Angry? Go Off(line)

The dream ended with a thought: one day even the Internet will be obsolete. One day everything will be.

The thought comforted me as I snapped on my phone in the middle of the night, unable to sleep as the turmoil of the past few weeks clouded my mind. It was most un-Slow of me to look to my phone for comfort instead of meditating or even doing one of those adult coloring books. But then, I thought, so what? In my recent efforts to be mindful, I have become too full of mind and less of the heart.

And so we return to the Source of All Things. That lovely energy that flows through us more strongly than any petulant, careless tweet from Orange Boy.

Love.

As I lay with my mind’s eye wide open, I tapped into that love flow. After a few deep breaths,  I caught the wave and harmonized with its intention.

We are here to make a positive difference. We are here to learn from one another. And to teach one another how we want to be treated.

Being a parent has helped me understand the value of being a role model in the world. How we behave truly matters. The Internet is not exactly the best place to be when trying to model good behavior on a bad day. It’s too tempting to engage in low-level anger. Flame wars and misinformation rage, especially in times of great distress. The term “information overload” has taken on a new meaning as we struggle to sort through the data and our own feelings about it.

Life offers us so many opportunities to show up greatly. We get to choose at any given moment how we wish to be. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it does not. But with every choice we make, we add a lesson to the overall curriculum of our lives.

And so when a friend, or someone you thought was a friend, turns his or her back on you, that person was meant to do so. Consider it sharpening the tools in your toolbox. You understand life is the greatest teacher. Perhaps that person was developing in a different way than you are. That’s okay. Let it go.

And when a client turns foul-mouthed, learn from it. His behavior speaks volumes. Walk away.

And when your family causes you great despair, know that it is a part of the great experiment called life. We cannot control other people’s actions or feelings, only our own.

Magic is everywhere if you have the eyes to see it. Believe it is so and it will be.

Moving Beyond Disappointment

Feet dangling at the ledge. Looking up. Looking down. Looking left, then right. Looking straight ahead.

We all face choices in life. Should we stay where we are? Should we take a new direction? Should we? Could we? Would we?

Choices don’t contain inherent risks, although we might think they do. Choices are merely decisions we make based on the knowledge we have at any given moment. Sometimes we make choices that bring us more joy. Sometimes we make choices that bring us a great deal of pain. No matter the decision, it brings us further, granting us wisdom about things we didn’t know before. Every action we take widens our pool of understanding.

top-thing-to-do-today_-13Broadening our horizons is a limitless activity. What a marvelous thing it is to know that wisdom is an endless journey. How boring life would be if we had “everything figured out”. Imagine the predictability. Imagine never, ever experiencing disappointment again.

That used to sound like a great idea to me. As a young adult, I used to avoid disappointment like the plague. It was a hard emotion for me to manage. In some ways, it still is. But what I have learned over the years is simple: disappointment comes from thwarted expectations. We expect people to act in a way to which we are accustomed. We expect things to turn out “as they always have”. But just as we never quite wake up the same person who went to bed the night before (our cells are renewed, our energy is restored, our skin sheds, grows, breathes – you get the picture), each day is never quite the same as the one before it. Or the one after it for that matter.

We hold such great expectations about simply everything, from the way our soufflé should turn out to the results in the next Presidential race (okay – exception here: Please dear God. Listen to me on this one. No fluff-haired, baboon-faced man can or ever should be elected. We need someone who can run a country, not just his mouth.) And then things happen as they happen. We are sometimes left with our mouths agape (did she really just say that? Did he really just do that?). In that moment of surprise, we again are faced with a choice. We can either choose to be disappointed or find the humor in it. Or perhaps relief. Better to find out now about the true essence of a person than later when things could be much worse.

And then there’s the thing about growth and change and seeing things with different eyes. What I used to value as a teenager has little meaning to me now. I’d venture to guess you feel the same way. The point is we are constantly in motion. Why not move beyond disappointment from the realm of what might have been to the realm of what might be? Possibility is not expectation. It is merely the chance to try again. Or to decide again. And again. And again.

 

Jammin’ to the Good Stuff

My kitchen shelf is stocked to the brim with homemade jam. Admittedly, I became spoiled at the tender age of twenty-two. It was the first time I tasted Monika’s fine bread spread. Hand-picked, summer ripe fruit and a little sugar are the only ingredients she uses. We are talking Slow Food, locally grown and consumed. It is the kind that is so Slow it can’t even crawl.

My favorite jam is raspberry. Unfortunately, it seems to be everyone else’s too. As abundant as Monika’s garden is, even it has its limits on the raspberry yield it brings every growing season. I am mindful not to be too greedy during my sporadic visits to her house. Inevitably, she will offer me an array of flavors, which I take with a humble bow, trying hard not to eye the jars for fear raspberry might not be among them.

One day, after biting into a not-so-satisfying pear jam, I placed my bread back on the plate and wondered why I didn’t just open up a jar of raspberry jam. What was I saving it for? Why was I being so stingy with myself?

We do this. We put off the good stuff for later. Vacation? One day. That trip with the girls? Maybe next year. That visit to family? Well, they’ll always be there…won’t they?

