Candlelit mornings and headlamp etiquette

Candlelit morning

The San Francisco Bay Area has been having crazy intense winds.  Some have been over 100 miles an hour, where I live they’ve been around 60.

PG&E, our electric company, turned off power for almost 1,000,000 people for two days, especially in areas where we have tall trees.  These trees are known to fall when the winds are heavy and there’s a risk they’ll hit an electric wire and spark a fire.  It happens.

I and my neighbors are surrounded by 75-foot trees which fortunately hold their ground.   But I wasn’t surprised by PG&E‘s decision and I understand it.

In the dark without electrical power for two days and nights, I discovered a whole new beauty in life.

Every morning I wake up at 5 AM, turn on KCSM (the best radio station in the world with the very best DJs), make myself a cup of delicious and exotically rare white Chinese tea, and do my creative work. This time of morning has great spiritual serenity in it, deeply nourishing for my creativity.  A friend of mine calls it my time away from “thought traffic.”  But the sun doesn’t come up until 7:30 AM, the first glimmer of new light isn’t until 7 AM.

Power out … so, candles. You can see them in the photo above. You can also see how dark it is around the surrounding area, little lights way across the San Francisco Bay where the electricity is still on because they don’t have the big trees.

Candlelit mornings were beyond beautiful.  Aesthetic beyond words.  Extremely romantic.  Not in the “boy meets girl” sense of romantic, but in the “I’m living my life with tremendous romance” sort of way.

I had never lit candles in the morning.  They are a soft, gentle, dreamy way to light up the dark and gently drift into the day.

At night, the sun goes down now at 6:15 PM.  I discovered headlamps.  I got so excited! These are wonderful! You put them on your head, and you can walk around seeing everything completely hands-free! Way better than using a flashlight. Headlamp (2)

After dinner I’ve been taking refreshing walks at night. With my new headlamp! With power out completely on the street, and beyond into the whole neighborhood, no street lights whatsoever, no lights whatsoever, it’s a level of darkness that is powerful. The headlamp is brilliant!

I discovered a whole lot of neighbors also walking at night!  All with headlamps! So fun!  We look so cool!

In my excessive zeal to get the best headlamp possible, my neighbors all agree I got the brightest one on the street.  But I discovered, after blinding a good number of them, that you’re not supposed to look directly at the person you’re talking to. They rapidly taught me headlamp etiquette, how to have a polite conversation by turning my headlamp off to the side, or even better, to turn the darn thing off completely for the duration of the conversation.

And I must say, it was so much fun reading in the complete dark, in bed with my headlamp, blankets piled on top because the house was freezing with no heat, 3 cats curled up snug around me, mighty winds blowing fiercely outside against the windows and whipping through the trees!  Felt like a total kid in a big adventure.  So much fun!

PG&E restored our power.  My first thought was, “I’m going to miss my candlelit mornings!”  So I’ve decided to continue them.  It’s just too beautiful to let it go.   Drinking tea, listening to KCSM, doing my creative work by candlelight until the sun rises in the sky.  Huge pleasure in just being.  Grinning.

Thank you, PG&E, for creating an experience that created a splendid opportunity to discover beautiful new sources of power.

Wishing you fabulous aesthetic moments of pure joy of being!

Love,

Ingrid

 

 

Finding your Mojo (and a little history of the word)

Mojo

I was on the East Coast a couple weeks ago teaching public speaking and presentation skills. One of my students said, “I want to get my Mojo back. I lost it somewhere along the way.”  All the other hands went up and everyone said, “Me too! I want Mojo!”

Mojo became the goal of the workshop.

It got me thinking about the word and how much I like it.  It packs a lot of meaning into just four letters.

Mojo started out as a West African word that meant magic and was exclusively in the province of a shaman.  You went to the medicine man for Mojo.

After thriving for centuries in Africa, Mojo crossed the ocean in the ships sailing to America carrying the slaves.

Once here, the meaning of Mojo began to change, especially after slaves were freed.  Mojo left the shaman and became something not everyone did have, but anyone could have.

It came to mean your personal magic.

Then, around the 1920s, black musicians gave birth to Jazz and accomplished what multitudes of politicians were unable to achieve.  They created a bridge to black culture.  Despite prohibitions and strict laws forbidding it, whites raced across that bridge and flooded the forbidden night clubs to hear the new black music and dance their dances way into the night.  And they were introduced to the word Mojo in their songs as they sang along.

Mojo thus solidly completed its trip from West Africa and crossed over into white culture.  By the 1960s it had gone mainstream here and even appeared in Europe.

Mojo is your personal magic.  Everyone has it, but not everyone finds it.

Little kids often have lots of it.  School does everything it can to kill it, so by the time most people graduate, they’ve lost touch with their Mojo.

