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Thanksgiving gratitude

Gratitude Connects Us with Others

Thanksgiving is the time to incorporate gratitude in your life!

Living a life of gratitude improves our lives and helps to build healthier relationships with ourselves and with others. By offering thanksgiving for all that we have, we set the tone for all that is to come to us. We invite you to join us this Thanksgiving and beyond by giving thanks for where you are at this point in your life.

As we practice gratitude and grow by opening our hearts and minds, we become part of the fabric that connects us to others in a positive way. To better understand that connection, we’re going to do a little exercise to help you recognize where you are currently getting your support from and to consider other support that is available to you, but that you might not yet be taking advantage of. Understanding where your support comes from helps us to be grateful and to express our gratitude to others. It even helps to strengthen relationships.

Here’s a cute story recently shared with me. During this busy time of year, a mother was shopping with her two young boys. Boys will be boys, and before she knew it, they were arguing and pushing each other. Not wanting to condone their behavior, the mother stopped, right there in the middle of the store, and asked each boy to list three things he was grateful about. After they were done, they quit fighting, starting talking and laughing… enjoying each other’s company!! That is the beauty of gratitude. Even as children, these two boys understood and appreciated the support that they receive from each other, from their parents, and from their family and friends. By merely stating what they were grateful for, they were able to immediately connect with each other in a healthier manner.

Understanding our Support (Actual and Potential)

By examining the support from others that we already have and the support that is within reach, we too can create healthier relationships, both with ourselves and with others. So let’s get started. On a large blank sheet of paper, draw a pyramid. Draw two horizontal lines, dividing the pyramid into three layers. Draw a dividing line down through the middle of the pyramid, splitting it in half. On the top left side of the paper, write the word “Current”; on the top of the right side of the paper write the word “Potential.”

Creating Gratitude

Create a pyramid. On the left side, list current ways you support yourself. On the right, list potential ways your can support yourself even further.

Label the top layer “Self,” the middle layer “Family and Friends,” and the bottom layer “Extended Community.”

At the top level on the left side of the paper, write all the current ways that you support yourself. Include things like eating well, exercising, meditating, praying, recognizing God/Source, etc. On the right side of the paper, write all the potential ways that you could support yourself even further. You might write things like be more patient and forgiving, walk in nature, inspirational reading.

In the middle layer write all the current ways that you are supported by your family and friends. Include things like sharing healthy meals, encouraging you to exercise, listening to you when you are frustrated, etc. On the right side of the paper, write all the potential ways that you could be supported by others to an even greater extent. You may want to include things like planning a retreat to a place you’ve wanted to go for years, starting a business, asking for mentoring from someone you hold in high regard.

On the bottom layer write all the current ways that you are supported by your extended community. Include, attending a caring church, living in a neighborhood where people look out for each other, etc. On the right side of the paper, write all the potential ways that you could be supported even more by your extended community. You may want to write things like joining a group of entrepreneurs in a field you are interested in, starting a community project to accomplish something that you really care about, or running for a political office.

Transferring Recognition to Gratitude

Now that you have identified both your current and potential areas of support, think about how your life would be different if you recognized and were grateful for all the support that you currently have. How would your life be different if you utilized even more of the support that is available to you?

Sometimes you need to really look for what to be thankful for. For example, it’s easy to be grateful for big events, that big promotion, the love of your life, etc. What about all the little kernels of kindness? These smallest bits of support are sometimes the basis of support – the sum total of which – can be much more than any one-time individual event. By recognizing, and by being grateful for these small kernels of support, you create a perpetual state of gratitude.

The Benefits of Expressing Gratitude

As you recognize all the ways you are currently supported (the items on the left side of your sheet), take time to feel gratitude for all the ways you are encouraged and strengthened. Isn’t it awesome to have so much support? What have you accomplished in your life as a result of all this support? Be sure to offer a nod of thanks for your accomplishments to-date.

What would your life be like if you added all the extra support you have identified on the right side of your sheet? What bigger visions would you feel empowered to pursue? How might you make a bigger impact on the world? These are just a few questions to consider as you begin to open your heart and your mind to exploring gratitude.

A real life sample of how gratitude can change the course of your life: Darrell Knoch created the Gratitude Coin and offers this coin for school teachers to use to teach expressing gratitude to children. His life exemplifies how the power of intention and law of attraction can interplay to create not only a life filled with gratitude, but a life that touches many. Growing up in the ghettos of Chicago, Darrell was the youngest of seven siblings. His father left the family and his young mother was left to raise the seven siblings. Darrell took five companies to national and international levels and raised billions of dollars in revenue over his thirty-five year career. His goal now is to help youngsters to open their hearts and minds to gratitude by sharing gratitude coins with classmates when they are grateful for an action of a classmate. What was the driving factor of his success? Gratitude.

