Committing to the Present Moment

“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.” ~ John Kabat-Zinn

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I love the above quote from John Kabat-Zinn, especially because he uses the word, commit, very intentionally.  Commit has a Latin origin, meaning to join, combine; to bring together. The more modern definition of commit is to carry out, pledge, bind, or devote.  It also refers to the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, or undertaking.

Reflecting on how commitment applies to the present moment really shifted the way I thought about being present.  Think about joining and binding, bringing you together with the here & now — combining into one totality of experience — that this is all there is and this is where it’s at…where life happens.

I often think how esoteric this may seem due to the mundane and everydayness of life.  We tend to not connect with the present moment and miracles happening day-to-day.  It’s really not something we think about as days of our lives go by. I believe that many of us live the majority of our lives lost in our thoughts without even realizing it.  I go more into depth about this in a previous article, “Why You Should Think About Your Death.”

I believe that we all have different degrees of FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) when it comes to staying in the present moment. FoMO is usually associated with social media, but I think it really maps onto the present moment as well.  We all tend to get pulled into the past or future, perhaps being afraid we might forget something we’ll have to do later.  This constant thinking about what we will do later disconnects us with right now.  Sometimes the present moment is unpleasant or uncomfortable, and it becomes even more difficult to stay there.  The end result is not being fully present in the here and now.

That should be the real FoMO. Read more

We All Suffer

“It is because mankind are disposed to sympathize more entirely with our joy than with our sorrow, that we make parade of our riches, and conceal our poverty.  Nothing is so mortifying as to be obliged to expose our distress to the view of the public, and to feel, that though our situation is open to the eyes of all mankind, no mortal conceives for us the half of what we suffer.” ~ Adam Smith

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We don’t necessarily like to advertise our suffering.  We mainly see the best moments and highlight reels of people’s lives, while many of the deeper and lonelier moments are kept concealed.

The truth is, we all suffer, at the deepest levels.  Every single one of us. No one is immune to bad days.  We all have them.  

We go about our lives, pretending to have it all together — and on some days, it may even feel like we actually do.

We don’t.

We may at times fall under an illusion that we are in control.

We aren’t.

We know this deep down, as we become reminded of this hard truth at times in our lives — the times when reality comes crashing down upon you — feeling alone, and we cry…if we allow ourselves to.  We want to be strong for our loved ones, our spouses, our kids, driven by the fear of appearing weak when in fact, showing our humanity is not weakness.

I’ve spoken to many people whose pain and suffering happens to rise to the surface…unexpected, and in that moment, their loneliness revealed, despondency expressed — weeping about how alone and scared they really feel…at the deepest levels — the depths in which we rarely ever let anyone in far enough to see.  

We are like onions, having many layers that can be peeled back.  Many of us only ever get to see the top layer in most of our relationships.  There are many more layers to a person. We all have them.

We often do not have a safe space where we can reveal them. Read more

Counseling, Relationships, & Wellness Throughout the Lifespan

“Sometimes I think we feign surrender in order to avoid the hard stuff that’s really there.” ~ Dr. L. Marinn Pierce

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In this episode of the Mindful Owl podcast, Dr. L. Marinn Pierce and I discuss counseling and relationships between wellness, spirituality, and personal dispositions of practicing professional counselors.

Some topics discussed are:

  • What is Counseling?
  • Integral Breath Therapy (IBT) – Integration Concepts
  • Wellness, Spirituality, and Personal Dispositions of Professional Counselors
  • Counselor Impairment
  • Empathy vs Compassion
  • Client-Centered vs Present-Centered
  • Religion and Spiritualty
  • Yoga, Meditation, and Present Moment Awareness
  • Trauma Bonds and Relationships
  • Disembodiment
  • Bypass

and much more…

Dr. L. Marinn Pierce is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Counselor Education at California State University, Fresno.  She received her B.M. in Music Education from Brenau University, M.S. in Community counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Ed.S. in Community Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of Tennessee.  Dr. Pierce’s clinical experience includes work with a variety of populations across multiple settings. While her primary area of emphasis is children and youth and their families, she has worked with adolescents in residential treatment, individuals with diverse counseling needs in community outpatient settings, children and adolescents in intensive outpatient and partial-hospitalization, and child and adolescent victims of sexual trauma.  Her research interests include counselor professional identity development, wellness, and the integration of spirituality into the counseling process. – American Counseling Association (ACA)

Hope you enjoy!

