The Tragedy of Speed

6087023127_3e0d61c40a_b.jpgThe other day, I tried to be in two places at once. And I found myself nowhere. Literally sprinting with a thermos of hot water to a tea meditation I was supposed to be hosting and which had “started” five minutes earlier. “I must hurry so I can slow down,” I thought to myself.

The great tragedy of speed, writes David Whyte, “is that very soon we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are. We start to lose sight of any colleagues who are moving at a slower pace, and we start to lose sight of the bigger, slower cycles that underlie our work.”

And this has been happening for centuries. James Joyce wrote of middle class Ireland in the early 1900s, offering the famous line, “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” The practice of meditation brings us back to a single place. The here and the now. We might not stay there very long but it is a practice. We catch ourselves and return. Beginning again.


Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 7.15.54 PMWhen you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

Join Center for Self-Care this summer to explore together. We make time to come to stillness and silence in order to tap our intuition and wisdom, then share it with each other. Visit www.center4selfcare.com/comingevents to learn more and register.


Whyte speaks of the inevitable times in our lives when we are “waking everyday into the great to-do list of life. And the first thing that crossed your mind are all of the things that you have to accomplish throughout the day. But the accomplishments are all logistical, there all strategic and there is very little in the way of imagination. And you don’t who is going to be there when you clear away that list and so you simply create another list for the following day.” I recently found a fabulous morning meditation from David Gandelman on Insight Timer that short-circuits that impulse to do and first asks: what does the world want from me today and what do I want from it? ”

Our culture pulls us into this orbit of speed. That said, we can pause most any time. Or slow down. Do less better. In an interview with Krista Tippet, poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye describes the concept of Yutori. Its something worth checking out. An example of Yutori is “leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around.”

clock.jpgBut we have no time for this! Or do we? There’s an old tale of the student who asked a teacher how longer she should meditate each day. “20 minutes,” declared the wise teacher. The woman replied, “but I don’t have time for that.” The teacher sat quickly then responded, “then sit for 40 minutes each day.” It is exactly in the moments when it feels like we don’t have time that it is imperative to slow down. It could mean stopping to say hello to a stranger, taking the dog for a casual walk without our phone, or writing a note to a friend you haven’t seen for awhile. It is up to you. The world can speed along without you for awhile.

republished from our Your Mindful Coach blog, May 24, 2018

 

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What Happens When You Can’t Figure It Out?

In our last gathering, we explored What Happens When You Can’t Figure Out The Answer? Human beings, and often men in particular, have a tendency to try to solve, fix, and resolve issues and challenges so they “go away.” We want to get it out of there. This is natural. Our natural instinct is to preserve our safety and our security. So we become doers, we become fixers. And these acts become our identity.

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

– Wendell Barry

This post is the fifth in a series that offers teachings to support a mindful practice and lifestyle. They are based on gatherings of Mindful Dads Meeting but offer universal wisdom suitable for anyone.

So what happens when we can’t figure it out? We may worry that our identity is tarnished. We scramble. We blame. We argue. We withdraw. Sometimes we ask for help, but we have received thousands of cultural messages that asking for help represents weakness. Feelings of inadequacy and failure to live up to expectations arise. What to do?

field.jpgWith mindful practice, we sit with the emotions of uncertainty and doubt. We can open ourselves to patient waiting and letting go of outcomes. We can ask the questions differently – “Isn’t it interesting that I don’t know what to do next? What do I really need in this moment?

And we can also bring self-care and self-compassion. We recognize that we aren’t the only ones who have ever experienced this. Enjoy the guided practice below that reminds us of our shared humanity and our ability for self-soothing:


Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 9.20.19 PMPlease join Center For Self-Care every Sunday at 9pm or Tuesday evening at 8:30pm for Meditate4SelfCare. Simply login through this link. Open to men and women.

We also meet in person for Mindful Dads Meeting this Wednesday, April 11 at 8pm and every 2nd Wednesday of the month. Click here to sign up and join us.

 

How To Be Angry

My teacher Jonathan Foust likes to say that meditation will make you feel better. It will make you feel sadness better, it will make you feel frustration better, and it will make you feel anger better. The practice of mindfulness and meditation brings us to a state where we can feel what we are feeling when we are feeling it. And that gives us a choice. What will I do next? It offers the glimmer of possibility to respond thoughtfully instead of react habitually. But we must be quite gentle as these mind states arise.


