Blossoming into the new year

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My journal, and Melanie’s center table and oracle cards at the Mindful Intentions workshop on New Year’s Eve.

“Take a look at each deck. Choose from the one that speaks to you,” Melanie says.

I kneel down, inspect a few cards, finding myself drawn to the ones that are colorful. A couple of the decks feature whimsical illustrations, which are cute, but for me maybe a little too cute. I spot the deck from which I drew last year, but want something different. When I see “Goddess Guidance,” I know that’s the deck for me.

I shuffle once, twice. I almost pick the top card right then, but something inside said to shuffle one more time — something about the number three felt important. I shuffle again, then I take the top card:

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My heart sings. This card, this notion of blossoming, feels exactly right.

We might think of people blossoming in terms of adolescence. How often are girls said to “blossom” into womanhood? But just because we hit middle age, or even older, that doesn’t mean we don’t keep blossoming into new things.

For 2019, my plan is to delve deeper into Ashtanga. I want to continue to build a home practice that I’ve been doing for the last couple of months. I want to attend more workshops and trainings. I’m excited to be teaching Ashtanga at SunMoon Yoga Studios starting in a couple of weeks.

I also have learned more about Ayurveda in the last three weeks or so. I’ve been trying out recipes and am loving the plant-based diet. I want to learn even more about this practice.

As always, I’ll be reading and writing, learning new things that way, both about other people and events and also about myself.

This seems like a good year to focus on “blossoming.” I’ve made an effort to put negativity behind me in the last year, and by doing so I feel ready to grow.

What’s your word for 2019?

 

 

Time to move to Plan B, or C, or D…

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Photo Credit: www.ilkkajukarainen.fi Flickr via Compfight cc

I have a group of students at the university who haven’t always taken a straight path to graduation. They’ve transferred schools, changed majors a few times, or in some cases, left school for many years before deciding to come back.

I recently read the reflection papers they submitted as part of their last course. Some wrote about their disappointments in getting poor grades or not getting accepted into programs they had their hearts set on. For many, this interdisciplinary studies degree was Plan B, or C, or D…

Here’s what one student wrote:

Let the learning and exploration take you on a path, instead trying to dictate it yourself. I immediately saw the correlation with my own academic career. I had been viewing my adult life as being on a “Plan B” path since I failed at becoming a teacher. However, I wasn’t weighing all the positive involvement activities I participated in, all the courses I did well with, and even all the learning that happened with courses I dropped. In my mind there had been no other option than to be a teacher or double major from a Wisconsin school. And there I was working as a development officer at a prestigious theater oblivious to how much my path had changed, how much I achieved, and most importantly, that that change was not a failure.

I left a variation of the same feedback for almost every student: “Your degree took you the time it was meant to take, and you were meant to be an interdisciplinary studies student.”

I have struggled with this concept myself at times — I have a plan for things and then feel disappointed when that plan doesn’t come to fruition. I have had to let go and realize there is something bigger going on.

I have a writing project that I have been working on since 1999. Yes, that’s right — almost 20 years. Sometimes I get impatient or down on myself, thinking thoughts like, if I were a better writer, I’d be able to kick this thing out. I see other writers who are so productive and produce a book a year. But quickly I try to banish those competitive thoughts. This book is taking a long time for a reason. It certainly has changed in the nearly 20 years I’ve been working on it, and I actually think the topic is more relevant than ever.

Is there a timetable you’ve struggled with? Have you been guided to a Plan B, a Plan C, etc., and now you understand the reason for the change?

Love your practice and show up

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Photo Credit: c3lsius_bb Flickr via Compfight cc

From Kino MacGregor’s The Power of Ashtanga Yoga:

“Many people assume that because they cannot easily bend their bodies into the pretzel-like positions of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series that this method is not for them. The sole qualification for the practice of Ashtanga Yoga is to love your practice and to ‘show up’ on your mat as much as possible. It does not matter what level of asana you perform, because the inner work of yoga is fueled by the authentic search for inner peace.”

Since June 8, I’ve showed up to my mat much more than I ever have in the past 16 years since I was first introduced to Ashtanga. I show up on my mat most mornings. Do I spent a ton of time on the mat? No. Most mornings at least 20 minutes. Only about one morning a week am I showing up for 30-45 minutes. But this is a vast improvement over other years when I didn’t even have a home practice and was doing Ashtanga only when I showed up to a led class 3-4 times a month.

