Make summer last longer.

Last weekend I was at a wedding in Sequoia National Park. It was full of music and colour and animal masks. The giggling groom in his purple suit and lavender mohawk set the merry tone. After the last child arrived on a fiberglass unicorn and the bride settled in next to her mate in a gorgeous white gown with a multi-coloured train, the officiant invited all of us to take a moment to become present. To ourselves and our surroundings.

I immediately felt what I was sitting on. As I did, my body relaxed into itself, fully supported by the bench beneath me, the friends around me,  and the trees surrounding us all. The moment I became aware of my body, I heard the birdsong enveloping us. A symphony had been playing all around me, but I’d not noticed until I stopped to become aware of myself. Now I could hear sounds within the sounds, rich and layered and soft at the same time.

I felt the evening air on my face and my silk shawl caressing my shoulders. My ribs moved out in every direction with my breath as I expanded through the quiet inside me.

It all took a minute. Maybe two. But everything changed in that short time. It’s an over-used and somewhat corny expression, but “time stood still”.

Before that shift in time, I’d been excited and happy and wondering what would come next, but I’d not been truly present to all that was happening around me and within me. By taking a moment to become aware, I slowed everything down. There was a shift from my experience before that moment and everything that came after.

We’re all so busy, connected, and distracted much of the time that it can feel like life is speeding by. The easiest way to slow down time and make more of it, is to simply become present. Any time.

Summer is a great time to do it.

If you want to make summer last longer this year, take a moment every day to become present.

  • Step outside in the morning and feel the sun on your face.
  • Walk barefoot on the grass and let it caress your toes.
  • Listen to the sounds of birds singing, kids laughing or squirrels fighting.
  • Look at your food before you eat it and give thanks to everyone and everything involved.
  • Notice the changing position of the sunset each day. Watch it until it drops away.
  • Taste that bite of peach like you’ve never tasted it before.
  • Hug someone and feel your body breathe.
  • Savour a kiss as if it’s a summer night and you have nowhere else to be.

Enjoy a moment everyday and summer will linger in your soul.

I’d love to hear how you slow time down and make summer last.

What are you thirsty for?

After years of drought, looking at parched landscapes and hiking barren mountains, we got rain.

Everything is lush and teeming with life. Landscapes are every shade of green and bursting with kaleidoscopes of colorful flowers. Water’s tumbling over rocks, down hills, creating creeks and pools where salamanders are busy making salamander babies.

Our once thirsty soil is vibrant and alive, expressing itself in full bloom.

What is your soul thirsting for? 

We all go through periods of drought at times. Life loses its luster and we feel kinda flat. We can even lose touch with our longing.

But like rain on California’s dry earth, there is something that would bring your soul back to life.

Give it to yourself.

The world wants you to bloom.

 

Feel free to share this with anyone who’s going through a dry time, and maybe find a way to be a cool drink of water to them.

I took this photo on a walk last week. It’s a field of California poppies that stretch as far as the eye can see.

How about a little compassion and awe?

Years ago my mom pressed her ear against mine. “No” I told her, “I don’t hear it.” She has tinnitus that’s so loud she was sure other people could hear it.

When I meditate my body often tingles. Last weekend I asked my husband to press his body up to mine and hold me after my meditation. “No,” he told me, “I can’t feel it”.

What do my tingly body and my mom’s tinnitus have to do with anything?

Each one of us is experiencing something that only we can feel. Whether it’s dark thoughts or high hopes, debilitating anxiety or ripples of peace, the thrum of ecstasy or a sharp pain in your left kidney. Everyone has an inner world that’s layered and complex and wholly their own. Yet we often assume that what we feel and think and how we experience the world is the same as others do. We think we know them but we can’t, not fully, no matter how close we may be.

We can never truly know the agony of his childhood wound that hasn’t healed. Her family’s trauma that she carries in her bones. The secret desires he’s too afraid to share. The passion that makes her rev like a racecar.

But we could live awe and wonder with ourselves and others because even with these internal worlds that could bring us to our knees in sorrow or in joy, we manage to get up, get dressed, get to work, feed the kids, and be mostly good to one another.

And when we don’t, wouldn’t it be nice to feel compassion for ourselves and others, and trust we’re all doing the best that we can.

