Sunday, June 16, 2019

Why I had to take a break from running ....(it's probably not for the reasons you think)

Knee surgery was the perfect alibi....

You know, they went in and scraped out some damaged shit out of my knee, put me on crutches, and sent me on my way with the promise of being able to run again in 4 months.  
Here I am a year and a half later, finally running a consistent 20 miles a week.   

"I don't want to get back in to soon." 
"I don't want to hurt myself again." 
"Can you get me the ice pack? I think my knee is swollen."  

But here's the truth.  
When I was running ultra distances....I was running away.  
Away from mistakes, away from grief, away from bullshit...away....away....
And it worked- for a while. 
But soon every time I ran, I began associating running with the three big d's:  Death, Divorce and Deception.  

Every run became a deja vu of memories and thoughts so self deprecating that my body finally decided to go along for the ride by presenting one injury after another.  First it was my ankle, next my knee, until my spirit was literally devastated and beaten.

My dad used to say, "time heals all wounds."  
Time, and amazing people, and a little bit of forgiveness and grace has allowed my body and spirit to heal.

Because no one checks my times, no one follows me to the finish line, and frankly no one gives a shit..... I can just run when I want to and stop when I want to.
I can swim, ride my bike, or maybe do a little yoga; or I can sit on my back porch with the dogs and drink hot, strong coffee.
There is no crisis, no drama, nothing to run away from.  

I used to think if I ran enough, I would feel free- like a bird: but right now- freedom is in my ability to choose what feels good, and right for me.  And what feels right is a bit of running! 

But birds nest too.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Celebrating nice moments

"Life is too short not to celebrate nice moments."
Jurgen Klopp

Finding myself always looking to the bigger picture, I feel I have been blind to the "nice" moments. 
And there are some REALLY nice moments.

Like when you let your dogs off of the leash,and they wander about enjoying the smell and feel of the trail- but they always come back when you call. 
Or when dinner and wine ends in a fit of giggles so uncontrollable that you can't catch your breath and your stomach hurts. 
Or when he waits in line with you in 35 degree weather with you for 20 min, just so you can get corn in a cup.

What if we all shared those "nice" moments more, and the sucky moments less?  I'm thinking perhaps we could really change the world. 

Who's in?

Friday, October 26, 2018

From Egoism to Altruism

"Vitality appears in one who is firmly set in moderation." 
Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali- II.38

My friend and coach Mike used to joke: "Anything worth doing, is worth overdoing," but from the time I was about 12 years old - that joke was my life.
My mantras were based on quotes like:

“Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself – expanding and learning as you go – you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.”
Dean Karnazes

“What I’ve learned from running is that the time to push hard is when you’re hurting like crazy and you want to give up. Success is often just around the corner.”
James Dyson

"Good things come to those who work their ass off."  Unknown- perhaps my parents

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going"  as sung by Billy Ocean in 1986

And I have been successful!   Until one day I wasn't.
After Ironman Texas in 2015 I felt completely empty.  It was as if I had sold my soul to the devil.  I was tired, coming from a broken relationship, had very few real friends and  nothing left to give to my family.  I am ashamed to say that I put that race before EVERYTHING.  Working out 20 hours a week, and working 12 hour days, 6 days a week, there was absolutely no moderation in my life.  It was all "go hard, or go home".....until one day I realized what I really wanted.... was just to fucking go home.  It was time to surrender, to let go of the madness, and in doing so I found yoga.  

In studying the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the fourth limb states that "Vitality appears in one who is firmly set in moderation."  The book explains that "moderation creates a harmonious relationship among the different forms of energy that animate the body: emotional, sensual, sexual, physical, and the more subtle energy of thought."  
I can totally wrap my head around how awesome it would be if we could get rid of the "too much," and try to more evenly distribute our energy.  Unfortunately, in our society we are often rewarded when we work through the pain or exhaustion, or for having or doing more.

It doesn't help that there is a very fine line between pleasure and pain.  Working out is awesome, until we blow out our back.  Eating chocolate is awesome!  Until we have a stomachache.  Wine is awesome.  Well- wine is just awesome.  Kidding- wine is awesome until we can't get out of bed  the next morning because we are a bit hungover.  Sleeping too much or too little, too much sex or too little, too much thinking or too little..... all energy sapping things.

For me, I knew it was time to change when exercise became not only an energy sapping thing, but a soul sapping thing.  I knew my ego was driving the car, and we were leaving all of the important things and people behind.  

