June 01, 2011
Why I Surrender To Tears on Airplanes & Why You Should Find Your Own…..
I write this after watching a movie on a long American Airlines flight. It’s not the first time I had cried after watching a movie on an airplane. It’s also not the first time I noticed that I cried after watching a movie on an airplane. The first few times I figured it was just the movie choice….that random movie choice, which brought on the tears. After many years of observing that I somehow ended up having a good cry after any movie I watched on an airplane, it started to settle in that the tears were a unique occurrence. Related to airplanes? Or, travel?
During my last cross-country flight, I realized it wasn’t related to airplanes or travel specifically, but it was related to reflection after leaving a place, something I have always had time to do while moving from A to B.
When I’m leaving a place, even if its one I’ve been to dozens of times before, there’s always a reflection point…..a particular conversation, a new way of seeing a friend’s life I hadn’t seen before, the repetition of patterns from a conference I had been to ten times, a speaker I heard say the same thing in the past, and yet it resonated differently on the last round. And on and on and on.
The physical journey mapped with the emotion of someone else’s life journey in a movie, is a reminder of life as it is in that moment. Nothing more, nothing less…..
Alas, we are all growing older, wiser and simpler at the same time on this long life journey which we all share.
Sure, a lot of airline movies tend to be dramas or comedies rather than action flicks, but don’t almost all of them have a love story, even if it’s not one between two humans? A love story with a passion can be just as derailing and challenging, whether it’s Kevin Costner’s battle with choosing between love and baseball or Gweneth Paltrow choosing between music and fame or love and life itself.
When a movie is well written, it brings you into the plot as if you’re in the script yourself. You resonate with a character and if it’s not their personality you connect with, it’s the pain they’re feeling.
A good story always has some pain in it, largely because getting through the pain is what makes us grow into something better, bigger, stronger than we were before. Someone once said, “God only gives us as much pain as we can handle in order to learn the lesson.” Whether it’s a God who dishes the lessons out to us, the universe herself or a mishmash of happenstances and people who fall into our path, showing up as both teachers and students, life (and our journey in it) is definitely not a random accident.
Movies, like really good writing, force me to reflect on all of it as I migrate between two worlds. A movie doesn’t necessarily have to have amazing writing to invoke emotion in the way a good novel does. It does need tons of “human moments” and the ability of the actors to bring you into their world as if you are in the storyline yourself.
Whenever I leave a destination, I start to reflect on what I just left, almost immediately. In New York, it always happens the moment I jump into the cab on my way to the airport, in other cities, it may not hit until I’m on the plane and in others, perhaps not until I’m smack in the middle of a movie. The reflection isn’t just about the drama and pain that is happening in the movie, it’s a reflection on everything I just left and everything I am about to embark on, sometimes for the first time and sometimes, into a world where I’m on autopilot.
What happens if there’s no movie? I reflect anyway, and often I write, but the tears don’t always come like they do after a good airplane movie. A well known CEO friend of mine used to talk to me about “walkabouts,” which is an Australian phrase that refers to going off somewhere to clear your head and get back in touch with your heart. (in so many words).
Years later, I not only understand “walkabouts” but need to take them. The in between state – the airplane – brings me to a reflection point where I begin to contemplate a “walkabout” even if it doesn’t bring me into one.
It’s a way of being present….yes, in the middle of a movie. Unlike anywhere else I watch a good movie, I’m aware of everything around me. I’m aware of the person I’m sitting next to whether or not I started a dialogue with them. (Refer to my blog post: Not Just in Aging......)
In sharing an intimate space with them for anywhere from 2 hours to 12, I feel as I’m now part of one of their life chapters just as they are mine, whether or not they’re aware of it or not.
Maybe I’m over-thinking a simple plane journey, and even if that’s the case, who cares if the experience brings me to reflection points, tears and being present. I want as many experiences and moments in my life which are present and sometimes they come naturally (bring me red rock, Cape Point or any ocean or lake), and sometimes I have to pinch myself or meditate to go there.
