mind

You are what you THINK

I’ve experimented with Wix Website Editor and decided just to stick with wordpress. 
It’s been quite some time since I’ve written on my blog and I sincerely miss it. There’s something about writing that just helps me clarify all of my thoughts. Things have settled down and now it’s time to continue.
Here’s the latest of what took place since my last blog:
  • I moved into a new home
  • Added a new puppy to the family
  • Found a new church to attend (Vantage Point) 
  • A new career path within teaching
  • Hosting exchange students
  • Forged a stronger relationship with my beautiful amazing wife
Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to present to my school districts’ employees. The topic? Non-cognitive (psychological, however, in the field of education they call it non-cognitive which doesn’t make any sense) factors that impact student performance.
Educators tend to focus on curriculum and pedagogy, in other words, what is being taught and how it’s being taught. In my personal opinion, that accounts only for 20-50% of the entire picture when it comes to equipping our youths with the necessary skill sets to be able to reach their potential.
What’s missing is the psychological, or motivational, component. This entails:
  • Beliefs about themselves
  • Their goals in school
  • Their feelings of social belonging
  • Self-regulation skills
I’m sure that most of us agree that the way we think has some effect on our lives. That our thoughts create our reality. Yet more often than not, we allow our lives to be shaped by our environment.
Our same exact thoughts will always lead to the same choices.
The same choices will create the same behaviors.
The same behaviors will produce the same experiences.
The same experiences will create the same emotions.
Those same familiar feelings and emotions will drive the same exact thoughts.
Most people think the same thoughts, perform the same actions, live by the same emotions, but secretly expect their life to change. Navigating their world through different levels of unconsciousness.
When I observe my high school students, most live in a state of unconsciousness that’s driven by their own egos and familiar emotions. They navigate their world with much more distractions often more concerned with other people. The unfortunate problem is that the last person they tend to focus on is on themselves.
One of my life goal is to reach enlightenment.
What does this mean? Eckhart Tolle from Power of Now explains it:

A beggar had been sitting by the side of a road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by. “Spare some change?” mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap. “I have nothing to give you,” said the stranger. Then he asked: “What’s that you are sitting on?” “Nothing,” replied the beggar. “Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.” “Ever looked inside?” asked the stranger. “No,” said the beggar. “What’s the point? There’s nothing in there.” “Have a look inside,” insisted the stranger. The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold.

I am that stranger who has nothing to give you and who is telling you to look inside. Not inside any box, as in the parable, but somewhere even closer: inside yourself.

“But I am not a beggar,” I can hear you say.

Those who have not found their true wealth, which is the radiant joy of Being and the deep, unshakable peace that comes with it, are beggars, even if they have great material wealth. They are looking outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfillment, for validation, security, or love, while they have a treasure within that not only includes all those things but is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer.

The word enlightenment conjures up the idea of some super-human accomplishment, and the ego likes to keep it that way, but it is simply your natural state of felt oneness with Being. It is a state of connectedness with something immeasurable and indestructible, something that, almost paradoxically, is essentially you and yet is much greater than you. It is finding your true nature beyond name and form. The inability to feel this connectedness gives rise to the illusion of separation, from yourself and from the world around you. You then perceive yourself, consciously or unconsciously, as an isolated fragment. Fear arises, and conflict within and without becomes the norm.

I love the Buddha’s simple definition of enlightenment as “the end of suffering.” There is nothing superhuman in that, is there? Of course, as a definition, it is incomplete. It only tells you what enlightenment is not: no suffering. But what’s left when there is no more suffering? The Buddha is silent on that, and his silence implies that you’ll have to find out for yourself.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding of Buddha. The word Buddha comes from the Sanskrit word Budh, meaning, “to be awake.” So my end goal is to live and experience each moment in a state of full consciousness.
To make it a habit of asking myself, “What’s going on inside me at this moment?” Easier said than done, but just like with any skill, it takes practice. Aside from this, I meditate most days of the week in the mornings and use my lifting sessions as a form of meditation.
Each repetition can be broken down into the following:
  1. Inhale: using your diaphragm to provide stability through the ‘core’
  2. Create tension: flex certain parts of the body for stability
  3. Lift: starting the lift, start-up position
  4. Stretch: lowering the weights and feeling specific muscles providing the stretch
  5. Isometric or transition: creating tension in the correct places and using that stretch reflex
  6. Finishing the lift: the concentric (for the most part), maintaining tension, exhale, and finishing
Mindfulness practice comes in when you are fully present and have your awareness on these different components within each repetition. It’s learning to be present in your body and connected. The opposite? It’s ignoring the signs that lead to certain movement dysfunctions, headaches, energy levels, pain, and so on! One of the main reasons why I don’t allow my high school football athletes to blast music while they lift is that I don’t want mindless work. Mindless being that my students are more focused on the music and social distractors rather than on their own bodies trying to communicate with the mind in subtle ways.
I believe that in order to solve many of our worlds’ problems we must look within ourselves rather than searching outward.
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Mindfulness

