Emotions and Vacations

Everybody loves vacations, right?

Apparently not, since 47% of Americans didn’t take all of their vacation time in 2017 and 21% left more than five available vacation days up for grabs.

Above the Treasury at Petra

Above the iconic Treasury at Petra, Jordan.

My wife and I recently returned home for a two week trip to the Middle East, spending one week in Israel and the next week in Jordan. The rock-carved city of Petra was the main reason behind the trip. But both countries had a lot to offer and warrant repeat visits.

We had a fantastic time full of ancient sites, sacred places, and friendly people. I learned a lot about the religion and politics of the area and found I had many misconceptions about the Middle East from growing up in the US. My time in Israel was probably the most intellectually and politically challenging trip I’ve taken. We talked with Arabs, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Palestinians, Isralies, and Jordanians.

Toward the final days, I noticed moments of sadness that things were winding down.

The sadness was mixed with a feeling that two weeks was long enough and I was ready to return home. I recalled years earlier when it was normal for me to feel depressed with days remaining of a vacation because I so dreaded my return to daily life.

Some people like vacations of sitting on the beach and doing nothing. I prefer active holidays where I do things I don’t usually do, especially when I worked as a cube dweller for corporate America.

When I tried to just lay on the beach in the past, my thoughts would turn negative. I’d focus on all the things I didn’t like instead of relaxing. Then I’d drink to remove those thoughts. That worked in the short term, but if I just wanted to drink, I could do that at home much cheaper, so I quickly stopped those sort of trips too.

I’ve visited such places as Machu Pichu, Stonehenge, and Easter Island. I’ve been white water rafting, rappelling, and hiking in Europe, South America, and Africa. A staycation can be nice, but my favorite vacations are ones when I need another vacation to recover from them.

Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Even today, I can recall being in the jungles of Belize in 2005, but feeling very down because the following Monday I’d be back at work. It was a time that I thought I hated my job, and sometimes my life. Yet, a few days prior, I was enjoying myself and life.

These realizations helped me learn the power of being present.

When fully present, I felt better. I wondered why was it that I was time traveling in my thinking.

Why was I ignoring the fantastic experiences I was having to jump forward to my return to the mundane?

I decided that since I could be full of energy and joy on a vacation when I was present and focused on what I was doing, that I would do my best to live like I was on vacation. All the time.

I did pretty well at that for a long time. Treating each day like it was new. Looking for things that were unusual, special, and fun. If those weren’t apparent, I find a way to bring those elements to what I was doing.

The Western Wall

The Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, in the Old City of Jerusalem.

So as I noticed some sadness as this trip was winding down, I explored what exactly I was feeling sad about.

I was going to miss the people. We were a group of 13 in Israel and then 16 in Jordan. I liked my instant family of global citizens traveling, sharing, dining together for long days full of once in a lifetime experiences.

Back home, I often work in isolation. I sometimes forget to admit to myself that I actually like people. I was going to miss having a guide take me to amazing new places every day. I was going to miss having every day planned by someone else when I just needed to show up and be marveled. I would miss walking into restaurants and recognizing a dozen faces. There was no responsibility or stress. Just being present and amazed.

Realizing that I was sad over what was ending as opposed to what I was returning to, made me smile.

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My Christmas Ode to Wayne Dyer

On a recent episode of Real Men Feel, I was talking with Buddy Carchide about social experiments and acts of kindness. I shared a story about Wayne Dyer giving away cash to homeless people on his birthday and said that was always something I wanted to do. It struck me that I’d been saying I want to do this someday for a few years, so I decided to take action and pledged that I would indeed finally do this and on Christmas Eve no less.

I had some money set aside for some year-end giving, and I decided that instead of cutting checks to organizations, I would walk the streets of Boston and hand twenty dollar bills out to homeless people. I thought maybe it would even turn into a Real Men Feel show or at least a short video. Then I began to wonder if I was making it about me, so I opted to make no promises of any sort of a show and didn’t promote what I was planning.

On December 24th, Christmas Eve Day, I googled the Wayne Dyer story to recall the full details of what he had done. Here it is in his words

“…it is May 10, 2011—my 71st birthday. I am in San Francisco to finish filming a movie titled My Greatest Teacher, which is about how I found my father’s grave site in Biloxi, Mississippi, and was able to communicate with and forgive him. I am in my hotel suite, sitting on the bed meditating in the early morning hours. Suddenly I’m overcome with a very strong sensation that I need to be an instrument of an outpouring of unconditional love.

I take a wad of $50 bills and head out of the St. Francis Hotel, and spend the better part of my birthday passing out love and money to homeless people. I give passionate hugs and listen attentively to men with no teeth who are as grubby as you can imagine. I reach out to little ladies who are inspecting trash containers in Union Square for the possibility of a prize in the form of an empty soda can or a discarded plastic water bottle. I don’t notice the filth; I see only the unfolding of God in these vacant eyes. And I am so in love with everyone I touch. I pass out all of the money and return to my hotel room and sit on my bed sobbing in gratitude for what I have been able to experience today. This is the most memorable birthday in my 71 years.”

