In a Hurry?

Have you ever watched the snow fall? It falls at its own pace.

Have you ever rushed over a patch of ice? I bet that didn’t end well for you.

Winter is here. It is a particular time of Slow. It allows us to take it down a notch. External conditions helps us tread a little lighter.

I spent the entire day yesterday on the couch. Flat out sick, I measured the speed of my day by its obtuse triangular movement from the kitchen, to the tub, to the couch again. Although I wasn’t feeling well at all, it was a marvelous experience to remain still.

Why do we only allow ourselves to move more slowly when our bodies refuse to do otherwise?

My dear friend Donald posted this statement on my Facebook page today. If you’re in a hurry today, remember these words:

“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I’ve ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing…. Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.” – Ann Voskamp

May your hurried scurry decelerate to the speed of a snow flurry — without the fury of busy and bustle.

Happy 2015, my dear ones. Until we meet again.

Modern-Day Angels

Doors close. Windows open. Clients leave. Clients return. Items get lost. Angels find them.

Whenever something that could be perceived as “bad” happens, I take notice. Almost immediately, after the shock wears off, I ask myself: “What is the Universe telling me?” When I take that perspective, the ‘bad thing’ turns into a learning moment and suddenly the feeling of loss is replaced with something to gain.

I have this thing about losing items during taxi rides. I once left my camera in a New York taxi. A woman from Venezuela found it, discovered an image of a blog I had taken, left a comment there and returned the camera to me two months later.

Last weekend I had a new lose-an-important-item in a taxi experience. This time it was my wallet. By the time I discovered it the next day, ten hours had passed. I panicked. Slightly. It wasn’t the cash I cared about, but my driver’s license and green card-like EU visa that I was worried about. Then my dear friend told me what to do.

Cancel all credit cards. Block your debit cards. And don’t worry. It will come back to you.

How could one feel bad after being held in such light? So I did what she said, relieved by the caring tone of each customer service representative I talked with on the phone and by the presence of my friend who stood by me as I did so.

Yesterday my phone rang. It was my car dealership. The guy sounded a little uncomfortable, as if he had to tell me my car had ten days to live.

But it wasn’t that at all.

“I have someone on the other line who says he found some of your documents.” He said the guy had found the car dealership’s business card along with a pile of my cards. He gave me the guy’s cell phone number and wished me luck, but not before I blew him a kiss into the phone.

Angel #1!

It turns out the man who contacted my dealership owns the cleaning company that cares for the main train station in Freiburg. His cleaning personnel had found all my cards in a clear plastic bag in the trash. Apart from the cash, everything was there – every credit card, every loyalty card, everything. He insisted on bringing it to my doorstep the next day.

Angel#2 (guy who called) and Angel #3 (cleaning guy who was honest enough to give it to him)!

I blessed him (and offered him a finder’s fee, which he refused). Modern-day angels are everywhere. Trust them and they will find you.

Every time.

Difficult Conversations

The year 2014 is coming to a close. In a few weeks the holidays will be upon us.

I have never been happier to say farewell to one of the hardest years of my life.

In many ways, it has been a good year. I have developed new, positive, life-sustaining relationships that have given me so much strength in a time when I’ve really needed it. I have also had to allow some relationships to change dramatically, in the form of little to no communication and a distant well-wishing to ensure a healthy, new way of being.

Change is always difficult because it brings up a lot of things we’d rather not examine. It calls up our weaknesses and our blind spots. We are confronted, challenged and greatly unsettled by the newness of it all.

And yet change is also a way of tilling the Earth to bring in new, fertile ground. It is as necessary as oxygen. In a way, change means evolution. If we aren’t changing, we aren’t growing. And if we aren’t growing, we are dying.

And no one really wants to live in a state of death.

Ironically, change also brings death, the ending of the way we used to be. We have the opportunity to alter our thoughts, actions and behaviors to become more aligned with who we truly are.

Forgiveness can help.

It seems as though 2014 has been the Year of Difficult Conversations. I have had a lot of them – as recently as last week when a client admitted to me that he was sorry the way our project failed; that he appreciated my professionalism through it all; that he is embracing the Power of Slow as his world topples too. It was a magical moment of grace as I realized he could actually hear me say, “It was frustrating to know that my best didn’t yield what you were looking for.”