Being present with someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, even if its with yourself. Being present with yourself btw almost always turns into a gift for someone else because for the time you are truly present, that openness creates a door for someone else to enter, even if its for one beautiful moment.
As for others on your path, I’ve noticed that my exchanges are pretty random and in that randomness, I find that I always talk to exactly who I’m supposed to talk to at the time.
The other two things I’m reminded over and over again is that randomness often creates magic moments worth cherishing and there are no accidents on this long journey we call life.
Sometimes when people see me cry, they assume I’m watching a movie about death or a sad love affair if they’re not watching the same movie as me. Other times, they just glance out of the corner of their eye quietly, perhaps wondering why I might be shedding a tear. Even if I am tearing up over something sad or cruel or painful, it’s always a good shed. The clearing through tearing brings on a birth of new ideas and ways of looking at the world, not unlike a new skin which grows back after the old skin sheds from too many hours in the sun.
My sun is my PC and mobile device, and being tethered to them bring me into the most unpresent part of my life – the Internet. When I’m there, I’m reacting to noise, even if I AM learning something new along the way. OR, meeting someone new in a Twitter exchange. Knowledge and productivity are great things and while they are not separate from being present, I find my brain either has room for one or the other and when my brain is overworking, my heart takes a back seat. (Read Nicholas Carr’s What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains and a blog post I wrote called: Hey Digital Maven, How Okay Are You With Silence?).
Having a cry as a way of reflecting on what I just left and what I’m ‘going to’ isn’t a replacement for a good “walkabout” and frankly I think we should all take them, whatever a “walkabout” is for you.
A “walkabout” isn’t necessarily the kind of activity that puts you into your zone, which may be your passion -- skiing, photography, cooking or whatever. A “walkabout” takes you to a quiet place where you’re not going anything at all but connecting to the earth below your feet and the sky above your head.
Here, you’re in a place of silence where you are not only “being” present but you’re “aware of being present” with who and what you just left and where you’re going. Along the way, you’re grateful -- it’s hard not to be grateful when you’re truly in this state btw – and every motion, every thought, every move you make is free flowing. In other words, there’s no resistance, there’s no struggle, there’s no pain, there’s no head, because heart is driving every step of the way. Heart is ruling thought and Heart is making every decision. (Read Eckhart Tolle).
The airplane movie for me is merely a trigger point in the middle of the noise, in between my “walkabouts,” and in between two very distinct worlds, which remind me I haven’t been grateful enough, I’ve lost perspective or gained some, or I haven’t spent enough quality time with people who matter.
It’s almost never about the movie; it’s about a human connection which is brought to the foreground in the movie and it moves from the screen to my minds eye….and then to my heart.
It’s about the fact that I am in fact in “motion” between two places, two cultures, two ways of thinking, two lifestyles, two memories, sometimes an old life versus one which replaced it, sometimes the other way around. So bring on the tears I say. Bring ‘em on for whatever purpose they serve along that long journey we call life.
After all, isn’t it always when we’re in that in between state when we have the most to give ourselves and others in our path? When we’re in a vulnerable beautiful state where the heart drives, not our heads? (Read Pema Chodron - she’s one of my favorites).
Whenever you find out what your trigger points are, you know, the ones that bring on the tears, purposely plant them in your life if they don’t happen naturally. And, more importantly, interject them with “walkabouts.”
While “walkabouts” don’t have to include nature, it’s a good idea even if nature isn’t a primary “go to” for you. Nature and paying attention to it rewards you in ways words can never describe. It IS where we all began and honoring nature will bring you back to your source, that source which will take you on a rollercoaster ride you’ll never want to get off. Trust me. The world really does surrender to a quiet mind.
May 22, 2011
Not Just in Aging that the World Surrenders to a Silent Mind
It was on a flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco, a flight I had made countless times over the years, when I had a deja vu moment about aging. As I glanced over to the woman to my right, I suddenly remembered all the times I had watched the older women in my life as a child and felt as far removed from them then as I do now from a 15 year old male skateboarder from Detroit.
