balance

Meditation In Motion

Meditation has become a part of my daily routine. While this word may freak some people out, to me, meditation is simply taking the time to focus on my breathing and find inner peace and calm.  It allows me to create a space in which I’m able to be completely present, surrounded by gratitude, bliss and awareness.

I’ve deemed running as my “meditation in motion.”  I’m able to get lost in my own running world as I become aware of the sights and sounds around me.  It’s an absolutely beautiful experience.  However, it’s beauty is only prevalent if I’m in the right place mentally.

Since announcing my audacious goal of 13.1×10, people have shown a huge amount of support. (Which I am entirely grateful for, and my heart is so full!) A major question I find myself being asked is “Which will you actually race.”  And I respond honestly with, “I haven’t thought about it!”  I began exploring this question deeper: which ones should I run at race pace?  On yesterdays 13 mile run, I found my answer:

None of them.

As soon as I start to think about that phrase, “race pace,” I lose sight of the meditation and running just becomes a motion.  Narratives get created in my mind and I find myself surrounded with self judgement and criticism.  I recognized these thoughts surrounded me as I found myself looking down on my run yesterday.  The pavement (and therefore the run) seemed never ending.  Right away, I knew this is not how I want to feel on this run, or any other run whether it’s a mile long or 20 miles long.  So, I took a deep breath in and looked up.

 Now, rather than endless, my run seemed limitless. 

So, I let go of all those thoughts consumed with self doubt and criticism.  People say the only person you should be in competition with is yourself, but I respectfully disagree.  I don’t want to compete with myself from the past, creating these beliefs of how I should and could be running.  So,  I stopped.  No more reflecting on my run history from the past or creating narratives for the future.  It’s time to focus on the now and realize how perfect and beautiful this run, and any run, truly is.

PRs will come without a doubt.  Some races will be better than others.  I’ll be forced to face the heat, the hills, some wind and rain, too.  But, with my focus being meditation in motion, I’ll be able to love each and every moment, and the awareness it brings me.

I’ve found my soulmate pace: my pace in which I’m able to push myself but still have control and awareness of my breath and my surroundings.  For me, keeping a solid 8 minute pace allows me to stay in a meditative state.  There’s moments where I get lost in the run and naturally pick up the pace.  But, for me and for this goal, it’s not about pushing the pace.  It’s about staying in a place of gratitude, bliss and presence as my body carries me down a new path.  It’s about finding balance and persevering mentally.  It’s about showing my students that goal setting comes in different shapes and sizes, each ambition unique to the individual.  It’s about keeping my runs limitless.  It’s about meditation in motion.

Am I still nervous?  Of course.  Mindfulness is a practice.  Each course will bring it’s own set of challenges, it’s own way of trying to take me from mindful to mindless.  I’m confident, though, that with my purpose and students in my mind, I can and will persevere, enjoying each most steps I take.

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What does meditation in motion mean to you?  How do you use motion to create a space of presence and bliss?

Embracing the Dark

The Dark. The Unknown.  It can be a scary place. 

Although, I am literally still afraid of the dark at 24 years old (no shame), this phrase is often meant in a more figurative way. Today, figurative met literal on my mat. I wasn’t at a studio. I didn’t have a special routine planned. I simply stepped foot on Split Pea, closed my eyes and kept them shut for (approximately) 30 minutes  as I allowed my body to flow.  It was the most beautiful practice.

While I was literally in the dark, my mind was able to get focused and lost all at the same time.  As I sat in child pose to begin my practice, I became so aware of my breath.  I found that I was surrounded by so much calm and peace that I simply wanted to stay in this safe haven I created.  So, I decided to stay in the dark.

As I continued to flow, I felt self judgement be released with each breath.  Although I practice yoga daily, I know my form has a long way to go.  When my eyes are open during a practice, it’s so easy to look around and try to get into the pose perfectly.  As my eyes stayed shut during todays practice, it just didn’t matter.  Because it felt so, so good.  The deep stretch, the calming of my breath, the lack of judgement.  I was in my safe.  I was at peace. I was embracing a dark space. A space I had created with my self, for my self.

So, although the dark can be both literally and figuratively frightening, it can also bring you to such a beautiful place. A place that may never be found if you don’t take that leap of faith in yourself.

Maybe closed-eyed yoga isn’t quite for you.  But, however you approach the darkness, approach it with trust in your self, in your breath, in your body — your temple.

Namaste. The light in me, honored the light in myself today. It also honors the light in you.

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?

National Running Day 2015

GUYS. IT’S NATIONAL RUNNING DAY!

So obviously I’m going to take the time to ramble about my relationship with running.

You see, running and me, we’ve come a     L     O    N    G    (pun intended) way.

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It didn’t always use to be this way.  In fact, it used to be the exact opposite.  I used to run because I didn’t honor my body.  I ran to escape my mind.  I ran because I felt like I had to.

