Learning the Zen ways of Sam Morris
Camden — Adults are fond of saying to younger people, “if you think you have it bad … ” and Camden-Rockport Middle School teacher Ellen Curtis is no different, except she adds “ … let me tell you about my friend Sam.”
Curtis' friend is Sam Morris. He grew up in the Midcoast and graduated from Medomak Valley High School before heading off to college. In 1999, he was leading a bicycling trip for nine teens across the United States, enjoying and making the most of the outdoor adventure he loves. Two short months after completing the trip, Morris said he made a fateful decision: to accept a ride from a friend-of-a-friend who had been drinking. The driver crashed and Morris, who turned 24 years old a week prior, was suddenly paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair.
“I was beyond devastated. I put a smile on my face and tried to be stoic (like a typical Mainer), but inside, I was torn apart. I had no idea what the future held, and it was incredibly hard to face how my life felt like it had been torn away from me,” Morris said in an email correspondence.
UPCOMING WORKSHOPS, FOR MORE INFORMATION
Zen Warrior workshops are scheduled for the winter and spring 2014 in Pasadena, Calif., Sacramento, Calif., Portland, Ore., and San Jose del Cabo, Baja, Mexico, where Morris will present a weekend workshop with good friend Robin Clements, who teaches people how to use the power of their breath for healing and transformation.
Those interested in private Zen Warrior Training sessions can contact Morris through his website at zenwarriortraining.com or on his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/zenwarriortraining.
Now living in California, Morris was in Maine during the holidays and used the opportunity to present his own concept – Zen Warrior Training – to students at Camden-Rockport Middle School Dec. 20. What he had to say held the students' attention, according to Curtis, who helped arrange a presentation for each of the four grade levels.
“They were impressed with him,” she said, adding, “You could have heard a pin drop.”
Morris describes his program as a life-coaching and personal development program. The training is offered via telephone or Skype, he said, opening it to people everywhere. Morris already has made a few group presentations and has several more planned for the coming months on the West Coast.
“If you are someone who is satisfied with just getting by in life, I’m not going to judge you, but ZWT wouldn’t be a good fit. On the other hand, if you are willing and eager to fully face yourself in every moment of your life and use your challenges as opportunities for personal growth, then I’m your guy,” Morris said. “A lot of my presentation is based on my personal experiences. I’ve found that the best way to relate to others is through those experiences and how they shaped me; where I was at physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually during the various stages of life that immediately preceded and then followed my injury.”
Numerous hospitalizations due to complications from his injuries gave Morris plenty of time to think, he said.
“Because of these complications, rebuilding my life after my injury was an extremely long process which involved a lot of stops and starts. But I never gave up hope for living a truly fulfilling life,” Morris said.
In the 14 years since the accident, he has returned to many of the activities he previously enjoyed, including camping and skiing.
“I met the woman who would eventually become my wife – Meghan – in 2007, and she has been a huge force in helping me to get to where I am now. In 2011, Meghan and I camped for 77 straight days in the Rocky Mountains, and in the winter of 2011-2012, I taught adaptive skiing (which I started learning in 2005) in Telluride, Colo.,” Morris said. “These days, I look back at the challenges that I’ve gone through with deep gratitude, because they have helped shape me into a much stronger person. When I chose to fully embrace my own suffering in order to receive the transformation that came with it was when I began the path of the Zen Warrior. I currently go through 30 to 40 hours a month of ongoing training on how to work with my own and other people’s challenges.”
While at Camden-Rockport Middle School, he found students to be extremely responsive to his message, and in sharing their own challenges. He said he brought copies of “Chasing Miracles,” a CD he recorded in 2008, for students willing to discuss an issue and solution.
“The kids practically jumped out of their seats to share their challenges, a lot of which were really personal. They were extremely courageous to share their stories, and it made a huge impact on me. I encouraged them all to keep in mind that they and their fellow classmates face challenges every day that they never talk about, so it's important to be considerate of one another in this way,” Morris said.
Curtis, too, was struck by the willingness of students to come forward.
“It was eye-opening to the staff that students shared as much as they did,” she said, noting some students revealed problems that had never been shared with staff.
Morris broke up the serious topics by making light-hearted fun of himself before the accident, Curtis said, referring to a photo slideshow from when Morris was a child. She noted student perception of Morris' presentation, even after the holiday break, was nearly unanimous: “Never give up.”
“I love doing motivational/inspirational speaking, and I’m humbled and honored that my life is inspiring to others,” Morris said.
Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect the correct year of Morris' injury to 1999.
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Stephanie is editor of The Republican Journal in Belfast. She previously served as editor of Camden Herald following its return in April 2012.
Stephanie also was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has nearly a decade of experience in the newspaper business ranging from southern and central Maine to Waldo County.
Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.
Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and chickens.