I loved Wayne Dyer and doing this was a way for me to honor him, be of service to a few people, and express my heartfelt gratitude to life.

I often give change to homeless people I come across. Sometimes a bill or two. Never has it been a $10 or $20 bill. I’m a pretty cheap guy most of the time. I’m also very conscious of getting receipts and documenting my donations for the sake of taxes. I was going to need to get over those issues as well as admit that if I were giving out $50 bills, this would be a much shorter exercise than I wanted.

A little over a year ago I thought I was going to lose my home. That recollection hit me as I parked my Tesla (Wow! What a difference a year can make) in the MBTA garage at Alewife in Cambridge. I chose this spot because there are always people asking for money at the intersections near the station.

On this day, there was only one person out working the corner, and they were on the opposite side of the highway for me to get to them when I arrived. I wondered if this was going to be more challenging than I had anticipated.

I shot an introductory video on my phone, admitting that this might never be seen by anyone because I don’t know how this experiment will unfold. I didn’t know what feelings would arise in me. I was already feeling a bit nervous and wondering if this was some ego stunt. I didn’t know what reactions I’d get from others, and I wasn’t sure how private this experience should really be. But hosting a show called, Real Men Feel, I was ready and willing to capture and share my feelings as best I could.

I got onboard the T and headed for South Station in the center of Boston. I don’t ride the T often, but it seemed more depressing than I recalled. There wasn’t a single thing to make you realize it was Christmas. No lights, no music. It was mostly solitary people staring at the ground or their phones. After a few stops, the car got full, and I heard one man ask for “undivided attention” as he seemed to tell a few his current circumstances and ask for …. something. The noise of the train kept me from hearing him clearly, and the crowd of people ignoring him blocked me from seeing him.

I thought, this is perfect, I’m going push through the crowd of people ignoring him and give the guy some cash. But the next stop came. I got up and moved towards where the voice had come from, but I couldn’t tell who the man was or if he was still on the train. Thoroughly disappointed, I sat back down.

An elderly Asian man with a large bag of empty cans boarded and sat across from me. Perfect, I thought. I smiled and looked at him as he pulled a donut out from his bag of cans and happily ate it. He wouldn’t make eye contact with me, and the noise of the train prevented any casual conversation across the aisle. I considered standing up and handing him some cash, but it hit me that I was judging him and deciding he needed my help. He wasn’t asking for anything. Hadn’t even exchanged a glance with me. For those reasons or others, I didn’t feel right giving him a handout. I thought, this day really is not going at all as I’d imagined.

I wasn’t expecting to be celebrated and rejoiced, but I sure thought it was going to be fun and easy to give people money.

South Station had the most people asking for assistance and I began to feel better about this whole thing. I made a new friend in Jimmy, whose reaction and appreciation made the whole day worth undertaking. Jimmy was proudly clean and sober since July and was looking forward to seeing his family on Christmas Day.

Here are a couple of brief videos I shot, one at my low point of the day and another a bit later.

I walked around at Downtown Crossing, which was crowded with holiday shoppers. I gave money to every street performer and took a few minutes to disappear in a doorway to feel the cold and think about if I had nowhere to go. I recalled the only other time I did anything like this, a homeless experience in San Diego back in 2009 that ended very badly. Tears began to flow as I was overcome with such deep gratitude and compassion. Perhaps this day of giving to others was giving more to me than I’d expected.

Before heading home, I wandered around Kendall Square and Alewife, both of which were now deserted. I ended up giving out only half the cash I had brought with me. I was even prepared to give my coat, hat, and shoes to anyone who asked because I knew how fortunate I was that all I needed to do was get back home and I had plenty of anything I might give away on this afternoon.

I will do this again. Not around the holiday time, perhaps a time when people in need are more likely ignored and forgotten. I’ll give myself all day and see what unfolds. Perhaps this will inspire you to find a new way to be of service in whatever big or small way you can.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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This was originally published on GoodMenProject.com

A Star Is Born

This is a movie for men

A Star Is Born has been made into a film four times, including the most recent version starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. I have not seen any of the prior versions, but as a fan of both Cooper and Gaga, I figured I’d see this at some point.

That point was today.

A Star Is BornMen, don’t fall into the trap that this is some sort of a chick flick. This movie touches so many pain points for masculinity, it should be mandatory viewing for all men. If you like movies, or music (country, rock or pop), if you like Bradley Cooper, or if you enjoy Lady Gaga (I came out of the Gaga closet years ago when I saw her live; she rocks!) you will enjoy this movie.

If you ever had a father, a brother, a lover, a girlfriend, a wife, or a dog; this movie will resonate with you. If you ever dreamed of being in a band, or life on the road; this movie will lift you up. If you’ve ever had any experience with alcoholism; this movie will hit you with a gut punch.

I have no problem admitting to being brought to tears multiple times during A Star Is Born. I sat stuck in my seat until the final credit had rolled by because I was so emotionally moved. Every performance was perfection. The entire cast will have you saying, “Oh my God, it’s him!” The music blew me away, and I’ve already ordered the soundtrack. The story is full of highs, fun, and laughs and also threw me to the ground and steamrolled me.

