Body, Mind, & Soul

Are Your Misaligned Values Causing More Stress? 3 Ways To Find Alignment Without Adding To Your To-Do List


Article by Sue Hawkes

Do you ever feel like things aren’t right but you can’t put your finger on it? Often, we play it off as stress or a lack of work-life balance but without looking deeper, you really aren’t fixing the problem. According to a report by the Conference Board, a New York-based nonprofit research group, 53.7% of women are unsatisfied — that’s over half of all working women! Instead of adding or trying to create another productivity habit to fix your unsatisfied feelings, you need to slow down and look deep within ourselves to ask what is not working? When you allow yourself the space, you will finally be able to work through any issue you encounter.

Use these 3 ways to help you identify where you are misaligned rather than muscling through it with one more productivity hack.

Journal: Take the Time to Let Your Thoughts Flow

The health benefits of journaling are numerous but to name a few, journaling helps create clarity in your thoughts and feelings, facilitates more effective decision making and reduces stress. Beyond that, seeing what you are thinking on paper creates an objective perspective, allowing you the opportunity to address issues and work through them while bypassing your negative, self-doubting thoughts which cloud your judgment.

To begin journaling when assessing your values, ask yourself some simple questions:

What am I pretending not to know?

What life are you waiting to live?

If you had nothing on your to-do list, what would emerge? ​

Spend Time in Nature

Mental space happens naturally when you spend time in nature. There are less distractions which affords you the opportunity to turn inward and focus on observing yourself. This is extremely beneficial when you are stuck on a new project or at a crossroads for a decision at work.

Studies say that even a few minutes in nature can improve your short-term memory and restore mental energy. You can find an outdoor activity you enjoy requiring little effort (remember: you want to give your brains a break), like hiking or walking your dog, and enjoy it often.

Most often, the best answers and solutions already reside within us but most of us don’t allow the quiet space because it doesn’t feel productive; it is!

Take a Clarity Break™

A “Clarity Break™” is a practice developed by Gino Wickman as part of EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System. The purpose is to reflect and create space for strategic thinking on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.

You do this by taking a break from your phone, technology, home or office. The point is to get away from distractions which tether you to work. Sit with a pad of paper and pen and let your thoughts flow. Don’t focus on producing anything specific, see what emerges.

Studies have shown that activity in many brain regions increases when our minds wander. So don’t put pressure on what your clarity breaks result in, rather create space in order to have the space to create. The trick is to practice this consistently, it is where you’ll see results by identifying patterns in your thinking and life that are causing misalignment.

With the day-to-day pressures at work and at home, it is easy to get misaligned. These simple practices won’t allow you to put a bandage on the problem, you will finally find your solution.

More than just a bestselling author, Sue Hawkes is a keynote speaker, Certified EOS Implementer, Certified Business Coach, WPO Chapter Chair, award-winning and globally recognized seminar leader, and an entrepreneur. She is CEO and Founder of YESS! – Your Extraordinary Success Strategies, and brings over 25 years of experience to her clients and has designed and delivered dynamic, transformational programs for thousands of people. She has been featured and is a regular contributor to INC, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fast Company, New York Daily News and Thrive Global. Hawkes has received numerous awards including the Dream Keeper award recognized by the Governor’s Council for her leadership program, the Regional U.S. Small Business Administration Women in Business Champion of the Year award, the Exemplary Woman of the Community award, Women Venture’s Unsung Hero award, Women Who Lead from Minnesota Business Magazine, and NAWBO Minnesota’s Achieve! Vision Award, in addition to being named a 2018 Enterprising Woman of the Year. Connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.

