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.

 

99 SECONDS WITH NEIL EPISODE 2 : FREEDOM TO BE LOCAL

In which we explore how our greatest fear can be our greatest weapon in eliminating fear and creating a sense of community.

Also, in which a random golden retriever walks on during filming.

CLICK HERE TO SEE EPISODE 2

WHY BOTHER?

Last post we investigated why it is important to give all of yourself when it comes to your relationship with the one you love. We learned that it allows them to give all of themselves to us, we learned that by not doing so we end up drawing into our lives the very circumstances that we are trying to prevent. That is certainly important when it comes to our romantic partners. Most of the time we are not only sharing our hearts and souls with each other, but also our homes. Not only is it very important to keep someone who lives in the same house with you happy, but they are probably thinking something very similar.

What about the other people in our lives? What about our friends? Why is important to put so much effort into our friendships? In case you didn’t read the last post let me refresh some of the points that apply equally to friendships as they do to romantic relationships. There are friends we might be afraid to trust completely because they might take advantage of our trust and hurt us. Unlike the romantic partner, there are less repercussions if they do. We do not have to go home to our friends. The connection is generally not as deep as our romantic relationships and therefore the ending of a friendship is usually less painful than a romantic relationship. Same with sharing ourselves with friends. The less we tell them, the less information they would have to use against us should they decide to do so.

To a lot of us this may seem very safe and logical. The less we give people the chance to hurt us, the less we will be hurt. Seems to make sense, right? Wrong. By doing this we are not only short-changing ourselves out of the deep, meaningful relationships we could be enjoying, but we are also hurting others and increasing the chances that we will be hurt in the future. Wait, what?

That’s right. So far we have been looking at this from only one side of the equation. Let us look at the other side for a second. If you feel that your friend views you as untrustworthy or at best does not trust you completely, how would that make you feel? Do you think you would feel like extending your trust to that person? You would probably end up feeling like they do not hold you in that high of regard. Now follow that up with them not completely sharing themselves with you. That could leave you feeling that they think you are either not worth knowing that information, or again cannot be trusted with it. Do you think you would share things about yourself with them? Probably not. This would leave us with very shallow and incomplete relationships at best. It also leaves the door open to upset or anger people even by accident. If you do not know what a person likes or dislikes, their opinions on certain matters or even their fears and joys you could say something you truly regret even not trying to do so.

We have exhausted why it is important not to not give ourselves to friendships. How it can end up increasing the chances we will get hurt instead of keeping us safe as we may think. What advantages, if any, can we gain by trusting and giving ourselves completely to our friendships? I give you exhibit A in the picture above. This is a story that is so exciting I can hardly wait to share it with you. While Margie and I were DJing at a local establishment on Sunday night, my good friend Cari messaged Margie and asked her what door we use when we come home as she had a surprise for me.

When we arrived home around 2 a.m., after what was a very busy evening I was exhausted. Currently, the date here is January 95th, or so it feels. We should be having highs in the mid 50’s but they had been barely above freezing with the sun so fed up with the long winter it decided to take a vacation. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so prolonged cold weather minus the sunshine can be quite trying for me and those around me. At this point if you would like to light a candle for Margie it would not be a bad idea. Because I do indeed trust my friends with this information and share it with them as well, Cari was able to do something so thoughtful and amazing. I arrived home to see the above signs taped to my front door! They ranged from reminding me warm weather was coming, to the fact that the cold weather is what makes the tropics so special to me. She added the Wisconsin State Fair, which I love as well. She even encouraged me by reminding me how much my writing touches her and others.

That night I fell asleep with a heart filled with gratitude for the caring and loving friends I have. The reminders and motivation served their purpose, but so did the fact that I have such a great friend. Her efforts did more than she could possibly imagine and her timing could not have been more perfect!

My point is that this all would not have been possible if I did not open my heart to my good friend. It would not have happened if I did not trust her enough to share not only my joys, but also my struggles and fears. It is true that not many friends can be as awesome as Cari, but by trusting and sharing with your friends you give them the opportunity to be so.

SEE THE SIGNS

When people find that I am an advocate for positive living, the same question seems to pop up, “Why bother?” They want to know why you should bother being nice to people. Why is it important to stop and greet strangers with a smile? Why is it important to check in with friends even if you really have nothing else to say? Why is it important to keep courting the love of your life, long after they have agreed to the ‘happily ever after’?

