breathe

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?

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?

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?

 

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.

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.

How To Help Yourself When Helping Others

 

I’m a humanitarian by nature.  I like to help people.   In order to do so successfully, I must first help myself.

I’m a very energetic person.  And, no, I’m not just talking about my on-the-go, every day is fabulous personality.  I mean that I’m very in tune with not only my energy, but the energy of others.  Sometimes this is a blessing, other times it’s a burden.  Don’t get me wrong, I love how in tune I am with myself.  But, I’ve had to learn how to stay in tune with myself when others are killing my vibe.  Of course people aren’t trying to bring me down (at least I hope not…).  But when people come to you with their problems, it’s best they don’t become your problems.

How To Help Yourself When Helping Others:

1. Remember to Breathe: breathing is vital for living (duh).  But I mean truly living your life.  When I learned and committed to really breathing, my stress levels spiraled downward.  If you feel someone else’s problems becoming yours, take a deep breath in, and let it right back out.

2. Remember I Am: The phrase “I am” is powerful.  After refocusing your breath, redefine yourself.  For example, if someone’s energy and behavior is coming off as uncontrolled and chaotic, take a deep breath and say, “I am in control. I am calm.” And you will be.

3. Remember to Offer, Not Demand:  The truth is, you can’t fix others.  You can only fix yourself.  When giving advice, remember it’s an offer, not a demand. Therefore, offer advice, don’t demand actions.  You can’t control what another person does.  You can’t solve their problems for them.  You can only offer your thoughts, and let them free.  If this is hard for you, repeat steps 1 and 2.

4. Remember Your Intention: In my post How To Be Free, I shared the value of setting a daily intention.  Go back to your intention.  Let it strengthen you.  Let it refocus you.  Let it restore your energy.

In the end, you can’t serve others without first serving yourself.  To authentically be there for others, be in relationship with you. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary. 

Why The Best Yogis Don’t Have To Be Flexible

Hi, my name is Devin Gaynor and I’m an inflexible yogi.

I’ve pretty much always struggled with my flexibility.  I remember being in elementary school asking my gym teacher to teach me how to touch my toes.  And I’ve always epically failed the test where you sit down with your legs straight and reach for a line.  I’m pretty sure I always barely reached the box…

Well I’m proud to say that a recent accomplishment of mine was being able to touch my toes (woohoo!) A goal of mine is to take a yoga teacher training and one day own a studio.  My lack of flexibility had me wondering if I’d get baffled looks from people thinking “She’s going to teach yoga?!”

That is until I was in class the other morning and my instructor announced “I’m probably the most inflexible yoga teacher you’ll ever meet.”  I was ecstatically thinking oh my lanta I’m not alone!

You see, with yoga, it’s all about your state of mind.  Sure, you’re challenging your body in multiple physical ways, but, at the end of your practice, it’s all about having mental freedom.

Here’s how you can be a fabulous yogi without being flexible:

1. Modify: Your body is different from my body.  There are some things that come easy to me, there are some things that are crazy hard for me.  When you modify in any workout, your body is still doing work.  The difference is, when you modify, your body is doing work the right way.  Form is the foundation of building strength or conquering a skill.  I happily sit on my mat with two blocks by my side. If I’m going to treat my body to yoga, I’m going to treat it right by modifying when needed.

2. Film Poses: I’m a very visual learner.  I need to see something in order to understand  it.  When I’m in yoga, I can see how the instructor and other people are doing the poses, but I have no idea how I’m doing them.  So, I go home and film myself doing those poses.  It’s the best way to see if I need to raise my hips, lower my shoulders, or push down my heels.  Once I know what the correct way feels like, I’m able to repeat the movement on my own.

3. Just Breathe: A woman named Kylie came into lululemon yesterday.  We got to talking and I learned she was a yoga instructor in Brevard.  I was telling her all about my goals in wanting to teach yoga one day and that I’m working on being more into my own practice and working on my flexibility first.  Then she shared literally one of the best ideas ever: If you can breathe, you can do yoga.  Yes, yoga has helped me become stronger physically, but at the end of a practice, I feel best because yoga has strengthened me mentally.  And it did that by teaching me how to breathe.  At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about: breathing.

So, if you’re going into a yoga class with the mentality of getting a kick ass workout, being the strongest and most flexible…you’re doing it wrong.

You want to be a better yogi?

Just breathe.