How can you adopt gratitude for the ability to reach out to people that we can have relationships with and community with? Don’t hold yourself back. Ask for what you want. The power of your intention, your dedication and commitment to your intention, will help you realize your dreams. There is all that support out there, available for the asking. Reach for it! And make your dreams come true.

Image – AdobeStock

Gratitude Opens Our Hearts and Our Minds

When we recognize and express gratitude for all that that we have in our lives, we impact our lives in ways that we might not at first recognize. Our experiences are altered by our expectations, which are driven by our thought processes and our level of gratitude.

The Law of Attraction as Related to Gratitude

The law of attraction is based on the idea that we receive the things that we focus on. When we focus on the negative, or on our fears, we act according to those thoughts. When we change our thoughts by focusing on gratitude, we create an environment for reciprocal positivity. The law of attraction allows the same high level of energy associated with gratitude to bring positive opportunities and situations back to you. Here’s a story that you may be familiar with.

An individual is travelling from one village to the next when he comes upon a farmer working in his field. He asks the farmer what the people in the next village are like. The farmer asks “What were the people like in the last village?” The man replies, “They were rude, unfriendly, dishonest people.” The farmer tells the man “You’ll find the people in the next village are the same.”

A second man was travelling between the same two villages and came upon the same farmer. He too stopped to ask what the people in the next village would be like. Again the farmer asked, “What were the people like in the last village?” The second man replied, “They were kind, friendly, generous, great people!” Again the farmer said, “You’ll find the people in the next village are the same.”

The moral of the story is that we’ll experience what we expect. If we live our lives in a way that attracts unfriendliness and negativity, that’s what we’ll find. If however, we live our lives in a way that attracts friendliness and generosity, then that’s what we’ll overwhelmingly find. If we tend to be grateful, we will find much to be grateful for.

So how do you apply this concept to the ‘real’ world? By focusing on what we want out of a situation, rather than reacting to fears of what might happen, we create a positive relationship. Our confidence is boosted, we feel in control, and things come our way with less effort. By staying committed to your goals, you experience the positive benefits of the power of intention and are less likely to be derailed from achieving your goals. In turn, you have more and more to be grateful for.

You create your own universe as you go along.
– Winston Churchill

Gratitude - opening your heart

Opening our Hearts through Gratitude

Oftentimes when people talk about their gratitude, it brings them to tears. Why does this happen? It happens because expressing gratitude opens our hearts. As we shift our focus, our thoughts, from what we want in the future to what we have now, in the present, we experience an internal shift. We move from a place of lack and struggle to one of abundance and peace. We push out the struggles and challenges that we might be experiencing and make room in our hearts to experience the good things that are waiting to come into our life.

Have you ever watched Undercover Boss? The owner or CEO will go undercover under the guise of someone trying to get a second chance at life and will work a day in various functions within their own company. The results are astounding. The owner is often overwhelmed with gratitude for workers who give it their all for the better of the company. As a thank you, the owner or CEO typically thanks the selected workers with gifts and/or opportunities to further better themselves. The circle of gratitude is obvious as both the giver and recipient are in tears… tears of gratitude. But if you think about it, who is the giver and who is the recipient? Both benefit from the other’s gratitude. Both grow from the experience. Both are more compassionate for the other’s position. Both benefit from opening their hearts to the other.

Practice Gratitude

We can practice gratitude anytime, anyplace, as a regular part of our day-to-day lives. But sometimes, setting aside some quiet time helps us to regroup and to refocus on what we have to be grateful for. When expressing gratitude, use the guidelines below to create a practice that works best for you:

For this exercise, you will want to find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted and where you will not have distractions. This might be your bedroom or study if you share a house with others; otherwise, your kitchen table or sofa will do. If you enjoy nature, you may enjoy a quiet place on a trail. You can complete this exercise mentally, but oftentimes you may find it more beneficial if you write in a journal. So let’s get started.

Gratitude - visualize the gifts

Visualize and Describe the Gifts That You Have Received

This is the first step. What is it that you are grateful for? What are the gifts that you currently have and that you have received over the course of your life? Consider not only the things that you have, but also the people, the love and care, the relationships, the experiences, and the opportunities for growth. List the gifts you are grateful for until you’ve exhausted all ideas. Take as much time and space as you need. It often helps to write about your gratitude in a journal, forming the words and sentences that describe what you experience and how you feel.

Pour your Love and Gratitude

Now that you have listed the gifts that you are grateful for, feel the gratitude in your heart. Your heart is the center in your body and is associated with love. By bringing your attention to your heart, feeling the love and gratitude, you’ll feel the warmth expanding within your chest. Now visualize this love and gratitude pouring out of your heart to the people and circumstances that provide the gifts in your life. Visualize a stream of pink liquid flowing from your heart to the heart of the recipients. Note how this makes you feel, to give the gift of gratitude back to those who have given to you.

