Mindfulness in Tuscany

I have discovered the best place to practice mindfulness is on holiday. In Italy.

gina il pozzo .jpg

But not just any part,

I find Italy’s cuore, or heart, is best.

I’m surrounded by the uplifting, yet relaxing, redolence of lavender as a cool, gentle breeze soothes the heat from the blazing sun in the blue halcyon sky. I am lounging on a recliner by a swimming pool. Spanning out beyond the pool is the expanse of sage-colored olive groves, deep green shaggy pencils of cypress and the rolling hills that define rural Tuscany. I am completely at peace.

I am not worrying about the future nor reflecting upon the past. I am most contentedly and deeply breathing in – the now.

Last week my young daughter and I stayed at Il Pozzo a traditional and cozy agriturismo, a working farm that welcomes guests from the world over into its charmingly remodeled 500-year-old stables turned self-catering cottages run by my dear friend, the incomparable Carla Veneri.  A gracious host to all, she, after the four years I have known her, has become like a sister to me.

Il Pozzo is named for the ancient well that was found on the property when the Veneri family purchased the property more than a decade ago. It’s set in the village of Capolona, just a quick 10-minute drive from the larger Tuscan town of Arezzo where I lived for three years.

In spite of living so close for so long, and visiting several times for a dinner or an olive harvest, I had never really stayed at Il Pozzo. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a world of difference between staying in a bustling Tuscan town to the tranquillity of the Tuscan countryside.

In Arezzo, the town’s historic center or centro storico is teeming with people during the fresh hours of a summer’s evening. Le Belle Figure, or beautiful people spill out of the cafes and bars into the piazze or public squares, laughing and talking until well after midnight.

At Il Pozzo, we also laughed and talked until late with the other guests as we devoured home-made dinners of tagliatelle, crostini, salami, roasted meats, garden-grown vegetables – including incredible fried zucchini flowers, scrumptious desserts and plenty of locally-produced wines. But instead of Arezzo’s town-square’s bright lights, we were enveloped by a twinkly, star-filled raven sky. Only the soft padding of our sandals and one of Il Pozzo’s resident cats quietly accompanied us as we trundled down the lavender and rose-lined paths toward our rooms.

Il Pozzo cooks all the incredible dishes. They also bake a heart-shaped cake as big as their own that greets each guest when they check in. On Friday’s there’s a special treat: Carla helps the children make pizzas from scratch. From flour, yeast and warm water to the wood-fired oven, a variety of pies emerge as uniquely flavoured and sometimes lopsided as the half-sized chefs who create them.

Depending on what time of year you choose to stay, you can take a cooking class, play bocce, or help harvest olives and partake of Tuscany’s famed olio nuovo – a must for any foodie’s bucket list (and which I describe in this previous essay).

Throughout my stay, I took plenty of time to look around and look within.

My tablet wasn’t with me. My phone was not turned on to respond to texts or What’s App or emails or whatever. I only turned it on to take and post the occasional envy-inducing photo. (I’m a human in the 21st century after all!)

As the father of the Swedish family who was staying for the first time as we were there said, “I’ve forgotten there is any business or other world outside of Il Pozzo. We feel as comfortable here as if we were with family – who we really like!”

Take a break from the rat-race and get off the beaten path to Tuscany and Il Pozzo. Tell Carla, Gina sent you.

A heart-shaped cake will be waiting for you.

Baci, Gina

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

 

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We can be better.

A fellow human being on this planet just wrote this to me on Linked In:

 I saw you speak at the UCC Commerce Conference and was blown away by your speech – you’re so inspirational! Hope you’re keeping well 🙂

The message came at a time when I – and perhaps many of you – need a reminder about the importance of inspiring others.

It’s this time in the wake of the deadly rampage in Orlando – which just happens to be where I started my career as a journalist working for the Orlando Sentinel.  A town I associated with happy memories now forever tainted with the statistic as the deadliest shooting in the US.

That horror was shortly followed by the senseless killing of a young Member of Britain’s Parliament. In the middle of the afternoon. In front of a library.

