So, Yoga. What is happening to it?

I got on Instagram a couple years ago to start following the people and activities I am interested in. I’m a very visual learner and find imagery the way I am most engaged, so it only made sense.

One of my interests is yoga, and there is a big yoga community on Instagram. For a while, I really thought I had hit jackpot. You can follow all these different yogis and learn from their practices. You can also keep up with the latest styles, gimmicks, and trends. I was hooked.

But these days, I’m not so much enamored. Everywhere you look, it is beautiful sun kissed and mostly white young women doing impossibly difficult and beautiful poses in exotic or sleek locations. Of course, the beach. But also in front of the Eiffel Tower, or on a busy boardwalk, or in front of a mountain range. The pictures are always accompanied by a quote or an affirmation about loving yourself. Or shining your inner light.

I am all about empowered women. I think you should let your confidence shine. Freaking own it, yes. But is that really what yoga is about?

To me, yoga is about transcending the ego. The photos I see everywhere only serve to reinforce it. The whole purpose of these photos is ego based. They are posted to satisfy the ego of the model. Or worse, to make money. Because a lot of these accounts are sponsored. They are bought. They play on our desire for what is in the picture, telling us that if we buy the bra we can have the “yoga” in the photo. This is a play on our unconscious – that very thing we are trying to transcend by practicing yoga.

The images also perpetuate the unrealistic standards we are slammed with every day. Getting a firmer butt might be one of the benefits of yoga, but it is not the purpose of your practice. If it is, it’s not yoga. If you want to be a fitness model be a fitness model. But you’re not really a yoga teacher. Woman face images that feed our insecurities and feelings of inadequacy from advertisers at every turn. Yoga should be a practice that validates our bodies no matter their shape. It should affirm our caring and our service to ourselves and others. It should bring women together, not be used to set some of us apart.

So by all means, post the sexy beach photos. Own your sexy self. But please, stop calling it yoga.

Ok, rant over. Thanks for reading.

Networking tips

We’ve all been there. At the conference or the cocktail party or the quick break between meetings. You’re surrounded by people and looking to make some connections. Nobody wants to be that guy, though. You know, the one passing out business cards and working everyone as quickly as he can. It’s not effective and it’s actually quite annoying.

Well, there is a better way. And when you improve your skills in networking situations it spills over into other areas of your life like making friends.

Here is what I’ve learned. There are five strategies everyone can incorporate:

  1. Have a quick and interesting answer to the questions everyone asks, “So, what do you do?” It can be even more effective if you make it a story, something compelling that gets people wondering how you can help them. You define a problem they have, show how you can solve it, then explain how life gets better because of it. It might be “You know how you have a website for your local business but nobody finds you on Google? I help companies optimize there websites so that they get found when people are searching online for their service or product – so the business owner can focus on servicing her customers and growing her business.”
  2. Ask questions!!! You have to have a genuine desire to connect with others. Your attitude will come across so make sure it’s real. Questions but rapport because they show our interest. And avoid dead end questions like “How are you?” or “Where you from?” Find the questions that will solicit stories. “What was the most interesting thing you learned from that?” “What is something exciting happening at your company/in your life right now?” “What are you looking forward from the conference?”
  3. Give something back. Reciprocity is appreciated and creates trust because it balances the scales. It could be a free sample or it could be gum. Or a compliment!
  4. Take care of yourself. Get rest, drink water, stay refreshed and recharged. It shows!
  5. Follow up. Social media makes it easy. A personal email with something of mutual interest is great. A thank you note goes a long way!

Remember, it’s all about relationships!

Getting Stuff Done

I read this really great book the other day about getting yourself organized. It had some great advice and I’d like to share some of it with you.

First of all, you need to start with the understanding that our brains are made for organizing and thinking, not for storing. So if we are going to be able to think clearly we need a safe place to hold all the odd tasks our brain is constantly trying to manage. This takes up more energy than we realize because our subconscious is holding onto it, bringing it up without us even realizing, in order to not lose it. So if we want to be free to think clearly and without all these little interruptions from our brain, we need a collection bucket. And it needs to be trusted by us.

There are a few keys to doing this right:

  • You need to empty your bucket regularly, or else it becomes disorganized and can’t be trusted.
  • When you empty is out, your stuff needs to go in the right places, so stay organized
  • Keep all your current projects in a project list
  • Use that project list to break the projects down into actionable items and put them on a next actions list. This is much more helpful than a daily to do list because we aren’t good at estimating how long it takes to do many actions.
  • Keep a waiting for list for all those items that you have passed on to someone else and are still awaiting a response. This also frees up your brain not to worry about checking back on them.
  • And finally, put all your day-specific stuff like doctor appointments onto a calendar.

