Becoming Aware

The quieter you become, the more you can hear. – Ram Dass

This post is the first in a series that will offer teachings to support a mindful practice and lifestyle. They are based on gatherings of Mindful Dads Meetings each month but offer universal wisdom suitable for anyone.

Self-care-for-support-people.pngThe key to this practice is self-care. With mindfulness practice and meditation, we make time for ourselves. There is no right or wrong way to do it as long as you bring an intention and a curiosity. It is a big deal to make time for yourself because there are so many other demands on your time. Our culture seeks to keep you in a trance, consuming and doing, but never being. So time is a gift. We spend plenty of time trying to build a work-life balance that we often neglect the self. With just a bit of practice, one breath, one minute or more, we build our focus and attention and then bring this quality to our daily experience.

Six Words of Advice by Tilopa

Let go of what has passed.
Let go of what may come.
Let go of what is happening now.
Don’t try to figure anything out.
Don’t try to make anything happen.
Relax, right now, and rest.

Our first gathering of Mindful Dads Meeting emphasized the following qualities:

  • Experiencing New Possibilities (Community)
  • Discovering Embodiment (Back to the body)
  • Cultivating Observation (Noticing/Aware of Inner Experience)
  • Moving Toward Acceptance (Non-Judgment/We each have our own experience)
  • Growing Compassion (Care)

Recognizing the challenges of being human are abundant, we will never be able to eliminate stress, empty our minds, or complete our to-do list. This is normal and human. We are built to feel struggle, pain and suffering along with joy, happiness and excitement. But when we stop trying to fix things and instead change our relationship to these inevitable stressors, we open a space in our heart and mind to respond thoughtfully instead of react habitually. We give ourselves more choices as opposed to continuing through life on autopilot.stimulus-response_1

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl

Mindfulness Pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” It is about allowing and being familiar with our experience as it is right now. That doesn’t mean it will always be this way but the valuable information we gather informs our thinking and guides our future actions.We have an opportunity with awareness to become aware of our habits, our patterns, perception, our ways of thinking, the judging, the jumping to conclusions, assuming, the things that set us off, piss us off, expectations, what iffing, blaming, sadness, pain, worrying, that make us afraid, keep us up at night.

schraf-awarenesstrangle

One way to explore our experience is through the Triangle of Awareness. As we observe our experiences, we note thoughts, emotions and sensations in the body. And each of these informs the other. A sensation in the body might trigger thought or drive an emotion. It is with keen seeing, that we can notice, acknowledge and allow. Allowing for an integration between the three points of the triangle for intuition, insight and wisdom. Want to try it out? Check out the guided practice below:

It is important to give yourself reminders to practice. It may be that we have a specific object, or a sticker or a notification on our phone to support a consistent practice. It may be helpful to connect your mindfulness practice to a routine. For example, each time you step into the car, enter a room, brew a pot of coffee, you practice mindfulness or meditation simply. One simple practice we use to return to the present moment is “Stop, Breathe, Be.” Its as simple as that. Stop for a moment, come to stillness and silence. Observe one full breath either with your eyes open or closed. Then, allow yourself to be for several more seconds. Not rushing on to the next thing but resting in presence. If you find yourself rushing through it, just do it again. It only takes a few seconds.

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 9.20.19 PMWe’d love to hear from you! Please comment below to share your own insights or email us at connect@center4selfcare.com. We encourage you to join us for our monthly Mindful Dads Meeting on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at the Woodlynde School from 8 to 10pm. Click here for details, including our November 8 meeting.


600_448894163Looking for an extended opportunity to learn and practice? Join us the evening of Friday, November 3 through Sunday, November 5 for Bravery and Courage: A Men’s Retreat or the morning of Saturday, December 2 for Big Questions for Mindful Living: A Half-Day Retreat for Men.

Its All About Connection

Five years ago I was feeling pulled in a million different directions-stressed-spread too thin-not enjoying life to the fullest. Trying to find balance between, family, friends, and a stressful job. I was not feeling connected to the most important people in my life. Every weekend I would drive around with a pit in my stomach.

Personality-Judgments-AccuracySelf-Doubt would set in. Am I a good dad, husband, colleague, friend, etc? It was the constant questions of, Am I ______ enough? I wanted to have more control of my life, feel less stress, deal with the pain I was experiencing, while also wanting to be happy, have more balance in my life, and take better care of myself.  I wanted to be more present for the people in my life, instead of getting lost and stuck in my head, focusing my attention on the “what ifs” and “coulda shouldas.” I wanted to let go of the self-criticism and judgment that was filling up my life and taking up a lot of space.

One of my mentors recommended that I take a Mindfulness class.  I took my first of many classes and trainings in what is called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction through Thomas Jefferson University.  It has Changed My Life.  I learned to make my care a priority in my life, to be kinder and nicer to myself, to be more patient and understanding, forgiving, and allowing; giving myself the compassion I deserve and need. Taking time to remember and come back to what is most important and matters most.  

I began to be more aware and pay attention to what was inside of me and around me.  I realized that when it came down to it I didn’t have control of anything.  I became more aware of my stress and pain and have learned to work with it in healthier and more accepting ways. I have allowed myself to be a human being, imperfect and flawed. It is something I have to remind myself of again and again, moment to moment. Mindfulness has given me greater connection with myself, the people in my life, and the people that cross my path each and every day.

Mindfulness for me is about connection and it is at the heart of all I do.  Two summers ago I realized that I needed to create a place of connection and community in my own backyard.

connections-index.jpgIt was important for me to find a place where I could feel connected and supported. A place where I could be myself, a place where I could be heard, and accepted for who I am. I wanted to form a group of dads. I wanted to create a support group of men to talk about important things, to have deeper connection with one another, where we could show our vulnerability and care for one another.  This was about having a group of great friends spending time together.

As I did my research, this idea of friendship and creating a group in this way was so eloquently described by Diane Reibel, Director of the Mindfulness Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Don McCown, the Co-Director of the Center for Contemplative Studies at West Chester University write in their book, Teaching Mindfulness, A Practical Guide for Clinicians and Educators. “So friendship begins with the intention of meeting people ‘where they are,’ of coming to any encounter without an agenda or intention to fix or improve the other, and with a willingness to allow relationships and situations to unfold in a fresh way.

It has been two years since I created a men’s group focused on Mindfulness, with the intentions of connection, support, and self-care.  We have been meeting twice a month during this time. It has made an incredible difference in my life and I would go so far to say, in all the group members lives.  I have seen transformation occur in myself and my fellow dads. Together we have created a shared space of our experiences and stories.  A place of strength, trust, and compassion, where we feel we are not alone and all in this together.

Lastly, that bring us to here, to the Center for Self-Care. My experience and that of my colleague, Marc Balcer, have become the backbone behind the C4SC.  

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Together, we have created this space to bring people together with the hope of building connections, growing friendships, and creating community. Please consider joining us for many of our upcoming events. Our first, Mindful Dads Meeting, is on October 11th from 8-10pm at the Woodlynde School in Wayne. To sign up or learn more about C4SC, click the link above or visit www.center4selfcare.com and follow the sign up links on the right hand column. You can also find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thecenterforselfcare.

Being a Dad

This summer I thought a lot about Mindfulness and why I “got into it” and why it has become such an important part of who I am. One of the biggest reasons I “got into it” was that I wanted to be more present with my family (Wife and Kids) and enjoy my time with them more. Everybody says it, when it comes to your kids, and it is true from my experience, it goes so fast. The other piece is I didn’t like the way I was reacting to my son which in turn caused me to not like myself. What I realized is that I had to start with myself and take care of me. Mindfulness has given me this gift. It has helped me to be a more patient, kind, loving, present, compassionate, and understanding husband, dad, friend, brother, colleague, counselor, coach, teacher, and son. As I reflected upon all of this I began to think about, what does it mean to be a dad (parent)?

Being a dad is…….

Love, fear, joy, stressful, courageous, uncertainty, gratitude, the greatest thing, the hardest thing, happiness, brings tears to my eyes, insecurity, makes me a better person/human being, messing up, not knowing it all, humility, hugs, kisses, high fives, pats on the back, wrestling, tickling, laughing, playing, crying, smiling, pain, exhausting, In For Life, unexpected, love to the highest degree, teaching, learning, listening, yelling, frustration, not enough sleep, providing, changing diapers, asking them to do the same thing again and again, intense, worry, imperfect, kindness, pleasant, unpleasant, vulnerability, emotional, fun, milestones, playful, demanding, messing up, trying the best I can, comparing, setting an example, not being good enough, needing a drink, being called dad, seeing them born, seeing them grow up, wanting the best for my kids, can’t put into words, unchartered territory, compassion, spending time together, being as present as I can be, timeouts, listening, disciplining, takes heart, hard work, tender, memories, connection, caring, most important thing and matters most, responsibility, beating myself up, unpredictable, heart-breaking, heart-warming, empathy, tucking them in, soccer, coaching, their biggest fan, watching movies, going out to dinner, vacations, kissing a boo boo, exhausting, taxi service, supporting, failing, roller coaster ride, an adventure, making meals, first steps, scoring the goal, seeing them left out, an honor, no guarantees, a myracle, always wanted to be one, family, LOVE, Alyssa, Kody, Annemarie…….