As the majority of the world sits in shock that a reality TV star was actually voted in to be the next President of the United States (happy or not, y’all have to admit only Michael Moore expected this result!), many awoke Wednesday morning trying to make some sense of it all.
You don’t have to be a sports fan to have been intrigued by the biggest story in the National Football League the past month.
Colin Kaepernick, the now back-up quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers made a stand (or a kneel, per se) in support of the imbalance he sees in how African Americans are treated in the United States by refusing to stand for the US national anthem before games.
A few weeks ago, I sat in the High Holy Day services looking around the room at the omany folks who make their annual pilgrimage to the synagogue that time of year. Most of them are there out of guilt or a sense of obligation instilled in them from when they were kids. Momma said, “You go to services on the High Holy Days!” And that was that! Most of them also hang onto a sense of Jewish identity and feel that attending that service once a year keeps them connected and fulfilled.
A few rabbis might wince as they read this, but I say there is nothing wrong with that. Religion is whatever we each want, need or don’t need it to be. It is personal. However we wish to acknowledge or pay attention to it is up to us. We don’t owe our beliefs or religious commitments to anyone but ourselves – and maybe our mommas.
This certainly isn’t just a Jewish-specific behavior. All sorts of folks in all sorts of religions follow a similar path, engaging at certain key times of the year to fulfill their personal obligations or commitments.
Unfortunately, too many Canadians carry on a similar mentality when it comes to national politics, with election time being the one time they feel compelled to celebrate their democratic rights by heading to the polling stations and voting.
While participating in a religious service without understanding the issues or knowing what it’s really about can still offer personal benefits, influencing politics and voting without knowing what it’s really about is concerning.
Everywhere I look on social media for the past month I see folks pleading with the country to show up and vote. We live in a democracy, after all. We are lucky to have the opportunity and the right to vote and, thus, we should. Many people sacrificed their lives so that we can have these choices today, with the right and freedom to vote for our leaders.
But it’s not just about stepping up to a pole and filling out a ballot. Important decisions are being made while every single vote carries the same weight.
It’s not just about the action of voting. It’s about contributing. It’s about respecting the rights and privileges we once fought for and now defend in this country. So please, don’t vote blind. Don’t vote based on the color of the lawn post you prefer. Don’t vote because the person in your riding has the same first name as you. Don’t vote because your momma told you who to vote for.
Everyone should vote! But if you can’t find some time to have at least a basic understanding of who or what you are voting for I am suggesting that you do not vote.
If you think you might fall under that category, take the time to read the posts linked here – both great places to start. Then get out there and vote!
Everything you need to know about the platforms, and JI interviews with the Liberals, Conservatives, Greens and NDP for all you need to about the federal leaders’ views on Israel, Iran, security, and more. And there’s even more at Federal Election 2015.
I’ve never really been able to meditate. At least not in the formal way most people depict meditation. There have been no ohhmmmm moments for this guy.
Oh, I’ve tried – with the most patient teacher I’ve ever known. But “calm” doesn’t seem to help me clear my mind. It actually opens the door for every possible thought to prance around like they own the place. Instead of walking out of a meditation session with a sense of peace, I’d walk out with a long to-do list of things I just remembered I had to do.
That said, several years ago I realized that I do have meditation’s version of a best friend (for me anyway) … ice hockey! While going through a challenge-filled time in my life I discovered that no matter what was going on in my noggin all day, the moment I stepped onto the ice to compete my mind immediately focused on one thing and one thing only – the game in front of me. My focus became singular for that minute or so shift.
I mean, who has room to think about stresses at work or home when your heart is being pushed to 170 bpm while being chased down the ice by a 235 lb dude on sharp blades? I was grateful I had that escape.
I found that kind of focus again recently when I took on the infamous Grouse Grind – Greater Vancouver’s natural supplement for addicts of torture and misery.
Prior to this summer I had avoided the Grind for several years. With the exception of the cold beer that awaited at the top, I never enjoyed a darn thing about past climbs. However, now 25 lbs lighter and in much better shape than I was in my “why can’t we have nachos for breakfast?” days, I was actually looking forward to seeing how it felt this time around.
OK, well, it still seemed like a fairly torturous way to spend a Sunday morning (you were expecting me to love it, weren’t you!?). I pushed myself hard enough that throughout the final quarter I wasn’t sure if I’d die of an exploding chest or simply by passing out and falling backwards.
However, guided by pride (rather than beer), I creamed my old times with a solid 46-minute scamper. Aside from the personal sense of accomplishment and still-functioning lungs, what I really took from my excursion up Grouse Mountain was that discovery of another personal form of meditation.
Not more than 10 steps into the trek, my mind narrowed in on two simple things until the very end. I saw only the next step/rock I needed to take and heard only my breath – I don’t even remember the music playing in my headphones.
For 46 minutes I thought of nothing except what was right in front of me and the life that ran through my body.
I do wish I could find such life clarity in a less strenuous environment from time to time – say, bearing down on a bowl of chicken wings or buying shoes (don’t judge) – but I think it’s important for everyone to find their meditative niche and connect with it when time permits. Despite complete exhaustion and tight quads, I came off of the mountain feeling mentally refreshed in a way I hadn’t been in a long time.
Go out and find your cup of refreshing ohmmmmm. It’ll be worth it!
If you’re a member of any law enforcement effort in North America these days you’re not exactly living the dream when it comes to respect.
Stories of corruption and abuse have littered the news the past couple of years with well-known cities like Ferguson and Baltimore fighting off large-scale riots as a result.
On social media it has become the norm to talk about police officers like they are ALL abusive, power-hungry brutes – a label that is a sad contrast to the post 9/11 world.
In Richmond last week, RCMP Corporal Kevin Krygier and his team put on a display that reminded many that the vast majority of our nation’s force are here for much more than crime and punishment. They are here for us.
This particular story started at Tait Elementary School, where Mike Ciu is a fourth-grade student with Down Syndrome. When Krygier visited the school this winter he met Mike, who helped give the corporal a tour of his school.
Soon after, Mike’s educational assistant, Marci Hammer, sent Krygier a video of Mike explaining that when he grew up he dreamed of being a police officer.
“I was so touched, I decided to make his dream a reality,” Krygier explained of what came next.
Krygier rallied his troops, connected with Hammer, started making some plans and put together an assembly presentation for Mike that blew his whole school away.
That day Mike Ciu was named an honorary Police Chief, given a uniform and marched into the gym with his new peers to roaring cheers from his younger peers. It was a day he and his family won’t soon forget.
While the gesture turned into a nice community story, it was also a reminder that many of our uniformed defenders of the law are genuinely here to keep us safe AND make our lives better. So next time you hear a story of an officer abusing his power, share this one of our officers spreading the glory instead.
“I joined the RCMP to make a difference in people’s lives,” Krygier said. “I have done many things as part of the RCMP – some I have had to do and they have been sad and difficult. But this was so enjoyable for me and my colleagues. It took a lot of collaboration to make it happen, but comparably, it was easy and very meaningful for all of us who were involved.”
The event was captured on CTV News HERE.
In my last post I shared a vision for 2015 being a year of growth, exploration and the pursuance of excitement and inspiration.
I invited you all to join me or help me with ideas or opportunities for new or interesting things to try out. And you did! I received all sort of suggestions, ideas and offers and it looks like this is going to be an interesting year, indeed!
So far I took a tennis lesson with Steve Nash Fitness tennis pro Max Brown, started taking a free meditation class in hopes to re-open another door I had closed long ago and took an Israeli folk dance lesson – something I really had absolutely zero interest in. More on the meditation and dancing below.
My biggest adventure outside of my comfort zone in 2015 so far took place last Sunday when I shared my personal story of conquering life’s demons with 120 open-minded people at the Recharge Conference (Ted Talks, here I come!).
Here is a summary of some of those events, which some key points I learned:
The Recharge Conference was a full day of unique, dynamic speakers filling participants’ minds with creative perspectives on the topics of mind, body, spirit, career, relationships and money (or lack thereof).
Founded and organized by Mike Dirks and Justine Levenberg, the event was a ton of fun and kept the participants engaged all day – they even had the energy in the afternoon to dance with DancePlay for a few minutes, which was quite the site to see!
I was essentially the morning warm-up act, sharing what changed when I proved my adult-self wrong, accomplishing things I had personally written off as undo-able for me. To be honest, as a first-timer, I wasn’t entirely sure that anything I had to say would be of value to the audience. It turned out a lot more people than I anticipated related to my personal confrontation with my own potential. Speaking to them was an incredible high and, by the end of the day I had a room full of friends. When some incredibly educated speakers that followed me referenced bits of my story in their own presentations, the validation I received from that was incredible. My warm-up act was a success and a blast! I look forward to staying connected to the Recharge movement.
