As darkness descends earlier and earlier each day, I find myself reluctant to embrace shorter days and long nights. The chill in the air has me reaching for sweaters and snuggles. I want to slow down even as the work-pace quickens in the compressed schedule of pre-holiday season. Getting back to school and down to business rules the day.
Jane Austen called autumn “that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness.” It is the season of crimson, saffron, pumpkin, and gold…a season to savor hard-won harvests, colorful feasts, and warm nests amidst darkness and decay...Read More
When local photographer, Pete Saloutos, invited me to model for a yoga shoot a few years ago, I had no idea that it would lead to a dear friendship and a regular gig moonlighting as a model.
In fact, I was pretty sure that it would lead to a polite and potentially embarrassing encounter with a photographer who would figure out in short order that I was not really worth his time and talent.
Not because I’m insecure about my self-worth or my appearance. I’m actually surprisingly comfortable and content in my own skin. I just didn’t think of myself as a model, a word I grew up associating with the youthful, long, lean, leggy, unattainably attractive other-than-me-ness of those paid to influence cosmetic and fashion trends usually irrelevant to my personal brand of quirkiness...Read More
Just in case you're having one of those days...
This little number from Katie Goodman won't solve anything, but it just might make you smile. Oh, and this is an adult song (a tame adult song, but still...), so use your discretion about where and when you listen. Enjoy!Read More
Throughout history, we humans have used art to express ourselves. We create art not only to represent and beautify our world, but also as a means of understanding and sharing who we are in our world. Through creative self-expression, we grow in self-awareness, generate insights, resolve problems, and enhance our overall well-being.
However, if you're like many adults, somewhere along the way you may have decided, perhaps without even realizing it, that art-making is not for grown-ups, or at least not for grown-ups like you. As much as you may like art on the walls and (especially if you share your home with children) the refrigerator, it seems the art-making is best left to artists and children. After all, when it comes to art, isn't patronage the appropriate role for productive members of society?Read More
If there was a conversation that could begin to ease all suffering—within yourself, within others, and within the world—wouldn't you want to join that conversation? Earlier this year, I received an invitation to work with Ashley Cooper and Melanie Wroe to produce aguide for Seeds of Compassion, an initiative to nurture kindness and compassion in the world. We were asked to create a simple process that anyone could use to engage in meaningful conversation about compassion—what it means, what it looks like, and how we can embody it more fully in our world.Read More
Whenever I get asked to do a presentation, I always have mixed thoughts. I’m grateful that someone values my perspective enough to invite me to share it, but I’m also concerned that people will expect me to do all the talking. Most people who know me well will tell you that I consider myself to be less of a public speaker and more of a conversation-starter. I enjoy presentations if they catalyze meaningful conversation and action, but I prefer more participant-centered events...Read More
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~Henry David Thoreau
And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. ~William Shakespeare
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. ~Hermann Hesse
Ever since I was a child, I have had this curious habit of talking to trees. I find myself touching their trunks in passing, sitting at their roots to rest, and saying silent hellos...exchanging elements of air well-grounded in earth. I have always loved their company.
I don't know when they started talking back... Perhaps they were always talking, and I simply didn't hear or perhaps it took a while for me to extend the bounds of culturally-sanctioned sanity. I don't know, but somehow it happened, and now, from time to time, I find myself deep in conversation with trees.
My dear, is it true that your mind
Is sometimes like a battering
Running all through the city
Shouting so madly inside and out
About the ten thousand things
That do not matter?
Hafiz, Out of the Mouths of a Thousand Birds
Deep in American life lies a dormant soul, almost obliterated by politicians and media that consider it too lowly and weak for serious attention.
In my personal and professional development work, I spend a lot of time with questions. My questions. Client questions. Unasked and unanswered questions. Spiritual "meaning of life" questions. Transactional "get the job done" questions. Relational "getting to know you" questions. Easy questions. Hard questions. Rhetorical questions. In the course of all this questioning, I have noticed that the most powerful questions people ask are those that invoke reflection about what they value. I call these questions valuable questions.
Valuable questions are worth asking. They are questions of value that enable us to deepen who and how we are in the world--to grow, to change, to transform ourselves and others. They help us determine what really matters to us and what to do about it. How can I be a better person? What do I want to do with my life? How can I make money and make a difference in the world? How can I have meaningful relationships with people important to me? Valuable questions invoke reflection on how we value ourselves, our relationships, life conditions, and life pursuits.
They are also overwhelming and hard to answer because they take time. Even worse, valuable questions take personal time, and we are busy. We are a nation of people in a hurry, a culture addicted to well-marketed speed. This is not a novel observation. We all know it. Full-speed, speed to market. Fast food, fast cars, fast pace. Quick fixes. Rush hour, rush job, feel the rush. Instant coffee, instant gratification. We don't even read anymore; we scan, skim and surf our way through life.
Ours is a culture of pay per view relationships and substitute experiences, a culture that promotes spending more time with television "Friends" than with friends who really care. Most of us experience fifty to one hundred advertisements by nine in the morning. The entire world is at our fingertips--broadcast into our living rooms, our cars, our offices. Television, radio, billboards, snail mail, email, chat rooms, discussion boards, telemarketing. Even the spiritual has become commercial as corporations compete to sell us souls.
Reaction is better than inaction--and reflection, particularly self-reflection, is reserved for the self-absorbed or people with nothing better to do. Time out is a behavior modification technique for children and time off is regarded with suspicion. Vacations are prescriptions for preventing nervous breakdowns. We barely have time to sleep, let alone time to dream.
We simply don't have time for questions, valuable or otherwise. We want answers--and we want them fast. What am I going to wear today? Are we on schedule? Why am I doing this job anyway? Where did I put the car keys? Am I a good parent? How much is it going to cost? How am I going to make this payment? Why am I so worried? When will it be finished? Is it my turn to drive the kids? When am I going to get to the grocery store? What am I having for dinner? What's on TV tonight? Where's the remote control? When was the last time we had sex? How much sleep do I really need anyway? Is this what I really want? On any given day, there are so many questions competing for our attention, is it any wonder that we tend to neglect the most valuable for the least time-consuming?
Our personal time is in short supply and high demand. Most of us, of necessity, use our personal time to go to the dentist, pick up the dry-cleaning, and buy the groceries. We use personal time to socialize with friends, connect with partners and read to the kids. If we're lucky, we may have time leftover to get to the gym. In our culture, personal time is any time we spend outside of work, however impersonal, taking care of the rest of our lives, taking care of the people in our lives and--oh yes, taking care of ourselves. That too--and more often than not--that last. After all, personal time for truly personal use should be reserved for crises.
Basically, if we have any personal time at all, we should be shopping, cooking, cleaning, and socializing. We should be doing something--certainly not sitting around by ourselves inquiring about the meaning of life. We have Oprah for that--just turn on the television. Watch a meaningful life.
However, if we want to live meaningful lives, we have to occasionally turn off the television, the cell-phone and the computer. Leave the laundry for another day. Decline the invitation and order in. Whatever it takes, we have to take the time to ask ourselves the questions worth asking--value ourselves enough to ask the valuable questions. We have to get personal with our personal time and inquire into our own experience about what really matters.
We must breathe, reflect, be. Greet the moment with a deep sigh and a full heart. Now, that would be doing something.