<![CDATA[The Fatherhood Journey - Blog]]>Sat, 21 Jul 2018 21:29:26 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Create Your Life]]>Mon, 11 Jun 2018 19:56:59 GMThttp://thefatherhoodjourney.ca/blog/create-your-lifeIn a talk I recently listened to with Thomas Campbell, the author of My Big T.O.E. (Theory of Everything), he really laid out nicely the main ways that we can ‘create’ the path of our lives and bring more positivity into our days. You have to shine the spotlight of your awareness on the three “I”s, Intention, Interaction and Interpretation.

  • Set your intention. How am I entering the world today? What is driving me. What’s my mindset? Have I set an intention to conduct myself in a more positive way, to adhere to my own moral code, letting kindness be my fuel and compassion my rudder? What am I bringing to the table?
 
When I take the time each morning to check in with myself, to see where on the emotional spectrum I am, how I am feeling physically, when I tune into my own inner state and direct gentle acceptance and loving kindness towards myself, I find I am much better equipped to enter the world in a more peaceful and calm manner. Adding this to your morning routine takes just a couple minutes and it will better enable you to deal with whatever arises throughout the day. Also, you’ll be better able to . . .
 
  • Bring positivity to your interactions. I have too often been guilty of allowing others to dictate the ‘mood’ of how I interact with them. “I’m a really nice guy,” (I think to myself) but, in reality, I’m often only really nice if you’re nice to me first. If I feel that you aren’t friendly or open, or there’s some vibe I get that you are disinterested or dismissive of my interest in the interaction, then I’m not really a nice guy at all. I can easily become angry, curt, and even try to intimidate through snarky comments or tough body language.
 
In one of Eckhart Tolle’s talks he made this statement that really resonated with me. “Some people go out into the world as a grievance looking for a cause.” I realized how often that was true of my own behaviour. I was often looking for what I perceived as disrespectful gestures and words. And if that is foremost on your mind when you deal with people, then there are no shortage of slights to be found and those are the interactions that you will attract.
 
But what if in every interaction you had with another being your intention was to bring positivity, understanding and space to the dynamic. How many more positive interactions would you have in the run of a day? I know a lady that lights up rooms whenever she is around. She is an authentic, caring individual. Her vibe is real, you can feel it. I remember randomly running into her at a local bakery and just the genuine enthusiasm she had for that chance meeting lifted me up and I was buzzing from it for a couple of days at least. I thought to myself, “Wow, it would be amazing to be able to carry myself that way.” That kind of openness and authenticity takes courage. We have to be comfortable enough with who we are to allow our inner lights to shine through.
 
Our smiles are a great tool that we can use here. The Smashing Pumpkins lyric, “Disarm you with a smile” always comes to my mind. And yes, it is a tired old adage to ‘smile at strangers, because we are all in this together’, but I have been using the smile practice for a while now and it is amazing how much it has improved my interactions.
 
Now, when the sour sales clerk is obviously agitated because I had the audacity to request they do something in their job description, like check the back for my size in a certain sneaker or open a locked cabinet so I can check out a watch that I was thinking of getting my wife for Mother’s Day, I just continue to smile and maybe even ask how their day is going. I attempt to be authentically polite and appreciative. At first this type of practice is a lot of work, because, for me at least, it’s unnatural (and can feel a bit ridiculous), but that’s really just my own insecurities. But as I continued to practice, it became more normal and my smile was more natural, and I became more open. Now I am at the point where I really try to inject some positivity into the day of the surly, crusty, cantankerous person I’m interacting with. (Well, at least half the time anyway.)
 
Being mindful that the world reflects what signals you send out is helpful. Your negative or positive vibes are read by others and they mostly respond in kind. It is also helpful to consider that everyone can only operate at their level of consciousness, so being upset at someone because they seem to be rude, cold or indifferent is like being upset at the grass for being green. It just ‘is’ that way. Beginning to accept the ‘isness’ of people and events catapults your contentment into the stratosphere!
 
