My twin brother just sent me this pic from Bermuda where he is vacationing with his family! I sent him one from LA where I go every month as I commit to creating a business here in part to experience more creativity and diversity and in part to leave New England winters behind!
I’m writing this post from a coffee shop inside Rancho Park Golf Course, an awesome public facility walking distance from my apartment in Century City here in the heart of Los Angeles. I am reflecting on a great week of life that was special because I allowed the Flow! On previous trips I’ve over – scheduled and tried to squeeze too much in. This time I flew on a Saturday which takes the pressure off because I don’t have to go right into client mode or networking mode right off the airplane. It’s part of a greater desire to chill more, flow more and effort less! I’ve done less meetings this week than previous trips but the quality of the experiences was far better and more fun too. So if your at all driven or ambitious like me, perhaps there’s a way to do more Being and less Doing, a style of living that enhances the quality of your experiences and invites the Flow!!
I’ve been working hard for months and months with very little down time. This weekend my twin brother and I went on a three day golf and fishing holiday. Getting some sun, time away, twin time, and especially time on the water was just what the doctor ordered! Occasionally, I take clients for walks on the beach or to fish and even to hit golf balls. Sometimes, I take clients to my parents’ island where I walk them out over bridges and do a session looking at the water below or the pond in the back. There is something truly amazing about the water and the elements of nature I tell them, especially when it comes to letting go. Many of us are too busy; busy doing, doing, doing and spend very little time just being. Fishing and any activity involving water is a fantastic way to help the mind release and just be!
I mediate a lot, far more than most of the people I know and yet there is nothing like a few days of exposure to the elements to facilitate peace and a feeling of rejuvenation. I recommend time in nature every week to most everyone I guide. If you can find a few days in a row every so often, all the better!!
Last week I experienced several days of wonderful flow, a state where life seems effortless and even magical. For instance, my girlfriend had set me up with her accountant, a man hailing from Middletown, CT, perhaps an hour’s drive from Westport. We arranged to meet for lunch on Tuesday at a half-way point in Milford. I called a buddy who set me up with three restaurants there. I chose the first one and made the arrangement for 1pm. That morning I was at a coffee shop in town working on my novel and suddenly decided to call a friend to see if she could join me. She told me that she had a busy day but could meet me at the restaurant after lunch and we could go up together. Following my CPA meeting I ordered food my friend Alison to go just as she walked in and the manager with whom I was chatting gave her a hug! As a nutritionist, she had made a huge difference in this man’s life and didn’t even know he worked there! The manager told her to leave her car in the restaurant parking lot and off we went. The baseball game was in Manchester, CT a small town northwest of Hartford that I had never even heard of. As a Sports Psychologist, my client’s baseball game was great to watch as it gave me plenty of info to help my client going forward.
On the drive back I asked Alison about her life prior to nutrition and I was surprised to find out that she had spent a year in Colorado at age 27 teaching ski school. I shared about a client that I had coached for years on the phone continuously encouraging him to continue learning and growing even if college and traditional education wasn’t for him. He lived in Aspen then working as a ski patrol guy becoming an EMT over time. With my guidance and strong backing, he eventually applied for paramedic school moving back to CT to work after completing the training.
That evening, I had a phone session arranged for 6:30 pm and then fishing at 7! I dropped Alison back off at the restaurant at 6:28pm just in time to do my phone session and then followed her to Bridgport where I had arranged fishing with another friend. In the rain, the three of us fished until someone suggested dinner. We chose a fun restaurant in Blackrock, a hip section of Bridgeport. Given the rain and low tide it was a no-brainer. Twenty minutes later the three of us walked in the restaurant and there was Sean, my client from Danbury whom I coached on the phone while he lived in Aspen. He gave me a giant hug and told me that he got the firehouse job, a five year ambition even since he graduated paramedic school! He also said that he was about to text me to set up a session too. I asked him where the fire job was and he said Manchester, CT!
That evening as I drifted off to sleep I contemplated the beauty of Flow, a state of being that is directly related to the energy of allowing. Learning to eliminate interference like drama and the need for control is a great way to set yourself up for Flow. It is the best way to live!
I’ve been coaching more and more athletes on the mental game over the past several years! A reoccurring theme is what to do with criticism. It’s part of a larger discussion on mindfulness. When we are able to slow down our thought process and become more aware of our mental and emotional states we then have the capacity to unhook from our reactions and change our thoughts. This applies to parents as much as business people or athletes. Suppose you are pitching a solid game and have one rough inning and your coach comes to the mound all pissed off. He says a few words, goes back to the bench and kicks the water cooler. Do you let that rattle you? Get under your skin? Or do you pay attention to your breathe, settle down and redirect your thoughts to throwing a strike on the outside corner? It’s similar in extreme examples like road rage? Do you let someone’s idiocy get you going or do you pay attention to your breathe and redirect your thoughts to the possibility that this other person is dealing with an emergency?
Training the mind is as important as training the body. The more you practice the better you get. So the next time you find yourself overreacting to one of your children breathe, pay attention to your thoughts, and redirect them to something positive or something you appreciate about them. This works!!
I recently began working with a high school baseball pitcher with a big dream: he wants to work in the front office of a Major League Baseball team one day! I asked him if wanted to be a GM and he replied that was like asking him if he wanted to be the president of the United States one day! I smiled.
