Asking the Beautiful Questions

As a teacher, I have two options. I can try to teach the answer or I can try to teach the question. All too often, the “answer” is burdened by my own judgment, opinion, beliefs and experience. Teaching the answer can be limiting because everyone’s experience is different. But when I teach the question, infinite possibilities are unleashed. We open to imagination and creativity.

Poet and author David Whyte writes, “What would it be like to see teaching as the ability to cultivate the imagination? To [help students] create the biggest context they can for whatever they are being taught. . . if we are able to construct a question that is beautiful, it will stay with them for the rest of their life.” Deep and open-ended questions lead us to connect with that which gives us meaning and purpose. Whyte has compiled a list of 10 Questions That Have No Right To Go Away. They include:

What can I be wholehearted about? Am I harvesting this year’s season of my life? Can I be quiet, even inside? Am I too inflexible in my relationship to time? How can I drink from the deep well of things as they are? Can I live a courageous life?

These questions don’t demand answers but instead reflection. And lived experience. The practice of mindfulness invites us to welcome these questions and explore. I invite you to try some of these questions on for size at our workshop, Asking The Beautiful Questions, this Saturday, December 2. Register today or read below for more details.

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We all know that questions can be empowering or restricting depending on how they are framed. My teacher Jonathan Foust offers four empowering questions:

excited

What are you most excited about in your life right now?

What are you most proud of in your life right now?

What are you most grateful for in your life right now?

What are you most committed to in your life right now?

Notice how these questions challenge you to shift out of the mindset of problem-solving, thinking, comparing and judging that characterizes most of our everyday experience. We might find responding to such questions difficult because they remind us of what’s not quite right yet. But it also opens the possibility for growth, meaning and understanding. In practice, one needn’t search for the answers but instead allow them to arise. Some of the responses may be strange and unexpected but also illuminating.

A perfect example of how empowering questions open our minds and hearts comes from StoryCorps, whose mission is “to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” You may have heard these stories on National Public Radio. Check out this list of wonderful questions for just about any situation that are sure to get right to the heart of the matter.


Here are just a few of the qualities that inquiry and questions can generate:reframe-nlp-frame

  • Reframing – Questions allow us look at our experience from a different angle. Approaching an issue with a different kind of question shifts our perception and our attitude.
  • Softening – They can bring a compassion, an appreciation and even a forgiveness for difficulty, confusion and uncertainty we face.
  • Opening – How many ways could I describe the situation? What are the new ways?
  • Clarifying – What is really happening right now? Can I be with it? What is important to me? What will I do next?
  • Identifying habit patterns that aren’t supportive of wholehearted living, happiness and resilience. We begin to recognize our reactivity and how it may harm us.
  • Connection with our passion, our values, and our heart to create purpose and meaning.

At its heart, the practice of mindfulness asks two questions, “What is happening?” and “Can I be with it?” These two questions represent the two wings of the metaphorical bird. Wisdom to see clearly with awareness and compassion to non-judgmentally be with our experience. In a sense, these are the questions that characterize the experience of mindfulness. As we practice mindfulness, we step out of the story we’ve created in our minds and into the genuine experience of being alive, with its joy, its sorrow, its uncertainty, its faith.


I welcome you to explore questions further by listening to Inquiry as Mindfulness Practice, via iTunes or Stitcher. This episode includes a meditative inquiry practice called The Five Problem Solving Questions which I think you’ll enjoy experimenting with.

If you live in the Philadelphia area, please join me on Saturday, December 2 for Asking The Beautiful Questions from 10am-12pm at the Tredyffrin Public Library in Strafford, PA.  You can learn more by visiting www.center4selfcare.com or  www.yourmindfulcoach.com. You also might enjoy a visit to jonathanfoust.com or focusing.com to learn more about the tools of meditative inquiry.


Sometimes by David Whyte

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David Whyte

Sometimes
if you move carefully
through the forest

breathing
like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound, 

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

questions
that can make
or unmake
a life,

questions
that have patiently
waited for you,

questions
that have no right
to go away.

Portions of this post were originally published on the Your Mindful Coach Blog in December 2016.

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The Power of Gratitude

Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” – Cicero

The dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” There are two key components to gratitude. First, gratitude involves an affirmation of goodness. Second, gratitude involves a recognition of its source. As we pause to notice the goodness and generosity around us, we become aware of the people & resources, causes & conditions, that lead us to this feeling state. Gratitude reminds us of our connection and interdependence.

My friend and noted gratitude communication researcher Ross Brinkert observes, “Gratitude is not only good for the receiver, its also good for the sender. You can transform your own feelings by sending gratitude to somebody else.” One of the many powers of gratitude is its ability to incline the mind. This concept of inclining the mind abounds in the study of mindfulness and meditation. It rehabituates the mind away from the constant judging, comparing and evaluating that characterizes our usual experience. This inclining process is a reframing of our experience, a “gladening” or even a softening of the mind. This inclination allows us to find the sacred in our ordinary, everyday experience.


And don’t miss our monthly Mindful Dads Meeting, on the second Wednesday each month including Wednesday, December 13.


Why practice gratitude?

Robert Emmons identifies physical effects such as stronger immune systems, improved self-care and even better sleep as benefits of consistent gratitude practice. Psychologically and socially, those that practice gratitude are more likely to experience positive emotions, feel happier & more optimistic and feel less lonely and isolated. Grateful people exercise more self-control and are better at delaying gratification. This reminds me of mindfulness. Through returning our attention to our focus or anchor, in mindfulness our breath, our body, our senses, we are able to respond thoughtfully instead of react habitually. In this way, we turn a habit into a choice. It seems using gratitude as our “anchor” can serve much the same purpose.line.png

With gratitude, what we are not doing is nearly as important as what we are doing. Its hard to multitask while practicing gratitude. We are unlikely to be checking our cell phone or mindlessly eating a hamburger. When we practice gratitude, we aren’t engaged in jealousy, greed, grasping or comparison. We are creating a space in our experience. As we leave the realm of judgment, comparison and criticism, our natural wisdom and compassion emerge.

How does one practice gratitude?

For gratitude practice to have a lasting effect, it must be intentional and consistent. Gratitude must be a way of relating to the world and not just an afterthought.

One of the best ways to cultivate gratitude is to write it down. The intentionality of actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) allows you to be more reflective compared with just “thinking” about gratitude. In the video below, SoulPancake performs an experiment where people were asked to write about someone who had a positive impact on their life. Writing and then sharing what they’d written to that person had a powerful effect on the happiness of the gratitude giver.

 

charlie.pngWould you like to give it a try? How about the “Three Good Things” practice? This is essentially a gratitude journal. Each day, you recall 3 things that went well for you recently, positive experiences, interactions or observations. Take the time to describe each of these good things. Note how you felt then and how you feel now upon reflection. Conclude by explaining what you think caused this event to happen? Was it your preparation, the generosity of another, the gifts of the earth? Click here to try it out yourself. I’ll collect the responses and share them in an upcoming blog or podcast.

You can practice gratitude is by expressing it through a gratitude letter to an important person in your life or just give them a call. Brinkert recommends communicating gratitude with an element of surprise. Much like “random acts of kindness”, “random acts of gratitude” help your expression stand out. He writes, “Expressions that come unexpectedly actually have a lot more weight than things that are expected. It’s really important to make the opportunity to thoughtfully surprise people because that really stands out for them.”

Finally, because gratitude is for you as well, simple mindfulness & meditation practices support the concept of inclining the mind. Meditations on gratitude and joy help you set an intention toward gratitude and remind you of the gifts you have given and received.

Wishing you the best in your own practice of gratitude! If you’d like support in your practice, visit www.center4selfcare.com today.

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.

 

 

Accepting My Need to Be A Perfect Parent

Our thoughts and images of what an ideal parent should be can get in the way of just being the best we can be in any given moment.

There’s a common misperception that practicing mindfulness imposes another idealized picture of what our lives as parents or lovers or close friends or leaders at work should be: Always calm, always in control, and always knowing what to do, like a stereotype from an old TV show. We can’t help but fall short of this idealized vision. Recognizing that view itself is something to notice, and then we can practice setting it aside.

Our relationships, our career, the way our kids turn out—these rarely match the pictures in our minds.