Receive the Blessings

Gratitude - receive the blessings

Now that you have poured your love and gratitude to those who have given to you, more love and gratitude is returned to you. Feel that stream of pink liquid flowing back into your heart, then permeating throughout your mind, feelings and body. How does it feel to receive the blessings back?

Practicing gratitude opens our hearts and minds. It also helps others to open their hearts and minds. It affords us great things through the law of attraction. You may even want to create a vision board (this can be a physical board or even a Pinterest board) with images of things you are grateful for and for which you hope to achieve. Viewing your board on a regular basis will help you to remember what you have to be grateful for. Can you imagine a world where everyone practices gratitude on a daily basis? The abundance we all would welcome? It’s a tall order, and it starts with you.

Image – ShutterStock

Attitude of Gratitude

What if?

Too often we fret over all kinds of ‘what ifs’ that may in fact never happen. What if I lose my job? What if my business fails? What if my child doesn’t get into the school of his choice? What if I get ill? What if I have to replace my car? What if my parents need to move in with me? What if I am successful? Fretting over unknown ‘what ifs’ in life is both exhausting and nonproductive. Now imagine a different kind of what if. What if we live our lives in a perpetual state of recognition and gratitude rather than in fear of what ifs? What if you whole-heartedly blessed everything that happens to you? Without judging anything as right or wrong, without wishing things had been different, without coming up with a better outcome; if you just stopped and sent a wave of thanks for everything in your life? What would your life be like? Do you already feel a sense of peace and contentment?

Intuitively, we feel the difference in our hearts. The difference between living in fear of what ifs as compared to simply expressing gratitude for what is.   When we are grateful for what is, we feel the radiance of the possibilities that can come our way (much like the above image). We’ll discuss how gratitude helps us overcome fear in an upcoming post; but in the meantime, let’s take a look at how our attitude of gratitude affects our everyday life.

Gratitude through Each Day

What would life look like if we simply expressed gratitude for everything that happens to us? Let’s explore the same scenario through a filter of gratitude versus one of good versus bad judgement.

A Typical Day Experienced through Judgement

lack of gratitude produces despair

Despair

We’re startled awake by a noisy alarm clock, chirping birds or a noisy neighbor. If only we could have gotten more sleep. It’s going to be a tough day and we need all the help we can get. After all, we want this to be a good day. So we better hurry, catch a shower and get on with it. Perhaps the kids need fed or you once again have to wake up in this big old house, alone again. We’ll worry about that later, right now it’s time to hurry and get to work so you can pay the bills. Oh the bills, they’re never-ending. And the boss, he’s always so demanding of your time. Traffic is backed up again! Really, if only other drivers could drive. You have better things to do than sit in traffic.

The Same Day Experienced with Gratitude

An attitude of gratitude

An attitude of gratitude

The day starts with a nod of thanks to the good start of another day as we awaken to the alarm clock or the chirping birds or the noisy neighbor that awakened you in the morning. You give thankful recognition for the comfy bed and the warm shower. Whether you share your home with your family or enjoy the quiet and solitude of the home you occupy alone, you are thankful. Is your next step off to work? You feel a deep appreciation for a place to be of service, to share your gifts, and to earn money to pay your bills. Traffic is backed up as expected, and even this is reason to be grateful. You have time to listen to your favorite music, to read or chat with a friend while on the bus, or to take some quiet time for introspection and relaxation.

You get the idea. The two scenarios are identical. The only difference is whether you choose to live a life of gratitude or a life of judgement. It’s all about recognition and gratitude for everything in your life. It’s easy to get into the habit of judging. Moving on, let’s take a look at the concept of good or bad and how applying gratitude versus judgement transforms our thought processes.

Good or Bad

Although we might be tempted to call things good or bad, or right or wrong, we really have no idea what the true value of each thing or each experience really is. You may be familiar with the parable of the Chinese farmer. Paraphrased, it simply goes like this: The Chinese farmer gets a horse. The horse runs away, but then comes back with another horse. The farmer gives this second horse to his son, but then the son is thrown from the horse and breaks his leg. In the end, because of his broken leg, the son is spared from being drafted by the emperor’s men to fight in a war. In each stage of this story, what apparently is bad news ends up resulting in good news.

Much like the Chinese farmer story, without knowing the final outcome and all the twists and turns, we really don’t know what is good and what is bad. We simply know what happens. We never know what unexpected gifts are around the corner. So when it comes to good news or bad news, the truth is – who knows? By being grateful for what is, you will more fully acknowledge and accept the gifts that come your way.