These are all very good questions. Some people who may fit into the pessimistic lifestyle even ask me questions such as “Why bother being nice to people when all they will do is end up taking advantage of you?” No doubt this question has arises from some past experience they have had. The funny thing about that is it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you treat people with the forgone conclusion that at some point they are going to take advantage of you or do something hurtful, you withhold certain things. You may not give them the full amount of trust. You may not be completely open and vulnerable with them. Perhaps you may even skip doing the little extra things that may inconvenience you but mean the world to them. After all why would you go out of your way when sooner or later you are going to end up with the short end of the stick?

The ironic thing here is by doing these actions you perpetuate those very circumstances. How? If someone makes you feel like they can’t trust you, how would that make you feel about them? If they never seem to share about themselves and seem guarded would you feel close to them? Trying to keep yourself from getting hurt ends up pushing people away.

Here is another reality – no matter how hard you try at some point you will get hurt. Your paths will cross with some malevolent people, and even good people on occasion do things that hurt us without meaning to. Especially if they don’t know you well enough to know what might upset you.

So why be nice? Why go out of your way to do the things mentioned in the first paragraph? Here’s why. In the picture you see both a sign and a card. The first my lovely Margie left the sign on the mirror while she was shopping with her daughter and I was at the gym. How do you think that sign made me feel as I left for work? Loved? Grateful? Happy? All warm and fuzzy inside? Yes to all the above! The reason she did it she told me was because of how I was making her feel.

The card is an even better story. I shared with Margie how hard it is for me when the Wisconsin State Fair ends. It is not only the end of that festival, which I have loved since a child, but the end of my vacation that year and summer coming to a close. Three things I enjoy coming to a conclusion all at the same time can leave me feeling a little blue. Knowing this the love of my life bought me a ‘get well’  card of sorts. Cheering me up and reminding me of good times to come.

Do you think that would’ve happened had I taken or relationship for granted? Assuming your relationship is ‘handled’ because it is going ok is one of the biggest mistakes a couple can make. Love is one thing you should never put on autopilot. Let me be clear, the reason I put in so much effort in making my lady understand how much she is loved and how beautiful she I find her is not so I can see what creative and wonderful surprises she can leave me. I do it because I am the man in her life and I believe that is what a real man should do. I work as hard as I can to give her a man she can be proud of. I also do my best to not only tell her, but show her how beautiful she is to me and how loved she is. As you can see, the rewards I receive are well worth it.

Here is a wonderful thing I have done with both the card and the sign. I put them inside my laptop and every time I write I open it up to find examples of the love she has shown me. This not only helps on the days when a reminder comes in handy, but each and every time that I see them. It has taken two single very thoughtful moments from my love and made them gifts that give me joy every time I open my computer to write. This not only has me feeling loved it puts me in a great mood to write. It also fills me with gratitude for the amazing woman I have.

How do you think having these reminders serves our relationship? When we are not seeing eye to eye on something, having an example of how great our love can be creates an urge to get back there. When I am away writing, looking over and seeing these reminders helps me stay focused and get my work done so I can come home to the wonderful lady who created them. They are gifts that continue to keep on giving.

Take the time to share with the one you love. The only way for them to love all of you is if all of you loves all of them. That might be tricky to read, but it certainly will make your relationship a glorious source of joy and growth like Margie and I are blessed to have. It also helps to carry reminders of your love with you when you go somewhere.

A GREAT LESSON

Yes, you are about to witness another post involving the Wisconsin State Fair. It is my favorite place after all. Even while ‘on vacation’ I still notice things that we can all gain motivation from. Take the example in the two pictures above.

I found this display behind one of the barns housing animals. It was a place where the people exhibiting their animals could thank those people who helped them on their journey to the fair! A lot of the signs you could tell were composed by young people. What a great lesson to teach these children? Instead of focusing on whether or not your pig or cow came in first, to appreciate all the work that went into just getting there. To remind them of the sacrifice of a lot of people made so their chance was possible.

Not all parents reading this have children in 4H or FFA, but in any case it is a good lesson to impart. Starting children out in the practice of gratitude early not only helps the parents have a more grateful child, but as the child grows into an adult it will help them to remain focused on what they have instead of focusing on what they lack.

