That One Time, On Barney Miller

When I was a kid, one of my Dad’s favorite TV shows, was Barney Miller.  My dad was a hard-working kind of guy.  Old school.  He came home dirty every night and times were tough.  But, when he watched Barney Miller, he would laugh.  So, I watched with him.  I liked seeing my dad laugh.

But, one particular episode left me thinking for the rest of that evening.  It’s where detective Chano accidently shoots and kills a kid and he’s left devastated.  His Captain, Barney Miller comes to his apartment to visit him and talk.  As Captain Miller is leaving, he stops and says to Chano, “Did you ever wonder why, the sperm whale, which is one of the largest mammals on the face of the earth, has a throat about that size (with one hand, he makes a circle with his fingers and thumb)?”

Chano replies, “Yeah, I always did wonder; why is that?”

And Captain Miller says, “Because that’s the way it is.  And there ain’t anything you can do about it.”

It’s funny how certain things resonate with even a kid of my age, at the time.  And obviously, that scene is still with me today.  At first, I felt betrayed; like, this show is supposed to be funny, not tragedy and drama.  You’re supposed to make my dad laugh.  What are you doing?!  But, the next episode was funny again, so we all moved on.

Back to Chano though: We tend to torture ourselves with what should be or could’ve been, longing for a reality that doesn’t exist.  We’re complicated emotional beings with empathy and a soul, but at the same time, we’re logical.  Simply saying, “… that’s the way it is”, is a logical approach, but it’s not very comforting.  It’s not comforting, because of its closed-ended finality with a zero percent chance of hope.

But, hope can be a form of torture as well.

Dealing with tragedy is a process and even if we successfully pass through all five stages of grief, including acceptance, it’s never actually over.  Captain Miller’s logic was to skip over denial, anger, bargaining, and depression to acknowledge reality; “that’s the way it is.  And there ain’t anything you can do about it.”  Get your shit together and move on.

I understand Captain Miller’s approach.  If I see a nail sticking out, I grab a hammer and bam!  The nail isn’t sticking out anymore.  Fixed.  That’s how most guys function.  We want to fix things, so that we can move on.

But, why was that nail sticking out in the first place?  “What?!  Do you want the wall to tell me about its feelings and its relationship with the nail?”  Sort of; yeah.  Because, nails don’t just push out of a wall for no reason.  A plumbing pipe shifted inside the wall, pushing the nail forward and when it was hammered back in, it punctured the pipe and now there are bigger problems.  Oops.

Anecdotally, we’ve all been there, done that.

“Did you ever wonder why humans have a yin and yang brain, where the limbic system operates on emotion and instinct, yet the neo cortex is all about logic and calculation?”

“Yeah, why is that?”

“Because that’s the way it is.  And the best we can do is learn how to operate both systems in harmony.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m still working on that.

Am I No Yogi?

“If your goal is to become a yoga teacher, five-and-a-half months are good enough. If your goal is to become a yogi, it may happen in five-and-a-half seconds, or it may not happen in five-and-a-half lifetimes, because it is not of the physical nature. It depends on how an individual being allows it to happen.” – Sadhguru

Just this past weekend, I graduated from Yoga teacher training and I’m now an RYT with Yoga Alliance.  It was an amazing experience with incredible people!  And Sadhguru is spot-on; it was five-and-a-half months.  But does that make me a Yogi?  Hmm …

What does it mean to be a Yogi?

Is it practicing and performing poses and breathing deeply?  Is this Yoga?  Well, if the effort and action (hatha and karma) of performing asana brings us closer to synchronization with the energy of the universe, then yes.  Because Yoga means union.  Union with the universe and all things that are, including all of us humans.

But to be a Yogi, it’s about living the way, not just knowing it.  No easy task, because our reality is dynamic with its infinite number of variables and circumstances, multiplied by about eight billion humans, all with our own baggage of shit and opinions.

But, we do our best to be Yoga, living the eight limbs: non-violence, truth, non-stealing, moderation, non-attachment.  It’s cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study, and surrender to a higher power.  And yes; it is the postures and a lot of breathing.  It’s withdrawing from the external world through the senses.  It’s concentration, meditation, and … bliss.

Sadhguru goes on to say, “Even if you are not like that (Yogi-like) 24 hours of the day, at least a few moments in a day you should be a yogi. If you keep it alive, things that you do not understand, things that you have never experienced, will happen to you. That means you are allowing another dimension to function.”

I know, I know, it sounds quite mystical and if you know me, I’m not one for mysticism.  In all my years of training and teaching martial arts, my mission was to clear the fog of mysticism with down to earth language that everybody could easily understand (there’s a song in there somewhere).  So to be clear, being a registered yoga teacher does not necessarily make one a Yogi.

