Eric Stevens

Fitness Speaker, Author & Personality

Eric Stevens is a health and fitness coach, trainer and practitioner. Eric has broadened that body focused fitness with writing, presenting and acting in order to reach people, change lives, and create dialogue.

Riders on the Storm

So apparently, there's a chance I am (or was) Jim Morrison! I came across this realization after experiencing one of the most vivid dreams I’ve ever had. In my dream, I actually became the figure of Jim, performing “Break on Through” as well as his last ever written song, “Riders on the Storm.” In typical Doors-like fashion, the dream was mysterious, hazy, and very strange. I even forgot some of the lyrics to ‘my’ own song while performing in front of a sea of people in a dark auditorium.

Feeling moved by the experience, I had the dream interpreted with the help of a ‘spiritual director.’ After some research, I realized Morrison died just a few days before I was born. This fact pretty much sealed my assertion and my dream advisor’s hypothesis and half-joking suggestion that I once lived as Morrison in a previous life.

As I took the dream analysis a step further though, the focus became less about the figure of Jim Morrison and more about the two songs featured in my dream. Why these two songs and what do they mean? At the time, “Break on Through” (to the other side) seemed a more prominent theme in my life and somewhat obvious in meaning and application – to break through the noise, clutter, and my shadow self and live authentically. To break through the preconceived notions of how things should be and act truthfully instead of acting in accordance with trying to please others.

Breaking through has been a continual battle in my life, but the song that has ultimately struck a lasting chord with me is “Riders.” At the time of my dream, I had just come out of a storm and a major life change (divorce, move, and professional transition). The timing and metaphor of riding on the storm seemed highly appropriate. After a short time though, my storm passed as did the memory of the dream. It was back to smooth sailing.

The other day, I happened to be quietly sitting at work when “Riders on the Storm” came on the radio. I was immediately struck again by the song and its underlying meaning. Literal storm waters have again been brewing in recent months. As I embark on yet another life shift (marriage, move, and professional transition), the prospect of a stormy uncertainty lurks.

With change again on my mind, I decided to dig a little deeper into some of ‘my’ lyrics and meaning. My initial analysis on "Riders" had much to do with marinating on the storms of life and the importance of riding or surfing on the wave, versus getting swallowed up in the tumultuous waters. But taking a harder look at Morrison’s lyrics have brought additional insight to the meaning. Some phrases seem obvious such as “Into this world we’re thrown” and “like a dog without a bone.” However, one phrase has jumped out at me in particular – “An actor out on loan.”

I took a look at some of the comments online and found the following analysis:

“’An Actor out on loan’ is a metaphor for powerlessness. It’s an old theater and movie term, dating back to the days of the studio system, when many contract actors had no control over their own careers…studio officials could hire them out on a whim to other studios for parts that could be destructive of their own careers. The first thing an actor did when he was in sufficient demand to dictate his own terms was to eliminate that clause in their contracts with the studios."

"An actor goes out there and if he is to be marvelous or even worth his salt he must be naked to the soul, exposed to the core. Vulnerable beyond belief. He must be his most private self in the most public of places. In front of the whole world."

Indeed, we are all ‘actors’ on our own journeys and life’s storms present our biggest stages. This week I spoke with an acquaintance who was recently in Las Vegas and at the tragic concert shooting. In a stormy moment of gunfire and panic, his immediate instinct was to help those who were wounded and to assist others in dragging them to safety. His genuine nature to act with compassion and dignity were apparent even in the very darkest imaginable human circumstances.

Hopefully, most of us can live full and meaningful lives without having to encounter such a horrific tragedy. But it is a certainty that all of us will encounter storms. Some of those storms will be powerful and even beyond our control. But as ‘actors out on loan,’ it is up to us to find the naked vulnerability to rise to the occasion and find our own truth and humility. It is only through such authenticity that we can ride the wave safely to reach the calm waters once again.

 

 

Moral Courage

"Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately."  - Elie Wiesel

My mom used to read to me at night…until I was in high school! She read children’s books to me when I was little, sports books when I was in grade school, and as I matured, she read biographies and history. One theme was consistent in the books she chose – moral courage. Moral courage is defined as the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences.

I’m not sure if it was Mom’s intention to instill the virtues of being some sort of moral crusader, but those books made a big impression on me. My main take away from those readings on the likenesses of individuals like Anne Frank, Malcolm X, or Jackie Robinson is that the true mark of success isn’t defined by what assets you have, your resume, or even how long you live, but by your willingness to stand for what you believe in.

