Let’s catch a ball game this summer, something local in our town. I love the idea of talking real talk with you in-between my narrative about the baseball being played on field. The people watching is fun too. I think you’d get a kick out of the vendors hustling beer. I want us to sing Take Me Out To The Ball Game together in the seventh inning. I would order a brat with kraut and peppers. What would you order? I’d have this poem my grandpa wrote about baseball in my back pocket. After he passed I rewrote it. Maybe I would read it to you, stopping to explain every line. I love baseball and I loved my grandpa. You’d see me smile with my eyes. They might even glisten in the rereading. Those eyes that would be so open to you and I look up to smile at you staring back at me deep. Then we’d fall in love.
I’m not going to point to all the research. You can Google it. Basically, there’s various ways you can trick the body into releasing Oxytocin. The benefits are simple: feel better, reduce stress, be happier and those things help us live healthy – longer.
It’s hard to know what to do when things seem to have flat-lined. I don’t like feeling too comfortable. Maybe another term for it would be plateauing.
Am I Flat-Lining?
On one side … comfort poses a threat to improvement, but that might be my perception and not true. I perceive healthy discomfort as an opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable. The world happens to the ready.
On the other side… “comfortable” – where I am present and things are sufficient with the “comfortable” is a great place to be.
It’s discerning between the two.
I Just Made A New Rule For Myself
I’m making this up now:
If things are flat-lining for 90 days and, to my best efforts, I can’t get things to improve or at least have hope for improvement, then I will shut it down and start from scratch.
Then again, I don’t know. It kind of sounds like an old behavior where I feel the need to put a Saber Toothed Tiger on my shoulder to make life difficult
I will live that question for awhile. If I’m going to live a question, I need something to do. That’s when I decided to get high on my own supply of Oxytocin.
Dancing is a state changer. It’s a big YES in my book. Dancing with kids, dancing with lovers and dancing with friends – all Oxytocin inducing, all remedies for feeling flat.
My most fondly remembered moments this past week were giving/receiving hugs from people. Almost as good was imagining myself being hugged by someone I love.
Even something as small as browsing my Instagram feed I “Liked” a photograph that a random friend from 25 years ago posted. I don’t consider calling this person to say, “that was a real cute photo of your kid that you posted.” But liking the photo is one small way (of many) of connecting with someone that I have felt close to at some point in my life, even if it was just because in middle school me and him played ball together, went “ding-dong ditching” and swam in his pool. It’s not insignificant if you’re present to the human being that is behind those digital pixels.
Do Something Rarely Done Anymore
I called people to chat for a few minutes.
Like we used to do when we were kids. “Hey, how are you doing? What’s up?” This feels good. It’s like a vocal hug with someone I like. I’m good at vocally hugging people. I want to do it more. Warning: it will throw people for a loop. They will be like WTF are you calling me for?
Being trusted feels good. It gives me more confidence to trust others too.
I find people that I trust to be charismatic, and I live with a permanent crush on those people. Same goes for endearing people. All it takes for me to think you are trustworthy, charismatic and endearing is a good sit down talk.
How to be more trusted? Simple … Integrity. In all of my past relationships if I lost trust, I broke integrity first. Integrity is the only ingredient for prolonged happiness.
I ask my kids all the time, What do you want to do? Always the same answer: I want to play. That’s the gist, anyway. Us adults spend a lot of time, effort, and money being serious. But play?
I played with my kids all day yesterday, and let me tell you, I hope you choose to get out and play. We kicked rocks, jumped from swings and drew pictures with our imagination, among other things. No screens. They didn’t even ask.
If you want your small angers to disappear in a flash of laughter, then let go of serious and play with your kids.
Humor – That video above made me and the kids laugh SO HARD! We couldn’t get enough of it. Kids laugh like 300 times per day. Us adults… maybe three if we’re lucky.
Jumping rope – My best physical habit at the moment is four flawless minutes of jump rope a couple times per day.
Being creative – I started an Instagram profile. The first and primary reason is to ignite my creativity using photos as idea starters and practice pairing my pictures with the brevity that our “tl;dr society” is asking for.
Helping people, being helped – I had to ask for help in the form of childcare. I helped members of our staff at the greenhouse by teaching them instead of being an impatient asshole.
None of This is Science
Who cares! Maybe it’s not Oxytocin that I created. Maybe it’s a Jedi mind trick I played on myself. But if it helps me to be more efficient with, and reduce my “carbon footprint” with shitting out my mental and emotional waste, then sign me up.
