MacLaren Teaches Chapter Leaders to Work Past Adversity
The Chapter Presidents’ Luncheon at NTI 2007 in Atlanta marked an opportunity for national-level AACN leadership to recognize the work, effort and dedication of chapter leaders and for those leaders to learn from one man what it means to overcome obstacles.
The keynote speaker of the event was Jim MacLaren, an actor, writer, life coach and mentor. In 1985, a 22-year-old MacLaren, an all-American athlete and aspiring actor, was studying theater at the Yale School of Drama.
He was hit by a bus while he was riding his motorcycle home from a rehearsal in New York City. He was initially classified as dead on arrival at the hospital. During surgery to save his life, doctors amputated his left leg below the knee. He awoke from a coma eight days later and rehabilitated diligently.
MacLaren resumed his studies at Yale and started participating in triathlons. He became a world-class triathlete and set records in some of the toughest races in the world, including the New York City Marathon and the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. He routinely placed in the top third of the competitors, and paved the way for a new generation of disabled athletes.
In 1993, MacLaren suffered another tragic accident. Two miles into the bike leg of a triathlon in Mission Viejo, Calif., a traffic marshal misjudged MacLaren’s speed at an approaching intersection. An automobile and MacLaren collided, and he was hurled into a signpost and broke his neck at the C5 vertebrae. The accident left him paralyzed.
MacLaren battled seemingly insurmountable obstacles as he recovered again. He has refused to cast himself as a victim and has learned to live beyond his body. During his recovery, he fostered an inner force that enabled him to encourage others to engage life.
Something Bigger in Everyone
He told the chapter presidents he considers himself blessed not only because of the enlightenment he achieved through his recoveries, studies and self-exploration, but also because through his experiences, he has learned there is something bigger in each of us.
He said his accidents have given him time to reflect – something we all have the capability to do. He encouraged the chapter presidents to think every day about something that makes them feel good about themselves.
“It is a powerful tool and gives you the chance to reconnect with yourself.”
MacLaren said he understands the opportunity he has been given to motivate others and readily accepts the responsibility by offering his experiences as an example. He considers himself a work in progress, and said we all have a common human spirit and an infinite well of possibilities. He said what is amazing about his experiences and what he wanted to challenge everyone to think about are two things he has learned about life.
“We never know what our lives are going to look like, and as long as we accept it and move forward, we are always going to be OK,” he said.
MacLaren said while we continually cycle around life events until we get there, the most important thing to remember is to follow one’s knowledge, integrity and honesty.
“Self-knowledge is perhaps the most important aspect of us being human,” he said. “We connect with people more through our wounds, vulnerability and fears, which can only start with knowledge of self.”
MacLaren is currently working on his doctorate in mythology and depth psychology. He has also reclaimed some motor function of his limbs. In 2005, MacLaren received the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award for his toughness of spirit and never-give-up attitude. He also established the Choose Living Foundation to support his philanthropic work and allow him to contribute his time and energy to help people in need.
Nellcor/Puritan Bennett/Tyco Healthcare has sponsored the Chapter Presidents’ Luncheon since 1990.
NTI Chapter Leadership Development Workshop Speaker Manages Life’s Chaos by Doodling
Carol Edmonston heals through the “open-eye meditation” of doodling.
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Edmonston sat anxiously in the waiting room of her doctor’s office preparing for radiation treatment. Unable to tolerate the anxiety anymore, she asked the receptionist for a piece of paper and a pen and began to doodle. From that point on, Edmonston would never be in a waiting room without these tools.
The inspirational speaker and two-time breast cancer “conquerer” (she prefers this term to survivor because it implies a different energy) spoke to attendees at the Chapter Leadership Development Workshop at NTI 2007 in Atlanta. At this first Sharon J. Connor Leadership Development Keynote Address, Edmonston discussed how doodling helps her to “manage the chaos that is part of all of our lives.” The AACN Sharon J. Connor Fund was developed in the memory of Sharon J. Connor, a longtime AACN staff member who succumbed to breast cancer in 1997.
Live for Today
Edmonston, a contributor to “ Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor’s Soul: Stories to Inspire, Support and Heal” and publisher of “Connections: The Sacred Journey Between Two Points and Create While You Wait... A Doodle Book For All Ages”, encouraged listeners to stay “focused in the present moment.” It is important to “live for today, remember yesterday and plan for tomorrow,” she said.
Work-related stress is ever-present, and learning to “deal with the challenges and life’s unexpected twists and turns” is important. It is “really important to take care of ourselves on the inside,” said Edmonston, who joked with the audience that she occasionally practices “plastic baseball bat therapy.”
Doodling, however, keeps Edmonston focused and grounded, and reduces her anxiety. Anybody can do it – in fact, her “idea of art is really paint-by-number,” she said, eliciting a round of laughter from the audience.
Pushing attendees to “take care of that spirit and life within,” Edmonston explained that doodling is a way to step “into a place that’s really meditation” and it has “nothing to do with what you create [but] how you step into this moment of time,” Edmonston said.
Edmonston asked attendees to sit up straight, take a deep breath and let it all out. She then asked everyone to begin and end a doodle outline in 5 seconds. She instructed the audience to then put the pen in the other hand and do the same exercise. “How did that feel?” she asked. Surprisingly, many people often feel more comfortable performing the task in the nondominant hand, Edmonston said, because there are no expectations.
‘The Middle Is Where It’s at’
Audience members were then treated to a 10-minute DVD she created called “Sacred Doodles”. Peaceful music set the tone as images of Edmonston’s doodles faded in and out on the projection screens. Attendees were instructed to breathe in and out, and all sat silently as a calmness permeated the large room, while some continued to doodle. “Life is an adventure … Trust the journey,” the screen read.
While deep into doodling or watching the DVD, the attendees were roused by a ringing bell. Many attendees noticed how the mind wanders while doodling. Doodling, Edmonston said, allows one to focus on the present. “In the middle is where it’s at … Your goal is not to let the present moment be the steppingstone to the future.”
Edmonston recommended that chapters use the doodling exercise as a way to “bring yourselves together as one cohesive group.” In addition, she encouraged attendees to take a deep breath before going in to see a patient, because “breathing is the most amazing tool.” For more information, visit www.sacreddoodles.com.