29 monkeys in the pool

I have a busy mind. It never stops. Call it anxiety. Call it AD/HD. Call it what you will. But I’m just busy.

Knowing about my struggles, a couple of important people in my life suggested meditation. Sit quietly and focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, just bring it back to the breath. And don’t judge yourself when it wanders. They call this “monkey mind, “ and everyone has it.

So, I gave it a try, skeptical that it would help. To my surprise, it did help a little. When I finished, I felt a little bit calmer. It wasn’t like I was going to throw a parade and become a poster child for meditation, but it helped a little, once in a while.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of times, I had a zoo full of monkeys in my mind. And when they were making tons of noise I’d stop, find a banana, and go back to my regularly scheduled program.

Fast forward a bit: I broke my toe. When I saw a podiatrist, she gave me a special shoe and a stern warning. No exercise at all. None! No exercise bike! No bike to work! Nothing! I told her I would follow her recommendation, but I had my fingers crossed behind my back. Nobody, particularly my wife and KD, wants to be around me if I don’t work out. I’m like a bear woken early from hibernating, feeling famished. I’m a hot mess.

As I left, I quickly considered options and could think of only one that seemed to minimize stress on my toe and might help with my stress management. Looking around to make sure no one was watching, I took a deep breath and decided I’d swim. I realize hate is a hateful word. Hate is not a family value. But I HATE swimming. I just do. Regardless, I found a pair of goggles and hopped in the pool to swim laps. And I hated it. It was awful. I felt like a beached whale.

Then I realized something. As I swam laps my monkey mind went on sabbatical. I found I didn’t think about anything. My mind was blank, or close to it. After a couple of days of swimming, I found myself counting strokes. It varied day-to-day, but my norm was 29 strokes per lap. If my mind ever wandered, I’d just bring it to my strokes. Although people might disagree and tell me it isn’t pure meditation, it did the job. I would get out feeling relaxed and with a clear brain. I’d found the type of self-care I always preach about.

Fast-forward a month: my toe is better and I’m back to my regular workout. But I’ve decided I need to add 10 or 15 minutes for a swim. And each time, 29 strokes later, my mind is clear and I feel better.

As usual, this therapist, parent, and spouse is going through life, doing the best I can.

Until next time…


Now, a reminder:

I’m writing to invite you to join me in the next round of my counseling group for men that will begin on Monday, September 12th. The group will meet from 715-830 p.m. each Monday and will last for ten weeks. The group will be limited to seven men and will meet at my office in Sacramento, at 2011 P Street, Suite 305, and the cost will be $40 per meeting. You will be asked to pay for five weeks at a time, and you’ll be charged whether you attend or not.

The focus of the group will revolve around challenges men who are professionals in their fields (e.g. doctors, lawyers, lobbyists, business owners, IT consultants, teachers, etc.) face. Furthermore, most of you are married or in a committed relationship, and most of you have children. So, we’ll be covering topics such as: professional stress and how to manage it, balancing work with personal and/or parenting commitments, specific parenting techniques, etc.

Many of you are aware of the benefits of individual and/or couples counseling. This group will be vastly different in that you’ll be able to learn from, support, and challenge other men, without pressure from outside influences (i.e. your spouses/girlfriends/significant others).  Each time I’ve held this group, I’ve found that the men have helped each other solve problems in perfectly appropriate ways that honor the way we think and act.

If this group interests you, please contact me by email or give me a call. At 916-919-0218 or at steve@rivercitycounseling.com. Also, please feel free to share this with other you think might

One Response to 29 monkeys in the pool
  1. elizabeth
    September 6, 2016 | 9:24 am

    Love your blog….Terrific to have found a way to calm the racing thoughts. I have the same experience after 1/2 hour of meditation at a free drop in UCLA class. When I leave I feel like I am floating…..

    I think it is hard to just sit and focus on breathing. It is much easier to have a guide to help you through it, in the form of a class or a tape.

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