Meditation: Normal

Normal is a word, we have been hearing a lot of lately.  Can’t wait until things get back to normal.  What will the new normal look like?  Will we ever get back to normal?  Normal is defined as, conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected. Most reporting in the media is optimistic, that we will return to some kind of normalcy.  The way things have gone lately, that seems hard to believe.  We seem to be in a never ending spiral of flattening the curve, with little reduction in the number of cases, on a day to day basis.  In fact, it is rather freaky, how each day, seems to be about the same, in each state, on the number of cases per day. In the 22 days of May, there have been 17 days, where the new cases have totaled between 20 and 26 thousand per day, in the United States.   Three days, there were over 26,000 cases, but two of those were the first two days of May.  There have been 2 days under 20,000 cases with last one being May 17th.  For 17 out of 20 days, the new cases have not varied by more than  2 to 3 thousand per day in the entire country. There are 18 states where the number of cases are decreasing but 4 of those states were some of the hardest hit, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey.   There are 8 states that the cases are increasing.  People keep talking about a vaccine, but even the most optimistic estimates are at the first of the year, and that’s with no set backs.  How likely do you think that is, when trying to make a vaccine for a disease, that we don’t totally understand, yet. So what are the chances of seeing a normal life in 2020?

I would say slim and none.  That does not mean, that we will not be doing a little more than we are doing now, but for this year, this is what I think will not return. Fans in the stands.  Team sports, if they are played at all this year, will be in empty stadiums.  Restaurants will not even be close to normal, if they even  open at all.   Waiters with masks on, my appetite is disappearing as I type.   Youth sports  are done for this year.  Mall shopping will be at 20% volume.  Air travel will be lucky to be at 30% capacity, especially since they showed how irresponsible they have been, by packing planes and risking people’s lives.  Hotels and motels with be no better.  Travel in general, will be way down, for the entire year.  Jobs will be non existent, in the above areas.   Staying at home, and having a good time with known friends and family, will be the new normal.  Hopefully, there will be some live sports to watch on television.  In nice weather, there will be some outside dining to be enjoyed. But life as we have known it, is officially gone. Get use to it.  Make the best of it.  Wear a mask if you go into a place of business.  Maybe summer will help in defeating the virus. I think there is more of a chance of a treatment than a vaccine that may help get us back to our previous life.  There is only one thing certain at this point and that is the virus is ruling the country for the next 7 months.

For now, meditate and be appreciative for what you have.  Good health, and well being, and hope that the people closest to you, stay healthy.  Even with this new normal, life can be good.  There is joy, in just being outside, and breathing some clean air, and the air is a lot cleaner, since everybody has had to stay home. People will have to adapt, and find a new way to make a living, in many cases.  This pandemic has and will make life difficult for the next  12 to 24 months guaranteed. The great depression lasted 11 years and we have people now, that can not or will not shelter in place for 3 months, for the health and safety of the nation.  Normal now, will be sacrifice and suffering both economically and medically and there is nothing that can be done about it.  It’s time to buckle in and hang on, and hope that things don’t  get worse.  For now, the virus is the new normal but hopefully not super long.  Take a deep breath.

Meditation: Patience

Patience is defined, as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. There are three different situations, where patience has to be applied.  You need patience with yourself.  Sometimes, you will need to have patience with love ones, close acquaintances, and fellow workers.  Finally, you will need to have patience with the world and humanity.  Does having patience help your life?   There are three areas where you must have patience. Sometimes these situations can be related.   Delay can lead to trouble, which in turn leads to suffering.  At other times they can be separate entities.  If you do not handle these situations with patience, what are the alternatives.  Can a lack of patience in some instances be beneficial.  Let’s look at patience as it fits in with the relationships you have.

Having patience with love ones, and close acquaintances, while at the time may be difficult, it can be an end point in dealing with some perceived problem in your relationship. Patience comes into play when someone you know is doing something, or not doing something that you disagree with.  You may, or may not give them advice about the situation, and they may not take it, even if you do.  Patience is needed to allow them lead their lives the way they want to, despite what you think.  There may be situations that you think people are not doing their job, or doing things that you find annoying or irritating.  Patience is needed to deal with some of the more mundane things of day to day living. This is what I mean by saying that patience is the end point of the process. What’s the alternative to patience in these situations. There are many choices you can make in both situations.  Remember if you abandon patience, and decide to make some kind of change in the situation, whether it be with a loved one, close acquaintance, or at the workplace, you will be making a drastic change in your life. Like any change the consequences could be good or bad.

The second place patience has its place is with the world and humanity. Right now this pandemic is stretching people’s patient with their government. They are trying to get their life back to some type of normalcy, and get back to work, while maintaining their health and the safety.  Patience is needed when any big organization is having a negative impact on your life.  It may be waiting in line for a long time,  the delay of a flight, or a stay at home order.  In day to day dealings it may be where a company is not providing the service that you think they should. In all of these situations there are not a lot of options but there are some.  You could get out of line.  You could vow never to use that airline again.  You can defy the stay at home.  You could could take legal action against a company or individual that did not provide a service. All of those actions may or may not be a benefit in the long run and may cause you even more problems.  It is a major decision, when you decide that your patience has run out.

Finally there is patience with yourself.  This by far, is hardest one to deal with.  You can not leave yourself.  When you set goals or have day to day things you want to do and fail, patience is your number one friend, if you can apply it.  Any time you get angry or make a poor decision due to a lack of patience, in any of the above scenarios, do you have the ability to have patience with yourself, so you might be able to forgive yourself and move on from your transgressions.  The irony of all this, is your trying to have patience with yourself, for having a lack of patience.  It really boils down to living in the past.   You can not change your mistakes, no matter what the cause. You can only move on, and try to treat yourself kindly and hope that you will do better in the future.  Remember as you apply this technique to yourself, that it may be wise to apply this to other people you are losing patience with, or to the world around you.  Patience is considered a virtue and it is.  Patience can only take you so far, but it will take you farther than you think.

Food: How Did It Get So Important

Food is a necessity.  Without taking in food, you would die in about 6 weeks or less. We all have to eat.  You do not even have to eat healthy, to survive.  You must supply your body with fuel, to function. In the modern world, food is much more important than that. Food is associated with events and activities.   Popcorn at movies, Peanuts, cracker jacks and hot dogs at baseball games, the hot dog at turn, in golf, and cake at birthday parties.   Food has a whole day devoted to it, called Thanksgiving.  If the Pilgrims only knew what they started, they would have given thanks by only drinking water.  Even at the most casual get togethers, like playing cards, book clubs, and watching sports on TV, the host will feel an obligation to provide some food. So how did food go from becoming a necessity, to becoming the part of almost everything we do socially, to the point that sometimes it is the main event?  There are lots of ideas about the subject, and all the things that food can do, to make any social event better, and how much it shows you care, by providing food, and lots of it, at an event that you are hosting.  But no where is there any mention, on how this process all came about. There had to be sometime in history, where people got together to do something, and food was no where to be found. But there seems to be no documentation of this.  Even very old movies, made in the 1920’s show people gathering together, and eating and drinking, in almost the same way, that we do today. Naturally I have some theories, and there is very little data elsewhere, to dispute it.

It all boils down to the rich and famous.   There was a time in our history, particularly during the depression and World War II that food was hard to come by.  Even so, if you had money, then food was plentiful.  What better way for the rich and famous  to show how much money they had, by serving lots of  food at any big social function.  As times got better and food became more plentiful, and less costly, it was a way for the middle class to be just like the rich and famous, by having food included, in any social event that they were going to have. Plus, it was not a problem for the rich to distance themselves from everyday people, by other means.   Today, with the corona virus taking away all social functions and contact, food has become less fun.  We have returned to the day, where food, now is just a necessity, that we have to cook for ourselves, and whoever we are sheltering in place with.   Once this pandemic is over, I am sure food again, will take its place as the center piece of most any social function.  The way things are now, it is hard to believe that this will ever be.  We are a more open society today, than we were 100 years ago. Today, you can have quite a diverse group of people getting together for fun, food, and a good time, wherever that may be.  Food is taking a back seat, as the pandemic is moving on and on and on.  With so many questions on what will happen, concerning the virus, food has lost a lot of its importance.  So, no matter what started  food having to be at the center of all social events, these last two months have shown, that it is something that is ingrained in our beings, and is not helping us get through this crisis.

Hopefully, we will again, be able to enjoy food with our friends and family, in the not too distance future.   Food has been a big part of the human experience for a long time. This pandemic could affect how we enjoy and feel about food, for the rest of our lives. Let’s hope that we can all get through this, with as few emotional scars as possible, and that everyone we know remains healthy and safe.  As things begin to open up, I hope there will be no major setbacks in the near future.   I can smell those hot dogs already.

 

Meditation: Thoughts

When you write about meditation and discuss thoughts, it is usually what to do with them while you are meditating. But for  this blog, I am just going to wing it, and discuss my thoughts, about the last 3 weeks. It has been that long, since I have written anything on the blog.  It has been a very strange time in our history, and time does march on however, no matter how mundane the days feel.  The days just seem to roll into one another, with the weather not being that great, with a few nice days thrown in.  I feel that the world is standing still, and that’s kind of the way I feel, just kind of muddling along, in this world of sheltering in place.  There are lots of ways people are trying to express themselves, about the pandemic, and are feeling various emotions.  They range from being anxious, to fearful, frustrated, angry, and depressed. I just kind of feel numb, through the whole experience.  Like anytime in one’s life, there are always ups and downs, and this is no exception.  Let’s take a closer look at those ups and downs.

On the upside, I have Facetimed with my grand kids twice weekly, over the last 6 weeks, which is much more than we ever had in the past.  While this not like seeing them in person, it is pretty cool, and  everybody seems to be doing all right, and is staying healthy. I don’t know when I will be flying out there again, but hopefully by mid summer.   I have watched some shows, that  I would have probably never  seen, if it was not for the pandemic.    I have been able to walk more.   I have gone into West Virginia, where the golf courses are open, and played 4 rounds of golf.  My game is still pretty good, despite the long lay off.  I am cooking more, and have made 3 batches of chocolate chip cookies.  I am meditating longer and feeling some benefit.   I have enjoyed watching some old sporting events. We have been able to get all the food and basic products that we need. It’s like any situation, things could be a lot worse.

Now for the downside, which is easier to see and express.  The biggest thing is the uncertainty, and despite the social distancing ,the possibility of getting sick. It is more worrisome for me, of giving the disease, than getting the disease. I know there is a lot of uncertainty about the disease, but I think the media really does not help our concerns.  They feel the need to spread fear and panic rather than find out some answers.  Here are two questions I would like to have answers. How did the Corona Virus get into a pork plant in South Dakota? I understand how it spread, but how did it get in? Maybe some spring break people brought it back from Florida. The second question is, who are the health officials that the governor of Georgia claims he is listening to, that allows him to open his state up to just about every business. Would some one please interview these people.  For the first time in our history we are using humans for guinea pigs for controlled studies.  That is essentially what is going on in Georgia, and will happen in Las Vegas if the casinos open.  This by far, will be the most interesting two weeks of the pandemic.  Will Georgia pay the price for reopening too soon, or will the explosion of the disease not happen in two weeks.  The people of Georgia are going to be the Corona lab mice, whether they want to be or not.  I want to see who is going to be the first person to get the Corona Vaccine.  I nominate Bill Gates since he seems to feel that you can fast track a vaccine.   This will be the most interesting and possibly scary 6 months in the history of the world.  All I can say is lets hope that Trump does not think there is a nuclear cure for the Corona Virus. Hopefully my writing brain will perk up in the next few days and I will blog something in under 3 weeks.

Golf: The Swing

Now we come to the least important of the fundamentals of golf, the swing. For those of you, who have never played the game, or who can not consistently break 90, then these are the checkpoints of the golf swing, to guide you.  There are 6 checkpoints of the golf swing.  These are positions along the way of making a golf swing, that you can look at,  feel, and see if you are within the guidelines, of a correct golf swing.  Remember these are just guidelines, and not much here, is in stone, but at least you will have an idea of what the golf swing is all about.  The 6 checkpoints are: 1. The take away 2. When the club shaft is parallel to the ground  3. When the left arm is parallel to the ground 4. The end of the back swing  5. Starting the swing down  6. Finishing the swing. Let’s look at each one.

The take away.   The take away is consider the part of the swing, where you are moving the club head about 12 to 18 inches away from the ball.  The key to the take away is called, maintaining the triangle.  There is an imaginary triangle form by your left and right arm connecting to the club, and a line drawn across your shoulders.  That triangle should maintain itself during those first 12 to 18 inches of the golf swing.  There should be no independent movement of the hands, arms, and shoulders during the first part of the swing.

When the club shaft is parallel to the ground.   From there you get the club parallel to ground any way you want.  You can use your hands and wrists.  You can use your shoulder and body.  Once you get the shaft parallel to ground you need to check to see how the club head is pointing in relationship to the line.  To do this, you simply turn your body to where you are looking straight down the shaft of the club. Now, just drop the club straight down to the ground. Look and see how the club is pointing.  It could be square to the line, it may be slightly closed to line, or it may be open. It does not matter which one, just so you know what your tendency is and is it consistent.  Do this check many times.

