TRADITIONS

The Holiday season is almost upon us. At local stores decorations are starting to go up, I even heard a Christmas song on the radio the other day. With the holidays coming up we can find our minds turning toward traditions. There are many different kinds of traditions. There are traditions based on our different faiths. This can encompass many different things from fasting, praying, style of dress and many more. These traditions are very important for cultural reasons. The connect us as a faith-based community and refresh our spiritual nature. There are also different family traditions. These can include shopping for holiday gifts together, creating a holiday meal together or just gathering at a certain family members house for great times. The traditions here can be as unique as the family itself.

The tradition I would like to discuss today is more individual. It can be between spouses, brother and sister, friends or even an individual tradition. The picture I used for this blog post is one of Margie and me at one of our favorite breakfast places. We have been going there since shortly after we met. Sadly, this day we missed another tradition of ours which was an event called ‘Cider Sunday’ in which a local nature preserve celebrates all things apple. We also have other traditions that we have began. Most of them both add love to our life, as well as keeping that love fresh and fun. Do you have something like this with the love of your life? Maybe a special place you go on a birthday? Maybe an event you look forward to attending every year? Do you celebrate the first day of spring by having a picnic in the park for example?

If you do not have a romantic tradition, or would like to include more, why not get together with your love today and discuss that? This also works with brother and sisters, friends, coworkers and anyone else you would like to include. My suggestion is this, create traditions that help that relationship grow. Maybe something that fosters a feeling of gratitude and appreciation in the relationship, or perhaps a way to grow and learn together? In the case of romantic partners, use Margie and me as an example. Create traditions that feed love and keep it fresh and growing.

Personal traditions may be something that is not as familiar with a lot of you, but I think they can have a great impact on our lives. Perhaps start a tradition of keeping a gratitude journal every night or at the very least once a week. A daily or weekly meditation practice could serve you as well. They can be traditions that add joy to your life. I do things to celebrate the first day of spring and summer each year. I also attend a bicycle expo every year as it helps me look forward to spring and being able to get out and ride.

Feel free to share any traditions you have with us in the comments below. Whether they are Faith, family, romantic or personal. This way we can all inspire each other with great ideas!

 

ARE YOU CHASING YOUR HERO?

I have always been a fan of Matthew McConaughey’s movies. Usually, they are fun and his characters are always amusing to me. Recently, I saw the video of his Oscar speech for best actor. In the speech there were a lot of things I learned that I liked about Matthew McConaughey the person. I will include the link to the video at the end of this post.

The one that that I want to share with you has to do with chasing your hero. In the video someone asked him who his hero was. After some thought he said “I know who my hero is. It is me ten-years from now.” The same person saw him ten years later and asked him, “So are you your hero now?” After informing him that he was not he explained that again his hero was still ten years away.

As I am want to do, I sat and meditated on that for a while. Why would your hero be you ten years from now? What I believe Mr. McConaughey meant was that ten years from now you want yourself to be the best you can be. How that happens is by focusing on the being the best we can be every day. There will be days that we stumble. There will even be days that we fall. Even those days provide a chance to be our own hero. What would your hero do if they fell? When facing a challenge Heroes learn, grow and adapt. We can too.

Think of who you want to be ten years from now. Who would you have to be to start along that path today? I encourage you to watch this video because there are a lot of other great things in there. The importance of family, of faith and of gratitude. These are common themes throughout our time together on this site. It is always encouraging to see someone who has accomplished so much being humble enough to realize that.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO

THIS IS ALL A BUNCH OF B.S.

If you have read the post before this one you have heard my story. If not I encourage you to do so. For the sake of this post the abridged version is that due to the stress that life gives us I went from being a bartender and singer in a rock band who was too cool for self-help to an author and speaker on the subject. I originally laughed at all those ‘crazy people’ meditating and looking to increase their inner peace. In short, I thought the whole idea was a bunch of B.S.. The point that never failed to escape me was that I was doing my laughing as I was broke and sitting in my apartment in a not so nice part of town. I was in a job I did not find fulfilling, but most importantly I wasn’t happy myself.

I don’t recall the exact beginning of my journey into self-improvement, but last post I gave my earliest memory. As my life continued to suck I began to read and try more things. The biggest event happened when the fine folks at the United States Postal Service decided I was expendable after over a decade of devoted employment. I found myself at rock bottom. To be a little more accurate, my life was sitting in a pile of B.S..

