Stare out the Window

Taking time to put your life in awareness

The present moment is enough

These past two weeks have been spectacular. The olympics were being held in Sochi, Russia which provided the backdrop for the top athletes,  to come together, to compete on the world’s largest stage. Most of the athletes had been preparing most of their lives for this chance.  The sacrifices made by the athletes and their families have been tremendous. While some of the events I did not understand (e.g. curling) and others I watched in amazement (e.g. slope style), it was clear that a lot of time and effort had gone into preparing for the games and there were many dreams realized.

However, with all of the excitement and grander of the games, what struck me was something that happened when the athletes spoke to the media. After the reporter asked about the event,  the next question was “will you be at the next games” or “what is the next step for you”. I really felt bad for the athletes because they were really not able to bask in the glory of the moment, that they had worked so hard for.

Unfortunately I think that this is the culture that we live in. When the president was elected to his first term, the next question was, will he seek a second term. When you are in a serious relationship, the next question is, are you getting married. When you get married, the next question is, when are you going to have children. Are we obsessed with the future?

By looking to the future, we are sending the message that what you have just done is not good enough or important.  This mentality can lead to feelings of worthlessness and low self esteem. This can cause people to put too much pressure on themselves to go to the next level in search of more recognition.  So what can be done, BE  MORE MINDFUL.

Mindfulness or present moment living is paying attention or being aware of the current moment without judgement. This means that you focus on what you are thinking, feeling and doing in the moment and accept that moment without trying to change it or avoid it. If you are more present in your life,  you can decrease unnecessary negative experiences (which may come from thoughts about the past or future) and increase your capacity to cope with the ups and downs of life through increased awareness. The bottom line: present moment living  can lead to improved psychological health, through improving self esteem.

So if you find yourself in a conflict, stay focused; if you find yourself being recognized for your service, experience the happiness; if you find yourself eating dinner with a friend, put down the phone; if you find yourself in foreclosure, experience the sadness. Then, if you experience one of these moments, move onto the next moment.



Sam I am …

Michael Sam is the college football player that recently came out as gay. While he is one more, in a line of people that are coming out, in the sports world, this has even more significance. The issue is that he is doing this before his professional football career starts. What he is essentially saying (as I see it):  his sense of identity and self worth are more important to him than money or fame. While he hopes that he can be himself and play the game that he loves; he will not compromise himself to play the game.

The message that he is sending is very powerful, and is at the foundation of healthy social and emotional development.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the two most important aspect of human existence, at least in terms of mental health, is your ability to develop and maintain meaningful relationships, on the one hand, and  your ability to understand, acknowledge, and accept who you are as an individual, on the other. Ultimately, it is the balance between intimacy and autonomy that leads to happiness and contentment. Let’s talk about identity.

Your identity is what makes you unique and special. It is the character traits, strengths and weakness, likes and dislikes, that make you who you are. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that do not know who they are, either because they were never given an opportunity to develop a sense of self or after becoming an adult, they spent a lot of time denying that person, in order to appease other people. In the end, denying yourself can lead to low  self esteem, negative emotions such as anger, sadness and anxiety, and it can prevent you from fulfilling your  true purpose in life.

So what should you do. The first and most important step is to spend time with yourself, thinking about your life, and living in the moment. The key is to increase your awareness of what you do and how you feel doing it. Do you really want children? Do you really want to be a lawyer just like your father or do you like the theater? Are you an introvert in a world of extroverts? Do you want that leadership position? Do you want to be a stay at home mom? Are adventurous or do you like the status quo? Do like thing orderly or are you more carefree? Is college for you? Do you love men or do you love women?

As you answer some of these questions and hopefully generate your own, hold onto those things that suit you and let go of everything else. Once you know who you are,  live your life, standing up for that person.

The tale of two “holidays”…

This story starts with Valentine’s day. This holiday started  many years ago, although it’s exact origin is unclear. However, in the modernized Valentine’s day, February 14 is a day for love, a day for lovers, or a day to reconnect with loved ones.

The holiday goes something like this. As the day draws near, those people in  relationships start to think about ways to express how much they love each other. Of course, they get plenty of help, as the media and retail stores start early, letting people know, that if you care about your loved one, you would  do something special for them. And by the way, here are a few hundred ways (and things you can buy) to express your love.

So, the pressure is on, but as usual, most people rise to the occasion and create a fabulous day to remember. But then, February 15 comes along, and we all know what happens on that day, the shine and luster of the holiday starts to fade, and you fall back into the same old patterns of indifference.

The other “holiday” is Black History Month. This month has been set aside to remember the important events in black history. It is supposed to be a time to educate, inspire and lift up a group of people. But, unlike Valentines day, the luster of the holiday is fading. While, there are groups of people that acknowledge this month and try to reconnect with their history, there is  another large group of people that question the need to have this holiday at all.

