Posted on Mar 27, 2020, 3 p.m.
In the book Square One, Dr. Maroon combines deeply personal anecdotes with illuminating scientific explanations to help readers rebalance their priorities. With keen insights into what it takes to avoid emotional, spiritual, and physical burnout and to seek more joy and creativity in life, Dr. Maroon guides readers back to “square one” so they can lead more balanced lives and achieve success.
Square One: A Simple Guide to a Balanced Life, is more than a self-help book. Square One is the result of a lifetime of successes, failures and personal life lessons that most people would keep to themselves. Fortunately, to our benefit, Dr Maroon has shared these stories and the lessons learned.
The book is the result of ultimate self reflection that includes his annual visits to local monsitaries at this time of year. For over 20 years Dr Maroon has used his free time that opens up every year between Christmas and New Years to reflect and renew within the beauty and piety of the few remaining monasteries in the tri-state area.
Dr. Maroon recently took refuge at a Greek orthodox monastery near Ellwood city enjoying the resident nuns daily prayers, singing and the artistry of the numerous icons that adorned the chapel.
Some Excerpts from Square One: A Simple Guide to a Balanced Life
“A GOAL OF ALL SPIRITUAL PRACTICE—whether it’s worship, yoga, community service, prayer, or meditation—is to gain perspective on the greater purpose of our lives, and these practices may well provide the best answers we have to the very large question of “Why?”
“I’ve also continued to find great comfort in learning about varied religious and spiritual practices, and while I embrace all the benefits of modern science, I respect the deeply held human need for belief in something that cannot be seen or explained. I repeat simple mantras and Bible passages in my mind while I’m running miles, swimming laps, or biking hills to train for races, and I have no doubt those words help me get through grueling competitions. I also take the time to learn about my patients’ lives, their families, and their concerns, and if they wish, I’ll touch their hand or arm and say a simple prayer with them. I can see the calming effect immediately—in their faces, in their eyes, in their grip on my hand. And numerous studies have shown that by embracing faith when dealing with medical procedures, patients have lower stress-related cortisol levels, improved immune systems, and even reduced recovery time.”
The Basis Of Square Living
While William H. Danforth, founder of the Ralston-Purina Company, was an outstanding businessman, he is best remembered for being an exemplar of balanced living. In his classic book I Dare You, he wrote “You have not one, but four lives to live—a four-fold opportunity to grow. A body, a brain, a heart, and a soul—these are our living tools. To use them is not a task. It is a golden opportunity.” Square One expands Danforth’s philosophy, combining modern scientific explanations and deeply personal stories to show readers the significance of each side of our squares.
The physical side of balanced living can’t be obtained by fad diets and quick-fix approaches to exercise. Better long-term health requires two things: real information and real commitment. Square One uses a research-based approach and Dr. Maroon’s own path from depression to wellness to share real, pragmatic ways to maintain both physical and mental health.
The spiritual side of our squares is often neglected in favor of our tech-heavy, task-oriented lives. But by paying a little bit more attention by being mindful of what’s important to us and the effect we have on others can help us turn away from pain to focus on our joy and higher purpose.
Work can be one of the biggest draws on our energy and intention. Even the most meaningful work can come to dominate our lives so that we sacrifice our own health, relationships, or sense of self in service of it. To avoid burnout, we have to achieve work/life balance, and Square One may be the tool you need to do it.
Our relationships help form the basis of who we are. True connections are important not only to make, but to maintain—they keep us grounded, keep us connected, and keep us well.
Marron’s Quick Tips for Healthful Living Q&A
Q:In the new edition of Square One, you talk about burnout syndrome and the havoc it can wreak on one’s personal and professional life. In a culture that places so much emphasis on work, what can we do to stay balanced?
A:The most essential thing we can do to stay balanced is to have insight into our daily activities. As the Buddhists say, we must be aware and mindful of our feelings or activities and the amount of stress we are experiencing. If we’re not aware and mindful, we won’t be able to take the steps to re-wire or retrain our brains by reorienting our priorities
Q:You often speak about balanced and mindful living. What does it mean to live mindfully, and how can we incorporate those principles in our daily lives?
A:Being mindful means being an impartial observer. It is the ability to stay present in the moment without allowing the mind to get sidetracked. Mindfulness is a state of awareness without judgment—awareness of both the long and short-term effects of your everyday choices and decisions.
Q:Spirituality is one of the core areas of focus in Square One. In a world that’s so focused on perceivable reality, what can we do to enhance our spiritual understanding of ourselves and our place in the world?
A:Spirituality is about discovering, through prayer, meditation, and contemplation, what your real purpose is in life. It is said that the purpose of life is a life of purpose. As I address in Square One, he who has a “why” to live for can bear almost any how. Only by being aware and mindful can we discover our purpose—our why—and we can realize that our purpose may change as we pass through the various seasons of our lives.
Q:People often believe that burnout only happens to those who have stressful careers, such as doctors or police officers. Do you think burnout is limited to stressful professions?
A:Since publishing my book I have discovered that “burnout” is epidemic not only in professionals, but in students, struggling mothers, soccer moms, and lawyers, often with the heavy incidence of alcohol abuse and incredible stress. It is estimated that at any one time, one out of three physicians experience burnout. Caregivers of family members are over 50%. It is simply epidemic in our current society and one of the reasons that the topics I address in Square One are so important today.
Q:If you could give one ultimate mindful living tip, what would it be?
A:Be aware and develop insight into the stress produced by our daily activities and then—if possible—try to mitigate the stresses as much as possible. This is sometimes impossible to do because of our job, family, or responsibilities. In that case, physical activity, prayer, and meditation can reduce the toxic cortisol that destroys brain cells and the lining of our blood vessels and results in many of the diseases of aging.
About: Joseph Maroon, MD, FACS, among his accomplishments he is Senior Vice President of the A4M, a board certified neurosurgeon, best selling author, keynote speaker, expert and consultant in areas sports medicine/nutrition, concussion management, brain and spinal problems, he is an international Ironman triathlete, and one of our esteemed medical editors.
“I am glad to share with you what I have learned throughout my personal quest to overcome adversity to become an accomplished neurosurgeon, scientist, Ironman athlete, consultant, author, and advocate on healthy living and nutrition.” ~ Dr. Joseph Maroon.
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