Knowing and teaching the knowledge is merely academic.  Being able to do a one-handed hand stand with our legs in a pretzel is quite impressive, but that’s not Yoga.  The practice of living and being Yoga is true yoginess, no matter our acrobatic prowess.

So … am I a Yogi?  All things considered, yes.  But don’t tell anyone.  I have a reputation to maintain.

Namaste.

Photo by Hans Vivek on Unsplash

That Time I Met My Childhood Self

One night, in Yoga Teacher Training, our instructor took us through meditation.  Nothing unusual, but this time, we were to go back and meet our childhood selves as we are right now.  I never thought of doing this before and I thought, “Oh, this will be a fun experiment.”  Maybe, I’d give him a high-five and ask him how school is going; that sort of thing.

But, then I saw him and it hit me in an unexpected way.

There I was; eh … me.  He.  We.  Whatever. When I came up to him, I immediately realized that the high-five thing was a dumb idea.  Neither one of us said anything, but he knew who I was and just looked at me with no judgement.  Just observing me, with a welcoming expression.

And this bothered me, because it was like I wanted him to judge me.  I expected it.  He should, dammit!  I felt unworthy of his acceptance and it made me uncomfortable.  Then it made me sad and I did my best to hold back the tears.  I was among my classmates and they can’t see me like that.  You know?

That kid was awesome.  He was naïve, innocent, and okay.  I felt like I fucked that up and that he should push me or punch me or something!  But nothing. He was cool.

I wanted to give him all the excuses about life, reality, circumstances, and survival.  I felt like I should vomit explanations: The first time I saw my parents have one of those fights where they throw shit; and then … the twentieth time.  All those fights I got into.  That time I saw my first dead body.  I was way too young to see a bullet-riddled bleeding corpse.  That time I got jumped and beaten in the projects.  Oh, and that other time and what I had to do to make it home.  That time my cousin died in his sleep.  That car accident.  That time I had to decide to put my mother in hospice and then have her cremated.  And then my father as well.  Or, that time I had two guns pressed into my skull by bank robbers?  Are you kidding me?!  Fucking bank robbers!

And … you know; a bunch of life, multiplied by decades.  I lost my hair.  His hair.  Sorry kid.

But, he just looked at me with that face.  Like … as if he liked me.

So then, I realized where I am now, which is a pretty damn good place.  It took a lot of work, sacrifice, loss, pain, setbacks, eating ramen noodles, self-responsibility, letting the bad shit go, striving for the good things, loving and being loved, and trying to be a better version of myself this day than I was yesterday, multiplied by decades.  I have a soul to protect.  I’m grateful for that, every day.

He saw me.  For real.  All of it.  And he’s proud of me; eh … himself. Us. Whatever.

Thanks buddy.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

In the Face of Nostalgia and Regret

“Nostalgia is a seductive liar.” – George Ball

It’s been my experience thus far, that some of the most unhappy people live nostalgically.  Nothing wrong with visiting, but many among us try to live there.  They remember and talk of the past as if it was some magical place; a half-smile with a distant stare.  Meanwhile, they’re missing the Now, where life is happening.

Seeing things nostalgically thirty or so years after the fact, can look like a Hollywood movie.  The problem is that our mind remembers not so much what, but how it wants to remember.  The past isn’t real.  Not now.  It was, when it was Now, but now it’s just a memory.  We filter out the circumstances that were in play at that time, including our own motivations, thought process, values, beliefs, psychology, relationships, and a million other things, including all the bad parts.

Billy Joel is singing, “The good ole days weren’t always good and the future ain’t as bad as it seems.”

The popular story-line lately, about how people on their death bed regret, not so much the things they did, but the things they didn’t do.  Like it’s supposed to be motivational, right?  Inspiring?  As if, by hearing these stories, we’ll quit our job, sell our shit, and tour the world with a backpack.

But, we don’t.  Why?  Because for 99% of us, it doesn’t make any fucking sense.  It may sound romantic, but it’s not really what we want, nor need.  So, we don’t do it.

Because what happens?  What; one day we’re on our deathbed regretting what we didn’t do and say to some young soul, “My biggest regret is that I didn’t leave society to homestead in northern Alaska”?  “I didn’t quit that six figure job to volunteer in a third-world country.”  “I never bought that Ferrari.”  Okay, that’s a bad example.  You really should have bought that Ferrari.  What’s a matter with you?!  Life is short!

Nostalgia can suck, but so does regret.  So … we didn’t do that thing, even though we thought we wanted to at the time and now, we regret it.  No.  We didn’t do it for all the reasons we didn’t and never did and that is that.  Remember?