Transform Your Life with Gratitude

So how do you acknowledge things that happen in your life? Blessing it, being grateful for it, or expressing appreciation for it has the direct effect on us of lifting our spirits, of bringing us to a place of receiving blessings. It’s a way of enhancing our world by transforming ourselves. For as long as we can keep ourselves in a state of gratitude – continuously, for a prolonged period, or even temporarily, we become magnets to more blessings. And while the added blessings may start out small and seemingly insignificant, they will grow in their magnitude and in their meaning.

Going back to the Chinese farmer parable, rather than bemoaning the loss of the horse, what if you were grateful for the years of service the horse provided, or even for the fact that you yourself are still able to work?

Sound too good to be true? Are you willing to give it a try and find out for yourself? In the next section, we provide simple – yet effective – exercises to help you express gratitude and to see how it directly affects your life.

Practicing Gratitude

No need to make this complicated. Simply keep your awareness on expressing your blessings for today. Then do it again tomorrow, and again the next day. Whenever you catch yourself, realizing that you have forgotten, just start over again. First thing upon waking each morning and before you close your eyes at night, send a wave of thanksgiving and set your intention for holding the attitude of gratitude all throughout your days.

If you would like take it a step further, for extra credit per se, we recommend journaling. Below are three easy ways to get started.

Three Ways to Journal Gratitude

Many individuals find it helpful to journal first thing in the morning or the last thing in the day, just before bedtime. Frederick and his wife Melinda started journaling three years ago, at Thanksgiving, when she was healing from breast cancer. They attest that journaling works!

  • Journal each morning or last thing in the day. Write down ten things that you are grateful for every day.
  • At breakfast or dinner, share 3 things with your family or partner for which you are grateful.
  • Share a ‘secret’ journal with your partner. Every few days jot down something about your partner for which you are grateful. Make it a nice little surprise for each other.
Journaling ten items that bring gratitude

Gratitude journaling

Your attitude of gratitude is just the beginning. Hopefully you are feeling excited about the benefits that will come your way! In upcoming posts, we’ll share how gratitude helps us open our hearts and minds, connect with others, and overcome our fears and anger.

With gratitude, watch your world become one of the great blessings. Enjoy!

Images – ShutterStock

 

simplify - decluttering

Simplify

How did we get all this stuff?

As we age, there seems to be less attachment to possessions, or the need for possessions.  In the first half of life, I was consumed by being a consumer.  I had to have the latest “stuff”.  Even when I turned fifty, the entry point the afternoon of life, and we moved into a smaller condo during a relocation, the deal I made with my wife is that I could buy any electronics items that I wanted.  And I did.  We had gadgets everywhere.

When we moved to Pittsburgh ten years ago, we bought a four bedroom home for the two of us mostly to hold all of the stuff that we had bought in. Our sizable condo that we were moving out of was filled with books, electronics, photography gear and the matting tables and printers to support my professional fine art photography experiment.  But then we added even more to fill the deck with outdoor furniture and build out my home office as I launched my coaching practice. I was attracted to the idea of seeing clients in my office on the lower level of the house, which I have done for the last two years.  So we had filled up our space with stuff.

Downsizing and the opportunity to declutter life

We are now downsizing.  And like many things in life it came when we hit a tipping point.  Last week in this series I wrote about the knee injury that brought my awareness to the present moment back into focus and the need for mindfulness.  That silence and reflection finally got me in touch with the absurd lifestyle that we are currently living.

So we have decided to downsize, and in order to do that we are in the process of decluttering the house as many people do prior to listing it.  But we are going further than that.

In my research on how to declutter, I found a common theme of advice.  Look at every item you own and ask yourself” is it some thing that I need?”,  If not,  “is it something that brings me pleasure?”. Be honest.   If the answer is yes to both – then – “where am I going to put it in my home”?

Horcruxes in the Muggle World

In the Harry Potter series, J.K Rowling invented the term Horcrux as an object that “he who must be not be named” placed a part of his soul in.  I the series Tom Riddle – aka – Voldermort had placed his soul in six objects and in two other persons and he would live on until all of the  objects were destroyed.

I have a similar take on the same concept.  We place our energy, our soul in objects that we buy and those objects either enhance our lives or detract from it.  If our soul is partially placed in another person as it is in most marriages – it can be a positive placement or it can be a negative one. In the case of objects, we become burdened by all of the objects that we have sacrificed our soul for over the years.  It is easy to look around and ask myself, “What was I thinking?”.  It turns out – I was not thinking.  Just consuming.

If you now look at these objects and ask yourself if it is making your life better, really better. Then keep it.  But if it is making it worse, get rid of it.  What part of your soul have you given up to buy it and will releasing it heal your soul? Can you be grateful for it and then pass it on to someone who might be able to use it?

