THE 2 REALMS OF EXISTENCE, WHEN AND WHERE TO USE EACH ONE


I would like to begin this post with a mea culpa of sorts. In my books I advocate using the separation of mind and body to our advantage, especially in stressful situations. In fact, I have been quoted as saying “There is no law that says your mind and body have to be in the same place at the same time.” This is indeed true and can be helpful when you are in a stressful situation. It can also be used for motivation. Please allow me to explain both.

Let us say your boss is pressuring you for a deadline, or just being the pain bosses can be on occasion. As you practice patience and compassion in an effort to remain employed, you can go somewhere else in your mind. I transport myself to a beautiful beach in Jamaica sipping out of a coconut. It also reminds me that the job I am working will help me get to that destination. When I am working out at the gym feeling like I am going to have to start breathing through a brown paper bag and wondering if I wouldn’t be better off at home laying on the couch eating a pizza, I think of that same beach. This time I imagine how I would look sitting on the beach in my current shape. Usually, that is enough to help me power through the remainder of my workout.

So far this all sounds pretty good doesn’t it? There is one word of caution. In using this I have become a little too good at it. What do I mean by that? There are times when it serves us to have our mind at body in the exact same place and time. For sake of continuity and because I love writing about the tropics when it is below freezing here in Wisconsin where I live, we will stick with the Jamaican beach example. Let us say you finally reach that fabulous vacation you have been saving for. Now you are on the beach with the one you love enjoying the sun and frigate birds. It would serve you well to be both physically and mentally present in the moment. Paying attention to all that is transpiring and soaking in the ocean water and the memories. You should make an effort to not only remember, but relish in the sun on your skin and the joy in your heart.

What do we as humans tend to do? We do the exact opposite. When the boss is yelling, everything is in chaos and you have only been at work for an hour, what do we think about? How little your pay seems to match what you have to put up with? How many hours you have yet to struggle through? Wait….is that clock actually going backwards? Why are there not more windows in this office? When we finally make it to vacation or even just home from the office do we focus on all of the great things we finally have in our grasp? Often, the answer is ‘no’. We then think of how much the vacation is costing. We worry about the pet we left back at home. Or worse yet, we begin to have thoughts of having to go back to the office.

We can do a lot to correct this lack of being present with exercises to take control of our mind. A daily practice of meditation, even 5 minutes a day to start, can be very helpful. If you are unsure or just not familiar with meditation there are several CDs you can purchase (Brain sync is one of my favorite companies) or even just look at guided meditation on YouTube. Then you just pop on some headphones, sit back, relax and follow along.

Even more simple is taking time to be fully in the moment. As I write this I am sitting at a coffee shop. I can pause and notice the mingling of music and the blend of voices. I can feel the fabric of the chair I am sitting on. I can smell the aroma of fresh ground coffee beans. I can even pause, take a sip of my coffee…feel the texture of the cup against my lips, notice the temperature, smell the scent of the coffee and taste the mix of the slight bitterness of the coffee mixed with the mellow flavor of coconut milk I added.

Try doing this while engaged in a host of different events. You could try it while you are at a stop light. Notice the feel of the steering wheel in your hands. Smell the air in your car. Do you have the windows open? Can you smell fresh air? Can you feel a breeze? Maybe you are in a cold climate like me and can feel the heat coming out of the vents? Notice the sound of the engine, the passing cars, the birds chirping outside. Just make sure you notice when the light turns green again or you might also be able to notice the sound of the horn of the driver behind you.

Start practicing the separation of mind and body at the appropriate times. When you work, work hard. When you play, play hard too. Soak in the joy when it is there and escape back to it when it is not.

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WIN THE MORNING BY DOING THESE 2 THINGS

Recently, I exchanged some wonderful messages with a good friend. They thanked me for the work I do, which I must confess is what drives me to keep writing. They had mentioned they were working on reducing the negative mental chatter in their head first thing in the morning. This is a struggle I think we can all relate to.

I have the great fortune to sleep next to who I believe to be the most beautiful woman in the world, my lovely Margie. My day job requires me to wake up at 4 a.m. At that hour this time of the year the temperature where I live is usually below freezing. Let it be known that if I had my choice I would be living on a remote tropical island. Add to this that the situation at my day job has recently become less than ideal and you have a perfect storm of reasons to wake up negative.