I had very high expectations and very low self respect.  I ran and ran and ran to prove to myself I was something.  The (not so) funny thing about that is the more I tried to prove that something to myself, the higher my expectations were.  These expectations were unrealistic, unhealthy and unattainable.

Eventually, I shifted away from running.  I took the time to heal my body and my mind.  I needed to build mental and physical strength. I knew that eventually I would return to running, and when I did, I’d run for the right reasons.

Now, my runs are my time to be mindful, to be aware, to embrace my surroundings.  It’s the time to soak up the sights, the sounds, the scents around me and simply be. It’s my time to practice presence.

My runs remind me of my past.  My body has overcome a major struggle.  I don’t look at the past with regret.  It simply is. And because it is the way it is, I am the way I am.  My body is powerful because of it. I spent ten years being being guided by negativity and stress.  I’m dedicating the next fifty+ to being surrounded by happiness, mindfulness and presence.

I run to honor my body and free my mind.  Why do you run?

Life Narratives: Construction & Destruction

It’s no secret that people are exposed to society’s pressures.  From a young age, we’re taught our routines, pushed to paint this picture of our future and start paving the path.  At what point do we get too caught up in writing our life narratives that we’re forgetting to live our lives?

I’ve been there.  I had my whole narrative planned and written out since I could remember: from high school to college and back to the classroom as a teacher. College was a blur.  No, not due to a large consumption of alcohol.  On the contrary, it’s due to the fact that I was always, always going and going and going.  Working, studying, working some more…I rarely had down time.  I thought this was good.  I thought it meant I was going after my goals, I was being ambitious and earning my way into my career.  These habits continued through my first year of teaching.  I was in go, go go mode.  Constantly busy, work was always on my mind.  But I was “living” the dream, right?  I was in my career! I was happy…right?

Eh, not so much.  Actually, not at all.

I was so busy constructing this narrative of my life that I forgot to actually live my life.  I was so busy creating these thoughts, these images of what my life shoulda-coulda-woulda been.  Finances. Jobs. Relationships. I let these thoughts define me.  I clung to them, to the narrative of Devin Gaynor: super teacher, super girl friend, super daughter, super sister, super friend etc; etc; etc;

The funny thing about thoughts is…they are just thoughts.  Our lives are simply bigger than just thoughts.

So, rather than clinging to these thoughts of what woulda-coulda-shoulda been, we need to build awareness of what was and what is.  We need to be at peace with the existence of these thoughts, of these feelings, of the situations that present themselves.  From there, we can build on possibility.  We can create our reactions.  We can create our choices.

So, I vow we accept the construction and destruction we’ve built with our life narratives.  Accept what was, what is. Let go of these self-created expectations and make the choice to live your life.

 

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.

Something Old, Something New

A year ago today, this happened.

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This day symbolized so much more than getting tatted up.  It represents creating my own happiness.

This tattoo represents my decision to quit my first teaching position. I would finish the year out and then discover other passions, a new path.  Little did I know, my new path would lead me back to my original passion, but with a lot more balance.

I throw the word balance around a lot.  Balance is a life style and a mindset. It is so much more than eating right, exercising, or practicing your hobbies. Its the ability to be present.

How do you achieve presence?  By letting go of expectations and external sources of happiness.

There are many people who claim work-life balance is a myth.  However, I respectfully disagree.  The power of that work-life balance is a power within yourself, the result of your choices.

Think about it: what motivates you? Is it praise and approval?  Is it recognition?  Where does it all come from?  While receiving these from external sources can be highly motivational, they can be toxic. What’s the point in constantly working for applause rather than a cause?  What’s your purpose?

I thought my purpose as a teacher was to change lives.  It was to give my all to my school and my students.  Having this mindset, though, was exhausting. My first year of teaching was spent letting success get the best and rest of me.  Claiming to be a go-getter in all actuality was an excuse.  I thought my obsessiveness with perfection, with kicking ass at my job was the result of constantly being on the go, physically and mentally. No. No. No. No. 

All this did was result in restless nights, an exhausted mind and body, and the lack of a social life.

I can be am able to still dream big and conquer goals without the hassle of stress. It took practice, but I leave work at work, and  stopped thinking ahead.  This does not mean I stopped planning.  You can still be an avid planner, but be able to enjoy the here and now.  It just takes practice.

Now, I see my purpose as a teacher with completely different eyes.  My purpose is to provide my students with the example and tools of being an independent, life long leaders. In doing so, I practice what I preach.

Here’s some tips on the dos and don’ts of bringing balance to your life:

Don’t constantly focus on what went wrong. Do find a small success in every single day.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Do try to improve the person you were yesterday.

Don’t thrive off of external praise.  Do take the time to value your own hard work and success.

Don’t dwell and constantly plan how to change. Do seek opportunities to learn and grow.

Always, always, always, remember to breathe and take a long hard look at your surroundings. 

Because you never know how adjusting your sight can take something old and make it very new.

My passion is old, my vision is new.