Ask the Forbidden Questions…It’s Ok!

This post was inspired by several recent conversations I have had with various friends (those folks reading this will no doubt remember them). I will leave the edge in this post because it appears that life is pushing this one forward into the world…yes, serendipity feels to be at play here. So with that being said, I hope you keep an open mind if you feel that I am stepping on your toes….this post is a wake up call to anyone who is living their life through a fear based ideology. It is time to examine your fear and start to live your life through love instead….truth, love, and…God cannot be found through fear. Because…well…that is not how it works. These things can only be found by profoundly knowing what is in one’s own heart…not through what you are told to say, do, believe. (I should end the post here, but I am going to unpack it anyway LOL!)

So what forbidden questions am I referring to? Hmmmm…let’s see:

Why am I really here? What really is my purpose? Is my purpose what my heart tells me or what my faith (or family, friends, society) tells me it should be?…..Does God exist? Why am I going or not going to church? Is dogma the way or is it simply getting in the way? Does it matter if the good book is historically accurate? What if the good book is only stories?

Why are these the forbidden questions? Because when you ask them you no longer are conforming to all the beliefs you have been told to believe. You become rogue. You become independent. You become a person who has taken a step towards authenticity. You have begun the hero’s journey.

I believe everyone needs to take this journey. The hero’s journey is the ultimate journey in faith.

It is ok to question all of the stuff you believe. I have found the hardest beliefs to questions are the ones that were force fed to you by your family, community, religion.

I am not saying don’t go to church or don’t believe in your version of God. What I am putting forth is this: You should know why you personally do these things…Why they are true for you. If you do not have pure and personal answer to this…If you do these things to get into heaven or to avoid a hell…If you do these things because your were told to do them….then I may ask you how does your personal fear based prison feel? It is time to pardon yourself and break free.

Obedience is not the pathway to God, enlightenment, or love. The pathway is through your heart…through your unique calling.

Ask the forbidden questions. Find the truth in your heart. Drop the shackles of fear and live in love. Live boldly having faith in the voice inside. Exemplify that wonderful calling in your heart.

Let me reassert: It is impossible to find love through fear. Love is only found through profound acceptance of the self, other person, or of the circumstance.

The divine is a personal experience. It happens to all of us in our own unique way. What works for some does not work for others. We are all different and we are spoken to in our own way. Learn to listen to that voice in your heart. That is the path home.

Mindlessly doing the ritual of dogma does not work if you do not know in your heart why you are there. I know people who faithfully go to church every Sunday out of fear on condemnation. How sad….

Yet I also know others who go to church because it is pure inspiration for them. Their heart sings there….that is what it is meant to be!!!

The path of the authentic life is not one of conformity. This path, the hero’s journey, is made by developing an unbreakable relationship with the divine unmanifested in one’s heart. To listen and be courageous enough to follow your own bliss. It is the hero’s job to stand strong in their convictions and bring forth into this world what their heart needs to create. The hero does not worry about judgement or condemnation. We are deaf to the calls of fear and anger. We have laser focus on what matters most: Love, Learning, Creation. We march on not worried who follows while blissfully singing our own tune.

Have fun this Sunday doing what the hero does in every moment…every second of the day: Know and live your truth.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Shane Rounce via Unsplash

1 Thing Worth Owning…and Nothing Else

My wife and I are looking at houses with the hopes of moving. As such, we have been decluttering our house and organizing all of our stuff. Holy cow what a process.

As I go through all of our things, each thing calls my name wanting my attention. Some things remind me that I have unfinished business with them (a project not completed or a book not read). Others are just hanging out hoping that someday they will be used…I mean, that is why we are saving it, right? Maybe someday…..someday…a future day that does not exist but bares weight on my mind.

It is a process for sure, getting rid of all of this unneeded stuff. This stuff that is getting tossed, sold, or donated is quickly forgotten once it is out of my sight. Which really shows how important said item really was.

Out of this process I have experienced much mental freedom. Strange isn’t it? I get rid of physical stuff and the more peace of mind I have….I would like to get rid of it all. I chuckle as I write this because it is true: I don’t want stuff. I know I (we) need some stuff to operate as a family but there is not reason to hang on to excess…for a future hypothetical someday.