Many days that is exactly what happens. Dreaming I am back at the coffee plantation in Jamaica with Margie when the alarm clock goes off. I look outside to see a blanket of snow while realizing how good the warm blankets and hot woman next to me feel. (Not only is the ‘hotness’ referring to her amazing physical appearance, but she is generally quite warm and great to snuggle with) It takes all of my will to drag myself from that warm cocoon. I then realize nobody has made coffee yet. I also recall the fact I park outside and as mentioned it is below freezing.

Starting your day in a positive state is very important. Those of us familiar with the law of attraction know that like energy attracts like energy. If you begin your day focused on all of your challenges, it will only bring more of those challenges to you. For your best chance at an amazing life it is important to start your day on a positive note. Living in a cold climate, suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder and going to a job that neither respects or appreciates you on very little sleep makes this quite difficult. What is the solution? Take it out of your hands and make it automatic!

As the coffee machine springs to life, I glance at the calendar next to it. Knowing my difficulty doing mornings I purchased a day-by-day calendar that greets me with an inspirational quote every morning. I peel back yesterday to reveal the wisdom of the day. By then the coffee machine is ready to go and I am greeted with the amazing smell of brewing coffee. We have a great picture that reminds us to be grateful in our house that slowly begins to change my focus. As I fight the elements and get into my cold car cursing on occasion, I do so with a delicious and warm cup of coffee. As I start my car (something to be grateful for in cold weather) I am greeted with either an inspired audiobook or uplifting music. As I drive toward my job I am reminded of empowering principles I can write about later.

Did you notice the two things I did? First, I did not work on fighting against my negativity. Trying to get myself to like the cold simply is not happening. Instead of trying to delete the negative, I focused on adding positive items. Fighting against things is still focusing on them and giving them your energy. Not to mention, trying to eliminate something from our life is psychologically difficult. The more positive items you add, the less room there is for negative items.

The second thing I did was take it out of my hands. It can be very hard to rely on nothing but will to turn your mind around. After all, your mind is already in a negative state. By utilizing things like the calendar and grateful sign I don’t even have to think about these positive influences. I also recommend having an app on your phone that will send you positive quotes. You can even set an alarm with a positive reminder. Having pictures of goals and those you love can certainly do wonders.
Remember if you win the morning, you are setting yourself up to win the day!

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LOCAL LOYALTY


Above is a picture of the local diner named Michaels Family Restaurant. Nestled in the fabulous community of West Allis Wisconsin where I live. This is not so much a food review as it is a value review. Michaels is, as the name suggests, a warm and friendly family restaurant. As my lovely Margie enjoyed a well-deserved weekend away with her daughter, I took my mom out to breakfast here. Although our hostess was a tad sunshine challenged, our waitress, Julie, could not have been more friendly and helpful.
What makes this place a destination I feel compelled to write about is the local aspect at work. In an age where Wendy’s has recently joined McDonald’s and Taco Bell to start serving breakfast, it is far too easy to make our morning meal an after thought of something we do along the way. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. As I write this I just enjoyed a ham and swiss sandwich at Starbucks. This might be good for being both efficient and productive, but does not give us an amazing life. Yes, being efficient and productive can be part of an amazing life but at the sacrifice of being present, it can leave us wondering what happened to the morning.
In this post I am going to advocate taking at least a few morning to sit down and enjoy a breakfast without being rushed. Why do it at a place like Michael’s? I will give you a few good reasons. First, this place is a great value. Virtually the same price you would pay for some reheated breakfast sandwich at a chain or fast food place, you can get a warm, home-cooked meal served to you by one of your smiling neighbors. That leads us to the second reason to visit Michael’s Family Restaurant in the morning, it is supporting a local business. There are plenty of opportunities for you to save a few cents here and there by giving business to the chain establishments. That is ok too as they employ a lot of our friends and family. That being said, there is something special about a locally-owned family restaurant that has been there for over 30 years. Some of my first memories include going there with my grandfather when I was young. He understood the importance of supporting a local business and seems to still be teaching me long after his passing. I have enjoyed several mornings catching up over breakfast with Margie, the love of my life, as well. All the way up to yesterday when my mother and I shared a nice meal to start the day.


You can make memories in a chain restaurant or even running around trying to accomplish everything on your to do list but you deserve to give yourself a few minutes at a local establishment supporting your neighbors while enjoying their company. If you are in West Allis Wisconsin, I recommend stopping by Michael’s Family Restaurant. If breakfast isn’t really your thing, that’s ok. They also serve lunch and dinner with the same warm community spirit. Unable to make to the fine city that I live in? That’s ok too. Find a local restaurant in your neighborhood and enjoy some time with those you love.

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH MORE IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING!!

