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.

Two days ago I was cruising up I-8 on my way to Phoenix from San Diego to pick up my mom at the airport. If you have ever driven out West, you will know how straight and narrow those highways can be. You can go 100 miles without really seeing civilization. With good tunes on the radio and a bit of mindlessness, it is easy to go a tad over the speed limit.

It is embarrassing to admit to you that, right after a pitstop in Yuma, AZ for some breakfast at IHOP, I was pulled over by one very nice Officer Sanchez for going too fast.

Picture it.

“Hi, Ma’am. The reason I pulled you over is because you were going too fast.”

“I was? I thought the speed limit was 70!”

A warm smile.

“I clocked you at 81.”

Oops.

He asked me where I was going, where I am from and what I do for a living. I cheerfully explained that I had had a spiritual prompting and was on my way to Sedona. Admittedly, I thought the spiritual angle might soften his heart. And I told him how ironic this all was, given I am the author of The Power of Slow.

He made me wait a full ten minutes while he checked out my profile in his car. When he returned, he kindly handed me a warning instead of a ticket, told me I really needed to slow down, and ,”Oh, Christine? Read your book!”

I giggled to myself all the way to Phoenix.

Thank you, Officer Sanchez. You are right. Slow really is faster.

Travels to Myself

November 1, 2012

Whenever I board a plane, train or automobile to a new place, I am guided by my internal GPS. Every interaction I have or person I meet opens my eyes in new ways. I am informed by the novelty of the situation, but also by the ever-unfolding plan of the Universe that places me right in the middle of whatever I need to experience. It is particularly astounding to me how many cool people fly on airplanes.


Waiting at the Dulles International airport with Husband, I noticed a cute young couple in the corner, sharing food and body warmth as we waited to board our five-hour flight to San Diego. Husband and I had to change seats at the gate to ensure we sat together so our once randomly assigned seats were once again rearranged for that purpose. In other words, I wasn’t supposed to sit where I did, but I am so glad it worked out that way. I met the most fascinating doctor-in-training who laughed with me across the continent. When we got up to stretch our legs, I noticed the cute couple was right behind me in the next row. That’s when the girl engaged me in some small talk. It turns out she and her husband were returning from their honeymoon cruise just in time to miss Hurricane Sandy. Then, to my delight, she asked me if I might go to lunch with her.

“I just love your light,” she beamed. I beamed back and we made a date. A few days later we spent a lovely few hours together, chatting over lunch then walking on the beach. We revealed that neither one of us was supposed to be in the rows we were sitting (she was supposed to be on a different flight altogether). I shared with her the mystical-magical that we all possess. She already knew that. What impressed me most was when she said we already have everything we need. At 24 years old, she knows who she is. I was encouraged that the next generation’s consciousness will be higher than ours.

Travel brings us closer to who we are, guiding us to people of all ages and backgrounds. It shows us that no matter where we are on the planet, we expand a piece of who we are when we are engaged with each other, just like the Universe itself.

Dance in the light, my friends, wherever you are. Know that everything will work out just as it should. And that you are not alone.  Ever.

The Flame of Intuition

October 28, 2012

Intuition mostly comes like a flash of lightning. It is a strong inner knowing about something you couldn’t possibly know about through facts or even experience. It can be a guiding light in the storm of confusion. It can be your saving grace.

Listening to your inner voice requires that you slow down long enough to hear it. In our hustle and bustle of every day life, it can be challenging to take pause and reflect, much less stop for a moment when that intuitive voice decides to speak. It’s not something you can plan, really. It’s not as if that voice works on a schedule like you do.

So when it chooses to speak to you, you had better listen. It’s your divine intelligence showing you the way. You may not feel lost at the moment, but if you ignore your inner voice, you are not on the path you are meant to be on.

Some people tell me they don’t have an inner voice. Maybe they have never actually heard it before, or knew what they were experiencing when they did. But it is my deepest conviction that we all have the Divine Within. Give it a chance to express itself and it will take you on a journey of incredible beauty.

It takes fortitude to trust that voice. Sometimes you might get visions that accompany your intuition. I sure do. That’s usually when my ego mind jumps out of its chair and shouts:

“You’re crazy, right???!”

Take Sedona, for instance. For weeks I heard a voice that said, “Go to Sedona and you will heal.”

Sedona, Arizona? Really? I already have weeks of travel ahead of me both in Europe and America. How could I possibly squeeze in another trip this year?

Then it occurred to me to see how far Sedona is from San Diego where I had a few unplanned days to explore the area. It is well within a day’s drive.

Plans started to form in my head. Then, as I told my mom about the idea, she said, “I have a movie called ‘Sedona’ right here on my desk. Let’s go together!”

And so the flame of intuition that started to burn over a month ago has grown into a roaring fire. I do not question the “why” of things. I trust in this voice as it has never led me astray. The more I do, the more vivid my ideas have become.

What intuitive thoughts have you had lately that you have disregarded? What if you were to follow just one of them? Where would it lead you? It might take you out of your comfort zone, but it is only there that you will grow. How far are you willing to follow that voice?

With a treasure chest full of trust and love, I’m ready to take that journey. Are you?

 

The Echo Effect

September 26, 2012

We all have a personal echo. It’s the stamp we make on the world, like footprints in concrete. And it reverberates around the planet whether you know it or not.

Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Some call it the butterfly effect. That is, when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can cause a windstorm on the other side of the world. If you flap yours, who knows what will happen!

Have you ever noticed how one single car can stop traffic for hours, backing up a highway in a matter of minutes? That’s your personal echo at work.

Or the kick-the-dog syndrome, in which one person’s aggression, such as your boss’s, trickles down to you, then you pass it along to your kid, who then gives Fido a swift kick in the behind because of the chain of personal echoes swinging through the air.

Or the warm smile you offer the sales lady who then does something nice for someone else who then extends kindness to a stranger…and so on? Yup. You guessed it. Your personal echo strikes again.

Unlike the echo that haunts a cavern from your voice box to its sound-stung walls, your personal echo leaves a lasting impression. It moves the world. With one small act.

And you do this every day. What you do and who you are really matters.

What effect will your echo have today? Dag, just the thought of it makes me want to dance.

La vie est belle

September 15, 2012

My grandmother had a sign above her kitchen sink that read „Life Can Be Beautiful“. She would emphasize the “can” in the phrase, indicating she had seen some less than beautiful things in her life. I will always remember her philosophy, even though she is no longer here to share it with the world.

There is so much beauty in life. Every moment offers an opportunity to seek it out. Such was my experience recently on a train in France.

The train came to a halt just a few miles before my stop. In the late August heat I tried to decipher what the train conductor was telling us in French over the loudspeakers. After about thirty minutes, we were told we had to head back to the prior stop due to ‘track issues’. I looked at the guy next to me and asked him, in halting French, if he spoke English or German. He lit up.

“English. A little bit!”

We proceeded to speak French instead. I learned he was going to pick up a new car and had to drive nine hours back to Bordeaux the same day. He seemed unfazed by the delay. His Zen-like attitude was contagious and I settled in for the hour’s wait with delight. He bought me a Coke at the next stop and we chatted in French for the remainder of the time.

“We could be complaining right now like some of the people I saw who chose to wait on the platform,” he said to me. “But instead, we are using our time to the best of our ability.”

“Oui,” I replied. “La vie est belle!”

I couldn’t resist telling him about The Power of Slow. He already had the mindset. I was impressed!

As we parted ways, I headed for my hotel. And when I did, I saw Julia Roberts smiling at me from this poster. In that moment I swear I could feel my grandmother smiling too.

In Step with Synchronicity

September 14, 2012

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung coined the phrase synchronicity, which means the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, yet are experienced as occurring together in a meaningful manner.

So it was with my visit to the iPhone Doctor recently.

My iPhone was ill. After all that international travel, it could no longer pick up its indigenous phone signal, leaving it rather useless for someone who, well, needs a phone. I asked a local service provider if she knew something about iPhones. A few swipes on the screen told me she did not. With a solemn look, she gazed deeply into my eyes and said:

“This is a case for the iPhone Doctor.”

I could almost hear the creepy horror movie music play in the background as she spoke the words.

She carefully described how to get to his place. Take a left, then a right, then another right. I set off with great hope in my heart that the Doctor could help. But when I got to the address, that the local shop lady said several times and with the confidence of an insider, I couldn’t find a sign indicating anything about a doctor, much less an iPhone. That is, until a lady who appeared on the stoop next door gave me the same gaze the shop lady did and said:

“What are you searching for? Maybe I can help!”

I was about to tell her what I really wanted to know was the meaning of life, but stopped short as I realized perhaps asking for directions would be better.

“Ah yes, the iPhone Doctor. He’s there. Just push open the door and go upstairs. Last office on your left.”

Again, the creepy music played in my head and I swear her body language added: “He’s waiting for you.”