Body, Mind, & Soul

Hijacked By Emotions At Work? Name, Tame, And Transform Them


The workplace can make people feel a full range of emotions — sometimes more intensely and frequently than one experiences at home.
The difference is, people are often reluctant to show or acknowledge to themselves their full emotions while on the job. But burying those emotions can cause bigger problems, says Cynthia Howard, author of The Resilient Leader, Mindset Makeover: Uncover the Elephant in the Room.
“Emotions are part of your survival kit,” says Howard (, an executive coach and performance expert.  “But for too many, emotions are the black box in the aircraft. You look at them only when there has been a crash or a tragedy.
“In the workplace, emotions get ignored for a variety of old assumptions, such as they’re a sign of weakness. But the message that one can separate their emotions and still function well is a myth. Research shows that when you can identify your emotion, you are able to slow your reaction. Thus you can name it, tame it, and then can take the right action to shift those feelings.”
Howard suggests using a journal to evaluate the following common emotions experienced at work and turn them into positives:
  • Anger. “Get to know your anger,” Howard says. “When ignored, anger turns to rage, resentment, heart disease, and it shuts down your ability to be happy.” Anger alerts you to set boundaries and facilitate change. Ask yourself these questions: What happens as a result of experiencing anger? How does it affect other people and interfere with your goals? Who or what flips your anger switch on?
  • Anxiety. “Anxiety arises from thoughts,” Howard says. “It can catch you in an endless thought loop. Did I sign off on that contract? Did I forget something? Anxiety can also serve as a messenger to help you clarify a situation, so you can take action.” Use your phone to create lists or download one of the many aps that will help you stay organized and focused. Consider these questions: How does anxiety interfere with your goals? Who or what flips your anxiety switch on? What would you like to experience instead?
  • Sadness. This emotion often brings a desire to withdraw and the need to cry. “It’s a cue you need time to reflect and let go of things that are not working,” Howard says. “Sadness gives you a window into what you value. And when you can acknowledge your own sadness, you increase the ability to demonstrate empathy. You develop the courage and ability to do other difficult things.”
  • Discouragement. When left unchecked, discouragement can erode confidence,  motivation and momentum. “Go from discouraged to determined,” Howard says. “Reframe it by identifying three things that are going well for you. Recognize that the discouragement is not permanent. Find a safe person to talk to, then let go of discouragement and focus on your big vision.”
“All these emotions tie into stress,” Howard says. “Chronic, unmanaged stress, often caused by an unwillingness to confront these emotions, interrupts the ability to think clearly, work well with others, and in general, perform. Identifying your emotions leads you to having more control over them.”
About Cynthia Howard, RN, CNC, PhD
Cynthia Howard ( is an executive coach, performance expert and the author of The Resilient Leader, Mindset Makeover: Uncover the Elephant in the Room. She researched stress and its consequences in performance during her PhD. In the past 20-plus years she has coached thousands of professionals, leaders and executives toward emotional agility and engaged leadership.


Beauty Beat


KIERIN NYC only recently launched, but is already on theise as the first and only niche-fragrance celebrating the real stories of NYC life illuminated by fragrance.

We are a clean, conscious, cruelty-free, vegan, sustainably sourced, gender-inclusive brand. Diversity and inclusion are core to our brand, not just an afterthought. We use art (graffiti, mural, pop-art) as muse in our celebration of real people, young people of all ages and individualists boldly inspired to Be.

KIERIN first four scents are:

strong>Nitro Noir: an irresistible rendezvous with the city night. Hypnotic, sensual head notes of orris flood the senses with intense heart notes of vibrant pink-berries and a pucker of bergamot infused in a delectable dry down of earthy patchouli for a scent that is sexy and impossible to resist! Youtube review by Tiff Benson (here).

10 a.m. Flirt: a magnetic encounter with the city’s limitless possibilities. Fresh, clean and crisp head notes of gardenia flood the senses with a flirty, green scent and move through the heart notes of fig drying down onto woodsy notes of sandalwood and cashmere wood for a magnetic attraction. YouTube review by ImagineScents (here).

Santal Sky: a soulful retreat from city life in the midst of it all. Intimate, incandescent head notes of sandalwood moving serenely through warm heart notes of saffron and cardamom with an indulgent dry down infused with notes of vetiver refresh your soul for a scent that leaves you wanting more. YouTube review by Brooklyn Fragrance Lover (here).

Sunday Brunch: a scent story of a luminous ritual with “city family”. Charismatic, effervescent head notes of Italian bergamot moving lightly to heart notes of lemon with a dry down infused with base notes of Earl Grey Tea for a scent celebratory of good times! YouTube review by Mallory Corneilson (here).

