My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
purchase it at B & N, Amazon or (click on image of cover)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Encouraging Readers to Seek Flow

This being National Library Week I thought I would continue on discussing reading and Flow. At our New Braunfels Public Library I came across a book, Going with the Flow: How to Engage Boys (and girls in Their Literacy Learning.) It was written by Dr. Michael W. Smith an education Professor at Temple University and Dr. Jeffrey Wilhelm an English professor at Boise State University. Although the book was written in 2006 to this day both authors still show a passion for encouraging reading and literacy. I am thankful when I read about people such as these men who encourage reading.

This book is based off of research that came out of a previous work they did, Reading Don’t Fix No Chevy’s. Their work revolved around trying to encourage young boys in reading which talking to teachers is a struggle more these days. I know in counseling clients when working with children I have found girls are more often open to reading than boys. At the college level I see the same phenomenon that it is the girls that tend to enjoy reading more. Smith and Wilhelm point out how in education studies that girls tend to outperform boys in reading. That seemed to be one driving passion in their research.

What I found interesting in the book was in their interactions with the boys they found a connection to Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory. As mentioned last week, Flow is the experience in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does with a sense of enjoyment. The authors found that the boys outside of the “prison of school” (some of the boys perceptions of school), had flow activities they enjoyed. Some of these activities were rapping, sports, video games and art.

They found that the boys were not totally against reading as a number of them read outside of school but often on subjects that they enjoyed such as the sports and video gaming activities. Part of the thinking on encouraging reading in boys was to keep encouraging them to read things they enjoy. I thought as I read the book it was that encouragement that could help the boys connect elements of flow to their reading. They point out near the end of the book that “We found that the five features of flow experience that we discuss in this book -- a sense of competence and control, an appropriate level of challenge, clear goals and feedback, a focus on the immediate, and the importance of the social – explained why our boys liked to do the things that they did. We found that these five features were equally explanatory of the boys’ literate engagement, both in school and out.” (page 171)

I haven’t crunched the numbers from my flow assignment with my college students but those seem to be the core elements of flow that my students felt would apply the best to college studies and flow. I have had students who were taking remedial reading at the college level and they made statements similar to the boys in the book. They would say they enjoy reading things they like but the struggle was reading material they did not like in classes. I would often reply that was hard for me to relate to, as being a Bookhead I enjoyed reading what I liked to read but in school I always enjoyed textbooks as well. I would often tell them I am crazy that way. I agree though that to build the habit of reading we need to encourage people to focus in on reading what they enjoy reading and branch out from there.

One other point I fully agree with is their thoughts on the emphasis on mandatory testing in schools. I have heard from stressed out teachers over the years how they hate teaching to the test. In counseling children many get very stressed out over the Texas state mandated tests. I have asked sometimes to an overly stressed child do the teachers appear nervous about the testing? Several times I have had the children reply in the positive that yes, they notice the teacher nervous about the testing. So if the teachers are stressed out how can we expect the children to perform well? The authors rightly point out how the emphasis on testing makes the emphasis on doing school, rather than learning to enjoy learning and mentally growing. “Our worry is that the more we overtly prepare students for tests, the less our assignments are for the enjoyment of doing them, or for the immediate power of application in the present. Increasingly, what students are asked to do in school is for the instrumental purpose of passing a test, often one in the distant future, instead of doing something for immediate purposes that provide intrinsic satisfaction.” (p. 160) Our test emphasis is counterproductive in building flow into students’ lives. No wonder so many drop out or lose their love of learning; which in the world we live in we should be building students who love learning.

So this National Library Week stop by your local library and support the work they do in encouraging reading. Continue to build the flow of reading in your own life and encourage it in others.