I climbed the stairs to be greeted by a smiling face that didn’t belong to the iPhone Doctor, but who had the same knowing look. “You’re going to see him, aren’t you?” the face seemed to say. I smiled weakly, then continued down the long corridor to the last office.

And then there he was: Jürgen, the iPhone Doctor, smiling like a Buddha as I walked into his space.

“I was on vacation, you see…” and he interrupted with a shudder. “Your phone got wet, didn’t it? Let me guess. Swimming pool? Jacuzzi?” He sized me up with a keen eye.

“None of the above! It’s simply cranky because I kept switching networks. You know. Swisscom, iWind, Orange France!”

He tooled around with it for a while, professionally swiping screen after screen, grunting quietly, then brushing away the detritus in the speaker with a toothbrush and buffing the screen with a woolly towel.

“Here you go! Good as new. But if all else fails, hit reset, okay?”

Which is what I ended up doing when I got home because my iPhone continued to act crazy. Jürgen’s backup advice worked. And that’s all I cared about.

The synchronicity of the moment made me realize there are guiding forces in our lives that show us the way when we can’t help ourselves. When we are present to them, life can be so much fun. When asked why he has no sign on his door, Jürgen revealed to me that his word-of-mouth strategy is ultimately more effective than advertising. It has more impact. He leverages the power of synchronicity because, as he says, “I want the people to come looking for me.”

What synchronicities can you find today? Look for them. They are there, waiting for you to see them so they can play too.

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!

 

Simple Pleasures

August 19, 2012

Last year was the year of leisure travel. We visited the United States twice. A little over the top maybe, but we wanted to visit relatives and take a family vacation too. Living biculturally as we do, we often feel obliged to spend the majority of our vacation time visiting our US family, which is nice. But it also takes a lot of time, planning and preparation.

This year we declared the year of flow, which meant not meticulously planning every moment of leisure we had at our disposal.

And it has worked out beautifully.

We made room for life’s simple pleasures. An overnight jaunt here (me without the family ~ imagine!), a day trip there, a concert or two, a walk through the English Garden with friends and intra-European fun without jetlag, passport control or super-strict-dead-eyed-US-aiport-security-personnel whose killer glance could slay you eternally if you let it.

In other words, we allowed awareness to take over: the pleasure of awaking to a bird’s song; the beauty of observing the hops fields grow pregnant with their plump buds; a carefree trip to the public pool simply because it’s hot and we have the time.

A four-day trip to Paris with Daughter may sound extravagent by any measure, yet I am certain her greatest memory will not be  the sights we saw, but the taste of that first chocolate crêpe at the base of the Eiffel Tower. She talked about it the whole time. Who needs Versailles when you can have Nutella wrapped in a warm pancake?

What juicy pleasures can you bring to your own life? Celebrate their simplicity. They are the fabric of your existence. And the best ones really are free, especially when you experience them with the people you love.

Take some time for the little miracles that await you today. They are there, ready for the taking if you have the eyes to see them and the heart to embrace them with all your might.

Soul Trippin’

August 8, 2012

Travel can unleash the soul, especially if you go to a place you’ve been before in another lifetime.

And so it was for me in France this weekend.

French was the first foreign language I ever heard at the tender age of six. It was a gateway to a new world that I have yearned to explore ever since.

Flashback a year ago when my daughter sat, tear-filled and sad, that she felt unprepared for her final French exam. To encourage her, I promised her a trip to Paris if she studied hard the following year.

She did. And we flew on Saturday to the city of love. I spent four days in a state of breathlessness and beauty. As I stood in the wind on the grounds of Versailles, it was as if I was visiting an ancient part of myself. My soul literally danced.

Eiffel TowerIf you have ever experienced a sense of déjà vu, it’s your soul’s radar picking up on a memory embedded deep within. The feeling I had in France was stronger than that sense of familiarity. It was as if I had lived there before. The feeling got stronger as we drove through the country’s largest forest.

I’ve always loved the woods.

A French colleague of mine warned me about the unfriendly Parisians. I only met the nice ones. Perhaps it was because they took pity on me as I struggled to speak French…or maybe it was their appreciation that I tried. A universal truth states that the world is your mirror. What you put into it is pretty much what comes back out.

Intuitive travel is a great opportunity to take a soul trip. If you get a sense to go somewhere for no apparent reason, do it. It’s your spirit talking. Listen. Explore. Be. And do it fearlessly.

It’s slow travel at its best.