As a fierce female founder, I care deeply about what our brand stands for. We frequently collaborate to give back to the causes we support and are a community oriented, disruptive, digitally-driven brand. I would be honored and thrilled to have the chance to chat with you for 15 minutes and explore the possibility of collaborating, or providing you with content as a resource on the topic of trends, the future of fragrance, sustainability, green beauty, clean beauty and gender-equality.


Mona Maine de Biran of KIERIN NYC appeared on covers and in magazines, catalogs and on television throughout Europe, Asia and America during a successful career as an international model.


My passion for perfumes came to me later in life, though I’ve always been emotionally touched by scent. Two of my earliest scent memories are of fascination, the smell of freshly spritzed Chanel No. 5 comingled with that of patchouli incents hovering in the air around my mother as she prepared for a night out, and the scent of comfort wafting into my room in the morning, aromas from a distant kitchen of freshly made southern biscuits, cherry pie and Halston cologne. My experience of perfume has rarely been pure, always tainted by the place in which it was experienced.It took years for me to realize fragrance lived in the moment, not just in a bottle, and was meant for more for than just sniffing. I credit my husband, a veteran in the beauty and fragrance industry, for exposing me to this awareness. Whether consciously or subliminally detected, scent has a primal ability to move people’s moods and leave an imprint on both the individual and, by consequence, the world. My passion for perfumes was born when I became aware of scent’s ability to deeply connect person-to-self and people-to-people. Perfumes weren’t just precious things in pretty bottles. I fell in love with niche-fragrance for its uniqueness and talent for wordlessly communicating a whole scenario or state of being within the individual.

Whether by virtue of nature or nurture, I’ve been a fiercely independent character since I was a child. My early years were marked with feelings of being an outsider, a bit of a rebel without a cause. This led me to branch out and travel the world- for work, discovery and pleasure. Fortune favored me, gave me the opportunity to be a professional model, a career I chose to pursue mostly abroad to fulfill my own yearnings. Everywhere I went a book, paper and pen were in my hands. I would jot down stories, poems, questions and musings of my own “Mona Moments.” Country to country, I traveled on my own but was never alone. A people person, I applied myself to a self-study of languages and became fluent in French, Spanish and Italian. I even got by in Greek and Japanese during the years I spent in those countries because, however new or hard the task, it has always been in my nature to persevere and express. My love and respect for individualism, diversity and support for equality and inclusion grew in those years living abroad. So, too, did my understanding and appreciation for the human experience

Body, Mind, & Soul

Parents are stressed with back to school schedules

Many parents report feeling frazzled and overburdened by the back-to-school schedule. In fact, a new survey by Coinstar found that 3 out of 5 parents are stressed about back to school prep – and its not wonder due to the demands on parents that sharply increase with their kids’ sports, adjustment to school, $chool $hopping, paperwork, fee$, and meetings.

What’s more, a study by found that moms and dads both agree getting their kids up for school was the most stressful part of the new year and about 65 percent of moms and 55 percent of dads said they were stressed about money and financial pressures of the school year a head. Additionally, the study shows that the logistics of after-school activities increase stress for parents.

But back-to-school doesn’t have to end in parent burnout! “Win back some of your precious time, keep self-care front-and-center, and focus on the benefits of the school year schedule,” Laurie insists. “It’s all about strategizing and mindset.”

In an interview ahead of Back To School season, Laurie discusses expectation management, and stress-reducing techniques for parents, and how to maintain a fall schedule that includes attention to your own well-being, including:

FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE : Our kids’ lives being back on a schedule brings a welcome structure, allowing for strategic “task-chunking.” Also, the school schedule typically affords us 7 hours a day where our kids are in a safe, enriching environment, and are in contact with their friends. This can be a huge relief!

SET A BUDGET: Have a clear idea of what the family can afford to spend on clothes, school supplies, sports fees, and class photos for the first 2 months of school. And stick to it.

MAKE A TO DON’T LIST: Reclaim your time by listing out your top 5 biggest time wasters and commit to not doing them for at least a week. You’ll likely find you never needed to do them in the first place.

A LITTLE BIT OF HELP GOES A LONG WAY! Get extra help via Instacart, Amazon Prime and meal prep services whenever possible. Delegate tasks among all family members, and create a private FB page or email group with other local parents for ride-sharing for after-school activities, and for childcare swaps.