Since Mojo is an expression of a style that is uniquely yours, any conformity immediately destroys it. You have to step away from any demand for you to even slightly conform because in those moments that you yield, you give up yourself, and you lose your Mojo.

Mojo is an exhilarating expression of YOU’ness.

And those moments where you have your Mojo on are exhilarating like no other. For you, and for everyone around you.

Recovering your Mojo can make for a beautiful life’s journey. Although many people when they’re old, give up on it completely.

When I look at people, I see past everything that’s not who they truly are.  I see their Mojo, whether they’re experiencing it at the moment or not.

Sometimes it’s an archaeological expedition to get in there and dig it out.  But, if you know what you’re looking for and how to find it, recovering your Mojo can happen fast.  It’s a worthy goal.  At any age.

When I work with a group of individuals, and I see them get their Mojo on, I go into non-stop grinning.  It’s a grinning that lasts long after the workshop is over.

Mojo is true to its roots.  Mojo IS magic.  Your magic.

Your Mojo is your gift to the world.

Your Mojo is you.

Wishing you lots of moments where you fully experience having your Mojo on!

Love,

Ingrid

What I stand for

Girl standing on moon

Someone I highly respect asked me last week what I stand for.  I realized it was an exceedingly good question and something I had never written about before.

I stand for something you don’t hear talked about much.

Yet it’s actually what makes me valuable to the people I serve.

I stand for beautiful communication.  In large corporations, where I mostly work, professionals and executives are always talking to me about being effective, compelling, inspiring.  Mostly about being effective.

The truth is that I find being effective rather easy and quite boring.  Someone I coach struggles to get promoted.  Then, after coaching, communicates effectively and makes it from Senior Director to VP.  Personally, I don’t find that very interesting.

That’s the reason why, when I’m coaching someone, I don’t often stop after helping them be effective.  Being effective is a level they do need to hit, but I don’t stop there.  And fortunately it turns out they are always happy I don’t.

Let me give you an example. This past week I was coaching a woman who is responsible for a large segment of a major corporation.  Brilliant woman.  She’s new to the role and struggles with the leadership team she’s a part of.  I’m reluctant to mention that it’s a male-dominated team because the fact they’re men is not really the issue.  Her communication skills are.  But you get the picture.

I coached her until she was effective in getting her point across and persuading.  She was quite happy.

But I could see she had a beauty within her that had not yet emerged.  I continued to coach her until her communication reached a level where it became beautiful.  When she communicates at this level, she takes your breath away. Yes, she’s effective.  But she is also extraordinarily beautiful, graceful and elegant.  Not just physically, but in her presence.

Her very being, and in the incredible quality of her communication is a demonstration of beauty.

It was incredible what happened to her own beauty when her communication became aesthetic.

I coached another executive on giving presentations to difficult audiences.  He went from being overly defensive and somewhat forceful to being effective.   It was good.

But I didn’t want to stop there. I continued to coach him until he tapped into something inside him that made his communication extraordinary. It’s funny to use the word beautiful when you’re describing a man, but his communication was beautiful in the way that Martin Luther King‘s I have a dream speech was beautiful.

It wasn’t the words that became beautiful.  It was his arresting connection with the audience and HOW the words were spoken.

And, yes, he became handsome.

I believe that inside each person resides an ability to communicate at a level that is WAY beyond effective.

Yes, being effective is a milestone.  But for me it’s not an end goal.  It’s not enough.  I coach until the natural artistry and aesthetic within each person emerges.

Their communication becomes spontaneous.  They’re not thinking about it.  It’s just coming out of them. It’s pure.  They’re in a zone where they can’t help but be amazing.

They’re now capable of creating an extraordinary relationship, whether it’s with one person or 10,000.

If a person is willing to do the work, that level of aesthetic is always there to be found.

I love seeing people become beautiful and handsome.  It has nothing to do with flawless facial features, youth or being slim.  Their faces completely change when it radiates from within.

Beautiful communication is inspiring.  It is compelling.  It is persuasive.  It creates extraordinary leadership.

I find that extraordinary outcomes are all byproducts of extraordinary and extraordinarily beautiful communication.

It creates the kind of conversation or presentation where you say, “Wow! That was beautiful!”

I love this in my personal life too.

This is what I stand for:  serving as a guide for people who want to experience this level of communication, to transform their communication into something extraordinarily beautiful.

Wishing you great beauty in the communications that are important to you.

Love,

Ingrid

 

September Summer

Miata

One of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets is September.

Unfortunate travelers optimistically arriving in the normal summer tourist season make the unhappy discovery that The City by the Bay is often cold and foggy in June, July and August.  They’re greeted by street vendors selling very expensive San Francisco sweatshirts to a very cold and captive audience.

With the beginning of September, school starting and Labor Day behind us, a real summer begins here.