Feel free to share this with someone who may not feel understood right now, because you want them to know that they’re still loved.

 

It’s not about being present.

I want to say a bit about being present, cause the command to “Be Present” is everywhere: On t-shirts, pillowcases, tattoos and Instagram posts about desert turtles.

Being present has become one more thing you gotta do and one more thing to feel bad about if you’re not doing it.

But it’s not about being present. (in my humble opinion)
If you’ve ever meditated you know it’s not about focusing on your breath, or mantra, or image, or sensation … and staying focused.

Meditation is about lovingly, gently, smilingly coming back to your breath or mantra or image or sensation… again and again, and again.

You don’t become present and stay that way (okay, some humans actually do. I certainly don’t). You are present and then you’re not. And you come back to being present again.

You’re brave and then you’re not. And you find a way to be brave again.

You’re kind, and funny, and quick, and thoughtful and fit and ambitious, and successful, and generous, and peaceful … and then you’re not.

The gift you give yourself and the world is to accept it all, just as you’d accept your mind wandering in meditation, and then gently come back, again and again, and again.

With love, Debra

Elevate Your Life to a Work of Art

There’s a simple ingredient I’ve been using in my life and sharing with clients. Here are some of the symptoms we’ve been experiencing when we use it:

  • A deeper sense of peace.
  • Heightened intuition.
  • Greater connection with self and others.
  • More creativity.
  • Easier decision-making with greater clarity.

It’s the same ingredient you’ll find in abundance in art galleries.

It’s White Space.

It’s what draws attention to the art, allows us to really focus on it and feel its effect on us. I love to look across a nearly blank room, see a work of art and notice how my breathing changes. I love to discover the way it makes me feel.

If galleries crammed works of art together like wallpaper it could be more efficient, save time and money. Several shows could open at once. But it wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

Without white space, poems are just a jumble of words and music is just a wall of sounds. A conversation without white space is people talking at each other, but it’s not a dialogue.

When I left my first marriage I moved out of our home that I’d spent months renovating and into a small apartment with a mountain view. At first, I had only a foam mattress, linens, clothes, a pot, a bowl and a pair of chopsticks. There was nothing to sit on but the carpet, nothing to look at but the mountains and white walls. What I discovered was peace.

When my eyes looked around they could easily settle outdoors. When I ate I could feel the texture and weight of the clay bowl and wood chopsticks and taste each bite of food. That was my first experience of living with white space. I was very careful about everything I brought into my home, making sure it gave me joy and didn’t upset the balance of space. This was a beautiful contrast to my crazy busy world where I was booking meetings months in advance with little space in my day.

Now I consciously surround my days with white space. It elevates my life to a work of art.

Stress has become such a norm in many of our lives that we’re used to feeling tight and constricted. Even as we rush to fit in a yoga class we feel our tensions rise.

But I know that I’m not unique in my longing for white space. When I work with my clients they often use the word spacious to describe how they feel about the changes in their life. They experience more peace, tap into their creativity, feel better about themselves, enjoy relationships more and access their own unique greatness.

Sometimes the idea of white space is scary. You’ll be alone with yourself, your thoughts, fears and desires without distraction. Many people stay busy to avoid that. But you’ll find if you ease into adding white space a bit at a time and be gentle with yourself, you’re quite a wonderful person and more deserve to take up more space.

Here are a few simple ways to add white space and elevate your life to a work of art:

    • Give yourself a 2 – 5 minute break before shifting from one project to another.
    • Turn off all technology during meals.
    • Go for a walk outside during your workday.
    • Close your mouth and listen more in conversations.
    • Close your eyes and taste your food.
    • Set an alarm and meditate for just two minutes.
    • Turn off all distractions and let yourself focus on a task for an hour.
    • Create a simple ritual for morning or night that gives you a sense of space.
    • Clear clutter in a part of your home until that space is a source of peace.

I’d love to hear how you’ve added white space to your life.

Never give a gift with strings attached.

When you give a gift, really give it away.

Never give it with strings attached.

That expectation of something coming back in return will lead to disappointment.

Maybe even resentment.

It will definitely kill your joy.

When you give a gift… Let Go. Let Go. Let Go.

Your love will soar.

PS. The same thing goes for accepting gifts. Never take one with strings attached. It’s not really a gift.