The end of the high school year took place last week. My first year as a teacher has come to an end and there are many lessons to be learned. For starters, I need to do a better job planning and managing my classroom. To be an effective teacher is draining and it isn’t an easy job. Yeah, I get to enjoy the perks of holidays and summer breaks, but once I’m in the classroom, it’s all about making sense of a lot of information at one time; student’s responses; gestures; attentiveness; interests; understanding; etc. It’s tiring because you really have to be in the PRESENT and connect with students (which most of us know aren’t very stable since they are teenagers!).

HS Graduation 2015

As mentioned in my previous post, HERE, I had been learning Jiu Jitsu during the school year and now have experimented with another endeavor during my summer break. People either love it or hate it. I have grown to be indifferent to it and learned to keep an open mind (as there are positives and negatives to everything). After the first week, I must say that my conditioning level has improved. What made me do it? My lovely wife! At 5:30 in the morning! For starters, I don’t like to do conditioning work. When you are in a group and have a coach to hold you accountable (and a hot wife cheering you on), it’s a heck of a lot easier to finish and to push your self.

So this past week, I had attended 4 CrossFit workouts for conditioning work (1 of those emphasized strength) and during the afternoon I would perform my 20-minute strength training (alternating between deadlifts/press and bench/bent over rows). During the day, it’s training the incoming freshmen and preparing their bodies for the rigors of football. I’m doing a handful of one-on-one personal training and started my group training sessions with my school staff.

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A helpful tip that I learned from Pavel Tsatsouline is that he recommends working on the grip and midsection (aka ‘core’) to improve the quality of strength. I took his advice and have been working on my grip strength through the use of Captains of Crunch Hand Grippers. Ideally, I try to do about 60-70% of the reps I normally could do (so if I can do about 10, I perform 6-7 reps) every 15-30 minutes (or when I can remember). For my ‘core,’ I perform standing planks and tense my core (to include every muscle from the neck down) for about 10s every chance I get. Sounds simple right? Try it out and remember the emphasis is to train the nervous system; your ability to recruit and use your muscles. For me, I feel a significant difference in my lifts with little training time.

Another life hack I have been implementing is the use of meditation. I often think that the word often gets associated to some random nonsensical act rather than what it is intended for. One thing about me is that I love learning from others, especially those that have achieved a high level of success in their respective field(s). I would say that about 70-80% of these people practice the art of meditation. My lovely wife introduced it to me and challenged me to try it out (that’s one of infinite reasons I love her, she challenges me to get better). After starting it up for a few weeks, I noticed that my focus becomes clearer; more relaxed with less worrying about tasks I can’t control; more energy; and being more proactive in getting things done. All you basically need to do is to find a quiet room, sit, focus on your breathing, and clear your mind of all thoughts. If a thought happens to come across your mind, acknowledge it, push it aside, and re-focus on your breathing (breathing through your belly, aka diaphragmatic breathing). An app that I use is Calm. The first 7 days is free and I never purchased it but use it for the background noise.

Having to create a curriculum for my high school’s at-risk (of failing) students, a question that I have been attempting to answer is:

How do I shift student’s motivation towards academic success?

Just thinking about this answer, I couldn’t help but notice all the distractions we now have compared to when I was growing up. With each passing decade, there are countless more activities to do in order to keep ourselves ‘busy’. We tend to lose connection to ourselves: the mind, body, and spirit.

When I speak of the mind, I’m referring to who we truly are. Our passions and interests. Our inner voice. I’m a believer that the mind is much more powerful than the capabilities of the body itself. Our subconscious has more to do with shaping who we are than we might imagine.

The body is a vehicle to carry us through the journey during our lifetime and we need to make sure it’s running on all cylinders! It constantly sends us information, but often times, we choose not to listen. It is often said that the body has the capabilities to heal itself.

The spirit is our connection to other people and the world we interact with. The source of energy that flows from within, to others, and our natural surroundings.

The mind, body, and spirit are interconnected. With all of our distractions, we simply neglect these components and tend to lose touch with who we truly are. Rather than looking outwards to find fulfillment, I propose that we must look inwards. Mindfulness is about getting in touch with our inner selves. It’s about being in the PRESENT. It’s about being fully aware of all the stimulus around us; from the noise, smell, heat or cold, our pain or aches, our thoughts, etc.

So I have been practicing being more mindful; being more aware of my morning routines and the transitions between my activities to spur creative thoughts. Each day I eliminate any negative energy and try to focus on what makes me happy and what I need to accomplish.