A WEST ALLIS HIDDEN GEM

Do you enjoy a great coffee shop? Maybe a cafe with healthy and delicious food is more your thing? Are you looking for a relaxing place with craft beer and hand-crafted cocktails?

What if I told you there was a place you could find all of these under one roof and they would all be served with the most amazing customer service?

This does exist and you can find it closer than you think. Click the link below to read my review of one of the most unique and amazing places I have reviewed yet!

CLICK HERE TO DISCOVER YOUR NEXT FAVORITE PLACE

YOUR PRAYERS ON WATER

On June 8th my lovely lady and her daughter took me to the Water Lantern Festival. The idea behind this was a simple one. A sort of communal memorial where one would draw or write their thoughts on a paper lantern and then float them out on the river. What actually transpired was so much more on many levels I wanted to share it with all of you on here.
To begin with the three of us took a ride share down to the festival to forgo the stress of finding parking. The lady who picked us up not only had the same name as my lovely Margie, but was pleasant and a great conversationalist. This by itself helped a great deal to start the evening off right. When we arrived it was much larger than I expected. There were blocks of people by the edge of the river on blankets and lawn chairs.
In addition to the throngs of people participating in the festival there were lots of different stands. Plenty selling food and drink, some selling art and even a stage where musicians performed and later a DJ. The music was soft and thought-provoking. We purchased some delicious steak sandwiches from a place called the Hidden Kitchen and I also got a cup of coffee from a nearby stand as the temperature was very brisk for a June evening.
As we went to the stand to pick up our lanterns and packets and even as we waited in line for our food and beverages, one thing stood out above all else. Everyone involved in this festival was pleasant and courteous of each other. That may not sound like such a big deal, but in today’s world I found it to not only be a redeeming quality, but one that was rather touching.
The three of us put together our lanterns with various degrees of competence. Although my artistic skill fell well behind the two ladies, all of our thoughts and sentiments were proudly displayed. We all had our own unique thoughts displayed in our best artistic fashion. We all worked together but in our own little worlds. I decided to honor all of the people in my life. Those who came before me, those who are sharing this path with me now and those I have yet to meet. As we worked on our lanterns, there was an opportunity for people to come on the stage and share their stories with everyone present. The stories of loss were heartbreaking but at the same time healing. There was a young man who was mentally challenged and did his best to convey his story. When he was done the heartfelt applause he received could soften the hardest of hearts.
Soon it was time to launch our lanterns. Everyone approached the water with what seemed a very humble and supplicatory fashion. You placed your lantern at the top of a slide and down it went into the river. At the end of the evening all of the lanterns were collected and any environmental impact was minimal. To see all of those lit up lanterns floating in the river with prayers and thoughts on them was something really special. I really want to thank my lady Margie for including me in this idea she discovered. It was a example of someone in your life knowing what you need even more than you do.
I would recommend this festival for anyone who has lost someone close, enjoys honoring those who have passed or even just really enjoys a positive experience with a great sense of community. It should be noted after this very emotional experience the three of us had a nice walk to a coffee shop by the lake to diffuse our emotions and enjoy some great beverages and conversation. I hope to do this again next year.

THE DIFFERENCE A SPACE MAKES

I enjoy the reminder is this picture. As we begin the week are we mindful or is our mind full? Taking time to focus on filling our minds with specific things we desire such as relaxed visions of our goals and dreams or things we are grateful for is perfectly wonderful, but that is not what our minds are usually full of is it? No, usually we have passwords, a code to our ATM card, everything on our ‘to do list’ and we can throw in doing our best to remember to pick up toilet paper from the store before we find ourselves in a most unfortunate situation.

Being mindful has an entirely different meaning. Being able to keep in mind the feelings of those around you is important. Being able to keep yourself in the present will help us realize how much beauty surrounds us every day. I use the example of taking your car to the grocery store by yourself. Upon arriving looking around and wondering who drove. I have been guilty of this myself a time or several. Our thoughts can be so busy with the next thing we never appreciate the current thing. Is was John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” 

With most of us walking around with our faces buried in our cell phones, we may miss the beautiful sites of nature. As we drive to work worried about all we have to do once we get there, we may miss the fabulous new coffee shop that just opened, or even just the beautiful weather outside. As we wait impatiently for our specialty coffee drink to be created, we fail to notice how hard the employees are working, the wonderful smells in the café or all of the interesting people who are enjoying their day there as well.

Life is full of moments. We owe it to ourselves to enjoy each and every one of them to the fullest. We do not want to arrive at the end of life wondering where it all went. We want to go peacefully filled with the blissful and loving memories of a life well lived. Today, don’t just have a mind full take a moment to be mindful.