We deny ourselves a lot of things, but jam? I mean really. Life is too short for bad marmalade. Why suffer when you don’t need to? When you already have a shelf full of stuff that makes you happy? I looked at my reflection in the marmalade spoon and asked: What on Earth are you saving it for?

So I got up, dumped the pear jam and opened a new one filled to the rim with raspberry delight.

We are worth having the good things. And when we forget what we’ve already got, it’s good to be reminded.

Take time to enjoy the good kind of jam. The jam that makes you jump in the morning and say “Yeah!”  It is what makes life so very sweet.

Sleep on It

Sleep is essential, yet many of us don’t get the kind of quality sleep we need to be at our best. Since we spend one-third of our lives on a mattress, wouldn’t it make sense to get a good one?

My life partner got a cheap mattress from a large Swedish brand last year. He lasted a week, then returned it. Instead, he invested in a superior mattress that feels like you are floating.

When DreamZe2015-05-14 11.57.36bra approached me to test out their mattress, I felt a mixture of pleasure and trepidation. A Danish brand, DreamZebra is an online-only company that sells its mattresses worldwide. Ranging from a single to a king-sized mattress, their selection offers something for everyone. You even get a ten year guarantee as an added bonus.

So I ceremoniously performed what they call “the unboxing;” delivered in a large box, the mattress is vacuum-packed in plastic. It reminded me of the Swedish brand’s mattress that my love and I also liberated from its sheath. To my surprise, DreamZebra’s mattress is much thicker, its material of much higher quality and, quite frankly, it’s dreamy “hugging” just made me smile.

Enjoy this rare product video. It’s time to spend a night’s rest in peace.

 

Bad Choices, Good People

Sometimes it takes a series of really bad choices to finally make the right ones. But we can’t even know we’ve made bad decisions until we take a moment to step back and look at what we are actually doing — and why.

Even when we find the ‘why’ of things, it may take another good, long while before we actually take action.

That’s why I plead for time outs – for everyone. We need it. If you think you don’t need time off, think again. Even just a few minutes of solace makes you more efficient.

Change is hard. Really hard. We fear we will lose ourselves because we have ‘always done things that way.’ We identify so much with our own personal process — even if it harms us — that we forget to alter the course of our direction.

Change takes courage and insight and time and patience. But as my mama says, the one thing you can count on in life is change. Life is a bit like building a Lego house, brick for brick. You’re not sure what the end result will be, but you figure if you keep building, something will come of it.

The great thing about Legos — and life — is you can take things apart again if you need to. But as you know, that too takes courage and insight and time and patience.

I find travel makes accepting change a whole lot easier. Going new places opens my eyes to extraordinary experiences, even in the ordinary. It shifts energies, adjusts attitudes, moves the heart. It takes us away from the everyday to a new place, which makes us more receptive to new ideas and ways of thinking. And with every interaction we have with new cultures, a new piece of ourselves emerges.

Maybe you have made bad choices in your life. But they have shaped you into your unique form. Good people make mistakes. Everyone does.

The questions is: What one thing will you do differently today?

The Slow Go No

It took me years to discover the power of ‘no’. For some reason I always thought if I said ‘yes’ enough, people would like me. And so I did.

Saying ‘yes’ to things seemed to be the path of least resistance. If I agreed, everything would be just fine. Because it was what others wanted. And I knew I was supposed to be there for other people. That’s what I was told. A good person says ‘yes’ to virtually everything. ‘No’ was somehow selfish, as if ever thinking about yourself was, well, a major no-no.

But one day I woke up and looked around me. I had conceded to things that felt off. It was if every ‘yes’ I had uttered had pushed me a millimeter off the track I was meant to take. It required a major adjustment.

The first lesson was to learn how to decline, say ‘no’ — and mean it.

At first, the road was bumpy. I would be plagued with a sense of guilt and – yes – fear. As if I would die if I met someone else’s request with my own spoken negation.

Saying ‘no’ after years of ‘yes’ shocks people. They have to get used to the sudden change.

Recently, I was reminded of my ‘yes’ years by a series of requests coming from various sources.

“Can you promote my book for me? Oh, for free, of course.”

“Can you read this paper for me? Oh, for free, of course.”

“Can you donate to my cause/my work/my life? Oh, I have nothing to give you, of course.”

The final request got me to thinking. Really? You want me to give you money (again – I had already said ‘yes’ once before). And I had already told you ‘no’ with an explanation.

And then I realized ‘no’ is a full sentence. So I responded with that one glorious word and hit the send button. No explanation required.

And you know what? I did not die. As a matter of fact, I grew an inch. And it felt so very good.

If you feel you have become Life’s doormat, pick yourself up with one of the most powerful words in any language.

‘No’ is ‘yes’ for you.

 

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.

Workplace Woes and How to Replace Them

The workplace has been on my mind lately. Perhaps it is because people close to me have been gainfully unemployed for a while. Or because my children are growing fast and are starting to think about their own employment future.

Looking for a job in this day and age has changed significantly. You don’t just circle the want-ads. You now have to be super tech-savvy in your job discovery process.

