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.

Golf: The Address Position.

The last golf blog was about the grip. Now, I am going to discuss  addressing the ball. There is a little more to it, than what Ed Norton told Ralph on the Honeymooners, when he said “Hellooo Ball”.  However, there’s not quite as much to it, as some people would like you to believe.  There are some basic principals to follow, but when it comes to how you stand up to ball, there are lots of personal preferences you can apply.  A lot of this will be dictated by how you hit the ball, and in what direction the ball is going. Some of what you are going to do will be dictated on how you want to hit the ball, also.  It’s mostly what you do, before you take your swing, that will dictate how successful you will be, with the upcoming shot.  So I will look at the address position in two sections.  The basic principles, or things that you must to do, in order to hit the ball solidly, and in the direction you want it to go. Then in the second section I will look at parts of the address position that you can experiment with, that will suit your swing better.

My favorite phrase for addressing the ball, is you must be comfortable, and at ease when standing up to the ball.  You do not want to stand too far away from the ball, but on the other hand, you do not want to feel you are crowding the ball either. Since standing too far away is by far the most common problem, I would suggest trying to crowd the ball, and then backing off from the ball, until you feel that you are comfortable.  Your arms should hang loosely down with your left arm or lead arm fairly straight but not rigid.  The right arm will be folded slightly and fairly close to your right side, if not even slightly brushing the right side.  You will have to bend over at the hips to get down to ball, and your knees will have to have some flex in them, and not feel locked.  The most important part of addressing the ball, is how you have your weight distributed, over your feet.  Because you are bent over at the hips, the tendency is to feel the weight head toward the toes. You must avoid this at all cost.  In my view the best way to distribute your weight is to feel that it is dispersed evenly under your entire foot, and you should be able to wiggle your toes. Some people like to say to have the weight over the arches, but the arch of the foot is  not on the ground technically, and I do not like getting the weight too far back over heels, either. So, feel like your weight is distributed evenly over your feet, and this is the best way to maintain balance during the golf swing, which is one of the most important factors when swinging a golf club. You must make sure you are aiming correctly at this point. The easiest way to do this is too pick out a spot in front of the ball, in the direction you want the ball to go, and aim the club at that.  Then adjust your body into the correct address position. The final thing you must do, is to keep moving and stay relaxed.  I like to picture the baseball player, when he is batting. While he is waiting for the pitch, he is always moving and fidgeting.  He is never just standing still, and that is what the golfer needs to do.  You can not start smoothly from a static position.

Now that the basics are out of the way, there are three  things that you can experiment with when addressing the ball. Where to position the ball in relationship to your body.  Your probably all right to place the ball anywhere from your left toe, to approximately the middle of your stance.  An easy way to think about it, is to not go to the right of your nose. Moving the ball back and forth between your left toe and nose can help you make more solid contact with ball. This can help you if you are hitting shots fat or thin.   It can also help if you think you are hitting the ball too low or too high. No matter what the problem, move the ball  around, and you may stumble on the answer.  The only time you want to move the ball closer to your right foot, is if you are trying to hit a very low ball into the wind.  Another place you can experiment, is how wide you make your stance.  Again experiment with various widths for various shots and you may find some answers to poor shot.  I am not an advocate of starting with the widest stance for the driver, and getting your feet closer together for the higher number clubs. Do not get locked into that process.  Try different widths for different clubs, until you find what works best for you.  Remember, we want results here, not predetermined widths for certain clubs.  Finally you can experiment whether or not you want your stance square, open, or closed. Again do not get locked into preconceived ideas about closing your stance for a draw, and opening your stance for a fade. Hogan faded the ball with a closed stance for the driver.  There may be some technical aspect of your swing, that you could care less about, that may allow you to hit straighter shots, from open or closed stances.  You will never find out, unless you try to hit the ball from various stances.  Even though the swing is not the thing, I will discuss the swing in the next golf blog.  Meanwhile, when it comes to addressing the ball, go crazy man go crazy.

Sports: What Sports

The sports world has been brought to a grinding halt, by the corona virus.  By now, everyone knows that every major sport, or sporting event has been canceled or postponed for around 6 to 8 weeks at least.  Everybody but the NFL, which is proceeding like nothing is wrong, is taking precautions to keep their players and organization safe. It makes you wonder if the NFL hierarchy is concussed. It just solidifies the fact, that the NFL is one of the most primitive and backward organizations in the world.  The newly ratified players agreement also supports this.  Let’s spread the virus, we don’t start play until September, and no one who is 60 or older plays football.  Over all, the sports world is not the brightest bulb in the room, anyway.  Even the NBA commissioner was talking about having some games, to help the American psyche.  What would really improve the American psyche, is too get back to work, feel productive and be able to pay the bills. The governor of Florida has shit for brains, also.  He refused to close beaches during spring break, which was a direct move to kill old people, and make sure they would be exposed to the virus as much as possible. Especially when all those people come back up north, and expose more old people.   I feel once this is over, that the government should build a canal across northern Florida, so it would be easier to quarantine the people that went down there, if we have a future pandemic.  Obviously, Florida officials do not care about health and safety. This entire crisis is historic, and no one seems to realize what a threat this is, to our everyday life, and the American way.  This is the worst economic crisis, since the great depression, and people are not doing their share, to keep everyone as safe as possible.

