In the moment

Being mindful, or being in the moment. It seems so simple, but with the way our lives are structured today, it’s so hard to do. Last year, I read about mindfullness and it was one of my resolutions to try to be more “in the moment”. I think I made some progress, but I still need to work on this.

How many of are guilty of playing with our kids, and instead of watching them or playing with them, we end up checking Facebook or Email instead? I’m always amazed when I take Max to a park, and I look around and most of the parents are seated, with their noses buried in their phones. It’s good for kids to do self exploration, but it’s also important for parents to supervise their kids.

Another example of where could be more mindful is during conversations. I know it happens to me all the time. I’ll be talking to my wife, and she’ll be telling me something, and I’m only half listening, because my mind is wandering and thinking about what I need to do at work the next day, or something that I saw on TV.

When I was a kid, I could remember every detail about a tv show or movie I watched. I used to collect baseball cards, and as soon as I opened a new pack of cards, I could flip through the cards and in the blink of an eye, I could say whether the card was new, or if it was a duplicate. Some of that was because I was young and my brain wasn’t filled with as much as it is now. But I think a bigger part is the fact that I was able to focus better. I was more in the moment. When I watched an episode of “Who’s the Boss”, that’s all I was doing. I wasn’t checking my phone, I wasn’t thinking about what I wanted to make for breakfast. All I was focussed on was the wacky things Mona would do and that crazy sexual tension between Tony and Angela.

The other night I watched one of my favorite shows Modern Family. Chazz Palminteri was a guest star. And as the show was on, I felt the need to look up how old he was. Not that it was important, I just had my phone next to me, so I looked up his age. Then I looked up Ed O’Neill’s age. Because Chazz’s character and Ed’s character were best friends on the show, so I wanted to see how close in age they were. And earlier in the show, Phil and Claire are talking to their daughter and they tell her to pretend like they aren’t her parents, and to treat them like her friends. And Hailey replied something like “Well I don’t have any 45 year old friends”. And boom, I was off to look up if Julie Bowen and Ty Burrell were really in their mid 40’s. Turns out they both are in the mid 40 range. But it’s just one example of how constantly being connected makes us distracted and takes focus away from what we are doing.

And it just seems to be getting worse with every generation. The other morning, I fixed Max breakfast. I put it out on the table for him, and he was chomping away. I had to go to the bathroom, so I said I would be right back. He’s old enough now, where I feel comfortable leaving him unattended for a few minutes, without the fear of him writing all over the walls, or spilling a gallon of milk on the floor. Anyway, I came out of the bathroom, and in that span of 5 minutes, he had turned on the TV, and plugged headphones into the iPad. So he wasn’t just eating breakfast. Focussed on how good the bagel he was eating tasted. He was eating, watching Sponge Bob and listening to music on Spotify.

Depak Chopra was on Conan a few months back, and he discussed mindfullness. And one of the things he said that was rampant here in the US is people eating and not even being aware. Not even paying attention to how good something tastes. You ever notice that the first sip of morning coffee, or the first bite of cake always seems to taste the best? It’s not like there is some magic in that first bite. It’s just that we are more aware because it’s the first bite. We pay attention to the way it tastes. Then we get caught up in daydreaming, conversation or TV, and before we know it, our cup is empty and the only thing left on the plate are crumbs. But we didn’t even take time to savor the flavor.

I remember reading this book about monks. And all they ever had to eat was bread, and sometimes as a treat, a bowl of white rice. Plain white rice, no gravy, no sauce, just plain white rice. And the bread was plain as well. No butter, no seeds to flavor it. Two very simple foods. But they totally focus on the food, they consciously chew the bread, chewing it slowly, chewing it dozens of times, extracting every last bit of flavor before swallowing. And they were so satisfied, and so content with what they had. Compare that to someone living in a major metropolis. Waiting for weeks or even months to get a reservation at a trendy new restaurant that all their friends are talking about. Then the food comes, and before they even take a bite, they are snapping photos of it and checking in on Facebook. And instead of focussing on the flavor of the food, the texture, the complexity, the way the ingredients all mix to create a delicious flavor, their minds are off someplace else. Thinking about work, or eavesdropping on the conversation at the table behind them. Instead of focussing on the delicious food they waited all this time to try, they are pre-occupied with a dozen other things.

Depak talks about why people are so overweight here in the US. We have an abundance of food. It’s everywhere. And how many times do we eat just because we are bored. Not because we are hungry, just because we are have nothing else to do. We sit down with a bag of chips, watching TV and before we know it, half the bag is gone, and we didn’t even really taste the chips. We are just shoving them into our mouths as we stare at the magic screen. He is so spot on about this.

Last night, I tried to just decompress. It’s been a hectic week, with the crazy weather, school closings and trying to get a bunch of little projects done around the house. It’s been physically and emotionally draining. I tried to just lay on the couch, close my eyes and relax. It worked for a few seconds, but then I started thinking about setting the DVR to record a show Rachel wanted to see. Then I started thinking about the Super Bowl. So I downloaded an app on my phone. It plays soothing music, and a woman with a very peaceful voice gives you guidance and helps you relax. BTW the app is called Simply Being. I popped on some headphones, set the timer for 5 minutes and tried to relax.

The music helped me focus and block out the distractions. But it was still difficult to focus on nothing. They recommend focussing on your breathing, being aware of when you are inhaling and when you are letting the air back out. That helps, but it’s tough to stay focussed on that for more than 30 seconds. I did ok for a while, but I knew the timer was set for 5 minutes, so I kept wondering how much longer. When would the 5 minutes be up.

I guess mindfullness is like anything else; it takes practice. 5 minutes seems like an eternity in a world where are constantly bombarded with snippets of information, video clips, cell phone alerts, and text messages. When I started to run, I could barely run a block, and now I can run a half marathon, so I hope overtime this all becomes easier.

Jamming with Dad

You know how there are certain songs that remind you of a person? Maybe an old love, a childhood friend or a lost loved one? A few years back, Bruce Springsteen released a song called Devils & Dust. There is a great harmonica solo in the song, and it reminds me so much of my dad. Some of my earliest memories of my dad is when he would sit by the stereo, playing a harmonica along to the music. It was pretty amazing because he could hear the first verse of a song and by the 2nd verse, he could play the whole song. He had that gift where he could play music by ear. 

When I hear the harmonica solo during Devils & Dust, I get the chills. It reminds me so much of my Dad. I’m glad I share the same passion for music my Dad had. Our taste in music is quite different, but the passion is the same. Max seems quite into music as well, so I hope music means as much to him as it meant to me and my dad.

I thought the song was so pretty, so I looked up the chords, and was pleasantly surprised the whole song is just a combination of 5 chords. C, D, A, Em and G. Chords I know how to play on the guitar. Ironically, during the harmonica solo, there is a section where the chords go from D to A back to D. That’s right, it spells out Dad. Sometimes when I play the song on guitar and Bruce plays the harmonica solo, I pretend like it’s my Dad playing and the two of us are jamming.

I hope someday, when I’m long gone, Max will hear a song, and it will remind him of me. Make him remember a sweet childhood memory, and all the fun times we have had together. 

Are there any songs that remind you of someone?


Here’s a link to the song: Devils & Dust