As I sit in this office, I am looking across the room at two clocks, a fountain that does not work, a Papago Indian basket with coasters in it, a cute sign that says “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark” three glass candle pyramids containing oil,  A Samsun flat screen TV (that already is not working well), sound bar, blue ray player, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, three candles and a “peace” plaque – and these are just the items out on the credenza across from my office – the office that will be downsized.

None of them are needed.  One of the clocks was given to me in Utah by an admin that I relied on.  The Peace plaque is a gift from my daughter, the Arc sign was bought  at an arts fair in North Carolina at the outer banks, the TV equipment is an asset owned by my company because I used it for clients and educational material.  In a simple world all of these objects could be given away.  For most people if they move they will keep them and cram them somewhere.

What do you need to do to simplify?

I think that the answer for how to deal with these objects is simple.  The clock form my admin – I can write Regina a note and thank her for her service to me twenty years ago and give the clock away.  The Peace plaque can be moved.  The TV and other electronics gear will probably fit in the office that we will share when we move as it is depreciated now anyway – or move to the office that my business will open next year.  The other stuff is of no real value and is not needed and holds no semimetal value.  We will keep the TV (if it can be fixed) because the TV in my wife’s working office is from the Clinton Administration and weighs three hundred pounds being one of the first HD TVs in 2000 – but it still works..

How do you simplify?

I do not think that we need to declutter as a political statement.  Or forced minimalism. I am a capitalist and I believe that people should be allowed to buy and consume whatever they want and I do not think we are going to save the planet by not being consumers.  We have bigger problems than “American style consumption” with the planet, and frankly I think we might be too far along the path to mass extinction for this planet in this isolated spot in one of many universes.  I am more concerned with our individual and collective spiritual journey’s of our timeless existence.

What are we supposed to be learning right now, right here?  How are we, as “conscious components of the universe” expanding our awareness? The baby boomers era of conspicuous consumption is ending just as the Millennials who supposedly shunned it are beginning to embrace it in their own unique ways.

The survival of the planet is a much bigger question. As boomers in the afternoon and early evening of life, we need to declutter so we can experience life in such a way that we are expanding our consciousness and awareness and not escaping from being in contact with the people around us.  I think that is what Thoreau meant when he penned, “simplify, simplify, simplify”.  Perhaps then we can give some of our wisdom back to the planet an help others grow and solve our many problems.

What do you do first?

So what do you need to do?  The best advice I encountered is to take all of the objects from a room and put them out so they are visible and go through them.  What can we give away? What can we sell? What do we want to keep and where are we going to put it?

Then deal with it – right here, right now. Photograph the objects you are going to sell and list them on Craig’s list, eBay or somewhere else you like.  Put the items for donation together list them out for tax purposes and take them to your favorite charity.  Put the things you are keeping away with a new found respect and gratitude for the items that made the cut. Some items that are moving to another room might need to be moved temporarily to that room until you do this  for every room in the house.

We will start the process this week for the room in our house that is going away – our utility room.  Over the next eight weeks until we list the house in January, we will do the same until we have the first pass of the entire house done.  As we pack for the move into the new home, I am sure that we will encounter additional opportunities.

Of course if you are not moving yet, you can still enter the new year clutter free in your existing home and it will refocus your whole approach to the holidays form what am I going to get to what can I give away and free myself of the responsibility of ownership.

What about you, what do you have to simplify?  I plan on coming back to this theme as we live through this “simplify” process and experience the gratitude and holiday seasons that we are entering.  Hopefully we can simplify that as well.

 

The Turn

Six months ago today, I posted my last blog entry prior to this one and this one is different from most of my previous posts. This one is personal. I have not been in contact with you recently.

The reason for that is that my wife, Melinda, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer last October.  As a result, we made major changes in our lives. The biggest two involve what we eat and how we live.  Part of that resulted in me putting my practice expansion on hold for most of the last six months.

How we live is probably the key to the rest of this blog entry, so lets start with that.  I had just finished a coaching training program and was in the process of signing up clients who were looking, as I was looking, at second half of life ventures that would fuel their needs well into their eighties. The thinking was that if you are doing the right thing, you can do it for a lot longer than just sixty-five.  With the prospect of life to one hundred this made perfect sense.

And then my wife, someone who was in “perfect health” was given news that caused us to question whether there would be a second half of life.  So we started to live in the moment.  Our moments.  Not our children’s moments, or our referral network’s moments, or our community’s moments but ours.  We watched and did things that made us laugh.  Melinda changed positions at work, we recommitted ourselves to exercise and we started a joint daily gratitude practice.

