Monday, October 31, 2011

Living a Mid-Atlantic Life

OK – I have been learning a lot about slowing down this past year. So much so that I have really let my blogging go by the wayside. Travelling back and forth between Canada and the UK has meant that taking the time to think, ponder and create has been at a minimum. Today, the last day of the month and Halloween got me thinking that the year is almost out and that perhaps now would be a good time to reflect on how things have gone so far. On the one hand; I have definitely slowed down in many ways. On the other hand, my life has been divided between two continents. Moving between these different cultures, different friends, different everything has meant that being slowed down has made it possible for me to stay focused and be in the flow of the moment. Perhaps that is the real reward for being slowed down; there is time to notice and pay attention to the events of life and to be open to what life is trying to give you. Often when I was impatient for things to happen and trying to move them along myself, through force of will and pushing the river, nothing actually happened. How ironic to now see that by slowing down to the speed of life, I have actually created way more in my life. More fun, more opportunities, more connections and way more time to enjoy them all. It was a year ago in November that the book 'Slowing Down to the Speed of Life' literally fell of the shelf and into my lap. I took it as a message and one that I did pay attention to. Now, a year later, all I can say is Wow – what a miracle and what magic has happened in my life since then. On Friday I leave again for the UK. Work, opportunities and fun beckons and I am ready for it all. The past year has been great and I'm pretty excited to see what this next year has in store. Finally learning that life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's Next for London?

Traveling throughout the UK this summer has been a real eye opener. From the Canals of the Midlands to the Eden Project in Cornwall and most recently, to the woodlands of the Loch's in Scotland; we have experienced so much that is really wonderful and beautiful about the United Kingdom. Having said that; united is not a word that I would use to describe this place. Tribal is a word that comes to mind most often and it also explains the solutions that have been used to resolve economic and social issues of deprivation and hopelessness that have been the hallmarks of these areas in the past. Not so now; all of these areas have been rejuvenated through creative and positive change brought about in the communities themselves. The canals have been invested in and championed by individuals who understand that this water system offers more than just a transportation system for commercial purposes. The canals are now home to many people who have opted for a lifestyle of simplicity and fulfillment. They are not living on their boats because they feel 'hard done by'; they live on their boats because it is joyful and a shear pleasure as we discovered for ourselves. Cornwall has fostered the most amazing regeneration project that I have ever seen. The Eden project is a miracle of positive growth through transformation of a once ugly blight on the countryside. It is now an oasis, a garden of Eden that attracts people in the thousands on a daily basis. A forum to educate but also an attraction that provides a healthy and inspiring example of what community can do to generate work and provide a positive solution to the environmental crisis that we face. A true win/win proposition of ever there was one. Loch Ard in Scotland an area called the Trossachs just north of Glasgow also provides an educational and inspiring eco friendly tourist attraction. They work hard in this little area to ensure that you don't leave Scotland thinking it is just a place of mist and grey clouds. Enterprise is everywhere as is their history that is kept alive because of the individuals who live there and ensure that the stories of Rob Roy and William Wallace are as relevant today as they were hundreds of years ago. All of these places have sparked economic rejuvenation by their own enterprise. They have taken the bull by the horns – led by incredible and dedicated visionaries – and made something of their communities. The London area which has been most badly hit by the riots and looting of late could definitely benefit from it's own 'Eden Project.' The social unrest has been building for a very long time; lack of jobs, lack of opportunity, urban decay and the general malaise that occurs when people feel bereft of hope and inspiration. Entitlement has been the disease that has most deeply eroded the social fabric here. The idea that these kids felt 'entitled' to expensive trainers, flat screen tv's and computers are more alarming than the fact that they did what they did. The government can no longer afford this social experiment; and it is about time too. It has turned whole generations of people into welfare queens and kings who see the government as the answer to their problems. The truth is that in any society the solutions are not going to come from the government; they are part of the problem. The solutions will need to come from the community and from a vision for the community that can transcend the current state of moral, emotional and financial decay. Maybe London can be transformed and become the next Eden Project?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Slowing down to the speed of the Canals

Life has been a bit of an adventure of late and the blog has definitely fallen through the cracks. I have written a few but connecting to the internet has been the biggest challenge. This started when we decided to have a bit of a break in France after I had some work to do in the UK. Seemed like a great idea and it was a good idea and a grand adventure.