 Manage the expectations of others with clear boundaries. Be transparent about what you can and can’t do – for the school, for your kids, and at work.

Care for your physical body with Laurie’s Top Four Non-Negotiables. Food choices, sleep, hydration, and exercise are all powerful influencers of your ability to remain healthy and energetic, to stay centered, and to manage stress. Simply starting your day with an easy nutrient-dense breakfast can be a game-changer.

Laurie Warren is a holistic well-being expert, speaker, corporate consultant, clinician, and author of the forthcoming book WILD WORLD, JOYFUL HEART: Unlock Your Power to Create Health and Joy.

Incorporating her master’s degree in clinical and integrative nutrition with training in biochemistry, functional medicine, and herbalism, Laurie works as a healing facilitator, specializing in weight loss, digestive health, endocrine balance, immune function, and nutritional support for cancer survivors.

Early in her post-graduate career, she realized the effect of mind and spirit on both physical health and life experience, leading to her extensive research in neuroscience and experiential training in wisdom traditions. A student of psychology for over 30 years, Laurie advocates for using the mind as a bridge – instead of a barrier – for creating empowered well-being in body, mind, and spirit.

With an undergraduate degree in business finance, Laurie also spent a dozen years in leadership positions in finance and sales in the high tech industry – experience that makes her a powerful ally to her corporate clients, while helping them to build a progressive wellness culture. Her unique ability for synthesizing complicated ideas and making them entirely relatable, understandable, and enjoyable, makes her a sought-after speaker. Laurie is also a regularly featured expert in the media, with appearances including HLN, WTTG-TV, and WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C.

Laurie lives in the Greater Boston area and enjoys her four children, her two grandchildren, and the gift of life. She invites you to visit her website at

Body, Mind, & Soul



“My son drowned 3 days ago. His limp, gray, lifeless body was pulled from the pool and it was every mother’s worst nightmare. He was dead. I heard screaming, and after a minute realized the screaming was coming from me. I watched in slow motion as people rushed to him, as he was laid on the concrete, as CPR was started.”

“A million thoughts were flying through my head as I stumbled around, not knowing what I was doing, screaming. I saw my dead baby on the ground. I thought about his twin brother and how could his life go on without his twin. I saw my 10-year-old son, hysterically sobbing, in his bright blue swim trunks, his beautiful tan skin glistening with pool water still. His life ruined because he just watched his brother die, drowned in the same pool where he was playing. I saw my sassy little 3-year-old daughter, in her pink unicorn and rainbow suit, just watching me, confused. And how was I going to tell my husband that I let our perfect 5-year-old son drown?? It was exactly like I’ve read other people say in emergency situations: I thought this must be a dream, one of those dreams that you wake up sweating from, short of breath, because it was so real. Wake up! Wake up! But no, I was already awake. Then the screaming was worse. This is happening. My funny, silly, sweet, handsome, artistic, thoughtful little blondie was dead.”

“I finally was able to force myself to stop screaming, I ran over to where CPR continued on my precious baby. I have no idea how long it was. 10 seconds? 3 minutes? I don’t know. But I ran to him and watched and cried and talked to him as my friend tirelessly and relentlessly continued CPR. He looked awful and perfect still at the same time. I watched as water and vomit poured out of his mouth, eyes swollen and rubbery looking. Then a miracle happened! I don’t remember what it was first, but he showed some sign of life because several people at the same time exclaimed “there he is!” and encouraged me to keep talking to him. My friend kept working, I kept talking. He started to try to open his eyes and another round of exclamation occured. My friend said she could feel a pulse, they decided to move him off the concrete to the pool house. A million thoughts continued racing through my mind. I was sure even if he was saved, it was too late. I was sure machines were going to be doing his living for him. I was sure it had taken too long.”

“Everything that happened next seemed like an eternity. The ambulance took forever to get there. They tried to get an IV on the scene but couldn’t. The ride to the hospital was painfully long. But my baby started coming around! He jerked his arm back with the IV needle stick! He cried! He was coughing! Somehow, my baby was still with me!”


“We have now been in ICU at Peyton Manning for the last 3 days. He is sitting beside me in bed right now playing with a stuffed puppy a friend brought to him and watching Captain Underpants for the 70th time. He’s off all oxygen. He will very likely come home with me today. Home with me 3 days after drowning, home to live happily with his family instead of us burying him today.”

“The reason I’m sharing? This happened in a pool full of people. A pool full of ADULTS. I’ve read so many stories about kids slipping away from their parents and getting into a pool, to be found drowned shortly later. I’ve never considered the possibility that my child could drown right in front of people who were watching him bob up and down from the bottom of the pool to just below the surface, but didn’t think he was struggling because he looked like he was PLAYING. When I found him myself, 2 feet from adults who were in the pool, my first thought was that it wasn’t him, that it was someone else’s kid who was seeing how long they could hold their breath. I can 100% understand why the adults who were RIGHT THERE didn’t recognize that he was drowning because when I saw him, I too thought he was just a kid who was playing. What tipped me off was the kid I saw was wearing a shirt: Adam had gotten in the pool in his shirt. He doesn’t know how to hold his breath. GET HIM OUT!!!! THAT’S ADAM!!!!”

“This was 100% preventable. The fault was MINE. He’s a big 5-year-old. He has a very needy twin who makes it easy for me to forget that Adam is still 5 too and has needs that other 5-year-olds need. He’s not self-sufficient even though sometimes I feel like he is because he’s so capable. I didn’t tell him to get in the pool without his Puddle-jumper on, but I was aware that he had. I simply told him to stay in the shallow end while I got his sister’s swimsuit on, then I would be over. I thought it was fine for 5 minutes, as he could touch just fine in the shallow end, he wasn’t alone because there were multiple adults IN the pool, and I’d be right next to the pool getting her suit on. Wrong. I have never ever been so wrong. He remembers what happened. He said he slipped off the edge. Based on where he was in the shallow end, and where we found him, he means the ledge from the shallow to the deep end. He said he kept going to the bottom then to the top and tried to yell “Mommy!” It kills me to hear that. It kills me to know that his last thoughts were that mommy didn’t come for him. But God decided to give me another chance to do better. He gave my baby back to me. Now he knows I DID come for him.”


“Who knows what we’ll face from here? Physically, it is beyond comprehension that he is suffering no consequences. He is asking to go back to my friend’s to swim and says “this time, I’ll wait for Mommy” before getting in the pool. But he yells for me every single time I’m out of his sight. He clearly has some anxiety that he didn’t have before. I pray that some counseling and lots of reassurance will fix that.

I’m sharing this because I want to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Before going to any pool, first make sure your kids know not to get in until the adult who is responsible for them is ready to watch them. That sounds like common sense, but I was thinking because so many adults were present, he was fine, but those adults didn’t know his swimming ability so they didn’t question when he was under water. Second, KNOW THE SIGNS OF STRUGGLE! Adam didn’t look like he was struggling! He wasn’t splashing, thrashing, or screaming. He was simply underwater and couldn’t get his head above water. Third, know CPR. I do know CPR. Could I have performed it in that moment? I like to believe I could have if I hadn’t seen someone else taking charge. I like to think if I had been alone, my survival skills would have kicked in. Luckily, I don’t know, because my amazing friend was busy saving him, but I do know that if I didn’t know CPR, my helping him if we’d been alone wouldn’t have even been a possiblity.”

“I said I wasn’t going to share what happened. I feel so responsible (I am responsible!) because I let him get in without any sort of safety device on, and he was in before I personally was ready to watch him. But I decided to share because I see parents at pools doing these same things every single day! And I’m sharing to hopefully spread drowning awareness.”

“I’m also sharing to thank my friend for saving him, to thank her over and over and over. I am eternally grateful to her and will never ever be able to repay her. Ironically, I was there for her as her nurse when her son took his first breath after he was born, and now she was here for me as my son took his first breath after he died.”

“Please take water safety seriously. I never thought this would be me. It was me, but thanks to God and my dear friend Kristin, my son is still safely here. Learn from my mistakes so it’s not you.”

“I have no pictures of what he looked like when he drowned. Unfortunately I only have the image forever tattooed on my brain. I’ve shared a few images of him in the hospital and the most important one, the one with his guardian angel, Kristin Moon.”

