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I’ve been mulling over this post for awhile, especially given the current protests throughout the United States and now around the world set against the backdrop of the ongoing global pandemic. I see the fear, the confusion, the hurt, and the pain throughout families, communities, nations, and societies. Like many, I ask myself, what can be done? Where do we start? When things are so crazy, and so uncertain, I often try to get back to basics – to recenter and pause to figure out the best first step. Today, I’m going back to namaste.

Namaste is a term that tends to be thrown around casually in the West, often in the context of yoga classes. At best, it’s used as a generic greeting or farewell, and at worst, merely a rote way of ending a fitness session. But in this one little word lies the key to understanding the deeper truth about the world we live in, and – if fully actualized – the key to healing it as well.

Etymology and Origins

Derived from Sanskrit, it is often viewed as bringing together two main components: namas and te. Namas was originally, itself, a combination word bringing together na meaning “not” and mamah meaning “I” or “mine.” Put together, namas can be read as “not I.” The word te means “to you.” In the current era, the root namah means “bow,” making the most literal modern translation “bowing to you.”

However, I think it’s telling that namas means both “not I” from the original etymology, and “bow,” in the current era and it’s also vitally important for understanding the simple truth this overused and underappreciated word can impart. If we combine both meanings we can interpret namaste as roughly saying “Not I bows to you.”

Not I

Not I? Why not I?

A core belief in Buddhism is the “absence of self” or “no self.” The full meaning or interpretation of this is complex and far beyond the scope of this post, but the general idea is that “I” have no individual, separate self (i.e. “no self”), but instead am interconnected with all existence and all beings. Taken this way, namaste includes the idea that “I” am not doing the bowing, but rather my “no self.” Since the idea of “no self” or “not I” is inherently true for all beings, it has sometimes been described as being the universal divine spark found within each of us. Thus, a fuller interpretation of namaste would be: “The Divine in me bows to (or honors) the Divine in you.”

“The Divine in me honors the Divine in you…”

“All…Are Created Equal”

This idea of inherent divinity is manifest in many religious traditions, and forms the basis of much of Western thought and beliefs. In the seventeenth century, two English philosophers – Thomas Hobbes and John Locke – asserted the natural equality of human beings. This concept was further expanded by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, where he asserted that “all men are created equal.”

We cannot ignore the fact that this assertion was still limited by the thinking and culture of the times. Most glaringly within the text is the use of the word “men.” At that time, no thought was given to the equal treatment or status of women. Further, though “all men” were supposedly equal, true political power in the United States still belonged solely to white, property owning males. Most egregiously, after securing its independence, the United States continued to allow slavery, which clearly denoted certain people as not only “unequal” but also dehumanized them to the point of treating them as property.

While slavery in America was officially abolished following the Civil War and with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, true equality was not realized for the newly freed slaves and black citizens of America at that time. The history of America is filled with cultural and structural ways in which blacks were continued to be treated as unequal both in the eyes of the law and culturally. Jim Crow laws allowed for racial segregation for years before the Supreme Court ruled it to be unconstitutional followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite these and other measures, inherently discriminatory practices such as redlining further compounded the de facto inequality in the United States. Certainly, some progress has been made, but it has often been slow, halting, and continually falling short.

Today’s societal structure and culture are built on the legacy of this struggle to move from slavery to full equality for all people, regardless of race. There are unhealed wounds that continue to strike painful chords even to this day, as we are seeing manifest in the protests going on now.

Simple, Not Easy

I believe namaste holds the key to our understanding of our world and the ability to heal it. It’s a simple concept, and resonates with the ideal within the intended promise that “all…are created equal.” It recognizes the inherent worth and equality of every human life. It recognizes that we all have within us this divine spark that connects us in our common humanity. Further, it honors this universal spark of divinity, by its very nature. “Not I” – this interconnected universal humanity – bows in awe of the interconnected universal humanity within you. One word. So simple.

AND YET, as we all know from our own daily lives, “simple” does not necessarily mean “easy.” There is so much pain here for so many people. There is so much fear here. There is no easy solution to these problems, and to truly move forward will require hard work, dedication, vigilance, and patience for all of us.

