may always reside within us whether it is asleep or awake, slinking quietly in the background, but if we bring love to it every time, it softens back into the fold of who we are. The result is a more profound connection with oneself and the world.

It’s all in our heads, really ~ migraines included. Now imagine a world led from the heart where pain, fear and ugliness get wrapped in a shroud of light.

Can you see it?

As I have already said in an earlier blog post, “The Soundtrack of Our Lives”, music is the sonorous accompaniment of our days. It’s the grease that oils your remembering machine: the oh-my-god effect when you hear a song hidden in your history, somewhere buried deep down in a place only music can touch.

It permeates your skin. It penetrates your soul. Music is the balm to give you back your bounce.

So as you embark on our summer journey (or winter for you lovely folks in the Southern Hemisphere), consider putting together a mix of music to keep you company. Whether you’re on the subway or cruising down the autobahn, there is nothing like jamming to good tunes. Need inspiration? Everyone has their own tastes, but here are some of my favorite albums currently:

Looking 4 Myself (Usher)

Making Mirrors (Gotye)

Go (Vertical Horizon)

Here and Now (Nickelback)

What are some of your favorites? Please share because I’m in love with iTunes and need to feed that relationship!

Redemption

June 28, 2012

What would people say about you if you left the room? Are you living a life of true intention?

I know it’s a heady question, but it’s one worth asking. Luckily, Bryan Clay, Olympic hopeful for this summer’s Olympics in London, started to ask himself that question before it was too late. In his new book,  Redemption, Clay reveals his life story in great detail, such as how he had a very troubled childhood with parents who made their own share of mistakes. Throughout high school, and then later in college, he continued to ignore his highest athletic potential by drinking too much and engaging in dangerous behavior. It wasn’t until he met the woman of his dreams that he started to see a future beyond his current one.

Love can do that to a person.

Even then, however, he nearly lost his girlfriend because it took him a long time to realize the impact his partying was having on his relationship. The moment he changed his way of thinking, however, everything changed. A religious man, he began to see that he could indeed worship God through the sport instead of seeing his athletics and his spiritual practice as two separate things. He moved away from believing sports were a way to glorify himself; instead, they were a way for him to glorify God. Magically, his extreme partying dropped off.

The Big Picture can do that to a person.

“Keeping my priorities in the right order had brought me there,” he writes. He found Slow through God. Pretty darn cool.

So what do you think people would say about you if you left the room? Would they say you are kind, generous, emotionally available? Or would they consider you closed, disruptive, shut down and unreachable? As Maya Angelou says, people may not remember what you say, but they’ll always remember how you’ve made them feel.

My guess is you can make someone feel really good today. Maybe in the form of a hug or a smile. There is redemption for us all, and it only takes one baby step toward your own truth. Don’t be afraid of it because it is there to show you the way even when you are lost. Embrace that beacon of light for all it’s worth. When you do, you will be set free.

Slow can do that to a person.

 

Redefine Your Possible

June 27, 2012

Forbes magazine is not the publication I remember it to be. As I clicked around to various articles online recently, I was thoroughly impressed with how inspirational and well thought out some of the articles are. It’s not just a  publication for business, but also one for the business of life.

David Maris wrote an amazing article about Spencer West, an American mountain climber who recently raised $750,000 for his charity in Tanzania while reaching the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. As if that’s not impressive enough, West did it without legs.

The next time you say “I can’t”, think about Spencer West.

His mission, entitled Redefine Possible, thoroughly inspired me. And he admits that a sliver of doubt as to whether he could really make it to the 19,341 foot summit remained (that’s nearly 6,000 meters for you European/Canadian folks!).

In my mind doubt can be a killer of dreams…or a motivator to prove that side of yourself wrong. He certainly did.

Three main things struck me when reading the article: the importance of having a support system; creating major change through baby steps; and tying goals to social impact or a broader vision.

The Importance of Support

We all need friends and loved ones to help us reach our goals. If you are toying with a new idea, share it with someone you trust. Ask them to keep you accountable when your resolve starts to waiver. Do the same for them.