Some reflections

My post yesterday reflected the strange mood I’m in. I went to a 9/11 memorial service and one of the speakers read a quote that really fit my mood this morning. I have to paraphrase it because I didn’t write it down at the time. It was from the widow of one of the pilots. I believe it was the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. She basically wanted to tell people that the one lesson she had learned from this senseless violence, the one thing that helped her to make sense of it all, was to remember that life is too short to hate. And she is right. You just get now. Today. This moment. If it was to be your last, how would you want to spend it? In anger? In worry? Or in gratitude. In showing those around you that you love them.

I was talking this afternoon with the guy who came over to do my garage door repair olathe ks and he was telling me about a client he had serviced the other day who had been in the second building when the trade centers were attacked. He was in the city for three weeks of training and was at the beginning of the training. They had taken a break and were looking out the 60-something story window at the South Tower when they heard a big explosion and saw stuff that looked like burning paper floating down past their window. An announcement came over the intercom to tell them their had been an incident in the other tower and to evacuate the building. He said that they went to the stairwells but it was very slow going. Imagine all the people from 60 stories below pouring into the stairwell at the very same time. They got down about ten flights when he heard a huge explosion and the building shook. That was the second plane slamming in to his building about thirty stories above him. Can you even imagine? Of course, people started moving with more urgency and he made it out. He had called his family after the first building to tell them he was ok and evacuating but he wasn’t able to get cell service after that. From the street they did the only thing they could think to do, which was walk back to their hotel. Along the way he found a mattress store that was letting people use their land line and he was able to get in contact with someone back home.

I think about his story all day today. You think those things only happen to other people. But they happen to someone and that someone could be you. So how will you spend your day today? Will you veg out in front of the television, surfing through channels to kill some time? Will you pick a petty argument with your partner over something that isn’t even important to you? Will you fixate on the crappy thing someone said to you at work last week? Or will you spend a little time to think about your future and set some goals. Or maybe put in a few hours toward the ones you’ve already set? Or maybe call your mom. Which I’m going to do right now. Hold on.

Ok, I’m back. And I’m glad I did that.

So, when we say “always remember”, do more than wear the tshirt or hashtag the tweet. If you really want to remember and honor those who lost their lives so tragically and senselessly on that horrific day, do something that really matters. Live your life with intention. Make the most of this day.

It this the end times?

We all stop and pause to remember 9/11. Maybe that is what has be in this mood. But add to it what is going on in the world.

Well, dang. If you do even the minimal amount to follow current news I could understand why you might think this could be the end. Seriously. What is going on? How many hurricanes do we have going? Four in this hemisphere, and one that has killed thousands in India. Wildfires all across the northern hemisphere. (And people are golfing right next door – what does that say about us???) The threat of nuclear war growing every day. A huge earthquake in Mexico. That crazy solar eclipse. Come on. It may not be the real thing, but it is starting to feel like a dress rehearsal.

So, what if it is? What would that change? Would you do something differently today? Have you spent some quality time with the people you love? Have you spent some quality time with yourself? Do you love what you’re doing enough to keep doing it, even if today is the last day? Do you believe in it enough to keep going?

These are important questions to ask yourself, you know? Because even if the end of the world isn’t imminent, or at least is very highly unlikely, the end of your world is much more so. And probably sooner than you think. So my pledge is to be more mindful of that as I go about my day today. And my days going forward.

Northern Lights

If you came here to learn about my travels to see the Northern Lights you will be sadly disappointed. A trip to visit the Aurora Borealis has evaded me over the years. But it is number one on my bucket list. This natural light show dances across the sky, providing a spectacular view to those lucky enough to experience it.

Apparently there was a solar flare emitted by the sun a couple days ago that will cause the Northern Lights to be visible in unusual areas, like as far south as Chicago.

So, how do you view the lights? Really all you need is a clear sky with an unobstructed view of the northern sky. You also need a dark night. So people in Chicago who want to see them, need to hike it out of town and find a place without as much light pollution. It also helps if the moon isn’t quite as full as it is right now.

Don’t look directly overhead, like you see in all those dramatic pictures from Norway (the lucky b*****s). No, the lights will show up on the northern horizon. Your best bet is to find a hill or a wide open field, or even a beach for best views.