Body, Mind, & Soul, Health & Wellness



Depression, stress and anxiety are on the rise across the U.S. just as anti-depressants are coming under scrutiny. With many seeking natural remedies instead of meds, licensed acupuncturist Matt Maneggia has definitely seen an increase in people turning to the ancient medicine.

In the last couple of years, stress-related disorders have become the 2nd most common condition that bring people to our office, with pain still the number one reason,” said Maneggia, owner of Connecticut Family Acupuncture in West Hartford.  “Unquestionably, the number of kids and teenagers we treat is growing quickly.”

In fact, a new national report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State shows colleges are overwhelmed with students reaching out for counseling services to deal with mental health issues. Unfortunately many prescription medications are not recommended for young adults due to potentially harmful side effects.

“I think parents are becoming more and more wary of anxiety medications, and actually, kids usually really enjoy acupuncture,” explained Maneggia. “Very often they respond to it much more quickly than adults. Plus they love getting pictures of themselves getting a treatment to share on social media!”

Maneggia notes even for adults, research shows that around 50% of patients treated with medication for anxiety have an “inadequate response,” meaning that their symptoms are not relieved to a clinically significant level or that the patient experiences adverse side effects.

Acupuncture on the other hand, naturally inhibits the sympathetic nervous system, (the fight-or-flight aspect of the nervous system), and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, increasing the body’s ability to rest and relax. When the body is under stress, an area of the brain called the hypothalamus releases a bunch of neurochemicals. Acupuncture can calm this response. Acupuncture has also been shown to increase the release of endorphins, the body’s own “feel-good” chemicals.

And since acupuncture is not a medication, people can have acupuncture while they’re still taking medications. There are no interactions or contraindications between the two. And while Maneggia doesn’t advise his patients to go off any prescriptions, many of his patients work with their doctor to wean off anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications using acupuncture to bridge the gap.

Maneggia notes that while any acupuncture treatment helps with stress relief, there are some specific points that have a more direct effect on stress. Some of these are on the ear, and CT Family Acupuncture often uses ear seeds as a way for people to manage stress in between treatments. Maneggia explains that ear seeds are actual tiny black Vaccaria seeds adhered to the outside of the ear with tan or clear tape. Patients can apply them at home by themselves and gently pressing on the seed stimulates the central nervous system to relieve stress and pain. This allows the patient to activate the relief points when needed during a stressful situation.

“There are also two points on the bottom corners of the fingernail of the pinky that are quite responsive to acupressure to relieve stress – you can just press on these with another fingernail when needed,” added Maneggia. “I have an eBook coming out very soon that discusses some do-it-yourself techniques for a variety of issues, including stress and anxiety – so keep an eye out on our webpage.”

Chinese herbal formulations are also used in conjunction with acupuncture as they can be highly effective and sometimes provide fairly immediate relief. Like the ear seeds, herb formulas can be a great way to maintain the beneficial effects of acupuncture between treatments.

Everybody responds to acupuncture in their own unique way, with some people noticing improvement quicker than others. However, Maneggia generally believes it’s best to get a handful of treatments closer together when starting acupuncture since the treatments have a cumulative effect.

“That may be two treatments a week for a couple of weeks, then once a week for a few weeks, then every other week, etc. I use the analogy of starting a lawn mower for the first time after a long winter – you need to give the cord a few good pulls in close succession before the engine engages and takes over on its own,” he said. “Usually, once somebody is out of the acute situation, people schedule appointments once every 4-6 weeks for maintenance.”


Since 2007, Connecticut Family Acupuncture has utilized acupuncture, TCM work, and cupping to help thousands of people realize their optimum health naturally, without the use of pharmaceutical or surgical interventions. All practitioners exceed state and national requirements for licensure in acupuncture combined with an extensive knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Nationally certified by the NCCAOM and licensed by the CT Department of Public Health. Two locations: West Hartford Acupuncture at 173 Oakwood Avenue in West Hartford and 1212 Boston Turnpike in Bolton. To schedule a FREE 20 minute consultation, call 860.809.1125 or visit

Body, Mind, & Soul

Spirituality Is Not a Weakness’ and It Is Not for Weaklings

By Helena J. Sturnick, PhD, Contributing Writer

Have you heard the term, “Muscular Christianity” before? The movement began in the mid-19th century in England and then spread to America, a reaction by some cultural leaders who feared that religion had diminished its moral power by the feminizing of faith and good works. The antidote, its adherents believed, was to emphasize “primal” masculinity, virile virtues, masculine language, and—as Teddy Roosevelt declaimed—to maintain “the barbarian virtues.” Perhaps those words don’t make you chuckle, but the fierce seriousness sure does give me pause.