There is, however, one thing I want to own. There is one thing I choose to own that is far more important to me than any of my personal items and that is relationships.

My relationships are the most important thing in my life. In fact, that is the only measuring stick I want to judged by. How strong are my bonds with others? When they think of me what are the thoughts they have? Have we developed a relationship that has left us both better than before we met? These are the questions that I would rather have taking up that mental real estate than say the nagging someday physical item.

Often times we place importance on the material items over our relationships. These material items (smart phones, tablets, cars, books, insert any item) pull us away from those people that matter most. Owning the items really isn’t the issue but it is our compulsive behavior around those items that causes problems.

So in my minds eye we should own our relationships. Tend to them, as they are the most important centerpieces of our life. When we are spending time with others we should strive to be fully engaged. Work not to be possessed by our phones, mindless games, distant thoughts, or dare I say it…social media sites.  Let’s be present, be aware, and be alive. There is nothing greater than having real time dialogue with a friend, family member, or for those daring… a stranger.  Let us be here and now with our relationships.

When relationships become strained or disagreements happen, this is the best time to fully own them. Own the responsibility to make amends, to seek clarification, to bring the relationship back to, at minimum, neutral ground. We might feel right in an argument but that does not mean that we can’t own the result. Feeling right is not justification for allowing a person/relationship to suffer.

“You can always be right, or you can get along—choose one.” —Joshua Fields Millburn

Naturally, we can only go so far here yet the goal is to know that we have tended to the relationship as best we could regardless of who is right or wrong. It is ok to disagree (even healthy) but, to me, it is not ok to allow a disagreement to get in the way of what matters most…a healthy relationship.

In practice, deeper meaning with others will emerge. It has been my experience that lasting contentment is found through my relationships but not through all of my material items. Tending to my relationships has helped me transform and grow as an individual. My physical stuff usually serves as a distraction and a source of mental friction.

“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
―C.G. Jung

As always I have lots of work to do but that is why I am here: to grow, to create, and to polish out all of the blemishes.

Toss the physical and mental garbage…you don’t need it. It will feel great once it is gone.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Scott Webb via Unsplash

The Wandering Mind

I have a problem. Perhaps we all have this problem…I don’t know, just guessing on that. I think too much. HA!-you say. How is that a problem? Let me tell you a story. This story happens all the time, wherever I am, doing whatever I do.

Yesterday I was at dinner with my family. My daughter was trying to tell me something…I don’t remember what it was because I wasn’t really paying attention. I responded with words like “oh, really” and “ok”. My dead end responses were to get her back to eating and to get me back to my incessant thinking. You see…I was off in my mind trying to solve all of the problems of my life. Problems, mind you, that did not need thought at all in that moment. Here is the map of what my mind thought about:

…I hope the viewing of my house is going well…

…Oh, don’t forget to finish the laundry when I get home…

…will the viewers care if there is unfolded laundry near the dryer?…

…hmmm, will the Red Sox finally start winning…

…when can I get out and hit some golf balls…

…Crap! Don’t forget to email that manager when I get back to work on Monday…

This is only a sampling of what my mind thought about. As you can see none of it was really solving anything. Also, none of it needed to be thought about during a nice night out with the family!

Perhaps you know what this is like. Perhaps you do this as well. Perhaps instead of thinking too much you scroll through your preferred social media app on your phone.

Past and future thinking is one of my worst habits. It is one of the reasons why I deal with anxiety on a regular basis. Too much of this line of thought draws me out of the present moment and puts my mind in a worry or depressed state.  I have brought this up in other posts and now I have a new scientific study that would support this.

This study was done by psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University.  In this study they used an iPhone Web app to gather 250,000 data points on subjects feelings, actions, and thoughts throughout their day.  The end of the study revealed that people spend about 47 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are presently doing and this is what makes them unhappy.

“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.  Mind wandering appears ubiquitous across all activities.  This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present. Mind wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness.  In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.  Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and to be here now.  These traditions suggest that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” –Killingsworth/Gilbert

Stopping the incessant thinking takes practice. There are a few things I practice that have provided temporary relief. Unfortunately, there is not a permanent solution to this issue. One must practice on a regular basis to see results. Here are my top three:

1. Sit still for at least a half hour every night. This allows the mind to unwind. Sitting still does not mean tuning into TV, internet, or phone. It means not doing anything for a half hour.