First Step

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Lao Tzu

But namaste is a good place to start. Begin by embracing and understanding what it truly means. Follow it up by using this full, rich, and deep practice in your daily life. Don’t just throw it out casually after a yoga class. When you say it aloud, wonder in awe at the truth it reveals. That within each of us is boundless potential. If you feel uncomfortable integrating this word into your daily life, apply it mentally. Before you begin talking with someone, mentally bow and internally whisper this word and feel the power of its truth. By beginning each interaction with this brief practice, how much more likely for kindness and understanding will you be, no matter where the conversation goes?

Next Steps

Once we have connected to this basic truth that everyone holds and contains this equal unbounded potential, we can look at and address the current situation with clear eyes. Let’s be clear: we should use all tools at our disposal to stand up to this injustice and to work toward the ultimate promise of all being truly equal. Peaceful protests have demonstrated their power to change the fates of nations and of millions. We need to let that divine spark burn brightly within us and to show those who would deny or ignore it that it burns brightly and needs to be honored within every human being. But we must do so from a place of clarity, from a place of stillness, from a place of “Not I.” This will let us choose right actions when working for change. This example will move people and change hearts and minds in a meaningful and lasting way.

Last Steps

Finally – and this is the hard one – apply this to those you feel in conflict with. I watch the news and I see people engaged in actions and activity that I not only don’t understand, but also rouse in me a sense of injustice and righteous anger. I feel the instinct to blame these people. To separate from these people. To hate these people. And even when seeing these hateful actions, I try to pause, breathe deeply, and whisper namaste to myself. Their actions may be misguided; they may be rooted in fear; they may be reprehensible. And yet, they, too, carry that divine spark within them, no matter how difficult it is to see through their hurtful actions and words.

We are so conditioned to break into “us” and “them” – to have our “team” win. Especially with something this momentous and so emotionally charged, namaste helps us to remember we’re not fighting for change. We’re building change. We’re not there to crush or destroy an enemy, but to guide people who have lost their way to see the ultimate truth – that all are created equal.

Only by first showing them that we honor the divine in them can we hope to show them how to honor the divine in us.


Tools of the Trade

Useful Resources

I had begun a draft of this post awhile ago but never quite made it. I think now would be a great time to review some of the different resources I’ve found helpful for my meditation and mindfulness practice, some of which I credit with helping me dig out of my mental and emotional hole during this current pandemic situation recently. Just for the record: I do not have any direct affiliations with any of these products or individuals – these are simply tools I have personally found helpful.


There are many meditation apps out there, and I’ve tried a few, but this one has really hit the spot for me.

It’s structured to begin with a 50-session introductory course that starts with a basic introduction to the meditation and then slowly builds to include different and more in depth meditation practices. After the 50-session introductory course, the app populates a new daily meditation each day. You have the option to choose 10 minutes or 20 minutes for these daily meditations depending on how long you’d like to practice that day.

If you’re looking for the ABCs of meditation in a structured format, this is a great app for that. There is also a lot of additional content I find very engaging. Sam provides some lessons where he discusses concepts or approaches in greater depth, and he also has a series of conversations where he has interviewed many mindfulness and meditation teachers and experts to provide their insights.

The app is free to download (iOS and Android) offers the first five meditations and five short talks for free. To move beyond those you will need a subscription.

There is also an option for existing subscribers to gift a free month for people wishing to try out the app beyond the five free sessions, but are unsure of committing. If you follow me on Twitter (@zenparentings) and DM me, I’ll happily send you the link from my subscription.

One other thing I love about Sam is that he has made it very clear, Other thing I love about Sam is that he has made it very clear, and reiterated during this pandemic, that price should not be a factor in helping people use this app to help with their daily mindfulness practice. If you contact his team at and explain that you’d like to use the app but are not able to afford it and they will give you a year-long full subscription for free, no questions asked.

Moreover, he often then points to many of the other apps in case this isn’t your cup of tea: Calm and Headspace among others. He is truly committed in helping people find the vehicle by which any person can deepen their mindfulness practice, whether or not it is his app.

Beyond the App

I will also mention that Sam has several books he has written as well. In fact, his book, Waking Up, dives into a lot of the concepts that he incorporated when building the app.

undefined Tara Brach

I first learned of Tara Brach from an interview she did on the Tim Ferriss Show. I subsequently read her book Radical Acceptance, which was, as advertised, a highly impactful read for me. Her podcast (iOS and Android) is one of my go-tos featuring both longer meditation talks she gives live (well, virtually right now during the pandemic) as well as shorter meditations.

