be free

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?

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.

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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.

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

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

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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

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

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

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. 

 

How To Be Free

Alright, guys, I have a confession.  It might be hard to believe, but even I have days where I don’t feel like being a ray of sunshine. I know, I know.  It seems like I literally spew rainbows everywhere I go. And as much as I love being positive, sometimes it takes work.

Positivity for me is a way of expressing my freedom.  A lot of people tell me that I have a great smile.  I don’t think it has anything to do with my teeth. (Let’s be real, they’re a little crooked.)  I like to think it has to do with the fact that it’s a positive, authentic smile showing I’m free. 

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But, like I said, sometimes that positivity takes work.  There are days when I wake up and I feel off.  Friday was one of those days.  My mind was clouded by questions.  I was unsure of myself and second guessing my decisions. I didn’t feel like me.

I decided that my heart (and my hamstrings) could use some love. So I went to Asheville Community Yoga and took a class led by my absolute favorite instructor in the world, Michael.  I typically attend one of Michael’s Warm Vinyasa Flows.  This time, though, I attended his Gentle Flow class.  It was exactly what my body and mind needed.

Incase you aren’t aware, I’m obsessed with Michael’s classes.  And I know, I know, I’ve said multiple times in my posts before that obsessions in any shape or form are not good.  But literally anytime I have something on my mind, I swear Michael knows it.  Whatever he’s preaching in class that day directly relates to the thoughts clouding my head.  And this class was no different.

First, the topic of relationships came up.  Relationships are life.  Any and everything we do has to do with relationships, whether it’s with other people or with ourselves. When we are in relationship with others, we are so eager to give them what they want. Instead, we need to think about how we can serve that person.  Instantly, I realized that in order to serve others, I need to first serve myself. Because, if I’m not in relationship with myself, I cannot provide an authentic relationship to others.

As I stood on one foot in tree pose, I thought to myself, well how do I serve myself? And then just like that Michael said “Let it be.” I cannot control the past nor the future.  I can only be present.  I must let everything else be.  Then, I will be free. And just like that, I was.

Freedom doesn’t always come that easy.  And I won’t always be able to go to a yoga class to clear my mind.  The ability is within myself, and it’s within you, too.

Here’s five things you can do to free yourself on those off days:

1. Set An Intention: at the beginning of the yoga class, Michael told us to set an intention.  Mine was to commit to being in relationship with myself, since at the moment, this relationship seemed fuzzy.  Throughout the class, he reminded us to revisit our intention and focus on it.  Set an intention for yourself every day.  Put post it notes up to remind yourself of it, or put a reminder in your phone.  Whatever you have to do to keep that intention on your mind.  It’ll give a purpose to your day.  If you need help in setting intentions, you can check out Positive Life Tips. You can sign up to receive an email daily.  It’s definitely not a bad way to start your day.

2. Clear Your Mind: what I love about yoga and meditation is it provides you with a space to clear your mind.  In this class, Michael told us to let it be.  Release that emotion from your heart and your head.  If it’s not serving you, its distracting you.  It’s taking up space that could (and should) be filled with love.

3. Replace Negative Feelings: after you clear your heart and mind of your distraction, you must replace that emotion.  For me, I cleared confusion and self doubt during class, and replaced it with trust and self love. I released the feelings of confusion and self doubt.  Trust and self love took their place.

4. Commit To It: once you clear and replace those feelings, you must commit to allowing their presence.  This may not always come easy, but setting an intention around these emotions can help.  Let their presence guide you through your day.

5. Serve Yourself: if you want to serve those around you, you have to first serve yourself.  Provide yourself the means to a happy, loving heart and mind. How you serve yourself is up to you.  Do what clears your mind, what provides you the space to create that freedom. 

For me, it’s physical activity.  It’s yoga, CrossFit and running.  It’s my way of meditating.  They provide me the space to feel gratitude and self love.  When I am grateful and filled with love, I’m positive.

When I’m positive, I’m free.

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