Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Take a hint from your heart!

The heart is one of the most vital and significant organs in our bodies, without it human life cannot be sustained.  As the key organ in the circulatory system, each day it beats about 100,000 times. The heart is highly resistant to fatigue and receives messages from the body that tells it when to pump more or less blood depending on an individual's needs.  Almost 2,000 gallons of oxygenated blood and nutrients gets pumped from the heart and is traveled to provide energy through miles of blood vessels that branch and cross, connecting the cells of our organs and body parts.  As a maintainer of the circulatory system, the heart is the nucleus to this continuous cycle of providing energy to and getting rid of waste from our bodies.
Drawing on the attributes of the heart can offer us a platform for generating a fruitful and thriving life as well.  Sure there are challenges that impose significant issues for us.  However, the resilience and purpose of the heart has innate qualities that can be transfer ably used to create the value and momentum we often need.
Let’s look at some of these qualities more closely:
The heart has a purpose to provide energy- The driver of the heart is to provide energy as a life force for the human body.  The lives we create for ourselves must have a driver as well. 
Will the driver you choose for your life’s design be as dynamic as the example beating in your chest? 
Will you bring a healthy energy to your life as your heart does for your body?
What a tool of encouragement the heart’s purpose provides us with to stimulate us to be cognizant of the energy we are being, creating and contributing in the world.  As a commissioning theory it can inspire us to be intentional about ensuring that the energy we create is offering constructive value to our life and the lives of others.
The heart works collaboratively – Like any great leader, the heart is a phenomenal point of reference to keep the body alive.  However, it is the details of the unceasing dedication to providing for and working with the systems of the body that make it so fascinating.  The enormity of its purpose is better appreciated by how it dutifully collaborates with the rest of the body. 
Without getting too complicated, the heart basically provides the body with what it needs.  In order to accomplish this we could say it must be attentive, flexible and cooperative with various systems of the body.  This idea is parallel to how we can choose to function in the world and be prosperous in areas of our development.   Adapting the systems approach of the heart to be productive collaborators to pursue our purpose and add value to how we exist is incredibly empowering. Likewise to the hearts cycle of functioning, we too must be willing to get rid of the waste (the useless particles that can lead to dysfunction if not properly deposed of) that is sifted out through this collaborative work. 
The heart is highly resistant to fatigue – The resilience of the heart is a commanding attribute that we can imitate while endeavoring toward our life goals.  As our human bodies are made of incredibly complex systems, so too are our lives as we interact with the world.  Many of the opportunities and challenges we experience in our lifespan will require us to be strong.  Adopting the spirit to be resistant to fatigue when it comes to your life’s design, is a theme that not only will move you when “the going gets tough, ” but will enable you to thrive in spite of challenges, just as our heartbeat does.
As a final point of reference, the heart is identified as an organ that has involuntary functioning. These automatic and instinctive features to regenerate the body are unlike our everyday functioning in life, which are voluntary actions produced by our choosing. Although there is an undeniable difference in how functioning is initialized by the heart as oppose to our functioning in the world, we can inherit these qualities by choosing the practice of infusing positive energy into all areas of our lives and the lives of others.  So let’s take a hint from the heart and its sense of duty as a model of excellence on how to stimulate life.
~ Be

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Reframe Artist

I had the honor of speaking with an 84 year old woman, who had this remarkable talent to reframe a situation.  She like many of us is dealing with issues that have impacted her current standard of living.  Her issues are as problematic as any, yet she crafted their descriptions with the idea that “she had an issue”, not like “the issue had her”.  She is what I call a “Reframe Artist!”
This woman has spent the better part of her life in service of others.  She and her husband of over forty years have raised three children and had a special hand in raising countless grandchildren.  She is currently living in a rehabilitation center after a recent illness that caused her to be in and out of a hospital for about a year.  In addition to her husband’s passing a few years ago; this past year she has buried her youngest son, her only living sister and her best friend all within a few months of each other.
Just to get an idea of the level of difficulty she is facing, I will share one of her issues which surrounds the difficulty she is having in order to leave the rehab center and return home.  It seems that the rehabilitation center and possibly other outside systems are requiring for her to pay an inexcusable amount of money in order for her to be sent home with a visiting nurse.  She like many elderly people today, has to surrender her income in such ways that prohibit her from experiencing her life the way she wants to.  Her independence, her ability to sleep in her own bed and her ability to live in the comforts of her home with the assistance of a nurse’s aid comes with a hefty price!
With a matter of fact expression she said, “This country is not set up for the elderly… they didn’t plan on us living this long! But I will continue to talk about this with the social worker.  I am not giving up!”  I began to think to myself, “My goodness, this woman lives her whole life working hard and raising children, only to be told in her old age that her freedom and well being has a price greater than what she can afford.”
While I was left without words to describe my sadness for her, she swiftly added that, “She is in it to win it!”  Her witty and charming personality seemed to have infused itself into the idea of the problem as she spoke of it in a way that wouldn’t allow her to surrender to it.  With an infectiously upbeat tone she said, “That’s alright, people have given me big numbers to contend with before. I’m gonna be just fine!”  She went on to explain that while she has faith, she also puts her faith to work and continues to advocate for her return home.  She has the support of her family and I am sure she will win, but I couldn’t help but notice how the positive energy she exuded transferred into my thoughts, feelings and spirit.  I thought, “If this woman can remain focused on her goal to return home despite her challenges, I too can remain vigilant about reframing life’s issues.” 
Before I left, I told her that she was a “Reframe Artist!” and the fact that she chooses to reframe her problems in ways that allow her to capture them, rather than allow them to capture her, is nothing short of the Art of becoming at its very best!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I had to get out of my own way!

For every time I said “I couldn’t achieve it because…”
For every moment I decided to give up
For every thought that sustained my unhappiness

~ I was in my own way! ~

For every challenge I make use of to build character
For every goal that grows from within me
For every inspiring emotion that burns with a purpose

~ I have to get out of my own way! ~

For every desire my heart has yet to know
For every experience that unfolds itself before me
For every opportunity to create, evolve and live my life’s design

~ I will stay out of my own way! ~
            ~ Be ~
Written by Nieema Alford

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Product Placement -“The Brand in You”

These days every movie, television show or internet site has a product being advertised on it.  Just recently I watched a movie that had at least eight different products predominantly placed in scenes that probably lasted a minute or two each.  “What great marketing!” I thought. It’s an absolutely brilliant concept that companies have used for years to sell their products.  What better way to reach a wide consumer demographic and increase revenue, than by associating a product or brand in a scene with someone’s favorite celebrity.  Even the idea of associating a brand with the characters lifestyle or concept of the movie is a great way to promote the product and entice consumers to purchase it.  Before you know it people are purchasing those brands because of how it was used in the scene or because it represents an ideal lifestyle that the consumer has or wants. 
This got me to thinking about how we can use the same concept to encourage the process of personal development and self promotion.  How we represent ourselves can be compared to the production, branding and marketing process. 
For example, in the production process, a company establishes what the product is, what it’s made of and through research and testing looks for ways to make it the best product to offer. Similarly, we can establish what we are (what our product/brand is) by asking “who am I”, “What am I made of?” and investigate the findings to determine if your product/brand is the desirable self (product/brand) you seek. This will allow us the creative space to enhance ourselves (product/brand).
In the branding process, companies aim to ensure that the product is distinctly identifiable.  A brand can take many forms, including a name, sign, symbol, or slogan. Likewise, as we interact with our environment we are representing our brand.  For this reason, it is important that we identify the “brand” we wish to represent and ensure that our thoughts, ideas and actions are representative of that brand. 
Finally, in the marketing process a company seeks to determine what the needs are in the environment and how their product/brand can be made useful.  Here is where strategy, is put to use to promote the product, create sales and develop the business.  At this point building strong business relationships is also a key component.  Likewise, we can associate this process with how we examine and utilize the environment to find creative ways to present, promote and develop ourselves (our brand/product) for the profits or experiences we seek.
To start this process, one might begin to ask questions like: “What is my self-brand made of?”, “What does my self-brand offer or represent?”, “Is my self-brand an asset or a need?”, “Do I associate my self-brand with other brands, and why?”, “How do I promote or market my self-brand and has it yielded me the profits or experiences I seek?”, “ When should I go back into the lab, so to speak to work to improve my self-brand?”.  These and other questions help to kick start the process of being the brand you desire.
 Happy Branding!
~ Be ~
Written By Nieema Alford

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Best Exam Ever!

From the time we come into this world and even before our birth we are under examination. The doctor examines us from the point of conception to make sure that all of our physiological and developmental functioning is working and we are healthy, our family and community watch, cultivate and experience us by way of examination; and of course, throughout our academic development, we are nurtured to embrace scholastic preparation and the examination of our knowledge as keys to a successful life.  However self-examination, although extremely important is often either delayed, non-existent, prioritized last or lacks the level of emphasis needed to embrace it as a lifelong process.
Self-examination may be one of the most challenging yet rewarding processes we can experience.  The question may become, so when do we begin a life of self-examination? And how do we go about it? Is it productive examining or scrutiny? Is it informed by a healthy voice within us?  Or is it a negative voice within us? Is it even a voice from within? Maybe it’s the voice of someone else that causes a constructive examination or the scrutiny of oneself? 
Let’s look at the definition of the term to examine….. To “examine” means to look at critically or methodically; to investigate; inspect; and to test by questioning. 
For some the idea of doing this with respect to oneself may create feelings of anxiety, judgment and pressure; for others the idea of examination may be considered a hokey or corny idea that is far from interesting.  If this is the case, I suggest we reframe the idea without losing the importance that the definition of examining offers us.  Sometimes by adjusting our perception, it is possible for us to do a new thing with an old issue, such as committing to the process of “self-examination.”   In order to do this we must identify the perceptions we do have and ask some of the tough questions I spoke about earlier, such as: When should I examine myself? How do I go about it? What informs how I go about it? Is self-examining informed by positive or negative influences? 
Identifying and examining our current perceptions enables us to:
·       Understand more about ourselves
·       Empowers us to be intentional about our choices
·       Be in a creative space to use what works to achieve our goals
·       Shed unproductive thought patterns and behaviors and replace them with productive ones.  
While the subject of “self-examination” may refer to an introspect look at oneself, do not be fooled to think that this process should happen in isolation.  We are behavioral and intellectual beings and some of our patterns of functioning are those that we learn from others. When doing the work of “self-examination” it is important to be open-minded, yet intentional about whom and what we allow as influences on how we examine ourselves. 
Observe and appreciate other people’s thoughts and experiences, while determining what is useful. Use whatever is nurturing from these observations to add characteristics of courage, patience, love and respect to your process of self-examining.  Be willing to find great mentorship in someone who is intentional about self-examination.  Having someone who can offer positive critiques that contribute to your awareness is an invaluable tool.  Sure even the most graceful critique can hurt a little, but learn to accept that sometimes this is going to be a part of the birthing process of “The You that you are Becoming.” The pain that is sometimes felt from learning to accept new ideas serves a great purpose also.  This part of the experience builds compassion in how you examine yourself and others, which leads to a level of awareness that is quite enriching.  

I encourage you to seek to examine and open yourself up to limitless learning.  Push past the unrealistic idea of perfecting yourself and strive for self-awareness, environmental awareness and the awareness of the varying perspectives of others.   Don’t avoid the examination process because you fear being wrong.  Don’t seek the examination process to ensure being right!  Move beyond those limiting theories and let your goal be to become an Explorer of Self and use all that you learn to serve and enrich yourself and your community.
~ Be ~
Written By Nieema Alford

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Gardener in You

Every morning on my way to work I walk pass a man who is tending to his garden.  As people walk by the garden, he stops gardening to smile, says “Hello” and offers his blessing for a good day.
What is unique about this garden is that it is set on the usually barren grounds of a local housing project in the Bronx.  Equally unique is the spirit that exudes from the gardener which is much like the unexpected joy of seeing a long lost friend.
I find myself looking for his greeting everyday as part of my morning ritual.  By the time I reach the garden, I am in some segment of my morning mental prayer.  I remember the first time I saw him in the garden he was standing at attention in the soil with his shovel in hand looking at me as I approached.  His eyes were lit up as if he was so happy to see me and couldn’t wait to say “Hello”.   I simply nodded in his direction a gesture of “Good Morning” as not to interrupt my mental prayer by speaking.  His response was a full bow, a tip of his hat and a loud “Good Morning My Dear!”  Startled by his greeting and embarrassed that I didn’t verbally greet him; I just giggled thinking maybe that was God’s way of welcoming me to “how” I should experience my day. 
This got me to thinking about how powerful we are as human beings who have the ability to create meaning for others.  We never know what it truly means to someone, by offering a simple greeting or a well-meaning inquiry about how they are doing.   This man not only focuses on creating a garden that is visibly beautiful, he is also intentionally graceful about how he interacts with the environment and everyone in it, despite all the things that the community may be deficient of.
His presence offers great metaphorical insight on how we can approach life and is nothing short of a blessing about “The Art of Becoming……..” 
The Art of Becoming is not only about what you can do when all things come together naturally and easily, rather it’s more about “how” you create amid the challenges in life.  The Art of it requires thinking creatively, using the resources within the environment and challenging concepts that cause and maintain dysfunction, much like what this Bronx Gardener is doing.
Some of the concepts of gardening require that the gardener have a vision, a plan for structuring and the openness to learn from the environment that will bare its fruit.  The same skill set can be used as we tend to ourselves and become gardeners to our life experiences, envisioning our  goals and how others will experience us, planning for and ensuring growth in life and creating meaningful opportunities when challenges present themselves.  
I welcome you to journey with me as I tend to a section of my life’s garden on “The Art of Becoming” and explore many of the ideas, blessings, challenges and concepts that life offers as food for thought.

~ Be ~
Written By Nieema Alford