On that flight, a surreal feeling swept over me...as if I was her or could have been a dear friend of hers in a previous life. The moment was short lived but vibrant and incredibly real, and it made me incessantly aware of aging and this precious thing called human life.
She was probably 70 or so, the woman was a petit, short Asian woman with beautiful silver hair, strands of black scattered throughout as the only remnants left of her middle age life. Her skin was glowing despite her obvious fatigue and you could tell she was once a stunner in that way you can about some people; there's a certainty, a quiet sauciness, and a knowing smile that suggests a life fully lived. She was wearing faded jeans, classy gold earrings with just a touch of ruby red and a Victorian blue button up top with a crocheted back that barely covered her neck, just enough to add a sweet balance of feminine energy to her other otherwise masuline aura despite her small frame.
Her face was weathered, not terribly so, but like her glow, certainty and smile, her face and hands exuded a lifetime of stories, over decades of experiences, far far beyond Las Vegas or San Francisco.
My deja vu moment came moments after a visit to the airplane lou where I observed my own weathered skin from years of sun exposure including the most recent trip in an open convertible where the hot desert sun beat on my skin, adding more aging spots which will someday tell a long story, or a series of them, just like the silver-haired neighbor to my right.
Although I was more than 30 years her junior, I felt as if this woman, whose coiled sleeping body next to me, was a kindred spirit somehow, despite the fact that we had yet to exchange a word.
Part of the desert trip included exploring rock ruins, flora and engravings, the latter of which told some of our ancestor's stories during a time that not only knew no computer, but knew no pen, paper or even a primitive chalkboard. I couldn't get enough of the hot Utah sun largely because the sun had become such a foreign oddity as I had somehow become more accustomised to hanging out with words on a screen as Google's Chrome churns them out tab after tab.
Despite the fact that I had "inked" my face up with pure white zink from Australia, the sun took its toll, not just on my face but on every inch of my body except for the six inches which were covered by scarves and shawls.
In the mirror that afternoon, seeing the weathered results of miles of sun and wind, brought back a memory of my South African host sister and I basking in the African sun as teenagers one hot summer afternoon in Durban. We were coated with baby oil as were our neighbors and their neighbors and so on. My host mother would bring out iced tea (roibos) with mint on the hour to make sure we were hydrated and their rotweiler would bark every time she opened the door. White as snow, she came out glaring through the sun to find us spread out on the grass in her 1950s-style apron with printed pansies in oranges and reds. She would shudder as my grandfather would at the amount of time we spent unprotected under the far too close to the equator sky. Like our neighbors, and their neighbors and so on.
As the memories flooded my head, I looked back at my silver-haired friend, who opened one eye on this occasion, just enough to add a small but tired smile as a way to acknowledge my gaze. At the end of the flight, we exchanged one short sentence as we all queued up like cattle waiting our turn to exit the plane.
I felt so connected to this woman I knew nothing about for some reason and yet......an older short, silver-haired Asian woman with gold earrings next to an American auburn haired, blue eyed woman nearly half her age and yet the almost silent exchange was as if.....as if, we had met before in a far away place, in a previous life, at a time when time had no meaning.
When time has no meaning, aging has no meaning. Later, I read an excerpt called Late Ripeness by Czeslaw Milosz that went something like this:
like ships, together with their sorrow.
And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before.
It made me think of her, the woman whose name I never learned, nor whose origin I will ever know. Yet when time has no meaning and aging has no meaning, I understand how things in an aging mind might just be ready to describe things better than they were before, and as the brush does in fact come closer, we also appreciate the preciousness of the journey we're on, have more gratitude for what we are becoming and who we encounter along the way.
We also become okay with the silence that blesses us along the way. Just when we think the silence is a "negative" as it reminds us that we are in fact getting older, we realize that it is in fact a gift, the biggest gift we'll ever receive in our lifetimes, for when we live our lives from this place, we are more open, more vulnerable, more authentic and more pure. How appropriate to end with one of my favorite quotes: "The whole world surrenders to a quiet mind."