Web portals such as Xing and LinkedIn are not just social networking sites. They are designed to encourage that the right person find the right job. If your workplace provides you more woes than wonderfulness, listen up.


LinkedIn is great for business people seeking connections. It’s what Facebook was for college students in the very beginning. And so I was intrigued by the book, The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, written by the founders of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh. I wanted to find out more about the motivation of the site’s founders.

I can sum the book up in very simple terms. The authors encourage employers to look at their hired talent as an investment. Think of it as a club member whose golf game can only improve the overall quality of club life. So you invite him for free lessons, give him food and drink along the way and ensure that life is so sweet, he’d never think of leaving.

But if he does, make sure you keep your grass green. Because he’ll come running back — or at least speak highly of you — forevermore.

Employers often shy away from offering training because they think somehow they won’t get the return on their investment. People will leave anyway so why bother? This mindset is fatal. Making the job interesting by developing people’s talent will actually make them stay longer. It’s really about setting up a clear understanding from the beginning that your workplace alliances is built on the principles of give and take.

If you think of your employees as free agents, the natural response is to slash training budgets. Why train a competitor’s new hire? In an alliance, the manager can speak openly and honestly about the investment the company is willing to make in the employee and what it expects in return. The employee can speak openly and honestly about the type of growth he seeks (skills, experiences, and the like) and what he will invest in the company in return by way of effort and commitment. Both sides set clear expectations. (The Alliance, page 9).

That is the Slow Workplace at its best.

Gone are the days of lifetime employment at one company. The authors know this well and provide a useful guide for employers in an age in which knowledge is power and ample and free.

For some offline workplace wellness, I stumbled upon Real Happiness at Work by Sharon Salzberg. She offers helpful meditations and time-outs for the harried worker who may be teetering on the edge of burnout. You may not have the luxury of leaving your current work situation, she says, so here’s how you can make it more bearable. Of course, everything begins — and ends — from within. Her focus is about shifting your mind, heart and soul away from what’s not working to what is. Her meditative practices provide the parameters for a Slow Workplace too.

Whether you love, hate or could care less about your job, one thing is for certain: you spend a lot of time there. Wouldn’t it be nice if your job gave you more joy than pain?

Levity, Not Intensity

I have a confession to make. For the past month I have been overwhelmed. Try as I might, I kept slipping into a deep intensity. Slow seemed far, far away. I was in the fast lane, like a lost deer on the highway, seeking shelter, yet finding nothing but headlights.

Today marks the first day that I have finally sat down and concentrated on only one thing. And it has felt so very good. The cloak of Slow has once again emerged to provide the shelter I need.

A lot of my speed-filled month had to do with my being away from my familiar surroundings. And when one is uprooted in such a way, it can throw a person off kilter. Oh sure, you can work remotely, but it isn’t as easy making magic happen at your mom’s sloping card table when what you really need is the stability of your home office desk.

I appreciate the flexibility of my work that allows me to travel to other ends of the earth whilst still making clients happy and heard. But it can also create a muddled state of mind as one is not sure whether to jump into the pool or into a PR conversation. I spent a great deal of August feeling torn, wanting desperately to connect with old friends (which I did) and simply stopping to rest from it all.

There is no place like home. After traveling far and wide, I have come to realize how very good life can be right where you are. Thankfully, life is mostly filled with levity, not such bone-crushing intensity. And when fast takes over, I try to remember what — and who — is truly important.

For those of you seeking reprieve from life’s intensity, Slow can be had. It requires simplifying your life and finding that place on Earth that raises you up to your highest potential.

 

power-of-slow_dust-jacket.jpg

Want a change? Try a new lens.

Life can be so rich when we open our eyes.

Because two of the most wonderful people in my life spend a great deal of time behind cameras, capturing the moment in that amazing, craftful way, I have started to look at the world in a new way too. With a new pair of eyes.

It’s sometimes overwhelming – all that beauty. I even look at garbage men in a new way. All because of my love and his camera and his heart (and the job he had to photograph those pre-dawn heroes who whisk away our trash). All that insight seeps onto the photo paper, beyond the frame and into our souls. It goes bone deep. And stays there.

I equate that significant shift in perspective to a Sudoku puzzle. You have a square with 81 boxes. Each row, both vertical and horizontal, can only contain one number from one to nine. On some days I can solve a Sudoku puzzle in minutes. On other days I simply don’t see the pattern. I am blind to it. That’s when it is time to put it away for another day. And yet, with a fresh night’s sleep and a different view, I can suddenly see that which was before me all along.

Only I couldn’t see it before now, no matter how hard I tried.

It is funny how much of our lives is impacted by our view of things. We have so much. And yet often we only see that which we don’t have. It’s a devil’s circle of thinking, a downward spiral to an endless abyss of crankiness.

That’s when we need to lift ourselves off the page, grab a new lens, seek a new scene. And suddenly, those missing puzzle pieces snap into place.

Our greatest obstacles in life are ourselves. 

When you feel stuck, put on a new lens. Give it a try. Trust that you have the power to make a change. Because that new outlook won’t come from a store-bought magazine. Or a bottle of wine. Or thousands of hours of watching TV.

That shift can only ever come from you.