“What a stupid thing to do!”

“How could I have done that?”

“I’m soooo embarrased!”

“I’m such an idiot.”

We have all said these things to ourselves at one point in our lives. The negative self-talk in which we engage only serves to make us feel bad, overcautious and victimized by our own decisions. It is a powerless place where nothing we do differently will make it better. We remain the imbeciles we think we are.

That is, unless we practice a little self-forgiveness for the mistakes we make.

About ten years ago, I began the self-forgiveness journey with an inquiry about what life would be like if:

  • every time we made an error, we would laugh instead of cry
  • we acknowledge the cringing sensation of having said/done/thought something less than optimal
  • we celebrate the knowledge of what doesn’t work versus beating ourselves us for selecting that path
  • we distinguish between making mistakes and our own intrinsic value (that is to say, one does not affect the other. You are still worthy even if you’re imperfect).

In an earlier post last year, I blogged about the seemingly unforgivable that people actually forgave. Forgiveness, whether of self or of others, is the route to setting yourself free. It is not the perpetrator who is liberated by your forgiveness, but yourself. If you are the perpetrator of your own acts of self-violence, then forgiveness is needed all the more as you play a double starring role in your own unfurling drama.

My dear actor friend and acting coach Gabrielle Scharnitzky taught me a lovely exercise I would like to impart to you. Since many of us in this insane-size-zero-celebrity-driven culture carry with us a less than ideal body image, you might find this exercise particularly helpful for developing a sense of gratitude for your body as well as practicing the act of self-forgiveness. It goes like this:

After taking a shower or bath, thank each part of your body for the things that it does. As you apply lotion to your skin, really look at yourself. Every part. Say a prayer of gratitude (“Thank you, feet, for helping me stand tall.” or “Thank you, hands, for helping me create miracles today…”). It will not only give you a better sense of self, it will also put you in a better mood. After all, how can you not forgive a person who is saying “thank you”?

And that person, my love, is you.

 

 

The title caught your eye, didn’t it? Not all things that are worthwhile have to come slowly. And although I am dedicated to the power that slow brings, I’m equally committed to human happiness. And I mean for everyone.

You can experience instant joy by doing a few simple things. So in true slow style, I offer you five methods to attain more joy in every day situations.

  1. Traffic jams. Instead of beating yourself over the head that you took the slow lane and are now trapped on the road, take a look at all the other cars in line with you. They want to get to their destination too. Smile at someone you pass. They just might smile back. Joy points: 2+
  2. “I’m late” syndrome. While we all like to be on time, life gets in the way sometimes. So if you are going to be late to an appointment, call or text the person and let them know. Chances are they’ll be equally relieved to have a few minutes to breathe themselves. If you are going to be late for an event, trust that the Universe has your back and is aligning with what is meant to be. And remember: there’s really no such thing as late: you arrive at the right time, every time. Joy points: 1+
  3. The sound of music. Listen to your favorite tunes. A good song can boost your mood in no time. Joy points: 2+
  4. Acceptance. You might find this hard to believe, but accepting that some people in your life aren’t going to change can liberate you to focus on what they can do. While I do not condone abusive behavior (and if you find yourself in that situation, please ask for help), your quirks make you the person you are. This rule applies to everyone. Joy points: 3+
  5. Gratitude. I once thanked a person who said she could never be my friend for teaching me so much about communication. She didn’t get it, but it made me feel better as I left the situation. Gratitude can heal the weirdest of circumstances. Joy points: off the charts!

So now I’m going to tell you a little secret. To unlock your joy, look at your attitude. A good attitude will give you the altitude to stand above anything life throws at you.

I’m feeling a little joy high right now. Are you?

The Busy Monster

If you’ve ever uttered the words “I’m too busy,” what you are really saying is “X,Y,Z is more important than you at the moment.” We all set priorities, even if we deny that is what we are doing. We feel victimized by our lives, when in truth, we had a strong hand in creating that life in the first place. Work takes precedence over our social lives, family, even ourselves. We race from one thing to the next, attempting to keep it all in line.

As a result, we have become less spontaneous because there is no room for it. We creep farther and farther away from our true selves because, quite frankly, we haven’t a spare moment to even consider what that is. In our overcommitted, overscheduled lives, we have no time for each other. No time to say thank you for kind gestures because we barely even notice them. Gratitude and connection land in the pile of obligations that we will get to “someday”.

The busy monster feeds on our stress. He needs it to survive. Busy comes at the expense of relationships, not only with others, but also with ourselves.

Slow can remedy that.

In an interesting exchange with a friend who had just spent a week’s retreat in Bali getting massages and enjoying true suspension of thought, she admitted to me that she is committed to a less stressful life. But she could only come to that conclusion by slowing down and realizing how much better she felt doing so. Her new commitment might mean saying “no” more often, but less because she is too busy and more because she doesn’t want to be.

Imagine a world in which we say “no” to busy? What deeper connections could we foster with each other with that kind of commitment?

Life is not a plan. It’s a journey.

This is something my mom knows well. So it was fitting that, as we journeyed NYC-bound on the Acela Express, we would soon learn not only people can travel, but things can, too.