Oxytocin is the flower. The flower grows toward the light. My goal is to be the light.
I mustn’t react emotionally. I must respond thoughtfully.
I mustn’t react emotionally even when my most important relationships are reacting emotionally toward me. I will wait to speak.
I mustn’t seek to be right. It’s an act of making someone or something wrong. Not necessary or useful.
I mustn’t judge what “equal” portray. Being equal isn’t equal all the time. Don’t keep a running tally.
I am responsible for modeling and practicing what I seek to receive.
I won’t necessarily treat others how I want to be treated, but how I think they want to be treated.
When I do all of the above, I change the world. Especially the world of my children. To a limited extent, same with the mothers of my children.
With all of the above, my world grows in Love.
So much depends on a thoughtful response. Each time I react, I remember later how my ego wasn’t small, and my Love wasn’t bigger than my imagination.
Progress requires a good bit of faltering, and a lot of honesty about what I don’t know (yet). I am patient with myself.
There is no recognition, no card or gift that honors these lessons I keep learning.
Failure is an open door for me, a fresh perspective from zero, and a wonderful invitation to begin again. It doesn’t even have to hurt.
I want to be the strongest version of myself so I have a checklist every day that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I know that if I just mark the boxes off this checklist, I’ll be okay
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The problems of our time appear to be political, economical and environmental but that doesn’t mean that is where the solutions will be found. I have known enough problems in my time to understand that solutions are cultural and require remarkable listening to the many voices among us. Especially the ones we disagree with. If not, a pattern prevails in the world where our mutual similarities and differences become lost in the dark. I don’t want to dwell in that darkness. I have seen posts explaining that “if you support Trump, I am not your friend.” I might not agree with your politics, or you mine, but I am still your friend, your brother, your able bodied person. Us versus them is a slippery slope. For all of time, people have chosen to associate with a group identity. I want to be mindful and cautious if that identity starts to have a negative influence on how I view other people who I don’t identify with. I want to try to identify with everyone in some way. Even (especially) if it’s a stretch. I don’t expect the same, but that’s what my friends do.
“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”
– Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton
May we all be like the poets.
Like Thoreau watching ripples on still water.
Like Emily distilling her days into verse.
Like Basho learning pine from pine and bamboo from bamboo.
Like Whitman bearing poems like children.
Like Homer, a life’s work in two poems.
Me? … unknown, wide eyed, big hearted, listening, hungry and writing to stay tuned – perhaps a gift for a great great grandchild who will someday find something I wrote and put it on the refrigerator, nodding, “mmmm, truth!”
Being alive means we run. Sometimes running from something. Sometimes running towards something, or someone. Often both depending on the season. No matter how fast we are though, there are things we never will be able to outrun. Things that will always catch up to us. No one can out run pain. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to stop running, to let whatever it is catch up and overtake us.
I went to a yoga class last night. I haven’t performed yoga in a decade, and back then, I was chasing a girl. This was an “advanced” class, not in poses but ideas. Everyone there knew one another. I arrived alone, feeling a little unsure.
What was I doing there? I am on a journey toward making my relationship with myself the primary relationship in my life. I think yoga can help with that because of the stretching, the lengthening, the breathing, the holding of poses and the many lessons found in yogic concepts. I’m discovering that the community of people involved with this yoga on Tuesday nights is a great group of people too.
The yoga class experience was amazing! Such a gift to myself. I’ll be going every Tuesday. The instructor took me under his wing. The other participants were kind, accepting. I felt as if I belonged too. They’re practicing their thing just like I am. I like the feeling of being amongst like-minded and like-practicing people.
The yoga session touched on all the aspects of health for me: physical, emotional, maybe not so much mental, and spiritual. At one point, I felt tears coming to the surface. At another point, I was sweating with holding a pose, trying to lengthen into it while also keeping my breath steady and natural. In between those moments was gratitude, or simply no thoughts at all.
I was texting with my friend, Megan, about the experience. She’s a yogi. She praised me for going by myself. Then told me about a yoga concept called tapas.
Tapas is that friction caused by doing something new and/or uncomfortable, which leads you closer to your authentic self. Every time we face tapas, we peel another layer and get closer to the true self, the self untouched by anything in the human world. This is what I’m doing. I’m doing tapas every day. These days for me, just being is tapas. I am strong even in those moments when I feel weak.
In the morning, I write in my journal. Today I wrote,
Tapas = How to be strong when I feel weak.