The challenge comes with fitting our lifestyle into a French lifestyle; being wired to the internet is not a priority in France. So moving into the way of life in France meant adjusting as best we could to an hour a day to cover off essential emails (client communications and coaching) and the more fun and frivolous stuff – Facebook and blogging – went by the wayside.

Our time in France prepared us perfectly for a week on the canals in England. In previous blogs I have written about the whole idea of 'slowing down' as perhaps a direction that would be worthwhile for me to pursue. Ambling through the waterways around the Trent and Mersey Canal system has been amazingly instructive around getting into a slower pace. The river winds and bends, the ducks seek out food from the many canal boaters and we converse at night over a glass of wine in the pubs that spot this incredible system of waterways.

The system is over two hundred years old and originates with the Industrial revolution as a way to transport goods throughout the UK. We travel no more than a few miles a day; stopping along the way to open and close the locks and meet our fellow boaters who are unerringly helpful at showing us newbies how it all works. It is a pleasant and most enjoyable lifestyle; one that I could get used to.

We had friends with us over the weekend assisting with the locks and generally helping us to adjust to our life on the canals. Outgoing and greeting everyone on the canals, they helped us to understand that this is a very different way of life. Completely off the grid, no one is a stranger and everyone is pursuing their own personal adventure. By the look of the people we have met, they are a pretty darned happy bunch. Free of the cares and worries of owning a home or a car, they cruise the rivers and make each new mooring their home for the night. Peripitatic to the extreme and yet the joy and sense of freedom these people experience is visible on their faces.

Today would have been my Mother's 90th birthday. She passed away 6 years ago and I think about her every day and wish that I could share this adventure with her. I also know that she would be pretty pleased that I am finally learning how to relax and slow down. My Mom was a bit of a master at the art of relaxing; she didn't pass that particular gene onto me.

Happy Birthday Mom; slowing down and learning to relax is my gift to you today.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The End of an Era

My Father-in-law passed away this week at the age of 93. He was a lovely man and I will miss him. He had a warm and charming manner and was a true English gentleman in his Harris tweeds and cap. At 93 he survived and served in World War 11 and would often regale us with his stories about the war. I would listen to these stories with rapt interest until, like my husband, I could just about tell them for him. He did tend to review and live in the past with increasing frequency, in the past several years, as his memory became more fragile and eventually faded entirely.

In many ways, his passing was a blessing for him; I can't imagine that he would have wanted to continue with his health failing at every turn. The final straw was a broken hip that happened two weeks ago. The subsequent surgery left him weak, vulnerable and open to the chest infection that appears to have taken him away.

The loss of any close member of a family is difficult, no matter what the person's age or state of health. There is a 'life force' that we all bring that will be missed when we are gone. Strangely, we don't really get to understand what the essence of a person is until it isn't present on the planet.

It is easy to take our families for granted and assume they will be there forever. For my husband, having a Father in his life for all of his 65 years is pretty amazing. He is already an Old Age Pensioner and has never known a time in his life when his father wasn't there.

One of the most difficult parts of loss is the conflict of emotions that emerge; grief and sadness mixed with feelings of relief that the tension and wonder is finally over.

Family relationships are complicated and made more so when the parents are gone. Most siblings don't know how to be with each other without the parents as a point of reference point. The uncertainty, the vacuum and the unknown are what we face over the next few weeks as we travel back to England to complete this journey.

While it may be the end of an era; it is also a new beginning that we can shape as we like.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A question about Leadership

Travels are over – at least for a little while – and I'm back enjoying the serenity and peacefulness that is our life by the River. While the weather has been less than springlike; it has been great to be home and to see my friends again. Back to walking on the beach and catching up on the current news.

Canada is in the midst of a federal election right now and it seems for the second time in less than a year our community is going through election fever. An important time to consider how we want our country to be led over the next several (we hope) years. These are challenging times right now and it will take many people with a strong sense of purpose and vision to accept this challenge and lead this country with commitment and heart.

Leadership is an illusive quality in our political mosaic here in Canada. Many people want control and even more want power but how many really want to lead? And, if they do want to lead, where the heck are they taking us? These are questions that are worth asking yourself as you listen to the speeches and the rallying cries of the candidates.