You see my mom lives in the belief that life is a God trip; God only knows where you’ll end up. As we zipped up the East Coast toward Manhattan, I helped her set up her blog, aptly named Life is a God Trip to celebrate her philosophy in an online space. Snapping a photo of her, I wanted to capture her joy. But little did I know that that photo would be the key to the camera itself.

We got settled in our hotel room, had a nice meal and retired early as we knew the next day would be long. Up at dawn, we breakfasted, then took a taxi to the harbor for a boat tour of Lower Manhattan. It was then that I realized my beloved camera, the holder of so many memories during my mammoth five-state five-week trip, was gone.

I should have known the camera had its own ideas. It had slipped from my lap and into my bag on the train. Little did I know it was practicing its escape!

Later that day, I half-heartedly asked the hotel security if they had seen the camera. They had not. Saddened, but steeped in my God trip knowledge, I sensed the camera had decided to take its own journey.

And so it had.

Yesterday a woman left a comment on my mom’s blog, explaining she lived in Venezuela and that her mother had found a hot pink camera in a NYC taxi. She scanned the pictures to find a clue as to the owner’s identity. That’s when she came upon my mom’s photo of joy in front of her newly birthed blog. She must have read the URL, then matched her picture to the one on the camera. She was writing to ask for the address so that she may return it on her trip to Florida, where my own God trip in April began.

No, my friends. Life is not a plan. It is indeed a journey, one of joy and grace and miracles.

For this I am forever grateful. Thank you, Alexandra, of Venezuela. Your kindness will live on in all that I do.

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Gratitude journals rule.

According to research conducted at the University of California at Davis, those study participants who made regular entries in their gratitude journals had a more consistent exercise regime, reported fewer physical symptoms, had a more optimistic view of their lives on the whole and looked more positively toward the coming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events.

Placing ourselves in a space of thankfulness can truly change our outlook on life.

So when you feel you are time-strapped, you are not in a space of abundant gratitude (thank you for the time I have), but rather in a space of lack (I don’t have enough time).

What if you were to keep a time abundance journal?

Much like the impact of the gratitude journal as mentioned in the above study, a time abundance journal that records all the time that you do have (and how you spent it) could place you in a more optimistic mindset.

And a happy mind is a happy body.

In their new book, The Happy Body, LA-based world weight-liftingchamps Jerzy and Aniela Gregorek suggest other ways to keep fit mentally and physically. One idea I liked in particular came from an email they sent me about diet discovery versus denial. They wrote:

“Many people think of dieting as punishment. Instead, give thanks for the amazing variety of food you have available to you year round, and how that enables you to go on what we call a “diet discovery journey.” What do you love to eat? How can you make that a healthier choice? Eating well does not have to be restrictive and punitive. Instead, be grateful that you have the power to make small changes — such as eating smaller portions, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and fewer processed foods.

My tip? Google a new recipe, then go to your local farmer’s market to find fresh ingredients. Try one new vegetable from that recipe. It may take some trial and error, but in my view, fresh veggies taste much better than cellophane-wrapped ones.

And don’t forget to record your experience in your time abundance journal!

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November is Gratitude month! For thirty days I’m running a gratitude-a-thon on my Power of Slow Facebook page. If you’re not on Facebook, leave your comments here. Otherwise, please join me directly on my FB page to share your grats with others!

How can you join? Simply list one or two things for which you are grateful. Be sure to share with others so they can join the fun, too.

I’m grateful for creative expression. And you?

Take time to say thanks

September 20, 2010

The pencil writing was barely legible so I leaned closer to get a better look. The hand-writing revealed youth, vigor, vim and a gratitude that moved me. It was a thank-you note, scribbled on a Post-It note twenty-four years ago. It was a demonstration of thanks for a wonderful year as an exchange student who lived with a loving family in the outskirts of Bonn. That student was me.

I visited those people this weekend again and was amazed at the little notes they still had from me. My family is partial to surprise love letters and little sticky notes that we sprinkle around each other’s houses when we’re on a visit. I had no idea what kind of legacy it would leave behind. It strengthened my resolve to continue teaching my own kids the importance of saying ‘thank you’ in writing to people who are kind to you.

BeliefNet just ran a neat gratitude slide show that once again reminded me of the importance to take the time to say thanks. It doesn’t take a lot, but it means so much. Looking at the yellowed paper hanging on my friend’s bulletin board, I smiled broadly at the love demonstrated on two square inches of paper.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

-–Melody Beattie

Gratitude is more than saying thanks. It’s saying yes to your life and everybody in it. What are you grateful for today?

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Time to Be Kind

November 3, 2009

As Halloween decorations get whisked off front lawns, we enter the season of gratitude. Numerous studies have shown that being thankful can contribute to longevity. Gratitude also fosters kindness, something the world can use more of today.

As we bustle about, stressed about the economy and our futures, let us remember all that we have in the here and now. It is most certainly easier to look at what we do not have; after all, human beings are designed to reach beyond their limits. While stretching our hands to the sky, may we remember also to ‘reach back’ and offer a helping hand to those who need it.

Practice  a random act of kindness today. Then let me know how it was for you. Chances are the gift of your time will garner more goodness than you ever thought imaginable.

After all, time, like kindness, is one of those things you can share and still keep in the very same moment.

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