Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Where the Force Flows with Mindful Christmas Magic

Let's say the probability of any one of 10 total random park entrance lines moving faster than the others is around 10 percent. So we picked one, one that looked as though it fell into that 10 percent, just as we had done the day before. At first it felt as though we were right this time; our line moved along steadily as the families ahead of us enter the park. A winner! Then a mere seven feet from the turnstiles, we stopped, while the lines on either side of us almost seemed to speed up. 

Ah, the painful self-fulfilling prophetic physics of Murphy's Law. I realized at that very moment, even as Bryce flailed impatiently in the stroller and the Mama sought peaceful balance to keep Bryce balanced, that there was nothing I/we could do to change the outcome of waiting time to enter the park. Except wait.

During my epiphany, Bea simply skip-bounded back and forth in and around us as she often does when she keeps herself occupied. Or when she's in creative-thinking mode. Or when she has to go potty. Whatever her bounding represented this time, we still didn't move any closer to the entrance.

"What is going on?" the people behind us asked.

I sighed audibly. "Well, this happened to us yesterday, too. It feels like every time we get in line it shuts down production. Mercy me."

"Why didn't you warn us when we got in line?" they joked. And then continued to milk the joke, even when it wore as completely thin as Bryce's patience. I laughed a little unnaturally and turned away from them.

The reality is that the Disneyland entrance line slowed when visitors have entered the park for the first time for whatever their ultimate duration is. This is because their tickets have to be scanned, then park entrance cards printed out and signed, and then pictures taken for identification and park security.

And these seemingly random lines we were in for two days in a row included everyone entering the park for the first time. Granted, that included us on day one, but it made no never mind when we -- I mean I -- wanted to go inside and get my Star Wars freak on.

Again, there was nothing we could do to make the line move. So I stopped worrying about it. I just stood there, relaxed in the moment, and the moment after that, and the one after that, completely disconnected from the frustration of waiting and the longing for the happiest place on earth, and open to everything, and nothing, around me.

That's not to say I wasn't aware of my family's angst; I did encourage the girls to be patient and that we'd be in there soon enough. The Mama only had to adjust Bryce one time and both were fine otherwise (the Mama and I also realizing that there was nothing we could do, except go back to the hotel room, which wasn't really on the table unless we had to deploy the nuclear option).

Those minutes of waiting were a respite of sorts, quite counterintuitive to usual human behavior in the modern frenetic age. I was completely relaxed, primarily focused on my breathing -- in and out, in and out -- while all the sights and sounds around me slowed to a pleasant crawl, at just the right clarity and volume. It was as if we were at home in our cuddle chair (large recliner) watching our favorite movie without disruption or any notion of time constraints.

Of course I mean that metaphorically; watching families rock impatiently in Disneyland entrance lines isn't really a favorite movie of anyone's. However, the more I focused on relaxing in a meditative way, the greater pleasure I derived from just being. There. In the moment. Without negative attachments, or attachments of any kind. Just there with my family and being. Nothing else. A little peace on earth inside.

Metaphysically sappy, I know. But still, I've been consciously engaging in this lucid relaxation behavior of late, something I attempted in my emotionally torrid 20's, along with therapy and medication, all with limited, if any, success. Ever since I've done okay being mindful and present some of the time professionally and personally, and I do try to be empathic and compassionate as much as possible. Although I'm pretty pathetic when it comes to short-attention-span social media theater.

I'm sorry, what?!?

And then everything comes to a screeching halt when interrupted by my Daddy Goat Gruffness and the occasional just-plain-reactively-mean dickness.

I just finished the book by ABC Nightline anchor Dan Harris titled 10% Happier and I really enjoyed reading about his own tempestuous professional and personal journey toward being of sounder mind, body and spirit through meditation. I had seen him speak at the Achiever's ACE Conference in November, downloaded the book and never looked back.

But unlike Dan, I grew up grounded in the evangelical Christian faith and the real reason we have Christmas -- the birth of the loving redeemer, the little baby Jesus, Son of God (of which my affinity stands that my favorite Jesus is the little baby Jesus -- thank you Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, co-writers of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby). 

