Celebrate NOW!

I just celebrated my 49th birthday. It was low key, unrehearsed, no parties. Mel was away so the kids took it upon themselves to pamper me. Now that they are bordering on grown proficient adults, the service was quite lovely.

I’ve never been a huge birthday guy – it has never really occurred to me to celebrate the birth of myself.  I think there are many who discount their own birthdays’ as pomp and circumstance and fall into the habit of reacting to how others celebrate our day.  As a kid, it was always mum who did all the work – cakes, decorations, invites, clean up….  Teenage years - school mates take over the details. And in our later years, a smattering of neighborhood, family, and work friends might come out to cheer us on and up (to our next year).

I think my indifference to birthday celebrations is probably because I don’t prefer being in the spotlight and these events tend to flip on that bright light, albeit for only 24 hours once a year. I even recall my family enjoying birthday celebrations and the heightened interest in birthday cakes (the more designed and decorated the better).  This might explain why the Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream cake recently designed and presented by my kids actually may have gone down in the record books. 

Sunday, January 6 passed by slowly and I felt very loved and taken care of by my children. While this was all going on, I did try to do two things: I stopped to pay attention to my children – like really pay attention. Not watching to judge or critique or worry or correct, but simply to be in the mind space of observing – actually seeing, without any construct. It was cool. I also took a moment to consider this notion that the chances of each of us being alive are statistically something like 1:4,000,000,000 – proving to some degree that you really are a miracle.  From this vantage point, you actually do deserve a celebration – at a minimum for yourself, by yourself, because why not.  Plus our own life expectancy might only get us a max of 75+/- celebrations in a long lifetime. 

In other words, I got briefly present to the ‘why’ most people make a big deal out of birthdays – to stop and take stock of all that you have, to celebrate life and all of it’s colors, sights, sounds, people, experiences. I went to bed that night having felt (in a tiny way) I stopped to take all this in.   

Tuesday January 8  – I sit down at my desk and the first phone call I receive is from the school informing me that a friend of Oakley’s (in his class) suddenly and unexpectedly lost his father to a brain aneurysm. Just like that. This news knocked me hard.  I felt this numb sensation immediately after hearing sharp and stark information that shatters us with a reminder of how fragile we are, how quickly life can flash. 

I hung up the phone and sat motionless at my desk. The long list of to-do’s in front of me faded into the distance taking on immediate insignificance. What then came into focus was today, this morning, this moment, the remnants of cold on my ear having just pulled the phone off it, the crushing visual of a heartbroken family, the tree-filled view out my window, the feeling of my breath, the steam coming off the hot coffee, the timelessness of it all.

Forget once a year, it’s time to celebrate the micro moments right now. 

Why You Should "Sit" or The Upside to "Blanking"

For as long as I’ve been meditating (not long enough), I’ve always had this belief that the act of “sitting” is all about trying to quiet the mind. Or minimally, it's an attempt to lengthen the space between our crowded thoughts. 

Many would argue that’s exactly the point. But like many concepts in the spiritual world, the definition, purpose, and methods of meditation are about as multi-dimensional as you get a.k.a. wicked loose.  Subsequently, it’s subject to a gazillion different interpretations. 

I recently read a piece that suggested the goal of trying to make your mind blank while meditating is an insurmountable obstacle to developing a rich and nurturing practice.  The author went on to say the mind isn’t meant to be blank and trying to force it into that state is “futile, maybe even harmful.” Hmmm?

Their point was that meditation is simply just a concentrated mind. “A mind that is not blank but rather stilled by holding an unbroken, one-pointed focus on a single object for an extended period of time.”  In short, sustained concentration. 

This perspective may sound rudimentary to you, but it crystallized a lot for me, especially my answer to why I chose to sit in the first place.  My daughter asked me the other day, why do you meditate, what do you get out of it?  My answer was more wrapped up in the assumed benefits (for me) of being still, being present (to my thoughts), weaving gratitude into the act of breathing, blah, blah, blah.  Sharpening my ability to concentrate was not part of my answer. So it seems while I no doubt felt the desired affect from the moment I was introduced to this great practice, it’s taken me 5+ years to realize the net effect on my day-to-day life. 

