The Finish Line

When you get to the finish line, will you wish for more time?

I had to ask myself that question as I watched the beat of my own heart on the EKG machine. Lying in the emergency room in the middle of the night on a Thursday, I realized how precious life is. As I heard the horrible sounds emanating from other patients in deep pain, I knew I wasn’t finished yet.

Our bodies are smart. They speak to us. Quietly at first, then louder if we forget to listen.

Last week I landed on my head on a cold stone floor as my circulation collapsed into itself. The emergency technician who rushed to my aid twenty minutes later smiled warmly. It was a warmth I really needed.

When she asked if I had an allergies, I told her I am only allergic to really bad experiences. She laughed. So did I.

Seven hours and an ambulance ride later, I was released from the hospital with a clean bill of health. Stress and forgetting to eat for nine hours were the culprits.

Stress is not very Slow. Stress is silent, but its impact can be very loud. It begins and ends with our thoughts, then lands in our hearts. It can steal our quality of life if we let it.

Taking care of myself does not come naturally. I often push back my own needs to make room for others’.

Slow is about mindful living, but it is not just the mind that needs care. We need to go deeper to that sacred place in our center. We must fiercely guard our divinity, our beauty, our everything.

None of us gets out of this world alive, but we can ensure we truly live while we are here.

We owe that to ourselves and to those who love us. We really do.

The Painful Truth

Why does honesty hurt sometimes? Like any muscle that’s been underused, we grow accustomed to telling little untruths to ensure we look good, sound good, feel good. It doesn’t always feel good to look truth in the eye, especially when we try so desparately to hide it.

Truth has consequences. It means you blast open your soul for all to see. You are vulnerable in a way that is scary and unfamiliar. And you think in being that honest you will somehow lose everything.

When we unchain ourselves from those little white lies, we start to unearth our true selves. For fear that we will be judged, we try hard to keep a lid on our thoughts and feelings. We’d rather harmonize on the outside and agonize on the inside than ever, ever show what is real about who we are.

Why?

It starts early in our development. I see it in my own children. As their true selves start to emerge, they are confronted with the need to fit in and be a part of the group. It is frightening to feel as if you might be cast outside the city walls, banned forever and left to die without shelter or care.

We often think if we reveal our inner being that we will somehow die in the process.

Nothing can be farther from the truth.

When we truly open up to another person, we give them permission to do the same. Without judgment. With love.

Authenticity plays a big role in showing that side of ourselves. When we are authentic, we act from love, that timeless, omniscient state of beauty and grace.

The truth may be painful, but if, as in sports, you practice enough, it will hurt a lot less — in time. And all that energy you placed in hiding what is true about you can be freed up and put back into your life – that fabulous, magical life you truly deserve.

The Story of a Perfectionist Junkie

Once upon a time there was a girl who only felt alive when she succeeded at something. She sought praise wherever she could. She only felt love when she did something ‘right’. She was looking for external reward to fill the hole inside herself. She thought if she tried hard enough, she would be okay and the world might not see the cracks she tried so hard to hide.

She acquired a case of trophies, awards and accolades. She received honors and rewards and public recognition. She thought she was living her life to the fullest until one day she saw it was all a façade.

Sitting at a pizza parlour with an old friend, she was asked how she was doing ~ really. She smiled and said, “Oh I’m just fine. I have nothing to complain about.” Her old friend sighed, wishing she would finally take off that mask of hers. The girl went home with an odd sense that she had let her friend down. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized she was the one letting herself down.

It took another few years of denials and smiles before she came to the realization that she was not happy at all. It took extreme situations and a huge dash of insanity for her to make her world right again.

She embarked on a journey that took her to places far and wide. She traveled on airplanes and trains and buses, picking up pieces of herself that she had left there long ago.

And when she returned home, she saw her world with new eyes. It was time to start from the beginning, pull off the mask of perfection once and for all, and to look at herself in the mirror.

What she saw was the most beautiful smile, a lofty spirit who had come into her own. She had had to cast off her desire to be perfect and assume a willingness to get messy, really messy. To risk everything so she could finally live her truth.

She went through that ring of fire to her deepest awareness and what she discovered was a light so bright she knew she had survived. More friends came to the surface to help her through, to tell her they loved her for who she was ~ imperfection and all.

Life isn’t perfect. Neither are you. But people love you exactly for that reason.

Be true to yourself. Dare to be different. Trust in your singular magnificence. Always.

A Benediction to Life

We all touch people’s lives in mysterious ways. Sometimes we aren’t aware of the effect someone has had on us until they are gone.