It was a conversation of forgiveness – and it moved me in ways I have yet to fully realize.

What I have also learned this year is that while difficult conversations may sting like hell, they are like wildfires that burn away the debris for new life to emerge. If we don’t express what we truly think and feel, those words burn us from the inside out.

Speaking your truth takes a lot of practice. A few things have helped me along the way whenever I’ve had to have an uncomfortable conversation:

  1. Prepare your key message. Practice what you are going to say. Start from the ending. How do you want the conversation to end? Begin it with that intention in mind.
  2. In some cases, it is helpful to actually say, “No matter what I am about to say, I want you to know that I care about you/the project/our collaboration, etc. You matter to me – my telling you this is actually an act of trust that you can hear me.”
  3. Do not take anything the other person says personally. It is not about you, your worth or your position in life.
  4. Actively listen to the other person. Do not allow distractions such as your smartphone or Facebook status get in the way. It shows respect when you give the other person your full attention.

You may feel like a toddler, waddling from one piece of furniture to the next as you hang on for dear life whilst falling periodically on your butt. But I promise you it will get better, your relationships will grow stronger and the ones that end as a result of your honesty were not meant to be in your life anyway.

The Secret to Happiness

Life can be hard. People can be harsh. Situations can lead us down the path to Hell. In all my years on this Earth, I have learned a few things that have become unshakable truths.

No one can make you happy or unhappy. You are the source of all joy and all sorrow. The way in which you experience things comes from within.

That may seem like a huge weight to bear, as if you are responsible for simply everything. Not so. All you can do is decide how you will respond to what happens.

Don Miguel Ruiz, an international best-selling author from Mexico who embeds his beliefs in the ancient Toltec tradition, offers powerful guidelines to maximizing our happiness. I discovered his book, The Four Agreements, about a decade ago. They are simple truths that have helped me on numerous occasions when things seemed to be falling apart.

Taken from the Toltec Spirit Website, Ruiz’ agreements are listed below:

1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

As with anything new, applying these agreements to our lives takes time. We are entrenched in habitual behaviors that aren’t easy to break. While we may not always remember to honor these agreements, life seems to go more smoothly when we do.

Some of you may master several of the points well while struggling with the others. For years I took things personally, acted defensively when I felt attacked and avoided conflict as a result. With tons of practice, I have been able to free myself from taking on other people’s projections and making them a part of me. I see them now for what they are (raising teenagers has helped me tremendously with this issue. You simply cannot live with a teen and take everything they say to heart.) And they are not a part of me at all.

Healthy distance and a loving heart can heal the trauma that created our bad habits. Happiness, after all, is not a destination, but a state of being. I would love to meet you on your journey to peace.

The great news is we get to decide anew every day for – or against – our own happiness. How will you choose?

Chasing the Light

The days have shrunk to half their size. The grandiose power of the sun has been replaced by a weaker version of itself. The sky is grey. The Earth is balding.

Winter is almost here.

I have noticeably started organizing my activities around the waning daylight. The abbreviated days have placed me in a rather petulant, rushed state.

“Do things by 4 p.m. Otherwise, it’s all over.” I make sure I place myself under the clouds in hopes a UV ray or two will plunk me on the head. My sun-simulating lamp stands at the ready because soon, even 4 p.m. will mean it is nearly pitch dark outside.

Foto-3It is hard to be productive when ever fiber of your being is shouting, “Why aren’t you hibernating?”

I am a light chaser. If I had my way, I’d live half the year in a very, very warm place. Warmth means sunshine, a rare commodity at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. I try to take things with humor, even as the dimness nibbles away at my well-being. I am like a wilted flower when the world turns cold.

Because I have chosen to live in cooler climes, I have learned to simulate light, not only in the form of lamps, but also in the form of food and connection. Vitamin-rich foods have felt the same sun I now miss, so when I eat them, I eat the sun too. Or I will connect with my sunnier friends, the upbeat ones whose inner light makes me want to wear shades.

And I am certain to turn on my own heart light, even when it’s hard and unfairness seems to rule the world.

Light dances between the shadows. If there is darkness, strike a match.

There is always a way to the better side of things. Sometimes all you need is a torch to guide you to that place.