Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom


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mind·ful·ness

Heartmind·ful·ness 

NOUN

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something:
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

I’m on the road for work again, spending time with strangers in airports, on planes, and in coffee shops. When I started traveling years ago, it was easy to strike up a conversation or see the world. The only barrier back then might be a magazine or a Walkman. Today, it’s tougher. Most people – myself included more than I’d like – are transfixed by their smart phone, staring down glassy-eyed while the bright lights of a pseudo-world stare back at them. We spend hours connected to our devices and the imitation intimacy they offer, and disconnected from the sea of humanity and real mystery all around us. Our smart phones weigh us down, stealing time from our family, stealing sleep and magnifying stress. Lately, it’s been bothering me, so I’m focusing on doing things the old-fashioned way – living in the moment with everyone around me.

When you practice mindfulness and look up, it’s amazing what you may find. Perhaps it’s a quiet moment, making eye contact with someone or smiling back at a child. Maybe it’s shared laughter or seeing an act of kindness. Finding an interesting book cover and wondering what the other person is reading inside. So many airports are filled with art – of the creative and human kind – and so many of us miss it, but when you look up, it’s yours to cherish.

Sometimes, I enjoy the sounds of the terminal… the cacophony of noise that somehow blends into a sweet hum of energy. Other times, I’ll find a soundtrack that suits my mood and marvel at how the world falls in step. Either way, time seems to slow. It’s not even measured any more. No destination. No deadlines. Just before, now, and what may come next. Stress melts away. Worries subside. You get lost in your thoughts, lost in day dreams, lost in the moment just enjoying the people you’re with. Looking up, you see the world and reflect it inward. Emotions wash over you and through you. It’s a beautiful thing.

Now when my flight landed, my teammate picked me up, and we began to drive the back roads of Wisconsin. I’ve never been here before. It’s one more state checked off the list. Now she knows I like to watch the world go by, and as we cruised along she mentioned how “beautiful the barns are here, how they’re different than in Kansas, and how brightly colored they are.” She told me that she’d often wished she could travel to far away, romantic places: Paris, Rome, China, and that sometimes she’d felt like she was missing out, staying close to home. But something had changed.

Six months ago, when my “living in the moment” journey began, I’d come to visit her. Throughout the days we spent together driving across several states, I’d kept commenting about how beautiful the hillsides were, how the shade of grass changed from Nebraska to Kansas to Missouri, and how stunning the fields of corn were as they swayed in the breeze. Then she paid me what may be one of the highest compliments I have ever received.

She shared with me that our three days together last year had changed the way she looked at the world – that listening to me made her see things with fresh eyes. The world looked new to her with so much beauty all around, and now as she drives the highways, she looks up and it’s gorgeous.

Put down the phone. Look up. Practice mindfulness and pass it on. It’s contagious, and it’s good for the soul.


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Beauty in Unexpected Places

A flower blooming in the industrial jungle

A flower blooming in the industrial jungle

I am in a lot of airports for work. In fact, when people ask me where I live, I’ve been known to say “Southwest Airlines,” though I have a second home on Alaska, third on Delta and so on.  Airports used to be very grey places, filled with faceless commuters flying here or there… plugged into their iPod, iPad or laptop, and completely disconnected from everyone and everything around them. While I am often one of those plugged in people, I’m making a conscious effort to unplug a little while I travel. After all, work travel sounds exciting, but spending days on end away from the family and in crowded airports can be a drag after a while.

So now I’m looking up instead of looking down. And you know what I’ve seen over these past few months? Airports are often things of beauty or of mystery. Who are all of these people that surround me? That I brush up against as I move through a crowd? Where are they headed, and why? It’s an endless puzzle and the makings of a great story. I love watching the families making their way along; the little ones’ eyes filled with wonder. Who are the business people on the phone, making big deals, and anxious to get home? And what do I look like to all of them? Do they even notice me? It sure is a surprise to many when I catch their eye and smile. Unconsciously, and then consciously, they always smile back.  And the airports can be beautiful. I’ve seen murals in Denver; sculptures in Phoenix; birds in flight in Sacramento; and a really kickin’ Harley in Orlando. And I met Sarah – a lovely waitress at the Mexican joint a few days ago. Sarah was a flower in the middle of all that metal and steel. I loved her hair (pictured here) and her sparkle as she sent weary travelers on their way.

So this post goes out to Sarah. Thanks for great service, some funny stories, a fantastic smile… and for reminding me that it’s all a matter of perspective. Life is a beautiful thing, after all