Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cognitive Fitness: more than just two words

My Role Models are Right in Front of Me

I am blessed to have my four grandparents still alive and kicking.

In their heydays, my dad’s father was a Supreme Court Judge in the office of the Solicitor General, and his mother was an Elementary School teacher. Both of them were promising in their own fields, not to mention excellent, dedicated and multi-awarded employees.

My mom’s father was the director of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Health, and until now is a nutritional consultant for International Companies like Coca-Cola, Quaker, Nestle, to mention a few. Her mother was an administrator of then governor Danding Cojuanco, Jr., and now works fulltime alongside her beloved spouse as executive secretary, co-consultant and travel companion.

Looking at the marvelous lineage set before me, I dare not wonder why despite their age (my paternal grandfather is 91) none of them has succumbed to sickness nor mental deterioration.
All of them are cognitively fit.

Summarized in two words, the article was a blow by blow description and prescription on how to “age gracefully.” Apart from the numerous dermatological practices and products, people don’t see that true fitness starts from the inside-out, thus paving the way for an abundance of spa therapies, gyms and fitness centers. But does the inside-out really mean this alone?

It’s wonderful to think that of all the places one should start to be “beautiful,” the brain takes center stage.

Missionaries ought to be Cognitively Fit

Right now, I’m in what some people might call “No Man’s Land.”
I’m a Catholic lay missionary.
I still don’t look like one, sound like one and smell like one, but I’m trying to learn how to.
And it’s not an easy task.

Our designation is to establish small Catholic Communities in the campuses around the Metro, much like how the “Youth for Christ” spurred thousands of schooled youth into action. The Kerygma Family would like to do the same – now focusing on enlivening the youth to liturgy, Catholic spirituality, and worship. Just imagine the magnitude of it all.
But we have to start somewhere.
And that somewhere is the “search for patterns.”

How many of the school’s population still attend mass?
How many still believe in God?
How many have been attracted to another denomination or sect because they just “lost it” with the Catholic Church?
These are all patterns that will drive a mere mortal crazy.

But knowing that there is a need to re-evangelize the Filipinos, especially the youth, we can ask ourselves: What do the youth want? What do the youth deeply desire? Affection. Self-expression. Mature Freedom. This is a pattern long ago shelved by the Fathers of the Church for fear of upheaval. It worked. But these patterns are once again surfacing. Therefore, we have to expand our horizons to accommodate these patterns.
Is there a way of creatively presenting the Holy Mass so that people will want to attend?
Is there a more youthful way of worshipping God?
Is there an alternative to the debilitating sermon given by the priests?


And the only solution is to be innovative and creative.
Let me introduce you to The FEAST. It is a Catholic Prayer Meeting with a twist. It is open to all, and it has changed lives even of the most cold hearted, anti-cheesy, and humor-less individual. What happens there? Something you’ve always dreamed of as a Catholic.

For the longest time, songs in the mass were slow, unutterably profound, and sad. In the Feast, we sing live, upbeat songs which mean the same thing and speak the same language. For the longest time, sermons preached the justice and wrath of God in punishment for your sins. In the Feast, we focus on God as lover, not as mere judge and punisher. And for the longest time, people viewed church as a mere Sunday Obligation. In the Feast, we make it a Sunday Opportunity instead!

If we are not able to challenge the existing patterns which we observe and that which we are used to, the Church, whom we are working with, will slowly become extinct.
Innovation is crossing to the Courage Zone

For the pessimist, innovation is “leaving the Comfort Zone.”
For the optimist, it is crossing over to your “Courage Zone.”

In any organization, the church included, we should not search merely for best practices. We ought to continually search for “better practices” in order to innovate and recreate our lives. And this is not easy. It requires small acts of “brain exercise.”
Learn from experiences. Play. Search for patterns. Innovate.
And if in small opportunities, we see how we can improve what is existing, then our life itself will not stagnate and grow old.

My lolos and lolas aged only out of necessity. But I’m sure each new day is a manifestation of leaving their comfort zones and crossing over to their courage zones.
All this, thanks to their cognitive fitness.

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