Here are a few nuggets from the other presentations that day that stood out for me (more detailed posts to come about some of the other speakers):
On productivity: Your time should be considered in 3 equal pieces of the pie. Play, preparation and execution/work time should be pretty close to equal. The key there being that time to play is just as important, even though many of us feel that we are being unproductive just having fun or relaxing. And if you are working more than that, OUTSOURCE!
On debt: Stop wasting time feeling crappy about your debt or waiting for the answer to magically come along. Stop making excuses and own your financial decisions.
On reaching your loftiest long-term goals: Imagine where you’d like to be 10 years from now. Then think backwards about the steps that would likely take place to have you arrive at those goals. Write it all down (that was repeated many times) and focus on each step from the beginning, one at a time. That 10-year goal may seem too daunting on it’s own. But the first step right in front of you may be quite simple. 10 years from now you’ll be glad you started now!
On relationships: Don’t expect to ever have a productive relationship with another human (dogs are always exempt) if you don’t have a good one with yourself. Oh, and Mark Groves (@CreateTheLove) can make love – or lack thereof – funny.
About nutrition and body health: One of the worst things you can eat is worry, if you aren’t in bed before midnight you will pay the price the next day, and if you dream vividly it actually means you didn’t sleep well … making the wish for “sweet dreams” to be kind of harsh, actually.
Quote of the day: “A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t go anywhere if you don’t change it.”
To create some context, I’m one of those guys who doesn’t get yoga. I HAVE tried at least 10 different times with 10 different teachers (no, I haven’t tried YOUR teacher, who is simply the best), but I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around the whole namaste, heart-centre mumbo jumbo.
Meditation pretty much fit into that same category. The difference was that I had never really tried meditation. All I knew was that in the yoga classes, when they would ask me to clear my mind and meditate I’d start thinking about all the things I had to do. Or, I’d start to ZZZZzzzzzzzz………
I didn’t imagine I could meditate. I also imagined it wasn’t much more than a bunch of wishy-washy hoopla. Then I met Lloyd Baron. Lloyd, who visits the JCC regularly, is one of those unique people who have “peace” written all over their face. “How are you, Loyd?” “I’m fannnntastic!”
So when Loyd offered a free meditation class at the JCC, I decided it was worth investing my time and trying something new for me.
I’ve only attended two of Lloyd’s classes so far. In class #1 the comfortable position I assumed was laying on my back. After playing a late night hockey game the night before this was the perfect position for me to sleep. And sleep I did. In and out between mantras. When I was awake I really struggled to focus, or not focus, as was suggested at times. My mind wandered. Which is apparently normal.
In class #2 I sat in a chair right next to Lloyd. I was determined to stay awake and really follow his lead. My mind still full of day-to-day garbage, I discovered that following sounds was my closest path to zoning in or out on one thing. I’m going to work on that, play to my strengths as Lloyd suggested, and keep trying. Making an effort to spend a few minutes practicing each day. This is going to be a long haul effort for me!
Lloyd’s classes take place Tuesday mornings at 11:30am and 10am Thursday mornings. New participants are always welcome.
Israeli folk dancing:
I had posted on Facebook that I had a free night and wanted to fill it with something new. I had a few interesting responses – most of which included things that can’t be repeated on this website. But I was challenged by a friend to try out Israeli folk dancing. She was half joking, offering me money to try it, knowing full well that this was not something anyone would expect Kyle to do. Which was exactly why I felt compelled to do it!
I joined the beginners class of the Vancouver Israeli Folk Dance Society taught by Naomi Taussig. It was probably the most mentally challenging hour and a half I have had in a long time – this being what happens when you join a class half way through the year and they all know the dance steps. By the time I caught on to each dance we moved on to the next. I had the opportunity to feel like the bumbling idiot in a room full of strangers, which was a lesson in humility. But, I learned what the Yeminite Step is, that folk dancing can be as much of a workout as it is a social event and that I have more balance on skates than I do on my dancing feet. All in, a good night!
Israeli folk dancing was probably a one-time event for myself given my schedule, but I’m glad I Yeminite-stepped in when I did. Watching the intermediate dancers was quite impressive as well!
Check it out Wednesday nights, 6:30-10pm at the JCC. They provide free cookies and candy!
It’s now early January 2015.
That means right about now millions of New Year resolutions are kicking into high gear! (Isn’t it exciting!?) This will most likely peak around the 12th of the month due to those who don’t think a resolution kicks in until their hangover recovers, fading like a cheap pair of Old Navy jeans by around the 18th.