You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” – Undetermined

Thich Nhat Hanh offers this simple teaching for when you are angry:

Do Nothing

Say Nothing

Breathe

It may seem these phrases are passive. Perhaps there are situations where immediate responses (or withdrawal) are necessary, but I have found this advice to be near-perfect in its ability to bring me back to myself and the present moment. It is a radical act of self- (and other) care and compassion.

iceberg.gif
Image from Men For Change, The Online Healthy Relationships Project, 1998 

Anger is what is called a “secondary emotion.” Most often, our anger masks an underlying primary emotion that we don’t want to feel. Things like sadness, jealousy, or fear elicit a reaction that triggers the secondary emotion such as anger. And sometimes related action like lashing out, arguing, or withdrawing.

I can recall a car ride on a cold winter day with my family. For some reason, I was frustrated and angry. My guess is that there was some distance between how things were in my life and how I wanted them to be. With every utterance from my wife and boys, I wanted to react, to criticize and diminish. But instead, I silently repeated these phrases, “Do Nothing. Say Nothing. Breathe.” After about 45 minutes, I felt a softening, and was able to reengage and share in my family’s joy. Later that evening, my wife said something along the lines of, “it really seemed you were having a tough time today.” This sympathy was enlivening and probably wouldn’t have come had I acted on the anger that was arising earlier that night.

Importantly, this practice doesn’t eliminate anger. Anger and all emotions are valuable information that our body, heart and mind give us to alert us to something meaningful, important or scary. When we try to shove them down or freeze them out, they’ll only find a way back into our experience. If instead, we can be with these emotions, witnessing but not becoming these emotions, we take a path of peace and understanding. The practice below works with this concept of witnessing:

What’s your experience with anger? Share your comments below. We’ll continue this discussion in upcoming weeks, exploring ways to communicate to those we love that we need a little space so it doesn’t seem like we are disconnecting or isolating ourselves.


Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 5.41.02 PM.pngMindful Dads Meeting resumes on Wednesday, March 14 and we’d love you to join us. Additionally, please consider Connection and Reflection: A Full-Day Mindfulness Retreat on Sunday, April 8. Readers of this blog receive a 10% discount by entering the promo code “EARLY”.

Hanging Out In The Space

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

In our last gathering, we explored The Space Between How Things Are And How We Want Them To Be. There will always be this space, this grasping, this striving, that is part of our human experience. In fact, we spend most of our time dwelling in this space. Our efforts to close the gap are commendable but ultimately impossible. We simply can’t fix everything. Instead, when we change our relationship and response to the situations and issues in our lives, we open up to freedom and curiosity.

Screen Shot 2017-12-09 at 9.35.32 AMThis post is the fourth in a series that offers teachings to support a mindful practice and lifestyle. They are based on gatherings of Mindful Dads Meeting but offer universal wisdom suitable for anyone. Please check out our upcoming stress management workshop for men.

Author Daanan Parry shared the beautiful Parable of the Trapeze in his book, Warriors of the Heart. Parry begins:

“Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life.”

I can relate to Parry’s opening assumptions, recalling my time in investment management. My task was pattern recognition. If only I could find patterns that repeat over and over again in the companies I invested, I could eliminate unexpected events and work with ease and calm. I could arrive at work each day to a predictable flow that appeared to hold little risk. Except that it did. Everything changes. Everything is impermanent.

letting-go-2.jpgIt can be helpful to explore what happens with our emotional states. We quickly realize how they come and go. Alone, they are fairly fluid. But when we add to them with thoughts and ruminations, they feel more solid. And we can use a mindful practice to honor and create space for this landscape of emotions. As Michael Stone declares in the guided meditation below, “If we create the conditions for a calm body, unstable or turbulent emotions have a place to settle and a place to exist . . . Use your practice to continually bring you into the sanity of this moment. Sometimes our enlightenment will ask us to love things that seem impossible to love, and that’s why we practice.”


Make some time for yourself to learn and practice in the coming months. Join us for our co-ed full-day retreat, Connection and Reflection on Sunday, April 8.