It was this situation that forced a change in direction. I began to at least conceive that some of the more mainstream ideas could at least be workable. I wasn’t about to perform a ceremony where I marry myself, but listening to a few Tony Robbins CDs I had ordered off television at 3a.m. seemed doable. It wasn’t as if I wanted anyone to know what I was doing, but as I noticed my stress going down and my joy going up, my mind began to open to the possibilities. What was even more important is that I saw others struggling as I had just because they were to intimidated by terms like self-help which to me sounds like you should be laying on a couch telling someone in a lab coat your problems. It was then I decided to devote my life to showing people that improving yourself is not only cool, but helps your life suck a lot less.

It was then I learned that life really is made up of B.S. Rather than the stuff that comes out of the back end of a bull, I mean B.S. as in belief systems. What you believe will dictate what you try and what you do. If you believe you are a late person, you will never be motivated to arrive on time. If you believe life will always suck for you, it will. I am not merely suggesting you start thinking you will have a great life and suddenly people will send you checks for being your awesome self. If it were that easy I wouldn’t be writing you this today. What I will tell you is that what you believe has not only a great influence on your actions, but more importantly on your sense of well-being. Which after all is really how we determine our quality of life. If you were as wealthy as could be, but you were miserably unhappy, your life would suck.

This may seem a bit much to take if you are new to some of these concepts. In fact, when I first heard of things like the Law of Attraction and other such belief systems that was my thought as well. As quantum physics begins to unravel more of the mysteries of the science of the mind we are beginning to understand how powerful our beliefs are. Why not be on the cutting edge and take control of one of the most powerful forces in your life?

For my left-brained friends who may still be having a hard time grasping this notion, allow me to share a real-life example. Most of you know the story of Roger Bannister. For thousands of years it was accepted as a truth that the human body was not capable of running a mile in less than four minutes. On May 6th, 1954 Roger Bannister did just that. While that is the story most people know, there is an even bigger story. Since he completed this historic feet, countless other have also run sub four-minute miles. What happened? Did the human race suddenly get stronger all over the world? Of course not. What happened was now they could believe that it was possible. If one change in belief can alter the course of track and field across the globe, what can it do for your life?

I USED TO BE TOO COOL FOR THIS

I recall some of my first exposure to the principles of self-improvement. They seemed hokey and new age at best, far out and ridiculous at worst. I was a singer in a band, I was a bartender. I had no desire to take my inner child on a play date. When I heard someone talk about meditation or keeping a journal I thought they would be someone sitting alone in a tent in the middle of the desert giving advice or something. That was actually a description I gave to my good friend Russ. In short I thought all of this self-help stuff was a bunch of B.S..

My dramatic change from someone who mocked all things that might be labeled ‘self-improvement’ to someone who is not only a proponent of such material, but a creator and distributor as well, happened over a period of time. It is like the story of boiling a frog in a pot of water. If you put a frog in a pot of hot water it will jump out, but if you turn the heat up slowly it will sit there until it boils to death. Please know I am not advocating harm to animals, but my life proceeded along a similar path. As life slowly turned the heat up on me I found myself literally boiling to death in a pool of stress.

One of the first stresses I can think of is when I was working at a telemarketing job. For those of you who have never had a job in this field, just consider what you have said, or heard other people say to telemarketers. Now, imagine being the person on the other end of the phone…eight hours a day…6 days a week. I remember listening to Bob Marley’s Legend album on my lunch hour every day. I would close my eyes, push play and picture being on a beach in Jamaica. Little was I aware I was practicing visualizing and meditation. Not that I called it that. At the time I just said I was “unwinding on lunch”. All I was sure of is that is made me feel better and be able to withstand the constant barrage of colorful phrases people share with telemarketers.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself awake at 3a.m. ready to go to the post office job I was thrilled about. This was after working an entire bartending shift I was also growing weary of. As you can imagine this and other stresses also affected my relationships with others at the time. While sitting on the couch putting on my shoes I saw an infomercial. It was for a collection of CDs from Tony Robbins. Being half asleep and feeling frustrated with the direction my life was going at the time, I thought “What the hell do I have to lose?” I ordered the tapes, went to work and soon forgot all about it. A week later they arrived. I listened on my short commute I had to work at the time and soon found myself taking detours to listen to more.