  • Be mindful of your interpretation of live as it unfolds. Another reason that you ‘find’ reinforcing negative interactions when you are in a negative mindset is the filter that you see your life events through. As Ram Dass put it in his book Polishing the Mirror, “We don’t necessarily see things as they are. We see them as we are.” This is huge! Any situation can be interpreted through a wide variety of lenses and your own self worth is often the biggest determinant in how you internalize what happened.
 
I have often misconstrued situations that were neutral (or even someone trying to be helpful or complimentary) as negative. The examples that most readily come to mind are comments that people have made about my musical ability. I am so self conscious and insecure that something I play or sing doesn’t sound good that I take almost any comment made, spend time analyzing it and often come to the conclusion that the speaker meant something negative rather than the face value of the remark. For example, the host of an open mic I did a while ago came up after and said, “Good job, put a smile on my face.” Well after a few days of stewing over what he really meant, I came to the obvious conclusion that he was telling me my performance was more humorous than musical. (Let insanity Reign!!)
 
Obviously, there are situations where being able to infer the real substance of something behind the façade is a vital skill, (business negotiations, high stakes poker) but for the most part we waste our time agonizing over the meaning of a remark. We most likely will never know for sure the speaker’s intent, so ruminating over whether the remark was actually a compliment or a sarcastic crack is not time well spent. If you desire feedback on a certain life situation, ask for it honestly from people you trust.
 
This kind of shift in perspective is useful in countless situations. Relations with co-workers, spouses, family members and friends can improve if you give them the benefit of the doubt and see that most of the time their purpose is not to impose some difficulty on your life. They are most likely dealing with their own issues and their behaviours are a result of their own internal struggle. Use the abundance of loving kindness and compassion that you now have as a result of being forgiving towards yourself and pass it on to others, uplifting those around you.
 
Create something beautiful,
John
 

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<![CDATA[This Little Light of Mine]]>Thu, 17 May 2018 18:27:21 GMThttp://thefatherhoodjourney.ca/blog/this-little-light-of-mineI am a committed partner to my wife and father to my children. A large percentage of my energy and efforts focus on engaging with my family in meaningful ways and attempting to maintain a calm, peaceful household. I try to be present with my family members when we have time to interact. Meaning I try to put aside distractions and live in the moment with whatever is happening with them. That might mean missing the first half of a basketball game I was looking forward to seeing because I can sense that my wife would like for us to have a conversation, or I resist the urge to check my cell phone after feeling it buzz in my pocket because I’m drawing with my children.

But even during the ho-hum, humdrum, monotony of my weekly routine while I try to make awareness of the present moment a focus, life can seem overwhelming. I’m running late for a meeting and need to drop off the children at my in-laws for a couple hours. My daughter is refusing to put on her winter jacket over the summer dress that she has picked out even though it is freezing outside, my older son is inconsolable because he can’t find the toy he wanted to bring to Granma’s, the baby is fusing because he needs to be changed and the dogs are barking to be let outside. Moments like these arise and take all that I can muster just to keep my head above water.

Now, let’s combine a moment like that with a barrage of negative mental noise. Uncertainty about my future at the work I am doing, fear over the state of the world, frustration at being caught in traffic due to unexpected construction and I am left feeling helpless, disempowered and uncertain that I am able to properly care for my family.

It’s a shitty feeling. For the longest time I avoided those type of feelings in my life by checking out, I smoke pot, watch tv series, movies or YouTube videos and eat junk food. Mentally I ran and hid. This was in no way a new tactic for me just because I was married with children. It had been happening for as long as I could remember, and I continually ended up just ‘getting through’ life. Nowhere close to thriving, just surviving.

If you’ve started to recognize a similar pattern in your life as well and you are looking for a better way forward, then I believe it begins with courage. The courage to say the buck stops here. The courage to examine your own thoughts and actions. The courage to assume the warrior’s mantle (A reference to Chogyam Trungpa’s “Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior”), or as Parker Palmer puts it, the courage to live an undivided life. The courage to let your inner light shine.