I host a weekly podcast called Real Men Feel, and this is the first film I’m giving the just invented Real Men Feel Seal of Approval and High Blessing to.

This is one of my favorite films of all time. I’m not sure I ever want to see it again, because having no idea what was going to happen, gave me such a potent ride.

Men, see it.

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This was originally published on GoodMenProject.com

Staffing My First NWTA (New Warrior Adventure Training)

This weekend I took part in staffing a New Warrior Training Adventure weekend. This is the very event that I completed as an initiate less than five months ago. It is a powerful, transformative weekend put on by The ManKind Project. If I was in charge of the world, it would be mandatory training for all men.

Staffing was fun, challenging, awe-inspiring, emotional, and so much more. I saw many familiar faces from my original weekend, both men who staffed it and some new brothers who went through it with me. Some men had seen my videos and podcasts, so I got to be the center of attention at times, and also witness and observe many powerful moments. On the final day I had the opportunity to bring a lot of laughter to the weekend, which was a total blast.

I honestly cannot recommend the New Warrior Training Adventure enough. I will be definitely be staffing again. There is even a women’s version of the weekend called Women Within.

Proud and honored to be, Fun-Loving Chipmunk. As a man among men, I love unconditionally.

Fun-Living Chipmunk

Check out the Real Men Feel episode where I shared my experience going thru the NWTA weekend last October. Real Men Feel 32: New Warrior Training Adventure Report.

A lot of people are complaining, but I’m not buying

I’m seeing a lot of people complaining about what a bad year 2016 and how they can’t wait for it to be over and good riddance to it. I’m not buying it.

My 2016 was a year of fun and joy. That’s doesn’t mean every moment of the past year went exactly as I wanted it to. But I’ve learned from past experience not to put down or label an entire year as horrible due to a few bad moments.

In numerology, 2016 was the Year of Completion, and many celebrities and family members did have their lives come to an end in 2016, but while the timing may certainly have been a surprise the fact that human beings pass on is not. The fact that you and I have gotten through some loss and grief is a testimony to our resilience. I love when the whole world celebrates the lives of greats such as Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and the many other artists, leaders and friends lost in 2016.

Early in 2016 I realized it had been more than two years since my wife, Lori, and I had taken a true vacation. So in April we ran down to Universal Studios in Orlando for all the fun of Islands of Adventure and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We had such a blast on the rides and realized we hadn’t been to amusement parks recently so, the East Coast Coaster Tour was born and in July we visited 5 amusement parks and rode 42 different roller coasters. Then in October I had one of the best weeks of my life as I explored the national parks of Utah with a bunch of friends from my hometown of Leominster to celebrate most of us turning 50. Considering that the last two Decembers had me quite down and riddled with suicidal thoughts, the notion of turning 50 – let alone celebrating it – still blows me away.

UtahThis year featured two initiations for me. In March I became an Initiate in the Modern Mystery School and I’ve loved all the experiences and people I’ve met as well as the rituals that have become a part of my daily life. While in October I was initiated into the brotherhood of new warriors that is the ManKind Project. Their New Warrior Training Adventure was the 47th multi-day personal growth event I’ve attended in the last eight years and it was nothing short of miraculous for me. In 2017 I’ll continue my journey in both groups and continue to bang the drum and encourage more people to explore them as well.

One of the biggest ways I’ve stepped out in the past year was by creating Real Men Feel which consists of groups, a website, blog and weekly podcast. I can’t thank my co-host Appio Hunter enough for stepping out into the unknown with me when I first asked him to join me on the show in February. 40 episodes later it has become a highlight of each week for the both of us. I’ve continued to have amazing experiences with the Akashic Records and set a new personal best with 25 readings in one day in November. I was also blessed with some very brave coaching clients whose transformations I got to assist and witness. All of my books continued to find new readers and receive great reviews. I achieved my goal of entering the audiobook arena this year with three of my titles as well. 

I saw Paul McCartney for the first time and I saw Kiss for the 25th time (maybe more). I presented workshops in three new places, I premiered my “To Be A Man” presentation, and facilitated a monthly in-person men’s group. I was interviewed on numerous radio shows, webinars, and podcasts.

Why do I share a list of favorite moments from the past year? Is it to feed my ego and show off? No. Well, not completely. I do this for me because it feels great. I write this to remind myself that despite deaths in the family, despite needing to get live-in care for my dad, despite feeling down and low for the first week of the year – 2016 was 98% free of depression and suicidal thoughts and I was welcomed with open arms into two great communities.

I share this to remind and encourage you to do the same thing. Take a few minutes to mentally review each of the past 12 months for wins, laughter, and little (or big) moments you may have forgotten about. Allow yourself to move forward with a bit of joy and a lot of gratitude – even for the things that didn’t exactly seem to go your way. Recall the Chinese blessing, “May you live in interesting times.” Well, we certainly do.

All and all, another year of highs and lows. I wouldn’t want it any other way.