be at peace

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?

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 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?

 

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?

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?

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.

Mindful Based Leadership

“21st Century Skills” is a major buzz phrase in the world of education.  Along with ELA (english language arts), Math, Science, Social Studies and other curriculum, teachers are also expected to guide their students in understanding how to utilize the 4 Cs: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. These are skills that people of all ages demonstrate and practice daily.

While I don’t like to play favorites, teaching 21st Century Skills is without a doubt my pride and joy.  Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching a wide array of subjects.  I’m passionate about creating engaging curriculum that makes my students excited to learn.  However, I remind my students daily that I can’t force them to learn.  My job is to provide them with the tools.  Their education is in their hands.  They have the power of choice. 

Using 21st Century Skills is a lifestyle.  It is something that must be practiced daily.  While certain aspects, like technology, are great to enhance these skills, it is by no means the foundation.  Being a mindful leader starts with you.

The Practice of Mindful Leadership

I’ve taken the 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning and added a mindful twist to them.  It’s one thing lead, it’s another to mindfully lead.

Mindfulness: maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.

Every thing we do is a choice.  This is not to be confused with what happens to us.  There will always be things out of our control.  However, the way we react is our choice. Using mindfulness to foster these choices is a powerful thing.

Mindful Leadership is a cyclic behavioral lifestyle.  I’ve outlined it like this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 9.29.41 PM

The first aspect of Mindful Leadership is Mindful Thinking (critical thinking).  Too often do we have knee-jerk reactions to a situation.  We act on our in-the-moment emotions, which can often be pretty disastrous.  (In my class we call this exploding like a soda bottle.  And, yes, I’ve been guilty of doing this many times). Rather than following the cycle, we tend to feel an emotion and act on it.  Instead, it would be beneficial to practice mindful thinking; being aware of our thoughts and feelings.  Take a deep breath, and analyze how something is making you feel.  What words are you thinking right now?  It’s okay to have thinking time.

After analyzing your thoughts and feelings, it’s time to mindfully speak, or communicate, those thoughts.  Express the way you feel, the words that were running through your mind.  Make it obvious that they are your feelings.  People can’t tell you how you do and do not feel. You have the right to feel your feelings.

The hardest part of the Cycle of Mindful Leading is Mindfully Listening.  We often “listen” to respond, rather than to understand.  Mindful Listening hones in on the collaboration aspect of 21st Century Skills.  Your allowing for the other person to practice the cycle as they mindfully think and speak their thoughts and feelings on the matter.

Once these pieces of the cycle have been demonstrated, mindful action can take place.  When we mindfully act, we are able to create something powerfully.  Our actions are more creative, more meaningful when they are built on a foundation of awareness.

Which brings me to…

The Pyramid of Awareness

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 5.15.44 PM

Practicing mindfulness allows for us to make mindful choices.  As we make mindful choices, we become more aware of how our choices impact not only ourselves but the people around us.  We cannot and should not judge the choices we make, or the choices others make.  Instead, we need to recognize and accept the impact of these choices.

Your choices start with you. The foundation of awareness is self awareness.  Before you can understand those in your surroundings (and they understand you), you must first understand the impact of the choices you make.  Every choice you make makes an impact.  While some impacts may be smaller than others, every choice counts.  Following the Cycle of Mindful Leading allows for you to make mindful choices for yourself.  With a solid foundation of self awareness, you are more open to mindfully understand your peers.  Peers can then come together to mindfully understand their community.  Communities join together to foster a change or have an impact on other communities (global change).

Mindful Leadership is a life style.  It allows for individuals to create respect and peace for themselves and for the people in their lives. I’ve had parents share with me that they are blown away by how their 8 year olds talk.  The level of maturity, respect and awareness they demonstrate seems unheard of.  Their children are giving them advice on how to their 20-something interns and co-workers need to practice their leadership skills.  It may not always be easy, but it will always be worth it.

I’ll share with you what I share with my students every day:

We all have the power inside of us to be leaders.  Whether or not you use this power is up to you.  The choice is yours.

Choose wisely mindfully.

Body Shaming

Body shaming has been a popular topic lately.  We’ve all heard the arguments of fat shaming vs. skinny shaming. In my opinion, the worst type of shaming a person can commit is self shaming.

And let’s face it, we’ve all committed this crime.

You know the shaming drill…whether your looking in the mirror or taking a million and one selfies, theres a little voice in the back of your head saying hateful things. Friendly reminder, we all go through it at some point…hence the reason I prefer the phrase “body shaming” over fat/skinny shaming.

In fact, I recently had a moment of shame two yoga classes ago.  My workout routine has drastically changed from CrossFitting 5 days a week to running 4-5 days a week, yoga twice a week and weights once to twice a week. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten used to a bulkier body on my frame. As I stood in downward dog, I glanced over to the mirror and started attacking myself. Oh my god…my butt is shrinking.  Are my arms less swole?  I hope my back still looks like the hulk…

Yoga is already a challenge for me as I struggle to straighten my legs in each position (whilst my hamstrings scream), so adding these negative Nancy comments did nothing but mess with my zen. As I sat on my mat in my next practice, the instructor had us set our intention for the class.  I was determined to be present and positive.  No negative thoughts were going to flood my mind,  disrupt my peace.  With my eyes closed and hands at my heart, I reminded myself that I am in a different place than I once was.  I no longer am training for anything.  I am no longer a CrossFit coach. I’m not competing.  My body is going to change. I may not be as muscular as I once was.  And you know what? That’s okay. Despite all the memes that say shit like “you can either make excuses or make results” there’s no shame in having a life outside of your workouts.  My workouts don’t define who I am.  I define who I am.

& I declare myself shameless. 

 

Money Ain’t Nothing But A Thing

 

So, like most 20 somethings people do, I stress about money.

Like everything is in life, there’s pressure in society about having “enough.”  Despite having a salary paying job that I absolutely love and a kick ass budgeting system, I still find myself thinking stressing: Do I have enough money?  

Well, just like most of my life revelations, this one happened on my mat.

First off, what does enough money even mean?  Enough money for what?  I can pay my bills easily, afford groceries and gas, and I’ll be able to buy my loved ones gifts this holiday season.  So what is there to stress about?

There seems to be this imaginary stipulation that once you’re out of college, you’re supposed to start the rest of your life.  And life takes money.  We’re supposed to save up for all our big milestones: weddings, houses, babies etc; etc;  And that’s where the stress hits: savings.

Even with a decent salary, it’s proving to be harder than expected to build up this “necessary” savings account.  Cue a distracted mind and restless nights here.  Do we have enough money?  Will I have enough before the next payday?  Where can I make some cuts?  Do I need to get a second job?

Thankfully, some bending and lots of sweating on split pea set my mind straight.  While standing in my downward dog, this quote came to mind:

Life is meant for living, not saving.  I’m not at that point of needing to save for these milestones.  I mean, are we ever financially “stable” for these big moments anyway?  You can’t always choose what happens in life, but you can choose how to react to it.  I’m changing my reaction because money ain’t nothing but a thing.