You can find more information, books, and resources she provides (often for free) on her website (

Thich Nhat Hanh

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

My list could perhaps have started with TNH, since he was my first entry point to mindfulness. Just after college I was struggling with some stuff and a friend of mine who was a Religious Studies major gave me some of his books to help me begin cultivating mindfulness. They were so simply written and so beautifully clear that I began devouring his body of work in the coming years.

Sometimes, when I’ve gone very far down the path of more advanced meditation practices I re-read them. Touching Peace and Being Peace are a great place to start, but any of his books are truly wonderful.

Other Books

Other books that have also had an impact on me you may wish to check out:

Awareness: Conversations with Masters

Anthony de Mello was a Jesuit priest, but this book reads more like a Buddhist monk’s treatise or teachings. Very simple and understated, but powerful.

The Untethered Soul

By Michael Singer, I heard about this book on a podcast and tried it out. It’s a bit more in depth, so I don’t know that I would recommend it for beginning your mindfulness practice, but it does a really deep dive on the different layers of consciousness and uses first person experience to illustrate its points.

He apparently has an online course based on this book on Sounds True that I’ve heard is good, but I have not yet tried myself.

Good Luck

Whatever tools or path you take, I wish you the best on your mindfulness journey, and carrying it “off the cushion” into your daily life.

What are your favorite “tools of the trade”?

Back to Life, Back to Reality…

The Grieving Process

The obvious truth is that I haven’t written a post since over a month ago, when we were at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. While I wish I had been able to do so, reflecting on the time, I believe the process I engaged in was necessary. I’ll candidly admit that I was not in a good place after my last post. I got down in the dumps, I felt completely overwhelmed, couldn’t sleep most nights, and felt awful as a result. Worst of all, I also stopped meditating. I was so afraid to sit quietly and allow my rampaging thoughts and my fears to have the floor to vent their unbridled frustrations. I was already feeling overwhelmed by them on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis and my fear was that if I allowed them to take center stage that I would actually end up worse than before rather than better.

Perhaps if I had actually attempted to do so I would have found what I found later, which was that the meditation can help work through it; however, I do trust my instinct that I was not ready for it yet. And that’s okay.

We’re in an unprecedented situation with so many unique stressors flying at us constantly, and worst of all is that one of our most natural tools for dealing with this is strictly denied us (well, as long as you follow the actual rules and guidance of the health experts at least, which we very much do): Friends. Family. Connection.


Celine Dion All By Myself GIF

The primary advice we have is to stay at home, minimize interactions, and essentially isolate ourselves. No matter how introverted you are, the fact remains that human beings are social creatures. Without everything from the moments when you’re walking by strangers on the street, or conducting a transaction with a coffee shop barista to hanging out with friends or attending a family holiday gathering, our psyche becomes quickly unsettled, and downright disturbed. Even the most introverted among us are likely feeling the unintended sting of this isolation, which in turns causes despondency.


One thing I keep saying as I discuss the situation with people (virtually of course), is how grateful I am that this happened at this particular time in history and at our current level of technology. If this had happened when I was a kid, I don’t know how the world would have handled it. The availability of high speed internet, viable video chat options, and other online tools are at least the consolation prize of this pandemic. It’s not the same as getting together for an extended family get-together, but at least there is some method for maintaining connection, for some professional collaborations to continue, and for kids to continue some semblance of learning.

To be sure, this is not an ideal situation. While I am able to continue working from home, Michael’s business has been shut down since mid-March, with a reopening date uncertain, and with what new restrictions we have no clue. Many people are in this situation – their jobs cannot be done virtually or at a safe social distance. However, the ability to connect with those outside your home in some measure, I believe will ultimately be the saving grace for this time. Also, it might very well help us reshape our perspectives and relationships with those around us when are finally all able to truly resume some semblance of “normal life.”

I hope you and yours are staying safe, staying healthy, and staying as connected as we are able during these crazy times.



So, by now everyone is at least aware of the COVID-19 situation since it is a worldwide phenomenon, and one that now includes all 50 states in the United States of America. Hopefully, no one is denying that this is a very real situation flippantly on the news, social media, or otherwise.

For our part, we have been impacted in many ways that I’m sure a lot of people have been. Schools in our state were shut down for three weeks (this after our local school district had previously announced a two week closure), and we had some much more personal decisions to make that were later reinforced by the authorities as well.