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being-doing.jpgParry concludes his parable by suggesting “transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to ‘hang out’ in the transition between trapezes.” So the question moves from What should I do? to What should I be? Instead of focusing on the next action, we might instead focus on fostering positive emotional states to arrive at a sense of well-being, regardless of our circumstances.

As we make space in our experience, we might reflect on the question, How do I want to feel? In the practice below, you are asked to reflect on a situation or issue in your life that may be causing difficulty or suffering. Allow yourself to feel into this experience. What are the thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the body that arise as you visualize and recall this situation?

lucy-advice-booth.jpg

As you continue through the meditation, you may experience a shift or perhaps have some advice for yourself. For our group, some of the advice was:

  • Do less better
  • Enjoy the moment
  • A little conflict isn’t such a bad thing
  • Slow down and think

Practice along with the recording below or click here for a written description.

An Experiment in Generosity

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha

Author Sharon Salzburg, writing in “Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection,” describes how we can experiment with generosity:

So often we are taught to arm ourselves with cynicism and irony, to cut ourselves off, dismissing displays of kindness or generosity as phony or self-serving. It takes a lot to say, “I am going to conduct an experiment to look at things another way.”


3176908_1506097971.7898My friend David Gerbstadt has been doing a lot of experimenting. David is a local artist who uses art to share his positive message and connect with people in the community. These messages include “You Are Loved,” “Never Give Up,” and “Be Kind.” David is also well-known for his commitment to art for everyone. The video below shows a project where he left his art throughout the community for people to enjoy and ultimately take home with them. How radical!

david_gerbstadt_be_kind_button_3_hearts_3_cm_round_badge-ra74f514ebd1045f3b5b876d6adab6a18_x7j12_8byvr_324David’s generosity doesn’t have a specific expectation when he shares it. Instead, he follows his heart, trusting that a response will arise. I’m a huge fan and have started a club at The Shipley School to continue to spread this message of abundance and generosity. We aren’t all great artists but each of us has a gift that is renewable. It may be a smile or a kind gesture. Or it may be a human connection in a time of need.

Like David’s work as much as I do? Send him a note at davidgerbstadt@gmail.com. He offers “$1 art by mail,” Be Kind buttons for $1 each and has a huge studio with paintings, found-object sculpture and much more.  12189744_990388567670851_862643810091700739_n


At Center for Self-Care, we’ve begun with a primary focus on men and dads. When it comes to men and generosity, I’ll start with the bad news. A recent study by from The University of Zurich suggests that men’s brains respond more to selfishness than generosity. The opposite is true for women. In the study, participants were given a choice to keep a sum of money or share it with someone else. Participants were placed in an fMRI machine to monitor brain activity. What researchers found was that an area of the brain called the striatum showed increased activity in women when they shared the money and in men when they kept all of the money for themselves. The striatum is part of a human’s reward system, coordinating the release of dopamine, one of our “feel good” hormones. Men are literally rewarded with a release of soothing chemicals for selfish behavior. Strangely enough, when researchers gave participants a drug designed to suppress dopamine release, men and women switched roles, with the men becoming more generous!Selfishness

The study was small and far from conclusive. Additionally, it is hard to say whether this observation is hard-wired or a learned behavior based on cultural norms and expectations. We are learning more about neuroplasticity, our brain’s ability to learn based on our experience. When we are rewarded (both externally and internally) for selfishness, we tend to continue that behavior. There is a vast literature describing the differences in ways boys and girls are treated. Oftentimes, girls are rewarded for pro-social, generous actions. On the flipside, girls are more likely to be punished for selfishness while boys may be excused from consequences because “boys will be boys”.