Sunny days, a sky so blue and temperatures so perfect, warm breezes that kiss your skin, your heart can’t help but burst into song.   Ahhhhhh … finally summer.

Now we take the sweatshirts off and pull out our shorts and skimpy T-shirts.  Now we put the tops down on our convertibles.

The tourists are gone and we have our town back to ourselves.

Yesterday evening I drove across the Bay Bridge to The City with the top down, enjoying the 80° breeze, The City skyline outlined against the breathtaking red-toned sunset, The beautiful water of the San Francisco Bay.

Coming home at night the sky was full of stars and full moon and summer joy.

Mark Twain said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”  But he said nothing about our September summer, October and even November, which often feels like spring.

For a girl from Philadelphia this is the craziest gumbo of weather pattern I could imagine.  But as I sit on my patio, sipping my breakfast tea, watching the butterflies and the bees sip on the flowers, as I look at the bluest blue of skies, and contemplate the wonderful hike I have planned for this afternoon, I celebrate that summer has begun.

Wishing you the start of a glorious new season in your life.

Just a little note in case you visit:  San Franciscans cringe when someone calls our town “Frisco” or “San Fran”.  We mostly call it The City (yes, with capital letters) or San Francisco.

Love,

Ingrid

 

Life lessons from a fig farmer

Tony Inzana farmer's market 2

Tony Inzana owns a 190-acre ranch in central California and brings his organic produce every Sunday morning to my local farmers’ market.  He grows the largest, juiciest, most mouth-watering delicious figs in the galaxy.  His pistachios and walnuts have a just-picked freshness I can’t find anywhere else. Each black mulberry bursts with sweet, intense juice.

All this abundance is harvested just yesterday and brought brimming with a life and flavor that make your taste buds stand up and sing.

Tony also has the distinction of having, not only the longest line of customers waiting to buy, much longer than of any of the other farm stands in the market, but also the slowest moving one.  This line moves REAL slow.

The reason for that is because Tony talks to each person as they get to him.  He tells you what time he picked whatever you’re buying, what’s happening with the weather, what the crop will be like next week.

He wants to find out what you’re going to do with it (are you going to grill the figs or put them in your salad?). You’ll hear about his friend coming to visit from Australia and he’ll want to find out what’s going on in your life.

The people waiting in line have no recourse but to talk to each other, which they do. You find out new recipes, you learn about fruit you never thought about buying that the person in front of you has loaded in their basket, you get talked into trying the kiwi.

The lady behind me this past Sunday got impatient.  It was her first time shopping in the stand.  She was huffing and puffing and commenting on how slow the line was moving. Tony noticed this and gave me a fig to share with her. That shut her right up.  When she tasted her fig, she wanted to find out what else in the stand was that good, which I was happy to tell her.  She got friendly and talkative along with the rest of us.

In today’s age of modern efficiency, in today’s age of impatience with slow-moving lines, Tony’s business model defies current wisdom.

Everybody wants things fast, they want to get in and get out and get on with the next thing.

I have never seen anyone approach life and business as leisurely as Tony. He is slow on purpose.  He is very deliberate about building a relationship with each person who buys from him.   If you don’t like it, you don’t have to shop there.

When you finally make it up to the front to pay, and it’s your turn for him to talk with you, he’ll still continue to take his time.  Tony makes unusually direct eye contact and listens intently.  He carefully considers what you tell him, what kind of salad you’re making, what your friend said about the dried cherries you got last week, how much you miss the pomegranates when they’re out of season.  He’s interested in everything about you.

Business is personal in Tony’s world.  Very personal.

He’s a happy man.  Very few eyes in this world twinkle like Tony’s do.  Looking into them is magical.

The sellout crowds in his stand don’t just come for the figs or walnuts.  Two weeks ago Tony wasn’t there.  It was his birthday and he was off celebrating.  His replacement kept the line moving fast and there was a second person helping too.  Hardly any waiting.  But when Tony came back last Sunday, everyone was asking him, “Where were you??????????  We MISSED you!!!!!!!”  The slow, long line was back and the sellout crowd was happy again.

You can watch people who just paid walking away, laughing, beaming. And as you walk away, you find yourself grinning a happy grin that stays in place for several minutes after you’ve gone.

You’ve received so much MORE than the fresh and dried fruits and nuts in your bag.  You’ve just had a powerful conversation with a man who really cares.  He cares about what he grows. And he cares about you.

Not everyone is willing to wait in a slow-moving line, to wait for the seemingly endless conversations ahead to come to a finale.

It’s surprising how many are though.  The combination of extraordinary food and soul-nourishing conversation makes it all worthwhile.  They respond and are drawn to it.  Tony has a long line from the moment he opens to the very last.  No one grumbles.

