Rituals: An Invitation For Purpose and Connectivity

I leaned over and dumped the bucket of balls on the dew covered grass. The strong scent of the cut lawn wafted through my nostrils stirring feelings of summer. As I stretched out with my pitching wedge in hands I felt my father’s voice whisper:

“Don’t forget to put some weight on your heels”

I smile, as shivers run up my spine and down my arms. I have grown used to this sensation when graced by the other side. I whisper back loud enough for my ears to hear but not loud enough to disturb the other golfers:

“Thank you. Alright Jake, let’s see what we got today.”

I take a deep breath while noticing how wonderful the sun feels on my face. It’s time to get to work and dust off the winter rust on my golf game. I am grateful for this time with my father, this moment, and the life I have been given.


Some people find their higher power by going to church. Others find it through tilling their garden or through exercise. For me, I often connect with the divine through the drudgery of hitting golf balls or working a stream fishing. Yet, no matter what a person is doing to invoke this state of mind they all have one thing in common: they are plugged into something greater than themselves.

The intro to this post recently happened. I found myself on a driving range experiencing a deep connection with the universe and with my father (who passed in 2017).

This is what ritual does for the individual. Ritual provides a passage from one state of mind to another and back again. It can provide glimpses of complete wholeness, contentment, and purpose.

Rituals are a symbolic action where we connect with our psyche or soul. A good ritual has meaning. Rituals carry the ability to suspend the intellect while allowing us to commune with higher power.

The brief suspension of intellect is key for me because I am always thinking and figuring things out. If I don’t suspend my intellect and go with the flow, I will not find that deep connection. The intellect is like a person who asks why a joke is funny…as soon as you start to explain it the joke is ruined.

In a world dominated by the intellect with quick knowledge/facts at our finger tips, I see a culture starving for the divine mystery. This mystery is our gateway to purpose and meaning.

What rituals do you have in life?

What are the things that you do that provides this deep connection?

How can you incorporate meaningful rituals for your kids or your family?

How do you connect with the divine?

Be well….I am off to the driving range…..

-MJ

Photo by Christoph Keil via Unsplash

Resiliency : 3 steps to build it

Lately, life has been punching me in the ribs.  Everyday something else seems to be going wrong or happening to disrupt my plans.  My wife and I joke about how life is turning into just one damn thing after another.  But I smile and march forward anyway…to my contentment she is doing the same. 

We have developed a resiliency to the fluctuations of life.  We go forth, get hit, adjust, and move forward again (repeat, repeat, and repeat).  I am proud of this.  I love that we have developed this for our family.  However, it didn’t happen all by itself…we have been working at it for some time now. Yes, to make resiliency stick we have to work at it.

However, this was not always the case with me. I remember days where my mood reflected my present circumstance.  My attitude would shift with the wind on whether life seemed favorable or unfavorable.  Things would drag me down and I generally had a hard time recovering. I used to figuratively wander in my life this way…drifting through good days and bad while not being in control of any of it. But things have changed. Below I have outlined just a few key concepts that have helped me roll with the punches. These are things that are time tested and I use constantly.

Life isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows (yes, Troll reference).  Things are going to happen.  Over the last few weeks I have had several small inconveniences (car issues, work changes, plan changes, etc) and I have had a couple of big issues (health scares, kids sick, house on the market) as well.  Yet, today I woke up excited to get going with my life.  I am inspired and motivated to create the world I want to see out there.  I wish you the same vigor!

If you feel that you are in a wander phase right now, semi lost, don’t fret.  Below are three things I have put into play to take back control and build up my resiliency.  Having a strong resiliency is critical to weather the storms of life! Bonus thought: When you model these behaviors your kids will develop them as well.

1.  Don’t take life too personally. What??? If you think that sounds crazy then I may guess that this one will give you the most freedom. We all have our goals for the day but as soon as we step out that door we come in contact with other people (things) that have their own agendas. Long story short: We can only control ourselves and when we collide (interact) with others stuff happens. When we learn to go with the flow we give our life space to breathe and adjust.  Life is not out to get you.