Even though I'm not writing this to derail or disparage anyone's belief in any religion or spiritual practice whatsoever, and I do not want to have a theological debate proving or disproving the existence of any God, I do believe in the power of prayer and a higher power, sans the prejudice, anger and fear. I strive for the power of positive thinking and action, and of empathic thinking and action, of mindfulness and action -- with the personal relationship of me and my God being synonymous with the personal relationship of me and myself and every one else in my life I've ever come into contact with and those I've yet to meet.

Yes, the Force is what binds all living creatures in the universe together. It's loving and forgiving and even protecting when need be. You know, like God. And how we can be. In life and in our relationships. What? You didn't see the Star Wars reference coming? C'mon. However you end up dealing with the dickness and the dark side in your own psyche, then learn how to deal with it. I sure as heck have been dealing with it.

Because later on that same day in Disneyland, I got so mad at the Mama just because she edged her way into a packed Main Street to watch the Christmas parade. Actually, she didn't really edge, because she did ask the people in front of us if the girls could slip into a little pocket to watch the coming parade. The people said sure, but then I had to fold up the stroller and hold it right under the rope that separated the free walk area and the parade attendance section. I got mad because I thought about all the other parents who had waited with their kids when we didn't, and the fact that I had to hold the friggin' stroller in a cramped area.

But again, the Mama wasn't rude. She asked nicely, there was room for the girls, and so it all worked out. There was no reason for me to attach any reactive meanness to the situation, but that's just what I did. I understood what I did and resolved it fairly quickly in my head and heart, not wanting to be mean to the Mama or anyone. That's something I've been working on for a long time, a continuous work in progress.

We ran into other Murphy's Law moments in Disneyland as well, but one in particular was the tipping point for me to dig deeper into my own psyche and mindful presence. I had gotten a fast pass for Hyperspace Mountain (a special time when I could get on the modified Space Mountain indoor roller coaster more quickly than the normal wait time). I then went to the ride Hyperspace Mountain at my specified time and the Mama and the girls went to ride It's a Small World.

My wait was brief and I worked on my relaxation during my time in line. My turn came and the ride moved me and my fellow space travelers upward and then zoom -- we were flying through space!

Until we weren't. An attendant came over the loudspeaker, barely audible over the ride's Star Wars soundtrack, telling us the ride was temporarily stopping. We then really stopped, the soundtrack stopped and the attendant's voice told us due to a problem with one of the riders falling out of a car (I'm sorry, what?!?), the ride was over and other attendants would be coming to escort us out of Hyperspace Mountain. We were at the very top of the dome, too. The lights when on and there we were trapped in the roller coaster cars in a large, very gray, nondescript industrial complex.

So much for the magic. But then another kinda epiphany hit me: the fact that my mind was a lot like this ride, a big loud noisy mouse-trap game of a ride, where the addictive goal was to get the metal ball from the top of the trap to the bathtub at the bottom, over and over and over again, without reason. Just because I've always done it that way. Lock and load and do it again. Because it's addictive, fun and safe.

As I sat in the car waiting to be escorted down, I prayed/meditated to empower myself with empathic action to counter my frenetically circular inaction, regardless of the fact that I have no control of anything that happens in this world, only how I may possibly influence it and ultimately react to it (or not react to it).

I prayed/meditated to shut down my maniacal machinery regularly with an unrivaled focal strength and be the effectual stretch. Meaning to stretch myself (and in turn others) to become more self-aware and learn new ways to see and understand life, and to expand beyond what’s known and comfortable in ways that produce desired yet diverse, highly personalized and usually effective results. This could mean the literal extremes of big success or failure, or those incremental leaps and lapses in between that give our daily journeys sustenance for mind, body and spirit.

I prayed/meditated to be a better husband, father, friend and world citizen (which is why I took a break from writing this article to play paper dolls with Bryce and check out Star Wars artwork from Beatrice). To not be a softie pacifist pushover, but to continue to be a more compassionate man of stalwart action. To keep fighting the good fight and being more compassionate to others in whatever form that ultimately takes, as long as it takes form.


Plus, I bought a Jedi light saber at Disneyland, an elegant weapon for a more civilized age. Really. I did. What?!? It's fun. C'mon, I'm only a fan on the early path toward enlightenment (I hope). Not the nut you're looking for. Move along.

Happy Merry Baby Jesus Where the Force Flows with Mindful Christmas Magic Year Round!

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