What it tells me is that, MANY people care not only about the quality of what they’re buying, but also about the quality of real communication and, as a result, the quality of relationship, they experience.  That it’s worth waiting for.  That it’s valuable to them.

In truth, I think the world is hungry for it.

If that’s what you choose to serve, people will come, they will stay, and when they leave, they will REMEMBER.

Wishing you great figs and meaningful conversations!

Love,

Ingrid

 

Breakfast with Anaxagoras

Anaxagoras 2

I had a brilliant Saturday morning breakfast with Anaxagoras of Clazomenae.

No, this ancient Greek is not a neighbor.  While savoring my green smoothie, I was deeply immersed in conversation with a book of his writings and speeches from 480 BC.

There are so many things I love about the ancient Greeks.  One of them is that an ordinary person could become a philosopher, provided he had a new and interesting view of the world.  Along with that great opportunity, 500 BC was a time when philosophy was considered a respected and important profession.

Today if you study philosophy (does anyone even study philosophy today?) you’re mainly reading about others people’s philosophies, most of them long dead.

Back then you were exposed to many emerging philosophies.  You could study directly in person with the philosopher, walking together around a lovely scented tree-filled grove.  But even more importantly, you were encouraged to create a new philosophy.  I love that.  It was an exciting time for philosophy.

What’s notable for me about Anaxagoras is that he was the first recorded philosopher to state that a human being has a mind. He called it Nous.

Anaxagoras saw the mind as not having a material substance. He saw it as separate from the physical universe and believed it was senior to, and the power behind, everything in the physical universe. He believed that our Nous controlled the cosmos.

Anaxagoras was one of the first to make a study of thought, of mind over matter. To me, such a vital subject.

There’s a world of difference between studying the mind and studying the brain.

Today scientists are uncomfortable studying anything they can’t dissect with laboratory instruments or plug into a machine, so they are obsessed with the brain.

Not so back then. Back then they were discussing and studying things that I personally find more intriguing, like awareness.

For me it’s the things you can’t see that are the most compelling, the most worthy of study.  Like love, hope, courage, friendship, intellect, playfulness, creation of beauty, the desire to reach out, affection, kindness, understanding, the human spirit.

Anaxagoras taught Socrates’ teacher, he preceded Plato and Aristotle and influenced all of them. He was a very close friend of Pericles, the architect of Athens’ Golden Age and the greatest leader the ancient Greeks ever had.  He hung out with the best.

And today we had a sunny breakfast together in the Montclair hills of Oakland California, feasting on a deep discussion of the human mind and spirit and their relationship to the cosmos.  A most fascinating breakfast companion.

Wishing you an abundance of all those good things we can’t see but do deeply experience, especially happiness.

Love,

Ingrid

To refuse to be tamed

New Jersey Pine Barrens

It was a perfect hot August summer night.  My foot was pressed flat on the accelerator of a small green Italian sports car.  I was too scared to look at the speedometer to see how fast I was driving, convertible top down to the open air, wind ripping my hair, summer music blasting on the radio.  I was 16 and learning how to drive.

The car belonged to David, an 18-year old guy I met who was teaching ice-skating at an outdoor rink in Center City Philadelphia the winter before (just a friend, but a good one).

I grew up in Medford Lakes, New Jersey, a lovely, wooded lake-filled village with no sidewalks 20 miles east of Philadelphia.  We were about an hour from the Jersey shore.

We locals knew better than to take the highway to get there. We had the coolest back roads, absolutely nothing on them except for the New Jersey Pine Barrens which are miles and miles of endless pine trees.  No street lights, no houses, no stores, no buildings, no nothing.

The only “town” between Medford Lakes and the shore was a hamlet called Chatsworth (population hardly anybody except for some hermits living in the woods).

Except for a left turn at Chatsworth, it was a straight shot to the shore.  Straight road 17 miles to Chatsworth, turn left and then another straight road for 32 miles with nothing to see but pine trees will get you to Long Beach Island, which is where I was headed.

Best driving back roads in the world.

It was a road that was most likely to be completely deserted at night.

David drove us to a spot where no one was around, got out and had us switch places so I was in the driver’s seat.  He showed me the accelerator and the brake and taught me nothing about shifting gears.  He said, “Just put your foot on the clutch when I tell you to and I’ll do the shifting.”

Easiest lesson I’ve ever had.  When he got us into high gear he told me, “Okay, now go for it.  Floor it.”

I knew what he meant and I did.

It was pure high school crazy freedom.  And it felt so good.

I was thinking about it today, when I was thinking about what a wonderful sensation it is to do something completely unleashed.  To be wild, to be free.

There’s still something inside me that refuses to be tamed.  Feels so good.

I hope you too have something inside of you that refuses to be tamed and feels so good.  Something wild.  Something free.

Love,

Ingrid