2.  No longer worry about outcomes.  Another way to put this is to leave your expectations at the door. Expectations create anxiety and gears us to future thinking. Over investing in our expectations will lead us to habitual disappointment. Our job is to focus on doing the best that we can with what we have. The results will be as they may but at least we can be content and proud that we did all that we could. This like the one above provides peace of mind. We can control the effort but not the final score.

3. Take time to allow yourself to feel good about things. As humans we are geared to seek out the negative things so we can protect ourselves. It is really how we are wired. However, like all of our thoughts, negativity can become habitual and weigh us down. On the flip side of the coin, we can take a few minutes a day to feel good about things. It doesn’t even have to be a big thing either (ex. You just finished mowing the lawn…take a moment to relish in a job well done…feel it). By creating a habit of contented reflection, it enables our brain to seek out more of the good in things…momentum (neuroscience has my back on this).

To tie this one off I will say that I still need constant reminders to do these things. However, everyday I am getting better, stronger, and more resilient. It feels good to rebound and land on my feet.

Work to be adaptable, flexible, and RESILIENT! It is the best way to navigate the hectic life.

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Ryan Tang via Unsplash

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

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

Tricks to Becoming a Master Listener

“Are you even LISTENING TO ME??!!

Have you ever heard those words spoken to you? Chances are, if you are like me, you have probably heard them a lot. In my life, I generally hear this from my wife and truth be told, she has been well within her right to do so.

The fact of the matter is, I have always had difficulty listening to others. It is not that I am not paying attention but has more to do with the fact that I get so excited to share that I jump in or cut someone off before they are done speaking.

I work at becoming a better listener. I try to remember all the simpleton advice too like maintain eye contact the whole time or be patient and wait your turn. I have now come to realize that this advice is very shallow and generally meaningless if you lack interest with whom you are listening to. I now know this and am teasing it out in life:

The depth of our relationships reflect and are in direct proportion of how deeply we can listen to the other person. Deeper listening = deeper connection.

But about a month my listening ability changed forever. I was listening to an interview with Robert Greene (author The Laws of Human Nature) and he said something that struck me like a lightening bolt that I never thought of before. It was (paraphrasing here):

“Why is it that we are not a good listener? The root of it is that we are more interested in ourselves than we are of the other person. Some may deny, but the truth is we are more interested in our own thoughts, ideas and things that we are certain about, than about the other person, what they are saying, and what is going on inside of them.”

How true!!! He went on:

“That person we are talking to is more interesting than we think or imagine that they are. They are a book. Think of people in our life as characters in a movie. What motivates them? They are more interesting than we think! They have had traumas, family issues, successes…”

WOW! Sounds simple but it is so spot on and practical. The trick here that is transforming how I approach conversations now is this:

When conversing recognize that our initial assumptions about that person (or simplified story about them) is false or at best incomplete. Fight the urge to put forward your ideas. Instead be patient and ask yourself things like what are they feeling right now? Or, why do they think this? Be a seeker of their what and their why.

Practicing these little thoughts will automatically make you a better listener.

Strong connected relationships comes down to the quality of the listening and emotion not how much you have shared about your thoughts and ideas.

Quality of listening wins over quantity of exchanges.

As humans, we are a social animal and how well we can work and listen to others will determine how far you can go in life.

Big reminder to wrap this one up: At first glance we are not seeing the other person for who they are but are only seeing reflections of our own projections we have made about them. Don’t believe your stories about them. Fight the urge to interject and ask why. They will reveal their true self to you the more deeply you listen.

Be well

-MJ

.Photo by Kyle Smith via Unsplash

Champ Dads..The Marvel Way

While rummaging through my old book collection I came across one of my most cherished books from when I was a kid: How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way.

