‘Tis the season! Being just a few weeks before Christmas and after Thanksgiving, I can’t help but fixate on giving thanks. The word play is killing me – my ego that is.
After training for and running the Philadelphia half marathon I came to three realizations: 1. I could finish 2. I want to run a full marathon 3. When left to run for long periods of time I was struck by how often my mental state went negative when the running got difficult.
Life is just a series of hills and plateaus. Without the challenges we’d grow complacent. Challenges give us the opportunity to transform – the only way to overcome a challenge is to go through it and within that journey is a personal transformation.
I was deeply inspired by the amount of people out in the streets cheering – mostly for the folk running the full marathon, but hey I’ll take it. With our names pinned to our shirts, I got a few personal cheers. And let me tell you – those cheers from perfect strangers meant the world. I never knew just how powerful encouragement was until that run. With that giving, I was eternally gratefully, and the running became about something outside myself.
When my mind went into bitching mode with an approaching hill, I caught myself and remembered gratitude – for beautiful weather, for enthusiastic cheers, and for my fiancé who pushed me into this new long-distance-running-territory. My exhaustion and nagging mind fell to the wayside as I let my mental activity quite, and the presence of the moment inspire each stride with gratitude.
With every journey there are challenges, but gratitude’s the sip of inspiration that can help us get to the view on the other side.
My inspiration for writing used to come largely out of volatile relationships and their drama — which I’d spin into comedy. After being in a three year relationship thats led to engagement, I’ve had to look elsewhere to throw the wrench into the wheel for inspiration that comes from places outside my endless love (which people don’t need me to go on and on about).
Thankfully side tour, groupon, and all those other e-mails that assault my inbox sometimes provide an idea for an interesting activity that’s out-of-the-box and sparks my imagination.
This past weekend my fiancé and I attended a workshop in which our cards were read by your average playing cards. I’m stressing “average playing cards” since tarot cards are so often linked with readings. Alexander Dunlop was the host and card reader who’s traveled the world and playfully jokes how he’s spent time in India meditating for 8 hours a day, studied with Shamanic healers, went to school at Harvard, yet found the meaning of life at a party in Brooklyn through a deck of cards.
The 1.5 hour side tour event provided individual readings that were just long enough to dip your toe in the pool of knowledge he’s able to tap into via the cards, and it definitely leaves you wanting more time to converse — well done Alexander and side tour — but the overall experience was richly rewarding in that it was a beautiful reminder in the wealth of information that’s often right in front of you, and perhaps sitting in your game drawer at home?
Alexander refers to the deck of cards as the “book of life.” The numbers, symbols, and interplay of the cards provide incite to your energetic make up you carry into the world and the implications of such. Having that information unlocks the game you’re personally playing — which perhaps leads to a more playful approach to the game of life. With knowledge comes power, right? Being able to stand steady and sturdy in your energetic make up allows you to meet the world from an informed place giving deliberate direction to what may have been previously considered chaos.
A deck of cards will never be just a deck of cards again! Then again, the mysteries of life are always swirling around us. If an entire tree of potentiality is capable of growing from a tiny acorn, where else are we missing seeds of potentiality and the wisdom to water them into fruition?
As the fall leaves make their descent to the ground, the trees shed the old to prep for the winter months of solitude, before the spring cycles back around and new growth occurs.
During this time of transition, I’ve thrown myself into a detox under the guidance of Dr. Marianne Teitelbaum, while picking up proper Ayurvedic cooking tips from a teacher of mine, Divya Altar, who runs Bhagavat Life in NYC.
Divya’s attention to the details throughout the cooking process is inspiring. Details are the building blocks, and yet we so often overlook them. We’re so prone to being in a rush that we miss the details – missing the journey. And then we wonder why our health is a chaotic mess.
Taking a moment to mindfully participate in a detox allows the time and space to carefully care for oneself, extracting toxins and making room for cellular intelligence to return to the body. Following the steps and details of a detox opens the door to the building blocks necessary for health. Health and happiness are some of life’s greatest building blocks that allow one to dive into the details of life and sip in the richness of each experience, moment by moment.
The transitional months of fall gracefully remind us to shed all that’s no longer serving us so we may enter the cold winter months with a healthy spirit, ready to receive the warmth of the light within.
My fiancé bamboozled me into a half marathon. I’ve never been much of a “runner.” Sure, I’ll go on a 25 minute jog here and there for exercise, but the thought of running long distance has always sounded as appealing as washing my face with sandpaper.
