life

Running For Elephants & Education

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a long run and began contemplating my audacious goal: 13.1×10.  I go through many inner ramblings on my runs (a big reason why I consider running to be my Meditation in Motion).  I wanted this goal to be big…to have a true impact on not only myself, but the local and global community. So, I decided I’m running for elephants and education.

I’m very much so a “big picture” kind of person.  I have to really focus when it comes to narrowing down the details.  To do this, I practice what I preach to my students and follow what I like to call the Cycle of Mindful Leading. It allowed me to organize the thoughts around me and to make the details more clear on this new, exciting goal.

The Cycle of Mindful Leading:

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I created this cycle to guide my students in building their awareness. Using this cycle allows for us to build our self awareness.  Once we have self awareness, only then can we have peer awareness.  From there, we can work together to have community awareness.  Communities can come together to build global awareness.

So, with these two concepts in mind, I present to you the ramblings that created Running for Elephants & Education:

Mindful Thinking

I am privileged in having the opportunity to not only my basic needs, but to an endless amount of possibilities.  Running not only creates the space for me to build this awareness but it is also one of the many privileges I am fortunate enough to have in my life.  I am aware that  I want to use my privilege to help others meet their basic needs.

Mindful Speaking

Now that I am aware of the thoughts around me, I can communicate that I want to run races to support local causes.  While running can help locally, I can do more to help globally.  Shoes are not only a privilege that take me on all my running journeys, but they provide me with an overall daily wellness as I walk all over.

Mindful Listening

People all over do not have the basic privilege of owning a pair of shoes.  I not only own multiple pairs to take me through day to day living, but I’m privileged enough to own pairs of shoes to take me through all hobbies as well.  Around the world, people are inhibited by their lack of shoe ownership.  They are unable to walk to school, they are unprotected from environmental pathogens. They need this basic privilege that so many of us take advantage of.

Mindful Acting

For each race I run, I am asking for a sponsor.   However, I’m asking for a different kind of sponsor.  This sponsor will donate a pair of shoes.

These were the thoughts that then led to a Service Learning Project.  Throughout the year, my students do research based on specific second grade social studies and science standards.  Each quarter is filled with projects.  They spend weeks asking questions, researching, collaborating, creating and educating each other on the different topics.  This year, all of our projects will tie into Elephants and the Elephant-Human Relations Aid.

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The EHRA is an organization that provides education and support in Namibia.  They work to allow for peaceful coexistence between the elephants and civilians while also protecting the elephants from poaching and hunting.  This organization has also done a lot of work in renovating local schools.  These students are who we will be donating the shoes to.

I’m a firm believer in the power of education (obviously…).  Each race was already going to be dedicated to a group of students.  To further their role in this project, students will also have a goal of obtaining a pair of shoes to donate.  They will use their projects as a means to educate other classes as well as community members about elephants, the organization and why people should care about this cause.  Even if they are unable to donate a pair of shoes, they will be playing a HUGE role: educating their community on such a major issue!

So, not only will I be able to meet a personal, physical and mental goal, but I will also be guiding my students in understanding how they are global citizens who have the worlds most powerful tool to create change: education.

Some details are still in the works, BUT if you are interested in being a sponsor for one of my races (aka donating a pair of children’s shoes) PLEASE contact me ASAP.  The total number of shoes we need is in the ball park of 40. Shoe sizes will be known soon.  But, please still let me know if are interested in donating once these details are confirmed.

Happy running and educating!

PS. I’m totally running every race in a elephant-ear headband.

From Mindless to Mindful

So far, this summer has been a somewhat mindless journey.  While most people may see that as relaxing and carefree, I’ve found it to be a personal struggle.  Since my routine has switched up, I’ve had to be more aware and focused on practicing presence and being in the moment.

I’ve always been a big picture kind of person.  I am able to create powerful visions, set my eyes on a goal and chase after it.  However, this makes focusing on details a bit more of a challenge for me.  And I realized, this is exactly whats been limiting my mindfulness this summer.

Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely surrounded by gratitude for my summer experiences.  I am provided financial stability with my jobs and am given the opportunity to make connections in a city that is still new to me. But, while I am very aware of all I have to be thankful for this summer, I still couldn’t shake off this feeling of emptiness. When I looked at the big picture of this summer, I recognized I wasn’t in my norm, my comfort, my passion of teaching and was working to make financial ends meet. Of course I was surrounded by more negativity than normal.  Who wouldn’t be with this kind of perspective on their day to day life?

But, I was very aware that I was choosing to look at my life this way.  To simplify the picture and create this less-than exciting narrative for myself. So, as I sat in the shower in this morning, I decided to meditate and let it go.

The first thing I did was recognize the feeling I was surrounded by.  And the best way I could describe it was empty.  What may be empty for others may not match what I’m describing as empty, but for me and my journey, this word just seemed to fit.  So, I was aware of this empty feeling and that I had to let it go, replace it with another emotion.  I wanted to be surrounded by gratitude.  How can I surround myself with gratitude? I started with a reflection of my day so far…all two hours of it.

I got to start my day with a run.  I’ve started to deem running as “meditation in motion” because that’s exactly what it is for me.  I’m able to get lost in the moment as my body moves and pushes itself. So, that was one detail of the morning that surrounded me with gratitude.  The next was new friends to run with.  One friend who I would not have even met if I hadn’t been a part of the lululemon family this summer.  This one detail of gratitude then spiraled into another and another.  My change in schedule has allowed for me meet new people at the box, who go early in the morning, people who I may have rarely ever spent time with if I didn’t have the opportunity to coach early in the morning.  I’ve been able to read books, so many books for pleasure these past few weeks.  I’ve saved money on gas from traveling less by car and more on foot.  I could enjoy a morning run midweek with friends because I didn’t have to be in a rush to get anywhere.  I’ve been able to step foot on my mat multiple times a day, in different settings, in new studios.

I took a deep breath and just like that, emptiness was replaced with gratitude.  My big picture shifted from negative to positive as it was filled with details of love, compassion and excitement.  And all I had to do was take the time to follow the cycle of mindfulness that I preach to my students day in and day out.

The most challenging part was being reminded that I should not judge myself for being mindless.  Each day is a new day, a new journey making us all beginners.  By simply being aware of the mindless habits I was creating allowed me to be more mindful.

So, if you too are finding yourself struggling to go from mindless to mindful, try these steps:

1. Mindful Thinking: be aware of the thoughts and emotions around you.  Do not judge those thoughts and emotions.  Just recognize their presence.

2. Mindful Speaking: say out loud what you will replace these thoughts and emotions with.  Breathe in and breathe out.

3. Mindful Listening: listen to your body, to where you may feel tension, to the thoughts surrounding your mind.  What are you becoming aware of as you work to replace those initial feelings?

4. Mindful Acting: Put it into action. Practice your replacement emotion.  How you do it is up to you.  And always remember to breathe.

If you slip, do not judge yourself.  Simply repeat steps 1 through 4.

Cheers to mindfulness and the mindlessness that sparked the journey.

The Health and Fitness Fad

Health and fitness is a touchy topic.  Mostly because there are so many views of what determines how fit and healthy you are. However, among the various opinions and trends, there is one thing that is fairly consistent within the health and fitness fad:

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The food we eat.  The muscles we flex.  How many of us are creating an image of health and fitness without truly leading a life of balanced wellness?  At what point do our lifestyles go from balanced to obsessive?

I speak from experience.  It took me years to actually become aware of the fact that I had disordered habits.  Why? Because my actions were masked by the image of health.  I was a runner, so obviously I was thin, right?  Wrong.  I was thin because I barely consumed enough calories to keep my organs functioning.  On top of that, I excessively worked out, obsessively doing workouts throughout the day, especially after every meal.

If you looked at certain statistics, you could claim I was healthy.  I was a fast runner.  My fastest mile was 5:40. I could do movements like push ups and squats. But, I was far from healthy.  Because I was so mentally unhealthy.  

My physical activity was sparked by anxiety, stress, and the need to feel in control.  What started as a hobby became an obsession.  Fitness consumed my life.

If you were to look at my social media pages today, you would see pictures of my food, of my muscles, of my yoga poses. It’s a way to advocate for this life style change I’ve created for myself.  Health and fitness is still a major part of my life, but in a very different way.  I’m still an avid runner.  I lift weights.  I practice yoga daily.  My love of fitness has not changed.  What has changed is my perspective of it.

We assume that working out makes us stronger, faster and better.  I went from running and doing body weight movements daily with no true nutrition to working out just 4 days a week.  Yes, I hop on my mat and stretch daily, but I only do intense activity 4 days a week.  Because that’s what keeps me balanced. 

However,  it’s not all about exercise. It’s so so so much nutrition (like literally, mostly nutrition).  I don’t work out to eat…I eat to work out live.  I need proper nutrition to fuel my body.  Not just for exercise, but for life. I went from consuming barley 1000 calories a day to a minimum of 2000+ and this is the best I’ve ever looked and felt.

None of this would be possible if it weren’t for balancing my mental health.  I had to shift my perspective of my body before I could become passionate about taking care of it, respecting it.  I meditate, I become aware of the thoughts and feelings around me.  I listen to my body.  I research and educate myself.  I try new things.

So, among all the advice, the fads, discover what best fits you, mentally and physically.  You can practice yoga all day physically without ever truly finding peace within awareness. You can flex day in and day out without ever having an ounce of respect for the strength your body demonstrates on the reg. Life is a journey. Your health and fitness can either enhance your growth or hinder it. Grow in your awareness of how you treat your mind, body and spirit as well as why you treat them this way.

Because what’s the point of going through life looking good without feeling good?

Running of the Bulls 8K: Race Recap

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of venturing through downtown Durham.  Despite the high humidity (90% to be exact…) the race was a success!

And, although, I’m very proud of my pace, and overall placement for age group and gender..I’m measuring the success of this race in a different way.

I know what pace my body is capable of. I commit to long distance runs every Saturday morning and have easily sustained an 8 minute pace for 9 miles.  I didn’t go into this race with a pace goal.  I didn’t set myself up to meet an expectation.

Instead, I made a commitment:

to smile.

to be aware.

to breathe.

I wanted to soak up my surroundings.  My focus was to be aware of the bliss and gratitude that surrounded me when I ran.  I centered on the sights, the sounds, the scents that were present; that were a part of this journey with me.

At one point in the race, I told myself to keep my head up.  And I did just that.  I looked up, peered around at the sea of people surrounding me and soaked up the empowerment that came from recognizing I was one small part of this big community.  Pretty powerful stuff.

So rather than trying to control my pace, my body, my breath…I just let it be.  I ran. I smiled.  I enjoyed my time on the road with my fellow runners.  I truly believe this is why I had a successful run.

That and my fuel.

There are many components to living a balanced life style.  Creating a balanced mindset is probably the most necessary, and difficult to achieve.  Balanced nutrition is key, especially for athletes.

Night Before the Race

I planned my meals the day before the race to allow myself to have most of my carbs at night.  Carbohydrates provide stored energy.  So, I had strawberry banana protein pancakes followed by some oatmeal for dessert. And water. LOTS of water ALL DAY LONG.

Morning of the Race

Coffee.  And more water.  Followed by Shakeology with half a serving of whey added to it.  I’m the odd one out who has to eat right before a work out.  Shakeology before my runs has proven to work for my body.  It provides me with TONS vitamins and minerals. It leaves me feeling energized and ready to go!

Post Race

2 Chia Bars (1 acai berry, 1 chocolate peanut butter), 1 banana, 1 sesame seed bagel with 2 egg whites, 1 cup of greek yogurt with a scoop of strawberry whey protein and 1 cup of protein fiber almond flax granola from Whole Foods.  I. Could. Not. Get. Full. When your body burns calories, it’s VITAL to restore those calories.  I may not have gotten full…but I also never got that post race crash…because I fueled my body properly! Restored my body with carbohydrates and rebuilt muscle with protein!