As soon as I saw it I was once again captivated by the possibilities contained within. Almost immediately I searched for the page in the picture above (please take a moment to read it). This section spoke to me back then and speaks to me know. It has to do with how to draw a typical hero and how to draw a villain.

When I was younger (and even now) everyone wanted to root for and cheer for their favorite hero! However, when it comes to drawing a hero..well if you have drawn one you have drawn them all. Yet, villains are a different story. Although we love to hate them that is where all of the creative fun can be found. This conveyed to me a very important lesson to be learned:

-It is our unique imperfections that provide ALL of our opportunity for growth in life-

Let me unpack this a little bit (or should I say draw a complete picture). If we didn’t have all of our shortcomings, flaws, and weaknesses then we would not have a mountain to climb. Having our struggles to overcome paves the way to growth and accomplishment. There is no happy ending if there isn’t something to overcome. Tragedy leads to victory. Just watch any of the latest Marvel movies that have come out.

So returning to the book, Stan Lee points out (my words not his): perfection is boring, formulated, and easy. Yet flawed characters…YIPPEE…time to have some fun. Now, I am strictly speaking about drawing characters here. Since heroes generally have to look the same, writers provide them a flaw when story telling so they are relatable and likable (Superman…kryptonite..DC I know..forgive me). Flaws give us something to root for in another and something to work on within ourselves. With this being said here is another habit I am personally working on:

-Learn to love and embrace your imperfections. They are what make you unique and wonderfully you. You can only change something that you have accepted. You will know when you have accepted it when there is no shame, guilt, or blame present-

To finish out this post I would like to use the Marvel theme, twist it a little, and apply it to Champion Dads:

Champion Dads are where all the fun is. We are not perfect. We come in all different sizes, shapes, colors, cultures, and backgrounds. We strive to be better everyday for our family, friends, and society. While we might not ever be perfect, we exercise giving grace within and with out. We do the best that we can with what we have got and when all else fails..be goofy. We recognize that victory is not the realization of a goal but rather found in how we cultivate and nourish the journey.

Be well

-MJ

Endless Distraction

I would like to share a story today about something that, my guess, has happened to many of us. I was putting a puzzle together with my daughter and felt the vibration of my phone go off in my pocket. Instinctively, I reached down to see who needed me in that moment, only to find out that my phone was not there. My phone was upstairs on my bureau where I left it. This is what some refer to as the twitch.

This moment upset me. It had happened before but I usually just shrugged it off. Not this time though…had I become so programmed that I am mindlessly feeling and reaching for things that are not there?!!

That day I tried to figure out just how programmed I had become…how deep are the roots of this mindless habit? The following were my painful observations of my behavior.

*When I retrieved my phone from my bureau I instantly checked it to see if I “missed” a text or a call. And every few minutes impulsively pressed the home button to light up the screen.

*While driving I felt the twitch again only to see my phone on my dashboard where I kept it.

*Standing in a long line at the store, I reached for the phone to pass the time.

*Three more times in the evening I felt the urge to check and use the phone to review emails, texts, and run various games.

Needless to say I was a bit disgusted by how strong the twitch’s calling was. I felt tremendous anxiety when I did not follow through on the urge.

I am now working to correct this terrible habit.

It has been almost a week since that fateful wake up call and I have had time to dig into how it has impaired my ability to be in the moment.

The twitch signifies a larger problem. It is not only about a phone but really the impulsive nature of needing to have constant input or distraction in one’s life. Look around and observe- chances are that you will see people walking with their head down lost in their glowing device. Or, perhaps they are in a line catching up on Facebook. Or, they are checking their phone quickly at a stop light. Or, worst yet, reading their phone while they are spending time with their kids.

The twitch, to me, is all the noise that sucks the magic out of the present moment. Why do we need to get lost in our device? Why do we need constant distraction?

I remember the days when I did not have a phone. In my down time (line at store, waiting room, sitting with nothing to do) I would think and allow my thoughts to sort themselves out. It was so beautiful to allow my brain a break where it could process out all that happened in the day. Anxiety was less. Happiness was more.

