Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Fourth Constant

Everyone has heard the expression that the only two constants in life are death and taxes.  They're the only two things you can always, always, always be sure to count on.  The older you get, the more you also hear the little pearl of wisdom that change is the only constant in life.  People usually tell you this when you feel you're at the 'end of an era,' like the end of college or a relationship.

Those three things are pretty well embedded into our consciousness, I think, so much so that they're cliche.  I think there's one more constant (at least - anyone else think of any?) that often gets overlooked.

You always have yourself.

It's so unbelievably simple (and potentially hokey sounding) so it makes sense that we take it for granted.

I have so many friends and family right now that are going through huge life changes - getting married, getting engaged, breaking up, moving in, having babies, having parents divorce and remarry, losing family members - every single friend of mine that I can think of is going through or has gone through one of these staggering life changes over the last year or so.  Change is such an unbelievable constant in our lives that it's easy to get swept up in those external changes in circumstance and forget about the other side of the coin.  No matter what happens in your life, you're alone in the beginning, you're alone in the end, and you always have yourself through the crazy middle.

A lot of people might find it morbid or depressing - the total aloneness of birth and death - but it can (and I think should) be comforting and empowering.  It doesn't mean that you don't open yourself up to love or that you don't ever get married, but it just means you should never take yourself for granted as a source of comfort, strength, and love.

This is one of the main reasons why a mediation practice is so powerful.  I don't even mean a seated-in-lotus meditation necessarily - any kind of communal time with yourself is so important and powerful.  Any activity where you're alone and you're in that space that's somewhere between zoning out and finding that elusive quiet, present, focused mind, whether it be yoga, running, knitting, swimming, journaling, even walking to the subway or doing the dishes.  However lofty or mundane, those moments of quiet and self communion are so precious because whether we realize it or not, we're connecting more deeply with ourself.

I'm about to experience this on a very small scale.  For the last three Sundays, Marc has been my faithful running partner.  With his help, 7 and 8 miles felt like a normal day's run, and this past Sunday's 10K felt like a breeze.  It was the farthest he had ever run before, and I shattered my previous 10K record from 2008 by 15 minutes.  Running with Marc, we pace each other, talk to each other, encourage each other, inspire each other, and basically make running easy and enjoyable.

This coming Sunday, however, he'll be working when I tackle my longest distance yet - 9 miles.  I'll be going it totally alone, and I'm extremely nervous that I won't be able to do it.  I tried to help encourage myself this morning by running my 4 miles without a podcast or music (or Marc, who was working).  It went really well and I found myself thinking about all of this (running is the best blogging brainstorm) and how I so often doubt that I'll be okay on my own at something where I've decided I need a security blanket or someone to hold my hand.  We disempower ourselves so quickly and so easily, and it's amazing how quickly we declare ourselves to be dependent on someone or something outside of ourselves.

It's all an illusion.  I can run 9 miles by myself.  People survive breakups.  Young parents survive new parenthood.  We live on after our loved ones pass away.  Meditation in any form makes it so much easier to always know you can count on yourself as your ultimate rock and support.

There's a quote from a book I've talked about a lot in this blog, The Joy of Living, that sums up much more eloquently and succinctly the point I'm trying to make:

"The only difference between meditation and social interaction is that the friend you're gradually coming to know is yourself."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

World Peace Day

Good Saturday morning!  I'm squeezing this week's post in just under the wire...

Yesterday was the International Day of Peace, an annual observance by the UN every September 21st.

I taught a Tween (10-12 yrs) and Teen class at Karma Kids, and Shari reminded me it was world peace day (because I of course had no idea!) and to mention it in my classes.

I'm still building my new voice as a tween/teen yoga teacher after my amazing training this summer, and it was really exciting to be gifted a theme to plan a class around.  I'm still not a huge planner - I always ask the kids if there's anything special they feel like doing and I try to accomodate as much as I can.  But I did throw plenty of "peace" into the class, starting from our opening chant, and at the end of class as they lay in relaxation, I read a peace meditation that I adapted from a few google searches that I'd like to share with you today, readers:

Close your eyes. Relax your body. Try to let go of all outside thoughts and just for a moment watch your breath. Feel the air flowing in and out of your body.
Then start to imagine imagine that it is not air that you are breathing in but peace. Think about a time when you have felt very peaceful and very strong and try and breathe in that feeling. Breathe it in and feel the peace flowing throughout your entire body. Feel that the peace is flowing into your heart and then down to your toes and up through your arms and to the top of your head. Imagine that peace as a white light that is full of strength and calm, and it is filling you with that light. Now as you breathe out try imagining that you are breathing out of yourself any fear or anger that you might have. Breathe in and out like this for a few minutes and when you start to feel full of peace and strength, you can release the breathing out of anger and instead imagine that you are breathing peace into the world. You are creating peace for others to feel. You are helping the whole world to feel more peace.

When you are ready, let that practice go. Keep your eyes closed. Just for a few moments think about how you can be more peaceful in your life. Perhaps the next time you are about to get angry over something very small, remember that anger causes unhappiness not just for you, but for those around you. Remember the strength that comes from peace.


And I concluded with a quote that I love:

Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Teen class turned out to be much larger than normal, which I was thrilled about. Unfortunately I was pressed for time at the end and we didn't have much time for discussion after class about how the meditation went for them and how it made them feel. Next time we do this or a similar exercise, I really look forward to getting feedback from them. Try this practice yourself sometime - I think it's one that we all sorely need.

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A gateway to being present: Slow Down

I'm sitting down to write this blog and to be honest, 47 million other things on my to do list are scattering around in my brain, plus the temptation to just mess around on facebook for an hour.  I have to be out the door at a certain time and I always, always, always have more to do than time to do it in.