All of this makes me wonder if I have gone through the better part of my life simply inept at concentrating. 

And sure, for some people the act of calming or blanking the mind is exactly the desired affect. I was and still am that person.  But my horizon has been expanded and the upside feels farther-reaching – meditation can be leveraged to strengthen sustained concentration levels.  And who wouldn’t want to sharpen that skill.    

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity." This originated in Southern Africa and has come to be used as a term for a kind of humanist philosophy, ethic, or ideology, also known as Ubuntuism.  I have heard it described, as “a person is a person through other persons.” Essentially, we depend on other people in order for us to be fully who we are. 

What’s fascinating about this belief is that it often flies in the face of our push to grow up.  Particularly as a young boy, the desire is often to “do it on your own.” In fact, asking for help often felt like a sign of weakness. I can remember in my own youth wanting to achieve self-sufficiency at every turn whether it involved cooking my own food, tying my own shoes, getting myself to school, etc.

And there is also a tendency as a parent to encourage this type of behavior.  Encouraging this idea that you can’t or shouldn’t depend on others is one way to promote learning, growth and development.  It can also take one more to-do off your plate.  I can certainly remember feeling a sense of victory when I no longer had to wipe my kids’ butt, dress them each morning, make their lunch or even drive them from point A to B. 

But beyond self-sufficiency is this idea that our own humanity is linked to really connecting with people around us. And not just the friendly hello, but truly connecting on a deep level.  Beneath the surface, we all have layers and layer of thoughts, opinions, ideas, fears, and aspirations.  Many of these can even go unspoken between your closest loved ones and not necessarily out of choice, but because we devote time and attention toward other things. 

As I grow up, I covet these deeper connections. The twists and turns of conversation with close relationships or even total strangers – what’s not to love when there is so much to gain.  Sure it’s sometimes scary to think that digging into someone’s true feelings or revealing our true selves will make us vulnerable, and may even result in us looking silly.  But isn’t the exposure of our real selves the thing that makes us human and more importantly, approachable, understandable, even lovable?  At the end of the day, it seems we all just want to feel loved - which only happens with human connection. 

The Fork In The Road

If only I had been introduced (at a young age) to the idea that too much self-centered thinking is an almost guaranteed source of suffering and that a compassionate concern for others’ well being is the source of happiness.   

Growing up, I wasn’t taught to look out for #1. In fact, my parents always struck me as super thoughtful people, warm-hearted and generous to everyone around them.  But I did witness my father maintain a laser focus on his work. He worked his tail off in the advertising business, going from basically the mailroom to becoming CEO of the 9th largest ad agency in the world.  I lived through little to middle income and then into the 1% - right before my eyes.  So my circumstances presented society’s typical metric – the idea that success is measured by money or power or fame or influence.  This is where I hit the fork in the road and ultimately took the path most traveled. 

I graduated from college and began pursuing jobs that I thought would result in more money or offer me more influence or lead to more exposure. Some of these career moves involved me subconsciously chasing a shinier penny – anything to help me advance.  And each time I took the proverbial step up, I would enjoy a brief moment of happiness, but something was never quite right.  After almost 20 years of working at many different jobs across multiple industries, I was still feeling aimless and vacant.   

Looking back on it, it is clear that my primary focus through many of these endeavors was only on myself.  In each position I held, I was not consciously looking out for those around me. It didn’t occur to me to put my own needs aside and identify where or how I could make a difference for my colleague or my boss or the company at large.  I just cared about what I was going to get, what was in it for me. It’s no wonder I wasn’t always meeting expectations (for myself or others).  I’m starting to see that perhaps it was my self-centered thinking that caused a subliminal form of suffering (and distraction) which took away from my ability to perform at levels I only dreamed of. 

By the age of 42, my “career journey” suffered what I experienced as a fiery train wreck. I was running my own company at the time and ultimately lost not only all of my own personal wealth as well as friends/family investment.  But even worse, my self-worth and internal confidence. It took me a few years to crawl out of this wreckage and to open my eyes up to my false interpretations, missed expectations, and where I may have been blind to the fork in the road. 