The victims in Orlando had been inspirations for their friends and family.  MP Jo Cox was an inspiration too.

As Britain votes Thursday on Brexit, and my home country of the United States prepares to vote for a new president, I implore us all to remember that this is a time to not give up.  We must go on and be inspirations.

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Candlelight vigil at Lake Eola in Orlando

Yes, there are plenty of people who are cynical or angry or divisive or even hateful.  Some analysts say the global geopolitical landscape is turning more toward  nationalism, more toward nativism.  We can still stave off this turn.

We, as humans who share a planet, are better when we are positive.  When we are uplifting. Encouraging. When we are appeal to our better instincts – which are, in fact, not instincts after all, but traits that we can develop and deploy – if we set our minds to it.

No matter if we’re in the public sector or the private sector. If we work in local or national government.  For an SME or a major multi-national.  A for-profit or a not-for-profit. If we interact with other people, let us try to focus on how we can encourage one another – not tear each other down – in order to get ahead.

We can deliberately decide that we won’t get personal when we disagree with someone else on a policy or about a work project or about a whatever.

It’s time to get serious about being kind.  It’s about deliberately deciding that “we” is better than “me,” that being considerate is not the same as being weak. That caring for someone who may come from a different background than us, who may look different than us, who may even have a different culture than us – is okay.

I have lived or worked in dozens of countries. From Italy to Indonesia. Egypt to Nigeria. France to Romania. Cambodia to Ireland. I have friends from every place I have been. We continue to inspire each other.

As a fellow Member of Parliament, Rachel Reeves, said yesterday in tribute to Jo Cox, “What we have in common is greater than what divides us.”

We can carry on the work of those who stood for togetherness. For walking forward. Hand in hand.

I am convinced that we can be better.

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

 

Food for Thought!

Eating right doesn’t only help keep your body fit, it helps your brain stay fit too!

Plenty of studies show that what we eat has an impact on our ability to remember – and even our likelihood of developing dementia as we age.

Eating healthy is a critical consideration in this high-action era –in which we are staying active in our professional lives longer than ever before.

Many executives hang their “consultant” shingle in their sixties- after they’ve racked up great experience in the corporate world. They rightly understand the value their experience can be for others.  How important, then, is it that we eat right? Now and as we age?

I had the extreme pleasure recently, at a TodayFM business event I spoke at, to meet an Irish food scientist who is putting his business where our mouths are.

Dr. John Collier launched “Life Kitchen” after his father died and he realized the pre-packaged meals his now-alone mom was buying at the grocery stores, were, quite frankly, crap.

“I could see a decline in my mother,” John told me. “She wasn’t looking at what she was eating. She had high cholesterol high blood pressure, and diabetes.  Those supermarket ready-made meals are full of fat, high in sugar and salt. They’re not what she should be eating.”

His meals, which can be ordered and delivered to anywhere in Ireland and the UK at the moment, are high in protein  – 30 grams in each meal, minimum  – and feature foods high in anti-oxidants with no extra salt or sugar.

All that and they’re still tasty! My eight-year-old daughter Lulu and I tried three different meals last week.  We especially enjoyed the Turkey Meatballs, which are served on a barley pilaf with a red pepper sauce that packed a huge flavor punch!

John sneaks vegetables like corn and courgettes (that’s “zucchini” to you Americans out there) into his meatballs which unsuspectingly boost the vitamin count without detracting from the taste.

Nutrients and protein are one of his main focuses because, as John points out, “Once we’re over 35, our muscle degradation increases and we need to take in more protein. For many of us, especially if we’re under work pressure, we’re working long hours and we may not be eating properly.  That has an impact on our muscle mass.”

And, as research shows, it impacts our brain matter too.

We know the adage,

We are what we eat – but that doesn’t only apply to our body composition. It applies to our minds too.

Our strategic thinking requires us to train our brain with the right fuel too.   If we’re too busy to prepare healthy food, Life Kitchen can do it for you.

The healthier meals are doing wonders for John’s mom.

“My mother is flying it now. Her own mother lived to 105. You can’t rid of a bad thing,” John jokingly adds. I think.

Great food for thought.

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.