Your sensuality can bring peace to the world.

I’m pretty sure you’d love to be a part of the solution, bringing more peace, love, and acceptance to the world.

You know you can’t give what you don’t have, but how do you find peace inside you during these troubled times?

Meditation is one of the proven ways to experience more peace, acceptance, and compassion, so you could start there.

  • But what if you don’t have 20 extra minutes each day to chant and breathe and be calm
  • What if you’re already meditating regularly and still feel anxious at times?

By using the sensuality of your body as your guide, you can find the peace within you and share it with the world wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. This will help ease you into meditation if you don’t already practice. It will extend your experience throughout the day if you are already practicing.

Meditation is simply the practice of focusing your mind on an anchor. When you do that your mind stops jumping between the future and the past. You land in the present moment and can access the peace that is always inside you. The more specific the anchor is, the greater your focus will be.

So why not let your anchor for meditation be the sensations in your mouth every time you eat?

Your mouth is a dark moist cave of pleasurable potential. Eating is a sensuous act. By focusing your attention on

By focusing your attention on the flavors arousing your tastebuds and the juices filling your cheeks, every bite can draw you into the pleasure of that very moment.

When you are truly present in the moment as a living experience rather than a lofty concept, you touch the still peace that is always inside you, even during turmoil.  When you access that peace you experience a calm joy as well as compassion and acceptance for yourself and others.

Keep it simple and make it doable.

If you’ll give your full attention to just one bite of every meal, you’ll fill your day with sensuous, meditative moments.  The moments of presence will link together until more and more of your days are experienced in this simple state of peace.

When your thoughts and actions come from that state you are a beacon of peace and love in the world.

All of us rush through meals at some time, barely paying attention to this sacred act. If you’ll pay attention to just one bite, you’ll alter your relationship with time and fill yourself up with nourishment.

Here’s a guided eating meditation from my book The Power of Pleasure.

 

Thanks to Elizabeth Grojean for knowing how to enjoy a peach, and to Cheryl Himmelstein for capturing the moment.

Eight ways to Override Overwhelm at Times like This

It’s easy to get overwhelmed right now.

It seems everywhere you turn it’s fires,  floods or your friends and family in crisis.

But there’s a way to override overwhelm, be of service, and live in peace.

Keep turning in the direction of beauty.

Because no matter what else is going on, beauty’s right there. She sits on the shoulder of death, she flows in the tears of heartache, and she dances in the chaos of destruction.

Now it may seem irresponsible and even heartless to turn towards beauty when there’s so much suffering going on, but here’s why I recommend you try it.

With news and social media, we have more information about tragedies all around the world as they happen. We can be up close witnesses to earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, and angry white supremacists, even if it’s all happening thousands of miles away. We see it on the news and our friends post it online where we can watch it again and again.

And while a friend of mine said, “Now is a time we have to be vigilant”, we’re at risk of becoming hyper-vigilant;  fueled by anxiety we watch for potential threat everywhere, increasing our stress levels in a vicious cycle.

Though technology has evolved rapidly, our biology has not.

When you watch a disaster on a screen your nervous system responds as if it’s real. It prepares to fight or flee for your survival while you sit unmoving, glued to the image. That can leave you traumatized. A study shows that people who had repeated media exposure to the Boston Marathon Bombing showed higher levels of acute stress than those who were actually present at the bombing.

By staying informed and vigilant are you helping, or are you doing more harm? You’ll know by the way you feel. Letting yourself go down the rabbit-hole of exposure can put you in survival mode and you may not even know it. It can lead to anxiety, depression, problems sleeping, digestive issues and a host of problems that can make it hard for you to be part of the solution.

So what are you going to do?

Turn yourself in the direction of beauty. 