Watching CNN on the weekend, I was inspired by an article that appeared to be written by Author Y (who turns out to be the joint chiefs of staff in the Pentagon.)

John Norris discusses this article in 'Foreign Policy' and quotes the article within the context of funding:

"Courageously, the authors make the case that America continues to rely far too heavily on its military as the primary tool for how it engages the world. Instead of simply pumping more and more dollars into defense, the narrative argues:

'By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans -- the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow -- we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America's youth. "

That for me is leadership and coming from the Pentagon no less.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The North South Divide

Life has been hectic recently – up to Newcastle, over to Richmond, down to Sheffield then back into London. I enjoy the different landscapes of these parts of England; each has its own unique and lovely energy.

Newcastle is a bit of homeland; my mother, grandmother and great grandmother are all from South Shields (which is the Newcastle area). I enjoy visiting this part of the world even though I often don't understand a word they say. A Geordie accent is something quite amazing to behold; almost like a secret language only knowable to the initiated. I first encountered the Geordie lingo when my grandmother was chatting with a Geordie friend and slipped very easily and quickly into the almost indecipherable language that is from these parts.

Reassuring is how it feels to be in the North of England; familiar, friendly, forthright and honest. These are qualities that have often been attributed to me by my family and not always in a positive and encouraging way. The qualities of northerners can grate on the rest of England and certainly the more subdued Southerners are often quite affronted by their Northern brethren. I, however, enjoy the frankness and the honesty; it sits very well with me.

Today I had a wander around the Kings Road in Chelsea and thoroughly enjoyed this part of London. It isn't an area that I go to frequently but on the advisement of a friend, I thought I would go and partake of the excellent shopping and also enjoy the sunshine and the warmth of the spring day. After my experiences in the north and the work that I enjoyed last week and on the weekend, it was lovely to have an afternoon to meander about and just take in the sights and sounds of London.

My awareness of the North South divide is never more acute than when I have the opportunity to spend some time up north and then immerse myself in London; the homeland of my father, grandfather and great grandfather; a completely different experience of England. London is fast, vibrant, multicultural and anonymous. A person can get seriously lost here and no one would notice. This is also an aspect of me that fits very well in my psyche.

Bringing the divide together is the balance that I seek.
Geographies of England: The North-South Divide, Material and Imagined (Cambridge Studies in Historical Geography)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rock Your 'Asanas' Yoga

So what else does a person do in South London on a Saturday night but engage in heavy metal yoga. No kidding, rock music, light show and heavy breathing; all part of the 'yoga' experience that my friend and I participated in on Saturday. Followed by a lentil curry and a glass of wine; they do things differently over here.

It was a bit odd for me – to say the least – and yet, I cannot argue with the positive effects that I have felt since doing this 'extreme sport' yoga. I of the 'Nordic Walking' persuasion and occasional yoga aficionado feel incredibly energized and dare I say it, quite changed as a result of this experience.

I had no idea what I was getting into when my very good friend of many years asked me if I'd like to join her in a yoga class on Saturday night. I thought, sure, I love yoga, really miss doing it and hey, what a fun way to hang out and spend time together.

There wasn't a whole lot of information about the night just that it was yoga and then a veggie meal. When I arrived in the yoga room I was somewhat startled to see two dj's and a huge table for spinning discs and a light show being set up. Well, a few minutes later, 35 bodies proceeded to chant, stretch, downward dog and shake our shakti's. Whoa – not what I was expecting at all.

When I shared this experience with my son over our 'Mother's Day' lunch on Sunday (yes, they have a different day than Canada) he burst out laughing and said that it reminded him of an episode of the 'Peep Show' which is shot in South London – 'Rainbow Rhythms.' Later that night he put the episode on the tv for me to watch. What was hilariously funny for me was the degree to which my Saturday night mimicked this episode. It isn't a natural thing to blend yoga – quiet meditative practice – with loud rocking music and a light show.

I am a bit of a purist when it comes to yoga; I like it quiet, meditative, relaxing and to be honest, not that sweaty. If I tell you that 'Shavason' is my favourite position (the corpse pose) it will probably tell you a lot about my level of activity in yoga. So having such a wildly physical yoga experience was, for me, a uniquely South London experience.

Fusing South London and Yoga; the beginning of change indeed.