Balanced Life

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.

FullSizeRender

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

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.

10312629_2616393893801_4389179368783489965_n

10974737_2616393333787_3765234432086660697_o

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!

IMG_8854

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

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

IMG_6376

Sorry. No shame in my mirror selfie game.

Something Old, Something New

A year ago today, this happened.

IMG_0306

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.

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?

Mindful Monday: 001

There are two concepts deeply connected to happiness:

choice

perspective

We either have the power and control of them, or they us.

The first step in leading a mindful lifestyle is mindful thinking.  We’re all very familiar with the phrase “think before you do.”  But, how many of us truly obey this “rule?”  Grasping the concepts of choice and perspective will help you do so mindfully.

The power of choice is the power of our reaction.  We cannot always control what happens to us.  However, we can always control our reaction.

We can better control our reactions when we shift our perspectives.  When our perspective is driven by peace and positivity, we see things with more clarity.

So, how does one begin to allow choice and perspective to guide their mindful thinking?

First, you breathe. Take a deep breath in through your nose, (like, deep deep..feel your stomach expand) and exhale s.l.o.w.l.y out your mouth.

Then, in your head, complete the following statements:

“I feel ___________.”

“I feel ___________ because…”

This is you taking the time to acknowledge your thoughts.  Be aware of your feelings and why you feel this way.  How are you choosing to perceive the situation?  Can you choose to shift your perspective?  How will you choose to share your thoughts?

Sure, it may seem like that’s a lot of thought to put into your thinking.  But, imagine: what if we all took in a deep breath, acknowledged our feelings and embraced awareness of our thoughts before acting?

Mindful thoughts create mindful people.

Mindful people create mindful communities.

You Are Enough

My New Years Resolution, although vague, has proven to be pretty successful.  While 2014 was the year I focused on creating my own happiness, 2015 is the year I dedicated to presence and mindfulness.

Where’s my so called proof?  Well, I could measure my successes by physical means:

  • I’ve created and implemented a mindful based approach to teaching leadership in the classroom
  • I’ve managed to maintain a work-life balance for the 2014-2015 school year

While these two events are examples of the practice of presence and mindfulness, neither compare to the feeling of the two.  What exactly does mindfulness and presence feel like? Like I’m enough.

There’s no hiding it.  I’m a Type A personality, a go-getter, an over achiever.  I push and push myself to prove something to myself. And while those small achievements may feel great, they always leave you pushing for more, wanting more.  While motivation is a good thing, over doing it isn’t.

That push and drive constantly has you looking towards the future.  You’re always working for and waiting for that success to happen, so much so that you forget to appreciate it when it actually becomes present. Despite the constant hard work and effort, you never quite feel satisfied.  You never feel like you’re enough.  So, you keep going.

Thankfully, I’ve opened my eyes to this stress-enducing behavior.  Although I never mentally put myself down, I let myself be controlled by this constant drive, this constant push to do and be more. Practicing presence and mindfulness has allowed me slow down and be aware.

self-awareness: conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires. 

What exactly does this practice include? Well, here’s some examples that work for me:

sitting on my rocking chair listening to the fountain in the courtyard

11081061_2633047190123_7743087316057162983_n

practicing yoga and breathing: slowly in through my nose, and out my mouth

10325360_2316217309574_5258504615573051448_n

sitting back and taking a physical long, hard look at what I’m thankful for, such as Adam and Pood, pictures of my family, or my classroom

10885158_2572525517119_8427747923367282528_n

1601371_2571847820177_1476206035833535780_n

relaxing on a pile of pillows by an open window, feeling the breeze brush against my face

11026117_2638320601955_4249336083238409536_n

These practices are my reminders that I am enough, and that life is beautiful.