LESSONS FROM THE CIVIL WAR WE HAVE FORGOTTEN

The American Civil War (never really did understand that term) was about far more than just slavery. It represented rural verses city life. It pitted national governing against local governing. In broad terms, the southern way of living against the northern way of living. Of all of these issues the basis was the same, different people with strong ideological beliefs on both sides.

It can still be argued as to whether rural or city planning is better and healthier. I am sure there are benefits to both national and local governing. What I felt was really a no-brainer was dismissing the human rights of someone based on either the color of their skin or their ethnic upbringing. In today’s world of division, this can, and often does, include political and religious differences as well. While it is certainly ok and quite natural to disagree with each other on these issues, what is not acceptable is to vilify or dehumanize others who are or believe different than we.

As I tend to surround myself with people who are as accepting and open-minded as myself, these issues are not always front and center in my mind. In my own way I think of things like prejudice and racism as not only arcane, but ludicrous. Would you really deny yourself a blood transfusion because Dr. Charles Richard Drew, who invented a way to process and preserve blood plasma was African-American? Would you do without such inventions as paper, printing and umbrellas because they come from Chinese inventors? Would you do without all of Albert Einstein’s contribution to science because you are anti-Semitic? The fountain pen, windmill and one of the most important inventions to my writing – coffee are all of a Muslim origin.

To do without any of these inventions because you believe this or that group of people are less than you would not only be foolish, it would be ignorant and stupid. Every culture has its heroes and its villains. To condemn an entire race or group of people based on the actions of one, or some of its people is not only irresponsible, but asinine. Do I hate all of my German friends because back in the 30’s and 40’s there was a neurotic freak named Hitler who killed millions of people? Of course not. Do I hold a grudge against all of my Christian friends because many of them lead to the death of over 100 million Native Americans? That would be senseless.

If we are to hate someone based solely on the racial/religious or political differences we have with them, then we should be prepared to do without all of the amazing contributions brought on by that group. As I look around my group of friends and notice the vast difference in color, culture and creed, I look forward to learning from and working with all of them to make our world a better place. As the Dalai Lama said, we are all brothers and sisters.

AN INJECTION WE ALL NEED

In my book A Happy Life for Busy People, I advocate creating a ‘happy playlist’ for when life throws you a challenge. This also works well when your inspiration seems to be lacking. When Margie and I are about to DJ a show and I am just not feeling it I usually make some of the first few songs we play ones that get me fired up so I can do a good job for the people that are there for the show. Sometimes you just need a little injection of inspiration, and often times music is a quick and easy fix.

There is another element that I rely on to give me an extra boost of inspiration and that is people. Before we all bust out into a rendition of Use Somebody by Kings of Leon, let me explain what I am saying. After a tough day at my job in the US Post Office, or even after a long seminar or book signing I cannot wait to get back to the loving arms of my beautiful Margie. She can be so good at providing a sense of peace and repose. She also can provide love, encouragement and humor. I am grateful for her each and every day.

Just the other evening I had the pleasure of getting together for coffee with my good friend Nick. Both of us share with each other our thoughts on spirituality, motivation and all things metaphysical. When I leave the company of my good friend I not only am fired up to share some of the great conclusions we discussed, but also have learned a great deal by sharing a hot cup of coffee and a great conversation with my friend. I am also very grateful for Nick and the conversations we share.

Think about your life, do you have certain people who bring out the best in you? Maybe you have others that inspire you to be your best? It might serve you well to make a list of those people and what joy they bring into your life. Then, make a conscious effort to spend more time around them. Your life will automatically become one filled with passion and inspiration.

AM I YOUR BROTHER?

I cannot claim complete credit for this blog. Then again, that can be said for most of my blogs. This one was specifically inspired by my coworker Jon. We were driving back from helping a different coworker who had gotten a flat tire. At this point, let me give you a brief description of Jon. He is a mild-mannered man who has spent time living abroad. Jon does not yell and when he speaks you can tell a lot of thought goes into what he says. In short, Jon is a good man who you would want to spend some time around.

Back to our conversation. We were discussing his time living in Korea and he mentioned the respect people have for each other there. He also noted something I found to be of great interest. He told me it was his experience that people around the same age referred to each other as brother and sister and those older than you are spoken to with a greater degree of respect. I shared with him my knowledge of Native American culture and how others are often referred to as brother and sister as well. I also told him how elders are called grandmother and grandfather. They are also held in high regard because of all they have lived and been through. I wrote about the importance of older people and the wisdom and experience they contain in an earlier post, but it bears repeating. Those wonderful souls are living treasures that will be lost with their passing. To treat them with anything less than respect is a disgrace.

