“Whack-a-Thought” Meditation Technique

In a guided meditation app that I use, an interesting and fun game that they introduced as “Whack-a-Thought.” Quite similar to the arcade-favorite “Whack-a-Mole” albeit less violent and in relation to a mindfulness practice.

Hand Tally CounterOften times, intrusive thoughts can plague and detract from our meditation experience and we often struggle with being with them. There is a misconception that we have to block out these thoughts during meditation, but that is the opposite of what we should be doing. Being mindfully aware of our thoughts, not dwelling and obsessing over them, and not blocking them out is the key to a successful practice. As thoughts arise, acknowledge them, give it a name if you can, let it go and return to your breath. Repeat as often as needed.

An interesting tool that I picked up for this technique is a hand tally counter much like you would see in the hands of someone at a ticket gate. At times when I am dealing with racing thoughts and need to slow my anxiety down, I will take the tally counter in my hand and sit down and meditate with it. Every time that I have a thought arise, I click the counter. The goal is to click the counter as few times as possible, much like scoring in golf but don’t feel like its a competition to get the lowest score. For me, if I start off clicking the counter every few seconds or so but then slow down to once every 10 seconds, I consider that a success. I have found that the tactile feedback of using the counter helps engrain the healthy habit of acknowledging a though and releasing it while still being mindful of the thoughts that I am experiencing at the time.

“Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.” – Pema Chodron



Openness to Help

Asking for help is a hard thing to do. Accepting help can be even harder which is more often the case that prevents us from even asking for in the first place. In today’s society, there is the impetus that we must strive to be independent and self-sufficient all the time but that is not always the case.

It affects our sense of pride, having to receive help. It hurts us to ask because we are told from the beginning that we have to be able to function on our own and to be successful at it. Western society says so… While we should never be completely dependent on others we should still possess a level of self-awareness that we are not equipped to do anything and everything. We must be able to realize what situations we need help with whether it be something as simple as seeking out advice or an extra set of hands to alleviate some of the burden.

Asking for help should be taken as a sign of personal strength and character. None of us have lived long enough or broadly enough to have been able to experience everything. Being able to seek out those who have previously handled whatever troubles we are encountering and heeding their advice can lead to shorter periods of discomfort and unhappiness.

Its never a burden to anyone else to give help unless you begin to rely on them. Those that give help often need help too. There is a difference between being a burden to someone else and utilizing someone else’s knowledge and experience. We don’t know everything (as much as we would like to think that we do) and its time that we stop acting like we think we do.

Only when we are at our weakest moments are we open to the greatest change. Its when we seek out help that we receive these changes with an open heart and an open mind. Even though it may be hard to do so, we have to ask when we need it.


The Yin & Yang of Feelings

As a society, we prefer to focus on negative elements instead of the positive. This is especially true in the realm of personal feelings. We focus so much on negative feelings that we lose sight of how to learn and grow from them.

Each feeling has a positive and a negative aspect and usually results from an action either we or someone close to us made. How we perceive these feelings is entirely up to us, whether to focus on the positive or the negative. None of us want to waste time or energy on destructive feelings but instead use that energy to effortlessly change ourselves for the better. Rarely do we realize this, instead just passively “going with the flow.”

Realizing when negative feelings arise whenever something happens is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. Usually when we are experiencing negative feelings, we are at our weakest. Negative feelings arise whenever we blame ourselves for the inherent effects from a choice that we made. None of us go out with the intent to hurt others, but life and people are complex things which no one is perfectly able to predict. We only wish to do right by ourselves but unfortunately our individual paths may contradict another’s. Instead of seeing a mistake for what it is, we focus that blame into a form of self-hate, further fueling the negative feelings.

Whenever a negative feeling arises, give it a name: “I feel guilty because I made someone else regret a decision that they made after offering my opinions on it.” By naming these feelings, we can associate the positive aspect to the same feeling in order for it to become constructive: “I must let people make their own decisions and only offer my opinions when asked. When I offer my opinions, I must caveat that I realize what would be best for me may not be the best for them. We are all different.”

Depending on the situation in which the negative feelings arise, this can either be a quick fix or a long-term dilemma that we have to resolve. For more difficult situations and the longer we spend on them, the more susceptible we are to revert back to negative feelings. Pause, take a step back, breathe… Nothing is ever so critical that it needs to be resolved right this moment. We are more than our emotions and if we take a short break from them we can refocus our efforts with a clearer mind.

