Archive for November, 2010

Slowing down time

Monday, November 29th, 2010

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Lately it seems as if all that matters is speed: the speed at which you respond to text messages; the speed and extreme at which you multitask; the speed at which your devices connect to the Internet, and the speed at which news, economic crises and pandemics spread. Not to mention the trends for speed dating for anything from romantic partners to corporate consultants.

This speed that has swept us off our feet –literally and figuratively—is responsible not only for more than a few mistakes (sending off the wrong file before you checked the attachment, or misdirecting a text message) but also for our increased perception that time flies. That the day slips through your fingers and you’re hopeless; there’s nothing you can do to make your day last longer. If only we could have that 25th hour… Guess what? We’d obliterate it as carelessly as we manage to do with the other 24.

The only thing that can expand time is to stop doing and start being. If instead of running from one item on your list to the next, you focus on the task at hand (and I mean, really, really focus) you’d feel that time slows down. That’s what happens when you fish, for example. You sit there, in the outdoors, in the middle of a quiet lake, waiting. Waiting. Waiting. The silence and the lack of activity makes it feel like time expands and the day is very long. Afterwards you remember what the day felt like. You return home refreshed and calm. It works very much as a meditation.

Now think about what your regular day feels like in the evening or how you feel at the end of the week. I know that for me, most of the time I don’t even remember what I did that week; few things stand out. My days feel like an undifferentiated mass of emails, meetings, phone calls, Facebook updates… and what is worse, soon enough things begin to lose meaning. I start wondering, what am I doing all this for? How is all this hectic, crazy activity bringing me closer to my center, to my dreams, to my purpose in life?

So I’ve decided to go against the times; to go against what’s fashionable right now and focus on one thing at a time. To keep only one screen open on my computer and one file open in my mind. To be present when I’m engaged in an activity so that I can enjoy it as much as possible. To walk idly around Manhattan on a Sunday morning and breathe-in the fall air. To write a blog without checking my incoming mail. To prepare a presentation without running downstairs for a cup of tea before I finish. To talk on the phone without trying to read an article someone sent me.

And you know what? It immediately makes the 24 hours seem a lot more like 25! Try it and let me know how it goes!

You may want to check Ivana Castellanos blog on Studying and Relieving Stress

Scholarships year-round

Monday, November 8th, 2010

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I know lots of top students who graduate with huge student loans and sadly, the main reason is not that they were turned down for financial aid or for scholarships while they were in college. No. The main reason is that they didn’t know where to find the money! So, let’s get a few things straight so that you don’t carry the same burden on your shoulders when you graduate.

1. Every year, you must fill out the FAFSA as soon after January 1st as possible, so the government and your school can establish how much grant money you’re eligible for.
2. Visit the Financial Aid office regularly and befriend the staff there. Explain your situation and ask for tips on scholarships you can apply to (sometimes they know about local scholarships that few people know about,) special programs they are familiar with, etc. I know many students who got most of their scholarships this way, by making their presence felt at the Financial Aid office.
3. Use a few different Search Engines and Websites to look for scholarships. For example, use www.fastweb.com and www.scholarships.com. Fill out the form with as much information about you as possible. These engines will find all sorts of scholarships available to your situation: religion, geographic location, major, labor affiliation of your parents, etc.
4. There are scholarships available after Freshman year as more corporations are interested in supporting students entering their industries and make money available for Engineering, Math, Science, Medicine, Business, Agriculture, Green Technology, etc. The secret is for you to continue searching.
5. Ask locally. Many small businesses want to support their local college and offer scholarships that are not listed on the search engines. Your librarian or Financial Aid person in your school should know. In addition, many alumni set specific funds for certain students. For instance, I know of someone with different colored-eyes who set up a fund for students with her same condition.
6. Consider applying for scholarships as an year-round sport. Schedule time to research, write your essays and put your packages together. Make sure you calendar any deadlines. When you look at the alternative, it’s time well invested!

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