How about this: Santosha, the Niyama of contentment.  It’s not about how things should be or shouldn’t have been.  It’s about how things are and complete acceptance of our truth as it is here, in the now.  Once we acknowledge that, it’s up to us to figure out what we’re going to do or not and then do it.  Or not.  No regrets.

I’m in love with the idea of climbing Mount Everest.  These men and women; the Sherpas, the stories, the TV shows and movies.  It’s such an amazing thing, I can see myself doing that.  I’m not doing that.  I’m not, because from what I understand, it’s a bit chilly there and I could lose my fingers, lose $100,000 and/or die.  At the most basic level it would be quite selfish and irresponsible.  I don’t need something like that to feel good about being human; to feel … complete.  I will never regret not climbing Everest.  I am content with that.

I’m content with most things.  Some things I’m not and that’s on me.  Perfectly normal, by the way.  So I’m content with some of my discontent.  Something to work on.

And … until I buy that Ferrari, I’m content with browsing and the process of the journey.

Cheers.

Photo by Matt Antonioli on Unsplash

 

Don’t Move Mountains

Hawaii, 1983: The small community of Royal Gardens had sixteen homes destroyed by Mount Kilauea’s eruption and lava flow.  Royal Gardens no longer exists.  Only the mountain.

After destroying more homes in other communities, as well as the town of Kalapana, the lava flow shifted out to sea.  But, in April of 1990, lava poured out of the mountain for almost a year, burying the town in 85 feet of volcanic rock.  Kalapana is gone.  The mountain is alive and well.

Crazy enough, a small subdivision they named “Kalapana Gardens” was erected on top of the old Kalapana.  But, in 2011, Mount Kilauea destroyed a home in that neighborhood as well.

Some people don’t believe in mountains.

For two years, I lived in an apartment just on the east side of the Appalachian Mountains.  A beautiful area in upstate Pennsylvania.  But, in the winter, the sun would set below the mountain in the late afternoon and it was like someone flipped off the light switch.  I like the night, but at 4:30?

Before that, I grew up in inner-city Philadelphia.  Quite arguably, the worst neighborhood in the whole city and if you were observant, you could see it was going in the wrong direction.  The glacier was breaking off and it was falling fast.  Some neighbors were in denial.  Some wanted to stay and fight, while others were just stubborn.

Some people want to move mountains.

At the beach, we set up our blanket, a cooler, a speaker, and maybe an umbrella.  This is our spot.  Then, the first strong wave of the incoming tide touches our blanket.

We can’t move oceans.

The Mountain always wins, as well it should and for reasons we may not be able to understand, nor should we.  Metaphorically and/or literally speaking, the “mountain” is neither for us, nor is it against us.  It just is.  Fighting against it, ignoring its power, or denying the inevitable, is quite foolish.

We can embrace its existence or we can climb it, go around it, and move away from it, but we can’t move it.  A life of trying is a miserable, losing endeavor.

Don’t move mountains.  Move.

Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

The Tao of Culture

There are a lot of corporate mission statements that mention things like, “honesty”, “social responsibility”, and “quality”.  Using the word “Quality” is like saying “Character”.  It’s just an empty word without an adjective.  Maybe your quality sucks.  Maybe you’re an asshole.  Why are you being so vague?

And … do you really need to have “honesty” in there?  I mean, let’s hope you’re honest, right?  There are also many statements that finish like this example from GM: “… and our stockholders will receive a sustained superior return on their investment.”  Okay … sure, but who’s this statement for, again?

Our personal culture should be just as … wait, actually more important than corporate culture.  But, we must be honest with ourselves and live true to our nature.  This is authenticity.  In Yoga, we know it as “Satya”.

Corporate, as well as personal culture comes from the top and from within.  Things work well when there’s truth and authenticity.  It will speak for itself and if you do it right, you don’t need a mission statement.  It will be apparent.  It’ll also be apparent if you do it wrong.  In the 21st century, things are more transparent than we’d like them to be.  We won’t fool anyone by saying one thing and living another, especially ourselves.

Pretentiousness is an ugly thing.  But, authenticity is beautiful.  It’s a way of being, not of merely knowing.  It is the Tao of our culture.

If the corporate culture is one of growth, authenticity, positivity, human engagement, care, support, and providing value, then profitability happens as a byproduct.  It must be real and it must be throughout.  No bullshit, backhanded compliments, or caveats.  This is true of our personal culture as well.

Besides, it’s much better than being driven through fear tactics, micromanagement, undermining, drama, volatility, and negativity.   That’s just not good for the soul.

Spoiler alert: Companies are in business to make money.  Yep; thanks.  But, it’s much better when the dog wags the tail; not the other way around.  More natural that way.

Peace, peeps.

Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash.