Jump Into The Frying Pan

Sometimes big life lessons present themselves in quirky little ways.

Another beautiful morning, everyone in the house – in some form or another – and no place to go. The coffee is hot, good insightful articles in the life section of the paper, all is great.

A wonderful moment to appreciate the simple things in life that maybe some of us take for granted. A time to be grateful for everything in our lives. A brief moment in time to remind myself of everything I have.

In stark contrast, I am aware of the technologies around me. My phones ability to send music to a speaker, situated in a separate room. A thermostat that senses our movement and adjusts to our pre-program request. A conversation with my son, who is eight hours away. My IPad sits on the hearth in front of our fireplace, family face time for everyone in the room to converse with my son who lives 850 km away. Just his head, no torso, arms or legs – a kind of ‘Max Headroom’ experience (for anyone around in the mid-80’s).

Just out of the corner of my eye, I witness my daughter practising her UFC fighting skills on our nonstick frying pan. Maybe to the younger generation, nonstick hardly seems innovated compared to my son’s head vicariously floating in space in front of the fireplace. However, nonstick was cutting edge back in the day. Evan today you can’t put the TV on without an informercial preaching the virtuous properties of a non-stick pan. Just imagine how all of our chaotic lives would be saved if only our frying pans could be wiped clean in one easy swipe. Imagine what we could accomplish in our time-sensitive lives if we could free ourselves from cookware clean up. These pans are indestructive. Marketing to our sense of logic, they do everything to these frying pans – burn stuff, broil ball bearings, chip chunks of cement or hit it with a hammer. All the things we generally want to do with our cookware right!

Nevertheless, on this day, something more subtle happens. A unique and somewhat unbelievable phenomenal occurred. The eggs stuck to our nonstick frying pan! My daughter was scrubbing the frying pan as if she were going to release a genie from a bottle. “You used the wrong pan” I murmured. “How is there a better nonstick pan dad” she replied. Our family conundrum was at a full standstill. Something was sticking to the non-stick frying pan. It’s not supposed to, the commercials say so. The order of life, as we know it to be, has been flipped upside down.

Lots of life lessons ran through my head at that time. First and foremost not everything in life works the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes, we don’t get to slide through life. It takes hard work to unstick ourselves at times. Second, what’s promise to us doesn’t always occur. Learning to manage your expectations when things don’t turn out the way you want is part of everyone’s personal development. Perseverance to overcome life’s hiccups is, in essence, life itself.

However we may slide or glide through life’s journey, inevitably one thing is certain – we are going to feel stuck from time to time. There are always lessons to learn if we choose to see them. There is still something positive hidden in all you’re life’s sticky situations. It’s your willingness to seek the positives and learn from your experiences. And, remember when the next time you feel like you are in the wrong frying pan – consider your options.

Gratitude

Her commitment to personal excellence is infectious. It’s innate. It is what makes her one of a kind. Lots of people try hard to be kind and loving, but some of their attempts are diluted with a hint of insincerity.    In contrast, we all know people who just emit energy of positivity. Genuine goodness.  They are real and not pretentious.  Everything they do and say seems to come from a place of authentic, loving interest.  They draw you in with their attentiveness and empathy, all the while you are sure you are the centre of their universe.  They are not fake in their connections with others.  They represent all that is genuinely great about humanity through and through.

The New Year is a time to self reflect, self assess and take stock of who we are and what we have become.  Evan for those who acknowledge their lack of interest in resolutions, there isn’t a doubt their internal self-talk (post to follow) isn’t flickering.  But, for the truly gifted some things just come naturally. That does not mean that there is no room for improvement.  We all can think of someone gifted in their field of endeavour. Whether it’s a musician, sports athlete, or the smart kid we grew up with that never seemed to study or do homework and still got A’s. Some genuinely have a gift. I think the power of her kind, caring, loving gifts are lost in her humility.

There are no barriers to her spirit – young, old and everything in between.  Her family, friends and students are lucky to have her in their lives.  She indeed is one of a kind. Time never interferes with her energy, and there is never an inconvenient moment to share her caring, loving ways. 

When we reflect on our new selves do we superficially glaze over the supposed to layer? Or, do we assess ourselves at a deeper level?  So, our commitment to personal growth and a place of peaceful and loving care lends to a simple question.  How can I be a little better today than it was yesterday?

You see the person I am writing about is my wife. She exudes a positive, loving energy vibe all the time. However, she continues to challenge herself make herself better. So, as part of her personal growth, she forwards to me gratitude. For me, I am blessed to have her in my life.  She makes me a better man.  I sometimes feel responding to her daily gratitude with one of my own would seem contrived, made up or fake.  