Reflection: Pick up a new book to read in an area of personal interest at your local public library.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Enjoying Reading as a Flow State

From foter

This semester in my College Success courses one assignment I gave students related to Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory. Flow is the experience in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. I had the students consider their outside of class activities they enjoy and think through various elements that make up flow. They were to write a reflection of whether they actually experience flow in their favorite activities.
The elements of flow that I had them reflect over came from Dr. Csikszmentmihalyi’s book, Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention. The elements are as follows:

1. There are clear goals – In flow the individual knows what needs to be done. The musician knows what note to play next. The rock climber knows what move to take next up the mountain.
2. Immediate feedback to ones actions – In a flow experience we know how well we are doing. The musician knows if he is playing the right note. The rock climber knows if the next move is a correct one.
3. There is a balance between challenge and skill – A person in flow feels their abilities are well matched to the opportunities for action. If the challenge is too high to the skill level frustration sets in. If the challenge is too low boredom sets in. There is a continual growth in skill.
4. Action and awareness are merged – In flow our concentration is focused on the activity being done. One-pointedness of mind is required by the close match between challenge and skills, and it is made possible by the clarity of goals and constant availability of feedback.
5. Distractions are excluded from consciousness – In flow there is an awareness of what is relevant for the here and now. Flow is the result of intense concentration on the present, which relieves from fear.
6. There is no worry of failure – In flow the participant is too involved to worry about failure. There is a confident sense of control.
7. Self-consciousness disappears – There is a lack of sense of the self instead there is a oneness with the activity. The pianist is one with their piano. The skater is one with the ice A paradox occurs in that the self expands through this act of selflessness and oneness in their flow activity.
8. Sense of time is distorted – In flow hours may feel like minutes so there is a sense of time distortion.
9. The activity becomes autotelic -- The flow activity becomes more enjoyable for its sake. The activity is an end in itself. (pages 111-113)

I was amazed at their responses as none of them had ever heard of flow. A few had coaches who taught them about being “in the zone” which is a similar concept. Through a myriad of favorite activities such as various sports, writing poetry, drawing, video games, dancing and many others, most of them could see the elements of flow in their lives as they did their favorite activities.

With the coming National Library Week still on my mind, my favorite flow activity came to mind. That flow activity is reading. I was glad to see a number of my current students listed reading as one of their flow activities. I should have given those students extra points for enjoying reading. How does flow relate to the habit and enjoyment of reading? Allow me to walk through my personal thoughts on how I see flow in my reading. With each book I read there is the goal to understand the story or glean helpful information for my personal or professional growth. The feedback I receive in reading is that relaxed enjoyment of the story that grows my creativity or the information I glean to improve myself. Depending on the book the level of challenge to my skill of reading varies. In reading for me the challenge relates more to the more academic texts I study. Increased ability to concentrate I have seen in my reading. When I read on a plane or in my home office being in the flow of reading, I focus in on the story or the information I am reading. Time seems like it flies by when I read so I often need to keep track of time if I only have a set time to read between appointments. Reading is definitely autotelic for me in that I enjoy reading whether it is for my Ph.D. assignments or leisure reading.

from foter

In living a Living More Than OK life, engaging in flow activities adds to the overall fulfillment of our daily lives. Flow activities in our free time helps in overcoming burnout or the angst of boredom. Of course I highly recommend that all people add the flow activity of reading into a portion of their free time. Reading builds up the creativity and the critical thinking aspects of our minds. As I stated near the beginning there are a wide variety of flow activities. Active is the key part. What are you active in? Just living ok keeps us stuck in the mundane mode of okness and passivity. It leads to flat lining in our life journey. Take some time to think through ways you can add to your life through flow activities you may enjoy.

Reflection: When you read do you feel any of the elements of being in flow? What are some of your favorite free time activities? Do you see the elements of flow in your activities?

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Grateful for Libraries During National Library Week

Just the other day in my Facebook account I saw a notice from the American Library Association: Celebrate National Library Week 2015 (April 12-18, 2015) with the theme "Unlimited possibilities @ your library®." The notice reminded me of my gratefulness towards libraries to this day. As I have mentioned in the past I have had many connections to libraries over the years. In elementary school my mother promoted to me, the local public library in my hometown of Barberton, Ohio by making sure I was involved in their Summer reading program. It was those early summers that encouraged my interest in reading which has grown to my present time, where my daughter calls me a Bookhead.

My first part-time job through my high school years was at the Barberton Public Library. Then in my college years at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, I worked at the campus library several semesters. With that experience I am a believer in the importance of libraries on the local level and the academic level. With my PhD work with Capella University the online Capella library has been helpful in gathering research articles. In trying to obtain hard to find articles the Capella University librarians have been an important resource to turn to for help.

ALA’s theme for the week "Unlimited possibilities @ your library®.", impresses me. The thought is so true in the unlimited possibilities that can open in our minds by reading and other resources available at libraries. Going back to memories in my life it was the variety of stories I read that opened my mind to the diversity in the world. The diverse ideas and peoples I read about in those Summer reading programs prepared my mind for thoroughly enjoying the diversity I found when I moved to Chicago for my college years. Reading strengthens the mind, as in my case since my father died when I was a young child, I was very inward and the school system thought I was slow educationally. I truly think it was the reading that helped build me up mentally to improve academically in school so that I was focused on College Prep in my final years of High School.

The importance of reading and libraries is what I have always liked about Dr. Ben Carson’s life story. He is a perfect example of their theme in that unlimited possibilities came true in his life due to his mother having him read two books a week from his local library. What positives could happen in our country if more parents followed that idea with their children in getting them involved in their local libraries? We could have a renewed renaissance in our country of critical and creative thinkers if more people took advantage of reading and their local libraries. That is so needed as presently, I usually just see mentally lifeless zombies staring at the screens on their phones wherever I go. Reading can bring mental life back to people as they learn the joy of reading.

Make it a point to stop by your local library next week, April 12-18, 2015 and check out a book or see what other resources they have for you. Take the time to let the librarians there know you are grateful for the work they do in providing unlimited possibilities to those who come through the door of the library.

Reflection: Here is the ALA link to National Library Week: The National Library Workers day is April 14th. Make it a point to thank any library workers you know. As I stated make it a point to stop by your local library during the week.
Think over their theme – “Unlimited possibilities @ your library®." Meditate on some of the new possibilities you may want to read about from books at the library.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Growth in Springtime

Multivariate Statistics has taken a toll on writing in my blog. Back in high school I did well in math but I have never been a lover of numbers and especially statistics. The course almost made me want to give up on my Ph.D. in Psychology with Capella University. Thanks to a fantastic professor that made statistics interesting with his Dr. Trunk's wisdom, knowledgeable tutoring help with Susan the rock and roll tutor, and IBM SPSS software that made the output of tables and graphs sensible I was able to pass the class. Then knowing I just have two more research classes before dissertation, helps in keeping a mindset to finish the goal of the Ph.D. So I am now back to my blog.

Before the last week of class, the college I teach at had their Spring Break so my wife, daughter and I went back to Immanuel Prayer House in Belton, Texas. A couple of days of rest and quiet were mindful reminders of the need to pull aside and enjoy communion with God and nature. One of the mornings, we took a hike over at nearby Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir. The morning air was still chilly as one of the hopefully last cold fronts from the North was wearing off in Texas.
The hike gave us a much needed workout along the trail. Being a workday there were only a few other people on the trail. One young lady from the area out for walk helped point us in the right direction as we had become lost due to the trails not being clearly marked. The paths are clear but there was very little signage to let new people know the direction back to the parking.

As we started on the trail we were moving along fast then I spotted a flower growing out of the trunk of a tree. That is when we slowed down and began to notice all the new growth beginning with the coming of Spring. The young lady who helped us with directions had told us that the park is much nicer after Spring has fully come and the trees are filled out with leaves. So we decided we will need to take another trip there in April or May to see the park again.

As we came home we notice Spring was beginning new growth on our fruit trees with blossoms on our peach and plum trees in our backyard. This viewing of the start of Springtime reminded me of what we can learn from the Seasons in our self-growth. Just as Spring is when there is new growth to be seen in trees and flowers we can see the importance of new growth in our own lives. In Living More Than OK we need to appreciate continual growth so that our lives are not stagnant and dying. I saw a video recently from a psychologist mentioning a way to keep a healthy brain. Her idea was to take 15 minutes a day to learn something new. Take just a short time each day to read up on some new information to keep the mind growing. I prefer reading but you could also listen to an educational video on the internet as another way to learn new information.

As you enjoy the newness of Spring around you this time of year think of ways you can bring New Growth into your lives.