Listen on iTunes

You can reach Dr. Pierce @MarinnPierce on Twitter or lpierce@csufresno.edu

Further resources shared by Dr. Pierce:

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Who Are You?

“If we are honest with ourselves, the most fascinating problem in the world is…who am I? What do you mean…what do you feel when you say the word, I.”  ~ Alan Watts


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I’m writing this article, not because I’ve attained the answer, but because I’d like to pass this information along, as I would have wanted to read something like this earlier.  If I had to choose only one thing to watch out for — to beware of in life — it is this:

You.  Yourself.  Ego.

The infamous ego.  From Freud’s Id, Ego, Superego, to “He’s gotta big ego,” we’ve all heard about it one way or another. Ego, in my opinion, is probably the biggest thing that gets into anyone’s way. All too often, we are the ones getting in our own ways.  We have the ability to deceive ourselves like no one else can.

Your worst enemy lives inside of you, and it’s called ego.

Eckhart Tolle often says, “I can’t live with myself. Well…who is ‘I’… and who is the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with?”

So what exactly is ego?  Well, I would describe it as everything you think you are, in a nutshell.  The feeling of “I,” or what we mean when we say “I,” as Sam Harris, Alan Watts, and many others put it. When you are talking to yourself, who are you talking to?  The feeling of being a self.  We tend to identify with our story, our thoughts, and our emotions. Ego is the reason we may feel the need to defend “ourselves.”  We are defending an idea of our self that we feel is threatened.  When we are not identifying with this, the need to defend ourselves also goes away.

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On the Journey of Spirituality & Religion 

“Spirituality is something innate in all of us…we all have something within us that yearns for the divine and the sacred.  Religion is our human attempt to figure that out, make meaning of it, and express it.” ~ Lyle Peters

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We often find ourselves in different places during our spiritual journey.  In this episode of the Mindful Owl podcast, Lyle Peters and I discuss religion and spirituality within the context of Christianity.

Some topics discussed are:

  • Religion vs Spirituality
  • Were we socialized to believe in God or practice a religion?
  • Can science and religion coexist?
  • Ego and self-righteousness
  • The Great Schism of 1054
  • 16th century Protestant Reformation

Lyle has a wide background in religious studies and theology, from serving eight years in the priesthood to music ministry. Lyle was kind enough to share some of his perspective and personal journey thus far, and it is full of wonderful insights.Lyle received a Master of Divinity from University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. Lyle is currently the pastoral associate for liturgy and music at St. Joseph Catholic Community Church in Eldersburg, Maryland.

Hope you enjoy!

Listen on iTunes

Blackstar

“The truth of course, is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.” ~ David Bowie

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It’s now been almost three months since the release of David Bowie’s, Blackstar, his last and final album. I purchased this album on January 8th, 2016,  and immediately began listening, becoming more and more intrigued by its nuances. Every song on the album holds its own. Two days later, Bowie passed away after an 18-month battle with cancer. Listening back after his death, it all began to make sense.  Bowie knew he was dying, and this album was his last farewell.

Before this album, I wouldn’t of called myself a David Bowie fan.  I probably wouldn’t have even given it an initial listen if it weren’t for the musicians playing on it  — Mark Guiliana, Jason Lindner, Tim Lefebvre, and Donny McCaslin.  From Jason Lindner’s Now vs Now, to Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music, I was interested to hear Blackstar, and it didn’t disappoint.

This is one of my favorite new albums.  

As a percussionist, I really dig Mark Guiliana’s drumming, but in Blackstar, Bowie’s performance is what really shines through.  There’s always something captivating about raw human emotion and spirit.  I now find that it’s the imperfections that make the music for me.  Growing up in music education, a lot of the focus was on being as perfect as possible…never making a mistake.  We are in the age of autotuned, artificial, and perfect sounding vocals — masking the truth behind the real music.  It’s analogous to our society, focusing on appearing to be something, rather than just really being that.  Now, I realize that what really makes the music for me is the raw, true, human imperfections, and this is something very real that comes through Bowie’s performance.