After some much needed soul searching, I now find myself knee deep in a handful of professional pursuits that are largely selfless and not surprisingly satisfying from an emotional and financial perspective. But perhaps more interesting about this rocky path, is that I found my way not by chasing success but by putting my ego aside and following my heart. It sounds corny just saying it, but without question I am in a far more empowered and happy state of mind, getting up and going to work, not for myself (even though I’m still self-employed), but truly for others. 

I share this story not to toot my own horn, but in hopes that it might flip a switch for others. I think there are many (men in particular) just like I was – working our ass off, but secretly waiting for happiness or joy to arrive.  The often heard refrain, I’ll be happy when I get that job, fall in love, get rich, etc.  Today I am finding some of my greatest joys in pursuing selfless action.  If you had told me fresh out of college that such an approach toward my career advancement would yield financial results, I would have laughed out loud. 

So while they say that 50% of our happiness is determined by immutable factors such as genes or temperament, the other half does seem to involve our circumstance. In my situation, I watched my father achieve “success” which I interpreted as money and influence.  You could argue I had little control over this particular circumstance, but the attitude and actions I subsequently took were 100% in my control and that’s where we can all accomplish great things. 

 

Time For Me To Teach

The first time I found myself on a yoga mat was back in 2003.  I walked upstairs to a narrow second-floor studio that sat above a pizza joint. The incense was burning, the lights were dimmed, the chatter was soft. The room was small with a few lace curtains over the windows, allowing some natural light to shine across the wood floor. It was wicked hot and I was the only guy in a sea of women. I was gripped with fear. Not the fear that comes with feeling like you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, just the paralyzing fear that I would fuck it up and “do it wrong.”  

The moment we began, I completely zoned out, like you do when you’re daydreaming.  I got lost in the sounds of our deep breathing, of the guiding voice, the music, even the boisterous blow of the heating element. It was blissful despite feeling like a bull in a china shop.  I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. 

I don’t recollect what originally compelled me to try yoga. I think my story was that “my hips were tight and I needed to stretch?”  Yeah right… as if any guy in their right mind steps into a sea of spandex and kooky music and pursues some form of ancient movement.  Looking back on it, I was drawn to yoga for a reason - I needed to learn something. 

Approximately 12 years passed and I continued to practice a lot of yoga.  So much so that I reached a point of borderline boredom – and I still hadn’t given much thought to what yoga was teaching me.  So I signed up for a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training course. Six months of weekend sessions, workshops, journaling, and reading. We consumed a ton of books and held discussions about every aspect of yoga from how it all began, to the early Yogic pioneers, to the mind-body-spirit connections, and of course the poses and how to verbally lead them, as a teacher.  Of course my story at the time was not that I aspired to be a yoga teacher but instead “I was just there to learn a bit more in hopes of re-igniting my interest in the practice.” 

So here I am today, a few years post Teacher Training, and I am teaching yoga. And like any novice, I continue to get butterflies in my stomach before I teach a class. And this annoys me – because come on… how does someone who has been doing something for so long still get butterflies?  So I’ve been thinking about their origin, why they come, when they arrive, how they pass? 

Probably obvious to you, but alas I’ve figured out these butterflies I get when stepping up to teach have everything to do with “getting it right.” 

This is not to suggest that 15 years of practicing yoga hasn’t completely corrected my own habit of self-doubt.  That’s not humanly possible.  But it has crystallized where the doubt rises up and how it can sabotage your own truth.  In my case, I found yoga because I needed to learn that regardless of whether you’re a student or a teacher, there is no right way.  There is no right pose, no proper technique, no instruction manual to follow.  There’s only the act of doing. Time for me to teach. 

Cheers, Chris

25 Years

Monday, 4/24/17, 11:52 am, 2nd floor of the Davis student center at the University of Vermont in Burlington. The place is buzzing. People everywhere chatting, laughing, reading, web surfing, eating, Snapping, sleeping, writing, etc.  Outdoorsy brand logo’s flash left and right – the brand managers of Patagonia, Lowe, Birkenstock, Burton, North Face, Osprey, Nalgene, Apple would be proud. All of this against a backdrop of yellow and green – Catamount colors. 