Soon I found myself looking at life from a different angle. Shortly thereafter, my job was downsized and the real test began. I found myself at the local library looking for answers. Those of you who have read my book or followed me for any amount of time have no doubt heard this story countless times. After finding things that helped a former ‘rock star’ and bartender who was too cool for self-help, I wanted to share it with others who thought themselves too bad ass for this material, but were silently, or not so silently suffering on the inside. That lead to the creation of this website, a book, a YouTube channel and seminars. In short, it brought us to where we are now.

If you came across this on accident, or are postponing on taking the leap on learning tools that could improve your life because you are simply too cool, I urge you to reconsider. First of all, get rid of the term self-help. I never liked that term to begin with. It has the feel like you are helpless and can only succeed with the help of someone else. I prefer the term self-improvement. The truth is you don’t need anyone else. What you may be lacking is information and a plan. As long as you have the desire, there are many paths that can lead you to success.

The other thing you might wish to consider is that in the beginning nobody needs to know what you are doing, or that you are doing anything at all. You can read in private. You can rent and watch movies in the privacy of your own home. You can start like I did listening to things while you are alone in the car. Once you see, and more important feel the increase in joy and reduction in stress, you can decide how public you may want to be with your quest to become the best version of yourself.

As a bonus, here are a list of a few recommendations I have for improving yourself after spending over two decades in the field. This is not a complete list by any means and if you would like to add to it feel free.

Books

  • A Happy Life for Busy People
  • Think and Grow Rich
  • The Power of the Subconscious Mind
  • The Tao of Pooh
  • The Secret

CD or MP3 Programs

  • The Strangest secret
  • Personal Power
  • Any videos or audio by Tony Robbins, Earl Nightingale, Les Brown or Eric Thomas

A NEW EXPERIENCE

I wanted to share with all of you a new experience I had at ‘Float Life’ this past Monday. As part of my birthday present Margie took me to experience a float. What is a float? The above tub you see is a floatation tub. It is exactly what the name implies, a tub in which you just float for an extended period of time. (I did it for 60 minutes) Why float? What benefits do you actually achieve? What was my experience like? I will answer all of those questions for any of you who are pondering floating yourself or who are just curious.

Why float and what benefits do you achieve by floating? I am going to paraphrase 2010 research statistics from Floatworks. Floatation eases stress and allows you to experience a greater sense of relaxation. For some the effects last days after the actual float. Floatation has been proven to reduce elevated levels of stress hormones as well as decrease blood pressure. They list several conditions this may help or relieve including, but not limited to

  • Meditation
  • sports and exercise recovery
  • insomnia
  • enhanced creativity
  • jet lag
  • PTSD, addiction, arthritis and fibromyalgia

This is all made possible by the 900 pounds of Epsom salt in each tub. The benefits of Epsom salt are plenty. It provides the body a dose of magnesium a mineral studies show most people are severely lacking. This helps soften the skin and hair, cleanse and detoxify the body as well as help stiff muscles and achy joints. I encourage everyone to research more into the benefits floatation provides.

What was my experience in the floatation device? After arriving and being given a brief introduction into what the process is and how to make the most of it, both Margie and I were left in our respective rooms to begin the float process. You begin by rinsing off in the shower they have inside the room. It took a while for the water to get warm, but it was refreshing. After the shower you are to put in some ear plugs so that your ears will not turn into a salt cavern over the next few days. The ear plugs were not what I was used to. It was a texture much like that of chewing gum. You rolled them into a ball and pushed them into your ears. This was surprisingly affective

There I stood naked sans two new ear plugs. Carefully getting into the tub the first thing I noticed was the temperature of the water. It is kept at skin temperature which is approximately 94 degrees Fahrenheit. This is done to increase the feeling of sensory deprivation. I thought it would feel warmer, but was decidedly comfortable.

During our introduction we were explained the many options available to customize your float. The first being a floatation ring that can act as a sort of make shift pillow. This is done for people who may have a hard time adjusting to the idea their head floats on top of the water. You can end up with a sore neck by trying to tuck your head to your chest to keep you head up. I declined use of this and found my head needed no further support than the water itself.

The second option was the light. As you saw in the first photo, which was of Margie’s tub, they had a light that could be various colors. Hers was pink. In my photo you can see my tended to be a mild blue. This seemed fitting as she was a woman and I am a man. You had the option of leaving the light on while you floated or turning it off. Wanting to experience the ‘full monty’ if you will, I decided to turn the light off. This eliminated the sense of sight and the distractions it may have caused.