Today I learned that a person rather close to me at one time had passed away.  We met each other at a point when we were both at a crossroads in our lives. From him I learned courage and took strength from the way he managed the difficult decisions he faced. I helped him through the physical loss of his best friend. He helped me through the emotional loss of mine.

Even though we hadn’t seen each other in twenty-five years, I was moved to tears when I learned he had died. No matter how much time passes, the experiences we share with people tie us together forever.

It’s a beautiful thing.

When people we love die, we experience an unimaginable grief. But what have we really lost? That person’s personal bank account of time had been depleted. It’s a hard concept to comprehend, but the good news is we still have the memories of those people who touched us so profoundly. They shaped us. Became a part of our DNA. Maybe they rocked our world or merely caressed it for a moment. No matter what role they played, they fulfilled a necessary part of who we are today.

The depth of our influence is often only felt much later in life. It is hard to remain in awareness of all things at all times. We sometimes slip into complacency, assuming the people in our lives will be there forever.

And then they are gone.

After the tears had faded, I realized my friend is dancing with his best friend on a cloud somewhere now. I said a prayer to life and to the beyond where he now stands.

May we bless each other with love, forgive the wrongs and celebrate all that is right with our world.

You enrich my life simply by sharing this moment with me now.

Thank you.

 

The Power of the Night

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, fretting that you cannot sleep? Does it distress you beyond belief that you are awake when it seems that the rest of the Earth is not? Have you ever considered what an opportunity it is to be aware in that moment of wakefulness? That it is a gift to be alive?

A friend once told me that before electricity, people would sleep at odd hours, wake up whenever they did and used their time to make love, think or even talk to one another? The clock did not dictate their days.

In our modern age of productivity, we are forced into a rhythm that our bodies often reject. If you “suffer” from insomnia, I ask you to consider the power of the night.

Nighttime has a special quality of solitude and introspection that we don’t often get during the day. No phones are ringing, no demands are tugging at you, no secretaries telling you to sign this paper or that. All you have is the sound of your own heartbeat, pumping in your chest as sure as night follows day. In those quiet times of wakefulness, you have received a gift that we often deem a curse. It is time for you to simply be.

Nighttime offers you the moon, bright and shiny, smiling down at you to remind you that the sun is shining somewhere on the planet where you might not be. It gives you the stars and the brilliance of the planets that encircle themselves with the force of an ever-expanding Universe.

The night offers you the sound of the trees and the last falling leaves before they make their final descent, saying farewell to the time they have spent with you.

It gives you the hoot of an owl, resting placidly on a branch to let you know you are not alone. You are never alone.

The night encompasses you in its dark cloak, hugging you with a power far greater than you can imagine.

It gives you a chance to listen to your breath and the sound of children laughing in their sleep.

When sleep alludes you, remember that the rhythm that keeps you awake has a story to tell.

That story is your life. Your time.

That story, my dear one, is you.

Believe

Do you know the feeling when you believe in something so strongly, even though there is no supporting evidence, that you cannot help but know it is true in your heart of hearts? Do you know the sense you get when something isn’t right, based only on your belief or inner knowing, without having specific data to back up your claim?

Belief is a powerful resource. It is what keeps us strong in times of uncertainty. It is what kept Nelson Mandela from going stir crazy in prison for decades. It is what propelled Gandhi forward. Belief is what Martin Luther King’s dreams were made of.

In our hyper-fast world, we have lost the thread to that belief – in ourselves, our world, our communities. We have been led to believe we have a need for speed. Only doing more in less time is valuable. Everything else is a waste of time. That is so not true.

Driving on the backroads, instead of the autobahn, for instance, can restore our sense of peace, connection and belonging. Taking the scenic route in life, whether literally or figuratively, has value in and of itself.

When my son was really young, he struggled with self-confidence. I taught him an exercise that we still do to this day whenever he falls back into self-doubt. He thrusts his fists to the sky and announces: “I believe in myself!” We try different voices to see which one sounds the most convincing, then we choose to believe that one the most.

Believe in yourself and all that you have to offer. There is no one quite like you. The world needs you. Just as you are.

On the Verge of Greatness

You know when you feel like you are on the verge of something really amazing? You can feel it with every fiber of your being. You know it is there, sliding just beneath the surface of your awareness, skittering to the edges of your peripheral vision. You may have no specific reason for feeling this way, but you know in your soul that something incredible is about to happen.

I call it being in touch with your inner core. The amazing thing I am referring to doesn’t occur on the outside. It happens within. It could be that your circumstances change as a result of this awareness, but what changes first is you.

I have not always been in touch with that side of myself. When I was a kid, I used to feel as if I was being pulled into a different world. Then I grew up, became practical, started a family and completely buried that part of myself. Only now do I know it was my soul speaking. Once I started listening, my whole world started to change. For the better.

