Monday, June 4, 2012

Learning to PowerLife: Spiritual Springboard

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Recently, Fox News published an article about a Texas pastor who made a commitment to lose weight in front of his congregation. At the time of the article, the pastor had lost about 50 pounds with just minor adjustments to his lifestyle. I mention the article here for three reasons: 
  1. It begins to explore the connection between spiritual dis-ease and obesity. 
  2. The author writes about issues that are seldom addressed in religious institutions such as gluttony, obesity, food addiction, and the neglect of one's body.
  3. The article highlights the reality that the more intolerant the religion, the more likely its followers will be obese or engage in some other form of unhealthy lifestyle.
For many years, in my roles as chaplain, pastor, and social justice advocate I have seen how detrimental ignoring spiritual distress is to living a healthy, balanced life. In addition, throughout my personal life, I have experienced how spiritual distress affected my overall well-being in negative ways. 

For instance, when I was most invested in adhering to a religious dogma, when I was least able to tolerate religious traditions that differed from my own, when I was most eager to be accepted by individuals, or recognized by a particular group, my general health suffered the most. 

Part of why I suffered was because I valued other people's thoughts and beliefs over my own. Indeed, rather than developing myself, and listening to the source of the power that was meant only for me, I was constantly looking for the right group, right person, the special place that I could call my home. The consequences were major; I almost died several times.

In 1999-2000, I suffered a massive blood clot in my upper thigh. Before my body could recover, part of the clot separated and traveled to my lung. 

Around 2007, I was rushed to the ER, unconscious and near death because my doctor at the time prescribed far too much high blood pressure medication (I was taking high doses of three different medications). 

Throughout all of this, I suffered from asthma like symptoms because I had, and still have, a severe allergy to all dairy. In addition, at my worst, I weighed close to 300 pounds.
My body was slowly dying, as I continued to allow my spirit to be stifled by people and institutions that meant me no good. 

In retrospect I was fighting to conform using my precious life force. I fought for acceptance in seminary. I fought for recognition in churches. I fought for respect within communities made up of people who were only interested in co-opting my gifts and talents their own aggrandizement. In addition, I fought to stay in a relationship with a person who was emotionally abusive to me. 

Everything in my life was a fight. On all fronts, I was fighting my own instincts and spirit to conform in places where I would never be accepted. The fight was killing me. It was not until I made the commitment to stop fighting to conform and start finding myself and who I was meant to be that I gained the practical application that is contained within this blog.

The connection between spiritual and physical health has been well document. Everything, from prayer, meditation, message, and chants, has been explored to help the healing process. What I do through Living PowerLife is make the link practical and give you the means to build a spiritual discipline that is not dependent on membership, group acceptance, or the truth of another. Instead, your spiritual discipline will be grounded in love for self, respect for others, and understanding that honesty is the key to fulfillment.

From reading the Constructing Your PowerLife Springboard post, you should now have a quiet place to meditate, pen, and two composition books (one to journal your thoughts and one to log your dreams). Now you will begin to practice meditation and prepare to learn about some of the things that have previously been a challenge to fully accessing your power.

NOTE: you may need help processing some of the feelings or memories that come up during meditation. If that is the case, do not hesitate to ask for help. This is your journey, but you do not have to make the trip alone. In the past, when things became more than I could process alone, I sought the same help. It is important to give yourself permission to rely on people who spent years preparing to give the kind of support that helps us get past being overwhelmed. 
Also, know that at any time you can email me.

Go to your quiet place, and find a comfortable sitting position. Remove as much distraction as possible such as radio, TV, music, etc.... At first, it's important to try to have the same time every day, and set aside no more than 15 minutes. This helps you to:

  1. Remember to meditate.
  2. Build a life-long discipline rather than practice a short-term fad. 
  3. Maintain focus because the time is shorter.

Close your eyes and feel your body. Feel where there is tension while you slowly breathe in and out. Release the tension that you feel in different parts of your body as you breathe out. Do this for no more than 10 slow, deep breaths. 

Once your body is as relaxed as it can be, focus on how you feel inside. Are you Excited? Nervous? Angry? Sad? Happy? As these feelings come up, try to note if any places or people--names or faces--come to mind at the same time. This is where you will make your first practical connection--the one between your emotions and particular places or people. Continue until about 5 minutes before time to stop. You will need to have at least that much time to bring your meditation to a close.

As you begin to close your meditative sessions down, switch your focus back to your body. Take slow, deep breaths again and feel your body as it sits. With each breath, notice your feet touching the floor, and your body pressing against the chair. As you come back to where you were, recite the following aloud three times: 

With God, the Universe, and me miracles happen. 

Open your eyes, sit quietly for a few seconds. Bring your breathing back to normal and jot down any thoughts, feelings, or impressions in your journal.


  • Your mind may jump around from thought to thought. That is to be expected, so do not try to stop this process. 
  • You may have difficulty identifying where your body holds tension. This is okay. As you continue, you will find this easier.
  • Unexpected feelings or people from long ago may spring to mind. This is good. Remember to jot down these impressions in your journal.
  • You may start to remember your dreams if you did not before. This is good too. Just keep your dream log and pen by your bed and write as much detail as you can as soon as you awaken.
I strongly recommend that you use your dreams. Dreams are your brain's way of processing emotions, and events in your life. They are full of symbols that mean something to you. This is why, when I try to gain insight into myself using my dreams, I always ask: what does this mean to me? Rather than: what does this mean to others? For example, if I dream about an eagle, I explore what eagles mean to me. What do I think about, feel, remember, expect... when I think of an eagle? From there, I continue to interpret my dream.

The format is simple. Just remember to date--month, day, year--each journal. Do this even if there are multiple entries for the same day. Write legibly so that you can read your entries later. Keep your journal and log private.

My next post will focus on obtaining and maintaining physical health.

From my PowerLife to Yours,

 2012. All rights reserved.

Obesity in the church link