I want happiness as much as the next red blooded human being, but maybe during certain seasons of our lives, it’s not about “happiness.” Maybe it’s about “experience.” Maybe it’s about peeling those layers back until you arrive at the untouched self and live there for awhile.
Emotion is created by motion. The way you move determines the way you feel. We have 80 muscles on our face. For most people that area is the biggest area of atrophy in our body. Most use the face the same way, have the same emotions.
Every day – these days – I have to prime myself to experience more range, more motion, deeper emotion.
It takes about 12-15 minutes. Sometimes I choose to go longer, but if I don’t have 12-15 minutes for myself, I don’t have a life. I am intentional about creating a healthy life for myself. That’s my number one thing. If I want to grow, there is no more “I hope I feel good.” Action has to be taken. Motion, motion, motion.
First, I physically feel my heart.
I put my hand on it and feel that heart. Lately, my inner peace meter is in the red zone so I seek to breathe deep and aggressively straight into my heart. It might even resemble heaving.
Steadily, I slow my breathing down so I can mourn for my heart.
There’s a 12 year old boy in there who is scared and nervous. That 12 year old’s mom is asking him if he would like her to walk with him, but he says No. He has to walk alone. That’s when the 40 year old version of me steps into the scene and tells the boy to follow.
I’m grateful for that 40 year old.
My hand is still on my heart, my focus still on breath. The 40 year old me is walking that 12 year old through a mural of grateful. He’s showing the boy all his value, all that he is meant to give and be. We stop. Hold our breath. Listen to our heart. Then breathe again. Our final grateful is for the uniqueness of our heart. I sit with this for a moment and find a normal breathing.
Then I reach for three things that I am grateful.
Sometimes, if I’m sharp, I find hard gratitudes. There are tiny seeds of gratitude inside every difficult situation. They can blossom into happiness if tended. Other times, they’re easy gratitudes. For example, this morning I heard the heavy breath of my son’s deep sleeping. I try to FEEL these three gratitudes. I want to overwhelm myself with it. Because I know that when I’m grateful, it’s impossible to feel worry, anger or fear. All my life it has been anger and fear that have set me back the most, whether that be in relationships, parenting or business.
Tony Robbins says you have to wire yourself every day.
That I can’t “hope” to be happy if my habit is to be worried, pissed off, frustrated or stressed. He says that most people have a highway to stress and a dirt road to happiness. Sometimes I visualize me and the 12 year old version of myself in good ole Mike Muligan’s steam shovel and we’re rebuilding my inner highway to happiness – one load of dirt at a time.
I pray for myself.
This is a combination of actual prayer and a re-visualization of my dream board. I have a dream board I look at every day. I go through each item in my mind’s eye and narrate what is happening for each one as if it has already happened.
I finish by saying my “Ground of Being” statement three to five times.
I say it out loud. My hand is still on my heart.
I am present. I am connected. I am creative. I am attractive. I am kind. I am confident. I am facing my fears and overcoming them. I am courageous. I breathe deep into my pain. I am opportunistic. I am making my life happen. I love myself. I am enough. I belong.
I do all this before getting out of bed.
When I am done with that process, I can get out of bed.
I pour a glass of water, take my Juice Plus capsules and open my journal. I write the date at the top of the page and recap the day before, intention how today will be and add thoughts, insights and responses. Next, I do 25 push ups, 25 sit ups and 25 air squats.
Now I can face my day. I have just given myself bravery. My pumps are primed. I have altered my state of being. My wires aren’t crossing. This is the work to be done.
This is a post from my healthy living series. If you’d like to receive all the healthy living posts, then subscribe here.
If you become the one you long for, what will you do with your longing?
Dear Rumi, I might lack the art to decipher it, but I think you’re asking, What if you (read ourselves) are the only one you seek and the only one to seek?
I think you are telling me that when I fall in love with myself, I will reclaim my heart. You’re saying that instead of seeking someone else to complete me, I must complete myself. I must love and honor myself for being exactly who I am right now, and to keep reading from my own book of transformations.
I appreciate the timeliness of your words, Rumi. I promise you that I will become the great love of my heart just by being who I am. More of who I am.
Thank you, Rumi. Your impossible poetry grounds me after just one sentence.
The old roaring me
The one that lives off gut
Requires a resharpening of old intuitions
Rehoning the original face of my instincts
The one that knows and trusts myself
Today, while the mud is still frozen, and
The wolves hunt by scent in the darkness,
I will again become a student of me
The old roaring me
The one that lives off gut