From a nutritional perspective, we started eating only whole foods. Organic if possible. We thought we were following Michael Pollan’s recommendation of “eating food, mostly plants and not a lot” before, but now we have become zealots.  I enrolled in a second coaching training program, this one from IIN – the Institute of Integrative Nutrition – so I could fully understand the effects of diet and lifestyle on how we look and feel.

I am sharing this with you now, because as a result of these actions, Melinda and I have changed the focus of our jointly held business – onCOREventures. While I still work with executives and professionals who want to design a life into their eighties or longer that is onCORE with who they are, I am now helping them be much more focused on their lives to make sure they are healthy so that they can enjoy their venture for as long as they want.  With obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer affecting more and more people as they enter the second half of life, this is the “ante” for the game in what I have often called Life 3.0.  As they say in games of chance you have to pay to play.

Recently, I received my accreditation as a professional coach from the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and now that I am substantially through the nutrition components of the IIN coursework, I have been certified to see clients in the health and wellness space as a health coach from IIN.  I was already qualified as a coach, but now have more tools with which to assist my clients.

So, in addition to workings with clients looking ultimately at their Life 3.0 ventures and adventures, I work with people in an awesome, six-month program to bring more energy, fewer cravings and a reduction in their waistline to their lives in a fun and sustainable way. We like to refer to this approach as post modern nutrition – we help clients ease great tasting, new food into their lives in order to crowd out old, junky food that was causing poor health.

I say we, because after a successful combination of radical homemaking and great allopathic care, Melinda is cancer free and she just completely finished IIN and is accredited by the AADP – American Association of Drugless Practitioners. While she is still working in a great career as a Business Analyst, Melinda is seeing a select client base to help them become healthy and balance the needs of career and family. We believe that someone walking the talk is a good fit for many people that have to juggle multiple priorities in life – and frankly – who doesn’t?

Well in Golf, the turn comes after the first nine holes.  Yesterday I completed the first half of the IIN program – and it is also the completion of the turning on the pivot point that I discussed in my entry six months ago and the beginning of our new integrated direction.

Gratitude

The saying goes that all things come in three’s. Whether these occurrences are good or bad is a matter of perspective but we seem to notice the pattern more often in “bad-times.” A few days ago I learned that a former colleague’s wife suddenly died at work last week. Next I heard that another former colleague was seriously ill and might not make it through her difficult battle with a rare form of cancer. Finally a classmate of my wife’ had a stroke.  All of these people were in their prime, and with my focus on how to live well till 100, I am feeling grateful that, in large part due to my spouse, I am still around to be pontificating on these matters.  I am also feeling pain and loss for all of the family members and friends affected by these unexpected and tragic events. Finding gratitude in these times can be difficult.

I am especially grateful for my spouse’s constant study of food.  She has been researching diets and exercise for as long I have known her.  Recently I ran into someone who knew me from before my current marriage who claimed they barely recognized me because I was in so much better shape.  My adult children laugh, to themselves until one finally ratted the group of four of them out to me, about the lifestyle “change of the day” every time they visit, which is rather frequent.

Nutrition and diet are an evolutionary study as we re-learn the lessons that our great grandparents knew.  We used to say “Grandparents”, but my grandmother discovered Entenmann’s pastries, Nabisco raisin cookies and Bryers ice cream (and knew what to do with them). Throughout our personal journey, we have moved from the Zone, to South Beach (the diet, unfortunately) to high carbs, to mostly vegetarian to wheat free and so on… There were more stops I am sure, but our minds tend to block out trauma.

Recently, my ever inquisitive spouse has taken her study to a new level. In the interest in making my life better she shares some of the more interesting items with me. I have already talked about wheat belly in an earlier blog and I’m thinking I might have started this renewed interest of hers. A couple weeks ago, as I was struggling with not being able to digest the increased amounts of animal protein (the four legged variety), she comes out with “You are what you eat. You eat cows and you look like cows, move like cows.  People who eat chickens tend to run around like chickens and peck at things, people that eat swordfish are sleek and graceful, etc.”  I am not sure of the validity of this view, but I know that another work colleague of mine once told me that humans cannot digest beef, it sorts of just sits there for a few days and festers until it can be disposed of. Nice image right? Now I wonder why I got constipated when I reintroduced beef into my diet.  For some reason I cannot get Meg Ryan in French Kiss saying “fester, fester, fester…rot, rot, rot…” out of my mind.

Today, my spouse comes out with this pearl of wisdom “Chew your food.”  Now I remember that statement from my grandmother (at least the food that did not come out of a box) so the advice resonated with me. Frankly neither my spouse nor I are good at following this rule – yet.  Apparently, when you chew your food, enzymes are released in your mouth that starts the digestion process. This action also tells your brain “hey I am eating now so you can forget that hunger thing.”  Consequently, we fill up faster and are able to more easily avoid overeating. I remember hearing all of this information from my ninth grade biology teacher, so this is not exactly new news, but perhaps something worthy of periodically reminding ourselves about.