Aside from consequences, unwritten social expectations can play a role as well Angela Saini, author of Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story declares, “We know that girls and women are socially expected to behave in different ways from boys and men. We encourage girls to be kinder, gentler and more generous, because these are seen as female virtues. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that research like this shows that women tend to show a greater reward response to this kind of behaviour.”

a50efb21be71b5e7af55ffc0360926cf--so-cute-funny-stuff.jpgOther research has suggested that women are more likely to be balanced in their generosity, appealing to fairness and equality. Men, on the other hand, may appeal more towards justice, leading them to be either “perfectly selfish” or “perfectly selfless” depending on the situation and benefits they may accrue from their response. Additionally, these researchers found that when generosity is expensive, or takes a lot of effort, women tend to be kinder while men may be kinder than women when the cost of generosity is low (small gestures). This is exciting news. It offers a window in to how to start with generosity. Returning to the concept of neuroplasticity, we do know that generosity can be practiced and learned. Experiment on your own or try out the suggestions in The Power of Generosity. Men can rewire their brains to emphasize selflessness over selfishness. And it is important to start small. As Mother Teresa explained, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

The Space Between How Things Are And How We Want Them To Be

A lecturer walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

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She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”


This post is the third in a series that offers teachings to support a mindful practice and lifestyle. They are based on gatherings of Mindful Dads Meeting but offer universal wisdom suitable for anyone.

black-and-white-draw-drawing-expectation-Favim.com-1617878Stress can be defined as the space between our expectations and our reality. Our instinct when we see this space is to try make it go away. Somehow fill in the space with overwork, micromanagement or distraction. It may be that we already feel the walls closing in around us or that there is a gaping chasm between us and feeling free. But in reality, this space is small. It is a space of hyper focus and hyper vigilance. Either/or thinking, doubt, judgment, insecurity, anxiety and worry. We have a great opportunity to nourish this unpleasant place by stopping, experiencing and allowing.

The first step is to notice. To check in with yourself as you become quiet. What is here in this moment and can I be with it? What is really here? You might try the following practice to arrive at this state:

The space between how things are and how we want them to me gets filled in with messages of doubt and self-criticism. Things like “I’m not good enough” or “I’m a bad parent/partner/child.” This wanting things to be different is a natural result of our mis(perceptions), expectations, preferences, perspectives, standards and assumptions. When we get stuck in this space, we can create disconnection from ourselves and others.

Christopher Germer, the author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion writes,

“when bad things happen to us, we tend to have three unfortunate reactions: self-criticism, self-isolation, and self-absorption. Why do we react like this? I look at it this way, the instinctive response to danger – the stress response – consists of fight, flight or freeze. These three strategies help us survive physically, but when they are applied to our mental and emotional functioning, we get into trouble. When there’s no enemy to defend against, we turn on ourselves. “Fight” becomes self-criticism, “flight” becomes self-isolation, and “freeze” becomes self-absorption, getting locked into our own thoughts.”

stress-750x517.jpgThere are several conclusions to be drawn from this passage. First, our habitual reactions are normal. Humans have evolved to escape physical threats. It wasn’t until the last several hundred years that our ability to tame and eliminate most physical threats made the stress response less adaptive. Second, by recognizing that we are in this mode, we give ourselves a choice to respond thoughtfully instead of react out of habit. When we pay attention to our stress and the habits, patterns and triggers that make up our responses, we open a space for a choice based on awareness. Most of our modern threats are emotional and psychological so this space is important.

Germer’s colleague, Kristin Neff writes, “We give ourselves compassion not to feel better, but because we feel bad.” This shift from cure to care allows our natural gentleness and compassion to emerge slowly. Self-compassion consists of three elements as described by Neff in the video below:

  • Self-Kindness – Providing yourself with the compassion and self-soothing you deserve
  • Common Humanity – The understanding that you are not alone in your suffering, that it is part of the human experience
  • Mindfulness – An awareness of what is actually happening in your lived experience.

It is rewarding to find someone you like, but it is essential to like yourself. It is quickening to recognize that someone is a good and decent human being, but it is indispensable to view yourself as acceptable. It is a delight to discover people who are worthy of respect and admiration and love, but it is vital to believe yourself deserving of these things.” – Jo Coudert

We closed our evening with a self-compassion meditation based on Neff’s work that brings the three elements of self-compassion into focus. As we imagined a difficulty or challenge in our life, we offered the following wishes:

  • I am (struggling, suffering, stressed) right now and that is ok.
  • We all (struggle, suffer, feel stress).
  • May I be kind to myself. May I offer myself the compassion that I need.

Try it for yourself below and check out our upcoming events including Mindful Dads Meeting and our April co-ed full-day retreat.


