Blog Personal Growth and Mental Health

What An AA Meeting Taught A Former Atheist About Prayer

In March 2015 I moved back to Rhode Island after living and teaching in Taiwan for two years. The international move had been rushed, triggered by my dad’s sudden suicide. My parents’ house was hoarded, so I was home both to plan the memorial, and also to embark on the Herculean task of cleaning out the house. 

During one of my first weeks at home, my best friend invited me to an AA meeting. They had recently become sober and spoke highly of the meetings and community. Because of my current circumstances, making small talk with “normal” people was painful; I had no idea how to answer the question, “How are you?” without bursting into tears. The thought of being in a room of other people who truly understood rock bottom felt oddly comforting. 

The night of the meeting was bitterly cold, and four-foot piles of snow were closing in on us from every direction. Walking towards the church with my hands in my pockets, I could see my breath. The red jacket I wore seemed unfamiliar. After two years of living in a subtropical climate, I had forgotten all about my winter clothes left behind at my parents’ house. Now I had the eerie feeling of living someone else’s life, wearing someone else’s clothes. 

We made our way down the wide stairs into the church basement, and I was surprised to see how crowded it was. I felt vaguely worried that I’d have to introduce myself, but I never did. The crowd was big enough that we could take a seat towards the back and remain unnoticed. 

After a brief introduction and some announcements from the leader, people started sharing. They stood up and said how depressed they were and how hard this winter had been. As they talked, I wondered if the harsh winter had played a part in my dad’s choice to kill himself. These people sure seemed extra depressed.

Then a woman in her 30s  stood up. You could tell by her voice and personality that she had probably been a class clown in her day. She made the room laugh almost immediately. Our shared relief and joy at a break from the negativity made us laugh even harder than we otherwise would have. She talked about how the harshness of the winter and the bleakness of her mental state had recently pushed her to explore prayer. She said she had been afraid to pray before because she thought she didn’t know how. She thought it had to be really complicated. 

“If my frontal lobes weren’t glowing, I thought I was doing it wrong.” 

We all laughed. 

“But then someone gave me some good advice. They said, ‘It doesn’t have to be complex. In the morning just ask for help, and at night just say ‘thank you.’’’ 

The morning after the meeting, I carved out a small space in the clutter of my parent’s living room to exercise in. After my workout, I laid down on my yoga mat, hands by my sides and eyes towards the peeling plaster of the ceiling.

And then out loud, because there was no one around who could hear me, I said “Please help me.” Tears started rolling slowly down the sides of my face and into my ears as I repeated “Please help me. Please help me. Please help me. Please help me.” With each one, a tiny bit of space opened up within me. I felt a sliver of relief. 

That night, after a full day of sorting, organizing, and dragging things to the dumpster, I looked up at the ceiling and quietly said, “Thank you.” I was shocked to realize I actually meant it. 

I have never identified as a religious person, but looking back now 7 years later, I can see how powerful a role that surrender played in getting through my grief and turning my life around. If you are like me and prayer has never been your thing, I challenge you to try this out. 

In the morning say, “Help me” and at night say, “Thank you.” Whether you believe anyone is actually listening to your prayers or not, the effects of this type of surrender may just surprise you. No glowing frontal lobes required.

Blog Personal Growth and Mental Health

How Giving Yourself Permission to Take a Two Hour Walk Every Day Can Improve Your Life in Every Way

A month ago, I gave myself permission to take a two hour (or longer) walk every morning. 

When I tell people about it, they either say they are jealous and they would love to do that OR they look at me like I’m totally crazy.

When I first got the impulse to do this, I tried to talk myself out of it. I told myself it was too extra. I had a lot of logistical concerns (reasons and considerations for my fellow landmark grads). 

I thought: 

  1. To have enough time to walk that long I would have to wake up super early and I don’t want to do that.

  2. If I don’t wake up super early, I won’t have time to get ready because I have morning meetings I need to be at.

  3. I should be doing the HIIT and strength training programs I’m “supposed to do” in the morning, not just wandering around my neighborhood aimlessly. 

  4. I’ll be too tired for the rest of the day.

  5. I won’t be working enough if I’m outside for so long.

Then I thought, what if I just do it? 

What if these seeming limitations don’t exist?

So that’s what I did, and it’s been one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself and my business. 

Once I committed and just started doing it, all the things that I thought would hold me back just kind of melted away (doesn’t it always seem to go that way?)

  1. I do not wake up any earlier than I did before.

  2. I moved my morning meetings to start later (some of them even moved themselves! Imagine my surprise and delight when my team ASKED me to move a recurring Friday meeting later because it was better for them!) I also gave myself permission to show up to some meetings in workout clothes because spending my “getting ready time” walking allows me to be more effective and impactful at those meetings, which is a lot more important to me than having perfect hair and makeup on zoom.

  3. I let go of my expectations around what exercise needed to look like to be effective and have leaned into moving in a way that feels good to my body right now.

  4. I have more energy than ever!

  5. While I am working at my desk less, I have had the highest impact, most brilliant ideas of my entire career while I’m walking. I have had inspiration for trainings, content, and pivots in the business that I would not have thought of if I was just sitting at my desk. The thinking I am able to do while walking has made me the most effective CEO I have ever been.

A month into this experiment, I have never felt better. Even my business partner pointed out the huge transformation. I believe her words were, “You’re so chill now.” LOL!

In addition to having more thinking time that leads to more creativity and great ideas, I’m also feeling more energy, more calm and peace, less anxiety and all around more open in every situation I go into. 

I spend my walks listening to audiobooks on personal growth, leadership and manifestation, and the ideas and teachings take root and resonate so much more deeply than they did when I was rushing through a shorter walk.

If there was a pill that could give you these results, everyone would be buying it. It is absolutely incredible.

When I let go of my guilt and considerations around my new morning routine, I realized that if taking a two hour walk every morning is going to make me a more effective CEO and help me serve my organization and coaching clients at a higher level, then not only CAN I give myself permission to do it, I have a responsibility to. 

So maybe you don’t want to (or physically can’t) walk two hours a day. What HAVE you been wanting to do but have been talking yourself out of?

If there is something you feel called to do, but you haven’t given yourself permission because it seems like too much, this is your sign to just do it. Try it out for a month. Once you stop resisting, it could be the thing that changes everything.