25 years ago I sat here on this campus as a UVM college senior on the verge of graduating. This particular student center was not here but the hustle and bustle was just the same.  Looking out across the sea of students is forcing my own look back. On the one hand, it feels good to be back in a familiar place, subconsciously and consciously reliving some of the best memories of my life.  It’s also a stark reminder of how fucking clueless I was at that time in my life – about myself, my path, my passions, fears, strengths and weaknesses.  The glass half full definition of this mind state might call it “innocence” or “lacking wisdom.” Note to my daughter: you won’t find a college class on HOW to acquire wisdom.   

The difference today is that (like every kid around me) I too am staring into a laptop.  Note: these devices didn’t exist in 1992, we used pen and paper or desktop PC’s chained to the desk in the library. But the greater disparity is what I’m dealing with right here right now – things, beliefs, concepts, actions I could never have predicted I’d be caught up in.  It’s probable that my mind in late April of 1992 was consumed by a hangover, or the cute girl across the room, or about the test I should have been studying for, about finding a pal to smoke a joint, or about whether I should grab a burrito in the cafeteria or  falafel at the food truck.  Today my brain is wrapped around managing a media/entertainment company, launching an info-marketing company, leading a personal development retreat, building community, and learning the art of parenting.  Shit, rather than talking smack about my own shenanigans this past weekend (like literally 5 students are doing right next to me), I’m on the phone planning dinner logistics for my two kids at home alone while I scramble to lead my eldest daughter through this one final college tour.  These complexities are rich and rewarding and of course the source of grey hair.  But they are also wildly different from when I was 21 years old and staring at this thing called “life beyond college.”  Makes you ask yourself the question: if you could roll back time, what would you have wanted to learn or know before getting started? 

Untether Your Emotions

This is a fascinating article by Mark Manson.  The Disease of More.

He raises the following questions/thoughts/perspectives:

Why pursue “the next level” - is there even a next level to get to? Do we really need to hire a coach to help us see our blind spots?

The Disease of More, coined by Pat Riley, basically says that champions are dethroned not by other teams but by internal forces.  More money, commercials, accolades, endorsements, etc. changes the psychological composition of a team and what was once a perfect chemistry of bodies and minds becomes toxic with players feeling entitled to more, ultimately leading to failure.  

Prior to the 80’s, Psychologists studied (almost exclusively) not Positivity, but rather what fucked people up, what the cause was of mental illness and emotional breakdown and then they went on to explain how to develop coping mechanisms.  
Eventually a study was conducted measuring people’s happiness on a 1-10 scale (this was recorded by 000’s of people across every sort of day-to-day activity, with their ranking supplemented by details about what was happening in their life at that time to justify the ranking).  Net-net of the study - everyone was a 7 with predicable up/down swings depending on circumstances, but everything averaged out to a 7.  Basically, people are just Fine. And that it’s our brain that tricks us into believing that “fine" is not satisfactory and that if only we had just a little more, we would be an 8 or 9 or 10.  Need a new job, a new car, a new house, a new diet, a new lover, a beach vacation, a pina colada, another…. etc.

As such, Manson concludes we need to be motivated by something greater than ourselves. Sure, we could (and often do) spend time analyzing our desires and values and end up with impressive sounding lists of arbitrary personal improvement goals. Yet over time these seem to lose their meaning. And just because we can pursue this self improvement, it doesn’t mean we should.  

He argues that improvement as a pursuit is not the problem, it’s the WHY that’s motivating the improvement effort. Compulsive self analysis for the sake of improvement could be construed as narcissistic which will probably lead to further disappointment.  

His caution: careful of adopting new dreams and goals that could harm the success of happiness you’ve already built for yourself today.  

His final point: life is not a mountain to scale. 

This last point really struck me because life has always felt a lot like that - at least metaphorically speaking.  So if it’s not a mountain to scale or a river to float or a game to play, then what is it?  

Asked another way, what do we strive for in life?  If there is no mountain to climb, then what do we do, what do we want?  And I mean beyond what feels like basic wants of shelter, food, security, health, friendship, to leave a legacy (be remembered), etc.