As we continued to muse and discuss the subject, we both came to the conclusion that there is a correlation with how you view and address people and the amount of respect you have for them. After all, unless your name happens to be Cain, you would not likely wish to kill your brother. If we go back far enough we are more than likely related in some form or fashion. Even if not related genetically, we can be brothers and sisters ideologically. Even if we differ slightly in some regards we are all striving for the best life we can have for ourselves and for the ones we love.

Keeping this knowledge in mind, let us look for what we have in common instead of what divides us and we will find we are all brothers and sisters in some way. Jon, for example, is my brother in that we both have the same struggles and experiences working for the United States Postal Service. That can be said of my friends Chris, Laura, Christine, John, Don, Raul, Beth, Julie and many others I know. I have brothers and sisters who have the unique understanding of the bartending arena. Lisa, Matty, Dylan, Ashley, Jenny, Autumn, Emily, Rebecca, Audra, Alysa and more. Then there are my brothers and sisters in the literary field. Ursula, Aura, Stefanie, Cari, Andrada, Kelly and more. Margie is even my sister in that she is a creative entrepreneur. Although calling each other brother and sister would be a bit awkward. I have a brother in my friend Russ as we have been through so much and have a lot of love and respect for each other. Which brings me to my sister Michelle, an amazing lady who is the best sister a guy could have!

You see all of these people, with one exception, are not actually related to me. I do view them all with a feeling of Kinship beyond what I would refer to a friend. Next time you find yourself walking into a coffee shop or fast food place think of the person behind the counter as your brother or sister in working with the public. We all know the struggles that can be. When someone cuts you off in traffic, know they are your brother and sister in trying to get home to their family or maybe to work on time. That is not to say that brothers and sisters won’t make you angry or you may not agree sometimes, but that does not make them any less your brother or sister.

Feel free to recognize people you would be proud to call brother and sister in the comments below.


YOU NEED TIME FOR THIS

All of us have things in life that we don’t like to do. Cleaning the bathroom, doing the dishes, waking up early on our day off. Life is full of things that drain our happiness as well as our energy. The crazy thing is we really drag these items out. I am not necessarily talking about the actual act of doing them, although in some cases that might happen too. What I mean is we start dreading them long before we actually begin them. In the course of doing them often we can spend as much time complaining as we do acting. If we don’t do so out loud, we often spend countless moments cursing under our breath.

What I am suggesting? Certainly not whistling and dancing with one hand, toilet brush in the other? Not exactly, but if you can find a way to do that let me know. What I am advocating is striving for a little balance. We can do this in two ways. First, spend time every day on something you enjoy. Whether that is eating a Kit Kat or a taco. Maybe it is sitting down to a nice relaxing cup of coffee or tea. Perhaps listening to your favorite music? Whatever your moment of bliss is, make sure to schedule it. When you do, spend a few minutes getting excited about it before you actually begin. Think about how good that Kit Kat will taste, or imagine what toppings you will get on your taco. Hard shell, soft shell or both? Think about the scent of the coffee brewing or the feel of the warm liquid as you sip it. Then pay attention as you prepare the activity. Get excited as you brew the coffee. Smell the tea bag as you open it.

Lastly, be present while you are engaged in the activity. I can’t recall the times I have been looking forward to a particular dinner and I am half way through before I really slow down to enjoy the taste. With the delicious meals Margie creates that is about as close to a sin as you can get. Slow down and pay close attention to every detail of happiness. Why not? Enjoy it to the fullest. Use as many of your senses as you can. Feel the chocolate melt in your mouth as you eat the Kit Kat. Hear the crunch as you bite into it. Smell the chocolate. Enjoy the look of the perfectly formed wafers. Taste all the mix of flavors with each bite.

Second, try if you can, to incorporate some things that make you happy into some of the activities you dread. Of course you shouldn’t have a Kit Kat in hand and a toilet brush in the other. The potential for disaster certainly looms in that one. If you can however turn up some great music while you work, why not? Maybe treat yourself to a Kit Kat or taco after you finish cleaning the bathroom. I would, however, recommend washing your hands. It may even give you a little joy in what otherwise would be an arduous task.

Let us all schedule some bliss in our day. When we do let us make full use of it. Drink every last drop of joy and happiness out of the situation. Be totally present and treat it as a sort of mini vacation if you can. I would be elated to learn some of your moments of bliss. What activities bring joy into your life? Share them in the comments below!