At hot yoga class, entering into Shavasana, the instructor asked what we are most grateful for? In that very moment every cell of my body, without hesitation, felt my wife’s presence.  That’s not sweat rolling down my cheeks; it’s a tear. 

 Everything she is and represents is what I am grateful for. So, it only makes sense that I write it down and share. Hopefully, she can feel the love, know that I am grateful to have her in my life. 

Where to begin – again

His death is my beginning – again.

As if it were yesterday  I remember the day it didn’t make sense to him or anyone else in the family.  A simple check up and a statement from the doctor and it was like the begining of a track race, the starters pistol loud and direct – the race begins.  The race was different this time; everyone knew there would be no gold medal at the end. They were unsure whether it would be a sprint or a marathon.  It is hard to prepare for something when you are unsure of how it will take shape.  One thing is for sure, I will be better at being present.

You see it was a few years ago now that my father-in-law had his drivers licence taken away.  He was getting a little older and some of his memory faculties were failing.  I am uncertain why this had such a lasting impression on me.  Maybe it’s a reminder that I have a male ego, maybe I felt his loss of identity, maybe it was the fact that times are changing and so is my health. Or, maybe it was the reality of the state of health my father-in-law was entering.

As a kid I loved to play with my cars. I would roll out my car carpet and I was immediatley transported to another world of a colourful, one-dimensional city.  It was complete with roads, buildings, police stations, hospital, parking lots and any other idea I could muster up in my kid brain. It was endless what my mind could come up with.  Any car and every car was sacred to me. I did not have a 3D television, electronic devices or an iPad to play on.  I am still the guy that reads the automotive section of the newspaper.  I am the guy that loves to drive in all types of weather and for as long as possible.  The 22-hour straight drive to Florida has never been an issue.  Sometimes I think my independence and enjoyment is from the simple ability to drive my car.  I am required to stay present (see previous post “Smash up Derby”). He lost his driving privilege that day and I imagined the day when I will lose mine.

For the next couple of years I supported my wife and her family the best way anyone can as we watched her father transform slowly in front of us.  His demise was insidious and fascinating all at the same time.  My wifes’ gracious, caring, patience and unselfish abundance of love reassured me that I am in great hands if I were ever to enter that race of my life. And, she can rest assure I will be there for her.

Our imagination and/or lack of it, makes us human. To be human gives us the capacity to care and love for others. We have choices to make along our journey. Why not make great choices for ourselves before we are unable to – like my father-in-law?

Alzheimer’s and dementia are harrowing diseases.  To help give peace to the families and to attempt to help us understand the disease, the doctor acquainted it to erasing your memory backwards. It is a loss of memory of the simple day to day activities, followed by bigger events in the past and ultimately forgetting who we are.

The brain is amazing; fascinating to say the least. Trillions of signals on a daily basis automatically regulate our bodies, creating thoughts both consciously and subconsciously. Researchers are still trying to figure out how it works and, for that matter, how it doesn’t.

In a fascinating decline of my father-in-laws brain function, too a disease we are still trying to understand, I marvelled at the brain and how it functions. So in honour of his disease I ask you this:

“If we don’t really understand this fascinating decline of our brains, is it possible we are interfering with the fascinating potential of our brains.”

To commemorate all of those who have suffered a tragic, uncontrollable loss of brain function – I have a new beginning.

My new beginning. I will reunite myself to practice, share, give, receive everything that is mindful. A dedication to exercising the brain. I will immerse myself in what has always fascinated me – the brain, human behaviour and personal development.

Join the journey and stayed tuned.

What I Learned from ‘Smash up Derby’

“Pay attention!” I screamed. Who do I think could hear me? I was sitting in the car by myself. When I pushed my car horn, metaphorically through my front bumper, I am  certain the driver in front of me soiled themselves.

We have all heard many times before that it’s important to stay present. Live in the moment. Be here now. For such a simple statement, the present moment seems to allude us all at times. Sure, we have to learn from the past and plan for the future. But our thoughts can race by the thousands.

Similar to the practice of meditation, we are foolish to think for a moment that we can suppress our running thoughts. But, by not paying attention, there is no guarantee that the thousands of ‘thought blinks’ – as I like to call them – won’t interfere with your present experience.

When I watched the driver behind me look down as we were in start and stop traffic, I screamed, “pay attention!” To no avail.  Although some have suggested I have a big mouth,  I couldn’t voice my command through the rear window of my car to the driver behind me and snap their attention back to the present reality. 