The lights were supposed to come relatively close to where I live two summers ago. My daughter and I packed up the car at four in the morning and drove an hour north to get a little closer to the viewing area. We didn’t do our planning very well, thinking we could just find a spot on a country road once we got there. Big mistake. Finding flat earth with a long view to the north is a lot harder than you might think! We drove and parked several times, finally giving up once the sun started coming up. Then headed home disappointed at not seeing them, but happy for the adventure and the time together.

I guess Norway is still on my list. If you’re interested you should follow NOAA, they have a 3 day forecast available on their website.

Already, a little break from my intended content

I read an article today on USA Today,

DeVos to revamp Title IX guidance on sex assaults on college campus

In it the secretary of education says we have “weaponized” the OCR to work against students. Seriously? Sexual misconduct on college campuses is far too slowly coming to light as a serious problem and now we’re going to make it harder for victims of sexual abuse to get justice. The idea that the current system amounts to kangaroo courts is insulting. Not enough colleges were taking assault and harassment seriously and now we send them the signal that they can dial it back again. I’m sorry, but this makes me crazy. It is appalling that the dept of education would weaken protections for students who survive an assault. It goes against basic values of safety and respect that we teach our kids every day. Ug.

Paris

Such a beautiful city.

The first time I visited was a few years after school. I took a long sabbatical from my job and travelled with my old roommate and good friend. I had never been out of the country, except for a few jaunts to Canada in the family station wagon as a child. We planned this trip for at least six or eight months. This was before cell phones, or the internet. Hell, it was long before Windows. Hahaha. Oh, my. Feeling my age. Anyway, you had to buy books and make phone calls and send away for information and send information back and wait. Just the process of getting a Eurail pass, something you could research and purchase in under five minutes today, was a weeks long process. And then finding out which countries required Visa’s, and which countries had transportation strikes and determining conversion rates for all their currency. Although I seem to recall that the daily paper listed daily conversion rates for all the major currencies. What’s a daily paper you ask? Go away…  And don’t get me started on arranging accommodations in each new city. And we walked both ways up hill and snow. Ok, I’ll stop.

But is it any wonder I wasn’t enamored by the city of lights on my first visit. We had spent the first week or ten days in England and Ireland, where we could speak the language and where we had a few friends. But I seem to recall an especially rough channel crossing which must have been the long way because it took all night from Gallway to a port somewhere in France, followed by a confusing train ride into Paris. I don’t remember where we stayed, but it must have been a short visit packed to the brim with tourist attractions. I was overwhelmed and out of place and probably intimidated by the French, who could spot a naive American backpacker a mile away. I hopped on the train out of town with relief.

My next visit was ten or twelve years later. My husband’s job took him to Paris all the time and he knew the city, the trains, the good restaurants, and he even spoke a little French. My stress level was tons better. And there must have been the internet by then because I remember being able to see a photo of the front of our hotel before arriving.

The hotel was quaint and reasonably priced and our room was clean. But the bed was another story. One of those ancient, flat, musty things that caves in to the center and the lighter person on the bed (me) is always on the slant, trying not to roll into the other. But, really, that bed is my only bad memory of the trip. We wandered the streets and parks and museums by day and had some incredible meals in the evenings. One especially nice evening we sat in the parlor of a nice hotel where my husband had colleagues staying. We dressed in black and must have looked chic because we were mistaken for Parisians and asked directions by tourists on more than one occasion. I fell in love with the city and the cafes and the parks and vowed to learn French. I’ve started to learn French at least five or six times over the years and each time I pick up a little more, but I am a long way from speaking it. Someday…

My third trip to Paris was with the whole family. By now the internet was in full swing and we stayed at a cute little VRBO. Talk about evolution. We stayed in someone’s home and had online conversations with the owner as we prepared our visit. There’s another blog post – stay in a local home. It beats hotels any day!

But back to my story. The kids were high school aged. In fact, I took my daughter’s senior pictures while we were there. It was amazing to see the city through their young eyes. And it was such a privilege to be able to show them how people live in other parts of the world. We’ve always loved to travel and it was important to instill that passion in them. It worked, too. They all studied abroad for a semester at one point or another in their college careers. So, in many ways they’ve surpassed me in travel experiences. I will have to write a future post about the difference between visiting a place and living in it. I hope I have that experience in store for me somewhere in my future.

So, what is my advice to you about Paris? Go. Find a way. Have the experience of strolling a busy street and taking a short cut through an ancient cemetery. Just have the experience of going almost everywhere on foot or public transportation. Know what it is like to sit in an outdoor cafe and sip cappuccino in the morning or visiting the local boulanger for fresh bread and croissants for your breakfast. Watch the lovers stroll the parks and know the cool (but slightly damp) relief of stepping into an ancient cathedral on a hot day and slowly taking in all of the statuary and relics. Sit at a table with your fellow diners literally close enough to eat off their plate and get lost in the maze of side streets.