Michael runs a small massage therapy business in our downtown, and last Sunday we made the painful decision that we needed to close for the time being. We didn’t want to. We wanted to help be a beacon of hope for our clients and for people looking to escape the situation in ways that would help them cope mentally and physically. However, we realized that if we were being honest the best thing for not only our clients, but also our community and society at large, the best action would be to close down. This decision was not made lightly, especially since it impacted not only our family, but also our therapists.

We have bills and obligations (rent, utilities, etc.) that continue whether or not the studio is open and bringing in money, but more importantly we have two therapists who work at the studio who are also affected by this decision monetarily.

We have two bright spots to highlight out of this situation. First, our therapists totally understand and get the situation. Though our closure is impacting them, and us, at home and on a daily basis, they recognize our higher responsibility is to our clients, our community, our society at large. Second, our clients have been outstandingly generous in light of the situation. We’ve had several who bought gift cards in lieu of their sessions we had to cancel this week and some who bought multiple packages, all to keep funds flowing into our small business while we cannot continue normal operations. For our part, we are making sure to pass on these generous contributions to our therapists since it’s intended to help us all, but more importantly, we are humbled by the loyalty, generosity, and sheer humanity of our regular clients.

We made the decision to close last Sunday, but just yesterday we got the official call from the local Board of Health that they were officially closing all like businesses (massage therapy, hair stylists, nail salons) effective Friday. We were glad we were ahead of the curve since there was so much to do logistically, but also just happy to have been validated in the decision we’d already made for what we perceived to be the greater good.

I plan on writing more (as I’m sure many will) about the situation as it continues to unfold, but in the meanwhile, let me urge you to follow the guidelines for social distancing, whether professional or personal. Let me also urge you to support your local businesses. Sure, there are potential federal assistance programs in your country from additional unemployment benefits to direct payments to all taxpayers, but the only thing small businesses and neighbors can count on is your humanity and generosity. Give what you can to other as they need it, and (while this is admittedly biased on my personal views on karma) you will get what you need when you need it as well.

Stay well and take care of everyone around you.


A Day Late (But Hopefully Not a Dance Party Short)

Been busy catching up from being out of town for work and a big meeting today, so a little late on my ideal publishing schedule this week.

So, I wanted to share some stuff that happened this weekend that hopefully hits you the way it did me.

First, I had a really great return home and weekend. I’ll be honest – as with most times you’re coming home from being away there is a ton to catch up on. But after my work conference I was actually excited to get back to some of the day-to-day that can sometimes get me down or feel like a chore since I feel like I got a bit of an energy reboot from being surrounded by other people in my field who showed a lot of the progress that’s possible. I actually spent some extra time catching up on work stuff and not just because I had a deadline, but because I actually was excited to keep things moving forward, which has been missing in recent months.

Second, I got a ton of catch up housework done. Had to do tons of cleaning and putting things aright after I was away and the mice were out to play, as it were. Now, while cleaning is still a chore that has to be done, I actually quite enjoy it. I’ve always been a bit of a neatnik, so there’s always something satisfying about putting things in order and getting everything clean for me, though I admit that’s not true for everyone.

Third, after cleaning (part of which my daughter participated in until she got too bored – she sometimes will help me for pretty long stretches, though!) I had blocked off some time to spend with her one-on-one. My original thought had been to play some games, read some books, do some activities – whatever she wanted to do, basically. What resulted was an epic dance party.

She’s in her third year of dance class – just some basic ballet and tap stuff for kids her age at a local studio. She loves it, and comes by it honestly since both Michael and I are performers and both dance as well as part of that extracurricular. I honestly can’t even remember how the dance party started, since it wasn’t at all on the list of activities I was planning to offer her for her “dealer’s choice” time. But somehow we put on some music and started dancing, and then it turned into a taking turns dance off where she would pick a song she wanted to dance to and dance for me, and then asked me to dance for her.

It. Was. Amazing. Just so much spontaneity and joy (and sweat) that poured out in that hour of just taking turns playing songs we liked and having fun making up dances to them.

As an admitted Type A, control-freak planner, I think it says something that the highlight of my week wasn’t the conference that rejuiced me professionally; or, the actions and momentum I carried from it back into work at home; or, the usual joy I get out of neatening and tidying things in my environment (read: reasserting control over chaos). Most certainly, the highlight was not the specific activities I had planned to offer for our special daddy/daughter time. It was the absolutely impromptu sharing of music and dance that will stay with me not only now but probably for years to come.