By Feb 1 everyone will be talking about how they don’t believe in New Year resolutions again.
I have never been a strong believer of waiting for set dates to take action toward any positive change. I believe that if someone wants to see a change enough to make it happen they have no need to wait for January 1st to get started.
That said, a new year does allow us sort of a mental re-set. Even if less than 10% actually stick to that new-year resolve, that’s more change than we’d likely see on the first day of any other month, right?
My resolve to make meaningful change in my life has been more of a progressive development than a sudden change that kicked off a few years ago.
Led by a successful diet adjustment that helped rid my body of extra weight I carried for years; I found success in an area I had previously written off as “not likely to ever happen” for my adult life. I parlayed the momentum of that accomplishment, considering what other aspects of my life could also be re-approached. I found many other successes and adventures I certainly wouldn’t have predicted three years ago, leaving a world of closed doors well behind me.
Now it is 2015. And in 2015 this guy turns 40!
While many fear the “big 4-0” and all that beginning-of-the-end anxiety that typically comes with it, I can’t wait to hit 40 in stride! I can’t think of a better time to take it all to a whole new level!
In 2015 I will continue to learn new skills, discover new talents, and experience new adventures.
I will make the world around me a better place and I will share it all with as many people as I can (starting with the pages of this blog!).
The question is, what will it all look like? What does this exciting, inspiring future hold? And who wants to join me for any of it?
I have some ideas of my own that we will explore here. But I’d like to hear your ideas as well. Give me your suggestions. Maybe you have an opportunity to share with others. Perhaps you are looking for help with your own unique journey.
Let’s make 2015 – and every year after that – EPIC!
In the meantime, here are a couple things coming up to get your year started right:
- The Recharge Conference, Jan 11.www.sparkenergizeempower.com
- ManTalks – Jan 12. www.mantalks.ca
- Read “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss.
Hands up if you like to eat!
Now hands up if the fact that you like to eat has made you want to throw the other half of the apple pie you just ingested across the room because IT WON’T LET YOU LOSE THE WEIGHT YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO LOSE!
Recently, as part of the Jewish Book Festival at the JCC, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, known (maybe only by me) as Dr. Diet, presented about his new book The Diet Fix. The book details why more than 90% of diets fail, leaving people with frustration and/or apple pie all over their living room. (For a review of the book, see jewishindependent.ca/jewish-book-fest-in-a-week)
As someone who personally struggled with excess weight for most of his adult life – likely as a result of too much McDonald’s for most of his teenage life – before managing to kick it back to the drive-through a few years ago, I was intrigued to listen to and meet Dr. Diet to see what new concepts he could teach me. I wanted to see what he could tell me that, quite frankly, I hadn’t already learned from my dear friend Google.
While he didn’t get into the meat and potatoes (or cake and cookies) of dieting tricks, strategies and science, he did talk a lot about the psychology of dieting and how our society responds to it. More of a what-NOT-to-do presentation.
The good doctor presented what he called the seven deadly sins of dieting. Essentially, this is a list if misunderstandings or misdirections society has placed on the path to eating healthy and losing weight.
In no particular order (except for the one he presented them in), here they are for your consumption.
1. If you’re not hungry, you’re not losing weight. WRONG!
Starving yourself isn’t the key to weight loss, Freedhoff explained. As a matter of fact, he suggested that waiting until starvation kicks in before feeding yourself will more likely make bad cookies…I mean, choices (darn auto-correct!).
2. You must make sacrifices to lose weight. WRONG!
If you are constantly making sacrifices you aren’t likely to make this work on any long-term basis. It should be a choice of preference, not a sacrifice.
3. You need willpower to succeed. WRONG!
The reality is that we only have a limited supply of willpower. So if we are depending on that for success we are likely to fail at some point. Try having a long, hard, stressful day at work, then coming home looking for willpower in the crunchy, salty snack cupboard.
4. You should accept blind restrictions. DON’T DO IT!
A lot of people follow fad diets. They read that this new Garcinia Cambogiolawala plant can help you lose weight if you eat only that and a pickle for five days straight.
Despite my undying faith in pickles, if you don’t know why or how a diet will work, don’t do it!
5. You need to sweat it out. SO WRONG!
Reality weight loss shows like Biggest Loser preach that if you’re not pushing your self to barf-inducing levels you won’t succeed. On the contrary, Dr. Freedhoff said, if it’s not enjoyable, much like point #2 and #3, it’s not likely to last long.