There was 2-3 seconds before impact. 

‘Ground control to Major Tom’ – crash!

It would be fair to say that we were all present in the moment then. “I’m sorry. I have to pick up my kids,” they said.  Even then I was not convinced they were in the present moment. We had just had a car accident.

Just like in the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” where the lead character is played by Ben Stiller, would often drift into a trance like state allowing his imagination to bring him on a wild ride of his alter ego and aspiring personality. I too, felt like drifting into a daydream state of an altered personality to dispense the virtues of paying attention. But, hold on a second. The driver was neither of my children so I will have to shelve my lecture. What I wanted to say and what  I ended up saying were two different things. 

As we were assessing the damage, the shear volume of traffic that my new friend (kid picker upper) and I had created was astonishing.  Three days before Christmas – 4:30 rush hour – how selfish of us.  

Just then a third party driver, who was instantly enrolled in the “inconvenience club” of the day, leaned on his horn and flipped me the finger. It was close to Christmas so I took his gesture as a thank you gift.  The horn blast upset ‘kid picker upper.” I, on the other hand, wondered what was so wrong in his life that he felt he had to lash out at us? Did he really believe that my plan, when I woke up that morning, was that I wanted to meet ‘kid picker upper’, smash our cars, create a traffic jam and more importantly – personally make his day miserable? 

Driving, similar to meditation is one of those places were being present matters. Sure, things are going to float into our minds.   What we do with them and how we acknowledge them is what being present and mindful is all about.

Driving, like personal development requires you to pay attention, not ignore and not to suppress. It is to be present. See all, here all and stay focused on the task at hand.

Personal development requires you to stay present with your thoughts. Drive first and THEN pick up your kids. Don’t succumb to the temptation of the next moment (looking down at your phone while driving). Be here and now. 

So, this is what I learned that day:

  • to show compassion to ‘finger flipper’
  • to have forgiveness to ‘child picker upper’
  • to learn to be thankful no one was really hurt
  • to have gratitude for the gifts you are given.
  • And maybe one day, when someone smashes into you, you can be the person you want to see in others.

  • University of Life

    All stories have a beginning and an end. Some stories are even long enough to have chapters, or volumes for that matter. It is interesting when you consider the impact a great story has on your life. It opens your soul to great possibilities and can play out in countless ways. It can make us laugh or pull at our heart strings. It can raise the little hairs on the back of our necks or make us want to change the world. Some stories are fiction and some are not. One thing for sure, is that they move us in ways we never thought were possible.

    The beginning of this story is a scream and a cry, I felt helpless. Believe me if I had a uterus I would have given birth to my daughter. Not really, but it is the thought that counts, or does that just apply to gift giving. There she was my first born child, with tears streaming down my face, chapter one begins. Her cute little hands and feet, I remember them as if I was starring at a 3D pop up picture book. Her hands and feet connected to her limbs as if they were Lego pieces. Actually it was more like the Pillsbury Dough guy, soft pudgy and perfect.

    There were many chapters to follow. Crawling, walking, talking and growing up. There were tears and accomplishments. Proud days memorable moments and a never ending astonishment of how my baby girl grew up so fast into the astonishing young women she is today.

    It’s was her birthday recently, 18 years young and the whole world ahead of her. I am excited for her and maybe a little jealous. I remember when I too began my school journey. I loved learning and meeting new people, their opinions and stories. Each one writing their own personal chapters one day at a time. Like myself, the journey to who you will become will be shaped consciously or sub consciously by the experiences of your journey through University.

    Looking back on one of the chapters, she was only in elementary school. I remember the day as if it were yesterday. She was asked to do a xylophone solo for a christmas concert. She practised daily. Her dedication to the task at hand and her hard work will serve her well in future chapters of her life. The day had finally arrived. She was flying solo up on stage by herself. No parents to protect her or guide her if she begins to falter. As she took to centre stage I was astound to notice no sheet music. No crutch, nothing to fall back on. No help, she was all alone up there on stage. I worried for her, ‘what if, what if….’. The ‘what if’s’ are a book on their own. I wanted to say something, do something, anything to shield her if she falters. Why would I feel this way? Why did I not trust my daughters ability or my parenting skills?
    She was amazing. Not a stumble. To the roar of the audience – it has more affect – she was amazing.