2. Meditate. Yep, I do this. Not as much as I like but it provides relief. The goal in meditation is not to stop thoughts but to let them pass. Letting them pass can be hard because I am used to attaching to them…and thinking them out. Just let them go like clouds passing in the sky.

3. Pause and use all of my senses. This one can be tricky since I have to remember to do it. Yet, when I do remember, I pause what I am doing and engage my senses. What am I seeing, smelling, hearing, touching? The amazing thing about noting your senses is it draws you immediately to the present moment.

I may not be perfect keeping my mind in the present moment…but I am getting better. And that alone makes it worth the effort.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Dorota Dylka via Unsplash

Break the Mold: Inspire Your Child’s Authentic Self to Emerge

I have an internal battle going on. I really want my children to be a better version of me. Who has thought that? Seems pretty harmless….because…well the word better is in it. But there is a huge problem with that statement. The problem is the word me. My children will never be me. They are growing up in a different era, with different technologies, parents, friends, and environment.

Yet, even though I see this, I fight with it as I want to ensure (or control) their development. I want them to be certain ways and not other ways.

When I began my training with the Fitzgerald Institute I was really blown away by something Jeanine Fitzgerald said. At the time it seemed like a beautiful harmless epiphany. Little did I know it would be a constant struggle for me because I have to remind myself every day of this. I am paraphrasing here based on what I heard:

“When your children are born they are complete strangers to you. You have no idea who they are or who they will become. Parenting is a discover process. You don’t know them and they do not know you. Your job as a parent is to help them become more of who they already are (not your predefined ideas).”

Draw out and help cultivate the person they already are….not a better version of me…not the person who I want them to become….the best version of themselves.….

Easy concept, right? HA!

What a struggle this is! I never thought about it in that way until Jeanine spoke those inspiring words. Immediately I bought in and was excited to cultivate them and bring forth more of who they are inside….not the 2036 PGA Tour Champion I was secretly hoping for (yes humor).

So there are two battles going on here. The first battle comes down to allowing them be who they are while also holding the responsibility for how they are interacting with the world! When I am responsible for something I want and try to be in FULL CONTROL. The second battle I face is not forcing my dreams upon them.

Although it is a struggle for me on the home front it is working like magic at my job. You see I have no responsibility in raising anyone at work. So, with that thought, yes, I can inspire people to be a better version of themselves. As a trainer my true responsibility stops at teaching them skills or knowledge. I have no say with what happens with their career afterwards as they are responsible for doing the best that they can (however, I do care that they are successful but it is not in my span of control). With kids…I am responsible.

My battle continues but I am getting better at this everyday. My kids are guided now more than ever. I am not pressing them into a defined mold to make them the shape I want them to be, as that will create resentment and friction. Treating them like Play Dough; pressing them through the Fun Factory will erode trust and push them away…but still internally I have the voices:

My ego says: NOOO! JUST DO IT MY WAY…YOU HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS!

My heart says: Show by example and allow them to develop in their own way. The way that they need to be…the way that works best for who they are.

The following analogy has helped me immensely keep things in perspective.

Our job as a parent is to plant the seed in the soil and tend to it. THAT IS IT. We plant the seed and make sure the soil is right, the environment is right (get enough water, nourishment, little trimming, light exposure, temperature etc.). Tending, tending, tending, always tending to the environment until it is they self sufficient.

However, we do not tell the seed how to do its magic. The seed knows when to pop. The seed knows how to grow. The seed knows what it is and how it will grow. Given the correct environment the magic of life emerges. Just continually tend to the environment and influence rather than force.

See the difference? Our job is only to create the optimal conditions for the child to grow and learn. When the right conditions are met a child will automatically flourish just like the plant.

I am learning not to worry. I am learning not try to control life. What I have noticed when my child’s optimal conditions are met they are magnetized to me, I have greater influence, and they naturally pick up on our family values.

Create the right environment and let life take care of life. Cherish this stranger you are getting to know. They have a magic all their own and that will be more beautiful than any predefined mold we can press them in.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Ravi Roshan via Unsplash

Shame is not the game (for adults and kids)

This morning I was writing a post about the pitfalls of shaming others (kids) and shaming oneself. The post was long, scattered, and full of too much life! So, I walked away searching for the concise thoughts or pithy words to use. Hoping it would magically hit me….but it didn’t.