Although this article intends to focus on Spirituality more broadly than the narrower aspirations of Muscular Christianity, that movement offers us a sense of how urgent was their cultural need to represent Strength and Action Principles as superseding gentleness and passivity. How compelling was the need to find a new way to define the intensity of faith! Spirituality is not weak was the subliminal 19th Century message.

Masculinized Faith and Social Reform, 1850-2018

Why did the American and English Christians hold this viewpoint? Because they believed, right or wrong, that vigorous faith had diminished over the centuries. It is not too strong to say that they perceived the powerful faith of the Crusades had dissipated into a domesticized Christianity. The mysticism of the middle Ages, so the thinking went, had feminized faith, making it softer and gentler—much to the detriment of contemporary religion. The robust Victorian male leadership determined to create images of God, Church, Congregants and every aspect of the ministry which were vigorous. The impact of the masculinist leaders was felt mainly in the institutionalized church, especially in the pathways of Christianity.

Not all aspects of Muscular Christianity, however, were presented so crudely. Not only Roosevelt, but Social reformers like Jacob Riis, Charles Putney, and Charles Kingsley, expanded the messages of Muscular Christianity to include the “Social Gospel” movements: that is, to call for a wide array of social justice reforms, to support child labor law reform, to develop strategies for the eradication of poverty, to expand and improve education, and to implement other social reforms. These proponents believed, consciously and unconsciously, that human spiritual evolution (in this case, Christianity) could not happen on the backs of spiritual weaklings.

Defense of Faith: Expressions of Muscular Christianity

Whether we are aware of it or not, these philosophies were a major factor in the 19th and 20 century churches’ definition of the perceived dichotomy of the feminized Christian church and the masculine Christian church. These are not simply philosophies. They are an ethos, an ethical platform for perceptions of our modern faith-based institutions and the manner in which defense of faith is presented. Such thinking further plays a role in our contemporary efforts to attract male congregants through an emphasis on sport, athleticism, and brotherhood organizations. Even the image of Jesus comes under scrutiny; see, for example, Jenkin L. Jones’ “The Manliness of Christ.”

There is neither time nor space to discuss how this affected gender and the rights of women. Not until the 1970’s were strong women’s voices effectively raised in America and England to promote Feminist spirituality (which included Goddesses and witches).

Reshaping Muscular Faith Today

Not merely a 19th century phenomenon, the ideas of muscular Christianity have been reshaped by church leaders and some theologians in recent decades. Yes, there are still Churches that sponsor fighters and fight events and “fight pastors,” as well as athletic teams and training, and exercise ministries ( However, “Spiritual Strength Training” is now considered part of one’s whole spiritual practice. Women, as well as men and children, participate in physical training which strengthen the whole self—“Whole-Hearted engagement”—in order to perform not just physically, but spiritually, at peak performance levels. ”Spiritual Fitness” is the phrase of the day, encouraging participants not only to push themselves beyond physical limitations, but to go beyond cultural limitations as well. Exercise the body in order to train the mind, the soul, and the heart. Popular books by Robert Lundin McNamara, for example, are useful resources here. And the American Council on Exercise named faith based fitness one of the Top Trends of 2016.

The Fully Engaged Spiritual Self

Implicit in this important history is a perhaps fearful reframing of faith with the question, “Is Spirituality Weak?” Of course it cannot be. For if it is, then wherein lies our strength? (American men, according to a recent editorial in the NY Times [April 1, 2018], have separated themselves from the controversy by being “twice as likely as women to call themselves atheists.”)