This process is not easy. It is tedious and trying. And the goal must be the journey, because so very few complete it. (As Jack Kornfield has put it; there is no retired enlightenment.) The process requires that you examine your own short comings, your negative behaviours and interactions and how you are falling short of the type of person you want to be and the type of life that you want to lead. If you have the courage to begin and are willing to dance with the devil in the mirror, slowly, but surely the results start to show and the positivity that you find in your life is the reward.

When I accepted that I had a shadow side and started to come to terms with that I started to bring about positive change by forgiving myself, directing loving kindness towards myself and committing to living more closely to my own moral code. (The undivided life.)

There are many ways to do this inner work. Many people meditate to quiet the mental noise so that they can see deeper into themselves. Others find a physical practice such as yoga or martial arts, a practice that gives them the space for inner reflection. For some, like renown spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle,  it happens during a traumatic life event or near mental breakdown that challenges your view of reality and breaks down your concept of self. Regardless of the path that you choose (or some would argue chooses you) it is paramount to your personal growth, emotional maturity and inner healing to do this work.

There are three things that I find combine to really help me on my journey, and I want to share them in hopes that they will resonate with you and help you to more successfully navigate your path.

  • You are what you eat. That statement isn’t new to any of us, but I think it can be slightly altered and apply to so many more aspects of our life besides just diet. You are what you consume. You are made up of the tv and movies that you watch, the books that you read, the games that you play, the people that you interact with and, of course, the food you ingest. When we start to trim the fat (literally and figuratively) and remove the content that we know isn’t creating a positive experience for us we have more time to delve into the subjects we are passionate about and that are more in line with how we feel we should act in the world.  For three or four years I had a web subscription to the NBA and I watched a ton of basketball, like a game or two a day for the whole season. As I started to become more aware of my inner state, I realized what a meaningless, empty pursuit this was. It added little to no value to my life and often left me frustrated when my favourite teams lost. Allowing something that I had no control over consume so much of my time and partially dictate my emotions was lunacy. Once that realization set in I was able to wean myself from this hollow habit and spend that time more productively.

  • Every moment is a chance to practice.  As I wrote about in the post ‘Let Love Rule’ informal practice has been invaluable to me in making progress with mindfulness. Once I committed and began to practice awareness of my thoughts, feelings and emotions in earnest approximately three years ago, (prior to that, for close to 20 years, I was just a spiritual dabbler) I started to navigate life’s up and downs with less of an internal rollercoaster. The inner work very much translated into more positive experiences and interactions, better relationships with those I am closest to and just a much more calm and peaceful day to day existence.
 
  • Drop the Judgements. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point, but is powerful enough that it deserves it’s own bullet. “If I stop judging other people, I free myself from being judged, and I can dance!” – Patti Digh. The freedom that came from attempting to cease, but more realistically (drastically?) decreasing the judgements that I pronounced on every tangible thing that entered my life is immeasurable. The endless stream of judgements that marched through my head, “Why would anyone want to live there?” “I can’t believe they are eating that!” “OMG, is she really wearing white after Labour Day?”, were energy zappers. It is exhausting to ‘know’ how others should be living their lives and being frustrated when you experience something that doesn’t fit inside your narrow scope of okayedness. (Yeah, I just made up that word.) So, recognizing that you judge and that the vast majority of those judgements are not based on any real knowledge or wisdom and then repeatedly letting go of them is paramount to developing more inner peace and tranquility.
 
Thanks for reading and please, if anything above makes sense, sounds ridiculous, or sparks a question, comment below or send me a message at info@thefatherhoodjourney.ca. It’s time to thrive!

Let your (immeasurable) light shine,
John
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<![CDATA[How Do We Deal with Not Having Dealt with Something Well?]]>Sun, 15 Apr 2018 17:57:39 GMThttp://thefatherhoodjourney.ca/blog/how-do-we-deal-with-not-having-dealt-with-something-wellWe are all doing our best.