What a great gift to give to a child, a tool to help them remain positive even in tough times. There is nothing, in my opinion, that can transform a life for the better than fostering an attitude of gratitude.

What if you don’t have any children or what if they are grown adults? The same holds true for friends and coworkers. Helping anyone become more grateful will make their life so much better. It will increase joy and decrease stress. A regular reminder of what we all are grateful for will help us all. What a great conversation to have as well. I would much rather listen to someone telling me what they are thankful for rather than listening to them complain. Let us all work together to help each other become grateful.

A FISH, A RACING PIG AND ALBERT EINSTEIN

“Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid” – Albert Einstein

This quote from Albert Einstein is one of my favorites. It demonstrates a very important fact that we all could benefit from remembering. We must remember that every person we meet is amazing a special in their own way. Every job is very important. I believe in was Mother Teresa who urged us to do small things with great love.

This point was brought to my attention as I indulged in 2 of my favorite past times. Watching a pig race while attending the Wisconsin State Fair. Pigs are some of my favorite animals. They almost always seem to be enjoying life to the fullest, are the consummate underdog, and are very intelligent. When you are at the fair you can see pigs in many different fashions. Some are in barns on display. These are usually checked out by animal lovers and looked at with distain by city folks sensitive to certain smells. They can be found smiling on many signs and shirts advertising a million different foods and products. A smiling pig is a hard thing for many people to resist. Speaking of food, you can also find pigs in some fashion on a breakfast sandwich, on a burger, or even on a stick.

These definitions are where most people classify pigs. A humble, yet adorable animal. If you put a racing sash on them such as the one above and have them race each other for Oreo cookies something else entirely different happens. Thousands of people pack bleachers to standing room only during the 11 day run of the fair. During their 5 performances a day one can hardly find a seat if you do not get there early. They yell, jump and cheer for their favorite pig to make it around the track first.

What happened? This is the same pig many of those very people would not even go into a barn to see because of the smell. In a different role, however, they became something to cheer for. Something to sit in the hot sun just to watch. People can even buy souvenirs after the race.

In life we all can be like the pigs. Sometimes it can seem the world is against us. It may seem like there is nobody in our corner cheering for us. If it is because we live in a place that resembles a barn and we have an unpleasant odor, the solution is fairly obvious. Most of us, however, are just living the wrong role. Investigate your strengths. think of what you do well. Know what gift you bring to the world and live that. Before long, you too may very well have people lining up to cheer for you.

GATHERING POWER

This is a picture of me at my favorite place, Wisconsin State Fair, at one of my favorite stands, El Jefe corn stand. Normally I preach about living in the moment and savoring each and every second you can out of life. As a general rule taking pictures of everything or being on your phone takes away from that. Just like any rule, however, there are a few exceptions. The fair is an event that happens once a year for eleven days in August. I make the most of this by even taking vacation from my work and going every day for the last eleven years. Some people think I’m foolish, some people think I’m crazy, but I don’t really mind. If something makes you happy and doesn’t harm others or yourself than do it to the fullest.

The time of the fair seems fleeting to me because I do enjoy it so much. Combine that with the fact that the weather is usually the kind I enjoy, warm and sunny and one can understand that it is the perfect coming together of many things I enjoy. Nature, food, sun, warmth, music, more food, Rum, friends, and many other fabulous things.

Here is the trouble and where the exception to the rule comes into play. In Wisconsin our state fair lasts eleven days, and winter seems to last about eleven months. For someone with seasonal affective disorder who really dislikes cold that ratio can be tough. What can one do? I can’t extend the fair or shorten winter. This is where a lot of people would resign themselves with a “it is what it is” type mentality. Not me! Finding ways to capture the spirit of summer and the state fair is my goal. One way is certainly to be present and create the most wonderful memories possible. Another is to collect memories such as souvenirs, and photos.

I know there are a lot of people, like myself, not really keen on having pictures taken with themselves in them, but in this case it can be a powerful tool. When the snow is flying in December and a January I can look at this goofy picture of myself and reflect. Even just going there in my mind can help.

So, make sure you remain present and get every drop of joy and fun you can out of life, but also make sure to stop, if only occasionally, to take a little bit with you. Feel free to share your ideas for taking happiness with you.