Friday, 29 October 2010

Get Out of the House!

One of the great advantages of living up here in Canada (other than the freezing winters and boiling hot summers ;-) is the beautiful autumn colors...

So over the past few weeks I've been hiking up in the Gatineau Hills, located just over the provincial border in Quebec, about a 20 minute drive away.  These hills are full of marked hiking trails, beautiful water falls, amazing rock formations and spectacular vistas.  

Most of these pictures are from a family hike we do every year on Canadian Thanksgiving.  This trail was a 4 Km circular route with easy climbs and great scenery - which explains why lots of families were out that day.  

That was much different than another hike I had done a few days earlier with an ex-special forces friend of mine whose idea of hiking, as you might imagine, is a little more rigorous!  That hike took us up 300 meters from our starting point and at times that climb was steep enough that we were using our hands to grip the rocks.  But what a view!  And a great feeling when you finally got to the top.

Advantages of Hiking:

To name just a few advantages of getting yourself out of the house and into uncorrupted nature:

  • You get genuinely fresh air (or as close as we come to that on earth these days!) and that does wonders for your energy level
  •  It lets you "push the envelope" a bit and get some really good exercise, especially cardio and leg muscle work
  • Changing up your exercise routine by throwing in an good hike in the wilderness keeps things interesting
  • It's a learning experience - you can learn all about the "flora and fauna" of the area, especially if you have a knowledgeable guide

The Taoist longevity tradition claims that raised areas such as hills, mountains, escarpments, etc. are great sources of Qi.  What better place to practice some of your deep breathing and Qi Gong?  

So no matter what the time of year or where you live, try to find some time to get away from it all and enjoy a hike in the natural world.  You'll feel truly energized and more resilient!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Monday, 25 October 2010

Why Our Education System is Failing Us

How did you do in school?  Top of the class?

Ooops... a sore point perhaps?  Couldn't spell to save your life?  Just too bored by it all to listen?  Well here's a highly intelligent video to tell you why you shouldn't be ashamed of how you measured up in the education system. 

In point of fact, our education system is one of the primary contributing factors to the phenomenal lack of resilience so obvious among the last several generations of North Americans and Westerners in general, and it's contributed in no small measure to the epidemics of shame, guilt and poor self-image in our culture. 

So if you know someone whose kids would rather be doing just about anything than sitting still in the classroom being force fed facts that don't interest them, then pass this wonderful clip on to them... 

As you can pretty much guess by that fact that I have a doctoral degree, I did pretty well in school.. generally.  Well, okay, I made a mess of grade 11 math, but I still like to blame that one on the teacher ;-)  The fact is, though, I was every bit as bored and frustrated as the kids who weren't doing so well.  

For example, I loved science!!  I was totally fascinated with astronomy, nuclear physics, and (being your average boy) anything that would go boom or vaporize material objects!  But alas, the moment the science teachers got hold of us, it was learn this equation, solve this math problem, study this topic that really doesn't interest you that much...  They made the crucial educational mistake of failing to capture our imaginations, to get us hooked.  And it's no small testament to the idiocy of the system that even though we had arrived "pre-hooked" so to speak, they still managed to beat the fascination right out of us.  

The assumption was that if you didn't do so well in a particular subject, you just weren't all that bright.  Of course it's only in the last couple of decades that the mainstream has begun to realize how wrong that assumption is - that there are many types of intelligence and the one the system foisted on us was a very narrow one.  

Christopher would be a case in point.  He was a guy I knew in elementary school, a guy who could just never seem to get better than a "C" on any assignment.  He read below grade level, his math skills were poor and whenever our teachers indulged in the barbaric custom of "rearrange your desks in the classroom according to how well you did in the last test," poor Christopher could always be found at the wrong end.  And he took lots of abuse for it... and it didn't help that he was taller than most other people and awkward too.  But, truth be told, he was a really nice guy and had a great imagination.  He was just born about three decades too soon for his own good.  And hopefully, wherever he is now, he's extracted wisdom from all those needlessly bitter experiences to help his own kids fare better.  

I hope you enjoy the video - perhaps it will help you and yours navigate the mine-infested waters of the dysfunctional system with more success than most of us had.  And please feel free to leave your comments and share your experiences of the education system and how we can contribute to changing it for the better.  

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Resilient Car Shopping... Who Knew?

"I'm sorry, we just can't help you out more with the winter tires," said the stony faced business manager at the Toyota dealership, as my wife and I exchanged glances of disbelief.  

"We don't have to put up with this," my wife told this guy, and then we got up and walked out, telling him he had just killed a new car deal that had been days in the making.  And, by the look of disbelief on the face of the junior sales lady who had worked so hard to close the deal, we weren't the only ones in shock.  

Resilience and Car Shopping 101:

Yes, as you'll see, resilience really does apply to everything in daily life, in one way or another.  Before we get to that, though, let me bring you up to speed on what had just happened...

You see, my wife and I were out looking for a new car for her on Saturday and we'd just gone back to the Toyota dealership where we'd bought our previous vehicle, a Toyota Sienna van, many years ago.  Just this past weekend Toyota was offering a special where, presumably in an effort to get rid of the 2010 cars, they'd sweeten the pot with a new free set of winter tires - something we can't live without up here in Canada.  Sounds great, of course, until they tell you... well... you do get the tires... it's just that you have to pay nearly $400 for the rims!!!

 Toyota Corolla

Well, a tire without a rim isn't good for anything at all, unless you plan to turn it into a swing for the kids or a planter for your garden.  So we felt a little deceived and then we thought for sure they'd toss in the rims for free in order to get a new car sale worth about sixty times that much, especially to a returning customer.  But they wouldn't budge.

Yes, car shopping is usually one of life's more unpleasant duties, since it seems you're bound to run into some of the less savory aspects of human behavior - duplicity, dishonesty and manipulations of all kinds.  Fortunately, we were prepared for that because we had...

Multiple Back-Up Plans

 As we walked out of the Toyota dealership in disgust, we weren't at all upset.  You know the saying in romance that you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince?  Well car shopping can be a lot like that.  Once you've settled on the model you want, it's just a matter of finding someone who will treat you well and give you straight and honest answers. 

To minimize our time and pain this time around, here's what we had done:

1. We outsourced the project of finding the best deals on 6 different models (two each with Toyota, Honda and Nissan) and our research person did a brilliant job!

2. We spent an afternoon the previous weekend test driving the 2 models we'd narrowed it down to - the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic.  Both are great to drive and the road tests just confirmed we'd made the right choice.  Needless to say, we'd also meticulously researched the reliability of these 2 models already, using low cost and widely available sources.

3. Once we'd decided what exact model of Corolla or Civic we wanted and with what options, we emailed a broad selection of Toyota and Honda dealerships within 2 hours of home and asked them for a quote.  Most of them replied within 48 hours and that gave us a really good idea of the lay of the land concerning prices and what they could offer.

4. Then we took the top few from each company and started relatively close to home.  We went back to our old Toyota dealership not only because they should have had a huge interest in getting repeat business, but because they'd submitted a highly competitive quote.  However, when they treated us badly, we had a ton of offers to fall back on.  And that's when my wife said something that left me speechless.  "Let's go to Honda," she said.

You see, she really liked the Corolla and would have taken it over the Civic, while my preferences were exactly the reverse.  

So off we went to the most competitive Honda dealership... and the experience there compared to Toyota was like day and night.  They were absolutely up-front with us from the moment we walked in - nothing hidden, no deceptive wording, a good price.  All in all, a great experience.  And, as I said, once you've decided on what car you want and how much you're willing to pay for it, all you have to do is find the dealership that will make it as painless for you as possible.

 Honda Civic

I should add that I'm sure there are lots of honest Toyota dealerships out there and quite possibly some Honda ones you'd want to avoid - it seems to be more the people than the company who sets the tone.  

Resilient Car Shopping in Brief:

Just to recap what we did to make buying a new car as easy and quick as possible, while protecting ourselves from being "taken for a ride" in the bad sense:

  1. We did the research up front to narrow down the selection of models, decide on option packages and learn about general price ranges.  Acceptable models had to have exceptional reliability - that's my big hang-up about cars.

  2. Then we test drove the 2 top vehicles just to make sure we liked what we saw and didn't see any glaring design flaws we couldn't live with.

  3. Next, we sent out requests for quotations - this saved us a ton of time driving all over the map to various dealerships.

  4. Finally, we zeroed in on the people who a) had made a competitive bid and b) were honest and forthright with us.
The best part about this methodical approach is that you know you'll never have to sink to the level of mind games and manipulative negotiating tactics yourself.  And the moment they do, you just walk out and say the magic word "Next!"

The alternative could have been exponentially worse.  As a friend of mine who's a veteran negotiator put it, "If there's one class of people you want to avoid, it's car salesmen."  I'm happy to report there are some notable exceptions to his statement.

So whatever project you have coming up, remember that planning your approach with a view to minimizing your commitment of time, energy and money, not to mention your exposure to needless pain, is the way to go.  And that will leave you a more resilient and happier camper!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Mythical Town of Allopath - Closer to Home than You Think...

Every once in a while you come across an amazing little video with a giant message.  And this is one of those times.  

The video is called The Town of Allopath and, as you might guess, it's a brilliant animated expose of the follies of our "official" medical tradition, which is technically known as "allopathic medicine", and of the pharmaceutical approach to healing in general.  Here it is:

The Elephant in the Room

Every time there's a big public health care debate, such as the recent one in the USA or the earlier one in Canada, I'm struck more than anything by the elephant in the room that no one talks about. 

Why is no one saying the obvious?  - that our health care system is wildly expensive because it's so dependent on expensive technology, because there's no priority given to preventative health care, and because the medical associations, pharmaceutical corporations and insurance providers work hand in glove.  

Could we have a superb health care system for half the cost?  Of course we could!  It would be easy to design one.  So why don't we?  There are at least two reasons.  The first, of course,  consists of the entrenched political interests of the parties we've just mentioned.  Unfortunately, though, there's another factor that hits a lot closer to home, and that factor is us...

Are We Really Part of the Solution? 

We, the public in general, are the people who make our health care unaffordable.  We're the ones propping up the unholy alliance of allopathic medicine, Big Pharma, the Agri-Food giants, the chemical companies and the insurance firms.  We do it every time we go looking for the magic pill to take away our symptoms, every time we fail to discern what our body is really telling us, every time we refuse to change our disastrous lifestyle.  

If your smoke detector goes off at home, you look everywhere to make sure there's no fire; you don't just yank out the battery because the noise is inconvenient.  Yet that's exactly what we do every time we go to our GP and expect him or her to just make the nasty symptoms go away so we don't have to think about them.  

My own family doctor would love to do more preventative medicine, yet one of the big things holding him back is the pill-popping mentality of his own patients.  So we ourselves are often as much a part of the problem as the people we blame.  Remember, a symptom is not just an annoyance... it's an invitation for you to listen to what your body is telling you.  

So allopathy isn't just a problem that's "out there"; it's a frame of mind that we all too easily lapse into.  Do you oppose the monopoly of our expensive and largely ineffective allopathic institutions?  Then it's time to start looking at your own life and how you personally handle the health challenges that come your way.  

~ Dr. Symeon  Rodger 

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Between Force and Surrender

If you're not as effective in every area of life as you'd like to be, you might want to consider the 
You can react in one of two ways to pretty much everything in your life.  You can use FORCE 
(willpower) to control it, or you can SURRENDER to it.  Each has its place.  One of my clients 
brought this to my attention a few months ago.  I noticed she seemed unable to do such a 
simple thing as taking just 15-30 minutes each morning to "center" herself.   On the other hand, 
she was fighting furiously (and ineffectively) with her thoughts, with those parts of herself and her 
life she doesn't like.
In other words, she was choosing to SURRENDER to laziness (a terrible enemy you never want 
to surrender to, by the way).  And on the other hand, she was using brute FORCE to fight against 
her thoughts of inadequacy, fear, anxiety, loneliness and a host of others.
Like most of us, my client is in the habit of using FORCE and SURRENDER in exactly the wrong 
We need to FORCE ourselves to lead a powerful life,  rather than giving into to our tendency to 
just let ourselves go.  That takes determination.  It always has and it always will. 
And yet, we need to SURRENDER inwardly to the truth about where we're at NOW.  That means 
we stop RESISTING our neurotic tendencies - our fears, our poor self-image, our sharp edges 
and the rest.  Why?  Because only by seeing reality as it REALLY IS can we overcome those 
And we don't overcome them by FORCE, by repressing them.  That's what created most of them 
in the first place.  When we calmly stare our uncomfortable aspects in the face in a 
non-judgmental way, we find they begin to lose their hold on us.
There are lots of people who think RESILIENCE is about being tough.  And yes, there’s a place 
for that forceful “yang” approach.  It really is vital to building a deliberate, powerful and 
stress-free life.  However…
Equally important and often ignored is the judicious use of surrender, the “yin” approach, 
particularly on the more subtle emotional and spiritual levels... to the right things at the right 
moments, of course.  In fact, it’s the only way to become a fully functional human being.
Not surprisingly, the most effective tool for learning the proper way to surrender inwardly is the 
process of meditation.  Meditation puts you face to face with the very things you've been 
repressing for years or decades, yet gives you the space and comfort to "create space" for 
them and allow them to dissolve on their own.  New meditators are often astonished at how 
much emotional content they've been repressing and how neurotic it was making them.

If you're interested in learning more about the meditation process and how to transform every 
moment of your life into a meditation that builds your health and calms your thoughts and 
emotions, you can go to: 
The irony is, you'll never learn how to surrender to the REAL, to relax deeply into the essence of 
life and discover your true self, unless you know when to apply force.   Every authentic ancient 
tradition is built on this delicate balance between force and surrender.
Your friend in the "war for peace", 
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Educational System and Personal Resilience

Apropos of our educational system, the following is an excerpt from my Resilience 2010 Special Report:

Sparta was certainly a warrior culture by any definition, and those blind to its many virtues are quick to condemn it as “militaristic” or “violent”. In reality, whatever its flaws, Sparta was based on high ideals of honor and justice. 

The Greek historian Xenophon writes about an incident he witnessed personally:

An elderly man was trying to find a place to sit and observe the Olympic Games. As he went to each section, all the other Greeks laughed as he tried to make his way through. Some ignored him. Upon entering the Spartan section all the Spartans stood and offered the elderly man their seats. Suddenly the entire stadium applauded. All the Greeks knew what was the right thing to do, but the Spartans were the only ones who did it.

Sparta was widely known for its educational system for both boys and girls. The system was very demanding physically and produced people who were exceptionally tough and resilient in every way.

The purpose of this toughness and resilience, though, was to inculcate a strong sense of self-identity, values and a virtuous character, as Xenophon’s story illustrates.

Without a strong sense of who you are, of what you stand for and the inner strength to act on those values, you have no real chance of achieving real happiness or a fulfilling life.

It Has Always Puzzled Me...

As somebody who's been through the modern Western educational system from one end to the other - Kindergarten to PhD - I can tell you it's always left me totally perplexed.  It claims to want to achieve certain laudable goals and then does exactly the opposite of what it says.

That's why I have a lot of time for anyone who's willing to stand up and tell the truth about the educational system - that it's failed us and it's failing our children even more.  And that's why I'd encourage you to go and see the new movie, Waiting for Superman - and no, it's not about the guy in the blue tights and red cape ;-)

Here's one of the trailers:

I certainly plan to see it myself, because my personal commitment is to bring the cultivation of personal resilience back into the educational system, so that our schools can once again start guiding the young toward lives full of health, self-confidence, intellectual honesty and diligence, self-fulfillment and superior leadership.  

And the educational system that does this will not be the same one that:
  •  Repeatedly gave my then grade 8 daughter pictures to color as a regular homework assignment in French class.  How the f#%! do you color "in French"??!!
  •   Developed an entire high school curriculum for languages like German and Latin where you didn't even hear about key elements of grammar essential to make a basic sentence during the entire first year
  • Drove lots of kids away from their natural fascination with science by boring them to death with tedious equations about stuff that didn't interest them
  • Had me going to the dean of a graduate school to protest a final exam I considered so insultingly simple as to be a joke (masters level students getting 10 identification questions to be answered with no more than one sentence each??).  Imagine my shock when the dean informed me that several students had failed!  
Education has long since degenerated into the (largely) state-run babysitting service.  Isn't it time to do something about an educational system that's manifestly inferior in several important ways to those of many ancient cultures?  

Be sure to go see this movie!!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Meditation and Mastering Your Life

After watching the amazing video below, one Youtube viewer appended this saying from Milarepa, perhaps Tibet's most beloved sage:

If ones tries to vanquish foes in the outer world,
They increase in greater measure.
If one conquers his Self-mind within,
All his foes soon disappear.
~ Milarepa (A tibetan yogi)

So enjoy this beautiful and profound animated video and ask yourself afterward, "How does this apply to MY life?"

To Learn Meditation

...and to begin to taste the incredible experience of life that proficiency in meditation offers to every human being, including you, join me this coming Thursday night at 9pm Eastern / 6pm Pacific, for a special multi-media presentation on:

The Meditation Miracle
4 Steps to Transforming Every Moment into Rock Solid Inner Peace, Health and Happiness

Thursday October 7 at 9pm Eastern / 6pm Pacific
Watch your email for further information!
~Dr. Symeon Rodger