It’s neat to listen to what the soul says. It doesn’t speak words, but another kind of language altogether. It is an intuitive knowingness like a gentle guide that sees you through the darkness.

If you are feeling distracted or distressed, close your eyes and listen to your body. What is it telling you? Where does it hurt? Where does you feel good? This simple exercise puts your awareness back in real time and helps you center yourself so that you can actual listen to that still small voice within. How often do we ignore what our bodies are telling us? The body adapts to whatever you expose it to. If you stress out your body, it will respond. If you love it, it will respond too.

By listening to your body, you can access the soul that the body houses.

And that’s when the real fun begins.

Simple Pleasures

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.

The Pictures in Our Heads

Pictures, pictures, look at all the pretty pictures! We have so many of them swirling around in our heads that they wouldn’t fit in even the largest museum.

Murals of how our relationships should be; canvases splattered with paint, depicting our perfect job, children, life. In our minds we create so many images of how we think life should be.

Then life happens.

The source of our greatest unhappiness stems from the clash of our pretty pictures with what we see before us. Our brains try desperately to converge the two, but to no avail. The result is confusion at best. Or maybe denial. Or in some cases, depression.

So what can we do?

Start with the gallery in your mind. Change out the pictures to reflect a new reality. Look at the outside from a different height and in a different light.

In other words, get real.

You’ve got an image in your mind that isn’t coinciding with the one on the outside. It simply isn’t jiving with what you thought should be.

In that case, you have some choices. By changing what you project from the inside out (from a new set of pictures of your own creation), the outside automatically changes. But it all stems from the inside, your ultimate source of light.

In his sixty-fifth book, Spiritual Solutions, Deepak Chopra speaks of three levels of awareness.

 

  1. Contracted awareness (the state of unhappiness, fear, anxiety). At this level you experience all problems, obstacles and struggles. You feel conflict and no way out. If you stay at this level, you become exhausted. And who wants that? Pas moi! So let’s move on.
  2. Expanded awareness (where solutions reside). Obstacles are easier to surmount; struggle dissolves. Your vision moves beyond conflict to what is possible.
  3. Pure awareness (bliss). Problems don’t exist on this level. Challenges are viewed as creative opportunities. You are in complete alignment with your highest purpose, with nature, with All That Is. You recognize your true self.

I have caught a glimpse of level three on numerous occasions in my life, but the truth is we move up and down this scale as we slide back into fear, remorse and sadness, then bounce up again to a renewed understanding of what happened and why. Deepak claims level three is our natural state, the state of pure consciousness. It is Enlightenment.

I’d like to get there, turning those pretty pictures into a warm mass of loveliness. Want to join me?

And if you haven’t had enough of Deepak and his wisdom, you can view him on Oprah’s Life Class taped from Radio City Musichall in New York City is just one more reason to view this video. The pulse of NYC vibrates through the screen.

Really Search Inside Yourself

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ~Aristotle

A few weeks ago I read a book by Google’s self-proclaimed Jolly Good Fellow, Chade-Meng Tan, aptly entitled Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).

Before you groan, “Not another self-help book whose content I’ll forget the minute I click off here…” hear me out. This book is based on an actual mindfulness training course given internally at Google. That the author has a quirky sense of humor makes it all the more enjoyable to read his work. Plus it has lots of pictures that made me laugh.

But on to mindfulness! Do you want to feel a natural high? Then read on.

The most memorable exercise for me was the Just Like Me/Loving Kindness Exercise adapted from Buddhist meditation practice. The objective is to increase your compassion and kindness, which thereby raises your own happiness level and, most likely, that of others too. It goes something like this:

Get into a comfortable position (I found sitting cross-legged to work well because lying down inevitably put me to sleep). Take two minutes to breathe deeply and quiet your mind.

Now visualize someone in your life. Say to yourself: “This person has a body just like me. This person has a mind just like me. This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me. This person has felt disappointment, fear, hurt, pain and confusion, just like me.” You could go on for some time, saying various things you know you share with this person. Then you end it with “This person wishes to be happy, just like me.”

The Loving Kindness part of the meditation involves wishing the person well. For instance, “I wish this person to be free from pain, to experience joy, to be extremely happy. Because this person is a human being, just like me.”

End the session by resting your mind for one minute.

I have only done this exercise once, but I was ready to hug the world after I did it. The book is filled with powerful exercises like this one. And it does require that you search inside yourself for your own golden nugget. You know, that lovely jewel resting deep within that wants to shine.

My jewel is blue. What color is yours?