Here’s some ramblings of me talking about the race.  Other topics coming soon:

the value of quality race gear

and

why I’ve stopped blasting music during my workouts

Selfing

We live in a society filled with selfing.  No, not selfies, although those are plentiful (guilty), but selfing; we make things ours.  And its limiting our presence, our awareness, our mindfulness. 

I was recently gifted the book Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Merely halfway through the book, I am already so thankful for it’s guidance during my this journey into a more mindful life style (thanks Sherry Hall!)

You see what I did there?  My journey.  That right there, is selfing ladies and gents.

We are so quick to claim things as me, mine, or my.  This includes thoughts and emotions.  By claiming these moments in a selfing manner, we are attaching ourselves to them.  All thoughts and emotions (the good, the bad, the ugly) are not ours to claim, though.  Rather than empasizing them as our own, we need to simply be aware of their existence.

Thoughts and emotions, whether positive or negative, hold us back from being fully aware.  If we are in a not-so-lovely situation, we find ourselves dwelling on the negative.  I’m sad, I’m lonely, I can’t believe this happened to me.  It’s a thousand times harder to let it go when we’ve made this distinct claim that it is ours.

Claiming moments of pure joy, bliss or happiness as ours isn’t exactly beneficial either.  By doing so, we’re creating expectations.  And, in my opinion, expectations can be toxic.  When we claim these moments, these thoughts, these emotions as ours and that they are our sources of happiness, we create an expectation to be able to claim them again.  When this doesn’t happen the second go around, we’re left disappointed.

Mindfulness is awareness.  Awareness that thoughts, moments, feelings are present.  Whether they are good or bad, you are simply at peace their existence.

So, I challenge you to catch yourself in the act of selfing, and shift it.  Those thoughts, emotions, they are not your own.  They are simply thoughts and emotions and you are aware of their presence.

 

The Power of Self Praise

You’re awesome.  You’re perfect the way you are. You’re amazing.

You’re making excuses.

Self praise is powerful.  Not always in a good way, though.  In my opinion, self praise can be more harmful than it is helpful.  When things don’t go according to plan, or turn out for the best, we turn to self praise.  It’s okay because I did my best.  I’m still amazing. In turn, we forget about the power of our choices and self responsibility.

Que the difference between self love and self respect.  When we constantly shower ourselves with love, it’s easy to make excuses for ourselves.  We allow mistakes without considering how to grow, how to create change.  We make it okay because we love ourselves.

On the other hand, when we respect ourselves, we reflect on the choices we’ve made that brought us to the current situation.  Take, for example, going on a run. The first approach: I go on a run and it destroys me.  I’m short of breath, I feel exhausted, I’m having to push myself beyond what I’d expect.  So, I slow down or shorten up the mileage.  I think it’s okay, everyone has their off days.  Better luck next week! The second approach: How was my nutrition this week?  Have I hydrated properly?  Have I given my body proper rest and sleep?  What choices did I make prior to the run?  What changes can I make?

This concept can apply to any and everything.  I practiced a lot of self love during my first year of teaching, yet had very little self respect.  I let work consume me.  I made the choices that led to putting work first, my students first, and I was always, always last.  I was proud of my work and my efforts.  However, days quickly turned into weeks.  Weeks turned into months.  The year flew by.  When I actually took a second to look back and reflect, I was scared.  I lived 10 months consumed by my job.  Little to no time was set aside for myself, for my friends, for my family.  I was constantly exhausted and stressed. I refused to live another year like this…let alone the next ten.

This was when my self respect journey began.  I started to reflect on what I wanted.  What choices I would make.  It did’t come easily.  Like everything else, it took practice.  Now, reflecting on my choices is second nature.  I also take the time to consider where my choices will lead me before making them.  I can’t control what happens to me, but I can always control my reaction and where I go from there.

