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Running Unplugged

With much to ponder this morning, I decided to leave the iPod behind as I set out on my run.  This may not seem like such a big deal, but it inspired trepidation as I double and triple checked to make sure I had what I needed before heading out the door. Inhaler- check; key- check; watch and running shoes- check and check. That’s it! Here we go … !

I rarely run without my iPod now because no matter how long I train, running is still painful, and I’ve found music to be some of the best medicine. I get lost in the pounding drums and great guitar riffs, timing my pace to match the driving rhythms of the rock music and forgetting how sore and tired I am.

This morning, however, I needed a different sort of therapy – that of solitude and the quietness of my thoughts. With nothing to distract me, I found myself listening to the birds waking up, the rhythm of my own heart beating, the timing of my breaths, and the pounding of my feet on the quickly warming pavement.  The peace afforded time to pray, reflect and to let my mind wander, process, and problem-solve at the subconscious level while I focused on one thing: perseverance.  I wasn’t sure how I would fare on the run without my melodic wonder drug, so I set what I thought were reasonable expectations – a simple three-mile run at a conservative pace to let my legs recover from running and swimming this past week. I wanted to prove to myself that I was mentally tough enough to make it through my run and even enjoy it, distraction-free, so I set a goal I was pretty sure I could accomplish.

Although I cannot claim to have had any epiphanies on this morning’s run, I discovered how empowering such a simple decision as running low-tech can be.  Not only did I run the first three miles comfortably, but I added hills and another mile on top of it, bringing the total distance to 4 miles, only about a quarter of a mile shy of my long-run distance from the previous two weeks! And without breakfast, I might add!  A new “normal” distance was established this morning, and I was more proud of that than any other run I’ve put in lately.

While I may not choose to run without my iPod every time, I will definitely do so more often and with more confidence.  One more benefit: I was able to practice mindfulness during my run, enjoying a rediscovered awareness of my body as it moved through my surroundings.  Despite the aches and stiff muscles through the first two miles, being fully present made me realize how grateful I was to be able to run at all for any distance.  Instead of frustration over my limitations, I experienced a sense of freedom and intense gratitude for what my mind and body were able to accomplish when allowed to sync, sans technology.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Self-Reflection

 

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Throwing off everything that hinders…

Yoga is all about being present in the moment.  It’s also about letting go –  releasing muscle and joint tightness that locks up our bodies as well as negative thoughts and emotions that weigh us down.  As I did my yoga practice this morning in preparation for and following my run, I realized that I was holding on to tightness; my muscles did not need to remain so taught. It may have been the result of habit, the fear of falling over, or simply inattention, but as soon as I discovered that I was the one resisting the stretch, I had to let go to permit those muscles to lengthen.  It was simply a matter of awareness and choice. Exhaling, I allowed the tension to drain away, deepened my stretch and felt my muscles and joints breath a sigh of relief.

Once I let go of the physical stress through yoga, I felt more balanced, strong and light as I completed my long run.  For the first time in a very long time, I finished the run feeling refreshed and knew that I could have run at least another mile. This was not just the result of one morning’s yoga practice, of course, but from the accumulated benefits of running consistently over several weeks, frequent yoga sessions, and the change in my diet. Just as I learn these lessons through yoga and running, my spiritual journey is also teaching me to let go of the anxiety, fear, and shame that have been holding me back from living the joy-filled life God intends for all of us. And like yoga and running, the release of those things that cause emotional and mental stress must be habitual as well.

Both the Christian walk and yoga are also about gratitude – being aware and thankful for all of one’s blessings.  I am living my dream right now. By choosing to let go of negative emotions and embrace awareness of and gratitude for even the smallest things that bring me joy, I feel more fully alive. In this way I am able to move forward toward my goals with a greater sense of freedom and joy, unhindered by the things of the past.  What is more, even painful events can be sources of joy when one looks for and finds the fruit they bore.  I continue to discover ways I have grown from such experiences.  The by-products of struggle – perseverance, resolve, determination, as well as new-found gratitude, faith, hope, and strength – propel me forward.