Patanjali states that good energy management "often passes progressively from quantity to quality, and from egoism to altruism."   I am wracked with guilt for choosing quantity over quality for so many years......but by slowing down and  making time for study, meditation and others; I think the car is starting to head in the right direction.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

We are not made to be one trick ponies

"My comfort zone is like a little bubble around me, and I've pushed it in different directions and made it bigger and bigger until these objectives that seemed totally crazy eventually fall into the realm of possible."  
Alex Honnold 

I am all over the place.   I've held so many jobs and done so many things that sometimes I'm embarrassed to send my resume for fear that the company will assume I'm not loyal.
My gypsy spirit does get the best of me sometimes;  but if I can say anything about this lifetime on earth so far- I have truly evolved.

That time when I taught school in the poorest of neighborhoods.
The miscarriage.
Giving birth to 3 amazing human beings.
Becoming a coach.
Working with the homeless.
Helping others to be healthy and to find their strong.
Running.  A lot.
Discovering my own strength.
Letting my ego drive the bus.
Choosing love over fear.
Making shitloads of money. (That hasn't exactly happened yet. Just put that in to see if you were still with me).

Today, I step away from my attachment to my body into a more spiritual path.
Perhaps the 8 limbs of yoga will help me to return to God.
Regardless, once again I find myself stepping out of my comfort zone and as the bubble grows, so do my possibilities.
And so does my happiness.
Pretty sure that's a good thing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Love vs. Fear- Workout edition

" Fear is the absence of love.  When love is present, fear is gone."
Marianne Williamson

I didn't always love working out.
In my 20's,  I showed up at the gym out of a feeling of necessity.
Simply enough, I was afraid I was going to get fat.

I didn't even know what that meant really....getting fat....I just knew that all the people in the magazines I read told me if I didn't work out it would surely happen, so three times  a week I stumbled into a step class or Jazzercise to "pay my dues," coming and going with little plan or excitement.

That changed when I started running with a group from a local running store in my 30's. Because I had been pregnant for 3 years straight and had two kids under two years old, I LOVED getting away from the house and talking to other adults.  I LOVED the fresh air, and I LOVED how amazingly strong my frumpy body felt afterward.  For the first time, I really found exercise to be fun, and I looked forward to my 3 times a week run with new friends.  I found love in a pair of running shoes.
(Perhaps I should write a song about it.)

My love/hate relationship with exercise has been a continuous one, and what I've come to realize is that every time I have hated working out, it's because I am coming from a place of fear.
When I was working out because I was trying to look good and give my ego a little stroking, it was for fear that people wouldn't like me the way I was.  When I ran myself into the ground doing ultras, It was for fear that my depression would catch up with me.  Learning how to swim, I hated it because I had to humble myself enough to suck at something.  Biking was scary because I had a fear of clipping in and falling on my ass.   Even teaching other people how to exercise still creates anxiety!  I KNOW I'm an amazing trainer who knows my shit, but what if for some reason they don't like me?

The scariest workout of all?  Yoga
Yoga forces you to take a deep look at yourself and ACKNOWLEDGE where you are.  It freaked me out that everyone else could bend over and touch their toes and I could barely move!  I hated the fact that I couldn't bend, hinge, or lunge without that familiar pull. I would rather poke myself in the eye than to go to Yin Yoga where I was expected to be present in my body and thoughts.  I was used to running away for God's sake!  I was forced to accept that I was not serving my body by beating it up, and to actually love it as it is.   Yoga has taught me to have compassion for my body, tight hamstrings and all.

There are lots of reasons why we workout from a place of fear.  Perhaps the doctor told you that it was time to work out because you have osteoporosis or your cholesterol is high.  Maybe your ego is controlling the show and you (like me), are afraid that you will be judged for the way your body looks.  Or you are fighting addiction, old age or even death.

Its not easy, but I am constantly trying to change my mindset to honor my self and others by coming from a place of love.  My mantras include:

I love my strong body because it allows me to climb the highest mountain, or to swim in the ocean.
I love being in nature.
I love helping others to get stronger and healthier.
I love how my thoughts line up, or sometimes even drift away when I am in the flow of a workout.
I love that runners high!
I love challenging myself and setting new goals.
I love the people I sweat with.
I love moving.
I love myself.

"When love is present, fear is gone."
Now get out and go play....... and spread the love.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mindfulness in action

Something was off.

At first I thought that perhaps my body was just tired from 4:15 am wake up calls and long days at work, but deep down I knew it was more than that. It was how I was living those days. My life had become one long “to do” list of classes to teach, appointments to keep and tasks to be checked off,  and even though I love my job and family very much I often felt depressed and resentful. I wanted so much more than just making it through the day.  I wanted to be present.  I wanted to be creative; to evolve and to flow.  I wanted have intelligent conversation with my clients and family, enjoying their presence.  I wanted smile lines on my cheeks instead of worry lines on my forehead. I wanted to peacefully gift my time, and to let go of thinking that my life was a burden to bear.