I am grateful for this journey, and the wisdom and curiosity of my spouse.  I would not be here now if it were not for the lifestyle changes that her lifelong study has inspired.  She has never badgered me, just simply given me information.  Ladies (and gents) you do not have to beat your spouse over the head with “you know that you cannot digest that steak you are eating ….ever” and “you can only use the protein from the first four ounces of that 20 ounce porterhouse that you are eating at Mortens.”  A little information consistently repeated seems to get through…even to me.

I am now, once again, off land based animal protein, except for dairy and eggs, and have lost my desire for a lot of the other “stuff” that was once so tempting.  I can look at the Prius sedans in our church parking lot and say “Well, I don’t eat meat so my carbon footprint is lower than yours and I am not sitting on an electromagnetic field while I am driving my car.” My spouse is not just a nutrition expert – more to come on EMF and binding agents used in food – in later posts.

I think that anytime modern science and nineteenth-century transcendentalists agree – the concept must make sense.  Henry David Thoreau said that being vegetarian is “just more efficient”, and Michael Pollan says “Eat food, mostly plants, not a lot”.  I am the Thoreau expert in the family, my spouse is the Pollan expert, and on this topic at least – we can agree.  It is nice to come at something from different perspectives and arrive at the same answer.

So today I am grateful for my spouse and her lifelong affair with learning about health and nutrition and my own lifelong learning.  Namaste.

Father’s Day

I used to hate Father’s day.  As a feminist male, I bought into the “fact” that every Sunday was Father’s Day. Certainly my family of origin and my first wife’s family of origin celebrated this event every week.  I never really understood exactly what Father’s day was supposed to be about.

What was a Father’s day celebration anyway?  This way of thinking was akin to my thinking small mind, my “I am my story” mind or, more appropriately, my “I am my sad story mind.  This small mind, “woe is me” thinking was triggered by feelings of guilt common to all men since the industrial revolution took us out of partnership on the farm with our wives. This step made us absentee parents, toiling first in factories, then offices and shops, to support families we were never with because we were always working.

At the health club the other day, I heard a typical Father’s day type story. You know the kind, just an empty, meaningless small story with details like how many problems someone had while fixing a gutter.  First this went wrong, then that went wrong, and finally something else went wrong.  As I listened, I applied this concept to my own way of fathering; first I missed the soccer game because I had to work, then I got drunk, then I burned the hamburgers. In short, simply one problem after another.

So, I was very happy to read about what fathers are doing today. It is a whole new world these days for young men raising families. Fathers are becoming stay at home dads, they are home schooling, they are assuming the role of caregiver, and yet, they are still men (read more about it here.)  I believe it was our “boomer” generation that laid much of the groundwork for these activities that are now becoming more common.

Later that day, I spoke at length with both of my son’s, enjoying conversations which were meaningful and deep. My sons actually cared about what I was talking about, and when, because I was in a bad mood, I tried to go to my “small story”, they kept probing and asking me empowering questions. They helped me to get back in touch with my “big story”, all the while encouraging and believing in me.

My current “small story” is about how hard it is to launch a new business.  How much work it is, how much I hate marketing, how much time referral marketing takes.  The unknowns….. Yet both wanted to hear the bigger story.  They helped me move into thinking about how much fun I am having coaching my clients, how meaningful it is to me, how it helps others.  They forced me to shift my perspective by not accepting my desire to “play small.” Both listened and helped me understand why it is so hard for men to open up to other men about needing help to figure out what they want to do.  They both reminded me that men will share anything with one other trusted male, in a one on one setting, but they will not open up when there are witnesses.

After the shift, men are drawn to their families and many times become afraid their families are beginning to find them irrelevant. They might also think they have dishonored their families either by something they did or failed to do.  Having functional and loving relationships with all of my adult children and their life partners is one of the pleasures of my “big story”, because it is something that I now take very seriously, every day, not just on a few choice “Hallmark” holidays scattered throughout the year.

When I was the age my sons are now, I would have conversations with my father of a very different kind. They were entirely superficial.  The ability to now having meaningful, honest and open conversations with my sons on Father’s day (or any day), facilitated by our mutual knowledge, appreciation and interest for who each of us are and what we are doing in our lives, makes all the difference in the world.  We do not live in an enmeshed relationship; they do not call me every day, or even every week, but we talk often enough and honestly enough that we have a sense for who we, each of us, are as men.  Of course, I talk to my two daughters and they are both delightful, but fathers and daughters are a different dynamic than fathers and sons.  My father and I did not ever get along, and likewise, he did not get along with his father before him. This is a lonely and detrimental pattern that I have successfully broken.