There are many answers, I believe, to the above queries. Moreover, the array of responses are not defined by gender or cultural limitations. They lie within us as we explore our inner selves’ potential to become fully human by discovering the fully engaged spiritual self. These profound matters of morality and faith are given clarity and strength by actions taken by each of us as we develop the following spiritual strengths and practices. None of these will surprise you. They may, however, reinforce the insights you already have.

Aspects of Spiritual Strength for Modern Believers

  • Know yourself is a truth at least as old as the ancient Greeks. Faith, Belief, are the products of a rich inner life, one in which discovery and nourishing of the true Self are how we come to know the Divine. The Universal Spirit which is within each of us is both universal and specific to our own natures. The Great Intelligence surrounds us, while it also distinguishes our unique presence in the world. The God seed within our hearts is the beginning and end of all knowledge (as Spirit tells us, “I am the Alpha and the Omega”). As we seek to dwell mindfully within, we learn our heart’s realities; we learn to comprehend and to feel the authentic pulse of that unconditional love which animates the universe. As we allow ourselves to be genuine and real, we become intrinsic to Spirit’s purpose for us in the world. We are then congruent with the Divine. Lacking this self-knowledge, we are ciphers, rather than souls.

It is easy to acknowledge our strengths—they allow us to celebrate our place in the world. Yet, to acknowledge our weaknesses is painful. It means that no matter how hard we try, we are rough drafts, a work in progress, a long way from perfection. Nevertheless, the strengths and the weaknesses, the good and the bad, the powerful and the powerless are all aspects of our authenticity. The polarities are real, and they can be reconciled within ourselves. It is not Chaos, but Spiritual Unity, that Universal Spirit intends for each of us.

  • Therefore, accept yourself as you are. Universal Spirit does, completely without judgment. So take a leaf from God/dess: accept others too without judgment. Each of us is here to develop our higher consciousness so that we may serve goodness. And sometimes, that action is electrically challenging. Let yourself be shocked alive by the discoveries you encounter about yourself and others. If you don’t accept yourself, then no one else can either. God-Force, on the other hand, embraces us all.

  • Cherish your uniqueness, as the Divine cherishes it. The mission and temperament you bring to this earthly life change the vibrational energy of each day. You are, then, not only the creator of your own life, but you help the Universal Divine create the world anew every day. Over a billion human beings exist, yet you are the only you. There is no replication of your heart’s identity, only the singular consciousness which is yours alone. The power in that statement is incalculable, if you dare to embrace it. Remember Joseph Campbell’s statement: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

  • Do not be an imposter; the world is already filled with enough of them.

  • Practice gratitude. Make your daily gratitude lists, join the millions of other human doing the same thing. Yes, being unique is sweet. Yet sometimes there is strength in practicing a Universal ritual of thanksgiving. Comfort without end may exist in spiritual communities.

  • Forgive. The power of releasing grievances is cleansing. As we learn from Universal Spirit and our divine teachers, when we release s grievance or a heartache, we make room in our lives for greater good to enter our hearts and souls.

  • Have faith. As we know from the brilliant lessons of Alcoholics Anonymous, we restrain our egos by accepting that there is always and forever a power greater than ourselves.

Each of us has days when we feel weak, and we think too many funky thoughts. Each of us has days where, if we have to make one more gratitude list or define our character strengths and weaknesses one more time, we’ll jump off the nearest bridge. Some days we don’t want to concentrate on spiritual development—we simply want to be, with nothing more expected of us than the joy or the stillness of the moment. Honor those days too.

Spirituality is never weak. Infused with the boundless power of Universal Creation, It is in the strength of our beliefs, in every breath we take, and in every loving impulse we share with other human beings across the Universe.

Dr. Helena Judith Sturnick is a trained scholar, published author, university professor, national and international leadership coach, and global speaker. She’s earned a reputation for practical and creative leadership, and for speaking about the spiritual side of leadership. This reputation has accompanied Dr. Sturnick as the transformational president of five colleges and universities, a Vice President at the American Council on Education (ACE), and the Director of the Office of Women in Washington, DC, as well as into her newest venture as the author of Fire in the Soul: Finding the Divinity Within Each of Us. During her career, she also received two honorary doctorates, as well as numerous national and international leadership awards.