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Retraining the mind
Retraining the mind

 

Sam Morris is an executive coach and the creator of Zen Warrior Training, career coaching for high performers, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals. Sam works with professionals who are looking to bring their mind, body, and soul into alignment to live a peaceful, powerful and purposeful life. 

 

TRAUMA INTO PURPOSE

In the Summer of 1999, just after a 3800-mile cycling trip across the US, Sam Morris was involved in a car accident–caused by a drunk driver– that left him paralyzed.

 He was sitting on the passenger side of the back seat when the driver of the vehicle lost control and hit a tree. Sam was tossed over to the driver’s side (his seatbelt wasn’t fastened) and hit his T-12 vertebrae, which exploded upon impact, making him paralyzed from the waist down.  

Almost immediately, he knew that he had suffered a spinal cord injury. Just two weeks before his accident, he had participated in a mock accident that involved spinal injuries as part of a wilderness certification course.

Sam spent the first week after his accident in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on Morphine. Once the pain became a little more manageable, the doctors started to wean him off of the Morphine, but as Sam began to become less foggy and more lucid, he began to have panic attacks. His body was no longer in shock from the experience, but now his mind had some catching up to do to move toward accepting this new reality.

 At that moment, where panic crept in, Sam remembered the principal teachings of yoga, breathwork specifically. He needed a way to focus his intention and deal with the emotions that were being brought up for him as a result of this situation. As he started to practice breathwork at that moment, he felt as if he no longer identified with his previous thoughts and feelings about himself and his life. He was not the person lying there in that hospital bed. He was more than his circumstances, his name, his education, his friends, his body, and even the content of his entire life–he was awareness embodied. At that moment, Sam couldn’t feel his lungs inhaling and exhaling; all he felt was breath. This moment marked the beginning of Sam’s new journey.

After pressing that initial reset button, Sam worked to retrain his mind. He looked towards the world’s most skilled teachers: healers, shamans, and coaches. He started working with Emilie Conrad, founder of the Continuum Movement. After training with Emilie, he started a process of breath-movement integration, which allowed Sam to reconnect with wholeness.  The more he used the continuum training, the more he integrated with the system. Sam’s perception needed to shift by doing inner healing work, which was a catalyst for his interest in neuroplasticity. 

Through this transformative process, Sam was able to separate himself from his circumstances. It was only when Sam was able to quiet himself enough to listen to his inner monologue that he was able to see that his life’s path bent toward teaching mindfulness. Sam’s unique combination of both breathwork and meditation distinguishes his program–Zen Warrior Training– from the rest.

 

WHAT IS BREATHWORK

Breathwork stems from something called controlled rhythmic breathing. It’s a practice of conscious control of one’s breathing in order to positively influence a person’s mental, emotional, or physical state. Breathwork is a powerful tool that can be used to free a person from perceived limitations. It can help a person work through stress, creative blockages, and even some types of trauma. 

Breathwork starts with breath awareness, which is the process of bringing attention to the physiological experience of moving breath in and then out of the body. When working with clients, this is where Sam starts. There are many breathwork techniques, but they all start with simple awareness. 

 It’s easy not to pay attention to the breath because breathing is handled by the parasympathetic nervous system, which completes essential functions for the body without consciousness. 

As people take on additional stress, the body will naturally restrict breath as part of its fight or flight response. The body isn’t able to distinguish between primitive evolutionary stress response and one appropriate for modern-day, so it automatically restricts breath and prepares itself for either fight, flight, or freeze. Therefore, shallow breathing is a sign that you are stressed and could benefit from breathwork. 

Becoming aware of how you feel when your parasympathetic nervous system is out of balance will allow you to do what’s needed to relax your mind and body. This consciousness starts to affect a person’s approach to life and helps switch from survival mode into a state of peace. 

 

TRAINING HIGH PERFORMERS

Typically, high performers seek Sam out when they are not feeling the fulfillment they once experienced through the success they’ve previously realized.  What motivates people when they’re young, may not be a source of long-term motivation. Often, high performers are originally motivated to prove something to themselves or the world as a means of ego validation. This has limits and blind-spots and isn’t long-lasting. 

We all receive messages from the cultures we are a part of. We unconsciously absorb information and messages around what we should be or accomplish. As time goes on and we do things that make other people happy instead of ourselves, we experience a depletion of energy because we are not being honest and honoring our true selves. Over time this can lead to a depletion of passion and decreased motivation.

Most people believe that we need to prove ourselves externally to validate ourselves. When people can let go of who they think they should be based on what the dominant culture has conditioned them to think (otherwise known as the false ego), they discover who they really are and their ability to change the world.  

Sam helps people begin to connect with themselves, and through his coaching, they’re able to realize they are truly in charge of their own lives. Sam helps people to see how their experiences have shaped their lives and take positive lessons from less than positive experiences. 

The more mindful we can be, the more possibility we can unlock in our lives. Mindfulness allows us to reframe our lives and realize that all experiences are a part of life. Only then can we form new, more conscious lives. 

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To hear more about Sam Morris’s story and Zen Warrior Training, check out Episode 3 of our podcast, What Moves You.

“Retraining the Mind" (Sam Morris) | 3