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Mark Bertin, MD

This is an excerpt from “Let Go of Being the Ideal Role Model,” by Mark Bertin from the July 21, 2016 issue of Mindful Magazine. Reading this couldn’t have come at a better time.  It connected with how I had been feeling and thinking about myself as a parent.

My friend Patti once said to me, “You are only as happy as your most unhappy child.” What an important reminder that parenting is difficult, exhausting, and stressful and it also brings me the greatest joy.

Not long ago, I had been going through a difficult time worrying about my son and blaming myself for his struggles and difficulties.  Since I began practicing Mindfulness, I have focused a lot of time on the practice of allowing myself to be imperfect toward myself, but until I had a conversation with another friend, Kenny, I did not realize the unrealistic expectations that I was putting on myself as a parent. I was not aware that I was placing unrealistic expectation of perfection on myself.  

I guess I should have known better since this is something I have been doing my entire life. It makes sense that these feelings would enter this part of my life. Of course what followed was judgment, self-criticism, and meanness toward myself. I had been expecting myself to be that perfect parent based upon the expectations that I had put upon myself and blaming myself for my childrens’ struggles and hardships.  

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The blaming I had been doing was based upon my negative perceptions of how my actions have hurt my son, as well as the fears and worries I have for him.  I want him to be happy and have good friends.  I don’t want anything that I could have done to damage this. Kenny also shared, “No matter what we do for our kids and teach them, there are going to be things out of our control and they are going to be who they are.”  I struggle with this, too, putting my expectations on my kids and when they don’t act the way I think they should, it is a real struggle and causes me a lot of stress.  

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When I really look inward I am able to see a lot of this comes from my feelings of fear and worry.  It is really hard to see my kids struggle and be in pain. 

I have misperceptions about what is happening right in front of me when it comes to them or worries about what might happen in the future. I begin to create stories about what is happening based upon my expectations of outcome.  My highlight reel of worry and fear sets in with me doing the play by play, which piles on more worry and fear.  

So, what do I do with these feelings?  I become aware of what is really here in each moment, whether it is my story, fear, worry, etc. By taking time to pause and see what is here I am reminded of what is most important and remind myself of my intentions of patience, compassion, understanding, and acceptance.   This practice is about and/both.  So often we see things as all or nothing and either/or.  Instead we can experience the pain or worry and give ourselves the care, patience, and compassion that we need.  We don’t have to push it away.  We allow our feelings to be here and  we give ourselves the support right along side of it. When I am feeling the struggle, pain, fear, I can give myself the patience, compassion, understanding, and acceptance. They are right alongside of it. It is in these times I need it most.  I can make a choice to offer this to myself in those times of struggle. The practice below from my colleague Marc Balcer is one way to work with this.

I mess up often as a parent and I am learning to accept that there is no right or wrong way to do it. I am trying to give myself more of a break and cut myself some slack.  I am constantly modeling imperfection and letting my kids know it is okay to be imperfect. Patti also shared, “A good friend told me years ago that our children will take our lead.  No truer words, or so I’ve found. I’ve tried to live by this as a parent.I know that I give my kids all the love I have, tell them as often as I can how much I care and love them, set limits, and remind myself and them that no one is perfect. I will always be there for them no matter what.  


meditationLooking for an opportunity to learn and practice together? Join us for Mindful Men Meeting on Wednesday, November 8 or for an extended gathering, check out Big Questions for Mindful Living: A Half-Day Retreat for Men on the morning of Saturday, December 2.

 

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.

There But Not There

I thought I was in the running for Dad of the Year. But I wasn’t really even there.

g4-werth.jpgIt was May 6, 2010. My son Jack, nearly six years old, filled with joy and excitement as we approached Citizens Bank Park for a “businessperson’s special” day game. The boxscore tells me Jason Werth hit a three-run homer in the first and the Phillies never looked back.

My life was wonderful. Two great kids, a loving wife, a meaningful job. I was a family man, racing home each night from work to spend every minute possible with my family.

Halfway through the game, I received a call from our trader. The stock market was crashing. There was really nothing I could do from a baseball stadium that I wouldn’t likely regret later. So I gave him a few instructions and said I’d check back in after the game. While this was a significant event, my response wasn’t that different to most everyday situations. Put away the phone and return to my family, but only in body, not quite in mind.