Marc and I are passionate about self-compassion and its promise of self-care and kindness that then extends to all around you. Below is the most downloaded episode of our podcast followed by additional articles that you mind enjoy.


The Art of Self-Compassion Part 1: A Personal Reflection

The Art of Self-Compassion Part 2: Meeting The Critic

Secure Your Own Mask First

Listen Deeply

In Becoming Aware, Josh shared a quote from Ram Dass, “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” As we practice mindfully, we move toward stillness, spaciousness and silence. It is here that we can listen fully. Listening deeply to the small, soft voice of our heart, we become aware of our deepest intentions. We listen to those we love and give ourselves room to choose a response with compassion and care.

This post is the second in a series that offers 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.

As we build community, we keep these guideposts and qualities in mind:

  • 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)

Our evening began with a practice intended to bring our awareness to the present moment, the only moment that is truly available to us. In this practice, we begin by observing our breath. The breath serves as an anchor when we are distracted by a thought, an emotion or bodily sensation. Each time, returning to the sensation of our body expanding and contracting with each breath. We then move our awareness to the sensation of stillness in our body. First in our hands and allowing our awareness of this stillness to expand to include our arms, our legs and even our feet.

 

Allow by Danna Faulds

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado.  Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel.  Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground.  The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.


MindfulDadsNov17Photo.jpgPractice with us

Looking to learn and practice? Join us on the morning of Saturday, December 2nd for Big Questions for Mindful Living: A Half-Day Retreat for Men. Or drop-in for Mindful Men Meeting, the 2nd Wednesday of every month.


weight-lifting-brain.jpgMindfulness meditation literally trains our muscle of attention. Just as we go to the gym to strengthen our body, when we sit in meditation, we grow mentally stronger. Returning our attention over and over again to the anchor of our practice (breath, body, stillness, silence, etc). For me, the first months of mindfulness practice found me less reactive. When I had an urge or an impulse to argue, confront or withdraw, I could observe this with a kind heart, pause, and choose my response. Researchers in the field of neuroplasticity are discovering how one can build new neural connections that integrate our emotional brain or limbic system with our cortical, thinking brain. They even see it in brain scans that suggests the grey matter of our brain grows with intentional practice. This integration allows the prefrontal cortex, the higher level, rational, moral part of our brain to soothe an emotional system caught in fear, uncertainty or anger.

Our reactivity and negativity biases are no accident. We needed this system thousands of years ago when our greatest threats were physical. The human environment contained predators like tigers who weren’t up for debating the merits of eating us. So we needed a way to react immediately to stimulus so that we didn’t end up as lunch. Our “Fight or Flight” or parasympathetic nervous system, is engineered to divert resources away from our internal organs and our brain to our legs so that we can run. The amygdala triggers the release of cortisol and adrenaline, priming the body for action. Which is great when you are being chased. But this system responds to our daily emotional and psychological threats in the same way – increasing our heart, breathing and perspiration rate, and turning off our digestive and immune system. No wonder our culture is riddled with irritable bowel syndrome and chronic colds!

There is just one thing that we can truly control in our fight or flight response, our breath! Taking a deep breath sends a signal to our body that we have time, we don’t need to react quickly out of habit. As we slow the breath, our sympathetic nervous system comes back online, bringing us to a state of “Rest and Digest“. It is in this state that the integration of our body gives us access to our faculties and control of our situation. We become aware of our emotions, thoughts and bodily sensations without judging them.schraf-awarenesstrangle

But in order to return to Rest and Digest, we must know that we are in a state of Fight or Flight. This first step, noticing or listening is paired with an allowing, an offering of compassion for whatever is happening right now. The cycle of our reactive habits is broken when we pair the wisdom of noticing with the compassion of allowing. We ask ourselves, “What is happening right now?” and “Can I be with it?” Marc shared the practice “I am aware . . . ” which group participants tried in pairs and reflected on in writing.

As we closed, one participant concluded that for him, now is the time for “less advice and more self-compassion.” It is a time for listening and seeing what arises. When we stop and return to the present moment, we give ourselves a chance. Not seeking perfection, but seeking progress. You might try the longer meditation below to cultivate a deep listening.

 

Excerpted from The Journey, by Mary Oliver

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

We’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 December 13 meeting.

 

 

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.