Reflection: Take some time to plant some flowers or vegetables in your yard. Their growth can be a reminder to grow yourself. Enjoy a weekend stroll at a local park or nearby State park to enjoy nature in Spring. What new ways do you want to grow this Spring?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Enjoying Nature on South Padre Island

At the beginning of February my family went with me to the 2015 South Padre Islands Counselors Institute. It was organized by the Tip of Texas Counseling Association of Brownsville, Texas. When we lived in Brownsville I regularly attended most of the years. It was a privilege to be able to present again there as well as to learn from other presenters.

On the last day I left the conference early as my wife and daughter wanted to visit a couple of nature activities on the Island before traveling back to New Braunfels, Texas. The first place we visited was Sea Turtle Inc. The purpose of this group is stated on their website as “to aid in the protection and recovery of the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle.” The workers and volunteers are very knowledgeable about sea turtles. They had a number of turtles in tanks that they had rescued and that were being medically cared for until releasing them back into the waters. They had educational information for all ages. Turtles as you watch them come across as very Zen like. As they float through the water they have a peaceful look about them as if they are meditating about life. On their website they mention they offer internships to biology majors so they can learn and study about sea turtles. In talking with the workers there it was easy to see their passion for turtles. Sea Turtle Inc. would make a nice family learning activity or a learning experience for all ages.

We then moved next to the South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center that was nearby. The SPI Birding Center is also educational, as well as a peaceful way to enjoy the natural beauty of South Padre Island. From their website here are some aspects of their facility: Over 3300 linear feet of boardwalk, 5 Bird Blinds, A five story tower with spectacular views of Laguna Madre, Beaches & dunes of South Padre Island, the Gulf of Mexico, & the South Padre Island Skyline , Auditorium showing a short Richard Moore documentary movie about the wildlife of South Padre Island , Nature Gift Shop.
We took our time strolling the boardwalk to view the various birds and even a few alligators. There were a number of photographers who by the look of their equipment were very passionate about their hobby of photography as well as their interest in birding. This visit we were up against the clock as we needed to make a long drive home. They enjoyment of the birds, the sun reflecting off the water, and the views from the tower made us realize the next visit to the Rio Grande Valley would include another stop here.

South Padre is a beautiful relaxing get away spot. Nature centers are one way to enjoy the magnificence of creation. If you are ever visiting SPI make sure you take in the Sea Turtle Inc. and the South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center. Look into Nature Centers and parks in your state and local vicinity for enjoyable relaxing days with family and or friends. Nature Centers can be a break from the same old going to see a movie or simply staying stuck at home and playing with electronic gadgets. Taking time to visit those two spots brought added value to our visit to South Padre Island.

Reflection: Do a search on Nature Centers and Parks in your local vicinity. Plan a day picnic trip to a park of your choosing.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Creativity and Our Soul Quest

Last week I took a break from my PhD Multivariate Statistics studies to enjoy a jazz concert with my wife and daughter. We went to One World Theater in Austin, Texas to hear Keiko Matsui. The evening was an enchanting night of appreciation of creativity as well as thinking about my Soul Quest.

The One World Theater is a small intimate music venue. You experience the music there as even in the back rows you are still seem to be close to the artist. They bring in a wide variety of musicians throughout the year. If you find yourself visiting Austin do check out their concert listings.

Hearing Keiko and her band always helps me to appreciate the creative mind. We have heard her numerous times but never tire of her music. She has such variety of styles in her compositions. Watching her play the keyboards and piano it is clear that she is one with her instruments. The band she assembles has the same spirit of professionalism in their creativity with their instruments: guitar, sax, bass and drums. To see and hear 5 musicians play with such a unified spirit and selflessness of the give and take of solos is enjoyable to experience. You can hear it in a studio track on a CD but to see the interaction of the creative process live in concert is amazing.

It is her creativity in her song writing and keyboard playing that has kept her as one of my favorite musicians. That is why I list in my creative thinking chapter of my book, Living More Than OK. Her creative gift is one that she shares with the world in her calming and inspiring music.

I mentioned as well, that her concert made me think of my personal Soul Quest. Primarily because she played that evening many songs from her Soul Quest CD. Her music was a refreshing reminder that even though we are in a material based world the alternative reality of the spiritual world is with us if we are open to listen and see. I have always felt that the creative nature that we each carry in us and the creativity of the world around us points to a Creator behind all things. We all have our personal Soul Quest that is part of our journey as pilgrims in this short life on Earth.