Baby Steps

You know those New Year’s Resolutions, those lofty goals that tell you you’ll drop thirty pounds in six weeks? Baby steps will get you there; perhaps they won’t in the timeframe you desire, but if you remain committed, lasting change will happen.

The Broader Vision

No man (or woman) is an island. What you do matters. Every wave you make in your own personal ocean creates a ripple on the other side of the world. As my friend says, everything is energy. How will you manage yours?

West has chosen to dedicate his life to Free the Children. For more details, see the excerpt below. And may the Slow be with you, people. Together we really can make a difference.

For those wishing to learn more about Spencer West’s journey, including video from the summit and information about the activities of Free the Children, please see www.freethechildren.com/redefinepossible.

Free The Children was founded in 1995 by international children’s rights activist Craig Kielburger, and now has more than one million young people involved in more than 45 countries.  The charity’s primary goal is to free children from poverty and exploitation and free young people from the notion that they are powerless to affect positive change in the world.  The $750,000 that West is raising is going toward clean water projects in communities in Kenya, one of the areas where Free The Children works.

The GPS Override

June 26, 2012

We have all learned to rely on technology for just about everything. Need a recipe? Google it. Want to know where you are in any given city? Check your map app. Care to drive blindly through a foreign city, listening only for the commands of your GPS? You know what to do.

But here’s the thing. As quick as technology has made us, it hasn’t always contributed to smart action. If you know, for instance, that you should turn left at that intersection, but your GPS is telling you to take a right (it doesn’t see the detour sign like you can), how often do you listen to the machine? I’ve become so navigation system-dependent that the mere thought of going somewhere without it sets me into a panic. Yet I remember a time when I would leave the house without even a map. It was more about knowing the approximate vicinity, then stopping at a gas station to ask exactly where you are.

Remember the days of mapquest.com in your pre-satellite-guided driving days? You’d patiently type in your starting and stopping points, print out pages and pages of directions and somehow direct yourself to the place whilst glancing down at the paper every two minutes? And there it all was in black & white.

Today I am often led astray by Nancy the Navigator, that cold-hearted voice coming from my machine suction-cupped to the windshield. As she guided me here, there and everywhere on a recent jaunt, only to land just a few paces from my starting point, I swear I could here connivance in her tone!

So I’ve made a promise to myself to wean myself off my devices every so often and to step back into life where the streets have names, and people, not machines, guide me there.

Let’s get lost together. Who knows who will meet along the way?

 

 

Passion. It’s right up there with food, water and oxygen on the long list of must-haves in life.

If you’re passion has lost its sheen or you‘ve never quite been able to identify it, I suggest the following:

  •  Go back in your history to a simpler time when you were a child. What got you excited?
  • Answer the question: What hobbies have I dropped that I used to like?
  • Clean out a closet. You know I swear by it. When you clear your space of the old, the new is bound to come in. Nature hates a vacuum.
  • Answer the question: If money were no object, how would I live? Start from there.
  • Journal.
  • Create a vision board from magazine pictures and words.

You won’t be able to form the future you want to see if you don’t have a vision. And a vision is fueled by your passion. So if you’ve lost yours, it’s time to consider what will make you fly.

And I’ll be right there, cheering you on when you do.

The world needs heroes: people we look up to, admire, emulate. They are purveyors of change, strength in crisis, rock solid in stormy seas. They also raise the rest of us up during sunshine days. The best leaders, I am told, are those who put great ideas into practice that everyone else claims were their own.

Great leaders not only rule. They rock.

McKinsey Quarterly issued a most inspiring piece entitled “Leading in the 21st Century” the other day. Call me crazy, but I saw the Power of Slow throughout the entire twelve pages. I’m nerdy like that, culling through business articles because I like to learn from people who are so much smarter than me and think we might just have something in common.

The article spotlights the thoughts of six prominent global CEOs: Josef Ackerman (formerly of Deutsche Bank); Carlos Ghosn of Nissan and Renault; Moya Greene of Royal Mail Group; Ellen Kullman of DuPont; President Shimon Peres of Israel; and Daniel Vasella of Novartis.

One common theme from all of them is knowing your limits, learning how best to spend your time and taking care of yourself. Shimon Peres was by far the most eloquent of them all. He said things such as “The mind of a leader must be free – a mind that can dream and imagine. All new things were born in dreams.” Yes! As I like to say, if you don’t get enough sleep, that American Dream will never happen.