For those of us meditating to calm the control-freak nature of our personalities – the tendency to overreact to little things, of which there are many when you are parenting younglings – these moments are a great reminder. It’s being there. It’s being in the moment and going with it and not always trying to make it what you planned it to be. Sometimes it’s just letting life and your experience with your children flow naturally that reconnects you with the sheer joy of parenting.

You Can *Always* Go Home Again

Apologies for the radio silence and the breaking of my publishing resolution, but I had an out of town work conference. Well, sort of out of town, since it took me back home to San Diego.

I know, I know, we’ll get the first part out of the way – I’m the idiot who moved from San Diego to Boston and ended up sticking around. Acknowledged. Every. Damned. Winter.

But this was actually a really nice opportunity to go back because I had to go alone this time. Sure, I tacked on some vacation days on the front end and the back end to make sure I could visit with family and friends, so it wasn’t all work all the time. But, because we had kept Maya out of school for so many days for our recent family vacation, we couldn’t take her out for more to join me, which left Michael at home to watch her when she wasn’t in school. And, honestly, it was kind of nice. I felt like I actually got to go home as myself, which I don’t often feel I get to do.

Who Am I?

Since Maya came along, every time I’ve been home has been in my role as a parent. Now, as most parents can attest, once you have a child you become utterly invisible to your family. Particularly if you are long distance, the only interest seems to be when you’re bringing by your child for the next visit.

As a parent, there is a shift in identity that occurs, which can often leave us struggling with our sense of self as an individual versus as a parent. Am I “Matthew” or am I “Tatay” (Filipino for “daddy,” which is what Maya calls me)?

On a day-to-day basis, I think many parents can relate to this seeming loss of identity or feeling like your individuality gets subsumed in the role of being a parent. It can be overwhelming and disorienting, and is often, I believe, a cause of many problems when people can’t figure out how to reconcile or connect these two identities.

Because the circumstances forced me to not bring her, my family was forced to interact with me as just me again, and not as a Sherpa for my child, who they are clearly more excited about seeing than me. And it was kind of awesome.

You Can Never Go Home Again…?

So the standard wisdom is that you can never go home again, meaning that if you try to return to a place you’ve been before (especially something as personal and emotionally charged as home) it won’t be the same place you remembered. Not only has the place changed, but you yourself have changed.

This time, however, I felt like I truly got to “go home again,” since I was able to be there as myself, not in my role as a parent. Oh sure, the place has changed a lot since I’ve been there last. Sure, I, myself, have changed since the last time I have visited, and certainly since I grew up there, which becomes readily apparent to me when floods of memory wash over me from those days.

But, I was able to engage with the experience on my own terms. Though conversation often centered on how Maya was doing, for the most part, people engaged with the real me. I honestly felt more seen by my family and friends than I have in a long time since I visited, and it really rejuvenated my sense of self in a way I hadn’t realized was lacking.

Be Yourself

So, I guess this was the biggest takeaway for me was that it is important to balance your roles as both parent and individual. More importantly, I think if possible it’s good to engage your relationship as an individual to your family and your friends at large. Presumably, before you had a kid(s) you had some sort of a relationship with them. It’s not a bad idea to rekindle that connection to deepen the connection beyond their relationship to you as a parent.

Why “Zen”?

I’ve been putting off writing this post for awhile, though it’s been the big glaring omission from the beginning. Basically, it’s the response to the obvious question: “Why Zen and the Art of Parenting“?

So, the redux version of my history: I’m a recovering Catholic (I’m sure there will be more posts teasing all of THAT out) who discovered Buddhism just after graduating college when I was really struggling to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life after years of having a clear path laid out before me. Moreover, it was also to help me deal with my default method of reaction: anger.

I’m a pretty Type A guy, and I like knowing the lay of the land or being in control of the situation. Not a great fit for a new college grad figuring out where to go from there. Now, in many ways being Type A can be helpful. It provides drive, determination, and a clear vision of what you want to see happen. The downside is, when that vision is not realized as you wanted, how do you react?

Discovering Buddhism, or really more generally mindfulness, helped me during that period, and I practiced regularly for a period of time. Then life happened, or rather, life began going generally the way I wanted it to go for awhile, minus the occasional hiccup, and my active practice began to wain.

I hit a point relatively recently, where I realized something had to change. In a nutshell, a little over a year ago we had gone out with some extended family to a wonderful lunch, and visited our family members’ hotel room they were staying at in Boston afterwards. As we made our way back to the parking garage our daughter began acting up – combination of too much sugar and too much stimulation. Michael made the (correct) decision to pull her aside out of the middle of the open marketplace area to have a conversation with her about her behavior.