There is always a positive aspect to the situations and feelings we encounter and lessons and growth to be had from them. For our feelings, we can choose how we let ourselves be affected by them. Positive mind, positive vibes, positive life…

The Snapshots We Take

Whenever we first meet someone, we take a mental snapshot. Their actions, mannerisms, personality, looks, hair, clothes… In our mind, carry this mental image of them and take it with us throughout the rest of our lives. This polaroid stored in our mind represents that person and what they mean to our lives.

As time passes, people change but rarely do we ever go back and change our perceptions of them. This picture does not represent them, no more than your baby pictures represent you. This even applies to different periods in our lives, how we were as a teenager, husband, wife, parent… Are you the same person as you were back in high school? I’m willing to bet not.

We continue to take snapshots as we go about our lives, however. What we don’t realize is that we take new snapshots of the same people, but only remember the first one we ever took. Are these people the same as from when you first met them? Who do you see them now as? Maybe its time to start using the more recent picture…

We are a culmination of our experiences and perceptions. Just because we may have been a different person back in high school or before we were married doesn’t mean that that’s not us, its just a different part. The people that surround us go through the same thing. So I ask you this: Who are you still trying to perceive as the same person from when you first met them? It could very well be yourself.

The American Lifestyle

Once upon a time, we believed in something that we called “The American Dream.” Over the years, coupled with the internet and mainstream society, we now have the American “Do-Whatever-You Want.” We are cultivating a sense of entitlement and selfish behavior that negatively impacts those around us.

Polarized Golden Gate.png

We see it all around us in our daily lives. More so now than what we did ten or fifteen years ago, thanks in part to the internet and social media. We are growing more interconnected as a society enabling and tolerating behavior that would have been frowned upon, tactfully corrected, or ostracized before now.

You see it whenever you are waiting at a stoplight and the car next to you is making your windows rattle because their bass is turned up as far as it can go.

It happens when someone almost runs into you in the store because their nose was buried in their phone.

You don’t notice it when you are rocketing around in your metal box on rubber wheels, too selfish to yield the right-of-way to the crosswalk pedestrian to get to your destination while never fully arriving.

We post all of our pictures and selfies to social media, but are too afraid to make eye contact with those around us, as if we have something to be embarrassed about.

For far too long each of us has been moving at a steady max speed through our lives, trying to get to where we want to be as if what we have here and now is just something to get through. “I have to make it to retirement,” or “I need to save up to buy a house,” or “I need to earn that college degree…” We dare to dream but we never dream to live.

We say that we are modern and progressing as a nation but as long as everyone remains trapped in this overrated, arrogant, fuck-you, egotistical lifestyle that owns nothing but is entitled to everything, we will stagnate and vegetate were we currently are.


Fatherhood for Dummies

Being a father changes things, but not how you might think. Those who know these things are either already a parent or will quickly learn in nine months time. Fatherhood is something that cannot be taught, only experienced. But I am going to take a stab at it anyways…

Fatherhood strains a relationship. Not because of any previously existing discontent between you and your significant other, but because there will be a period of time when you have not fully realized your situation yet. You never do until nine months later and you finally get to hold your child for the first time. For your wife/girlfriend on the other hand, its been real all this time. She tries to understand, but cannot. She began realizing everything as soon as the first physical changes started happening to her body. Nine months seems like a long time looking forward at it, but its a drop in the bucket in hindsight.

Life as a father is different, but that does not mean you completely lose it for the next eighteen years. Yes, you have added responsibilities as this fleshy little meat-bag is now dependent on you and what you can offer it. That does not mean that the laws of physics have suddenly changed to where the universe suddenly revolves around your child however. I have seen many people lie to themselves by saying “I’m not ready to have kids because there is so much else that I still want to do with my life.” Having kids is not about what you have to give up, but what you want to include them in…

Many others tell themselves: “I’ll have kids when I am ready.” You are never ready and I am telling you that you never will be either. But that is the joy of it. Parenting is not about knowing everything and being completely prepared for every situation you may encounter. You will raise a robot that way by trying to teach them, not show them, the things you wish you would have known. Just because you are now the teacher does not mean that you suddenly stop being the student as well. You learn and they learn, and you both become the kind of person that you want to see exist in this world.

The long nights and less free time will inevitably wear on you. You will still go to work and still do your projects around the house because those are the things that you have to do. Its not that you do not have time anymore, you just cannot afford to waste it. Time that you would have normally have spent mindlessly playing video games, gossiping about meaningless sporting events, or whatever other leisure activity of your choice. If you were wasting time to begin with, then what really were you accomplishing? Yes, sometimes you do have to waste time in order to make time but by having less of it you will be more grateful of how you waste your time in the first place.