The main problem, is that this is the first time, that anything like this has happened in the history of the world, let alone in anyone’s lifetime.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, knows what is going to happen.  If fear of the unknown is a problem, then we are at an all time high, for stress and anxiety.  The more our high officials speak, the more they just look stupid, because none of them, in there entire lives,  have ever answered a question, by saying, I don’t know.  That should be the answer, to almost any question concerning this virus, and emergency.  If this gets as bad as some feel, and again nobody knows, it will really expose just how mediocre are health care system is. Already, the lack of testing is putting us way behind, in knowing what is really going on out there. Thank you money grubbing FDA.  These are tests, not drugs that might kill people.  We can only hope that most Americans are staying home and not mingling, that will help stem the tide.  Hopefully, warmer weather may help the situation, but this is not like the flu, so who knows.  These waters are uncharted, but it still does not mean, that all will be lost. Like everyone else, we will just have to see what happens on a daily basis.  If we follow the recommendations of  the Center for Disease Control, we can only hope that we will see the light at the end of the tunnel sooner than later.

Of course, you can not write about the corona virus pandemic without discussing, TOILET PAPER.   I still feel that the governor of Florida and the NFL had something to do with this.  It has been shown, that a family of 4, should go through about 17 rolls of toilet paper, in about 2 weeks. Now, there were pictures of numerous people on various sites, that had at least 60 rolls in the their grocery carts, and sometimes even more.  Some have said that people were buying in droves, to sell on E Bay.  I was amazed, that the focus for so many people, was toilet paper.  There are other ways to clean yourself, after a bowel movement.  I am not going into all of that in this blog.  I am trying to figure out, what this says about people, in general. One thing ,that there was not a shortage of, during the entire time of panic buying, was fruits and vegetables. Maybe buying toilet paper, and not following the CDC  guidelines, have some kind of relationship. Maybe these people know, that they are not going to make the sacrifices, that other people are going to make, and therefore they feel the crises will last a lot longer than anticipated, and  things like shelter in place, may last 4 to 5 months. It makes you wonder, if toilet paper has an expiration date that nobody talks about.   Maybe something will go wrong with the toilet paper, if stored for more than 6 months, which may cause your anus to fall off. That’s asshole for all you toilet paper buyers out there.   If that does happen, we will all know who bought too much toilet paper.  The good news, no restaurants will have to close over that.  Good luck to everyone, over these next days and weeks, or however long this will take, to get our lives back to some degree of normalcy.

Meditation: Is it Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are often considered synonymous, and seemed to be interchanged frequently.  There is something called mindful meditation, but to me that is like saying meditation meditation.  Websters dictionary defines mindfulness as the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. It also says that it is the state of being mindful. Mindful is define as inclined to be aware.  When you are meditating you can be aware of certain things from your breathing, how your body is feeling and relaxing,  and your thoughts and surroundings.   Can meditating help you be more mindful during the rest of your day, and is this really a good thing.  Being mindful is being in the moment of what ever you are doing, no matter how mundane.  If you are drying dishes, then you should only be thinking of drying dishes, according to people who advocate being mindful all day long. Should that be all you are thinking about when you are walking is putting one foot in front of the other, and feeling every part of your body, as it moves.  I guess you should, if you are walking along the edge of a cliff.  For me, when I am walking, I have come up with some of my best ideas, to help make my life better, and more enjoyable.

Mindfulness is associated with Buddhism and Buddhist monks in particular.  The monks meditated 2 to 3 hours per day.   They got rid of all their material possessions and tried to stay mindful for the entire day.  In the modern world, this is something that is not possible, or really necessary.  I am not sure that being mindful, helps  you deal with some of the problems, of everyday life. Yes, when you have a particular task to do in life, then you had better pay attention, or be mindful during the process of doing, and completing  the task.  Trying to be mindful of every single little thing that we do, may create more stress, than what it is worth.  There are some people that believe there are benefits from being mindful. They feel that staying in the present, which is a result of mindfulness, can keep us from stewing over past mistakes, and worrying about the future. The feeling is it  can also help in dealing with change, that is inevitably going to happen. In order to learn and to plan for the future, we are going to have to think of the past and the future.  Let’s look at some facts of life, that every one of us has to deal with.   Change is going to happen, whether we want it or not.   Worrying about things, has never accomplished anything.  Will being mindful help any of this.  Will meditating help any of this. I think the former will not and the latter will.  Being mindful is more of a life goal, while meditating is a process that requires 20 minutes a day minimum to receive the benefits.

There are many people today that are strong advocates of being mindful during your entire day.   They feel that meditating will help you become more mindful, the mindful meditators.   There is only one way to become more mindful during the day and that is simply to be more mindful.  There may be a benefit but it still may not be practical in this world today.   When at home, don’t talk to me I am drying the dishes.   When at work, don’t talk to me, I’m getting a soda out of the machine.   I do not think mindfulness leads to a better life.  Mindfulness and meditation are not the same thing, not even close. In fact this relationship that mindfulness and meditation supposedly have,  can discourage people from meditating, if the goal is to become more mindful.  This should not be the goal of meditation.  I have written before about what meditation can accomplish and mindfulness is not one of them.  If you want to become more mindful, go ahead and give it a go.  It can be a daunting task, however. There are many other daunting tasks in life, that we have to deal with, in order to survive, and provide for our love ones.  Why add another one?

Sports: Baseball, Why We Love It.

Baseball, the American pastime, is still the sport of the people.  Yes, football has supplanted baseball as the most popular sport in America, but for the first time in a long time, it seems to be making some inroads.  Even with the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal, baseball seems to be thriving. Baseball has survived the steroid cheating, the strike of 94, when there was no World Series, the cocaine use of the 80’s, and various other scandals, over it’s long history.  Baseball is still the sport of America, with it’s own language that no other sport transgresses.  When you say Spring Training, DH, OPS+ and Opening Day, everyone knows you are talking baseball. There is even a movement  to make Opening Day a holiday. What is it about this game, that seems to grab the sports fan to love it, like no other sport even with all it’s warts and problems.  It is the American Pastime, which describes it perfectly.

The first thing about baseball, it is by far the hardest sport to play.  I am not saying that baseball has the greatest athletes, or the strongest.  From a skill set, baseball requires more from its players than any other sport.  Except for the DH, players have to play both offense and defense.  What position do think Tom Brady would play on defense, free safety about 50 yards deep.  In baseball, you need to be able to hit, run smartly, catch the ball, throw the ball, and in the National League pitch and hit at the plate.  What other sport is there, where you are 30% successful at something, and you are considered excellent.  Can you imagine if a goal keeper had a 30% save rate, a quarterback a 30% completion rate, and a basketball player a 30% free throw shooter.  Even the 3 point shooting percentage in the NBA, is between 35 and 45%.  In baseball the .300 hitter is considered one of the best hitters in the game.  There were only 19 players in the major leagues last year, that hit .300 or better.  In baseball, you simply have to do it all.  Baseball has the most strategy of any of the other sports.  Even if you do not agree with that, the fact of the matter is, baseball has enough time in the game to execute that strategy.  Do you really think that most “plays”  in hockey and basketball, go according to how they are drawn up.  I think not.  In baseball, decision making is more critical than in any other game. Having no clock, however, is what makes baseball totally unique.  You can not sit on the ball in baseball. There is no need for a 24 second clock. In order to win a baseball game, you have to perform a function, getting the third out.  There are many teams out there, still looking for the third out that never happened.  Yes, I agree today’s game is too slow, for numerous reasons, and because baseball is on the rise, the powers to be don’t really want to do anything about it.  Most of their ideas are bad anyway.  Baseball has never been, and never will be about clocks. Thank God, for the infamous inning.   It is the heart of the game.

The way football is going, with a weekly arrest of their athletes, concussions, and greedy owners, who are just making their sport a television show, with no consideration of the fans, I feel baseball, someday will be back where it belongs, as the number one sport in America.  Baseball will  have to speed up the action, if it is going to maintain this momentum.   The game is the best team game there is, and a beautiful thing to watch. The game is over 150 years old, and it is heading into it’s next renaissance. Opening day is coming soon.

Meditation: What It Won’t Do

We have all read or heard about the benefits of meditation.  Meditation is not like CBD oil,  where it can do everything. Even meditation is given many attributes, that may not be true.  I have written previously, that meditation will do two things. It will give the body the necessary time to relax, and renew. It helps you  discover your inner self. If meditation is done everyday for enough time, for at least 20 minutes, it can relieve stress, anxiety, and help deal with the every day challenges of life better. This can make life easier, and help  all areas of your life.  It will allow you to be able to control your response to the ups, and especially the downs of life.  Some people look at meditation as a cure all, for all of life’s problems, and it is not.  Just because you meditate every day, does not mean that all your problems are going to be solved, and everything is going to be fine.  There are many things that meditation will not affect.