At this point, a stranger all of a sudden started loudly calling out “He’s hurting that child! He’s abusing that child!” I. Lost. It. I unloaded on her both barrels and left very little for scrap. Like, unhinged my metaphorical jaw and devoured that overbearing termagant whole. Now, the general idea of defending my husband for doing his job as a father (which, for the record was in no way shape or form abusive) is a noble one, but the execution left something very much wanting. Frankly, I’m lucky I didn’t end up as a video clip some passerby caught that went viral on the interwebs, which is something that can happen all too easily these days.

That was the moment I realized something had to change. My default reaction toward anger was way out of balance with how I needed to be living my life, especially as an example for my daughter. I’ve alluded to this in a previous post, but this was the point at which I realized I had been reading books about mindfulness, listening to podcasts and dharma talks about mindfulness – but I hadn’t actually sat for meditation in a VERY long time. The first time I did that, I remembered what I had been missing. It’s the not the research, it’s not the reading, it’s the action that brings the benefits.

I wish I could say that reintegrating meditation into my life has completely quelled my anger issues. It hasn’t. I’m a human being like everyone else – just trying to get a little better day by day. I can report that it has helped, and it continues to help.

So “why Zen”? Because I want to be a better father. I want to be a better human being.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor E. Frankl

As this quote from Viktor Frankl illustrates – there is a precious space between a stimulus and a response. I want to inhabit this space more fully and to use its grace to inform better decisions and take better actions. Don’t we all?

FBR – “Fast, Bad, Rong”

I was listening to an episode of The Tim Ferriss Show featuring Safi Bahcall when I heard something that really stuck out to me as I began this endeavor to build a writing (and posting) habit. Safi likes acronyms to remember things or help them stick, and the one he mentioned that stuck was “FBR.”


He basically acknowledged that after he had done what could arguably be a sufficient amount of research and done enough planning, he just needed to get going on the actual writing process, which was often the most difficult step. He’s not rong wrong.

It’s always easier to Google more information, to look up/buy/check out more books that could arguably be considered research or prep work for the final product. But the point comes when the rubber needs to meet the road.

As the author James Clear puts it in his book Atomic Habits:

I refer to this as the difference between being in motion and taking action. The two ideas sound similar, but they’re not the same. When you’re in motion, you’re planning and strategizing and learning. Those are all good things, but they don’t produce a result.

At the end, you need to just start…….writing. So that’s what I took to heart from Safi’s interview, and for better or worse, despite the fact that I’ve got eight draft posts kicking around in the pipeline, I’m gritting my teeth, stopping the endless research and resulting rabbit holes and trying to write (and complete) a post. No matter how right or wrong they feel when I post them.

It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Best of Times

So, we had a recent bout of tough times in our household. Our daughter, Maya, does not have after school on Fridays, and her teacher brings her out for pick up. Since school resumed in January, it had pretty much been a dismal weekly report from her teacher. Maya was not listening or following directions like usual, to the point where the principal was observing the class one day for her teacher’s mid-year evaluation and even took the opportunity to pull her aside to have a one-on-one conversation with her about behaving and it seemed to have no effect. Her teacher was as baffled as we were. Maya’s a generally good kid, and if she gets out of line at school, she usually falls back in line when she’s called out. But for some reason, nothing was penetrating.

Unsurprisingly, things were matching this pattern at home. Mornings had dissolved into battles about eating quickly without laying down on the bench and kicking her foot over her head and getting her clothes on so we could get to school on time. Evenings usually dissolved in tears (sometimes hers, sometimes mine) over similar issues: she just wouldn’t do what she needed to do – things she has been doing for months, in some case years!

Discipline Equals Freedom

I swear that my posts won’t always center on books I haven’t actually read yet, BUT this is the central tenet of Jocko Willink’s book by the same name. While I haven’t read the book yet, I listen to Jocko’s podcast as well as many others that he has been a guest on and who often reference this book and its principles. Basically, the argument is that having discipline in some parts of your day, for example in a daily routine, allows for the freedom of action in others.

