Slow Culture, Fast World

The honeymoon is over. The bubble has popped. Reality slammed me in the face at 6 am this morning.

That tender space of suspending thinking, in which you float between the time you return from vacation and the return to the day-to-day, is filled with wonder. Your brain has emptied. Your thoughts are fluid. Your consciousness is elevated. You are on a cloud, feet barely scraping the ground. You wonder how long you can keep up the feeling. You hope it lasts far longer than it will. But you hope nonetheless.

2017-02-23 13.49.05“Maybe it will be different. This time.”

And then Monday morning comes. You wake up before the alarm with a startled thought. It’s nothing really. You made a less than optimal decision about something so banal that it’s not even worth thinking about. But you do. And then you get mad that your bliss has been disrupted by something so meaningless.

Just yesterday I chat with my neighbor, revealing I had just returned from the most life-changing trip to Nepal and India. His eyes lit up and he began his tirade about what’s wrong with Western civilization.

“Why do we keep running? Toward what?”

He summed it up beautifully.

“We are distracting ourselves from the thought of death.”

Perhaps he is right, I thought. But I wasn’t ready to take on those thoughts just yet. I guarded my bubble carefully, going on to my yoga class for a moment of “Om”.

In the evening I wasn’t feeling particularly fearful or distracted or worried or annoyed. I drank lots of water and went to bed early. And then morning came with the reality that I had some even harder decisions to make that might rattle even the most Zen-like person. I watched my age-old fear awaken from its slumber, stilled only for the time it took me to realize it is alive and well.

Stay in your center, stay in your center, I told myself as I brushed my teeth, feeling like Julia Robert’s character, Elizabeth Gilbert, in Eat, Pray, Love.

Momentarily, I have regained ground on myself. Filled with Slow Culture, I cannot deny that it feels strange to be back in a fast, fast world.

The feeling is slipping slightly. I have lost a noticeable grip on the ephemeral sensation of alignment. But I know where to get it when I really need it.

Deep within in the archives of my memory of what has been, what is and what shall be.

 

Run (in the Forest), Run!

What does running have to do with the power of slow? There really is nothing Slow about running per se. With a minor exception of one blazing summer as a Washington, D.C. intern, I’ve never been the jogging type. But I do love my walks through the woods. I do them every chance I can get.

Run Phones meEvery now and then I’ll bring my iPhone with me to listen to music. But as I briskly jaunt through the forest, those annoying ear buds kept popping out of my ear. Dangling down to the forest floor, they seemed to mock me. I was about to give up every listening to music on my iPhone again until RunPhones contacted me. They offered me to try their product in exchange for a review on my blog.

So I agreed.

The headband comes in two types of styles — the warmer, fleecy type for winter and the cooler, thinner material for summer. Both are washable so you don’t have to worry about them getting funky after a while. I got the summer kind (thankfully). As the temperatures rise, I don’t really want anything on my head. I was ready for an itch-a-thon, but the headband is so comfortable, I soon forgot I was wearing it at all. It’s like having a portable stereo without the cackling ear buds to ruin the fun.

Another bonus is I don’t have to jack up the sound to have the high fidelity that the RunPhones provide. I always felt like ear buds were making me go deaf. Now I’ll be stylin’ whilst maintaining my hearing too!

I may never take up jogging again, but I’ll certainly be listening to my tunes  more often whilst traipsing through the forest.

Of Mountains and Molehills

Some days we get caught completely off guard by the littlest things. They suddenly become giants that loom large over us. Try as we might, we can’t quite see the mountain as the molehill it is. We are shrunk to the size of a pinhead, lost in the morass of daily living.

I would like to think of myself as a person of high tolerance, someone who isn’t thrown off track so easily. But when multiple little things pile up, all those molehills resemble Mount Everest.

Are you with me on this?

In times like these, I ask myself a simple question: “What can I learn from this moment?” It isn’t easy to find that question amongst the fumes in my head as I steam about the injustice of it all. Yet every time I pose the question, the answer emerges almost immediately.

Clearing the eyes to see and the ears to hear: it may be the greatest lesson of all.

Life is our grandest teacher; all those molehills are the learning tools to get us to see beyond ourselves to the greater Wholeness of All Things. They are the stepping stones up the mountain. Each pace forward has the ability to bring us more joy, more abundance and more gratitude.

So think of life’s challenges as your training ground to reach the summit. And when you finally get there, you will have the wherewithal to truly enjoy the view.

