The Stories We Tell Ourselves Over and Over

We all have a narrative running through our heads constantly. I was listening to a podcast about this recently between Rich Roll and Susan David, who has a PhD in Psychology. What the “narrative” means is that we all have this subjective reality of our self-identity in how we see ourselves and how we think others see us, as well as how we see others.

For example, when you see someone you don’t know you might notice that your brain makes immediate assumptions about this person and will even create a story-line (narrative) about who that person may be, without actually knowing anything about them in reality. For an internal rather than external example, there are simple things like someone who is slightly overweight, but works out a lot, telling themselves they will never be able to shed the extra pounds, despite all the exercise they do.

When I think about this personally, it can be challenging to take a step back and observe my thought-processes without judgment. Two solid examples pop in my head, however.

  1. I would love to run a marathon one day, which I definitely believe I can, but I have this narrative in my head that I am not a true distance runner, even though I ran distance/ mid-D in college. I never ran high mileage and I tell myself I am injury-prone, so running more mileage would probably lead to injury. This also comes from comparing at times to others who run way more than me. How could I ever train for a marathon if I have these mindsets? First off, I don’t need to be a “true” distance runner to do well in a marathon. What even is the standard for that? And then there are always going to be people much faster than I am who run a lot more so that is no help. I love running overall but it is a real test of my resiliency the farther I go. The challenge is part of why I want this.   
  2. I notice that I act certain ways depending on who I am with. With some I’m loose and willing to say anything, while with others I find myself holding back and internalizing things more; a bit tense and reserved. This is a narrative I tell myself of how I’ve acted in the past so I should continue to act in such a fashion. A lot of this relates to letting go of expectations of how I “should” be acting in certain situations. 

Why is this stuff important? Because if you’re willing to take an honest look at the story-lines going on in your head, you might notice some that are negative and really unnecessary. Our mind is how we experience everything that happens. Even something bodily is experienced through your mind. So taking an honest look could potentially lead to some changes. Of course this is no easy task, but one I would like to take on.

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Laughing at Something you Know you Shouldn’t

Everyone’s been in a situation where they start to laugh when they know they shouldn’t do so. This happens at school often enough with kids who love to be inappropriate and joke at the worst times, and one particular situation on Monday provides a great example.

Most mornings we go out to greet the students in the playground area. The majority students play on the playground or engage in some kind of sport. I enjoy getting to play around with a lot of them. Occasionally some students may get in a fight. On Monday morning this unfortunately happened, well sort of.

An older student and a younger one started to argue so I found myself holding them back from each other. The younger student then spit on the older one, setting him off. The younger one then proceeded to take his shirt off for some reason as though this was necessary to indicate he was ready to fight. This sent all the other younger kids into a frenzy as they started yelling and screaming. As I’m trying to handle the situation, a younger kid with a mouth on him starts yelling right next to me basically into my ear, “Yeah, Fi#*!ing get him!!”

This is the moment I started to laugh. Not the ideal time to do so at all. The younger students noticed this and I found myself trying to get a straight face. This was unsuccessful and made it even weirder for some of the younger students. For some reason I think back and still find myself smiling at the weirdness of the situation. Gotta love some good laughter.

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Free Throw Milestone

Can you hit the uncontested shot under pressure? Free throws are a fundamental aspect of basketball and at the end of close games they can make or break it for your team.

Last summer I got into free throw shooting a bit as the gym I go to has open basketball courts. I enjoy playing in pick-ups when I can, but a lot of the time it’s just me shooting around. This usually leads to some free throw attempts. I either see how many I can make in a row or I see how many I can make out of a certain number. If I have time, I see how many I can make out of a 100. I seemed to regularly make somewhere in the 80’s so I set my goal of 90.

Yesterday at the gym, I hit 91 out of 100.

I was tired after a workout and shooting sloppily, but I said I wanted to make 10 in a row before I left. I made the 10 and decided to keep going. I was at 19/20 and thought I might have a chance. I found my rhythm and was at 47/50 halfway through. This sparked some excitement as I knew I had a good shot if I remained focused. Somewhere in the 60’s made I then missed 3 in a row-all mental as I rushed. Some level of panic set in but I managed to calm er’ down and stay grounded up until 91. Definitely pumped!

This might sound silly and insignificant to some, but for me this showed some resiliency and focus. The brain is happy when it completes a challenging task.

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Eastern Decision, Vron’s Running Career, Lebron the King

Eastern 

As my time with City Year comes to an end (I am going to miss my students quite a lot), I had to make a decision on where I would go to grad school next year to pursue a master’s and certification in School Counseling. I narrowed my decision down to either Penn or Eastern. Initially, getting into Penn’s graduate program for Mental Heath Services was both exhilarating and a lovely surprise. Penn has always had that slight intimidation factor where I put them on a pedestal, most likely being an Ivy with such a great reputation. With Penn you are basically guaranteed to receive a high-quality education with great professors and classmates who are determined and successful. These reasons are part of why turning down Penn was a rather difficult choice.

Without getting into all the nitty gritty’s running through my head, as there was a lot that went into the decision, the financial investment did not seem worth it for just School Counseling at this moment in time. Also, contrary to all I’ve written so far, the decision was not all based on Penn. I am excited about Eastern. The school seems to have a great community feeling and I’m already forming some nice relationships with staff there. At the moment, I am applying for a Graduate Mentor position at the school (sort of similar to an RA with more academic responsibilities). I am going pretty hard after this position as there are great benefits and I genuinely love the position description and the opportunity it provides. Eastern’s graduates of the program seem to do well and I am determined to make it count during my time at the school.

Vron’s Running Career

Veronica’s running career just hit a huge milestone finishing up her time at college. Oh boy, did she make it memorable at Desales. At this point, you’ve probably seen my countless shares and posts on FB about how well Veronica is doing. Countless wins, awards, a couple All-Americans, school records. And with all this, Veronica remained so humble and a well-rounded person. Never bragging or asking for much, Veronica was still the best teammate and cheerleader for her friends. I was amazed countless time throughout her career to the point where I’m not surprised anymore. Veronica’s mental toughness is of another level. Now she gets a well-deserved break and I’m pumped to see what happens from here.

Lebron’s Dominance 

Lebron owned the game last night in the Cavs win over the Celtics. He dropped 46 and almost complemented that with a triple double. He is the main reason the Cavs were able to barely escape a better Pacer’s team in the first round, drop the Raptors in 4, and stick around with a better Celtics team in this series. On Sunday, the Cavs only need one road win to make the finals. If Lebron pulls it off, this would be his eighth straight NBA Finals appearance. That is just absolutely amazing. The NBA playoffs are grueling and much too long with each series being best-of-7. The East may be weaker than the West, but his consistency in putting up the best numbers and leading his team year after year is remarkable. Especially this year as the rest of the team is all role players at this point-no more Kyre Irving to drop 25-30 each game. Once Lebron’s career is over the haters can hopefully shut up a bit and everyone can appreciate just how awesome Lebron has been his whole career.

Some of my Faves

For fun I thought I’d write a list of some of my favorite things for fun. I think favorites change constantly but here are mine at the moment:

Book Series: Harry Potter by JK Rowling

Fictional Book: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Non-Fiction Book: When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron 

Running Book: Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear 

Restaurant: Iron Hill Brewery 

Grocery Store: Trader Joe’s

Veggie: Broccoli and Spinach tie 

Fruit: Banana or Mango 

Fish: Salmon 

Snack: Spinach and Artichoke Dip when available. Otherwise, Trader Joe’s munchies.

Dessert: Carrot Cake without raisins

Cereal: Only on rare occasions, but Fruity Pebbles.

Alcoholic Drink: Guinness or Blue Moon depending on the mood.

Drink: Water for days, but Ginger and Turmeric tea at night. Almond Milk for cereal. Iced coffee with cream and sugar on occasion. 

Sport: Other than running, basketball. Soccer is a close second.  

Race Distance: 1500 m when in solid shape (college), but 5k for now. 

TV Series: “Game of Thrones”

Movie: “Good Will Hunting”

Number: 13

Color: Sky Blue 

Vacation Spot: England; where my Mom’s side of the family lives.

Podcast: “Waking Up” with Sam Harris 

Subject: English

Place to be: Home or Outside with Family/ Friends

Gym Exercise: Pull-Ups

Video Game: Don’t have it at home (still rocking a GameCube), but 2K. 

Professional Athlete: Lebron

Professional Team: Sixers

Band: Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers, and The Bleachers 

School: Not including Ursinus, I’m a big fan of Haverford. 

Non-family person: Veronica Wheeler

Dance Move: Running Man

Card Game: Rummy 

Math Operation: Multiplication

Author: John Irving

Candy: Smarties

Gift: Anything personally made or written. 

 

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Broad Street Race Recap

Yesterday I ran the Broad Street 10-miler. I highly recommend the race if you’re looking for something fast, very competitive, a little longer, with a large audience of screaming spectators. If you don’t like huge crowds, this probably isn’t for you. The race starts in Olney, right near Central high school and around La Salle University. The entire course is flat and on roads, therefore fast.

Going into the race knowing it was flat I thought I could probably run near 70 minutes or maybe a little slower. Funny enough, I ended up running just under 70 ( slightly faster than 7 minute per mile pace). The longest run I have done in the past couple months was 6 miles, but even that’s a bit of an outlier. With my busy schedule I usually run on average 3 times a week, most runs being 3 to 4 miles and none of them very fast (between 7:20-8 depending on if I’m alone or with friends). I would like to get back into some realish training once the summer starts and I have more time. I thought 10 miles would be a bit of a shock to the system and the last couple miles proved that hypothesis to be true. A little pain is good, though. The crowds were great as the majority of the race the streets are lined with spectators. There is tons of music playing and lots of loud cheering.

The funniest part for me (although it was not funny at the time) was finding a bathroom before the race started. We thought we would make it to the race in plenty of time but we did not get off the Broad Street line until 7:40 with the race starting at 8. The race is split into corrals based off your predicted time and I was in the red corral, the first one after the seeded and elite. I put that time down back when I thought I would be in better shape. I ended up missing my corral’s start though because I really had to go to the bathroom. Like really badly.

The porta-poddy lines were huge, however, so I decided to run into the local neighborhoods to look for something. I was reaching the point where my body was going to release without my permission, so I ran behind some dumpsters of an apartment complex. Hopefully their cameras weren’t working. As I’m finishing up I hear the horn for my corral and I knew I was in trouble. Thankfully I was able to make it back for the start of the next corral but I was rushing so much that I still had some pee left over in my bladder. Right before mile 3 I decided to pull a Shalane Flanagan and take a speed pee in a porta-poddy on the side so the discomfort would leave. This ended up taking over 30 seconds, though.  My first few miles were around 6:45 pace and then I hit some 7’s until the last couple miles when I definitely fell off agood amount. The race is so much fun with all the support, though. Sometimes when you are hitting a really hard spot with tired legs and a depleted energy tank all you need are some great spectators to help push you on.

 

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WeCroak App Quotes

There is an app I’ve been using on my phone for about a month now called WeCroak. Five times a day, as odd as this may sound, I get a notification from the app that at some point in my life I will die. I then open the app and there is a quote there for me to read. The entire premise is not to send a morbid or ominous reminder, rather the opposite; to remember to be engaged in living and to not take life for granted. Death is a certainty that we try to avoid talking about at almost all costs until it knocks on the doorstep for us or someone close to us. Death brings anxiety that this app tries to help quell a bit. On the app’s homepage it says: “In Bhutan they say contemplating death five times daily brings happiness.” I wanted to give the app a try and so far I’ve really enjoyed lots of the quotes. Sometimes the reminder messages have caught me at funny times where I get a nice little reminder not to take something too seriously or to re-engage with what I’m doing at that time. Below I put down some of the quotes I’ve really enjoyed…

“It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live.” -Victor Hugo

“The worst walls are never the ones you find in your way. The worst walls are the ones you put there.” -Ursula K. Le Guin

“Dwell in peace in the home of your own being, and the Messenger of Death will not be able to touch you.” -Guru Nanak

“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think.” -Frida Kahlo

“And yet if you look at a society who sings and dances as a regular thing, it’s not that it has their effect on their life–it is their life.” -Gary Snyder

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” -Gary Elliot

“No one on his deathbed has ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time on my business.'” -Paul Tsongas

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s own attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” -Victor E. Frankl

“Feelings come and go like clouds in the sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

“Every day I wake up not-dead is a gift.” -Eric Sun

“Those who are afraid of death will carry it on their shoulders.” -Federico Garcia Lorca

“So let us be alert in a twofold sense: Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.” -Victor E. Frankl

“Your own positive future begins in this moment. All you have is right now. Every goal is possible from here.” -Lao Tzu

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” -Pema Chodron

“At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough.” -Toni Morrison

“We each decide whether to make ourselves learned or ignorant, compassionate or cruel, generous or miserly. No one forces us. No one decides for us, no one drags us along one path or the other. We are responsible for what we are.” -Maimonides

 

 

 

Thoughts on Karma

I think karma has many interpretations and some common misconceptions, but the karma I’m concerned with refers to the simple idea that our actions have consequences. Consequences can be either positive or negative. How you act in each moment will influence what happens next.

If I treat someone with kindness/respect then I am contributing positive karma into the world. My actions could have consequences I am not even aware of. That person might take that kindness I showed them and it will help them be kind to someone else. The next person may do the same thing and then there is a ripple effect of positive karma in the form of kindness spreading to others. The opposite is also true. If one chooses to harm another either mentally or physically then they are sending negative karma into the world. The effected person could potentially take that negativity and use it to harm others/themselves.

Most people associate karma with how actions affect themselves. If I do something good, then something good will happen to me. If my actions are bad in some way, then something bad will happen to me. This is a rather simplistic approach, but one that I think is mostly true. I’m not sure if I believe in the idea that karma from past lives (if these are real or not I don’t know) affects our current lives, but I think it’s possible. Most importantly I think good things will happen to us (hopefully) if we treat others with respect and compassion. It’s also important to treat ourselves with love and compassion. I’ve heard this idea before and I really like it: “Treat yourself as though you’re your own best friend.”

 

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What is the Optimal Diet for Human Health?

I recently watched “What the Health” with Veronica and I was amazed by some of the back-lash the movie received online. If you watch the documentary they do promote a vegan diet rather zealously and demonize all animal products. The filmmakers would probably like you to believe that animal products are the real reason for lots of diseases such as heart failure and cancer, the two highest causes of death in America. Personally I eat a vegetarian diet with fish occasionally but I do this more for ethical reasons (factory farms are horrible for animals) rather than for just nutritional purposes. But I have always been interested in the nutritional aspect and I’ve been trying to do some of my own research. One of the main problems is that one scientific study will say one thing while another will say the opposite.

I find it surprising that science has not definitively concluded what the optimal diet for human health is. You will find some doctors who say that you need meat in your diet, and you will find others who say you should eat a plant-based diet. Many would probably preach moderation. But imagine how many deaths would be prevented and the increase in average human life span if there were definitive guidelines on what humans should eat to live healthier and longer. I think there seems to be a tilt in rhetoric towards the plant-based argument, but obviously there are many who eat animal products often who are just fine and some who are doing rather well.

There are three main reasons I choose to eat vegetarian most of the time. The first being the nutritional value, although as you see above I’m not entirely sure if this is the best way to go. I would hate to find out later in life that meat actually provides something essential that you cannot get from supplements (I do take a B-12 vitamin supplement daily). But eating lots of plants, fruits, beans and nuts seem to provide the most nutrition and tons of other health benefits such as less inflammation, better sleep, higher energy, better gut bacteria, and more. This food can also taste really good when prepared well! Contrary to common belief. The second reason is ethical. Look up factory farms and see how the majority of animals are treated. The third reason is the environmental factor. Less animal products is simply better for the environment with less pollution.

Would love to hear what other people think and how they approach nutrition.

Here is a short video related to the topic:

Blogcast with Mr. Grant McPherson (Audio Interview)

This short interview was loads of fun to do with Grant. If you give these a listen you will not be disappointed. Grant is hilarious and articulate/insightful. Any comments are greatly appreciated! Sorry in advance if the audio is a little fuzzy at times.

Huge thanks to Grant for participating in this and making the experience fun 🙂

 

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