May 15, 2011
Jennifer Siebel Newsom on Empowering Women: If You Can't See It, You Can't Be ItJennifer Siebel Newsom (wife of CA Governor Gavin Newsom), spoke at TEDxMarin last week on the topic of women: empowering women using social media to pave the way. She has been working on micro-enterprise opportunities for women as well as films and TV shows that empower women. Below she gives the audience a lot of stats (one interesting one: only 20% of news focus on women) and stresses why its so important for women to speak up and be heard.
April 26, 2011
Ultimate Women's Expo Hits Phoenix on April 30
The Ultimate Women’s Expo hits Phoenix next weekend, which will consist of two full days of events, giveaways and talks designed specifically for women. The conference features keynote speakers Patricia Heaton and Ricki Lake and over 550 shopping booths, along with complimentary pampering and rejuvenation for women in and outside of Arizona.
Exhibits include the very best in fashion, beauty, health, fitness, home décor, careers, financial planning, education and much more. Admission includes an amazing array of complimentary spa services, including free makeovers, haircuts, manicures, massages and facials. They'll have four stages, book signings, celebrity appearances, and cooking and design demonstrations. The Decorating Stage features renown design experts providing new ideas on home décor, while the Cooking Theatre features some of the Valley’s most talented chefs preparing the latest in new and fresh meal ideas.
Emmy Award Winning Actress, Author, Producer and bestselling author Patricia Heaton will deliver an empowering message to women on making the most of everyday and living your best life on Saturday, April 30, 2011, Susan Lucci, the vixen from All My Children, will also speak and then conduct a book signing and award winning actress, author, producer, Talk Show Host and Women’s Advocate Ricki Lake will finish off with a talk on exceeding your own expectations on Sunday, May 1, 2011.
How cool is this? They'll also have a Rejuvenation Tea Garden Lounge, which will feature over 500 trees and flowering gardens, and there within, attendees will receive free champagne, martini’s, margaritas and wine tastings throughout the weekend.
April 25, 2011
DEMO & Kaufman Foundation Scholarship Supports Women CEOs
For those thinking about launching or announcing something 'cool' in the fall, DEMO has a new scholarship program they unveiled earlier this month that will allow a portion of the companies at the event launch for free.
The DEMO Scholarship Partner Program has brought in a number of sponsor partners who will subsidize at least 20 companies that have raised less than $500,000 — basically, those with no or minimal funding. Another 10 angel-backed companies — those that have raised only seed rounds of less than $1.5M — will get partial scholarships to cover at least half of the cost of launching.
Another great win win is the initiative they're doing with the Kaufman Foundation, which plans to support a scholarship for four companies with female CEO’s. Anything that promotes and supports more women to get involved, lead the charter and take the leap to launch is a great thing for the industry, so kudos to them for making it a priority. The original press release can be found here. And, here's the list of all the scholarships including a link where you can apply.
April 18, 2011
Enter Huffington TV: #Curation AIN'T Going Anywhere Anytime Soon!
AOL's now editorial master Arianna Huffington today launched Huffington TV, which they're touting as a new web-based "channel for channels" that she promises will "revolutionize the way we watch our favorite programs by aggregating the best TV has to offer."
But it isn't going to just be an aggregated model; it will be smartly 'curated' as well. There's that word again. Curation AIN'T going anywhere anytime soon folks. In the so called conversation age, we’re drowning in data. We know it. We talk about it. Yet, we continue to make content even if its only 140 characters. Finding what matters is becoming harder and a combination of search and machine curation alone isn’t doing the trick.
I'm passion enough about this topic BECAUSE I'm swimming in a sea of data that I worked with Pearltrees last year, which is focused on a different kind of curation, one with a creatively interesting twist. I'm also a fan of Steve Rosenbaum's new book: Curation Nation which I just finished reading, a great read on why it will be the thing that matters in the next several years.
And, Arianna has been quick to point out that the success of Huffington Post was a combination of smart aggregation and curation. She hired behind the scenes curators to make sure the end product was a winning formula for her readers.