They say that when the student is ready the teacher will appear.  For me, that teacher was Josh.  I met Josh when I attended my first meeting on Meditation:  Practicing Mindfulness in Action.  Everyone stood with prayer hands when Josh entered the room, but he was unassuming- with a crooked smile and messy hair.  Reading the lesson, he would often burst into a goofy chuckle, reminding me of those laughing Buddha statues that you might see for sale in a Chinese restaurant.  Maybe it’s because Josh talks like a surfer, or because he’s a second grade teacher, but I found him easy to listen to, and liked what he was teaching right away.

I have been “dabbling” on and off with mediation for about 2 years now, even spending big bucks to take a course on transcendental meditation, but nothing ever seemed to really stick.  This day was different.   Josh introduced us to The New Meditation Handbook by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.  This book contains 21 Buddhist meditation practices to control our mind, and is based on the teachings of Kadampa Buddhism.  Kadampa Buddhists are encouraged to use Buddha’s teachings as practical methods for transforming daily activities into the path to enlightenment, and the method is simple.  Each of the 21 meditation practices has 5 parts; preparation, contemplation, meditation, dedication and practice.  You read a new meditation every day, prepare your mind with a prayer, think about the meditation, spend time in silence concentrating on your breath, and then with a dedicated intention put that Dharma- or teaching- into practice. I instantly knew what was missing in my life.  I was living without intention.  I took the book home with a vow to meditate and set an intention for each day, starting with the first one- to understand how precious our human life is.

That day, I concentrated on making each interaction meaningful.  When teaching classes at the gym, I stepped out of my own way, and began to really see the people I was helping.  In meetings, I leaned in a little closer to make sure that I was listening to speaker, and when my thoughts wandered to that “to do” list, I reigned myself back in.  At home, instead of being upset with the dogs for barking too loudly, I remembered that they do not have the gift of communicating, and being animals they must certainly live in fear for most of their lives.  My run that evening was less fretful as I concentrated on how awesome it is to be able to move through space on two legs, and instead of being upset that I “had to make dinner,” I felt grateful to have food to nourish this body that I get to live in. 

What if for just one day we could remember that our actions have a ripple effect?  What if we cherished the grocery store clerk as much as we cherish ourselves?  What if we acknowledged the kindness of the lady who gave our gnarly feet a pedicure, or chose to love each and every person as though they were our mom?

Bodhichitta is the “enlightenment mind.”  It’s the mind that strives toward awakening, empathy and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings. Gyatso describes it as “precious,” and that rocks me to my soul.  It takes practice (perhaps many lives worth) to get there, but we can start by setting intentions that make our own lives meaningful way beyond just “getting things done.” 
We will die.  Our precious human lives are slipping away.  We can continue to muddle through the suffering laden cycle of Samsara, or walk the path to peace.

May my intentions turn the wheel of dharma, and be of benefit.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Next Big Thing

“And since the 1960’s, many of these women grew up with the message, ‘You can accomplish anything.’ This all adds up to a restless craving to realize their potential.” ~ Marcia Reynolds Psy.D 

Carrying this human body, with its big old brain and raging hormones can be maddening sometimes.  One day, I'm flying high on cloud 9, in love with everyone and everything; and the next I am sickened by society and self, questioning my existence.  I often wonder if this is “normal,” but it seems that when I write or post on Facebook about how I’m feeling, someone always seems to get it- so I suppose it is. 

Lately, I feel as if I am never doing enough.  When I was training for races and working all the time that was “enough”.  It’s funny how now that I have created space for reading, writing and free time, my ego doesn’t know what the hell to do.  I even thought that perhaps I was having a mid-life crisis of some sort.  Searching for answers, I found the article “What a Female Mid Life Crisis Looks Like” by Marcia Reynolds who describes it not as a mid-life crisis, but as a “mid-life quest for identity.”   She believes that for women, “it’s not about recovering lost youth, but about discovering the next application of their greatness.”  This makes sense to me, for I am always in search of “the next great thing to master,” whether it be writing, or taking a class, or getting a new certification.  There is a constant need to prove myself. 

Dr. Reynolds suggests that we ask ourselves the following questions:
-What do I feel I should have done by this time in my life? 
-Is there something more important and fulfilling that I can focus on now?
-What do I want more of in life?  What have I imprisoned that is crying to be free?
-How can I ensure my commitment to living a significant life?

I found in asking myself these questions, I was able to understand that my ego is doing all of the talking for me, and that I’ve been searching for worth outside of myself.  I also know deep down that in my current job, I have been caught up on my “to do” lists, and not focusing on others with the true intention of supporting them with love. 

 We are not our identity, for our stories can change in an instant.  Through mindfulness we can discover a new thought, person or soul in each and every moment of our lives.  The "next great thing" is happening right now.  Go and get it.