 

The Fitness Habit

A reporter recently asked how to shave 30 minutes off your day to exercise. It seemed like a good idea to figure out how people generally spend their time and where they might find a few minutes here or there to squeeze in a fitness routine.

The findings were astounding.

According to a recent study by Flurry  in March 2014, we spent 2 hours and 42 minutes A DAY on our mobile devices. Can you imagine dedicating 30 minutes of that time to yourself instead?

Or how about watching TV? Turn it off – or turn it on later. The American Time Use Survey 2013 found that the average American spends 2.8 hours watching TV a day. Cutting out just one daily sitcom to walk around the block instead would give you back those thirty minutes.

If you are like me, it sometimes takes a village to get moving. Getting family and friends involved can offer you the support you need. Replace family TV time with a round of basketball in your backyard. Or join a club together. Take up a new hobby that involves movement of any kind.

My favorite at work suggestion? Hold stand-up meetings. They go faster and are healthier than sitting all day.

Take a holistic approach. Instead of treating your fitness routine as separate from the rest of your life, integrate it into your daily activities. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Carry your groceries to the car instead of using a shopping cart (if possible). Walk, don’t drive, to the post office.

Even going slow is better than not going at all.

Superfreakin’ Back to You

Back before video games overtook children’s minds, there were such leisure activities as bowling and roller skating. The biggest thrill a sixth grade girl could have was to hold hands with an older boy who knew how to do crossovers on skates while never, ever tripping you up. Under the bling of the disco ball, it was as close to heaven as a twelve-year-old could get.

Rick James’ song “Superfreak” was popular back then. Somehow skating to music made it all the more fun. Later I advanced to ice skating on our frozen pond, when winters in Virginia were cold enough to form ice across its entirety. I would spend hours alone, practicing and laughing and never fearing a fall. I rarely did.

Fear is something that creeps along with experience. You get battered. Bruised. Banged up a bit as life changes  direction. Fear becomes a companion of sorts as you navigate your way on the ice of life. We begin to look for the thinness of it, avoiding slipping through the cracks where danger lurks.

We hold ourselves back based on those fears. We experience less, reducing our lives to what we deem safe.

Then one day some of us realize we have kept ourselves small, not playing full out for fear of…what?

Failure?

Falling?

Societal rejection?

That’s when you stand at a crossroads. That is when the question “Why not?” emerges.

Your ego self will give you a barrage of reasons why not. Its job is to stay in the same place, never changing or allowing you to unfold your fullest potential. Its role is to protect you from harm, real or imagined. Its singular purpose is to keep you dimunitized.

But when largeness moves in, when your ultimate juicy surfaces, it is more powerful than the ego that cries out: “Be careful! Don’t stray too far from the edge of the skating rink!”

Your own gigantic self overcomes those fears. It exists within each one of us. It is the one that says “Yes” when your friend calls to say “Let’s go ice skating today!”

Never mind it has been thirty years since you last gave it a try. Sure, you might be rusty at first, but by the tenth minute on the ice, you start to remember what you are capable of. You pick up the tiniest pieces of yourself that you shattered when life got too hard. You place them back inside, smiling all the while that you never really forgot how to be that huge.

It just took time to see yourself again in all your Superfreakin’ glamour with a ‘Yes’ that came softly, profoundly, and right when you needed it the most.

 

 

Somewhere in the Dance

The framed picture spoke a thousand words in just a few:

“I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile I keep dancing.”

Your heart can dance even if your feet cannot. As I recently posted, life is a dance. The partners we choose make all the difference. You might not be able to choose the family you are born into, but you can choose the people that surround you. You can choose who to hang out with and who to let go. You get to decide whether to waltz or do the Texas swing.

You might fall down every once in a while, or trip over life’s unpleasantness. But as long as your heart keeps beating, you can remain somewhere in the dance.

Where are you in yours?

The Fundamental Principle in Life

Pilates. The single most fabulous way to come into alignment with oneself. Most Wednesdays I take a pilates class at my gym. The teacher is beyond amazing. It is as if we are one, experiencing what it’s like to move our bodies this way. It is a delicious time-out in the middle of the week, a gift I give to myself as often as I can.

Exercise can be an act of self-love, an empowering part of your self-care program. After all, our bodies are the temples of our soul. And when we care for them, great things can happen! Take your feet, for instance. Have you thanked them lately for carrying you every which way? Or your hands? What marvelous instruments they are! They can do all kinds of things (such as playing Mozart ~ yes, I am still just shy of heaven after that Salzburg concert. Sigh.). Or what about your ears? Have you shown them appreciation for all that they do day in and day out? What do you tell those ears of yours? Have you really listened to what you say to yourself?

