Friday, November 8, 2013

Mindful Parenting- Playing

I can't say that I am a good parent. Quite frankly, I am not sure what being a "good parent" means. I do my best like most parents. We try to juggle our schedules between work and family and hope in the end we raise normal kids who have a good head on their shoulders with a basic moral foundation. I have been reading a lot about mindfulness. I recommend going to I have tried to be more mindful in my daily life. I have stumbled many times. However, what I learned more than anything else is that my kids help me be in the moment.

For example, last night my son was complaining that I have not spent a lot of time with him. I responded that I have. But, he said, "Dad, I mean you have not spent a lot of time with me playing." He was right. Sure, I was spending "time" with him, but was a really "present" mentally. Of course not, I was thinking about work or the football game the next day or about ObamaCare or global warming or any other thing that came across my mind. I was not focusin on my child who was right in front of me.

When you play with your child, you have no option but to be in the moment. Playing is one of the most basic activities of being in the moment. So, before dinner, he and I played Legos, which I loved as a kid and still do. However, today, there are a lot more cooler Lego products than when I was a child. There are Star Wars Legos and Harry Potter Legos. Have you ever done a crossover where the Star Wars Legos and Harry Potter Legos meet up. You know, Valdamort and Vader team up against Harry and Luke. My kids and I did that and it was so much fun. When I play with my kids, I am in the moment. If I am not, my kids will let me know that I am not because you cannot really play unless you are in the moment.

So, if you son or daugther complain that you are not spending enough time with them, they mean that you are not in the moment with them. Turn off your Iphone, computer or kindle and go and play with them. They will appreciate it and you will too.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

No Pain

I had the unfortunate experience of having a wisdom tooth removed at the age of 40 years old. Normally, you get those things removed during college while on break. This allows you to veg out on the coach doped up on some type of pain killer eating ice cream and watching the Duck Dynasty marathon. Unfortunately, I did not have that luxury. I have a job, kids and a gold fish to feed. No slacking off for the working man.

One of the big issues with the removal of wisdom teeth is the pain that comes from the surgery. Yes, you get a nice batch of drugs that can knock us out into a comatose state where we wake up in a puddle of our own drool; however, I had to get back to work the next day. I am not saying that I did take my happy pill while recovering; however, I used it in moderation. I tried to use mediation and mindfulness to deal with the pain. I focused on the source of pain and felt the throbbing in the area where the tooth was removed. I visualized the pain and gently released it. I did not resist it. I embraced it gently. The result was I felt less pain even though was focusing on it. Of course, this did not always work; however, many times it did.

By becoming in tune with my body, I was able to mitigate the pain. This can be expanded by physical pain. One could take this one step further and focus on any emotional pain too. Due to all of the distractions and drugs available, we have become disconnected with our body and mind, which results us ignoring the actual pain we feel because we do not want to deal with it. Yet, dealing with the pain in the long run is more beneficial to our minds and body. It may be uncomfortable in the short term, but it allows us to really be awake and connected with our mind and body. It can be our canary in the coal mine. It can pick up things before they get out of hand.

I am not saying to throw away your advil, aleve and tylenol, but sometimes the best medicine is your mind itself. It is really amazing what a little focus can do.

Now, I have to get back to my ice cream and the tenth episode of Breaking Bad Season 5.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tai Chi

I know many people think Tai Chi is what one orders at Starbucks. No, it is not a liquid beverage that cost $5. Tai Chi is a form of martial art.

You have probably seen people in their senior years slowly moving back in forth in this rhythm like motion in the park. You may have even heard expressions like "snake creeps down" or "white crane" much akin to the yoga phrases like "downward dog." Similar to yoga, Tai Chi has many benefits not only for the body but also for the mind.

Tai Chi Chuan (also written as Taijiquan) is an ancient Chinese form of exercise originally created as a fighting art. Tai Chi was accredited to a Taoist Monk named Zhang San Feng as its creator. Its origins date back over 700 years; some say even up to 1500 years. Tai Chi is a type of Qigong (Chi Kung) practiced by millions of people worldwide every day. Qigong in Chinese means energy or breath skill, as Tai Chi when practiced correctly is always practiced using Qigong (breathing, energy) methods. In fact, the forms used in tai chi are either offensive to hurt or defensive to protect if done correctly. However, most of us do not think of or use tai chi in that manner. Instead, we practice tai chi for meditation and health reasons.

Tai Chi promotes a form of mindfulness. In order to effectively perform Tai Chi, one must be fully mindful of his or her body. You need to focus on the body and its movement and work on releasing the tension in the body in order to allow the energy in your body to fully flow throughout. It simply brings you into the moment. It grounds one. You literally and figuratively slow down. Literally you slow down because the actual movements are very slow. It figuratively slows you down because it requires you to focus on your body.