Personally speaking, I believe at this point in my life I am seeking a degree of enlightenment, whatever that means.  It's a hippy-trippy concept thus subject to personal interpretation.  I speculate that enlightenment is a physical, mental and emotional mind state that enables people to be fully present, self expressed, and clear minded.  I imagine this almost like an invisible cloak providing a warm calm and soulful ease that feels inside-out bulletproof.  

My quest for enlightenment is not to say that I am living a life on anxiety’s edge. I own responsibility for all the decisions I’ve made up until today.  I can also attest to the fear and worry and shortcomings I have felt over the last 47 years - which are not likely to disappear as this is part of being human.  But no, I’m not living with perpetual anxiety, but I am cognizant of and often distracted by the challenges presented in life.  Financial hardship, professional struggle, relationship breakdown, health issues, disaster, etc.  Relatively speaking I have suffered little in these areas, but our own dragons are imagined by us and they’re ours to slay.  More importantly, when these challenges present themselves, they can trigger emotional responses that hijack your logical thinking or mute your instincts. Staying true to your ‘gut’ or your heart starts to feel near impossible. This is why I pursue things like meditation, yoga, writing, self reflection, stillness, open spaces, etc.  They give me the profound impression that I am getting closer to that mind state.  The irony is that there really is nowhere to get to - there is only now.  You and only you are the one putting on your final act. You’re in your outfit, the mic is on, lights shining, scene is set, time for action….

Because its the actions you take, untethered from your emotions, that will dictate how you experience your here and now. 

5,4,3,2,1... Write

5,4,3,2,1… write. Just go. Put your fingers on the keyboard and tap tap tap… do not hesitate, do not create excuses, do not avoid by way of another trip to the refrigerator, just sit your bum in the chair and release what’s on the mind, from the brain to the fingers to the laptop to the screen. Don’t let the excuses of writers block stifle self-expression. Hang on, what's writers block?  Am I afflicted? 

Truth is I do love to write, but I think I’m afraid… of becoming attached.  Of creating self-prescribed pressure fueled by an expectation, that writing is the endgame.  That being a content creator is the bridge to some promise land. I loathe the idea that by publicly putting out a few “pieces” I now NEED to continue some form, any form, of prose, indefinitely.  I also find it degrading that Soul Degree (this recently launched men’s adventure retreat) will only ever be as good as the social proof demonstrated through a blogging prowess or frequency. Does it really need to be a quid pro quo? 

But for real, I will write – as a promise to myself - at a frequency that feels good. And I will attempt to share my thoughts to you, as a means of triggering a conversation. But I don’t profess to be the answer-man. Nor do I relate to my writings as higher education or a new found philosophy.  I’m just a normal guy with a desire to help. I'm also human, plagued by forgetting to let the things that bring me joy bubble up to the priority surface.

Credits:  Yes, the countdown from 5 to 1 is a meta-cognition trick taught to me by my awesome wife Mel Robbins.  She's got a fascinating bag of tricks designed to get you off your ass.

Cheers,

Chris

Jumping Beans

Your FEELINGS are THE SIGN you’ve been looking for. 

This quote took me off guard today. It is subject to very broad interpretation making the enormity of it almost scary.  But more alarming were my feelings - which at the time were of worry and concern for my son Oakley.  

He is 11. Charming, intelligent, thoughtful and emotionally strong. And at the same time, he’s battling a couple of real learning disabilities including dysgraphia, dyslexia, and ADD. This struggle reared itself around 3rd and 4th grade and we were fortunate to quickly find him a school that caters exclusively to this learning style. He is in his 2nd year, has a handful of good pals, enjoys the teachers, and all-in-all is happy.  But recently, due to some struggles in math, he ran full tilt into a wall of self-doubt. He woke up one day having convinced himself that he’s not “smart” like his peers. He went so far as to internalize it as reason to give up. “Why bother studying, it’s not worth it…” Of course my own fear of the situation went to thinking that this isolated incident could seep into and erode his overall self-confidence.  Incredible how adept our minds are at creating horrible outcomes.  