Returning to our seats, Jack buzzed with excitement as Roy Halladay mowed down hitter after hitter. “Dad, did you see that?” “Do you think he’ll pitch a complete game?” “Can I have an ice cream?” My go-to response was a spiritless “uh-huh.” My mind was distracted. I contemplated what tomorrow would bring and what I could have done to prevent any losses from the crash ahead of time. I was distracted and a bit lost.

As my pal Thom shared in response to this story, “Its like staring at the top of a friend’s head as they stare at their cell phone; sporadically saying ‘go ahead, I’m listening’ as if it were some sense of reassurance for you. There but not present.”

My dad took me to Milwaukee Brewers games as a six-year old too. His love was unconditional and unwavering. But also distant. Always staring off in to space, never able to remember the big hits and plays on the car ride home. As I sat there watching Jack watch the Phillies crush the Cardinals, I recognized what I had been looking at as a child in my dad’s face. And I knew that had to change.


58166_1644699278291_1159874_n.jpgMeditation and mindfulness offered a tool to me to be present in any moment, regardless of what was running through my head. It also provided some self-compassion because I won’t always get it right. Does this story sound familiar? If so, please check out Mindful Dads Meeting on Wednesday, October 11 at 8pm at Woodlynde School. Be sure to register in advance.


Also this month from Center For Self-Care

Mindful Men Meeting, Thursday, October 5 at 7:30 pm (membership required, email for details)

Men Sitting By A Fire, Thursday, October 19 at 7:30 pm (email for details)

Mindfulness is For You: Tools for Self-Care and Stress Management, Not just for men! Tuesday, October 24 at 7 pm, Ludington Library in Bryn Mawr (free, registration required)

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.

Connect with us today!

We have enjoyed connecting with you as we have launched our new venture. We look forward to staying in touch. Supporting the Center For Self-Care is just a click away! Here’s how:

  1. Send us your men! Share this information with important men in your life.
  2. Like and follow our facebook page, @C4SC.
  3. Subscribe to our blog.
  4. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.
  5. And of course, sign up today for Mindful Dads Meeting beginning October 11 and our fall half-day (12/3) and residential (11/3-11/5) men’s retreats.

Best, Marc and Josh

Announcing the Center for Self-Care

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Marc Balcer and Josh Gansky, Founders of Center for Self-Care, LLC.

Founders Marc Balcer and Josh Gansky are pleased to announce the creation of the Center For Self-Care, LLC. The Center For Self-Care (C4SC) is dedicated to building communities of mindful exploration and connection with a specific focus on men and dads. C4SC brings mindfulness training and tools for mindful living through workshops, retreats and groups at convenient locations in the western suburbs of Philadelphia.

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Initial offerings include Mindful Dads Meeting on October 11 and Men Sitting By A Fire on October 19 as well as retreats in November, December and April focused on courage, mindful living and building communities of fathers. In these programs, mindfulness serves as a foundation for a spirit of encouragement, fellowship, and friendship that is cultivated through meaningful interactions.  Register or learn more at www.center4selfcare.com or contact us at connect@center4selfcare.com or 610-389-0912/484-919-1648.

Marc and Josh have sought to complement existing mindfulness offerings in the area by specifically focusing on tools for mindful living and building male friendships. Their personal exploration and their work as meditation teachers have driven them to this important niche.

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Marc with Jonathan Foust

It’s been said that the most important thing is to know what you really want,” writes Jonathan Foust, creator of Body-Centered Inquiry: Meditation Training to Awaken Your Inner Guidance, Vitality, and Loving Heart. He continues, “The second most important thing, and where many men fail, is to ensure you have support on your path. I’m inspired by Marc and Josh’s vision of creating a safe and sacred space to explore what it means to be a man in today’s challenging times.”

513LbbIMz1L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Rob Garfield, author of Breaking the Male Code: Unlocking the Power of Friendship and Board Member at the Men’s Resource Center of Philadelphia, stresses the importance of authentic male friendships to health and wellbeing, “When groups of men develop closer relationships with each other in a structured, trusting environment, they practice expressing their emotions and vulnerability in ways that often improve relationships at home and in other areas of life. The Center for Self-Care fills an important need for innovative programming that addresses these issues for men in our region.”

We invite you to join us on this journey!