As a point of perspective, he added that it takes running a full marathon to burn 1 pound of fat. Yet it takes only one hour sitting on your tuchus at the neighborhood pub to put it back on. The line, “You can’t outrun your fork” is one I will use again and again from now on.
6. You need perfection to succeed. WRONG AGAIN!
According to Dr. Freedhoff, people accept doing their best in just about every facet of their life except dieting. When someone is on a diet they believe they must be perfect in order to succeed. Obsession leads to unrealistic expectations. Once again, it won’t last. And you don’t need to call them cheat days. Maybe just try “living life days!”
7. We must calmly remain in denial. DENIED!
We avoid dealing with our true feelings about how we are struggling with our weight or eating habits. If we fool ourselves about what we really want to do or can do we are just denying ourselves the chance to find confidence in our abilities to succeed. The consequences of struggling are guilt, shame and despair. Which often leads to? Binging!
Bottom line: It seams that what the Diet Doctor is saying is that it’s more important to tackle our weight issues with our heads than it is with a program or a set of diet rules.
Set clear goals that you know you can work with long term and take them on one step at a time. Otherwise, well, we’ll see you again at the next diet meeting!
To the women reading this post, brace yourself for the following comment: It’s not easy being a man!
Take a minute. OK. Breathe. Sit back down. And we can continue.
The North American male lives under a lot of pressure with high expectations when it comes to their role in relationships, an assumed level of strength, decisive behavior and success.
Yes, it’s true! Stop laughing!
The truth is, there isn’t a whole lot of time or space for sensitivity, vulnerability or exploration of feelings when it comes to thriving as a man in our society. That’s where ManTalks, a new Vancouver-based, community-themed speaker series, steps in.
Developed by Connor Beaton, a sales/operations manager for Apple, ManTalks came to be after Beaton’s own personal “rock-bottom” had him bounce back, looking for more truth and support in his life.
Once a world-traveling opera singer, Beaton walked away from the stage to pursue other interests and his life was set adrift, leading to some tough decision making.
Quick! One a scale of 1-10, how tired are you RIGHT NOW? Is anyone’s answer ever lower than 5???
Most of us know we probably don’t get enough sleep – working long hours, investing a lot into our families or extra-curricular activities.
But how many of us ever consider how much our diet plays a role in our daily level of fatigue?
According to Dr. Jennifer Doan, a naturopathic doctor who spoke about fatigue at the JCC last week, diet management is one of the most significant factors in controlling fatigue. Never mind the fact that is also has a significant affect on how well we sleep those few hours of shut-eye we actually get in!
Brief science lesson: our adrenal glands – located right above the kidneys – produce life-saving, stress-managing hormones like cortisol, testosterone and estrogen in order to battle all of the grief, physical or mental load we experience. Whether it be from working too hard, emotional stress, illness or many other avenues, the adrenal glands have to keep up with the demand we put on our bodies. When they can’t keep the pace we suffer from what’s called Adrenal Fatigue. This causes our bodies to do many bad things including the break down of tissue or muscle to convert to energy, crave more bad foods (seeking the cortisol reaction to insulin), lose focus, become short-tempered, struggle to sleep, suffer from pre-menopausal symptoms (hopefully only for women), have weaker immune systems, lower libidos and many other symptoms. But let’s be honest; I had you at lower libidos, didn’t I?
Needless to say, these symptoms lead to more stress, which makes us crave the cortisol stimuli brought on by carb-filled foods and the vicious cycles goes on while our bodies plummet and waste away.
However, while lifestyle may make it difficult to get the sleep we need on a regular basis (really, who gets 8+ hours of sleep every night?), the key, Doan explained, is keeping our blood-sugar or glycogen levels in a good place as often as possible. This, in turn, prevents a high demand of insulin, which saves our adrenal glands from needing to produce an overdose of cortisol to “catch” the insulin. Controlling blood-sugar levels actually reduces stress and sets our bodies up to crave less unhealthy food as well. Now we will be ready to do stressful things like watching the Canucks play!
When we do feel stressed or exhausted, sitting down with that bag of chips or crying into that bucket of ice cream isn’t actually going to make us feel better. It’s more likely to eventually make us feel worse. And not just in the belly!
When you do hit that craving, find something that is filled with protein or healthy fats. Not only will they fill you up better and longer but, because they take more time and energy to digest, they will prevent an insulin spike and keep your blood-sugar levels in order, sparing your adrenal glands.
You will also be one step closer to a better night’s sleep and a better day when the sun rises once again!