October 25, 2012

The bracelet was perfect. After searching from Paris to Alsace to Tuscany, I finally found the jewelry that expressed one of the most important summers of my life.

You see I am not a collector, really. My best friend is the one who collects things. As a teen she collected crystals. Later she took a liking to charms. So whenever I would travel, I would bring her a charm from the places I had been: the Parthenon in Greece; the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Until one day her bracelet grew so heavy, her arm could no longer support it.

Infused with the need to find something similar, I looked everywhere for a new charm bracelet, but it seems as though the charm makers had gone out of business. No matter where I went, I couldn’t find any.

That is, until I reached our final destination on our week-long tour of Tuscany in a small town called Lucca. There lay two charm bracelets in the window with exactly the charms I had been searching for. The place was so tiny we had to stand still so as not to touch the walls. With an open face and a kind smile, the shop clerk was incredibly friendly. In our broken Italian we asked for a good place to eat. She called around to her friends, but none of the good places were open. She was the most, well, charming person we had met along the way!

Sometimes we find what we are looking for in the most unexpected places. If we search too hard, we may not see what we need to see. With relaxed eyes and a calm spirit, we are better able to perceive what we are meant to see.

In which ways have you been charmed lately? Life can be spell-bounding, if you let it. Open your heart and look at the world through its eyes. You may find that everything you’ve been looking for is right in front of you.

Social connection is the healing bond that keeps us centered. When we disengage from the world, withdraw from our loved ones or wander down the path of isolation, we aren’t able to cope as well.

According to the new book, Manage Your Stress: Overcoming Stress in the Modern World, love heals. We all know this, but what is surprising is that a lack of social connection is more toxic than smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, obesity or a lack of exercise. That’s pretty significant when you think about it. You could be the physically fittest person on the planet, but without someone to love, and be loved by, you’re in bad shape after all.

A dear friend of mine entered the hospital yesterday for a fairly routine operation, but before he did, he reached out to me to tell me how scared he was. He needed reassurance and I was so glad to give it to him. It helped him manage his stress better and I felt good for being there.

That’s what it’s all about. Being there for each other to manage the ups and downs of life.

So if you are feeling stressed, reach out to someone you love today. It’s the best win-win situation you could create for yourself. And you’ll live longer, and better, for it too.

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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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.

You’ve all heard me say it. Limit screen time for yourselves and your kids. One person even said I believe TV is the source of all evil. Not so. I wouldn’t work in TV if I thought that. Toddlers, however, have other things on their minds than watching images pass through the screen: such as learning how to navigate the furniture without falling down and potty training.

According to a recent study,  children age two and under should not watch any TV at all. The ramifications shows up later (by fourth grade), according to the report. Believe me. It’s not worth it. My then-eighteen-month-old took in the story of the three little pigs while playing blocks. He never watched the screen (my three-year-old did), but the sound of the Big Bad Wolf haunted him for years. I mean years!

So, cutting down on screen time is a super duper power of slow idea. How? If you’re in Manhattan or Scarsdale, New York, consider this community, Citibabes (their blog, launched today, literally rules!). I sat down for a cyberchat with Citibabes founder Tracey Frost to discuss the importance of community. The power of slow says the meeting of the minds uplifts. Have a listen to Tracey Frost!


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While talking with my sister on the phone yesterday, she made me laugh for a full 90 seconds. She was conveying something rather serious and power-of-slow-related about how annoyed she gets when people show up late to lunch dates.

“Your coming late by twenty minutes might mean I don’t eat.”

It struck a funny bone, and I couldn’t stop hooting about it. It was the way in which she said it. Dead-pan, and so true.

We often get caught in the swirl of our lives, regrettably late to appointments that might mean we get to eat. Or not. 

The work-life balance poll I conducted earlier this week shows people are on the fence with the entire notion. While many said their lifestyle has improved over 2008, many say there is no such thing as work-life balance.

Dr. Susan Fletcher, a psychologist in private practice, author, CEO of 2 companies (Smart Zone Solutions being one of them), wife and mother of 3 children, is a great person to ask about work-life issues. While I myself laughterbelieve work and life are not separate and distinct, we are at our best when we live in harmony with all aspects of our lives.

 When asked how one can live powerfully in the face of today’s economic crisis, Dr. Fletcher writes:

  • Use technology to connect to people – not to disconnect. According to scientist Alvin Weinberg, “Technology makes it easier and easier to disconnect from other people, and from ourselves.” Remember that human interaction can boost your mood. Make it a rule that if an email is more than 2 paragraphs that you will pick up the phone and call instead.


  • Finish what you start. Research shows that when we are disciplined and deliberate with projects that it has an 18% positive effect on happiness. It’s not always easy to be conscientious and finish a large task – but we feel better about ourselves when we have the sense of accomplishment.


  • Share a silly moment. “Laughter may be the shortest distance between 2 brains,” says Daniel Goleman in his book Social Intelligence. Think of the immediate sense of closeness you get with someone when you share a nice hearty laugh. For that moment it’s like you are in sync with each other’s thoughts. (Editor’s Note: As a parenting humorist, I find this one to be the most powerful!) 


  • Know what makes others happy. Powerful people are attuned to the emotions of others. Try these ideas: Headed to meet with a client? When you grab yourself a cup of coffee on the way to the meeting buy one for your client also. Did you eat lunch out today? Order an extra dessert to bring back for a co-worker or neighbor. Spent a few days out of the office where your co-workers had to cover for you? Bring them back a small gift from your time away – it can just be a pen from the hotel or a whimsical trinket from the airport gift shop.


  • Smile. You can actually trick your brain’s neurotransmitters into thinking you are happy with a smile. When you smile at people they typically smile back – it’s a natural reflex to mimic the facial expressions of others. If you are in a bad rut, clench a pencil in your teeth and you will force your face into a smile. This will subtly evoke a positive feeling. Try it!


  • Don’t gripe and moan! No one wants to hang out with a whiner.  If you want to survive in today’s economy you must accept change with a smile and determine how you can contribute to making the change successful.  


  • Don’t hold on to the carpet. You’ve heard the phrase, “eye on the prize” or “begin with the end in mind.”  If you’ve ever had the carpet pulled out from underneath you then you know change can be unexpected and unwelcome.  Early in Susan’s career, her job at a hospital was eliminated due to budget cuts.  Unwelcomed and unexpected, it turned out to be one of the most important learning experiences of her life. Discomfort is a fine teacher. 

No kidding.  I’d watch out for the chewing pencil technique, though. Make sure it’s a rubber one!