The world is a big place. We spend too much time in our own little corner and we run the risk of getting conceited and ignorant. Not a good combination!

spiral stairs
spiral stairs
Eifel tower scaffold
detail or ironwork
picture of a crucifix
cross over the grave in a french cemetery

Chicago

Two of my kids live in the Windy City so I get here often. They live in the Lakeview area, which is just north of Lincoln Park. It’s a great little part of town, very bustling pretty much twenty four hours a day. The streets are filled with coffee shops (yeah!) and restaurants and book stores and hair salons and thrift stores and drug stores and on and on. Above each of these shops is a three or four story building filled with apartments. In the apartments are people from all stages of life – young singles, old singles, new families, college kids. I suppose you don’t see a ton of little kids out on the street but there are still plenty. Raising children in the city has its challenges, which is why I suppose there aren’t as many here as in the suburbs. Carrying a double stroller up three flights of stairs a couple times a day might make anyone want to buy a car, throw in all your stuff, and move to the suburbs. Ah, but there are still many young parents who are giving their children all the sights and sounds and activities of the city.

One of the places you’ll find a lot of kids is at the dog parks. Yes, dog parks in the city! They aren’t huge rolling acreages like we have here at home, some even with large ponds where your furry friends can grab a swim. No, these are much smaller. Usually tucked in between building or on a shady corner. As you might imagine, it’s hard to make grass grow when the earth is constantly getting pounded by all those paws. So it’s mostly dirt. It can get a little dusty on hot dry days, for sure. But I tell you, it’s such a lift to your day to slow down as you pass and watch all the puppies socializing it up out there! I sometimes wonder how they all get along so well. Wouldn’t it be nice if we humans could do the same thing?

Chicago wouldn’t be Chicago without Lake Michigan. Or “the lake”, as they call it. If you’ve ever been you must be familiar with Lake Shore Drive. It runs along the coast, separating the high rise apartment buildings and office buildings from the walking paths and parks and beaches. It’s really something to see on a lovely summer day. People taking picnics under the trees, with kids playing frisbee and dogs usually helping them. You also see plenty of dogs being walked. And occasionally you’ll see a lucky old one being pulled in a wagon. Even us oldies enjoy a little sunshine!! And joggers. You’ll see tons of joggers. There are also lots of bikers and sometimes it doesn’t work out so well for the joggers. I saw a woman once get totally clocked by a bike when the path narrowed to go under an overpass. The poor thing was knocked to the ground and really shaken up. The other thing you see is sun bathers. Oh my. Right there on the concrete with all us tourists walking right past them. Ha! I guess when you need a tan you need a tan.

And certainly you’ve heard of Michigan Avenue. The Magnificent Mile, isn’t it? Non-stop shopping. Lot’s of upscale stuff, too. Way out of my price range, but it’s fun to look. And at the southern part of Michigan Avenue you will find Grant Park and the famous Bean. If you’ve been to Chicago, you’ve taken a selfie in the bean. And right next door is my favorite place in the city. The Art Institute of Chicago. Oh man. It is incredible. Everything. Monet, Picasso, Rembrant, Warhol. And collections from ancient civilizations that will blow your mind. You can spend hours and hours in there and get lost a hundred times. They have a great Calder mobile and a Chagall stained glass wall that is incredible.

There’s plenty more to see in Chicago, but my favorite place to visit is a coffee house. Yes, coffee! Intelligensia. If you haven’t been there you’ve just gotta try it. Pour over, espresso, cappucino, lattes. And they have a really nice cold brew. The best part is the tiny spoons you get to stir your coffee. You can buy them for just a few dollars. One time I was buying one for myself and the woman working the cash register looked at me a little surprised and very happy and told me most people just steal them. Oh, my. The bad karma that would put on your morning coffee. No way!

chicago night
skyline from the water
statues in front of tall buildings
got a little lost on my way back to the hotel

Hello world!

WordPress for the win. Exactly. Hello world!

Welcome to my own little piece of the internet. This will be the place where share with friends and family some of my travels and the cool things I’ve seen, and the coffee houses I’ve visited along the way. I’m going to try to include photos from the journey as well. I hope you enjoy! Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say!

 

photo of coffee
with a good book
photo of paris street
beautiful evening in parsi