So, I am grateful this year for the growth in our family that allows us to enjoy honest and open conversations between generations of men. That my sons live in the same town in Ohio and are close as adults, even though they spent very little time together as children because of their age difference,  is a joy to behold.

Even more of a joy is the fact that they are both actively searching for what it means to live an on-core life now. Many of us do not come to this path before we enter our fifties, and often in reaction to major life changes. I realized talking to them that being a parent to adult children is not about intruding in their lives, it is about continuing to live our own lives, and sometimes seeing ourselves through the mirror of their perspective. It’s about setting an example as we age and become “wiser”. We must live that wisdom and not burden them by trying to impose it unduly upon them.  As Gandhi said, we become the change we wish to see in the world.  We must now trust that our children are smart enough to figure out how to apply these lessons for themselves when they are ready.

I Am

This past Tuesday completed three weeks of intense effort around the completion of the iPEC training program for Energy Leadership.  It has been a time of growth, reflection, and a lot of work.

Working with my coach this week – yes coaches have coaches too- we processed a lot of this growth and I identified the feeling of “growing” too much, too fast and that I “needed a break”.  I also realized that recently I’ve been using technology non-stop when not interacting with people.  Strangely, for me anyway, the interaction with people was the part I enjoyed, while the technology thing, “not so much”.

I was left desiring an analogue world. Enviously, I thought of my son’s vinyl record collection, longing to hear music generated by a physically explainable piece of technology that you can actually see at work.

I wanted to read a book, not on my Kindle, or iPad, not an audiobook but a real book.  I had a flashback to the original Star Trek series in which Jim Kirk is being defended by the last lawyer in the Federation who was transported with his books, and he waxed on about how cool they were.  When I saw the episode as a kid,  I thought “what a load of crap”. Now however, I wanted a book – and absolutely nothing on “growth.”

My coach suggested that I actually go to a book store (most novel of ideas!) and I thought how quaint, shop in a store, what an adventure this will be. I stopped into the “real” world equivalent of Fox Books from “You’ve Got Mail” and mused that what  goes around, often comes back around. The big box guys are dying, while the little guys that are left might be the only ones able to compete with on-line book sellers and  e-books.  I went in to buy Vince Flynn’s retro piece on Mitch Rapp – I wanted low energy with lots of action to get out of my funk.

The universe, God, Spirit, Gaia, etc – intervened. Wayne Dwyer has a new book, “Wishes Fulfilled”.  Of all my spiritual and life teachers , Wayne simply resonates with me.  Wayne has been known to drop the F bomb to his spiritual audiences. I can relate to Wayne.  Don’t get me wrong, Deepak Chopra, Echardt Tolle, Ram Das, Don Miguel Luis are all wonderful – but I seem to just relate to Wayne.

So I picked up the book, merely to take a peak mind you, and somehow, it followed me home.  Three days later, I am half done with Wayne’s book.  I did read the first two pages of Flynn’s book, and plan to finish it this weekend because that is what I said I would do. However right now, I am enjoying Wayne’s book.

To summarize Wayne’s new book – “I AM”. I tend to absorb material from Wayne over time, first reading excepts, playing with them. Then going back and reading the whole thing, then listening to it on audio, then referring back when I, inevitably, forget.  I have not yet begun to scratch the surface of this new material, but I started to meditate with the intention of getting in touch with the wisdom of my ancestors. Incidentally, thanks to some recent genealogy research into cousins  I never knew about, I have a good feel for the wisdom of my for-bearers.  I know that my great grandmother ran a business and raised three very independent daughters,  one of whom photo-documented the family’s history in the early 1900’s.  The images depict strong women who knew who they were and lived it, not over-shadowed by their three successful brothers.  My grandmother’s sister, Julie Connors, was murdered in July 1912 in “the crime of the century” that played out in the NY Times for days when the manhunt for the killer went national.  All of this wisdom became available in my meditation this morning; the growth and the knowledge that all of that and more is available to me to use however I want because we all are “I AM”.

Time is an illusion. We have access to the field of intelligence of the totality of all time, if we only learn to tap it.  We are all one and we are all God.  The female version of Wayne; in that she is both spiritual and human, Marianne Williamson is famous for saying “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

So this weekend, as I read the Flynn novel, I will be a bit detached from the emotion of it, yet more in touch with what the story is triggering in me.  I am sure there is a lesson in that book as well because there are no mistakes and my selection of that book came to my intuition out of a feeling of not being enough or doing too much.

I guess what I said last week is true – once you know – you can’t not know.  And I know that I am powerful beyond belief as is everyone else that chooses to be.