It is my guess that the rising levels of anxiety in adults and children are directly linked to constantly being distracted. The constant streaming of noise we are force feeding our brains is impairing its ability to decompress and recharge.

Maybe it’s time put the phone down for a while and take back control.

You’re not going to miss anything…In fact, you will be gaining….gaining back all the precious moments…the magical interaction real life has to offer…your kids laughter…a sunset…or just watching the day pass you by.

How awesome were the days where we had nothing to do but hang out and have a real conversation with…..hold on…just felt my phone….UGH!

Be well

-MJ

Photo by Jens Johnson via Unsplash

3 Habits to Help Disable Depression

In the year 2000 I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. To think about this 19 years later still provides chills down my spine…and not in a good way. You see, depression changes a person forever. Although, I don’t suffer on a daily basis I can always reach out and touch it. IT is there. Now, in many ways, it is like a caged tiger. I have learned skills and thought processes that have kept it in a safe place…But it is still there, pacing back and forth…Every once and awhile letting loose a guttural growl as to say “never forget”.

For me, I have never been successful at describing what depression is like to a person who has not gone through it. IT is hell. It is an emotional roller coaster of uncertainty (when I could feel emotion). Imagine a world without color, without vibrancy, while every little stress put you in a place of despondent despair. There is no exit sign or escape while the dread in your bones has one constant theme: It is over, it is over, it is over.

So that was what it was like for me. Yet, here I am! I came back and my aim every day is to live life on my terms and help others do the same.

This post is for Champion Dads who are currently in the despair. The following three things helped me immensely. They provided me a foothold to start to gain back a little normalcy and control in my daily life. Even current day, I use these three things to make sure I keep that cage strong. (Remember, these are things that worked for me. I am not a doctor or a psychiatrist and am not providing advice…I am just sharing ideas).

1. Practice thinking in the present moment. A common occurrence was my head was filled with future worries and past dwellings. My head would say things like:

Future- “I hope the rest of my life isn’t like this” or “How am I ever going to go on this way?”

Past- “I just want to go back to the way I was.”

Past and future thoughts have no place in reality. One is a reflection on what has long gone while the other is an illusionary projection. Neither are real. When I caught myself dwelling back or worrying forward, I would replace the thought with “Mike, your only job right now is to experience all the sensations of the current moment”. An example of this playing out is as follows:

Imagine tying your shoes and worrying about all the crap you have to do today. “Stop, right now just focus on how perfect I can tie the shoes. What do the laces feel like? Let’s focus on how tight I need to tie them. How do the shoes feel on my feet?”

By repeatedly reminding ourselves to return to the present moment we can ease the burden of overthinking.

2. Practice not judging everything you see. I owe my brother big for this line of thinking. It is hard but good. On one of the worst days of my depression we went for a walk and I tried to explain how disconnected I was. Here is a snippet of that conversation:

Me: “Look at all these pink flowers. Before I could feel how beautiful they were and I would know how beautiful they were. Now I see them but I feel no connection..it is like someone severed my cord to life.”

Brother: “Why does the flower need to be beautiful? Why can’t the flower just be the flower?

BOOM!!! Things are not the judgements we place upon them. Allow things to be as they are. Things are neither good, bad, right, or wrong. When we can be in the present moment without incessant judgement, things can be just as they are. We don’t need to waste thought/energy on placing them in our made up boxes of judgements. (Good practice with people too)

3. Be of service to others. On days where I could not effectively do #1 or #2, I would go out and help someone else. This way I could stop the narcissistic behavior of ME ME ME thoughts. When we focus on helping others we find ourselves naturally in a present moment state. Our focus shifts from ME to them. This step is magical to me and that is why I love my current career in adult learning.

So there they are…three ideas. I hope they help. They help me everyday.

Let’s take small steps and build habits to bring forth a better tomorrow.

-MJ

Photo by Melissa Mjoen via Unsplash