Could that statement possibly be true? Or are we holding back? Do we commonly have the perception that others are not doing their best? Do we see others as not living up to the standards that we have set for ourselves? Are we often guilty of falling short of those same standards? But even when we fail and fall short of what we expect of ourselves, is it possible, even in those moments, that we are doing our best?

In her book Rising Strong (which I haven’t read, but my wife recommends), Brené Brown quotes a response from her husband Steve after she asked him if he believed that everyone was doing the best that they could. I thought his reply was worth sharing. Steve said, “I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”
Let’s read most of that quote again, “All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”

When we let go of our judgements we are much more easily able to be present in the moment, to be with what is happening right now. We are able to view our reality with less bias and can tap into a better solution for many issues that arise. (And we often realize that many things aren’t even issues at all.)

This often means we respond with more compassion, more kindness and patience, more wisdom. We are able to put the best version of ourselves forward and feel confident in our place within society.

But.

But? (Of course there is a ‘but’.) But what about the judgments that we heap on ourselves? There are times that we cannot help but judge ourselves, our thoughts, our actions negatively. And it would be insincere for us to just continued on as if nothing ‘wrong’ had happened. That’s because we feel it. We feel the ugliness of it. It sits with us and we cannot shake that our words and/or actions have let us down.

Maybe we have said something very unkind to our partner, maybe we have disciplined our children a little too harshly, maybe we have rushed through a moment with a colleague that we knew they felt was important because we had our own to-do list on our mind. So, maybe later in the day or week or at 3:24am on Monday morning the ruminating begins and the self-flagellation and the ridiculous story lines that run through your head take over. We spend time berating ourselves over our thoughtlessness, our anger, our impatience and we allow the negative story lines to snowball, sometimes becoming an incapacitating avalanche of hostility towards ourselves. We know we could have done better, feel we should have done better.
But instead of beating ourselves up over it, how can we move forward in a more positive way? Taking what we can from those moments where we came up short of our own expectations. Learning from them and preparing to do better next time.

  • Acknowledge what we did. When we feel that we have not treated someone well in a certain situation it is important to own up to it. It can be tough and uncomfortable, but acknowledging to another that we understand that our words and/or actions were not how we should have responded and that they may have caused pain and suffering offers an incredible opportunity for growth within ourselves and within our relationships. How powerful is it for our children to know that we mess up too and that it’s just part of life? How powerful is it to our partners, loved ones and acquaintances if they know that our commitment to them is important enough for us to have these tough conversations? Talk about it. Listen to the other’s perspective. Sometimes we even realize that we have made a much bigger deal of something that they just shrugged off. 

  • Forgive ourselves. We mess up, we’re human and it happens. These missteps can cause a lot of internal turmoil, but if we direct some kindness and understanding towards ourselves we lessen our metal baggage allowing a lighter version of ourselves to interact in society. When we practice directing kindness and understanding to ourselves it makes it much easier to do the same to others. 

  • Observer analysis. By trying to understand why we made the choices we did and acted the way we did we may start to see patterns of what leads to our shortcomings. It may turn out to be something as simple as we were overtired or hangry (angry because we were hungry). We may see that our children or partner bring up unresolved conflicts from our past. Or we may start to realize that, at times, we act selfishly with minimal concern for the welfare of others. Whatever we discover, it can help us to deal with similar situations that arise and perhaps start to recognize when certain dominos are being lined up. We can then proactively address the situation in a kinder and more compassionate way than just waiting for them to tumble.

My objective here is to start conversations. To get fathers talking. To improve and empower. Please comment below or send me a message at info@thefatherhoodjourney.ca.
 