So which is it? Create a holiday, so that there will be at least one opportunity during the year to connect or don’t have a holiday at all, and risk losing the connection all together. The answer is neither.

The desire and motivation to reflect on what is important in life should ultimately come from the individual. Our societal norms and cultural principles can be our guide but should not dictate our path.  The ability to balance our relationships, with the need to acknowledge and accept ourselves as individuals, is at the foundation of good psychological health. The purpose of this blog is to help improve the psychological health of adults, in an effort to cultivate our own well being, but also to have a positive impact on the next generation.

So, I want to take this opportunity, during the month of February, to issue a challenge. Use this month as a time to reflect on your relationships with other people, determine how you feel about yourself and make changes.  Let’s not go by the way of these two holidays, make this a priority 24/7/365.

Are you a Belieber ?

Yes, I am writing about Justin Bieber (sort of). As most of you know,  he is the internationally known, mega pop star, that started his career on the internet many years ago. Since his debut, his career was catapulted into the stratosphere, all before he was 18 years old. However, more recently he has made headlines for numerous run ins with the police and charged with things such as DUI, resisting arrest and assault. There is also talk of him being deported to his native Canada. So why bring this up.

Well, before I get into that, let me talk about another pop star. Miley Cyrus, who was previously a child actor and became famous for her role as Hannah Montana on the Disney Television Channel. She has since grown up and become a major pop star in her own right. However, she started to receive negative attention when she played up her sexuality in her music and her performances. Everyone was outraged that someone who had such a promising career, would feel the need to lead with her sexuality, instead of her talent.

So, the Huffington Post decided to ask Gloria Steinem to weigh in on this phenomena, and pitched her response to what they called Miley Cyrus- gate, as the last word on this topic. I actually think that they were right. Ms Steinem’s response started like this,  “I wish we did not have to be nude to be noticed… But given the game as it exists, women make decisions.” Then at the end of her statement she said, “I think we need to change the culture, not blame the people that are playing the only game that exits”. Now, we have gotten to the point that I would like to make.

We live in a culture that creates mega stars among teenagers, but does not given them the opportunity to mature, and when they experience growing pain, the same culture vilifies them. We live in a culture that puts the spotlight on sexuality, but when someone capitalizes on it, that same culture vilifies them.

The same can be said for families. When the culture of a family consists of angry outburst, physical violence, and name calling, then their 5  year old gets kicked out of kindergarten for repeatedly hitting other children, the parents want to vilify the child. The parents go on to  label the child a problem and he/she is shuttled into the system.

So, as the saying goes, don’t hate the player, hate the game. It is the adults, the community, the society that need to take a hard look at themselves, and change their culture, so that we can produce the young people that we claim that we want.

Man in the mirror

As I was thinking about my blog for this week, another mass shooting happened. This one hit very close to home, because I grew up going to the mall in Columbia MD, where this happened.  All of the details of this shooting have not been released but one of the victims was reportedly a mother of a young child. Sadly, the intergenerational reach of such a senseless act, will be evident for years to come, as this child grows up without a mother.

These issues will not go away on their own and we have to stop trying to solve these problems so far down stream from the cause. While we may need to increase security to keep people safe, this does not  prevent the problem from happening in the first place. What is the answer?

Well, one place to look for the answer may be in a classroom near you. I just came across an article (i.e yet another article) on bullying. While this article starts off fairly standard, with  a young girl being  victimized by a group of girls over the internet. Things take a turn, when her parents get so fed up with the inaction by school officials, they decide to sue the girls for libel and their parents for negligence.

Her parents are fighting for her because of the impact this is having on her emotionally, but what they may not realize, is the impact this is having on her brain. There are connections in the brain called synapses and these connections are influenced by our environmental experiences. These brain synapses dictate all of human functioning such as our thoughts, emotions and behaviors. So, if you are constantly being subjected to a negative environment, your brain connections can change and this may be permanent, leaving you more vulnerable to psychological problems and possibly mental illness. THIS IS SERIOUS.

So,this negative environment is being created by the bully, but it is not necessarily all about the bully. Going further up stream you find the bullies parent or  primary caregiver. There has  got to be more of an effort, to influence, the people that influence our children.

Adults in this country must become more interested in understanding themselves.  They must become more aware of their own emotional experiences, understand their own needs and developing the tools needed to meet those needs.  They must become more interested in living in the present moment, not in the past or the future.

We do not want to become complacent in this world of violence and destructive behavior. We do not want to merely adjust our lives to fit what may be our new normal. Each adult needs to take a long look in the mirror in order to see the solution to this problem.

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