The Lessons of Now

November 13, 2012

Some days we climb buildings in a single bound. Other days we can barely raise our heads off the pillow. Life can get overwhelming at times. When everything seems to be happening at once, know that you can only do so much.

For the past week I have blogged in my head a hundred times. And I’ve missed it. A lot. I am in the process of doing some back end work on this site to serve you better and to spread the word more easily about the Power of Slow. And yet, it seems, there are forces at work that have set me back from my desire to improve this blog even more for you.

As in all things, there is a gift to be found in setbacks. We often want things yesterday, as if now, or even tomorrow, isn’t soon enough. We get frustrated when our computers don’t boot up “fast enough”, when the person driving in front of us is “too slow”, when our loved ones don’t answer our emails/phone calls/text messages “right away”.

But it takes time to let things grow. They must first germinate, then grow roots, then push themselves slowly out of the ground. Only then can they come into full bloom.

So if my blog has yet to have the beautiful character I wish it to have, know that I’m working on it.

That is the lesson of Now.

Out of Control

September 28, 2012

Our modern age has given us so many new tools to manage ourselves. iPhones, laptops, PCs, traffic navigators, you name it. In effect, these gadgets offer us a semblance of control. And feeling in control is necessary for our mental health.

And yet we really aren’t in control as much as we think we are. That is why Facebook is so intoxicating. Updating your status, checking in with others, posting feelings, thoughts and memories provide us with pseudo-connection with others. But we don’t really hear their voices, feel their feelings or see their faces as they express these things. In addition, Facebook is another way of controlling our image. I like to call it Fakebook because in reality, who is going to admit that they just did something less than reputable, yet perhaps very human?

As connected and controlled as our lives appear, it is a virtual world we create when we use these social media platforms. Our real lives on the ground are the ones we need to nurture the most because there is no substitute for a physical hug when you need it.  It takes a moment of thought. It takes a human touch. And it takes time.

Everything else is a neatly controlled world, a cartoon version of ourselves.

I’m for being real. Are you?

 

The other night I attended a Twitter party. For those of you unfamiliar with such things, it is a gathering on the microblogging social media platform Twitter to discuss a particular topic. This time we were a group of bloggers that convened on Twitter using a particular keyword to follow the conversation for thirty minutes. The topic was, of course, blogging, one of my favorite subjects.

One question the moderators posed was what’s more important: grammar or getting the point across. I have to admit I love grammar and respect all its rules because language is something I highly revere. And I am traumatized even now, thirty years later, by my English teacher Ms. Willis whose smoker’s voice and steely glare still permeate my brain when I even consider saying “There’s two things” instead of saying “There are”.

But language, like anything else, is a compilation of sounds that is fluid and ever-evolving. We bend the rules sometimes to fit the situation. Being a Southern girl, I respect rule-bending. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, ya”ll. It gives life to new possibilities and ways of expressing ourselves.

You may have noticed I bend the rules on this blog a lot. Suddenly adjectives become nouns. Slow is one example. It is this very juxtaposition that challenges the reader to think in new ways.

So while good grammar is something to be preserved, let’s leave a little room for imperfection. After all, it is in that very place that we grow the most.

P.S. To my embarassment, I wrongly attributed yesterday’s image as Lower Elk Canyon, Arizona. It’s Lower Antelope Canyon. Apologies to all wildlife that has been offended. Imperfection at its best!

A Love Letter to Alanis

September 19, 2012

Every once in a while someone comes along to change your life in surprising ways. You don’t expect it. You don’t anticipate the vastness of their effect on your life. And then there it is ~ a newness you never thought possible.

Alanis Morissette is one of those people. And because I love her so much, in all her frailty and grace and honesty, I thought I’d pen a love letter just to say it to her too. So here goes.

Dear Alanis,

It may seem strange to receive a letter from someone you don’t know, but I’m sure you have had some practice. How did you jump inside my head, read my thoughts, then sing about it like that? You recorded seemingly every painful, joyful, messy, divine experience I have ever had. And you belted it out like you had experienced the same thing too.

I love you for your honesty. I love you for your courage. I love you for showing me your authentic self.

Your latest album Havoc and Bright Lights once again hit a nerve. At first I was a bit skeptical as your sound seems to have ripened with age. Maybe it was the years between this album and your prior one, Flavors of Entanglement, which I played until the CD gave up cough and wheezing into retirement (I burned a new one – totally legally of course!). Maybe it was motherhood, which is bound to change anyone, but your lyrics, once digested, are as profound and moving as all your other work. As a fellow writer, I am left astounded by your keen ability to squeeze multiple human experiences into tiny words.

Listening to your voice gives me the sense that all is right with the world, even as you sing of the things that are not.


There is another reason why I am writing you. You give me courage. You give me the feeling I can do anything. And while you sing, I think you are simultaneously listening to my reaction. It is as if you know how I feel. That is your art. That is your talent. That is the beauty of you.

You sing of empathy and how you appreciate that in others. You speak of the creative spirit in Magical Child that carries us forward. You recognize how powerful women are (and love them for it). You ask if we have found our own true North, that direction in life that keeps us centered and on task.

I’m not sure I have yet, but I am trying. With your help I may just get there yet.

With love,

Christine

Step into Your Mystical-Magical

September 18, 2012

Words touch me like fire and wind. They move my heart, my spirit, my soul. They haunt my dreams, collecting themselves in a line, pushing through my mind to be heard.

So I give voice to them however I can.

In the silence of the forest, I listen to those words whisper their truth in my ear.  They march alongside me like soldiers, stomping their feet in unison.

