Playing for Change

July 22, 2012

It is true that once you leave home, you never really fully return because a part of you is left with the people you meet along the way. If that is so, I have my heart scattered on five continents.

But what is also true is that music can bring the world together, even when the actual musicians live far apart.

PlayingForChange.com is a movement that brings musicians together from around the world. They all perform the same song, in harmony, at the same time. And get this: Timeless Media is their for-profit arm that funds the project.

It goes something like this:

 

So you see. It doesn’t really matter if loved ones are far away. There is always a way to connect through technology. Of course, the real thing is good too!

About two months ago I made a radical change in the form of one baby step. The result was a shift in my worldview, I dropped ten pounds and have never been happier in my life.

The baby step came in the form of no more television. According to positive psychologist Martin Seligman, watching television for extended periods of time is the equivalent of placing yourself in a mild state of depression. Apathy follows.

It may seem simple enough to snap off the TV and do something else, but what happened thereafter for me was life-altering. Instead of flopping in front of the tube every night, I began writing more, eating less and sleeping better. I’ve even started learning French, thanks to supportive friends who have helped me tremendously (je vous adore!).  It is as though I have fully recognized that how I spend my time really does make a difference.

And it shows.

My negative emotions, while not completely eradicated, have receded to the background. Sure, I still get upset with my kids, but I am no longer subjecting myself to the constant barrage of negativity that comes from the TV.

I had no idea how impactful one decision could be.

It may seem paradoxical for someone who actually works in television and film not to want to actually watch it. I am still impressed by images on the Internet, occasionally read the newspaper and peruse business Web sites to keep up on the latest developments. But abandoning my nightly tube-watching has uplifted my spirits and has had a centering effect on my well-being.

When we look at our habits, we may think we can’t live without certain things. We may be so convinced of their inalienable place in our lives that we don’t even question the habit itself. But I bet you anything there is something you can do without and that will actually make you feel better once you depart from its stranglehold around your neck.

What happens next can be quite amazing. Suddenly new people emerge to cheer you on in your new-found authenticity. Perhaps they have been there all along, but you felt you didn’t have the time to pay attention. Or maybe they are new friends you’ve discovered because you’ve magically got so much more time through that one baby step to really enjoy them.

It is an endeavor worth pursuing. What baby step can you take today to make that radical change?

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~Aristotle

A few weeks ago I read a book by Google’s self-proclaimed Jolly Good Fellow, Chade-Meng Tan, aptly entitled Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).

Before you groan, “Not another self-help book whose content I’ll forget the minute I click off here…” hear me out. This book is based on an actual mindfulness training course given internally at Google. That the author has a quirky sense of humor makes it all the more enjoyable to read his work. Plus it has lots of pictures that made me laugh.

But on to mindfulness! Do you want to feel a natural high? Then read on.

The most memorable exercise for me was the Just Like Me/Loving Kindness Exercise adapted from Buddhist meditation practice. The objective is to increase your compassion and kindness, which thereby raises your own happiness level and, most likely, that of others too. It goes something like this:

Get into a comfortable position (I found sitting cross-legged to work well because lying down inevitably put me to sleep). Take two minutes to breathe deeply and quiet your mind.

Now visualize someone in your life. Say to yourself: “This person has a body just like me. This person has a mind just like me. This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me. This person has felt disappointment, fear, hurt, pain and confusion, just like me.” You could go on for some time, saying various things you know you share with this person. Then you end it with “This person wishes to be happy, just like me.”

The Loving Kindness part of the meditation involves wishing the person well. For instance, “I wish this person to be free from pain, to experience joy, to be extremely happy. Because this person is a human being, just like me.”

End the session by resting your mind for one minute.

I have only done this exercise once, but I was ready to hug the world after I did it. The book is filled with powerful exercises like this one. And it does require that you search inside yourself for your own golden nugget. You know, that lovely jewel resting deep within that wants to shine.

My jewel is blue. What color is yours?

When learning a new language, you are bound to make mistakes. It’s expected and normal. But when you are in a world where you don’t understand a thing without an interpreter to help you find your way, you might become dazed, confused and a tad irritated after a while.

Such is the language of computer programming for me. Product Key IDs, Windows Installer corruption and the inability to update applications such as Skype, a lifeline for me in so many ways, are things that put me in a tailspin.

And so it was this week. That is, until Mumbling Microsoft Man came to the rescue. The support guy on the other end of the line spoke so quickly and unclearly that I literally only understood the first and last word of every sentence.

“It……….again. So…….,okay?”

Right.

For the record, he told me I could use his last name here, but since we got on a first-name basis over the course of an intense three hour on-again, off-again mobile phone conversation, I decided to create a pseudonym for the purpose of this post.

It only seems fair.

After repairing what at first seemed like a minor missing link, Microsoft has gained enormous respect in my eyes. Admittedly, like a college student dabbling in drugs, sex and rock-n-roll, I have been known to dabble on the Dark Side (read: Apple products). Their graphics rock, the look and feel of them are appealing and the store itself makes me want to take my shoes off at the door and speak in hushed tones as I admire, well, everything. I love Apple products for their cutesy nature, their instantaneousness and their speed.

Yes, even in a blog about slow, speed is valued. But when push comes to shove and I really need to write, my PC stands like a lighthouse in the dark: solid, stark, simply there.