The choices I make are a reflection of the respect I have built for myself.  My self respect has grown into an awareness of the life I’ve created for myself.

So, before you take the next opportunity you have to praise yourself, reflect on the choices you’ve made that led to this point.  What changes can you make? How can and how will you grow?

 

Weekend Presence

I never understood the true value of weekends until recently.

Weekends used to be two days in the week where I could never quite relax.  I had a very odd mindset.  Saturday, to me, was the only real weekend day.  I could sleep in (which never happened) and I could stay up late (which never happened).  Sundays stressed me out.  I always had the looming feeling of the work week ahead, and would sit there and say to myself, “Okay, now you have 7 hours left of your weekend….now 6…now 5…ugh it’s getting closer to the time where I have to do prep work for the week” It was awful!

This stopped when I chose to let it stop.  It stopped when I chose to be more present and add more value to my weekends. It stopped when I left work at work and let myself have a life.

I don’t remember the last time I brought work home with me, especially on the weekends.  Even the small things, like printing, I leave for work.  My home time has become so valuable.  It is my time to refuel, to love and appreciate the life I’m creating for myself.  It also allows for me to avoid that “burn out” feeling.

I’m feeling especially grateful today for my resolution of making 2015 the year of presence.  This weekend, Adam and I are venturing home to Asheville to visit family.  In the past, I would’ve allowed myself to be stressed out.  “Will I get this and this done?  What time will we be home Sunday?” This destructive, stressful mindset made it impossible to be present, enjoy and value the time I had with our family.

I’ve shifted my perspective of weekends.  And, it’s shifted my life.  I am SO looking forward to not even thinking once about the work week ahead.  Instead, I’m looking forward to a 3 hour car ride, listening to NPR and music with my boys followed by a weekend filled with love and laughter with our beautiful family.

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What or who will you dedicate your presence to this weekend?

Want, Need, Share, Succeed

Happy Weekend, Friends!

Rather than sulk about the dreary weather in Durham today, I took the opportunity to put my goals down in writing.  Check out a snapshot of them below:

Goals

I’ve declared 2015 to be my year of presence.  I’m working towards living in the moment, soaking up my surroundings rather than constantly looking ahead.  I noticed a big break through during spring break, a week spent porch-sitting, rocking chair reading and yoga bending. It was the first time I fully embraced and enjoyed my time off.

I’ve decided to lay out what it is I will want, need, share and succeed in 2015.  Here’s the dirty deets:

Want

What I want in 2015 is to travel/vacation abroad with Adam. We have big plans for this year.  It’s been years since we’ve gone on vacation. A well deserved get-a-way is without a doubt the near future.

Need

What I need in 2015 is to mindfully eat, whole organic foods that fuel my body.  While I’m not into the diet scene, I am into fueling my body with what’s good for it.  I’m letting go of foods that don’t serve a purpose to nurturing my body.

Share

What I will share in 2015 is inspiration to empower others to lead a balanced life. My goal is to reach as a many people on how to mindfully think, speak, listen and act. When we first take care of ourselves, we are then able to take care of the world around us. Through social media, fitness & social circles, my goal is to inspire others to be the best, balanced version of themselves.

Succeed

What I will succeed in 2015 is run a half marathon sub 2 hours.  My fitness journey has had it’s ups and downs over the last 10 years.  I’ve finally found a balance between running, lifting and bending.  I’m in the best mental and physical shape of my life for it.  I’m ready to tackle a half marathon.  Who knows, maybe a 26.2 is in my future!

Oh, and I still really want to start a book club. THIS WILL HAPPEN.

What will you want, need, share and succeed this year?

Having Your Cake & Eating It Too

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, diets are not my cup of tea.  They promote this stigma of bad food vs. good food, when in reality we need to focus on fueling our bodies.  We need to eat food that has a healthy purpose.