  • Look at things that make you feel good. Whether it’s your kids, some flowers or a work of art. There is still beauty around you.
  • Laugh. Get with friends to laugh, play games, tell jokes, make music together. Sh*t’s still funny, even now.
  • Shut off technology. Give your nervous system long breaks without any electronic input. When I recommend social media breaks to my clients 100% of them feel more creative, optimistic and better about themselves when they do. I know I do too.
  • Let yourself feel. Weep, mourn, feel your fear. It’s not a time to override what is real. Let the feelings move through you so you don’t get stuck.
  • Move your body. A great way to shake the images and thoughts from your mind is to shake your body. Dance. Walk. Run. Jump on a trampoline. It doesn’t matter what. Just move!
  • Give where you can. Whether it’s donating to a cause, volunteering your time, calling a friend who needs cheering up or saying a prayer, give and you’ll feel less helpless.
  • Be silent. There is so much energy coming at you all the time, and an endless list of things to do. Take a few minutes every day to be silent and listen to yourself. Rumi said, “There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.” There is such loving wisdom inside you. It will guide you in exactly the right thing to do if you will listen. Sometimes withdrawing from the world is the most powerful way to be engaged.
  • Rest. Get more sleep. Take naps. Give yourself a break from pushing too hard. Times of great stress require great recovery. If you’re feeling stressed by it all, rest more. Ideally after you’ve moved your body 🙂

Some would call the way I live “sticking my head in the sand” because I can’t feel good when I  expose myself to too much of what’s going on. I don’t watch really violent or scary movies. I haven’t watched the news in over a decade and I don’t log much time on social media, but what I need to know still reaches me.

I’ve been able to give to organizations helping victims of floods and fires, without watching any footage. I check on friends in area of danger, without monitoring the threat. This Sunday I’ll show my support at the local Racial Justice meeting that’s being disrupted by White Supremacists, because a neighbour told me people were needed.

The above are just 8 ways to turn towards beauty. These simple practices can calm your nervous system, strengthen your capacity to handle stress, and make you better able to help when needed. If they work for a weakling like me, imagine what they might do for you.

How do you turn towards beauty, even at a time like this? I’d love your ideas in the comments below.

Love Debra

Tweet these ideas and help others override overwhelm.

Gratitude. When Less is More.

You’re probably thinking you don’t need to hear one more thing about gratitude. Everywhere you turn people are telling you how important it is to be grateful. You get it. Thank you!

You probably know that being grateful won’t just make you feel better. It will impact others around you as well. It’ll improve your relationships. Boost your self-esteem as well as your physical and mental health.

So the more the better, right?

Well … yes … and … no.

Thinking about all the things you’re grateful for, and expressing your gratitude can do wonders for you. But I’ve noticed that we can treat gratitude the way we treat many things in life. We rush through it – stating all the things we’re grateful, racing to the end of the list. We jam gratitude into a practice because we think we should, and we do it without really experiencing it. Like “I love you”, we can say it without feeling it.

Maybe that’s not your experience, but if you’re curious whether less could be more for you, try these two different ways:

1. Gratitude of Many:
  • Notice how you’re feeling right now and say three words that describe it.
  • Now think of all the things you’re grateful for.
  • Say them out loud if you can. (Otherwise make a list silently in your mind).
  • Stop once you’ve listed all the things you can think of.
  • Now notice how you feel. Use three words to describe it. 

You’ll probably notice a change in how you feel because gratitude opens your heart and gets you in touch with the love inside you.

2. One Gratitude:
  • Notice how you’re feeling right now and say three words that describe it.
  • Think of one thing you’re grateful for. JUST ONE.
  • Have you got it? Can you see it in your mind?
  • Say why you’re grateful for that.
  • What difference does it make in your life? Be as explicit as you can.
  • How does that difference make you feel? Feel it and describe it. (even if you just describe it silently in your mind)
  • After you’ve done that, notice how you feel right now. 

For me, feeling the depth and breadth of just one thing for which I’m grateful easily shifts my energy, mood, and being in a profound way. I’m very interested to hear what works best for you.

If you liked the One Gratitude practice feel free to try it every night before you go to bed. It’s a simple way to ease into sleep.

I’ve just started sharing simple practices like this and others you won’t find here, on Instagram, so feel free to come join me over there. 

Money as a Love Story.

I met Joel Solomon just before he invested in our business, SPUD, which provides online home delivery of organic, local, sustainable foods. Catching up with him on a path snaking through the woods of Hollyhock Retreat Center, on Cortes Island, BC,  I nervously introduced myself. He responded, “What are your politics?

I’d never been asked that before, and frankly I’d never thought about it. I was much more of a doer than a thinker. I blurted out “I believe corporations are the most powerful source of change. I only see that growing. I’m working on shifting the course for good, from within.” That 15 second exchange probably sealed our fate.