Let Love Rule,
John
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<![CDATA[Let Love Rule]]>Thu, 11 Jan 2018 09:19:58 GMThttp://thefatherhoodjourney.ca/blog/let-love-ruleOur children, regardless of age or gender, face frustrating challenges every day. When those daily difficulties and frustrations arise, our challenge is to 'Let Love Rule'. Helping our children navigate these challenges is our duty and we must do so in a loving and caring manner, regardless of the emotional turmoil or determined resistance of the child. When a child is met with love, and we disregard where on our perceived 'good/bad' spectrum they appear to be, they will be more willing to accept our suggestions and assistance than if they had been met with a less kind response based on how we felt things 'should' be happening.

“Sounds great,” you may say, “but how do you stop your ire and/or frustration from dictating your response and find clarity in the tough moments.” For the past three plus years I have been struggling with this question myself and have been working to increase the amount of patience, understanding and compassion I am able to bring to difficult interactions that arise with my children. I have found that a dedication to mindfulness practice is paramount to developing the ability to recognize your emotional response and to reel in any unconscious reactions.

Ok, so maybe you are curious, but unsure about how to get started. Mindfulness may not be a familiar concept to you, so let's define it and see if that helps and then get into some concrete examples of how to integrate mindfulness practice into your daily routine. Here is a definition of mindfulness that I hope works for most of us; mindfulness is the bringing of kind awareness to our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment as they unfold in the moment.

“Um great, but would you mind running that by me again?” Sure, here’s another take on it. When you are practicing mindfulness you are an unbiased, dispassionate observer of what is happening in the present moment. You refrain from pronouncing judgment on any of your sensory intake or even the thoughts that flow through your mind. You just allow what is to be, quieting habitual thought patterns and allowing clearer, more rational solutions to be brought forth. When you step back from the chaos of the moment you are more easily able to reach out to your child with loving kindness.

If you feel that mindfulness sounds like something worth giving a go, then try out these informal practices that can be done during your everyday routine. Ones that I have been using and have found to help.

  • Direct kindness towards yourself. Any time you hear yourself saying or thinking things like; “How stupid of me.” or “I’m not good/smart/talented enough.” or I’ve really messed things up here.” Respond with a kind turn of phrase such as; “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.” Ok, just a little humour there for any of you that were SNL fans back in the 90’s. But letting yourself know that it’s okay to make mistakes, that things are rarely as bad or as serious as they seem, that mistakes and failure are the best teaching tools and are catalysts to positive growth will help you get over the bumps in the road. Also, as you practice kindness towards yourself, you are very likely to notice that you more frequently give others the benefit of the doubt and life, overall, gets a touch easier.
 
  • Every time you have to stop in traffic, drop your hands to your lap and follow your breath. Frustration that sometimes turns to full on road rage is common during the daily commute (or even out for a Saturday errand run). Whether it’s a red light, or bumper-to-bumper grid lock, if you have to stop, and can safely turn your focus inward. Notice the way your breath feels on the inhale and exhale. Notice it where it feels natural. For some this is in the nostrils, for others the expansion of the chest or abdomen. You can add a mantra here if there’s one that resonates with you. Lately I’ve been repeating (in my head), "Breathing in peace, breathing out, I feel at ease."  If you couple this with giving others the benefit of the doubt, suddenly being cut off in traffic or having someone blow their horn at you doesn’t cause a bubbling up of rage and animosity, but instead you are able to carry on to work or Costco as if nothing wrong had happened.  (Which it didn't, but we'll get to that another time.)
 
  • Notice the judgements you make while in a lineup. This one has become one of my favorites and has, more than once, had me chuckling at myself. When you are in a check-out line, at motor registration, or waiting to use the washroom at a sporting event. Start to take note of the thoughts you are having. Begin to recognize how many of your thoughts are negative judgments towards others and your environment. Start to scrutinize them. What are they based in? You will begin to see how ridiculous the thoughts (and the agitation that accompanies them) are. And you may even lighten the normally boring and frustrating experience to the point where you can laugh at it. (Or in my case, look forward to them as a chance to practice.)

Again, my main purpose here is to start fathers talking about these tools that are available to us and how best to integrate them into our home lives. You may comment below or send me a message at info@thefatherhoodjourney.ca.

Let Love Rule,
John


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