Take a listen to Keiko’s song Soul Quest (click on the title) and think through your Soul Quest as you listen. The song begins with a soft mystical beginning and moves into a light meditative melody. It reminds me of the scriptures in Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." We need to quiet ourselves and have an open heart in our Soul Quest. It is in those times God can reveal Himself to us. Her song builds in strength just like we move further along in our Soul Quest our spiritual life can move higher up and further into deeper communion with God. Then at the end the song returns to quiet and calmness which reminded me again of the be still and listen aspect of the spiritual life.

If you ever have a chance to hear Keiko Matsui in concert do take the opportunity. You will not be disappointed.

Reflection: Go to and search for Keiko Matsui’s music videos. Listen to one of her songs of your choice and think through what do you appreciate about the song? What do you appreciate about creative musicians and the gift they offer in enriching our lives?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Conversing With God


This past weekend by family and I attended a “Biblical Spiritual Disciplines for Real People” conference at our church, Oakwood Baptist, in New Braunfels. Texas. The Speaker was Dr. Donald Whitney of Southern Baptist Seminary in Kentucky. The topics focused in on two disciplines of prayer and Bible study. Dr. Whitney spoke with a sincere passion for the importance of spiritual growth. This week in the blog I want to share some thoughts from his talk on prayer.

My favorite section was his teaching on prayer as he opened my mind to a concept of prayer I had not heard of before. The concept was “Praying the Bible”. He started by saying we commonly pray about 6 main categories: family, our future, finances, work or school work, Church or ministry and current crises we find ourselves in. These 6 relate to our lives and that is fine as our lives are important to God. Yet he kept repeating the idea that we slack off in prayer because of a common problem. The problem is we continue to pray often the same words day after day saying the same old things. Therefore prayer tends to become boring and we give up praying, thinking the problem is us. Instead of self-blame he encouraged us to rework our method of praying to add vitality to it. That is where “Praying the Bible” comes to play.

The prayer method of “Praying the Bible” is not complicated. Actually it came across as simple, which I like as my mind likes simple methodologies. Before your prayer time you simply choose a passage of scripture from the Bible. Dr. Whitney encouraged the use of the Psalms but mentioned it can be used with other passages from the Bible as well. After you choose a passage or Psalm you read it over and then start your prayer using key verses from the passage God places on your heart to guide your prayer.


For example let’s say I choose Psalm 63 (NKJV)
1 O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.3 Because Your loving-kindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You. 4 Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.
6 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.
7 Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
8 My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.
9 But those who seek my life, to destroy it, Shall go into the lower parts of the earth.
10 They shall fall by the sword; They shall be a portion for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God; Everyone who swears by Him shall glory; But the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.

With this Psalm you may want to begin praying how you are thirsty to experience the reality of God’s presence in your life. Possibly God will bring to mind some friends or family who are experiencing a desert time in their lives so pray for refreshment for your spirit and theirs. You may then move into a section of thankfulness for God’s loving-kindness and seek to be an example of God’s love to those you meet in your workplace. With these few thoughts, you probably get the gist of what the concept of the method is getting at, in praying through a scripture passage.

Personal photo

Dr. Whitney gave everyone a time to try the method out with various passages of scripture. Many felt it was like a true conversation with God. Which if one believes as we Christians do, that the Bible is God’s Word to us; then by using a passage of the Bible as the foundation of a prayer it truly is an opportunity to allow God to speak to our hearts and minds spiritually. This also solves the initial stated problem of people giving up on prayer as they get bored with praying the same old things in the same old way day after day. With a different Bible passage each day we are allowing God to guide our prayers in new ways each day.

Dr. Whitney has several excellent books on spiritual growth that can be found on his website. He also offers free articles on a variety of spiritual growth topics. His website is I would encourage you to check out some of the information he has available for your spiritual growth journey.

Reflection: Try “Praying the Bible” out by choosing a Psalm and using that as a guide for a prayer. Go to Dr. Whitney’s website and click on Resources and then click on Articles. Read an article of your own choosing and reflect over what is being said in the article.