Getting the arm parallel to the ground.  At this check point you should cock your wrists enough to have the shaft perpendicular to the ground. Your left arm and the shaft should form an L.   Again this is easy to check. You just stop and look.

The end of the back swing. You continue to turn your body and lift the club until your left shoulder is touching your chin or getting as close to that as you can depending on how supple your body is. Once you have completed your back swing, it is now time to bring the club head back to the ball.

Starting the swing down. It is this point of the swing, that everybody likes to call, the transition part of the swing.  There is instruction that talks about how the downswing starts, before the back swing fully ends, and has  convincing video to show this.  However, if you TRY and do this, you will fail miserably. The way to feel this, is to make the fullest back swing you can, then start your downswing, by doing one, of any of the 3 following things.  Feel your left shoulder going up.  Kick your right leg in the direction of the ball.  Straighten your left leg which will drive your left but cheek straight back. Doing any one of those three things will get your downswing started properly.  You may like one over the other, which is fine.  You may change from round to round, if that helps get your swing going. Eventually you will not have to think it, about once you get use to it.

Finishing the swing.  The thing to remember, is the swing is not over, when you make contact with the ball.  You must continue into your follow through.  Remember how that feels, and do it for all shots, long and short. Another term for this is hitting through the ball.

Now, will you do all of this perfectly or correctly, of course not.  Nobody does it 100% technically correct. These are all just guidelines to help you make a workable golf swing, that you will develop, as you play the game.  Hopefully, applying these guidelines will help you get your score low enough to the point, where you can forget the physical side of the game, and get to where you can play 100% Mental Golf.

Sports: Can’t Buy Me Luck

For those of us that remember the Beatles, one of their big hits was the song, “Can’t Buy Me Love”.  Well, the same thing can be said about luck, just ask the New York Yankees. In baseball, where there is very little limitations on what teams can spend to sign players, the Yankees have one of the biggest payrolls in baseball, and have built a juggernaut of a team.  Last year, despite having an unbelievable number  of injuries, this team still had enough talent to win more games, than anybody in the American League.  They signed Gerrit Cole to a record contract, and I made the comment, that they may win more games than any team in history.  Of course, that won’t happen, because the season will probably have less games, because of the Corona Virus. But the injury bug continues to haunt them, which would have affected their season, anyway.   That is one type of luck that affects sports, the injury bug.  This blog is going to discuss the  luck, that happens during the game.  Luck has always been a part of sports and life, that is  uncontrollable.  Everyone has heard the saying, I’d rather be lucky than good.  Nobody in the media ever will say that the only reason a team won a championship, was because they were lucky.   How much has luck been a factor in the various sports. and is it given too much  or not enough credit, when evaluating why a game turned out the way it did?  Which sport does luck play the biggest factor?  Let’s take a look at each of the four major team sports.

There is no question in my mind, that the sport where luck plays the biggest factor is football.  The reasons just pile up.  The shape of the ball is an oblong sphere.  Because of this, you have  crazy bounces, and deflections, that can have a major effect on the outcome of a game.   All the championships are decided by one game. If this was the case in other sports, there would be a whole different list of champions.   There is lots of down time in football.  The clock is running during  huddles and players going back to the huddle.  Even though the game is 60 minutes long, there is not near that amount of time, when action is taking place.  I know there are comebacks in football but time can be stalled more in football than any other sport.  The next down the luck line is hockey.  Again the puck is a disc that has a tendency to take crazy jumps and bounces, which will affect the game.  Goals can be deflected into the net, which can add to the luck of the game.  In the playoffs you rarely see the team with the best record making a long run into the finals. In a seven game series luck can be even a bigger factor. No other sport has  as a person on their team that can make or break them like a goal tender. He can single-handedly win or lose a game or a series.     Next is baseball.  Baseball has a round ball, and a long season.  There is an old saying, in the long run, class will tell.   Baseball has no clock, so teams can overcome a bad luck streak in a game, to make a come back.  In order to win a game, a team must perform one task.  They have to get the last out. Some teams have never gotten that last out. No sitting on a lead in baseball.  But in my mind, basketball is the sport where luck plays the least factor.  The big factors are, the ball is round, the game is indoors, you must make an offensive move in 24 seconds, and you are limited on what you can do to stop a team from scoring.  The proof of all this is, unlike hockey, usually the team with the best record during the regular season wins the NBA Championship. In fact it’s happened 12 times since 2000, almost double any other sport.