Moving forward, I’d like to increase the time of my home practice to at least 30 minutes most mornings and to get back into doing the full series at least once a week.

My major challenge right now is motivation. I’ve hit the low point of the semester — long days at the office with lots of meetings and advisee appointments. This means that prep work and grading is happening in the evening when I get home and the weekends. It’s been hard to get up in the mornings knowing I have such a full day ahead. But that is exactly the time to bump up my practice.

I have the excuse of teaching yoga two mornings a week, which forces me out of bed. When class is over, I spend 20-30 minutes on the primary series finishing poses plus some cardio work. If I didn’t have to get up to teach, I think I’d probably opt for staying in bed as long as possible. I hope once I get past this busy time at work, I will feel more motivated.

How do you stay motivated for working out or for your yoga practice?

Done! Thank God!

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It was a beautiful day for a marathon!

I had A LOT of time to think while I was running the Mankato Marathon on October 21, lol! I finished in over five hours. It wasn’t my slowest marathon; it wasn’t my fastest. But it was MY marathon.

The longer I do this running thing (almost 30 years at this point), the more I see the parallels between running and other areas of my life. The following similarities jump out at me as I reflect upon the marathon.

The wind won’t always be at your back…

October 21 was a chilly day — around 30 degrees at the start. I’ve done a Mankato Marathon run each of the nine years except for one, and this was the coldest start I could remember. It wasn’t so much the cold, but that wind. It was blowing out of the south at about 15-20 mph. In the marathon course, runners go south on a two-mile stretch of Monks Avenue twice. The run starts on Monks, and while I could feel the cold wind, there were still plenty of other runners around because it’s also the start of the half-marathon course. I could do a bit of drafting at least. But the second stretch is at miles 14-16. These miles are typically my worst of any marathon, just from a mental perspective. You’re halfway done, but you still have a long ways to go. Those miles almost beat me. My 3-minute run, 1-minute walk plan went out the window. I thought I would have to sit on the side of the road and really think about if I wanted to go on. But other than the wind, I was feeling OK, and it would be silly to give up. So I pushed through.

It’s your race…

I say this all the time. I won’t stop saying it. I’m not going to win a marathon so I’m not competing against anyone, only myself. If I decide that I did the best I could that day, then I’m satisfied. And I’m really satisfied with my run that day. My goal was to finish, and finish comfortably, and I did that. But in the days after the run, the first question I got many times was “What was your time?” There are more measures of success than that. Better questions would be “How did you feel?” or “How did it go for you?” or “Did you set out to accomplish what you wanted to?”

Push through and reap the rewards…

The best part for me of running a marathon is the feeling the next day and in the days after. Yes, I’m usually sore, so that’s not the feeling I’m talking about! It’s the feeling of lying in bed the next morning, ready to get up, and thinking “I did it.” There were times last week at work when things weren’t going well or I was frustrated but I could think back to the marathon and reclaim that feeling of accomplishment. All that work all summer, all those long runs in the heat and humidity, in the rain, running when I didn’t feel like it, squeezing in a run among fifty other things to do that day, all came together to get me through five-plus hours on October 21. It was worth it.

What’s worth it in your life? What do you put so much work into in order to reap rewards?

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Is that a grimace or a smile? LOL! This is around Mile 22. My friend Rick lives near the trail and he took the picture. He also took a picture of me in 2010 when I first ran this course! It’s now a little tradition! 

Stop minimizing your accomplishments (and yourself)

 

 

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How often do you minimize your accomplishments?

If you’re a woman, I’d guess the answer is pretty often.

I went through a women’s leadership training a couple of years ago and now my ears are open to how often women put themselves down or minimize themselves.

I’ve seen it crop up over and over the past few weeks in regards to running events.

In Minnesota, we just finished a couple of big running events: The Twin Cities Marathon and the Mankato Marathon. I know several people who took part in both.

As with most marathons, besides the full 26.2 mile run, there are other distances to choose from as well — 10 miles (Twin Cities Marathon) or 13.1, 6.2, or 3.1 (Mankato Marathon).

