An Inside Job

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“All problems are psychological, but all solutions are spiritual.”
Thomas Hora, MD

 

Whether agnostic, humanist, spiritual practitioner or someone who is actively engaged in some form of organized religion (atheists are invited too) having a consistent practice of prayer and/or meditation can improve one’s health and overall wellbeing. What exactly am I talking about when I say prayer/mediation?

Prayer is simply when I speak my truth, my struggles, my hopes, and my fears or simply send positive energy out to the universe, source, higher power or the God(s) of my understanding. I personally thrive with a more structured approach and use works like the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, The Little Flower, St. Francis of Assisi, The Recovery Bible, or any devotional like Our Daily Bread, or Forward-Day-By-Day. These works are not substitutes for my honest sharing with that great universal source which I simply call God. They assist me in reflecting on how my personhood interacts with that power and others through a specific passage or reading. Prayer for me is all about how I can be a better person today. I engage in this practice daily between 30-45 minutes.

Meditation is when I sit quietly, focus on nothing, let my thoughts come, still my mind and receive from the universe, source, higher power or the God(s) of my understanding. Since I am not yet free from the “monkey mind”, I find it useful to use a meditation app or one of the meditation videos YouTube to guide me through this process. I actually enjoy more variety in my meditation practices and use various types of meditation styles including visualizations in my routine as opposed to my more limited resources for my prayer time. Regardless of the style of meditation, I employ I always feel better for having engaged in this practice. I generally do 10 minutes of meditation daily. I didn’t begin with 10 minutes; I started with 30-second breathing exercises and worked my way up to more time as I continued the practice.

As a result of the consistent application of these practices, I improve cognitive functioning, emotional regulation, improve my body’s ability to heal or protect itself. Additionally, I can work through difficult decisions, free my bodily systems to work through traumas, lower blood pressure, and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. These practices are holistic approaches that impact the whole person. This is not just my personal experience; these are the things that can be and have been measured through scientific study. If prayer and meditation did nothing else, then to make me a more compassionate, caring and all-around better neighbor, they would still be worth doing.

Prayer and meditation allow me to be free of the constraints of time and space, where I become one with whatever that life force of the universe is and unites me with the rest of humanity. In a world so full of divisive, partisan/religious cliques, we could use a little more connectedness.

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Superpowers Redefined

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I don’t know about you, but as I was growing up, I longed to have the ability to fly, run faster than a speeding train, have x-ray vision or be bullet proof. My twin, David and I would spend countless hours pretending that we were some superhero or another. I always had a special affinity for the working-class, Spiderman; while David preferred the other worldly, Superman. More importantly,

I (we) always wanted to be on the side of right and justice.
In those days, I really believed in myself; believed that I could leap over tall buildings with a single bound. Somewhere along the way, however; I learned to doubt myself and become acutely aware of my limitations and to compare myself with others. As life “progressed”, I didn’t. It seemed as if something was blocking my advancement. Every time I began to do well, there would be some hiccup, some distraction, some drama and I would be derailed. No leaping over tall buildings, no flying, no being faster than a speeding bullet-just me trying to survive. Eventually, I gave up on becoming a superhero and settled on being the villain.

While incarcerated I was always intrigued at how mesmerized, almost to a man, my fellow travelers were enthralled whenever a superhero movie would be shown. Hard core gangbangers, car thieves, armed robbers, burglars, dope dealers and petty criminals alike would sit in silence glued to the television. In some cases, I could hear guys saying who they would be or who they most identified with. It occurred to me then, that even the “bad guys” deep down really do want to be the “good guys”.

Thankfully, my story doesn’t end there and frankly, it isn’t all that unique from anyone else’s. My story and your story are each representations of the age-old hero’s journey. In each story, the protagonist confronts life and either has the tools to manage or must go through certain challenges (adventures) in order to gain those tools to aid them along their journey.

As I look at the superpowers of my superheroes, I find that those extraordinary abilities are nothing more than metaphors. When I look closer at the Avengers, Superman, Batman, the X-Men, or the Fantastic Four, what I find is that their “real” superpowers are acceptance, resilience, tenacity, hope, courage, honesty, authenticity, responsibility, commitment, cooperation and interdependence.
Every day I get the opportunity to exercise the greatest of all my superpowers; the power of choice.

I can choose acceptance or denial, resilience or defeatism, tenacity or faint-heartedness, hope or futility, courage or cowardice, honesty or deceitfulness, authenticity or spuriousness, responsibility or shirking, commitment or disloyalty, cooperation or dissention, interdependence or competition. It is these choices that determine whether I become a superhero or a villain. What are your superpowers and which do you choose?
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Anchors Are Essential

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What are you doing daily to fortify yourself?

If you are not taking conscious action consistently; if you do not have anchors in place, you are selling yourself short.

The Oxford Dictionary offers three definitions of the word anchor, as a verb: 1) to moor (as in a ship to the bottom of the sea), 2) to secure firmly in position, and 3) to provide with a firm basis or foundation. Captains of sea going vessels use anchors to prevent the vessel from drifting, builders use anchors for the purpose of improving a structure’s integrity and educators use anchor activities as independent assignments which serve to reinforce, deepen, and extend student learning. Whether the “anchor” image you conjured up after reading the title of this article was nautical, architectural/structural or educational, they all represent the same thing: stability, support and structural security.

The purpose of this article is to introduce, reacquaint, or reinforce the importance that having a daily routine has on our health, productivity and happiness. In addition to sharing with you a few tips on what actions you might incorporate into your own life to shore up your life’s structural integrity. These ideas might also help give you a boost to get something done or help get you out of a stuck point. It is my belief, and my own experience bears this out, that by consistently practicing early morning routines and bedtime routines I am better able to stay focused, productive, present (dare I say mindful), and connected throughout my day. Because they are so essential to my wellbeing, I call these daily routines my “anchor activities”.

I begin each day, well rested, at 5:00am (weekends included). After making my bed, I go downstairs into the quiet of the house, before anyone else is stirring, and engage in 45 minutes of prayer (meditation) and study. Currently I am using The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brien, SJ to guide my morning anchor activity. I find that using some structured guidance helps me with this discipline. You may find a less structured dynamic more useful. I wrap this prayer and study time up with journaling about insights I had learned or what I had experienced emotionally as I studied. Afterwards, I eat breakfast, have my coffee and spend the next couple of hours writing and brainstorming before going about the business or “busy-ness” of my day.

To bookend my day, as I prepare for bed, generally between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm, I review the next day’s schedule, readings associated with my morning anchor activity and do a combination of a 10th Step-Examen Prayer-Daily Journal prior to getting to bed. In my daily journal, I cover the following points:

• What was the overall emotional course of my day?
• What were my emotional high and low points? Why were these high
or low points?
• Did I learn something about myself, someone else or is there
anything I wish to preserve or remember?
• Is there anything I would have done differently and why?
• List 5 things I am grateful for, for that day.

I dig deeper into the benefits of journaling in another article but suffice it to say that, this one act helps us immeasurably.

While I remain flexible throughout my day, these two anchor activities are a must for me; they are not negotiable if I am to have any sustainable, long term growth and success. It becomes painfully obvious to me, my family, friends, colleagues and clients, if I miss one or both for consecutive days. This, however, is not an all of nothing proposal. What works for me, may or may not work for you. The important take away, is to begin doing something consistently. Integrating these activities in our lives propel us to the next level of personal development and help to set a course that our future selves will be grateful for.

Changing our lives generally doesn’t happen magically or tragically in an instant, although it can. It generally happens in the little things that we choose to do, or not do, on a consistent basis. Tremors, earthquakes, gusts of wind, gales and hurricanes are part of the human condition; none of us are exempt from the challenges of life. What sustains us in our darkest moments, are those things that we do on a consistent basis when life is smooth sailing. These “anchor activities” foster the internal stability which manifests externally in our being more productive, focused and present, and connected to all the people in our lives.

As always, I would love to hear back from you. Feedback, questions or suggestions for articles you would like to read please let me know. Please visit my website at Dean The Life Coach

Superpowers Redefined

I don’t know about you, but as I was growing up, I longed to have the ability to fly, run faster than a speeding train, have x-ray vision or be bullet proof. My twin, David and I would spend countless hours pretending that we were some superhero or another. I always had a special affinity for the working-class, Spiderman; while David preferred the other worldly, Superman. More importantly, I (we) always wanted to be on the side of right and justice.

In those days, I really believed in myself; believed that I could leap over tall buildings with a single bound. Somewhere along the way, however; I learned to doubt myself and become acutely aware of my limitations and to compare myself with others. As life “progressed”, I didn’t. It seemed as if something was blocking my advancement. Every time I began to do well, there would be some hiccup, some distraction, some drama and I would be derailed. No leaping over tall buildings, no flying, no being faster than a speeding bullet-just me trying to survive. Eventually, I gave up on becoming a superhero and settled on being the villain.

While incarcerated I was always intrigued at how mesmerized, almost to a man, my fellow travelers were enthralled whenever a superhero movie would be shown. Hard core gangbangers, car thieves, armed robbers, burglars, dope dealers and petty criminals alike would sit in silence, glued to the television. In some cases, I could hear guys saying who they would be or who they most identified with. It occurred to me then, that even the “bad guys” deep down really do want to be the “good guys”.

Thankfully, my story doesn’t end there and frankly, it isn’t all that unique from anyone else’s. My story and your story are each representations of the age-old hero’s journey. In each story, the protagonist confronts life and either has the tools to manage or must go through certain challenges (adventures) in order to gain those tools to aid them along their journey.

As I look at the superpowers of my superheroes, I find that those extraordinary abilities are nothing more than metaphors. When I look closer at the Avengers, Superman, Batman, the X-Men, or the Fantastic Four, what I find is that their “real” superpowers are acceptance, resilience, tenacity, hope, courage, honesty, authenticity, responsibility, commitment, cooperation and interdependence.

Every day I get the opportunity to exercise the greatest of all my superpowers; the power of choice.

I can choose acceptance or denial, resilience or defeatism, tenacity or faint-heartedness, hope or futility, courage or cowardice, honesty or deceitfulness, authenticity or spuriousness, responsibility or shirking, commitment or disloyalty, cooperation or dissention, interdependence or competition.

It is these choices that determine whether I become a superhero or a villain.

What are your superpowers and which do you choose?