“I don’t have time to exercise, eat well, sleep enough, have fun, fill-in-the-blank…”

My guess is you have said one of the above a time or two. I know I have.

Taking care of oneself is a fundamental principle in life, yet so often we are torn between our own needs and the needs of others. If you are a helping kind of person, you may make decisions based on the welfare of everyone else and not on your own. That might work well for a while, but soon enough you may start to notice a soul-level wear and tear that can lead to extreme exhaustion and even burnout. That’s where Slow can truly help.

There is Slow in the word ‘no’. As my friend Donald Pillai so brilliantly said recently:

[L]ife is not about being in ‘yes’ with others as much as it is being in ‘yes’ with yourself.

That includes saying ‘no’ to certain things, even if you could do them. It’s not about the ‘could’, but about what’s most important.

If we are going to change the world, we need our rest, nourishment and a high level of fun to sustain us for those times when we need our energy the most.

If you could do just one thing to take care of yourself today, what would it be?

Osteoporosis affects 10 Million

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 8 out of the 10 million Americans who are estimated to have osteoporosis are women. Almost 34 million more people are estimated to have low bone density, increasing their risk of osteoporosis and broken bones.  National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

As I mentioned earlier this month, National Nutrition Month focuses on the importance of developing healthy eating and physical activity habits, including meeting daily calcium requirements and performing various exercises to build strong bones, which is imperative in the fight against osteoporosis.

Nutritionist Heather Bauer, RD, CDN, author of the newly released book Bread is the Devil (from my publisher, St. Martin’s Press), offers tips for people who are trying to change their eating routines to drop the pounds in celebration of National Nutrition Month this March.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, carbs in moderation are all good. Even if bread is not your personal devil, Bauer’s book offers advice on how to build sensible, healthy meals, high in protein with complex carbs and how avoid other food demons – from ice cream and chips to sweet treats.

While taking a mindful view of our eating habits, it’s also important, especially for women, not to skimp on calcium. On average, women  fall short on calcium by at least 20%, getting only 500-700 mg per day – that’s significantly less than the recommended amount—putting them at risk of osteoporosis.

To decrease your chance of osteoporosis, Heather Bauer suggests:

  1.  Think of your bones as living, breathing tissue.  They can be built up and broken down with certain determining factors. These factors include daily intake of at least 1,000mg of calcium supplemented with Vitamin D for optimal absorption and weight-bearing exercise.
  2.  Get your dose of calcium in whole foods such as broccoli or soy milk. (I’m told Adora Calcium Supplement discs are made from rich, all-natural premium chocolate – whatever floats your boat, but I’m thinking broccoli is the better, if not more fun, option).
  3. By the time we hit our 30s, we stop naturally building bone mass and start losing it. Counteract this with anything that forces your body to defy gravity.  Activities include dancing, jogging, tennis, even stair climbing.  Make sure to avoid escalators and elevators!
  4.  Lifting weights at the gym gives you muscle tone, right? Well, calcium acts in the same way to keep your blood vessels toned. Calcium rich foods like milk, cheese, sardines, figs, and dark leafy greens like spinach can be tough to eat a lot of, so consider a calcium supplement if you’re not meeting the recommended daily value.

Even a slow or vigorous walk can have positive effects on your bones. Have you been outside today? Natural sunlight increases your Vitamin D, a necessary component for calcium absorption.

Why We’re So Fat

Fat. Now there’s an ugly word. The truth is one in three Americans is considered obese by the Centers for Disease Control. 17% of all U.S. children are too. It’s an astounding number. How has it come to this?

According to FastCompany, our brains aren’t prepared to handle the all-you-can-eat variety of food intake. Based on the primordial need to stuff our faces while we can, we often do. Our brains, apparently, are designed to prepare for rough winters and starvation. So we gorge ourselves, thinking it’s normal.

It’s not. We just don’t realize when to stop because our brains say it’s somehow okay.

Portion control is a term I learned while working on a campaign for Yum Yum Dishes, a fabulous company that creates ceramic dishes to provide acceptable food portions for weight control. We are not only what we eat; but how we eat it too.

So if you’re tempted to belly up to the next buffet and scarf a bit more than you should, think again. Eat a little less than you normally do and see how it feels. Eat slowly. Enjoy your food. If you do, you might notice that less is actually more. Let’s bring down that national statistic with a little more mindfulness.

Courtesy of FastCoExist.com

Need more time? Keep a time abundance journal

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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