The next option you had was the relaxing music that played inside the tub while you were floating. I began with the music on full volume. It was soft and seemed the perfect accompaniment. After relaxing for some time I decided to turn the music off and focus on my breathing as I teach so many. This worked really well with one exception. You could hear the sounds of people walking around outside and some other clunking type noise. I turned the music back on to a soft volume which seemed to drown out most of the noise.

They say you feel ‘weightless’ in these tubs. At fist when I got in that is how it felt. In addition whenever I felt myself bump into the side of the tub and pushed myself away I felt weightless as well. Basically, whenever I was in motion I felt as if I was floating. When my body was standing still the feeling was quite different. It was as if I was in some sort of suspended animation. My body was supported but there was no pressure from gravity. My body felt heavy, but relaxed.

When the female computer voice told me my time was over and the light came on my next challenge arose. Using muscles that I have been relaxing for the past hour in a tub that is impossible to sink in made it slightly difficult to sit up and open the lid. When I did I was careful climbing out as I was naked and didn’t want to end up with any injury that could land me in the emergency room.

Once out, we were instructed to shower off to remove most of the salt from our bodies. The shower included two liquids. One I assumed was some sort of body wash and the other a shampoo/conditioner combo. We were not told which was which and being that I had just taken a shower before I came I decided to just rinse off.

Two days later as I write this I can still feel my legs are relaxed and I am feeling good. There was some great tea in the waiting room that I was able to enjoy as I waited for Margie to complete her floating experience. There was also a great book chronicling the story of a man who went from a completely stressed out executive in the music business to owning his own float tub company. I would have liked to explore this story before I floated, but enjoyed it in reflection on my own experience as well.

Looking back I would like to approach my next float with more of an agenda. Perhaps have a certain meditation in my to do as I float. It would be neat if having the option of listening to a guided meditation as you float. I will also be sure to ask what is what when it comes to the options in the shower. I will definitely return to try this experience at Float life in Whitefish Bay. I recommend floating to anyone. The benefits far outweigh the risks and everyone can use a little rest in the middle of our busy lives. Look how happy I was when it was all over.

A TACO MEDITATION?!

This is a picture of a billboard just outside the Wisconsin State Fair. It is a catchy little slogan for a Mexican restaurant. My mother and I have started taking walks after my heart trouble caused me to take a break from working out as hard as I would like. Being the state fair is probably my favorite place to go, it makes sense to choose that as a location to walk. This particular day my mother and I decided to walk the perimeter of the park to see how long that would be. (roughly 3.2 miles for those keeping track) While on the northern side of the park we came across this billboard.

As we walked passed it I began to think of the slogan “Inhale tacos, exhale negativity”. A slight confession is that I tend to practice a lot of both in my life. The last couple posts we have been discussing meditation and how we can work it into our life. One of the simplest forms of meditation is to pay attention to your breathing. If you add to that visualizing breathing in positivity and exhaling negativity, it can lead to an increased state of peace. I encourage you to practice this for several minutes twice a day and let me know what difference you notice. It is a simple practice, but can bring great change.

Then I thought about inhaling tacos. How could you not after reading that sign? Other than increasing the feeling of hunger I had already started from the walk, it got me thinking. Obviously, they are using tacos as a replacement for the word positivity. This could probably hold true for many people out there. Although saying, “Have a taco day!” Instead of positive day does sound a bit strange. When doing the above exercise sometimes picturing positivity and negativity can be a bit too abstract for some of us. What if we replaced the word positivity with some activity, such as eating tacos or attending the local state fair. In other words any activity that fills us with joy or adds value to our life. As we breath in we could picture being engaged it that activity and breathing in more of those activities into our lives.

On the exhale we could replace negativity with any activity we are trying to remove from our lives. Maybe letting our emotions get the best of us or being filled with stress. As we exhale we could picture that activity and feel ourselves exhaling it out of our bodies and out of our lives. Inhale tacos, exhale being overly emotional. Inhale the state fair, exhale being stressed out. It certainly is worth a try and could be a lot of fun!

 

  • WARNING!!! This blog is not responsible for an increase in the consumption of tacos related to the reading of this article. Restraint is recommended in the amount of tacos consumed or one would not be able to inhale or exhale at all. Please read responsibly.