I have heard several women, when asked what distance they are doing, respond with, “Oh, I’m only doing the 10K” or “I’m only doing the 10-miler” or “I’m only doing the half.” As if doing a distance less than the full is something to minimize.

No matter the distance — 3.1 miles, 6.2 miles, 10 miles, 13.1 miles, 26.2 miles — you are out there running. Own it and be proud of it.

I posted this on Facebook a couple of days ago and it received 19 comments. I think it hit a nerve. Many women said something like “thanks for the reminder.” Many women also said they were guilty of saying something similar.

Your biggest competitor is yourself. Don’t look to others to gauge your self-worth. What you choose to do with your body, and how you move it, is your choice.

When you’re busy, exercise is more important than ever

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Does your life ever feel like a chaotic mess? Photo Credit: ComputerHotline Flickr via Compfight cc

Whew!

I’m tired. This happens at the beginning of every semester. There’s always an adjustment period that comes with being in the office regularly, teaching classes, and meeting with students (at the beginning of the semester this usually means panicked students who haven’t yet registered for class or who are making changes to their schedules before the drop/add deadline passes).

My 5:15 a.m. alarm felt especially early this morning, especially since the craziness of the semester translates into middle-of-the-night wide-awake thoughts about to-do lists and such. But I got up because I have the 6 a.m. yoga class to teach.

I’m glad I have this reason to get to the gym, because I’m pretty sure I would have found it hard this morning to get up and out of bed otherwise. If I had a choice, today would have been a day to say “forget it” to the gym. I could have definitely used that hour or two to sleep, or I could have gotten up and worked on any number of tasks for my job.

If I didn’t have to teach yoga, I would have found many excuses to not go to the gym. “I’m too busy” is a really easy thing to say.

But there has never been a time when I have finished the yoga class or a workout and thought, “I shouldn’t have done that.” I am ALWAYS thankful that I did it and always feel better afterward.

When we’re the busiest is EXACTLY the time to make sure we don’t skip our workouts.

I understand that there are so many other things that can get done during gym or exercise time. But look at all the things that exercise accomplishes:

* Gives us energy.

* Gives us a break from work.

* Keeps us in touch with our physical selves.

* Reduces anxiety.

* Boosts metabolism.

When you’re busy, don’t you need those things more than ever? As you return to school or find yourself under water at work or take on new responsibilities, maybe you have to scale back your gym routine. Maybe you like to work out for an hour, but now maybe it has to be 30 minutes. Or 15 minutes. Or 5 really, really hard and intense minutes.

Point being, any minute is better than 0 minutes.

And when you can fit in a workout amid your busy day, you get an extra sense of accomplishment. You did something that at first didn’t seem feasible — you found the time to work out. Congratulate yourself!

Throw off the mask

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Photo from MaxPixel: https://www.maxpixel.net/Venezia-Italy-Venice-Carnival-Venetian-Mask-Mask-1984724 

What does a yogi look like?

What does a writer look like?

What does a runner look like?

What does a mother look like?

Look in the mirror, and you will see.

We like to tell ourselves stories, don’t we? We strive for something and we think that means we have to be a certain way. If I’m a writer I should write XX minutes/hours a day. If I’m a runner I should run XX minutes/hours a day at XX pace. If I’m a mother, I need to do all the things other mothers are doing. And if I’m a yogi, I need to practice XX minutes/hours a day, I need to get into certain poses, I need to eat a certain way, I need to act a certain way, etc.

If you are living an authentic life, and striving to be your true self in your heart and not wearing any masks, then you are doing perfectly what you set out to do.

I’m in the process of letting go of what I think it means to be a yogi, a writer, a runner. I AM those things right now, in this moment, because I’m doing my best. Of course I need to hold myself accountable if I’m not trying to improve or learn more or am not being true to myself.

I just finished Perfectly Imperfect by Baron Baptiste, and I’ll leave you with his words:

“I see a real yogi as someone who is committed to growth and to being the best version of themselves, and, at the same time, is courageous enough to be fully present and authentic in each moment. Someone who is not afraid to get real about the whole mess of who they are — the good, the bad, and the ugly; someone who can be open and own that they get depressed, stressed out, pissed off; that they sometimes yell at their spouse; that they watch television, drink coffee, eat bacon.”

