GRATITUDE

“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

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As we enter into the month of November, with Thanksgiving upon us, I’d like to take a moment to reflect and express gratitude.  I find myself at times feeling thankful for having any kind of experience at all, positive or negative.  It really is a miracle to be having any conscious experience.  The miracle of life is happening all around us, and it can easily go unnoticed from day-to-day.

There is always beauty to be found right in front of  us — seeing the awe-inspiring sky, the mountains in the distance, hearing the birds chirping, hearing my kids playing together.  All of these things are going on, even in what seems to be a chaotic and tumultuous political landscape at the moment.  

Sometimes I try to be thankful for what some may call the most basic things — being able to see, hear, feel, taste, smell, touch, walk, talk, think, laugh, smile.  I love being able to walk outside and feel the warmth of the sun on my face, the smell of the fresh morning air, or the coolness of the morning wind. I sometimes walk outside my door and pause for a moment, just to appreciate being alive.

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I recently came across a video with comedian Louis C.K., in which he expresses how we are lucky to even live sad moments.  Living sad moments can help us more fully appreciate joyful moments.

We can be thankful that we can cry about something we really care about. Continue reading GRATITUDE

DCT COMPREHENSIVE DEVELOPMENTAL SCHOOL COUNSELING PROGRAM

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Abstract

This literature review establishes a K-8 comprehensive developmental school counseling program.  This program is rooted in the ASCA National Model, emphasizing the Organizational Framework and Accountability Elements from Gysbers and Henderson (2006).  This program is based on the theoretical foundations of Developmental Counseling and Therapy (DCT) (Ivey,Ivey, Myers, Sweeney, 2005). Elementary and middle school students are in a unique developmental period of their lives, requiring specific and planned interventions. Counselors not having a focused developmental framework can potentially cause ethical issues such as “grab-bagging” for theoretical interventions on the spot, calling it eclecticism.  Furthermore, counselors may not have any plan or theoretical intervention at all.  Although many school counselors are aware of the need for more developmental programming, most are unsure of how to put it into practice (Paisley, Peace, 1995).  For these reasons, integrating DCT with the ASCA National Model will fully address both the comprehensive and developmental nature of the K-8 school counseling program.

Keywords: comprehensive, developmental, middle school, counseling program, DCT, ASCA, ethical issues, accountability, organizational, framework, K-8

ON THE JOURNEY OF SPIRITUALITY & RELIGION 

“Spirituality is something innate in all of us…we all have something within us that yearns for the divine and the sacred.  Religion is our human attempt to figure that out, make meaning of it, and express it.” ~ Lyle Peters

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We often find ourselves in different places during our spiritual journey.  In this episode of the Mindful Owl podcast, Lyle Peters and I discuss religion and spirituality within the context of Christianity.

Some topics discussed are:

  • Religion vs Spirituality
  • Were we socialized to believe in God or practice a religion?
  • Can science and religion coexist?
  • Ego and self-righteousness
  • The Great Schism of 1054
  • 16th century Protestant Reformation

Lyle has a wide background in religious studies and theology, from serving eight years in the priesthood to music ministry. Lyle was kind enough to share some of his perspective and personal journey thus far, and it is full of wonderful insights.Lyle received a Master of Divinity from University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. Lyle is currently the pastoral associate for liturgy and music at St. Joseph Catholic Community Church in Eldersburg, Maryland.

Hope you enjoy!

Mindful Owl Podcast – Ep.2 – On the Journey of Spirituality & Religion

NEW PODCAST! MINDFULNESS IN SCHOOLS

“Were so busy following a script and putting academics in front of kids, that we forget that they’re people–learning truly only happens through relationship.” ~ Shannon Hess

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How can we really make a difference in the world through education?  In this episode, Shannon Hess and I discuss some of the problems in education today, and how implementing mindfulness and teaching empathy can be a solution.

Shannon has a wide breadth and background in education. She is currently an induction coordinator for new teachers, mindfulness educator, and social justice advocate in California.  Shannon has a passion for making a difference in the lives of others through connecting to what we all share in common within our humanity. Shannon advocates for the importance of the relationship and discusses ways on how we can revolutionize education, ultimately changing the world.

Keep an eye out for The Five Ms Project, which focuses on self-care and mental well-being.

Mental Health, Mindset, Mindfulness, Mindsight, Movement

Hope you enjoy!

Mindful Owl Podcast – Ep.1 – Mindfulness in Schools

Resources and links discussed in this episode:

https://www.spiritrock.org

http://thehawnfoundation.org

http://www.stillquietplace.com

You can reach and connect with Shannon at sh41ster@gmail.com

For more on relationships and breaking the generational cycle as discussed in this episode, check out What Matters Most and Breaking the Vicious Cycle.

BLACKSTAR

“The truth of course, is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.” ~ David Bowie

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It’s now been almost three months since the release of David Bowie’s, Blackstar, his last and final album. I purchased this album on January 8th, 2016,  and immediately began listening, becoming more and more intrigued by its nuances. Every song on the album holds its own. Two days later, Bowie passed away after an 18-month battle with cancer. Listening back after his death, it all began to make sense.  Bowie knew he was dying, and this album was his last farewell.

Before this album, I wouldn’t of called myself a David Bowie fan.  I probably wouldn’t have even given it an initial listen if it weren’t for the musicians playing on it  — Mark Guiliana, Jason Lindner, Tim Lefebvre, and Donny McCaslin.  From Jason Lindner’s Now vs Now, to Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music, I was interested to hear Blackstar, and it didn’t disappoint.

This is one of my favorite new albums.  

As a percussionist, I really dig Mark Guiliana’s drumming, but in Blackstar, Bowie’s performance is what really shines through.  There’s always something captivating about raw human emotion and spirit.  I now find that it’s the imperfections that make the music for me.  Growing up in music education, a lot of the focus was on being as perfect as possible…never making a mistake.  We are in the age of autotuned, artificial, and perfect sounding vocals — masking the truth behind the real music.  It’s analogous to our society, focusing on appearing to be something, rather than just really being that.  Now, I realize that what really makes the music for me is the raw, true, human imperfections, and this is something very real that comes through Bowie’s performance.

Continue reading BLACKSTAR

WHAT MATTERS MOST

“In the end, these things matter most:  How well did you love?  How fully did you live?  How deeply did you let go?” ~ Buddha

Moments to RememberPhoto:  Moments to Remember, by Mark Keathley

I think a lot about what matters most in any given set of circumstances.  I’ve found that there’s always a deeper connection and core foundation to every interaction, whether the relationship is interpersonal or symbiotic.

Often times, I believe we lose sight of this deep foundational connection throughout our day to day interactions; specifically with people.

Everyday, like clockwork, we wake up, get out of bed, get ready, go to work or school, get off of work, maybe go to the store, pick up some groceries, put some gas in the car, go home, eat some dinner, go to bed, etc….then do it all over again the next day. It’s often easy to get caught up in the routines of daily living.  For most, throughout our routines of daily living, it is very likely that we will have to deal with people.

Let’s take a look at Christmas.  Just this year, I observed family and friends rushing to decorate, scrambling to finish up last minute shopping, impatiently standing in long lines at the store, frantically wrapping gifts, toiling over dinner and dishes, all adding to their stress level and in the end, negatively impacting their interactions with their loved ones.  This is an example of purpose defeating behavior. We should never defeat our entire purpose for doing anything.  We need to remember the core reasons why we’re doing what it is we’re doing; and this is the deep foundational connection I am referring to.

We all tend to get caught up in the minutiae of life, we get lost in all of the small trivial details, forgetting about the person or people right in front of us.  Often times, we even tend to not see people as people.  We tend to see and treat people as a thing or obstacle to overcome.  We view other human beings as customers, clients, numbers, credit scores, dollar signs, students, panhandlers, grades….etc.

We forget to be kind. Continue reading WHAT MATTERS MOST

REFLECTIONS ON LOVE

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Love.  Where language begins to break down. What many have tried to put into words, and according to Krista Tippet, it is the most watered down word in the English language.  I believe love is the most important experience in our existence. Everything we do should be rooted in love.  We try our best to describe love by making sounds with our throat and manipulating air through our mouth. That seems like a crude way to convey something so deeply profound.  Our words are merely signposts that point to something else.  That something else is what I’m more interested in connecting with than any definition of love.  At best, a definition is important for giving us a starting point.   

There’s a lot of material out there on love — 1 Corinthians, The Five Love Languages, The Love Dare, All About Love, Love and Respect, The Road Less Traveled — to recommend a few books.  I won’t get into different types of love — agápeérosphilía, and storgē, but rather offer a starting point as the aim of this article.  If I were to offer anyone a solid, concrete definition of love, I’d point them to M. Scott Peck’s, The Road Less Traveled.

“Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth… Love is as love does. Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”  ~ M. Scott Peck

The above definition says quite a lot if one spends enough time contemplating it. That definition is also not the most popular one. It’s important to note that according to Peck, most people confuse love with something called, cathexis. Cathexis is the process of investing emotional or mental energy into a person, object, idea, etc. Cathexis sometimes presents as the “falling in love” experience people have. Only once that experience is over, can real love begin. Continue reading REFLECTIONS ON LOVE

BREAKING THE VICIOUS CYCLE

“The way you help heal the world is you start with your own family.” ~ Mother Theresa

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I’ve worked with families and their children in various settings for over a decade now. Over the years, I’ve noticed a vicious cycle, functioning like an insurmountable curse that plagues families generation after generation. This cycle usually presents itself as at-risk kids who grow up to have their own kids, who are also at-risk, who then grow up to have their own kids, who are at-risk, ad nauseaum — never having really dealt with the underlying issues that are causing the constant family breakdown. This cycle has never been so apparent to me until now as a school counselor.

In my profession, I come across many students who struggle academically, personally, and socially. Nine times out of ten, when I meet their parents, I can almost instantaneously see exactly what’s going on.  I often see kids dealing with adult problems — problems that aren’t their kid’s responsibility to begin with. These kids begin to fall through the cracks all too often, while their parents are struggling with their own problems; especially with divorce. Continue reading BREAKING THE VICIOUS CYCLE

WHY YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT YOUR DEATH

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you will ever have.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

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The inevitable death.  Your death.  The fact that all of “this” is not going to last forever. The thought of your own existence not continuing can be scary. Sound depressing? Well, contemplating your own death doesn’t necessarily have to be.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about death almost every day.  I find it interesting that the older people get, the more they seem to think about death. On the other hand, thinking about death is almost non-existent with younger people.  I think it would greatly benefit younger generations to be more mindful of death.

Mortality salience, or realizing that your death is in fact, inevitable, can give rise to a much more appreciative, fulfilling, and present life. This appreciation and fulfillment can be found with or without any consideration of religious beliefs.  In other words, your ability to appreciate life’s moments doesn’t depend on whether or not you’re religious. This is not to say that religion or a belief in the afterlife isn’t helpful, as religion is very helpful to me. There’s more to it than just religion in and of itself. A deep attention and presence is still necessary to fully appreciate the significance of what’s really going on from moment to moment.  Being mindful of death and our mortality is a catalyst for this.

Most of the time, it appears that we all casually gloss over some very significant and deeply profound moments in our lives.  Even the moments that can be categorized as mundane have just as much significance and profundity as any other moment. Sometimes, those moments don’t seem to register as important “in the moment.” Later upon reflection, perhaps as memories, we may feel those moments were in fact, significant, but we weren’t really “there” for them.  We find it hard to connect to the present moment when we are incessantly looking for happiness in the future, which never arrives. Continue reading WHY YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT YOUR DEATH

NEW WEBSITE! SPIRITUALITY, MINDFULNESS, COUNSELING, EDUCATION, MUSIC, AND MORE!

Hello, readers,

If you’ve come upon my new blog, I’d like to welcome and thank you for checking it out.

Lately, I’ve been pondering different ways to express my thoughts, ideas, observations, and life experiences thus far.  I’ve come to the conclusion that a blog format may be the best solution for me.

I’m sitting in my chair, having some hot green tea, and writing down decent looking website themes from the hundreds to choose from.  I’m hoping that this blog is not only helpful to me but perhaps may be of some value for others.

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My friends and colleagues that know me are aware that I have many roles. I’m a father of two beautiful girls, a husband, school counselor, musician, educator, brother, son…the list goes on.  I think more importantly that if all of my roles were taken away, I would consider myself to be a loving human being.

I have a prodigious interest in many topics.  I love to learn, and will always consider myself to be a lifelong learner.  Most of this blog will be about life and general topics I take interest in.  Some future topics that will probably make their way into this blog are spirituality, meditation, relationships, music, education, counseling, self-care, wellness, gaming, and books to name a few.  I’m also hoping to post some interviews in podcast form.

That’s all for now.  Feel free to leave a comment regarding the blog, future topics, etc.

Thanks for reading!