You can imagine my frenzy when my PC rejected any type of updates whatsoever. To make a long story short, an old registry sweeper application I stupidly downloaded had eventually erased an important product key that unlocked the mystery that is Microsoft-based computer programming.

Microsoft Man patiently began our session with a kind request for the Product Key ID. I gave him the wrong one. He patiently asked me to look on my computer tower, not my Home Office software packet. I got down on my hands and knees, owing him my own set of patience as I scanned all four dusty corners of it. Finally, with a shriek of delight, I found what he was looking for. After discovering how dirty my floor was, I pulled myself up from under my desk and waited for Microsoft Man’s next intelligent command. He logged into my computer via some secret remote program and I watched him whip around my computer screen like Super Geek trying to find the solution.

Forty minutes later, I was a liiiiiiittle less patient, understanding only half of what he was saying. What first came out of my mouth as, “I’m sorry. Might you please repeat that?” later morphed into, “Huh?” accompanied by a glazed look of the truly defeated.

But Microsoft Man would not be beaten. After an hour and ten minutes, we took a break. I headed for the kitchen, he to a colleague’s desk. I’m not certain whether he beat his head against it, but he came back to the second conversation sounding as even-keeled as ever.

I threw him a bone.

“Would you like to take a lunch break?” I suggested, secretly muting every time I took a bite of my Thai food.

“Not until this is over,” I heard him say.

What commitment!

He manually added some gibberish into an additional screen and by the third hour, we were speedily updating, reinstalling and generally smiling at the amazingness of Microsoft Man himself.

He kindly suggested I fill out the customer satisfaction evaluation form that would inevitably pop into my inbox in a few days.

You bet I will, MM. Somehow I feel like we speak the same language now.

What’s your computer repair story? If you have a PC, I know you have one. Now Apple, well, that’s another story!

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?

 

 

The kingdom of God resides within us all. Whatever your belief system is, know this: you can change the world. In fact, you do every day, with every action, with every encounter. All that you need already lies within you. The question is how will you change the world today?

Here’s Charlie Chaplin’s suggestion. I agree. Do you?

Unless you live in a box, or maybe were offline for the last, I don’t know, few weeks, you must have heard about 2012’s supermoon, the full moon that appears to be the largest all year. That is because it is actually 14% closer  and 30% brighter than it is at its farthest point. Given its elliptical orbit around the Earth, the moon loomed last night at the apex of proximity called “perigee”.

At its peak, it cut through the crack between our curtain and the wall. Although it was cloudy last night, its illumination pushed through the sky like a rocket. I rolled over, gave it a smile and a wink, then rolled over again to my dreams.

Here’s NASA’s take on the supermoon. They should know. They’ve been there!

By the year 2016 it is estimated that 43 percent of all US workers will work from home. That’s good news for the morning commute. But what about workplace productivity? Will we become even more isolated without all that watercooler chat?

Human beings are social animals. We need each other. So if it’s via Skype instead of via Starbucks at lunch, I’m wondering if we’ll build other types of home-based communities to fulfill that need. What about the National Association for the At-Home Worker? NAAHW! Or is that a ‘yes’?

Cisco’s stats speak for themselves. Enjoy!

The Mobile Workforce

 

When We Go for the Gold

April 25, 2012

Living on purpose is a big topic here on the Power of Slow blog. What better way to exhibit your enthusiasm for life than by going for the gold? Literally. As in the Olympics. Or figuratively, as in blogging about the same?

The folks promoting the Samsung Global Blogger competition approached me as they liked this blog and thought maybe others would be equally interested in reports from the trenches during the London Summer Games. So I put together a 30-second audition video as a candidate in the blogger competition.

If you want to actually view it, vote for it, pin it, like it or tweet it, you can do so here.

To vote, you can either:

1) Register at Zoopa.com (follow the steps)

2) Log-in using your Facebook details (follow the steps to ad the zoopa app).

Once logged in (either way), note the sliding bar on the right. 5 is the best; 1 is the worst, then click ‘vote’.

Either way, please view the video as every pair of eyes counts! Imagine taking the Power of Slow to the Summer Games? It would be my honor!

Remember when phones were large and looked like this?

A replica of my first telephone

 

We have moved on from the early 1980s when rotary was the norm and push-button was for ultra-modern folks. I had a phone just like the one pictured above. I paid $1.50 a month and shared the phone with my sisters. Those were the days.

Today our kids clog the talkwaves wherever they are. Only they usually aren’t talking, but typing.

According to a Vondane Mobile survey, texting and calling habits vary drastically between individuals ages 13-24 and 25+. Here are some highlights:

  • Nine percent of people ages 13-24 send over 1000 text messages a week. (My thumbs hurt just reading this, much less typing it.)
  • The majority of teens/young adults age 13-24 only make between 1-5 calls a week. (And usually not to Grandma, but to their friends ~ at least at my house!)
  • Seventy-six percent of parents keep track of the number of calls/texts their children make. (I wouldn’t go near my daughter’s cell phone. “It’s like my diary, Mom. Hands off!” Okay…)
  • The majority of those surveyed say cost is the most important consideration when deciding on cell phone service. (Agreed.)
  • Seventy-five percent of those surveyed own an iPhone or Android phone.

Below is the state of telecommunications today. Where do you land on this spectrum? Text like a teen? Are you a Scrooge on Skype?