This week I was delighted to sit back and crack open his new book, The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism

Believe me when I tell you, this is no ordinary book about money and power. Though you’ll read about corporate greed, environmental destruction, and political corruption, and you’ll understand how money has systematically moved America’s democracy into more of an oligarchy, the book is surprisingly uplifting and provides enough direction to give you hope, and more importantly – actions to create a better world. Part memoir, part how-to guide, this book is in many ways a love story. A story only Joel Solomon is uniquely fit to tell.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate to know Joel as a patient investor (in two businesses), an inspiring boss, (when I worked with him and Carol Newel, and Martha Burton, in the early days of their seed fund, Renewal Partners),  a fun playmate, generous mentor, strategic match-maker, risk-taker, goofy dancer, late night drummer, truster of people, supporter of artists, activists, and long time friend.

Though Joel admits to writing this book from a position of privilege, as a middle aged rich white guy,  Joel’s got more vast and varied life experience than anyone I know.  In our first meeting he told me about his 500 year plan. Though it was a metaphor, he really wasn’t kidding. He’s equally at home as the best dressed man at a boardroom table, or foraging for food on a deserted island. He’s studied French Intensive Bio-dynamic gardening, worked on Jimmy Carter’s campaign, granted $50 million to environmental groups through Endswell Foundation, and is the Chairman and Co-founder of Renewal Funds, investing $98m of other peoples’ money in organics and enviro tech companies in the US andCanada. His personal experience alone makes the book worth reading. But you’ll get much more than that.

Joel says, “…. money has no values of it’s own. Money doesn’t account for fairness, justice, beauty, consciousness, or love. That’s our role, and it’s ever more crucial that we assume it. We need to start to talk about money in ways that dethrone it and make it subject to human ethics and standards of love and decency.”

So let’s talk.

Debra: Joel, congratulations on your book. It’s quite a feat. Was writing a book ever part of your 500 year plan?

 Joel:  The idea of a 500 Year Plan certainly is supported by my book, “The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose & Capitalism”. I reflect a lot about our responsibility, and obligation, to think about true security, where ecology, soil, species, and the very biosphere that makes life for people possible, can thrive forever. We have a stewardship responsibility that we ignore at peril.

My intention is to raise consciousness around these long term responsibilities, and how we can use money in a more regenerative way, rather than investing in damage and destruction. We have lost too much sense of our past and future. We must think long term, for the chance of a good future for the generations to follow us.

Debra: Why a ‘revolution’?

Joel: I use the word revolution as a wake up call. It’s a revolution of mind set, or actively choosing, or owning the truth of what we do to other people and places by owning, investing, and making choices with money.

We are fighting complacency, accepting old norms, and neglecting to ask serious questions, demand better financial and consumer products, and leaving money in hands that we would never trust our personal matters to. Yet, our money can be a powerful force for good.

We must wake up, empower ourselves around the wealth management hypnosis of “maximum financial return, regardless of who and what is damaged”, and make choices that align with our values, mission and purpose as people.

We may be kind, respectful, and help people directly. Can we let our money support slavery, poison other people’s children, and start wars?

Debra: Who’d you write this book for?

Joel:

  • People with affluence and money.
  • Their children, who stand to inherit $50 Trillion by 2050 in NorthAmerica alone.
  • The wealth advisors.
  • Super motivated young people considering and navigating the careers they will enter.

 

Debra: Your life takes really interesting twists and turns, all the different routes mysteriously  weaving together to take you where you are today.  How did the study and practice of French Intensive Bio-dynamic gardening, or the study of Orcas, prepare you to be a mission based investor and philanthropist?

Joel: All my adventures and experiences added elements to who Ive become.

From exposure to French Intensive Bio-dynamic gardening, I learned a lot about complexity and diversity as essential strengths, awareness of the cosmic elements, beneficial relationships between plants, insects, birds, etc., the sacredness of soil, and hard work.

The life, habitats, and patterns of Orcas, the largest brained mammal on the planet, reveal a quite advanced language, social system, mutual support, and intelligence, in another species, as a quite obvious example that can be found throughout nature.