The ideas of awareness and gratitude that stem from my yoga practice and faith find expression in the habit of mindful eating.  Even though I didn’t cheat on my diet, I allowed my emotions to dictate when and how much I ate for a couple of days.  Last night, I felt overly full, lethargic, and depressed at my failure.  This morning, after yoga and a great run, I decided to mindfully eat my eggs and at least half of my apple.  I was enjoying it so much though that rather than beginning to write after I finished the first half of my apple, I continued on in that way until I got to my tea, which I’m currently sipping as I type.  I find that being aware of the flavors, the texture, the temperature, and savoring each bite increases my gratitude for the meal.  Since I contemplate each bite, I find my cravings for anything else subside because I am so thankful to have such tasty food. And I’m grateful to have found food that not only tastes good but also helps my body heal itself.  Rather than my usual habit of shoveling it in as quickly as possible so I can rush to the next task, I chew each morsel slowly and more thoroughly, which aids digestion, and I feel full and more satisfied longer. I have also found that mindful eating (even if only practiced occasionally) leads to a sense of calm and greater focus when I return to work and to the rest of the day’s activities.  With all of this in mind, I am heading out into the day once again to enjoy the sights, sounds, and delectable smells of the Aix market and to continue my academic work, thankful for so many blessings.

Image from: <http://yogaposes4stressrelief.blogspot.fr/&gt;

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Self-Reflection

 

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“Writing Yoga” and Life

From rinconvacations.com

Life is not about “should.”  At least that is what I keep telling myself.  In my yoga practice this morning, the instructor reiterated that everyone’s bodies are different and that what works for one person may not work for another.  In pose after pose, he pointed out the various ways people performed it to work the muscles, ligaments, and joints the pose was meant to target. Each way was no more correct than any other.  When finding what works best for yourself, he reminded everyone, don’t think about what you think your body “should” be able to do.  That’s not what yoga is about.

Linking that idea to a post I read last night, entitled “Writing Yoga,” by Chris Stawski on GradHacker.org, I began to consider how it might apply to my writing practice and to other areas of my life as well.  One of my friends used to say that we have to stop “shoulding” ourselves, meaning, that it is unproductive and often destructive to spend so much of our energy thinking about what we should be doing or how we should be living.  But how does one do this when this very statement is itself the very a paradox we are trying to avoid: we should stop fretting about what we should be and do.  It can become one more thing to mentally beat ourselves up over.  Nevertheless, it is good advice, particularly when applied to whatever area we struggle with the most in terms of comparing ourselves to others or to what we feel we should be or be doing.  For me, it is academic progress, measured in how many books and articles I’ve read, and how much I’ve written each day.  Of course, I “should” myself about other things too – eating and exercise tend to top the list. But I’ve found, like many others, that trying to guilt myself into doing what I know I ought to do tends to have the opposite effect.

So, tonight I decided to focus on what I was doing and doing only one task at a time, which is always difficult since I’ve been a multi-tasker for many years.  I can’t say I did this perfectly, but I am choosing to see all that I have accomplished rather than what I think I should have.  Instead of thinking about where colleagues are at in their own studies or where I feel I should be, I choose to honor where I actually am.  The same applies to my writing.  I can honestly say that I am happy with what I’ve done tonight.

There is always room for improvement, but that does not mean I have to bludgeon myself for not having already made those improvements. The yoga instructor this morning warned against trying to push your body too far too fast into a pose to reach the position you will eventually be able to be in.  By doing so, you will only hurt yourself, but if you are patient with your body and allow it to gradually relax into the pose, you will eventually achieve your goal.  Likewise, in life – How I can be today what I will be tomorrow? Isn’t it unreasonable to expect that I could be? How can I learn and grow and become better and more than I now am tomorrow if I do not take the time to learn the lessons of today? I know someone else has said something very similar, so I cannot take credit for the insight, but I will try to live into it.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Self-Reflection, Writing

 

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