I have been practicing Tai Chi for 8 plus years. I initially started studying it as a way to deal with stress. I try to practice every day, but at times I have not been as consistent as I want. When I practice it, however, I feel much better that day compared to a day where I do not.

In addition, studying Tai Chi is a life long journey. I do not think you ever master Tai Chi because you are learning something new every day. In addition, it is better to start when you are younger because it provides basic principles that you can apply throughout life along with the resulting health benefits. Some of these benefits include increased flexibility, higher levels of energy, better balance, improved strength and reduced stress levels. Most importantly, it brings you back in the moment. You become present.

So take a look at Tai Chi. I believe you will find it as rewarding and enriching as I do. It will become part of your life long journey. It will change your life. I know that sounds like cliché that you may hear in the movie about surfing, Point Break, but it really will change your life.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dealing with A-holes

Your day is going great. You are relaxed and rested from a good night sleep. Your wife and kids were actually in a good mood and said that they will miss you while you are at work. You avoided the traffic and they played a set of your favorite U2 songs on the radio. In fact, someone brought in Krispy Kreme doughnuts into work. You have no meetings and you are caught up with work. Life is good. Then you get that e-mail. That e-mail that sets you off. Your whole day is now shot. It is known as the a-mail, an e-mail from an asshole at work. I apologize for the language; however, we have all been there. They make some derogatory comment about your work and the cc the entire world so everyone can see that comment. It might be that such an a-mail was unintentional, yet the stench of it lingers. So what do you do?

You start to doubt your abilities. You realize that you were on a diet and eating that Krispy Kreme doughnut just destroyed your PX93 workout. At this point, the rose colored glasses you are wearing have become a shade of grey.

This has happened to me several times and I can't say I have successfully dealt with this situations; however, perhaps my failure is your benefit. I did let these type of e-mails ruin my entire day. I should have brushed it off; however, that is easier said than done. Perhaps, I should have responded with an e-mail back establishing my asshole stature. No. What I should have done is take some deep breaths and calm myself. Then I should have focused on the positive aspects of myself. I should have viewed this person with empathy because in order for them to feel good about themselves, they have to ridicule another. I should have considered their perspective that would cause them to write such an e-mail. I should have seen if there was any constructive criticism that I could benefitted. I should have done that, but did not. Perhaps, next time I will handle it better.

What was I thinking?

There are many stages in life where one falls flat on his face. For me, it was falling flat my face then off a cliff into a pool of lava with a boulder landing on top of me. After I let the bumps, bruises and burns somewhat heal, I got right back on track. Well, at least I thought I did. Unfortunately, I really did not take stock with respect to what was hapenning. I was so determined to correct this failure, I never really looked at the emotional impact of this failure. I was told to have a stiff upper lip and commence on with the matter at hand. In retrospect, that was a bad idea.

So now with my second attempt, I believe I failed again. Now what have I learned from this second failure. First, the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Actually, I am probably not there yet. If I do this a third time without changing my method, then I would fall under the defintion. In reality, what I learned was I was trying to achieve something that was purely based on building my self-esteem. I believed wrongly that the success of this would validate me as a person and an expert in my profession. But, that was wrong. Because self-esteem works well things are going great; however, it is no where to be found when things go wrong. It is that casual friend that this there for the party, but is gone when it is time to clean up.

Now, I have learned what I really need is self-compassion. I now ackowledge that we all make mistakes, which is ok. It is part of the human DNA. Failure is a good thing. I might not feel that way at the time, but with time, it is. So I am working on self-compassion, being more compasionate to myself. I have realized all this time that I have been my worse enemy. Sure there are other people around who accentuate my failures for their own pleasures, but I cannot control them. I can, however, control myself. I am working on being more self-compassionate. By doing this, I am not only helping myself, but the people around me. Because once you can be compassionate to yourself, it is easier to be compensionate to others.

This will be a daily struggle and I will have set backs, but I believe I can get through this one day at a time. In the end, I will be in a better place to handle any failure or success.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mindfulness-Day #1

This blog is about my escapades in trying to achieve mindfulness.

Now, I have read many books on mindfulness. I practice tai chi and meditate. Yet, I am still in search of achieving mindfulness. I am not talking about the mindfulness experience that one gets by having a best selling novel that ends up being made into a mediocre movie where you get to live in Italy, India and then Bali. That would be a mindfulness with royalties. Also, I am not going to sell all my possessions, leave my family and mediate under a tree for hours on hours and then later start my own religion. That would be Buddha did; however, it does sound more like a a deadbeat dad who tried to justify abandoning his family by claiming to be in search of enlightenment.

Look, I am a father living in a single detached home in U.S. suburbia with demands from work and the family. I face the same issues that many of you face, such as: 1) trying to raise semi-functional kids that will not still be living at home at the age of 26 years old; 2) paying car loans and the mortgage to ensure that our cars are not repossessed in the middle of the night and the house is not foreclosed on by some soulless financial institution; 3) maintaining a perfectly manicured lawn that is the envy of the neighborhood; 4) trying to stay employed and earn a descent income so I can retire with some dignity instead of living out of a cardboard box and dumpster diving for food; and 5) keeping my wife happy.