My diagnosis with a degenerative form of kidney disease, took me to imagining my death bed, pondering my legacy, and deciding to live as if on that death bed mindset, and consider each day precious, each interaction sacred, and to align my life the best I can , with principles I am proud of and would hope to share.

Debra: Though you deal a lot with investors and philanthropists, how can someone earning under $100,000 a year, just trying to raise their kids and save for retirement, play a role in the Clean Money Revolution?

Joel:

  • Consider banking with a Credit Union and keep your money mostly in your community.
  • Buy food that aligns with your values.
  • Shop at locally owned stores where jobs and wealth stay in your community.
  • Read labels and protect your family safety and health.
  • Research companies that make products you might buy.
  • Find out what is in them, how workers are treated, and what environmental damage may be done. Learn about the practices of companies, institutions, and professionals you engage with.
  • Talk to friends and ask how they figure this out. Share what you know.

 

Debra: I’ve worked alongside enough activists to know that fighting the good fight can lead to pretty serious burnout. From working with you, I learned the importance of having fun. How the heck can people have a good time with this revolution?

Joel: Start with inner skills practices. We must examine our own feelings, sensations, and thoughts, discovering the awareness possible. Awareness first, then choice is possible.

Explore mortality. As clear eyed as we can be about the inevitable reality of death, the more fully we can live today.

Gratitude practice, ideally daily, can increase our clarity of choice in how we respond, interpret, and act, on a good outlook that empowers self love, compassion for others, and sense of larger responsibility.

Maintaining joyous physical activity, as well as other intentional practices for keeping the body vibrant and flexible, helps.

Learning adaptive response and fluid approach to challenges, hurts, disappointments, and blockages, improves resilience, wisdom, and mastery that assists in joy.

Flow and glow.

Debra: I love that! And I loved the chapter on Evolutionary Leadership. These principles apply whether you’re leading a business, a community, your family, or directing your own life path. In it you say, “Consciousness practices grow clean money revolutionaries!” Can you explain that a bit?

Joel: Consciousness opens opportunity for choice. Empowered living can follow. Aligning money with values, meaning, and purpose, is our joyous duty.

As it becomes clear to us the role of money, its positive power to cause and fuel change, and realization that there is more than enough money on the planet to solve most all our challenges, we become clear on the need to shift trillions of dollars from damaging uses to regeneration.

Debra: So, there’s enough money, but is there the will?  I was amazed to read in your book that, “…the average amount the entire world needs to invest in clean energy annually to hit the 2-degree target of the Paris Climate Conference is only 7 percent more than American citizens invest in car loans each year.” Since clean energy yields more jobs per dollar than fossil fuel energy, it’s unthinkable that we lack the political will to make a change that seems like a no-brainer. What can we as individuals do?

Joel: Our responsibility as individuals is to be in lifelong learning, loyalty to future generations, and stewardship of the commons. Health of ecosystems, human relationships, are the base for global stability and effective societies.

Examine the self. Ask questions. Be informed. Improve that which we can influence. Give younger people all the insight we can. Be models. Make conscious choices. Live our values. Know our meaning and embrace our purpose.

Remember the future. Be all in for the chance of good ways for future generations. We are the ancestors who are making a good world for those who follow.

Debra: I’ve always been impressed with your ability to ask questions that get people thinking and acting from a wiser, more authentic part of themselves. What questions can we ask to open the conversation about clean money?

Joel: Where is our money, what is it doing to people and places, right this minute?  Is my money representing the values I hold dearest? Our name is on our money. Are we ok if with that money, we may own slaves, poison other peoples’ babies, and start wars, simply to earn a higher return rate?

The financial system can do better. We have the power to ensure money is used for creating a clean, green, more just civilization.

The time is now. 30-50 trillion dollars will change hands over the next 3 decades, from older people to younger ones. Now we have access to vast information. We have the tools and ingenuity, and the money, to solve the major problems facing us today.

It’s time to ask questions and invent and support better answers to how money is a force for good, ready to be unleashed for the long term true security of civilization.

Love and intention are the raw material for a good future for all.

Consider being a billionaire of good deeds. You may find you are also a billionaire of love.

Debra: Ah, it always comes back to love. Thanks so much Joel.

Get your copy here and join The Clean Money Revolution.

Then Spread the Love by Tweeting it out: