Pressing Pause

I have a friend who became a political prisoner here in the US, incarcerated for five long years.  All his friends were worried that he would have a terrible time being locked up, isolated from friends, family, and the world.  But strangely, he was looking forward to the isolation.  He said he would use the time to read, reflect, meditate, and work on his Pranayama.  Pranayama is a form of Yoga that involves the science of breath.  Prana is Sanskrit for “life force” and Yama means, “extension”.   The practice requires a lot of self-control and focus, but when mastered, it transforms the whole body by allowing the practitioner to regulate their heart, and bioenergy system.  The Sanskrit word, Yoga means ”to unite”. Through controlled movement and breath, the practice of yoga unites the mind and body. 

When my friend emerged from the minimum security prison 5 years later, I was astonished at how centered and grounded he was.  Apparently he held true to his “conviction” (pardon the pun), and mastered yogic breathing during his incarceration. He is now a teacher and healer somewhere in Oregon.

Jordan Peele

Last December, I saw an interview with Jordan Peele which had a powerful impact on me.  He mentioned his early training in comedy improv.  As an actor, I personally dreaded improv training.  Improv training forces one to be positive, creative, and funny on the fly.  One has to really think on their feet to keep the beat going.  Improv hurt my brain, but people say I was good at it.  For example, if your scene partner says, “The sky is yellow”, you practice being positive by saying, “Yes, and the trees are purple!”  No matter what your scene partner throws in your direction, you as an improv trainee must always think and “add to it” by being positive!  It’s actually great training for life.  

In the interview, Jordan said that improv training was key to his current success in life.  How so?  Paraphrasing, when life would throw him a difficult situation, he would pause and ask himself, “Why is this the best possible situation for me?”   An answer would always come to him and he was able to create something positive from the situation, and grow from it.  He’s a melanated badass creative genius.   I strongly believe certain situations are a wakeup call to our inner genius!  We just have to realize it and re-frame seemingly negative situations in a positive light.

Now, I’m not advocating we all go to prison to find ourselves, but in this era of social distancing and ”lockdown” we have an excellent opportunity to pause, reflect, and look and see where we are, and decide where we are going.  Yes, a perfect opportunity to Pause and Reflect.

Experiment:  ask yourself, Why is this current situation the best possible thing for me?  What can I do to make myself a better, stronger, more resilient example for the world?  Then check-in with yourself every day to see how you’re doing.

“I’m an OG Blerd, so to me it’s obvious the ’system’ got a general protection fault error, and we need to seriously check our code for errors before rebooting.  Escalate the issue ASAP!”

Perhaps this pandemic thing is a global wake-up call, and Mother Nature would like our attention.  They say we humans are children of God, made in his/her/its image. I’ve noticed that God is pretty good at designing things; a great system engineer!  The human immune system is one such amazing creation.

The immune system is one of our secret superpowers.  Experts are suggesting a key to emerging from the current situation intact is to do things to keep the immune system strong, and avoid things that weaken and zap the immune system, like stress and toxic environments.  We all know that stress is the #1 killer, and can actually destroy the immune system. One of the benefits of Yoga and especially meditation is to relieve stress from the body. Fear zaps the immune system, so please, let’s not do that.

Your amygdala has nothing to fear but fear itself!
(Here’s a 2-minute neuroscience lesson, FYI)

It’s interesting to note that Louis Pasteur, one of the granddaddies of modern medical scientific research, in his latter days suggested it’s not so much the ’germ’, but the environment in which the germ exists that contributes to disease.   A Super-Powered immune system and a kick-ass stress management system sets up a domain in the human body where disease from germs and viruses are not welcome.  How about going forward, let’s saturate ourselves in a richly positive, life-giving, environment consciously – mentally, physically and spiritually? Corona Kryptonite?

The ancient African system of Ma’at teaches us how to bring systemic harmony individually and nationally by honestly self-reflecting on how we project and experience Truth, Justice, Harmony, Balance, Order, Reciprocity and Propriety.  We all have separate life paths and room for improvement relative to our global awareness, especially now. We can always improve. This is food for thought available only through using your mind.  Meditate, go within, ask, and the answers will certainly come via divine delivery service (not Amazon Wholefoods delivery service).

So during this time of pause and reflection, I’ve decided to stop and look to see where I am personally, and build on the self-improvement/self-empowering things I’ve started, so I can enrich my life and be a better human participant in this paradigm:

  • I started Yoga at age eight, practiced for ten years then put it down.   I started back just last week! My joints are a bit older now but I can still rock a Cobra pose!
  • Get my Holistic Health Practitioner certification.  It’s a life calling. Dr. Sebi & Dr. Liala Afrika are my virtual mentors.  Google them for a lesson in African Health.
  • Work on my 6-pack abs which I haven’t seen since 1998 (I need to look hot ’cause I heard the coronavirus can’t live above 90°F  -LOL).
  • Read all those darn Kindle books I bought, downloaded and never finished (Education is your best defense against, well, everything).
  • Complete my transition to a 100% plant-based diet.  I was a vegan for years but fell off the wagon. My abs went missing shortly thereafter.  Now it’s time to get back to my Afrikan roots, literally speaking, and get back to the picture of health God had in mind.
  • Finish the stage play I started 3 years ago.  It’s a 5-act, and I’m thinking of rewriting Act 5 in iambic pentameter!
  • Finish the Python programming and Stanford Computer Science courses I started last year on  I started programming in 1972 when I was twelve and these courses are a nice pick-me-up. Learning languages keeps the brain sharp!
  • Finish Spike Lee’s Masterclass course on filmmaking!
  • Rewrite and modernize my TV pilot screenplay.  I wrote it in 2006 and wow, has the world changed since then.
  • Get caught up with Don Cheadle’s show, Black Monday on Showtime.  Very funny script!

What kinds of things are you actively doing now in this time of pause and self-reflection to enrich and empower yourself?  Feel free to post comments below.

Gentry Smith

Gentry Smith is a business consultant and author.  He assists emerging Bay Area businesses that have a holistic, person-centered approach to community service.  Gentry is also the founder of Alkebulan Holistic, a Holistic Health Care Consultancy serving Oakland, CA and Huntsville, AL.

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