I asked him why he sought out a sports psychologist and he said that he was having trouble maintaining his focus and concentration on the mound for more than four innings. I looked at him and said that his dream was a nine inning dream and that I could teach him how to build mental toughness and stamina that would allow him to pitch even ten innings, a metaphor for unlimited possibility! He said he was on board. We began with a discussion about eliminating the drama and distraction in his life outside of baseball. By teaching him to communicate at a higher level too he would learn patience and discipline, a necessary step along the way. My argument is that everything we do off the field affects our performance on the field. The more we practice patience, discipline, present moment time and self-expression the more muscle we build everywhere! I even asked him to listen to his girlfriend more. He said that would be tough and I replied: “How bad do you want to successfully pitch nine innings?” He smiled!
What are you willing to learn, change or do differently to accomplish your dreams?
The feature article in the April 13, 2014 New York Times Sunday Review section entitled “Raising A Moral Child” by Adam Grant covers the fundamentals of good parenting that every person, not just parent, should know. Essentially, we need to be mindful of the difference between shame and guilt and make sure we are never shaming our children or others for that matter. Shame is the feeling that one is a bad person while guilt refers to one’s behavior being wrong. If we learn to praise good character and punish bad actions essentially we are on the right track. Children who are praised for good character show far more generosity and caring in research studies.
Generosity, the act of giving without strings attached, can be encouraged by parenting and discouraged as well though the actions of others not their words. Thus, if a parent acts generous and caring, children will copy this behavior and eventually internalize it. The opposite is true as well. Therefore, if you want to raise kind, generous, and moral children, then act that way yourself and be sure to punish actions not character.
I am a dog person. I playfully postulate that there are two basic sets of humans: dog people and non-dog people. If you are a dog lover then this article by David Hochman in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times is worth reading. The thesis is that dogs are far smarter and more capable than many people realize. For instance, a 9-year-old Border Collie in South Carolina may know up to a thousand words. Another dog in Japan is capable of detecting early stage colon cancer at an astounding 98 percent success rate! The next time you are tempted to believe your dog is stupid, you might want to put a little time, energy, and money into training him or her better. Much like humans, the more stimulation we give our pets in terms of memory and learning the better!
Learning more about the mind and it’s abilities is always fascinating to me! An article by Sumathi Reddy in the Personal Journal section of the Wall Street Journal suggests that forgetfulness is not only pervasive as many of us suspect but linked to our genetics in a substantial way. For instance, one study found that 75 percent of people may carry a gene mutation that leads to higher incidences of forgetfulness. As we age, the brain shrinks making us more prone to memory and concentration lapses too. The good news is that there is plenty we can do to help ourselves. When we encode memories if we pay closer attention to our behavior we are more likely to remember things. In other words, the more present we are, the better our memory! This is part of how I teach others to succeed in life, business, and sports. The more in the here and now we are, the better our performance no matter what the activity!
Retrieval is also better if we can trace our emotional state to use as a clue to where we put a lost item in the first place. In other words, the more mindful we are the better our memories. This is also true of success and performance. Stress, depression and fatigue decrease memory, concentration and performance. On the other hand, putting ourselves in a great mental state improves many aspects of living including memory and performance!
Nicholas Kristof’s column in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times chronicles the travails of Mike Yurchison, an Iraq war veteran battling head injury and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). His girlfriend of three and a half years is struggling too, not sure if she can continue to hang in there with him considering all the challenges of dealing with a man shattered by war and mental illness. According to Mr. Yurchison, psychiatry has helped him become addicted to opiates and otherwise he has found these doctors “unhelpful.” This is too often the case. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are killing themselves at alarming rates. Mike’s brother and close friend, both veterans, recently killed themselves. We also see periodic rampages at military bases such as Fort Hood where medication is often part of the picture.
The issues are complex and challenging and some doctors are fantastic. War is a terrible thing too. However, mental health treatment, especially for veterans, too often relies on medication that is far more harmful than most doctors care to admit. Anti-anxiety meds are addictive and other meds prescribed for anxiety and depression are often toxic to the body. Prescription medication is a multi-billion dollar business after all. I recently had a dinner with a psychiatric nurse who is now medicating her entire practice. This woman was anti-meds just a few years ago.
As a society, we need more intense involvement well beyond medication for those suffering from mental illness. This would involve both communities and professionals and is especially true for veterans. I share this perspective from years of experience as a licensed psychologist helping countless people with severe anxiety, PTSD and depression to eventually get off most or all medication. We can do better.
I’ve wrote other posts about China’s environmental problems after reading various articles but this one in The New York Times Review section takes the cake. According to Sheng Keyi, a former resident of Huaihua, a village on the Lanxi River in Hunan Procince, the river is dead, destroyed by pollution from factories and animal waste. Cancer rates are enormous and citizens continue to drink unsafe, toxic water because they have no choice while the privileged send their children abroad or consume clean water through networks that serve the wealthy.
The author notes that more than 50 percent of China’s rivers have disappeared altogether, cancer rates are up 80 percent in the last 30 years, and nearly 200 million mostly poor people continue to drink unsafe water. He writes, “the illness does not just affect my village and my river. The entire country is sick. In our society, profit and gross domestic product count more than anything else.”
If more people could regulate themselves, we wouldn’t need government regulation that so many people in our country hate. In China, where business and political corruption is rampant, regulation is clearly not enough. I have a buddy who lives in Beijing and came home for Christmas with severe respiratory issues, a result of intense air pollution there.
Please stop the madness.