Meditation is not going to make you a better person. It can help you understand why you behave the way you do, but it is still up to you, to make a positive change in your life.  Meditating will not automatically make you a more mindful person.  You may be more mindful, while you are meditating, but mindfulness is something you will have to work on for the entire day.  Meditating will not help you break any unwanted habits.  Meditating is not hypnotism.  Again understanding why you do things may help you change some bad habits, but it will take more than meditating to do this.  Meditation will not help you make any major life decisions.  Any decision you make has consequences.  This is not to mean that all the consequences of any decision will be bad, but anything you do or change, will have some effect on your life, and people that are close to you. Meditation is not a way to improving performance at work.  Being less stressed about things, or having a better understanding of your behavior, may indirectly improve your abilities at work.  Meditating is not going to cure a disease, improve your eating habits, or get you to go to the gym more.  Meditation is not a direct means to an end.

Meditation is a necessity of life.  It is as necessary as sleep, eating, and drinking.  One could argue that if you don’t sleep, eat, or drink, that you will die, in a finite period of time. One can live for a long time without meditating, so how is meditation a necessity.  You are technically alive, if you don’t meditate.  Without meditating you really do not know what your life is about. You are more or less just going through the motions of breathing air in and out of your lungs, and there is a real question if this is living. Is being in a coma living?  On of my favorite axioms is, that everyone is doing the best they can, at their level of awareness.  If you do not meditate then most likely your level of awareness on a scale of 1 to 10 is close to 1, with dead being 0.  If you really want to feel what living is, then it is time to start meditating.  Meditating is not a cure all, but without it, you just exist.  To be alive, you must meditate.

Food: Can it really do that?

When you read about food, there are many articles that talk about all the health benefits of any particular food. Looking at a particular nutrient of food, like the omega 3 fatty acids, is another popular topic.  Omega 3 fatty acids are give many positive attributes. One article I read, stated that there are 17, count’em 17, science-based, I mean real science baby, benefits of eating omega 3 fatty acids. Even the name sounds cool.  I am the Omega Man, the preventer  of many health problems.  Lot better than being called Celery Man. According to the article Omega 3’s can help with mental disorders, blood pressure, brain health for the fetus and in early life, and may even help prevent cancer. I am out the door to get 20 pounds of salmon and 30 cans of sardines.  This article will take you to many studies, to back up all 17 claims.  I read them, and they all have some flaws, and come to conclusions, that may not be correct.  Many health agencies want you to get 2 servings a week of a fish, that is high in omega 3’s  to reap the benefits.  However, fish oil supplement companies want you taking the product everyday. If you google the benefits of eating almost anything you will find results that are positive.   I googled garbage, dog poop, and processed foods, and they all came up with benefits, when they are consumed.  If you continued this process on any food, you would assume you could eat anything and live a long healthy life. Could that be true?

At first your answer would be no way.  When I googled the benefits of eating garbage, I came across a site, that said why do people eat garbage. My first thought was, I didn’t know people ate garbage, unless they were homeless.  But the garbage that this author was writing about, is food purchased at fast food chains, and highly processed foods. He  describes how nearly 90 percent of America’s budget is spent on junk food.1 What is more appalling is that nearly 60 percent of food eaten in America are ultra-processed,2 convenience foods that can be purchased at your local gas station. These processed foods also account for nearly 90 percent of the consumption of added sugar in the U.S. Now lets say that this is all true.  I have no doubt that it is true.  You have to wonder then, how does anybody make it to 85 years and beyond.  There are three diets that are describe in various sites.  The Mediterranean diet, which is a middle European diet,  the Natural diet attributed to Asia and Japan, and then the good old Western or American diet.  You could conclude that if you are on the Western diet, that you probably won’t make it past 40. If you have doubts about all the benefits that certain foods can give you, then possibly you should have doubts about all the harm that food could do. Are there any conclusions that can be drawn from this hodgepodge of claims and so called data?

Lets look as some things that we absolutely know about nutrition and health. There are absolutely a number of diseases, directly related to nutritional deficiencies.  They range from Scurvy, Rickets, Iron deficient anemia, Pellagra, and Calcium deficiency diseases. If your diet lacks certain vitamins. minerals or other essential nutrients you will get sick. There is no denying that.  There is no question that people have a sensitivity to certain aspects of food.  Gluten, certain preservatives, and spices may make some people sick. Once you eliminate the sensitivity issue, when you look at so called bad diets, it may not be what’s in them, but what’s not in them, that may be causing all the problem. The other issue, may be the amount of food, that is consumed rather the content.  What would happen if you put people on a plant based diet but they consumed vast amounts of that food, especially things like nuts and whole grains along with vegetables and became 40 to 50 pounds overweight. Do you think they might get some of the same health issues that overweight individuals get  from a processed animal based diet.   There are many more variables I can make up, but it shows why these so scientific studies are difficult, and may not be all that scientific. When it comes to food, variety and common sense, are the key ingredients.  To answer the question at the top of the page, can food really do that? I think we all know the answer is no.