    It is amazing how chapters in your life prepare you for future chapters. The University of Life can be similar to Xylophone life. It looks complicated, make the wrong choice and it’s dreadful. The great thing about the chapter of growing up, is simply that it is just a chapter. As she begins her journey of searching what she wants to do with her life, she will gain experiences and events that will shape who she will ultimately become. She will work hard and practice what it takes to succeed in life. Just like her xylophone.

    Similar to any next milestone in your child’s life, it marks a definative end to a chapter in your own life. Her begininings is almost like an end to ours. Or is it? Sharing in the celebration of who she is and what she will become is a more upbeat chapter. It marks less of an end in mine and more of a begining. It’s reflective but not sad. It is uncertain but exciting. It is unknown but not fearful. It is life.

    There is no doubt in my certainty, this story will have a happy ending. The University of life teaches us some fundemental laws. You are allowed to write a short story or a novel. A chapter book or a trilogy. One thing for certain, enjoy the chapter you are currently writing, your parents can not wait to see it unfold.

    We Can All Learn From Children

    When he finished speaking I stood there in front of the very group that I was facilitating – emotionless. I did not know what to say next. Matter of fact I felt if I were to speak next then I would not be able to hold back my tears. His comments were simple, but the fact that it came from an 11-year-old, gave the very words he spoke a sense of ageless maturity that I will never forget.

    Sport, similar to life can teach us wonderful lessons. The Burlington Eagles hockey association has embarked on a mission to help develop the mental attributes of athletes and more importantly skills that young developing athletes can use for the rest of their lives.

    The Burlington Eagles have implemented a program called PX 2 from the Pacific Institute. It is a program that teaches youth the fundamentals of how their brain works and the skills required to achieve excellence in their lives. I believe it is a first for organized youth sport. The program methodologically moves youth through twelve steps to teach them how and why their brain works the way it does, why they think and perform the way they do and most importantly what they can do to move beyond these perceived barriers, in order to achieve excellence in any aspect of their lives.

    As a new facilitator to the program, there is not a moment that passes that I am amazed at the insight young kids display. I have always believed that if you want thinking athletes you have to let and teach them how too think. PX 2 provides a wonderful program in a setting that peers may share what and how they are thinking. It also gives kid’s an understand of why they act and perform the way they do.

    In this one particular session, in one of our youngest group of players, an 11-year-old made a profound observation that everyone can learn from. During this module our exercise was to help kids understand that they are conditioned to perceive the world around them. How they were taught and conditioned throughout their lives mould their personal beliefs and the decisions they make. The exercise puts kids in groups of 2-3. The hypothetical exercise involves the difficult task of deciding who they must try to save from a variety of different people left in the water after a sinking ship at sea. There is only room for four more survivors, yet they must choose from over 16 different people, from all different backgrounds, that remain stranded in the water. After some minor squabbling, each group must validate and share their choice with the larger group. The discussion often gets energized and animated. The simple fact that groups realize that others have such radically different opinions of who they choose, is a learning moment for all. All of us formulate our perceptions upon past conditioning. Learning to be aware of or ‘auto programming’ helps us understand that our brain could be ‘hard wired’ to make us act in accordance to the truth of what was taught to us. This creates our belief systems and ultimately influences our decisions that shape our lives.

    During the exercise a short scenario is read followed by the list of people, from which they will have to save. Each group begins to discuss their views and comes to a conclusion of whom to choose for survivals. Over many of the sessions there has been many interesting answers. Some of the more notable include; “it’s not for me to decide so the first 4 people I pass in the water will decide who I try to save”, ” we will try to save everyone by taking turns clinging to the boat”, “it’s not my place to play God” and ” if they couldn’t make it into a life raft maybe they are not worthy of saving.”

    But, this morning the answer that continues to resonate with me belongs to an 11-year-old. Of all the people he chose to save he was the first to include the – drug dependent teenager and the prostitute. Well you can imagine the response he got from his peers. There was a rumbling and nervous banter filling the room. I asked him ” if he feels comfortable to share his choice with the group. He paused for a moment and said in the most innocent and truthfulness of a young boy;
    “if those people have lived their life up to this point in the manner they have, then by me giving them a second chance they would do everything in their power to survive and make a better life for themselves.” I stood motionless, unable to speak. How could a kid have so much insight into human existence and not be that aware of it? Did he understand how his words echoed in the PX2 program itself? Did the other adults, kids and coaches hear the powerful words he just spoke? While I struggled with what to say next, there was a silence in the room. I think everyone took a moment to process what was just said. I looked toward the Pacific Institute representatives, they were there that day to evaluate me, and asked them ” in all the times you have run this program have you ever heard that answer before. Jay, the PX2 facilitator, asked the boy if he was ever given a second chance. the boy replied, “yes” when he was younger – that innocence of his joke went unnoticed – he had a teacher give him a second chance and now that he thinks of it “probably a third and fourth as well” – we all laughed at his candour. But, it was what he said next that has stayed with me from that day. ” Ever since I have been given a second chance I have become a great student and kid”.