Whenever I express a particularly deep truth, I am moved to tears by it. Those words, so sincere, caress my very being and I can do nothing but weep. My friend, who is also as tearful as I, recently asked me why he cries so much when he’s with me.

“We step into the mystical-magical, my dear friend!” I told him. We are close to such powerful truth that it can be overwhelming and what is a mere mortal to do but to cry!?

Stepping into your mystical-magical needn’t be that dramatic. It might cause you to smile warmly to yourself as you observe a beautiful moment in time such as a small child delighting in an ice cream cone or the slant of light as it pierces the morning mist. It only requires that you look and listen closely.

Your mystical-magical is waiting for you, too, if you slow down long enough to let it in.

 

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!

 

Dare to Surrender

August 25, 2012

At the very beginning of this marvelous summer (or winter, for you Southern Hemisphere readers), I wrote of surrender. As any writer will tell you, we mostly write about the things we need to learn most.

And so it is with this blog.

A lot of the advice, truths and ideas I have set forth have been lessons I have learned and/or am in the process of learning. I’m walking the same path as you. While being an expert is somehow praised in our society, I am only an expert of my own life, as you are with yours. What I can say is surrender is by far the hardest, and perhaps most important, lesson we can learn.

So often we want things that are just beyond our grasp. We place great effort into it, such as writing that book proposal or convincing a client that your counsel is warranted, but what happens is what happens. And we can only do so much to influence the outcome of events.

When we enter the Surrender Room, we access a power far greater than ourselves. We are able to be highly involved with what we are doing without the attachment to the outcome. We liberate ourselves from the dependency on other people’s responses. Our truth remains, no matter the circumstances. We simply do what we need to do, then move on.

Instead of wasting our energy on things that are beyond your control, focus on the things you can.

How you choose to spend your time is one of the things you can do a lot about. You may feel trapped in a job you hate or in a relationship that needs to change, but all told, you can decide how to deal with it.

It’s not that some people have better lives than others. It is how you cope with the challenges at hand that determine the quality of your days.

I dare to surrender to the All Knowing Force. As scary as it may be, I see it as the most empowering choice we can make as human beings.

Will you join me?

 

Dwell in Possibility

August 24, 2012

Surmounting seemingly impossible tasks is an essential part of life. When I took my very first written exam at German university, I was scared out of my wits. All kinds of ‘what if’s’ floated through my head. ‘What if I can’t formulate my thoughts in the time that I have?’ ‘What if I fail?’ ‘What if I forget all my German and draw a complete blank!?’ ‘What if!?’ ‘What if!?’

So my mother, being the fabulous person she is, sent me a T-shirt with Emily Dickenson’s quote “I dwell in possibility.” She asked me to entertain the possibility that I would succeed.

Stumbling into the exam room wearing the T-shirt as my guide, I wrote the exam non-stop for two hours. And you know what? I did succeed despite my doubt.

It was a pivotal moment in which I realized, at the tender age of twenty-three, how much our thoughts dictate pretty much every choice we make, if we let them. Or we can take a more heart-centered approach in which we seek out the joy in every situation (and I mean every one!) despite the thoughts swirling in our heads, screaming the opposite to what our hearts are saying.

What are you thinking is impossible today? What if you were to entertain that it could be possible after all? Would you see things with different eyes? Would you succeed?

Audrey Hepburn once said, “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible.”

Yes, you are. Start with your vision of what you’d like to see in the world, then create it. You might be amazed at who shows up to help you once you are clear about what you really want.

The Weight of Words

August 20, 2012

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Wanna make a bet? I’ve never agreed with that saying. For anyone who has been bullied before, words can do more damage than a machine gun.

Words have more power in the material world than we think. Japanese researcher Dr. Masaru Emoto  revolutionized how we think about the energy of words when he published his work on how water crystals react to certain terms, photography or music.

The reaction the water had to the word peace looks like this:

The word truth had this response:

The negative term you fool gave the water crystal the following form:

I’m beginning to see a pattern here, are you?

Words in the form of fiction can also have an amazing influence on our lives. Through books, screenplays and short stories, we get to travel to far off worlds without leaving our easychair. In fact, Annie Murphy Paul reported for the New York Times about a York University study in Canada headed up by psychologist Ramyond Mar, that found “individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective.”

Darmouth College’s Geoff Kaufman teamed up with Lisa Libby at Ohio State University to prove that literature can truly have a profound impact on our self-understanding, attitudes and even behaviors. In the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 103, No. 1, 1-19, 2012), they report on the phenomenon they’ve termed “experience-taking“. Essentially, you take on the fictional character’s experience as your own.

The neat thing is our brains can’t distinguish between reading about an experience and actually encountering it in real life, which is maybe why the more teary-eyed folks among us cry so easily when reading a good book or seeing a good movie (I am one of them. I admit. You know that scene in Spielberg’s 2011 flick, War Horse, where the British and the German soldiers gather together in no-man’s land to free the horse from the barbed wire fence in a momentary act of peace and purpose? Yea, I was bawling, people. Bawling I was!). If a book is good, I cry at the end too. It’s that empathy thing, like saying goodbye to a dear friend you won’t see for a long, long time.

Because in your mind, you are. Those characters are real, dammit! Who needs reality TV when you can enter a fantasy world by opening a book at any time?

If you have ever written fiction, you will know that those characters come knocking at your door at all hours of the night, wanting to be heard, formed and plopped into the storyline of your own creation. They can be pretty adament, too. I have a few slumbering in my head myself. Maybe I’ll let them out to play on the page a little more.

And when I do, you’ll get to be a part of the fantasy too.

For now, I offer you this three-minute video to illustrate the power of words. May you choose yours carefully and with all the kindness you possess.

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