To my surprise, I’m finding the long distance running to be an extension of my meditation practice which has turned the dreaded endeavor into a journey furthering my spiritual pursuit. Each run brings me a little closer to myself, as I’m forced to sit with my thoughts for the length of the run and hopefully return to presence.
Throwing headphones on and distracting myself with music is only a separation of body and mind. But taking in my surroundings and being present with each stride forces me to glide along the cloud of contentment between the passing storms of hope and fear we so often distract ourselves with by engaging in our minds ability to live in the past and future.
On my journey running towards freedom, I’ve found some wonderful lessons within Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s “Running with the Mind of Meditation.”
As the fall leaves change colors, I encourage a joyful jog taking in the spectrum of colors that mirror the spectrum of experience we’re able to enjoy when we open our eyes to the present.
During a yoga class, recently, I found myself asking why the hell I was putting myself through anguish after we had been holding a posture for what felt like eternity. “Why did I willingly show up for this hell?!” But once the drama in my head calmed down, a thought bubbled up to the surface: Because it’s good for you. That same weekend a friend of mine took me surfing for the first time. It was a whole lot of falling before I finally stood up. When exhaustion set in and a giant wave smacked me in the face, again I asked myself “What the hell am I doing!?” But after regrouping and sitting on the board looking out into the ocean I thought, “This is a learning experience. I’m game to play with the waves.”
Often enough we relish in the drama. Our patience is tested, our minds start to yell, and then our emotions join the party. Before we know it we’re distracting ourselves with so many fantastically developed narratives about what’s going on instead of sitting in what’s actually going on. Sitting in a posture for a extended period of time allows us to confront ourselves, head on. Once the muscles start aching and sweats falling in the eyes, we come face to face with our threshold and are given a choice. Do I flee from the posture by either jumping out of the pose and/or distracting myself with a novel worth of thoughts? Or do I hold steady and allow the sensation to keep me engaged in the present moment to explore and find a way to find ease within that moment?
I was forced to write 7 drafts of a single script within a week. My patience was tested and I literally wanted to punch someone. But my mom said something pretty wise: “Sweetie, at least with each new draft it gets better.” It was true. The story and comedy came to life in a more focused and specific way with each new draft. And now the final script is exactly what it should be [of course there will always be tweaking]. The excessive rewriting gave me the opportunity to stick with the process through the frustration and eliminate all that didn’t best serve the execution of telling the story.
Each day we have the opportunity to practice staying present through the waves of sensation we find ourselves riding. Through the waves we’re given an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and then we can move on, hopefully a little lighter, slowly removing those storylines and tangents that don’t best serve the story we’re trying to tell.
Don’t flee from the wave. Ride it! Maybe even fall a little. Every time you stand back up you’re bringing newfound knowledge. When fatigue’s set in, remember beneath the wave there’s an all pervading calm we can always return to.
Commencement: a beginning or start.
I love to break up my morning writing sessions with a good commencement speech.
There’s so much promise in a commencement speech, sending graduates off into the world with wisdom that hopefully inspires choices that lead to actions, that somehow equate to success and happiness in their future.
The fact of the matter is we don’t need to graduate from anything to indulge in a good ‘ol commencement. The dawn of each new day allows us to indulge in such on a daily basis if we choose.
With that knowledge comes great responsibility – it means that every day, upon rising, we set off on an adventure. Remember those choose your own adventure books? Every day we step into our own story, and choose our own adventure. Our personal story is our own choosing. It’s terrifying! Do I choose to wake up and reach for my phone, check my e-mails, etc. Or do I wake up and decide to slay a dragon on that particular day?
I’ve been consciously trying to partake in activities that make me uncomfortable. I went paddle boarding last week – paddled hard and got nowhere, real fast. My fiancé and I were not informed how bad the current was. But it was an adventure. It was something I’d never done before. And then I went skimboarding for the first time in ten years. I HATE being bad at things. It was rough. But it forced me to dive back into that childlike playfulness I often loose track of.
Now, in fairness, I was on somewhat of a vacation – which inevitably provides time to play and have adventures. BUT – creating space for a daily adventure, even as mundane as an early morning walk vs. the immediate jump to e-mails, creates space for us to choose our own destiny instead of blindly walking into a fate determined by habit vs. our own free will.
A lifetime is a series of commencements leading up to an ending that’s as climactic as you make it! Step into your own adventure book and write the page-turner worth reading.