Now, it’s not that we run our household like a Navy SEAL boot camp, but Maya is definitely a routine girl. We’ve always raised her that way, and she does really well with it. The problem occurs when you disrupt that routine, when you disrupt that discipline.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Now imagine a routine-centric child, who begins a vacation on Thanksgiving Day, goes to Disney World for 17 days, is back to school for a two and a half days, and then begins Christmas Break. After the break, layer in the fact that I was out on a business trip for almost a week. Considering I’m the primary caregiver for most of the school week mornings and evenings, a pretty big disruption for her. As soon as I arrived home, who follows close on my heels? My parents – Maya’s grandparents – arrived for the long weekend to celebrate Maya’s birthday.

Now those who have either benefited from having active grandparents or those witnessing them secondhand can attest that when they’re around all normal rules fly out the window. I grew up, fortunately, with both sets of grandparents alive for most of my childhood, and ended up seeing one or both what seemed like weekly, and so got the weekly(ish) dose of grandparental spoiling. The foods and treats we were never allowed at home were always featured menu items, and pretty much anything goes.

Now, I firmly believe in allowing grandparents this very special role since I experienced it myself; HOWEVER, the issue we have run into with my parents is that since they live across the country and only see her for a few days or a couple of weeks every few months or longer, they have a compression issue. They basically try to cram 52 weekends worth of grandparental spoiling into the five-day period they’re visiting. For a routine kid, and one who is being raised with very limited sugar intake (now that we know better than my parents did when they raised me), it’s a recipe for a crazy weekend.

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

She has had a couple of really good weeks since then, thankfully. Getting her locked back into her routine and a few other activities we’ve done around the house that helped engage her more have helped. Unfortunately, for those based in the New England area, we are heading into the (still mysterious to me as a native Californian) February break this week, so stay tuned to know whether or not we have any fallout from that.

Better to Write for Yourself…

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

Cyril Connolly
New Statesman, February 25, 1933

Full disclosure: I did not discover this quote myself, but instead found it as part of Tim Ferriss’s weekly newsletter “Five Bullet Friday” from January 3, 2020.

So this is the first in my series of self-imposed daily writing blocks. Likely what I write at this moment will not, in fact, make it into the final post. But the point is to establish the habit, so here I am.

I feel that I have already found a bit of release in the process of writing, and also in the sharing of my thoughts. I find that verbalizing them and explaining them to some ethereal “audience” has helped to coalesce a lot of the ideas and thoughts I’ve had running around in my head.

It’s kind of like the moment I realized that I had been reading tons of books on meditation, I had been listening to podcasts with dharma talks from well respected meditation teachers on my commute to work, yet I hadn’t actually sat on the cushion for months if not over a year. The day I finally sat down I remembered what I had forgotten. Doing is the only way to gain the benefit. Similarly, I’m guessing that sitting down with a daily practice of writing for a half an hour each day will hold the key to some of the benefits I’m hoping to gain.


I’ve managed to achieve several goals that required persistence. When I did P90X, it was certainly a level of commitment and stick-to-itiveness that saw me through to the end. I’m hoping to unlock a similar pattern and to see similar results. Obviously, sitting down and typing for 30 minutes each day won’t get me in “the best shape of my life,” but I do recall that many ancillary benefits of completing P90X were related to this persistence, and the satisfaction it provided when all was said and done and the goal was complete.


The other twin weight is consistency. Now, this is where I failed when I began this journey back in December. If memory serves, my last post was actually entitled “Consistency Is the Key,” hilariously. I recognized it and still do, but ultimately, it comes down to taking action. Knowledge without implementation is useless. This is why I set my Birthday New Year’s Resolution as committing to writing for 30 minutes each day, and publishing a post twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays, no matter how terrible they may be. Only by establishing the habit of consistently writing can I ever possibly explore the potential benefits that may come from this habit.

Communication Skills

This may seem like I buried the lead talking about everything else before this, but ultimately, I’m hoping that the daily practice of writing will improve my…. well, writing. I used to write a lot when I was younger. Fiction, non-fiction, just let the words and thoughts carry me wherever the feeling took me. I long to recapture that feeling of joyful expression, regardless of what it was or what the product was like. I remember feeling completely at ease with letting words flow on to the page, and am looking to reignite that spark.

Beyond that spark, I am hoping to spray some literary WD-40 on my rusty and atrophied writing skills to improve my communication in general. Hopefully, by forcing myself to publish two stories a week, I will not only get back into the habit of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys?), but also improve my ability to condense and tighten a line of reasoning or argumentation. It remains to be seen.