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Reflections on Love

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Love.  Where language begins to break down. What many have tried to put into words.  I believe love is the most important experience in our existence. Everything we do should be rooted in love.  We try our best to describe love by making sounds with our throat and manipulating air through our mouth. That seems like a crude way to convey something so deeply profound.  Our words are merely signposts that point to something else.  That something else, is what I’m more interested in connecting with than any definition of love.  At best, a definition is important for giving us a starting point.   

There’s a lot of material out there on love — 1 Corinthians, The Five Love Languages, The Love Dare, All About Love, Love and Respect, The Road Less Traveled — to recommend a few books.  I won’t get into different types of love — agápeérosphilía, and storgē, but rather offer a starting point as the aim of this article.  If I were to offer anyone a solid, concrete definition of love, I’d point them to M. Scott Peck’s, The Road Less Traveled.

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“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”  ~ M. Scott Peck

The above definition says quite a lot, if one spends enough time contemplating it. That definition is also not the most popular one. It’s important to note that according to Peck, most people confuse love with something called, cathexis. Cathexis is the process of investing emotional or mental energy into a person, object, idea, etc. Cathexis sometimes presents as the “falling in love” experience people have. Only once that experience is over, can real love begin. Read more

Why You Should Think About Your Death

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you will ever have.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

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The inevitable death.  Your death.  The fact that all of “this” is not going to last forever. The thought of your own existence not continuing can be scary. Sound depressing? Well, contemplating your own death doesn’t necessarily have to be.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about death almost every day.  I find it interesting that the older people get, the more they seem to think about death.  On the other hand, thinking about death is almost non-existent with younger people.  I think it would greatly benefit younger generations to be more mindful of death.

Mortality salience, or realizing that your death is in fact inevitable, can give rise to a much more appreciative, fulfilling, and present life. This appreciation and fulfillment can be found with or without any consideration of religious beliefs.  In other words, your ability to appreciate life’s moments doesn’t depend on whether or not you’re religious. This is not to say that religion or a belief in the afterlife isn’t helpful, as religion is very helpful to me. There’s more to it than just religion in and of itself. A deep attention and presence is still necessary to fully appreciate the significance of what’s really going on from moment to moment.  Being mindful of death and our mortality is a catalyst for this.

Most of the time, it appears that we all casually gloss over some very significant and deeply profound moments in our lives.  Even the moments that can be categorized as mundane have just as much significance and profundity as any other moment. Sometimes, those moments don’t seem to register as important “in the moment.”  Later upon reflection, perhaps as memories, we may feel those moments were in fact significant, but we weren’t really “there” for them.  We find it hard to connect to the present moment when we are incessantly looking for happiness in the future, which never arrives. Read more

New Website! Spirituality, Meditation, Counseling, Education, Music, and more!

Hello, readers,

If you’ve come upon my new blog, I’d like to welcome and thank you for checking it out.

Lately, I’ve been pondering different ways to express my thoughts, ideas, observations, and life experiences thus far.  I’ve come to the conclusion that a blog format may be the best solution for me.

I’m sitting in my chair, having some hot green tea, and writing down decent looking website themes from the hundreds to choose from.  I’m hoping that this blog is not only helpful to me, but perhaps may be of some value for others.

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My friends and colleagues that know me are aware that I have many roles. I’m a father of two beautiful girls, a husband, school counselor, musician, educator, brother, son…the list goes on.  I think more importantly that if all of my roles were taken away, I would consider myself to be a loving human being.

I have a prodigious interest in many topics.  I love to learn, and will always consider myself to be a lifelong learner.  Most of this blog will be about life and general topics I take interest in.  Some future topics that will probably make their way into this blog are spirituality, meditation, relationships, music, education, counseling, self-care, wellness, gaming, and books to name a few.  I’m also hoping to post some interviews in podcast form.

That’s all for now.  Feel free to leave a comment regarding the blog, future topics, etc.

Thanks for reading!