On the outside looking it, everyone only sees the negative aspects of parenting. The crying, the fussing, the dirty diapers, the sleepless nights…  People see and latch onto the negativity, refusing to ever see the good. I can tell you, the good greatly outweighs the bad. My daughter’s smile, her laughs, her gaze, her curiosity… I know, it sounds all mushy and emotional but it is really some of the purest emotions that you ever can and ever will experience. Unfortunately, you cannot have the good without the bad and most can only realize the latter.

My daughter is five months old now. I see myself as a better person by becoming a father but not a different one. To those on the outside looking in, I probably do look different and, until now, have only been able to fathom as to the reasons why. I have not really changed, but my perspective has.

Exercising Patience

img_20161005_185800Today I did the 6,000 mile service on Murdock, my F800GS Adventure. Well, mostly… I still have the air filter to check/replace and adjusting the chain slack. I learned a lot in the process, but I realized a lot more in the aspect of exercising patience.

I have always been a patient person. Granted, I am only human and still have my weak moments, but it is a trait that I take pride in. Lately though this aspect of me is being tried again and again. For what reasons? I am not sure, but there is something…

In the early afternoon I headed out to the garage to begin working. Ah, but first I need a different oil filter wrench. The previous ones I bought from Harbor Freight were not the right size for the BMW filter, go figure. Harbor Freight being too far away for what should be a quick jaunt, I skip over to the Home Depot that is two blocks away. $10 later and a shiny new tool to show for it, I start unscrewing the skid plate.

Pulling off the skid plate so that it is out of the way, I move to the drain plug. I leverage all of my weight against it and it gives no sign of even moving. The torx bit I have starts to deform the hex-socket of the plug slightly. Well lets go to Home Depot again…

Pulling into the parking lot, I am irritated by the absent-minded drivers fighting over who can get the closer parking space. But I am not irritated at them… I am irritated at the negligent mechanic at the dealership who overtightened everything on my motorcycle from when I had the 600 mile break-in service done. Too late to do anything about that now except complain. A deep breath later, I come out of Home Depot with a couple more shiny new tools.

Back in the garage with the appropriate hex bit and a breaker bar, I torque on the drain plug again. Still no budge. My wife ventures out to see what I am up to, our 5-month-old in tow in her carrier wrap. I must look like a mad-man covered in dirt and grime from the underside of the motorcycle, uttering profanities under my breath. Cautiously, they both approach and my wife suggests using a cheater-pipe for more leverage. I am apprehensive at first, concerned about striping out the socket, but at this point I am desperate and have lost all semblance of logic in the furor I have stewed myself in.

Applying force again to the oil plug, gently ramping  it up until most of my weight is on the cheater-pipe, a thunderous ping fills the garage and my hands drop a few inches. My wife and daughter jump a little. The oil plug is finally loose with minimal damage to the hex socket. What a relief.

I move to the oil filter and test how tight it is. Of course, why am I not surprised? It is has been overtightened as well. At least the filter is made to be disposable. I just have to ensure to not crush it completely before its completely loosened. After a few choice words and pulling out the cheater pipe again, I unscrew the spent oil filter. It looks like a dog’s chew toy at this point.

New filter, oil plug and crush washer in place (not overtightened this time), fresh oil poured in, the oil change is done. The hardest part about it all. By doing it myself I have now ensured that I will not have to take as drastic of measures the next time around.

I decide on tightening the chain drive next. After 6,000 miles it has a lot more play in it than what it should. I begin on the adjustments, only to realize that I need to slacken the axle safety bolt first. I do not have a big enough wrench, so its back to Home Depot.

This time I can only be frustrated with my own lack of foresight and not thoroughly reading the directions first. I had planned ahead, but not fully so, in buying a set of wrenches that I assumed would be enough. The only downside is that most sets like that only go up to a certain size. Sure enough, I needed an even bigger wrench.

Getting back to the garage, guess what? The new wrench still isn’t big enough. At this point, I have to laugh. The afternoon is gone, friends are coming over, and I have no choice but to put my work on hold. But I managed to get this far…

The day’s events undoubtedly flustered me more than usual, all because of external factors that I had no way of being aware of or could not control. I was flustered primarily because I took a mechanic’s negligence personally, when for him it was a very impersonal thing. It was just another motorcycle. I was impatient in having to go through the growing pains of learning how to do the maintenance on a new motorcycle.

To realize these aspects is the first step in exercising patience. You cannot be patient if you never take the time to slow down and realize why you need to be patient for. In this case, I needed to be patient as I learned the correct tools I needed for my bike as well as being patient with circumstances that were predetermined 5,400 miles in the past. Being bogged down with anger and frustration in the present moment never helps you get through that hardship any faster. In fact, it actually impedes things.

Be mindful and realize what you need to be patient for…