Even though I think luck is the biggest factor in football, I no way mean to imply that it was only luck that enabled the Steelers to win 4 Super Bowls in the 70’s, teams like the 49er’s and Cowboys to dominate their respective decades, and New England to dominate the 2000’s .  In fact luck, can go both ways.  Maybe it was some bad luck that kept these teams from dominating even more. So how much of a factor is luck when it comes to the various sports?  What makes a championship team?  You need a combination of talent, hard work, and coaching to go along with luck to be able win a title in any sport.  One of the four components, acquiring talent, needs to have some good luck to go along with it, too.  In football I think the break down is this:  Talent 33%, Hard Work 26%, Coaching 25% and Luck 16%.  For the other sports, I think there is a gradual decline in how much luck is a factor in winning a Championship, coming down to 6% for basketball.  The rest of the factors probably have some variability from sport to sport, but luck will always have to be figured into the equation, when giving reasons for teams winning one or multiple championships.   People never want to think that something so unrelated to the business of the game, could contribute as much as it does, to winning it all. Dropped balls, missed or bad calls, wind, bad hops, deflected balls, that do or do not end up in the opponents hands, hitting or not hitting posts and poles, all have played significant roles, in how important games, have turned out. Post game analysis always wants to talk about all the great plays, and how well coached, and talented the winning team is.   When a player drops a ball in the end zone, it has nothing to with the other teams talent, hard work or coaching. The bottom line is this.  Nobody really wants to give luck, whether it is good or bad, it’s just due. If it wasn’t for luck the sports world would look a lot different when it comes to who won, what championships.

Meditation: If Not Now, Then Never

In this historic time of economic shutdown, and social distancing, if you can’t find time to start meditating, then your doomed to never experience the best thing that you can do for yourself.  These are troubled times, for many obvious reasons, but the biggest, is that this can not be compared to anything.  This is a unique time in the history of the world. Despite all the predictions, and talk of what is going to come, nobody knows what is going to happen, and that is the main reason for this high anxiety  people are feeling, right now.  Getting Covid-19 is bad enough, but add to that the uncertainty of when things may get back to normal, and we can resume  daily activities. This is an unknown virus, and only time will tell, if it will behave as some other viruses.   The crisis has brought out thoughts of, is the cure worse than the disease, and our grandparent are willing to die to save the economy. Give me money or give me death, just doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it, as give me liberty or give me death.  The health of the country and the economy have never clashed so violently.  It shows how ill prepared we were for such a crisis.  We have heard on the media, that we are going to try and open up by Easter,  and others stating that it will take until August, for things to get back to normal.  This may be the highest anxiety levels that the nation has ever felt.  The future is now unknown territory.  We hear of worst, and best case scenarios.  Now is the time to embrace your inner being and soul.  It is time to first find it, and then get inside and revel in it.

The outside world, that many of us live to see and feel, is coming apart and there is really  no end in sight.  This is the time to visit the inner world, and find yourself during this world crisis.  If you do not do it now, then you will never do it, and it will be your loss. It is easy to think that there is a finite end to this, but there may not be. Improving yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself.  That is the great thing. You give yourself this gift. You do not have to depend on anybody to move forward on this. The world will go on in some form no matter what. You have no control over that.  You can control much of your system, and how you respond to all the chaos, that is going on around you.  By spending a few minutes everyday, and then slowly expanding to 15, 20, even 30 minutes a day in meditation, can be the one good thing that will come out of this health crisis.  It can make your life better, far beyond your wildest dreams.  The time has come. It is now or never.

The next few weeks will be even more unique than the last 2 weeks.  Out of all the comments and inane remarks that have been said during this crisis, there is only one that rings of any truth.  Dr. Anthony Fauci said, it will be the virus, that sets the timetable, of when things will get back to normal. Yes, the virus is in charge.  We can only stay inside, and maintain a safe distance for ever how long it takes.  We can only hope and pray that it will not be too long, but there is not a hell of a lot any of us can really do about it.  What will we do?  I do not have any idea, what is going to happen. I do know, this conflict between our health and the economy is going to get worse.  Which one will our leaders and the people of the United States choose.  No matter which one they choose, it will affect the rest of our lives.