How many of us are willing to take such stands? How many of us are willing to truly stand up - to our employer, our church, our government and risk persecution, our job, and even our freedom? To many, the comforts of modern life, validation on social media, and the distractions of technology hold sway over urgent and pressing systemic problems. We are too busy being distracted and seeking comfort to be burdened by life’s inconvenient truths.

Moral courage is seemingly in short supply these days although there are glimmers of hope if you look closely enough. Ishrad Manji is the founder of the ‘Moral Courage Project’’ at the University of Southern California where she teaches students to “do the right thing in the face of four years.” Manji is a Muslim who has openly stood up for the rights of women and minorities calling for reform in her faith in her bestselling book, The Trouble with Islam Today.

A recent example of moral courage is also former NFL player Ed Cunningham quitting his lucrative job as a television football analyst because he believes that football has negative long-term health ramifications. He felt could “no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot” in promoting a game he believes in hazardous to your health. In announcing his decision Cunningham added “I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”

The point isn’t whether people like Manji and Cunningham are right. Personally, I like football and though the studies on football appear to be fairly damning, I have no idea if the science is absolute or conclusive with regard to long-term brain damage and its correlation to football. The point is that Ed Cunningham quit one of the top jobs in sports broadcasting because of his convictions. The point is that Manji stood up to her faith at the risk of being ostracized or worse and has dedicated her life’s work to furthering the movement of moral courage.

The point is also that such stands of courage are notable because they are a rarity in our times. Moral courage tends to be the exception to the rule of the day – ‘me first.’ The mantra of me first is at the root of almost every major problem we face today – disparity of income & wealth inequality, dysfunctional government run by lifelong politicians, the epidemics of addiction, crumbling infrastructure and the failing environment. And it’s not just ego and selfishness that drives these problems, but they are compounded by a modern culture of apathy, indifference, and contempt.

Said Noel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” Wiesel goes on to say that “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Elie Wiesel wrote about perhaps the most glaring example of such neglect which occurred in the 1930’s & 40’s in Nazi Germany. Many protected their own self-interest - Their families, their jobs, their possessions. In doing so they contributed to one of the biggest crimes against humanity, not to mention their own countries demise and destruction. Indeed, when we put only our needs first, we neglect the moral necessities of our time.

These days there are also many who want to put their family, country or company first. While in some ways it’s natural and understandable to put you and yours first, frankly the sentiment is misguided and ultimately wrong. 'Me first' presents a self-absorbed narrative that puts blinders on the many extremely important issues of the day – poverty, failing societal health, the environment, education – things that affect us all in one way shape or form.

To right this ship, the single most important question we can ask ourselves is ‘what do you love in life more than you love yourself?’ Said another way, ‘what are you willing to die for?’ It’s a strong question, but one we all need to ask in our daily lives if we have a shot at correcting the sentiments of indifference, selfishness, and greed. Rather than responding to the issues of today with apathy, we have an ethical responsibility to stand up and ask, ‘what is going on here?’

We live in important and tumultuous times where a desperate need exists for leadership and the willingness to take stands. Even at the cost of a job, relationship, or personal gain we must put our conscious and community first. In a world of limited resources, interconnected economies, and common problems, the notion of me or even America first is archaic. As Thomas Paine said, “My country is the world. My religion is to do good.” Our ultimate task is to put the collective needs of the community first and as Paine rightly stated, “to do good.”

 

 

 

Pride & Joy

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Following my divorce, I felt like such a failure for throwing in the towel and quitting after making a commitment before God and family. I had never felt such shame and embarrassment, until someone who helped me through the process reminded me that quitting isn’t always cowardly, while fighting isn’t always courageous.

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WHAT IS SIGNAL AND WHAT IS NOISE?

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Listen Up!

Hearing yourself is easier said than done. In addition to the constant noise that engulfs our busy lives, many of us also play other ‘tapes’ that don’t serve us - That of a parent who said you weren’t good enough, a teacher who said you weren’t smart enough, or a coach who said you weren’t talented enough. Sometimes those voices push us harder...

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It's Better to Feel good than to look good.

The reality is that in a race versus father time, you will lose…every time. But that’s not what you see every day when you turn on the television. That’s not what you see in glossy magazines. You are told you should be leaner, younger, and more fit with each passing every year. How exactly does that work?

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