Huffington TV is a smart move frankly. Curation is key and if she gets the video formula down like she did her blog, people will flock to watch. The idea is that they'll curate offerings of the major broadcast and cable networks to present the "most compelling content on TV in an easily digestible form."
Silicon Valley Women of Influence 2011: #SVWOI
I attended the Silicon Valley Business Journal 2011 Women of Influence event in Santa Clara last week. Each year, they choose 100 women of influence and celebrate them at an annual dinner and awards gala in Santa Clara, CA. (this year, it was held at the convention center).
Speaking to a number of them over the course of several hours, the range is diverse, from engineers, high-profile lawyers, venture capitalists, space scientists, to healthcare leaders, technology pros and nonprofit executives.
One honoree, when not in the valley, lives in a rural village in Belize; another leads trips to the back country of the Sierra Norte and Sierra Madre. One honoree formed a nonprofit organization for the Muslim community to help give them a voice after 9/11 backlash.
I met another woman who is helping Muslim seniors find resources when they don't know where else to turn. Below is Moina Shaiq who founded the Muslim Support Network based in the East Bay. (She also runs a restaurant specializing in food from Pakistan).
Below is founder of Mylawsuit.com Michele Colucci accepting her award on the main stage.
Mary Furlong, who has been instrumental in helping the aging population and empowering the 'age boom' was also on the list. For the full list of women, check out the SV/SJ Biz Journal piece: Meet the 2011 Women of Influence | Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal.
Each woman had to deliver a 'thanks' and what/who inspired them in 10 words or less. (not even sure if that's quite 140 characters.....certainly a challenge to do). One Thai woman had the audience in stitches when she said, "I'd like to give myself a pat on the back for selecting my parents wisely."
To hear some of the fabulous other thanks and kudos, check out the video below for a myriad of female voices doing remarkable things.
March 22, 2011
Miranda July's THE FUTURE: Living in 2 Terrifyingly Vacant & Different Realities
I'd recommend seeing The Future, a film which previewed at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) last week. The film tells the story of a thirty-something couple who, on deciding to adopt a stray cat, change their perspective on life, literally altering the course of time and testing their faith in each other and themselves. Characters Sophie and Jason are strange the way all couples are strange when they’re alone. They live in a small LA apartment, have jobs they hate, and in one month they’ll adopt a stray cat named Paw Paw.
March 22, 2011 in America The Free, Arts & Creative Stuff, Conference Highlights, Entertainment/Media, Events, On Technology, On Women, Reflections, Social Media, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
March 18, 2011
Google's Marissa Mayer Talks Google & What It Was Like to Host Obama at HomeJohn Battelle interviewed Google's Marissa Mayer at the one day SIGNAL event in Austin last week. Her answers were thoughtful and as always, her informal and breezy way of addressing a crowd was well received. Her most memorable 'share' had nothing to do with Google.
Having hosted the Obama dinner this past month when he was in the San Francisco Bay Area talking to technology visionaries and CEOs, she talked about what it was like to have the President in her home and things she learned about security (aka, oh yeah, there will be TONS of men in black suits standing outside my home which is across from an elementary school), and meal planning. Here's the Business Insider overview on the dinner recap. It's a great interview: have a listen.
March 17, 2011
Ushahidi's Open Source Platform Lowers Barriers & Accelerates Storytelling
I ran into Juliana Rotich in Long Beach during TED, who is a Program Director with a non-profit organized called Ushahidi.
Their tools help democratize information, increasing transparency and lowering the barriers for individuals to share their stories.
"Ushahidi", which means "testimony" in Swahili, was a website that was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008.
Since then, the name "Ushahidi" has come to represent the people behind the "Ushahidi Platform".
Their roots are in the collaboration of Kenyan citizen journalists during a time of crisis. The original website was used to map incidents of violence and peace efforts throughout the country based on reports submitted via the web and mobile phones.
This website had 45,000 users in Kenya, and was the catalyst to realize there was a need for a platform based on it, which could be used by others around the world.