The “solver” in me just wanted to have it all figured out – where did his learning disability come from, how do I roll with it, how much compassion and how much grit do I bring to it, etc.  And how do I embrace the crisis homework moments – and chalk them up as my means to understanding the inner workings of a youngster who is often paralyzed by it all. 

The “believer” in me said, “Oh, it’ll all be fine, it’s just a life phase, and everything will turn out…” Not that I’m ignoring the severity, but rather trying not to fret, not letting my mind fall into a negative spiral.  I am fortunate that Oakley is so verbally capable of communicating what’s going on for him and for that I’m at a slight advantage. 

The “meditator” in me feels, well… writing about it all.  Ironically – here I am having reached my mid-years, easing into my own phase of chasing down enlightenment and working tirelessly on finding my own unmapped level of calm.  I guess you could say I’ve reached a different mellow. But how is this possible as I look at my son who has the evolving disposition of a Mexican jumping bean and can’t sit still – I thought we shared the same gene pool?   

Guess there’s no time better than the present than to teach your child how to meditate. 

Cheers, Chris

It Takes a Lifetime...

“It takes six million grains of pollen to seed one peony, and salmon need a lifetime of swimming to find their way home, so we mustn’t be alarmed or discouraged when it takes us years to find love or years to understand our calling in life.”

I’m 46 years old. This means I’ve had ~25 years to be a working professional. During this time, I have worked in a variety of sales and marketing roles for 8 different corporations – private, public, domestic, international. I’ve also started 8 different companies some successful, but most failures. My industry experience has also run the gamut from commodity trading, hospitality, consulting, software, ebusiness, retail, wholesale, media/entertainment, digital publishing and mobile apps.

My dad held one sales job out of college before quickly going into the Advertising business. He spent the next 35 years of his career going from junior grunt to the Chief Executive Officer running the 9th largest agency in the world. 

Suffice to say, my only frame of reference for success (for a very long time) was my dad. By all apparent professional standards, he killed it. On top of this, he was a cool dude, so I set out to be like him – or at the very least build a financial legacy like the one he left behind. This is how I thought success should look.

Looking back on it, I realize my career path was a minefield for disappointment and was subsequently fraught with fear and anxiety. How could it not, I was naively pursuing his measure of success. He didn’t stoke this fire. I did. It’s no wonder I hopped from job to job, convincing myself the next offer would hold more promise, offer more upside, and secure more credibility. And then I got my MBA - because surely that would be the ticket. And from there, what else…. start not one but six different companies. 

Over these years, I earned plenty of money, but I had not achieved success and I was the farthest thing from happy or satisfied. By the ripe old age of 43, I had achieved only two things comparable to my dad: a propensity to consume voluminous amounts of booze and an undeniable mid-life crisis. 

The pendulum has swung immeasurably since then and I am in a far better mind-space, but that’s not the point of this story. The relevance is about our own respective ‘journey’ and where we sit on the continuum.

It seems our tendency is to shape and steer our lives – to cause, even force, a desired outcome. Ironically, this often leads to frustration and disappointment. Truth is, we are no different than the peony or the salmon. The only distinction is our waning perspective on how life is designed to unfold, our awareness of personal thought patterns, and our gratitude for the power of experiential learning.   

Cheers, Chris

Time to Blossom

“The flower doesn’t dream of the bee. It blossoms and the bee comes.” 

So is the summary of this quote, stop thinking and start doing? But what about the Law of Attraction – doesn’t this concept endorse the idea of ‘dreaming?’

Fact is, the Law of Attraction, like many o' concept, isn’t a foolproof phenomenon.  But what's the downside of visualizing a future we desire. It’s certainly more entertaining than anticipating doom and gloom or looking through a half empty glass. 

Perhaps this metaphor is simply speaking to the power of just being you? Blossoming in your own skin. Being present to the acute moments of your life and how its unfolding. Without a doubt we’re all on a continuum, all at various stages in our thinking and growth, all holding aspirations and realizations that evoke different shades of emotion. 

Sometimes I do wonder for myself - where will things open up (more so than they have already). Better yet, if I could cause the opening, where would I want to push the envelope? In the case of Soul Degree (this recently launched personal development program), I truly believe that if we build it, they will come. Yet there is still fear and some hesitation. Perhaps because I feel there is still work to be done in my own shed before inviting others into it. Ironically, that’s what it’s all about.  