Carlos Ghosn talks of global empathy, a notion I have wholeheartedly supported all my life. We are all in this life together. You might look, sound, even smell different than me, but I bet you feel love the same way I do.

Trusting your instincts was another shared notion. Knowing when to delegate what and to whom is essential. Josef Ackermann claims “no CEO can do it all on his own. You need the expertise, judgment, and buy-in of your team.” I agree. If I didn’t have fabulous colleagues on whom I could rely, I’d be half the public relations professional I am today.

Once again Shimon Peres inspired me with his claim that leaders must have “ambition for a cause greater than themselves.” To be the master of your own ship, you must believe in something beyond yourself. Only then can you navigate the waters in this world. Sharks may be in your ocean, but you’ll hopefully have friendly dolphins too!

Staying grounded in the face of crisis is another key point. As the article suggests, reserving critical decision-making for those times when we are most rested is a wise choice. Acting out of impulse, exhaustion or decision fatigue is not a good idea.

That’s where the Power of Slow can help. Step back. Admire the grand design that is your life. You are the architect of your own reality. How are you doing thusfar?

Video bonus: Bloomberg recently followed media mogul, Je’Caryous Johnson, to see how he spends his time. The best part? His business day ends at 3 pm. After that, he says, he dedicates his time to writing. “It’s just me, my laptop and God.” Creatives are like that!

Your Weekend Sensual

June 23, 2012

This past March I saw Fuerza Bruta in New York City. They are hard to describe really: a dynamic dance performance group doesn’t really say it. It’s one of those things you simply have to experience. But I’ll tell you this: it involves several elements, including wind, blood, sweat and tears. Doesn’t sound appealing?

Maybe Usher’s rendition of “Scream” that he recently performed at the Fuerza Bruta show will help you along. It’s hot. Sensual. And partly underwater.

Curious? Give Scream a try. Happy Weekend Sensual, all!

What Shape are You In?

June 22, 2012

We all come in different shapes and sizes. Depending on your mood, you might be feeling like a triangle right now ~ sort of sharp on the edges and not so centered. Or maybe you’re as full and round as a circle, rolling through life smooth as glass.

The stages of our lives can be reflected in geometry. We all start out as circles, exponentially multiplying cells until we turn into a not-so-geometric lima bean, then form a rounder shape once again. We come into the world whole, no matter what our bodies look like. As our personalities develop, we take on new contours. As an infant, we’re warm fuzzy roundness, but later, during that angular stage of adolescence, we might be more like a pentagon with lots of sharp points to push off the world. Then, by some miracle, we reach adulthood. Hopefully, in good shape and having recaptured a smoother line.

Even as full-blown adults, we take on different forms.

Circles are those delicious days of absolute completion. There is no beginning, no end, just harmony and flow. Other days we might feel like pyramids as we soar upward to the heavens, ever-reaching but with a solid base. On a slant, we might feel like a parallelogram that is off-kilter, but still standing.

What shape are you in today?

Today is a day of superlatives ~ it is the longest day, the one with the most amount of daylight hours, the one that has me genuflect to Ra, the sun God, every year.

As someone who suffers from seasonal affective disorder, I worship the sun and all its rays (with sunscreen, of course!). Today is a day of joy, yet a slight melancholy sets in by the end of it. Then today becomes a series of yesterdays and a new cycle of the growing darkness sets in.

William Faulkner spoke of the special kind of light that only the month of August holds in his book, aptly titled Light in August. He wrote of the tendriled rays that slant just so, harbingers of a colder era about to come. And even as this day marks the beginning of summer, I can’t help but think of what the future will bring.

In a recent movie called Touchback, Kurt Russell’s character defines the future as a whole lot of today just strung together. What he means is that the decisions we make today will impact what we experience tomorrow. If we decide in advance that today will be a sad day, then indeed it will be. But if we look to it as the pinnacle of light, as a day to celebrate the warmest time of year, things look a little brighter. And when the darkness does set in, we will be reminded that everything is in its time.

Right on time. Every time.

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