 

1 WAY TO MEDITATE EVERYDAY

Last post we spoke of the importance of spending time by yourself just being. This is often what people think of when they think of meditation. It is a fabulous way to get in touch with yourself and certainly something you could do while you escape to your spot in nature as we discussed last post.

This is not the only way to meditate. Quite often for people like myself who have a million thoughts running through their head at any given time it can be very difficult to just sit down and stop all the voices in their head. I must confess to a little bit of envy when I ask somebody what they are thinking and they genuinely reply, “Nothing.” With all of the benefits of meditation how can people like us still reap the benefits?

One way is to practice active meditation. It was a process developed by a man named Osho. I highly recommend looking up both the man and the researching the topic of active meditation. For those of you who like myself, never really enjoyed homework I will give you a brief look into the world of active meditation and how you can use the benefits in your own life. Originally, it was defined as a period of chaotic movement followed by a period of silence. It its simplest form this is what it is. It means you dance, yell, jump up and down and whatever else you can think of. Then, you just stand perfectly still and notice what happens with your body.

A more expanded definition of active meditation is really being totally mentally present while involved in a physical activity. I mentioned I was going for a bike ride While I was bike riding I was totally present in the experience. I noticed the feel of the wind as I biked. I enjoyed the view of the sun on the trees and the birds flying and singing all around me. I even enjoyed and stopped to talk to a deer along the way. I did not think about having to go to the post office later in the morning, what I was going to wear, or any other daily minutia we can get caught up in.

Even something as simple as walking can become a meditation. If you slow down and notice how you place your foot, the change in balance, the transfer of weight and every aspect of walking it can be a great way to actively meditate. Try doing this for just a minute. Then, as you get used to it, try to speed up while still remaining aware of everything. This takes some time but can be quite a fun experience once you get the hang of it. Try it with other activities as well. Drinking coffee, eating your breakfast. You can turn almost anything into a meditation.

Losing yourself in active meditation can be a great first step towards gaining control of your thoughts and emotions. I don’t know about you, but that is something I believe most of us could use a little more of. I would be interested to hear what activities you choose for your active meditation and what results you experience. Please feel free to share.

WHAT ARE YOU TAKING TIME FOR?

When I first read the above picture I had to take a second and appreciate how profound that actually is. Sure, we all like to vent and sometimes that is very helpful, but how far is too far when it comes to venting? If you find yourself spending more time finding ways to complain and share your pain and unpleasant emotion state with the rest of the world than actually working on a solution to change your situation, that is too far.

If you look at the above example we could learn a lot. The first thing, feel like sh*t, some people like to just stay in this state. I could never understand that. If I am upset, angry, sad or any other unpleasant emotion I will do anything to change that state.  If it doesn’t work, then I will do something else, if that doesn’t work… well you get the idea.

The second item is complaining. Again, venting is one thing, but dwelling on it is certainly another. Les Brown, one of my favorite authors and speakers put it this way, “Don’t bother telling other people your problems. 80% don’t care and 20% are glad it’s you.” This sounds cynical, but it is true. Unless you think the person you are telling your problems to can help you, tell them something you are grateful for instead. It will help both of you feel better.

The third item, checking social media. If you are already in a bad mood adding the drama of others, or reading any unpleasant news would only serve to bring you down further. You would be better served visiting a motivational website, or reading a good book.

Let us look at the solutions they offer. Meditate. It can help you feel more relaxed and think clearly. It can offer a different perspective on your situation. It brings down your heart rate, releases ‘feel good’ brain chemicals and creates an overall sense of well-being. Going hand in hand with meditating is writing in your journal. Anyone who knows me even a little knows how much of a fan of journaling I am. A journal is like a therapist that is always open and does not charge a great amount of money to listen to you. Much like meditating, it can offer clarity and a sense of release.

Writing down what you are grateful for and your goals can work in two amazing ways as well. Focusing on what you are grateful for can change your feeling from lack to abundance and from sadness to joy quicker than just about anything else I know. Goals will not only change your focus on whatever crappy situation you are in presently to the fabulous situation you want to be in, but will also get you moving. Instead of focusing on where you don’t want to be, which is feeling bad, you can focus on where you want to be. By doing so actions that will bring you closer to that will come in to focus as well. So, next time you find yourself tempted to do any of the first three things on the list, try instead to do one of the last three and notice the difference.