Time to unleash these fears, push aside the hesitation, turn on the creativity and put myself out there. Fear-less. Venture-more. 

I guess for me this blossoming means that Soul Degree will come alive (and will make a profound impact), that I will embrace becoming a yoga teacher, I will hone my own art of being a dad, I will up my pursuit of increasing heart rates while practicing meditation daily, I will be writing more freely (for me), eating better, drinking less, chasing more pow-pow, lowering my handicap(s), consuming more books, being a community player and strengthening friendships near and far.  

Cheers, Chris

To Be Present or Aware?

I’m sitting here on my couch. It’s 6:15 am on a weekend morning.  The place is dead quiet, the whole house still asleep.  Steam plumes out of my cup of tea, which leans awkwardly on a not-so-flush log that serves as a side table. The crickets make music outside while the sun rises up beyond the tree line making sky purples turn pink.  I feel acute pain in my right foot and a dull ache in my right hip. These are shitty reminders that my Ironman-training body is not Ironman-ready.  All of this interlaced with long deep breaths. 

The colorful collage of family photo’s hanging on the refrigerator catches my eye.  I suddenly feel gratitude - for what I’ve got, what I have experienced.  Oakley’s backpack, books and shoes dot the floor, a sprawl that surprisingly triggers a sense of joy (of having a son) rather than disgust (at the mess).  

Okay, so I was aware.  Or was I present. Is there a distinction to be made?  Does one look inward while another outward?

My assessment of what happened?  The hands on the clock moved, but time stood still.  As if my mind had the power of slowing down time, harnessing tranquility, and creating a deeper, more profound stillness.  

Time to try that again.    

Cheers, Chris

Kids: A Measure Of Time

Often my kids appear in front of me, not as little human beings, but rather as a three-pack of fluorescent blinking glow sticks that light up the passage of time. 

Notable childhood “moments” almost invariably include your child’s first step, their first tooth, or when they move out of their crib and into a real bed.  Then there is the experience of learning balance while first riding a bike.  And of course birthday celebrations, no matter how many candles are burning.   

For whatever reason, the sensation of a time warp doesn’t always rear its ugly head when you’re the one in front of the cake.   Sure there is lead up and fanfare and parties even gifts – all of which are predictable in that we anticipate that celebratory day.  And yes, with birthdays comes the reminder of age - our standard measuring stick for time.

But for me, none of these life moments are as jaw-dropping, even heart wrenching, as the first day of school. I’m always taken by that shiny lunch box or stylish pair of new ‘kicks coupled with a big smile for that front porch picture.

It is this wrinkle in time that reminds me how fast it’s all rolling.  Maybe for me the beginning of school hangs on the innocence of a yellow school bus. I'm enamored by the hand-operated double doors, the chitter-chatter of little people, and the over/under of whether they will take the time to wave goodbye.  Regardless of whether my own kiddo’s are on-boarding or I’m sitting behind a random bus, it moves me.

Suddenly, with the click of just 17 front porch, first-day pictures, the innocuous visual of a school bus and its naïve cargo goes poof and I am left standing there speechless, camera in hand, wishing a bus were on it’s way while thinking holy shit, how did 17 years just go by…. “Hey Dad, I’m late for school, where can I find the car keys…” 

Cheers, Chris

Put Your Weapons Down

I’m not talking about your 12 gauge shotgun, AK47, or 9MM. I’m talking about your phone. It is reported that the number of active cell phones will reach 7.3 billion by 2014, all of which are being carried unconcealed, in the palm of our hands.  We need not look any further than the bent necks and tapping fingers of our youth to realize these devices may be the deadliest weapons of our time.

No they are not drawing blood or killing anyone. And many would argue there is technological brilliance behind this invention. Hell, they are keeping us “connected.” But they are also highly effective at destroying our ability to be present. 

The incoming call, email, text, alert, notification, reminder, etc. has the power to go off like handheld grenade – blowing up your train of thought, your concentration, your listening, your awareness, or simply your precious time.   