The gist of it was how damaging shaming is to our relationships…which it is. When we shame our kids we break their hearts and damage their trust with us. Over time, if this continued, our kids will drift away and avert their life away. Trust will be minimal while their ears will be deaf to our trying to control them…or connect with them…or be with them. That is how misguided shame is. Shame is a reflection of the damaged self...not the other person.

On the flip side, just as bad, we can shame ourselves. This shame is nastier than shaming another. This type of shame and guilt will drive you into despair much like a prison cell of your own making. Welcome…depression.

I have known plenty of both kinds of shaming. Towards me, towards others. Internally and externally…giving and taking.

Well, so much for that lovely post. Perhaps it will come to life another day. There is lots to be said about that topic.

But wait….the epiphany did happen just in a different pattern. Soon after I gave up writing for the morning I was in the midst of it: Shame!!! Life is a cruel master that way. Or, life picks the most opportune times to show a lesson.

I will not go into specifics but I was not a happy dude! Yet it brought clarity to the likes of which I have never thought of before.

The epiphany is this: Shaming a behavior is one thing…sure the child (person, self) will carry some guilt and avoid you the next time it happens but shaming a person’s emotions is the greatest sin.

I say this because a person can learn how to think. They can learn how to act. They can learn good and bad behaviors….but they cannot control how they feel. They can control only how they respond to their emotions.

That is the lynchpin. Emotions happen all on their own! No one controls this. Sure one can pent it up or hide it but emotions have their own master and it is not the thinking mind!

Shaming someone for feeling something is incredibly damaging. It is the deepest cut and the biggest breaker of trust.

Feelings are NOT GOOD, BAD, RIGHT, OR WRONG. They just are and we should not shame them. For the moment we do this no healing can begin. With children especially, let them feel without repercussions. Let them iron it out in a safe environment. With your family or friends…let them feel as they do without making them feel bad about something they have no control over. Let them be human.

Finally- yourself. Let the emotions happen. Sit with them. Allow them to get out. Then as they pass ACCEPT THEM. It is ok. They are ok. You are ok. Acceptance is the first step to love. Shaming isolates and breeds fear.

We all have work to do here.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Marco Albuquerque via Unsplash

Traditions: The Binding Stories of Our Life

“Whoa! Here we go!” My father yelled, as once again he had the first catch of the season. They were here. My father’s voice rang like a gong, carrying down stream to where I stood. His call signified to everyone that the long hard New England winter was officially over. Opening day fever intensified in my body and my heart sped up. I too wanted to catch some trout…maybe one more than my father or brother…or perhaps just the biggest one. No matter what happened, one thing was clear: The Arnold Family was once again ushering in Spring with their trout fishing skills on full display.


This coming Saturday marks opening day of trout fishing in Connecticut. Every year since I was about 7, my dad, brother and I wake up around 4:30 in the morning, grab our gear and head out to our top fishing hole. At 6 am we were allowed, by law, to cast our line into the water.

This day carries so much significance for me. First, it was the true mark that spring had sprung. Second, it provided wonder and mystery to me as I dreamed in the week leading up to it that I may pull out a lunker. Third, and most importantly, it provided time for my dad, brother, and I to bond.

Sadly, my Champion Dad passed in 2017. However, every April I still show up to the same hole to carry on the family tradition. Soon, my kids will be the age where it will be safe for them to go. The torch will be passed down.

Family traditions are the story of your life. They are the strings that knit your family together. They celebrate the differences and unite members together as a greater whole. Traditions are beautiful, fun, and give us something to look forward to. Your traditions define your family. They are the myths you leave behind when you are gone.

The following is a short list of benefits I have experienced through our family traditions. Hopefully, this list will inspire you (the reader) to pass down or start your own ritual/traditions for your family. 

Family connections get stronger.  Traditions provide an opportunity for families to spend dedicated time together.  Members of a family bond and have a sense that they are a part of something special.  This also ties in the fact that it can bring together multiple generations.  Moreover, it helps cull the narcissistic behaviors our culture is developing as we experience something greater than ourselves.