With all of these obligation, where do I have the time to achieve mindfulness. It is a tall task indeed, but I am willing to take this journey with nothing more than a mental compass, some nice yoga pants and a thermos of coffee, decaf preferably. In all seriousness, I want to take this journey because it will make me a better person, my family better off and the world just a little happier. Well, perhaps making the whole world happier is a bit too much, but the Buddhists that we are all interconnected; therefore, may happiness is yours.

So I hope you join me and share me your experiences. In the end, I hope I make you a little happier and you make me a little happier and together we achieve mindfulness.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Music to someone's ears, I hope

I took up playing the guitar about three years ago at the age of 40. No, it was not a midlife crisis. And I did not expect this to propel me into a new career where I play at coffee houses with the hopes of being found by some record producer picking us his double, double decaf latte with chia sprinkles. I decided to do it because I always wanted to learn to play the guitar.

In fact, I started this quest when I was 16 years old. At that time, I was 3 years removed from playing the flute. I discovered that playing the flute would not get me girls and I did not expect another rising trend of rock bands with flute players like they had in the 70s. Nonethless, I got my first guitar from my parents. I was disappointed because it was a used acoustic guitar stored up in the attic, which probably did not see the light of day since the height of Joan Baez in the 60s. I tried playing and gave up in a month blaming my failures on the guitar. What do you expect from the mercurial mind and nanosecond patience of a teenager.

Now, 24 plus later, I decided to take another stab at it. This time I got lessons and have been playing for 3 years. And I love it. As frustrating the experience can be, especially playing an F bar chord (which should have three more letters w "ing" after it), I really find it peaceful and relaxing. There is almost this Zen like quality when you are playing a song that actually sounds like the original song. It grounds me and places me in the moment. There are many times where I will be playing and next thing I know it is two hours later.

Also, my kids play instruments, vioin for my daugther and drums for my son. Although when we play together it may sound like something from the deleted auditions from the X Factor, it is the coolest thing. We are creating art. It may be the musical version of finger painting art, but it is art itself. More importantly, it our art. It makes me realize there is a lot more to life than work. There are others things equally as important, such as playing with your own family garage band on a Saturday morning.

I do not know how many times I have heard someone say that "I wish I learned how to play . . ." Many times, they say to themselves that they will do it when they retire or when the kids are off to the college or when they have more time. The problem is that there is always a reason to delay or another excuse. If I waited to learn how to play the guitar until I retired, I would probably be too old to have the patience and the physical skills to play such an instrument. Now, when I retire, I expect to have been playing for 30 plus years and, may be, just may be, I will be relatively good where I could play at a coffee shop with or without the musica producer.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Just Give!

We all do it. We especially do it around the holidays. We give. The experience of giving is pleasurable to all of us. Yet, giving seems to be a scheduled event like our pilates and yoga classes or lunch dates or getting the car inspected. For most of us, we do not randomly give. We wait for X-mas or Valentine's Day or a person's birthday. How about just giving out of the blue? Nothing scheduled and for no purpose. It seems to have a greater impact on the person and you more so than these regularly scheduled holiday giving fests. Perhaps it is the shock effect. It is out of the norm. It is like eating desert before dinner or having a hamburger for breakfast. I am not advocating either. Changing the norm sometimes is the jolt to get you out of that endless road of monotonity. You know, you get up, get out of bed, shower, brush teeth, eat breakfast (or skip it), go to work, work (or surf the internet), eat lunch (or steal it from the workplace fridge), work more (or take a nap), drive home, make dinner (or order out), watch tv and then go to sleep. You do this 5 days a week and maybe it is slightly different on the weekends. Ity is like you are stuck in this endless trench where you do the same thing day in and day out. Think of the movie "Groundhog Day." So change it just like Bill Murray. I am not talking about quiting your job and move to Bora Bora where you sell sea shells, find a new religion and hang out at the local bar where people know you as the crazy sea shell religious nut. I am talking about taking baby steps. The first one would be pick a person you know or random stanger and give them a gift. It can be anything, such as a gift card, money, a baked good, cup of coffee, or a card. You can give your time such as volunteering. A few times a year my wife decides to take the family to a retirement home where we bring baked goods. We go and just hand out with the people living there. The reaction is fantastic. They are so amazed that a family who they do not know decided to take time to visit them. Also, selfishly is makes me and my family feel good. So go ahead and do it and see how they react and how you feel. Please note that I do not take any responsibility if this backfires and you wind up in jail with a cellmate named Slash from the Worlocks biker gang. Barring that, for the most part, you will find it rewarding. I do.