I’m guilty of playing roulette with the phone. It warps my thinking and often my daily schedule, especially when kids and spouses and workmates are scattered about the country and relying on my availability. 

But I’m also launching a silent advocacy group – encouraging us humans to Put Your Weapon Down.  If for no other reason than to re-capture the present moment.  

Cheers, Chris

The Pose is Meaningless without the breath

Meaning for me that everything from the grandiose dreams we pursue to the simple acts we take are only as relevant as the life we breathe into them.  The breath, particularly when woven into meditation, can have a powerful grounding effect, calming the thoughts, relaxing the body, opening doors into the unknown, and giving us the courage to walk through those thresholds.  Ironically the pursuit of deep breathing is not necessarily encouraged as a way to find meaning, but to experience stillness and peace. 

Often while trying to breathe my way through meditation, I get caught up at the doorway, unable to pass through because of the thoughts or memories or laundry list of to-do’s that jam me up. Supposedly the trick is to simply observe those thoughts – be present to their existence like I’m tying to do with all the shit on my desk and the fact that I just realized I have an 8 am breakfast meeting that I had forgotten about. 

Truth is I believe I might have slipped into a much deeper state of depression had I not quit drinking and aggressively taken up meditation, yoga and focusing on my family first (not work). 

Does this mean I should be grateful for the life-altering experiences that led me to the bottle?  It’s not really the external that causes us to take certain actions right? Ultimately we are the ones pulling the levers whether it's based on feeling or intuition or spontaneity. 

We are 100% responsible for our own actions – each and every one – to own that is frightening, especially if you want to dwell on yesterday. What’s far more empowering is acknowledging our strength as relates to decisions we will make today or tomorrow. This way we can own our actions, the comments we make, the love we deliver.  By being present going in, we can not only experience our choices in a new light, but we can own and accept them after they are all said and done. 

To accomplish this, being present is essential. And access to this time called now starts with a deep breath.   

Cheers, Chris

My Peyote Trip...

Flying down the tracks, Boston to NYC - heading to high school reunion. Came across some notes from Carlos Casteneda’s Journey to Xtlan.  These were my take aways, grasped concepts, captured thoughts (Summarized for the benefit of me and my mom.  Both of us read this book after the passing of my father who held it (and it's messages) up as a game-changer for him and his life):

 

1.     Lose your personal history – shed it from your being. What are the risks or challenges of trying to do this in an everyday world? Is the dialogue shift from “I have been…”  to now “I am…” or from “what I have done…” to “I am NY, London, Vermont, owner, starter/builder, father, teacher, ….

2.    Look for the signs.  What are they for you?  For me I see Frank’s death, now Greg’s, my daughters' mindset, Kendall's music, Oakley's speaking, Launch Money, Yoga, Boyd, Nick, Soul Degree, my wife, Darrin, Mandy, and so many more.

3.     Remodel your behavior to learn. Open up time to do what is meaningful, to read, write, be contemplative while being more efficient in utilizing hours in the day.     

4.    Don’t take yourself so seriously.  Relax, release, put ease into the struggle.  Self-importance does not add value or advantage.  Besides, you can’t appreciate the world around you if you’re focused on yourself. 

5.    Death is an advisor. Through the words of a memorial, through learning about legacy or the soul of a man, through sadness, grieving, tears?  Through forcing stark reflection on the fragility of life? 

6.    Go all the way (on something). Without any doubts, just experience what it means to fully trusting.  Accept that going all the way is worth the pursuit, that it won’t disappoint, that the ups/downs will be miracles at the least, and life altering at best. 

7.     Assume responsibility for being in this world.  Accept what has been so, but don’t dwell, rather live into what can be. 

8.    Accept that we don’t know what our best is yet.  And might never know it.  For this reason, don’t fear failure, there’s no such thing.

9.    We think we do (but we don’t) have plenty of time. The concept of time and clocks are a truth I wish was never created.

10. Don’t just agree.  Create your own personal revolution and take relevant actions. 

11.  Act as though this were your last Act. 

12. Make yourself accessible to power.  The forces that guide us, bring us together, to this situation, now in front of us.

Cheers, Chris