On Sunday, I went for my longest run ever - so far.  Compared to the 13.1 I'll be running (ack!) in little over a month, 7 isn't such a huge number, but it's a mile farther than I'd ever run before.  Luckily, I had Marc with me for almost the whole time, which was such a huge help in so many ways.  One of the biggest benefits to having him with me was how often he told me, "Slow down."  The long runs are supposed to be at a slow, conversation, and dare I say leisurely pace.  There's no rush to get to the finish, the point is just to do it and get those miles in your body.  Conserving energy is essential, and you don't want to put anymore stress on your body by going fast than you already are by upping your mileage.

When I went out again on Tuesday morning and then again this morning, I was alone, but every so often his voice would pop up in my head:  "Slow down."  What's the rush, after all?  It's not like I'm an elite athlete trying to set records - I just want to make it to the finish in one piece!

I'm feeling a similar sense of rushing - and thus feeling overwhelmed - when I look ahead to my schedule for the next few months.  I'm very excited and very fortunate to be teaching some new classes - I'm continuing to learn and explore Prenatal Pilates, I'll have a regular Circus Yoga class, and I'm teaching tween and teen classes for the first time since my amazing Karma Kids Yoga Teen Teacher Training blew my mind.  I also have my very first regular Mom & Baby Yoga class on Friday mornings at The Giving Tree Yoga Studio.  I took the training last October and have subbed here and there, but I've never had a chance to teach a regular class and build the skills and confidence that comes from consistent teaching.

All of these great new opportunities make me want to spend every waking moment rereading my manuals, planning out classes, and practice teaching - but I'm also working 6 days a week, planning a wedding, training for this race, and attempting to keep my apartment clean (and hang out with my fiance!).  When I get overwhelmed - or just plain exhausted from all this crazy overstimulation of my brain and long days after a month of vacationing - I've started to tell myself this week - Slow Down.  Take things a class at a time, a day at a time, and I know that eventually I'll get to where I want to be as a teacher.  I talk all the time about my discomfort with being a "beginner" - I want to be good at what I do, and confident in my abilities.

If these past two years at Karma Kids Yoga has taught me anything, it's that I just have to put in the time and keep teaching and I'll get to where I want to be.  Sure, if I were only focusing on one of these new things I'd get way better at it way faster, but ultimately I'm going to have an even more widely diverse skill set than I already do - and the most important thing is, there's no finish line to it!  To deeply overuse a cliche...it's a (half) marathon, not a sprint.  More importantly, it's life, and not a race.

Slow down.  It keeps you present, keeps you sane, and keeps challenges manageable.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Big excitement!

(If you've ever seen Drop Dead Gorgeous...that was the inspiration for this post's title.  I was sitting here all happy and excited and trying so hard to think of a cute and clever title, and that moment from the movie just shot into my brain!)

I probably write this every single year, whether in this blog or my own journal, but I love fall.  I can't possibly overstate how much I absolutely love this season.  I love spring too, and summer is always a blast and it's sad to say goodbye to the beach, but I think fall is my favorite because, without fail, it always gives me a boundless sense of enthusiasm, energy, optimism, and desire to be productive and awesome.   (And it apparently inspires even more run on sentences than usual.  Sheesh.) A few years ago, while journaling, I referred to September as "my second January."  That about sums it up!

As a result of all this excited energy, I have about 80 billion things I want to write about, and don't really feel up to writing about any one particular thing in depth.  Hence - hodgepodge blog!

They were married in a rose garden by their good friend Red
The most important thing to mention is that I gained an amazing new family member - my big sister married Jeremy Arel, her love of nearly three years.  I loved Jeremy from the first time I met him and felt he and my sister were a perfect match.  Their wedding was beautiful, the vows were heartfelt (I think every single picture I'm in of the ceremony I'll be crying my eyes out), and they had the most amazing after party ever.  You can't top bowling and karaoke!  I'm still waiting for that video of the group doing Bohemian Rhapsody to show up on Facebook...

Husband and Wife!
And as a quick plug - if you live in the Charlotte, NC area or near Ft. Mill, SC or are every there for any reason, you should definitely check out their amazing school for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Great Grappling.  Jeremy is the professor (he earned his black belt in Brazil a couple of years back) and Megan runs the show.  The space is beautiful and they even have a room for the kiddies to play while the grown-ups grapple!  I'm so insanely proud of this awesome burgeoning business they've worked so hard to build.



Tears of joy!
Megan's wedding was the last event I had to travel for after a seriously travel-heavy summer.  Although I've been mostly able to keep to my half marathon training plan, some aches, pains, hard runs in the heat, and too much homemade moonshine at the wedding's afterparty knocked me slightly off-kilter.  This week has been about getting back to a comfortable place in my running (I run the longest I've ever run in my life on Sunday - 7 miles!  Ack!) and more importantly, reconnecting with my own yoga practice.  This year I've been teaching and working so much that I really stopped prioritizing fitting in my own yoga practice and taking yoga classes just for me, and I definitely prioritized running over yoga while traveling in August.

Thankfully, with Karma Kids opening for kids classes on Monday, I've had some open spots in my schedule this week and just got back from my third yoga class in five days.  This is a huge deal for me these days and I can't express how amazing I feel.  It's obviously important for me to incorporate yoga into my life to help balance out all the running, but the most important thing is how yoga helps me to cope with everything life throws at me, good and bad.  It helps me let go of resentments I've been hanging onto, helps me keep a cheerful disposition, and it reminds me of how much I have to be thankful for.  It's hard to whine and complain after a great yoga class!

Finally, I wanted to share a little something.  One of my friends at Athleta emailed me the image below and asked me to please share it with my readers.  Check out their website to learn more!




Happy September, everyone!