    We all need second chances, for coaches remember no one wants to make a mistake, correct the error save the integrity and self-esteem of your player, believe in them and give them a second chance. I am uncertain how you will be rewarded but I am certain how your player will evolve.

    As for us, we all need second chances in life. Sometimes the hardest place to start is yourself.

    Where Have I Been….

    The day I received a ‘Package’ and never realized the ‘gift’ inside. That’s the answer I give to everyone who has been asking; Why haven’t you posted anything? Where have you been? You should post that on your blog, why did you stop writing? Well, the easy answer is this, I was ran over by a truck (not literally), got lost and made a choice not to get back in the game. I will never forget the day I got lost and forgot my purpose.

    He showed up in my office wearing jeans, he looked to be a retired man, friendly wearing a ball cap he asked to speak to me, asked me my name and handed me a package. It was a kind of a friendly exchange, surreal to speak and looking back now one of the most memorable days of my life. I opened the package and was frozen. My emotions and senses were taken over as if from some external alien force. I sat motionless, paralyzed in what to do next. Little did I know it would be the source of almost mystical power over me. It would transform me personally over the following years. It provided sleepless nights and countless moments of anger and outbursts to the ones I love most. I shut down. I removed myself further away from the things that bring me life and energize my soul. I lost trust in myself and the people around me. I became synical and skeptical. I found little trust in anything. I questioned everything, and usually not from the place of wonderment. Waking up and struggling to put on a brave face for those around me was the ‘soup de jour’. I was slipping and felt I had no traction. It was as if the pull of the undercurrent was so strong my resistance seemed futile. I was falling, uncertain of how far and long the decent would be. Sure, I was able to forget. But, not for long. I use the term ‘forget’ lightly, because no one forgets a ‘package’ that changes their lives forever. I remember it as if it were yesterday. It is imprinted on the neurons of my brain in the same manner as the day I opened my most memorable Christmas gift. I may have been around 7 years old, when I noticed behind the curtains that glorious Christmas morning, one more gift that was strategically hidden from the rest of the gifts that day. The curtains were made out of green valour and were tied back exposing the white shears that covered the window. (Remember, this is not a story of the fine decorating qualities of home decor in Montreal, back in the early seventies). It’s a story of how a surprise package can change your life forever. As a young boy, I remember my parents suggesting I look behind the curtains, and I noticed a large box, I opened it to my amazement. A surreal and unexpected wonderment was with me the day I opened the mystery package in my office. I will remember the ‘gift’ I received when I was seven similar to the ‘package’ I received in my office that day.
    The gift I received that year was a table hockey game, with metal players ( you could curve their sticks), an automatic puck dropper at centre ice and a puck ejector, that if pushed just right could fling the puck out of your own net, through the air and almost hit your opponent in the face, a great feature for highly competitive kids. The Canadians versus the Leafs, there was no better match up. I remember the sounds of the game, the colour and more importantly the wonderful feeling I had when my parents gave me the ‘gift’ of my life.
    It’s amazing how a package can change your life. Similarly I remember the details of the day I received the package. I did not see the ‘gift’ that came with the ‘package’ that day. I was blinding to the ‘gift’ that would eventually expose itself over time. Sure, the package itself was the beginning of a journey that brought me and my emotions all over the place. One thing is for certain though, if you want to learn anything about yourself and your purpose and principles in life, you need others to ask questions of your personal integrity, intelligence and purpose.
    It was in this package that I questioned my own purpose. Allowing my ego to interfere with the process I failed to see the gift and clarity the package was providing. Who I am, what I stand for and the intentions of my actions were all in question. My absence to demonstrate empathy and forgiveness for those around me was breached. We all understand the importance of seeing through the eyes of others and learning how to forgive unconditionally. But, it isn’t until we are required to carry out such an altruistic and nobel deed, at a time when we have sunken to our lowest point, do we find out who we really are and what we represent.
    I made a choice to forgive. I see now what I couldn’t see then. I decided to renew and familiarize myself with my principles and purpose in life. I decided to see the ‘gift’ that I was given rather than what the ‘package’ represented. I hope you always see the gifts that come your way, no matter what the circumstances are.