Friday, July 31, 2009

Why Seven Steps?

About a year ago, to my great surprise, I found myself in the midst of writing a self-help program of guided meditations. Even beyond surprise, the writing process was transformational, because during the time that this inspiring material was pouring through me, my father was slowly succumbing to congestive heart failure. In my last blog, I touched briefly on the topic of dementia. It’s not my intention to dwell on heavy subject matter, but once again, I must include a short mention of this big issue. For my father, dementia was sneaky and pernicious, a result of natural aging, and the accumulation of years of unhealthy choices. While he appeared to acquaintances to be of sound mind, the eroding process was slowly eating away at his ability to make sound judgments, stealing away the delights of his personality, and gradually laying waste to his relationships through irrational anger and paranoia. And so, as I reflect on my father’s transition and the writing process that took place a year ago, I choose to celebrate the power we all have to make healthy and loving choices, and use our gifts to create good in this life. Positive living absolutely attracts positive outcomes, so here we go……
The focus of the collection of guided meditations called Seven Steps to Positive Living is to affect beneficial change in people’s lives by providing material that is, first and foremost, easy and accessible. Easy, as in easy to fit into your day – each of the meditations runs less than 10 minutes, making it an natural fit for even the most schedule stressed individuals. No studying necessary, no special clothing or membership fees, just a few minutes in a quiet place, and you’re good to go! Accessible, as in welcoming to individuals of all belief systems – the mediations are flexible and appropriate for secular, or a multitude of spiritual or religious approaches. For those who have never tried meditation, and wonder how to get started, Seven Steps is a great introduction to creating quiet time in your hectic life, and reaping all the well-touted benefits of regular meditation. Those who have been practicing meditation for many years will also benefit from the Seven Steps pick-me-up of short sessions that lead you along a steady path of opening to greater awareness.
Most of us have heard more and more about the benefits of regular meditation in recent years. Mainstream media and medicine have become increasingly open to considering so-called “alternative” therapies in the treatment of both mental and physical illnesses, and improving overall quality of life. Of course, many of these alternative approaches have been around for centuries and eons, but who’s counting, right? America’s most read magazine, the Parade section from the good ol’ Sunday morning newspaper, included meditation in the December 14, 2008 article entitled “Alternative Therapies that REALLY WORK”. Their article cited positive effects on blood pressure, insulin and blood sugar regulation, heart health, improving concentration, reducing anxiety, and assisting patients dealing with post-traumatic stress disorders. If you like a scientific approach - the website for Psychology Today notes that neuroscientists have found that study subjects involved in regular meditation shifted the focus of their brain activity away from the stress-prone right frontal cortex, to the calmer area of the left frontal cortex, resulting in calmer and happier people overall. Sweet.
In case that’s not enough to convince you to give it a try, the federal government would like for you to feel better, too. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institute of Health has sponsored studies that have found the following positive results from regular meditation: relieves stress in caregivers for elderly patients with dementia; reduces the frequency and intensity of hot flashes in menopausal women; relieves symptoms of chronic back pain; improves attention-related abilities (alerting, focusing, and prioritizing); and relieves asthma symptoms.
Of course, those of a spiritual or religious bent know the importance of sacred quiet time, although they may call it by different names. Checking one of my favorite resources, Wikipedia, one can find a great variety of citations on this topic. From Buddhism to Judaism, almost every faith path known to man includes traditions of meditation as a necessary practice to enhance spiritual growth. A devout Muslim is obliged to pray at least five times a day. Christians, of course, generally use the term prayer when referring to sacred quiet time. The use of the rosary or prayer beads, the repitition of memorized prayers, and the emphasis on silent prayer are all forms of Christian meditation.
Getting back to Seven Steps to Positive Living, I would like to mention that the initial idea for the CD came about in midst of brainstorming with my friend and colleague, actress and healing practitioner, Katie McCall. (You can find Katie’s fabulous new website at For a short while, Katie lived out her fantasy of being a back-up singer by developing harmony for songs on my first CD, Springfield. While working on music, we began talking about ideas combining my writing with her skills as a voice-over talent, in a way that would benefit others along their path to a better life. We chose a specific audience to start with, the generous and loving congregation of Unity Christ Church of Bon Air in Richmond VA, designed the project to flow along with the fall book study program at the church, and used sales to raise money for the church’s expansion fund. All of these factors knitted nicely together, resulting in the initial release of Seven Steps to Positive Living in September of 2008.
Now, Seven Steps to Positive Living is widely available online in both digital formats, and old style CDs. A simple Internet search will turn up multiple sources, so Google, Bing, dial it up on iTunes, or visit me at and give it a try, one at a time, or all together as a collection. Given how these meditations came to be, I feel strongly that these messages have the potential to affect positive change in many lives, and I feel it is my responsibility to do my best to spread the word. I’ll be writing again soon about the content of the Seven Steps meditations, as the material continues to develop. Even if Seven Steps to Positive Living isn’t your style, there are many ways to create sacred quiet time in your life. Whether you prefer to use your daily exercise as a time of reflection, or to brew a cup of tea and sit in a rocker for a few minutes before you start your day - whatever your style, take a few clearing breaths, and give yourself the gift of quiet time. You’ll feel better, and be better prepared to be a force for positive change in your relationships and community.
Thanks for reading!

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