This doesn’t make it easy to stop eating foods that we’ve gotten into the habit of consuming.  Like the boxes of cookies I used to consume on the reg. Just because I’m thin does not make this okay.  Foods high in sugar destroy your energy levels.  Sure, they give you than instantaneous joy, and maybe a sugar rush.  But, that crash is sure to follow.  Why eat foods that ultimately bring you down? Food should fuel our bodies, fill us with nutrients and make us feel energized.

Being a teacher (or really, just a professional), it can be challenging to stay fueled throughout the day.  I’m constantly on my feet, on the go for 8+ hours a day.  It’s easy to get that “2 pm feeling.” You know, the one where your eyes can’t stay opened and you feel like an actual couch potato. You get grouchy…perhaps even hangry.  (The hangry struggle is real people).

Well, I’ve found a way to conquer these lack of energy. And the best way to describe it is as having your cake and eating it too. I know, it’s supposed to be impossible to have both.  But with Shakeology you can.  I’ve decided to add Shakeology to my morning routine, right there with my cup of coffee and big ole glass of water.

Shakeology is a superfood shake.  It’s made with all natural, whole food ingredients and literally tastes like a milkshake.  Hence the whole having your cake and eating it too.  

I’ll admit, at first I was hesitant.  In fact, I only ended up trying Shakeology because I really really wanted to try Piyo.  Piyo is a pilates-yoga at home workout program.  Sometimes, I’m just not feeling the gym after a longer day, and wanted to have an at-home alternative.  There happened to be a special going on at the time, so I decided to give these super food shakes a shot. And I’m so happy I did.

Here’s why I’m in love:

  • I actually stay full until I’m able to sit down and enjoy a snack or lunch.
  • I stay energized all day.
  • It’s delicous and filled with vitamins, minerals and proteins.
  • It’s reduced my cravings for sugary foods. (I’m no longer a self-proclaimed cookie monster)

My go to recipe at the moment:

  • 1 serving of either chocolate or vanilla shakeology mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp of peanut butter
  • 1/2 a banana
  • ice for thickness

All blended up!

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I not only look my best, but I feel my best.

Let me know if you’re interested in giving it a shot! 

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Sorry. No shame in my mirror selfie game.

Mindful Monday: 002

I’ve always loved the many wise words of Buddha.  One concept of Buddhism has been on the forefront of my mind lately: attachment.

Attachments play a big role in our perspective. Our perspective influences our ability to mindfully think.

Attachments come in various forms: relationships, material things, hobbies.  We often become fixated on the idea of something, on our routines, on our expectations.  So much so, that we lose sight of it’s true value, and focus on solely on the emotion the attachment provides us. It becomes our external force of happiness. This attachment shifts our perspective, our view of the world around us.  Our decisions are influenced by this attachment whether we realize it or not.

You are not your attachment.  You are you.  Once we become more mindful of the way we see ourselves, the self that is free of the attachment, you are able to not only let it go, but appreciate it more.

Here’s an example of an attachment I’ve recently “let go” of: fitness.

No, I didn’t stop working out.  But, I shifted my perspective of fitness. I’ve always been an athlete: softball, basketball, volleyball, running CrossFit.  Two that have played a role in my life are the later: running and CrossFit.  They are the two that I grew very attached to. They were my external source of happiness.  My level of happiness was dependent on a successful run or WOD.

It wasn’t healthy, physically or mentally.  My worth was is not equivalent to my abilities as an athlete.  When I stopped focusing on my image as a runner/CrossFitter, when I stopped looking at them as things I had to do in order to be healthy and happy, I became healthier and happier.

I shifted my perspective.  I mindfully thought about who I am and who I want to be.  I thought about how I can maintain a peaceful, minimally stressed mind. I freed myself of my own expectations.

We can shift our perspective on many things.  Whatever the attachment is, visualize and acknowledge yourself free of that attachment.  Know your strengths and values as an individual.  To quote Elsa, “Let it go.” (You know you’re a teacher when…)

What are you attached to that’s taking up space in your mind and heart?  How can you shift your perspective of this attachment to be more free?