Provides teachable moments.  What a great way to reinforce your cultural heritage or pass down your life wisdom/experiences.  These moments teach values.  Values are instilled and reinforced through family dinners, bed time routines, morning routines, and weekly activities. 

Builds a family story and identity.  Rituals and traditions provide an explicit or implied story of the family.  Who are we? Where did we come from?  What do we care about?  How do we act?  Through these questions your family can develop a natural sense of purpose and belonging.

Lasting memories.  The things I remember most about my life all center around traditions.  It doesn’t matter if it was big, small, daily, or seasonal, all of my fondest memories have been through one tradition or another.


Traditions are a wonderful way to provide bonding, connectivity, and organization to this crazy world. What traditions are you passing down or creating for your family?

Now, of course there are traditions that I would love to pass on to my kids but I realize that they may not take hold.  So far I have found that if I battle with them on doing something the tradition will eventually be doomed.  So it is ok to examine or modify your traditions.  It is far better to put your energy towards building new traditions than it is to force an older tradition onto your kids.

To make a new or modified tradition stick keep two things in mind. First, be clear on WHY you are doing it. Understand the purpose behind the action. Second, make it personal for all involved. Traditions are special and should feel special for everyone. When you have the why down and make it personal, traditions build a natural momentum all their own. Have fun with it!

Remember: Traditions bring your family together and help you reconnect. They provide a sense that there is something greater than the individual. Love elevates and bonds through traditions.

Be well….also wish me a spot of luck this weekend as I want to haul in a Lunker.

-MJ

Photo by Jed Owen via Unsplash

Unplug: Be Your Own Compass

I have too much of everything. TOO MUCH…EVERYTHING!

I have too much to do, too much to remember, too much to worry about, too many responsibilities….need I go on? Yes, one more: too much external stimulus.

My life feels like Time Square in NY….Traffic racing around, noise so loud I can’t hear myself think, and advertisements galore begging to pull my attention….just a paralyzing stream of garbage keeping me from what matters most.

Here is a little fact:

The average American view anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements in one day! This number has dramatically increased since the advent of the smart phone.

Everywhere you look someone is trying to sell you something or make you feel something to consume more.

All of these messages stack up and wreck havoc on your brain. Don’t believe me? Here is another little stat for you:

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.

When I went through my depression that number was 1 in 8 (year 2000) in their lifetime. What a terrible trend and I attribute it to the constant stream of crap that we are exposed to….telling us who to be, what to buy, how to feel. Screw that.

I believe humans were just not meant to consume so much stimulus and expect to function normally. Our brains can only think and process things at a particular rate so it make sense that most of use are beginning to experience serious mental fatigue and illness.

Yesterday, I was burning out…every time I tried to start something I was interrupted and felt a wave of anxiety because my to do list was too long. The heavy mental weight was crippling. So I stopped and wrote out my Why (Bliss/inner urge) in life. In front of me now is the scrap of paper that I used and it reads:

“I have a job to do here and it is bigger than (but infiltrates) what I get paid for doing. This job is should be at the core of every moment, every action I take up. Who can I help today become a better version of themselves? Who can I help move closer to love (infinite source of all things)? Cultivate the environments! Cultivate relationships!”

This is just a draft but it provides me direction. I read it and it suffices. It is hard to ascribe words to this feeling. However, when we have direction and know what our goal is we can stay on point and can tune out the noise.

How many know WHY they are here? There is an answer to this question! And we can discover it within (it cannot be given to you by another). When we follow this bliss it is much easier to shrug off and turn down the noise of the world. The journey does not get easier but there is peace. Imagine peace of mind as you take on the day. Following your bliss also has a great side benefit: energy and passion.

Too many of us are lost in the Time Square of life…aimlessly wandering…hoping to make it through the day.

Go out and find your Why and build your life around it. When you tease this out over time you can take control of the wheel and pull yourself out of the traffic.

The only way I have found to truly do this is to unplug from the world. I go for a walk or get into nature. I need to remind myself constantly to listen to my heart and not what mother culture is pumping into me. My (Your) true voice is there waiting to be heard. This voice is unique to each of us. This authenticity is our reason to be here, our job. Turn off the noise and listen…

Our inner voice, our inner urge/bliss is waiting. As we learn to tune into that frequency…turn it up. The world needs more of our authenticity instead of another distracted drone.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Danial Barbarics via Unsplash