He goes on: “…hiding behind a mask costs us so much and leaves us with so little. On the surface, we may look polished and ‘perfect,’ but hiding our true self in all its dimensions saps our life energy and robs us of the freedom to express ourselves genuinely, from the heart.”

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Baron Baptiste

My first Ashtanga workshop!

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Me and Angela Jamison. Angela, what a beautiful soul. I’m so grateful that she represented my first Ashtanga workshop. 

I finished my 200-hour RYT training in June. As the training wrapped up, I knew my next move was to devote more of myself to Ashtanga. To me, this involves four aspects:

* Cultivating a home practice, seeing as the nearest shala is a 90-minute drive away.

* Self-study of Ashtanga and yogic principles through reading of classic and modern texts.

* Continued self-evaluation and self-improvement. In the words of Angela Jamison (see below), what’s my stuff?

* Learning through face-to-face transmission through workshops and teachers.

I’ve been working on the first one and second one since June. I’ve been working on the third one for almost two years, but seriously and consistently for about a year. And the last one is very new — I’m coming off a weekend workshop with Angela Jamison, hosted by Ellie of Ashtanga Yoga Minneapolis.

I took pages of notes, practiced alongside 15 other ashtangis, and in general had a transformative and uplifting experience over the 10 hours. Plenty of blog posts will come from this experience! But for now, let me list some quick impressions:

* Angela Jamison is a beautiful soul. She is warm and empathic and encouraging.

* I just finished teaching a five-week summer session class at MSU-Mankato. That was an intense experience like none other, giving instruction day after day. How great it felt to sit quietly and absorb instruction, to be on the other side of the desk, so to speak!

* Ellie at AYM has a great shala space. The building is a former convent, and I could feel the sacred power of sanctuary lingering in the room. From where I sat, I could see the church across the street, which offered a symbol for quiet contemplation.

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* I soaked up the “tribe” aspect of Ashtanga. Back when I was practicing at Sun Moon, back when I thought it was only a physical practice, I still felt the power of the tribe and it was that I missed the most when Mona stopped offering Ashtanga. So to be back in a group of people committed to this practice felt like I was at “home.”

* I’ve been on this path for far longer than I had imagined. Angela said something about figuring out your stuff before you could fully embrace the practice. I have been drawn to self-study for the past year, for reasons that weren’t quite clear to me (or for reasons that seemed clear at the time, but now I see those weren’t the real reasons). The real reason was to prepare a clean heart for a commitment to the Ashtanga practice.

Have you attended yoga workshops? What has your experience been like?

My friend, the 24-Hour Bicycle Challenge champion!

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Becky Fjelland Brooks. Photo by Jackson Forderer, Mankato Free Pres. 

Do you want to be inspired? Read on! Otherwise, just skip this.

I’ve known Becky Fjelland (Davis) Brooks for I don’t know…13, 14 years? She’s that type of friend who you don’t even remember first meeting…you just feel like you’ve been friends from birth. I DO know that I started biking with her in 2007 and in that year, she invited me to join her writing group, which had already been meeting for about three years.

This is a woman a generation older than me (she technically could be my mom, though she would have been a very young mom, lol!). However, she could always kick my butt on the bike! Which from Day 1 earned my respect and admiration. Even though she could kick my butt, she didn’t act like it. Becky is a woman that wants ALL women to bike and be active and is the hugest supporter of women and fitness — ZERO competition! I can’t tell you how many times she’s ridden with me WAY more slowly than she could have — but she just wanted to be supportive and have social time!

On Sunday, June 17, this woman won her age group at the National 24-Hour Challenge bike race in Caledonia, Michigan! Did I mention that her age group is 60-64?! Becky rode her bike for 24 hours, only stopping briefly for bathroom breaks and snacks. She completed 349.5 miles during that time to set the age-group record.

Less than three years ago, Becky suffered a brain aneurysm as she was preparing to go out for a December ride. This 24-hour challenge was her goal as she recovered.

“My son and I were kind of joking, ‘In two years, we’ll go back to the 24-hour race.’ It was a joke — but also a carrot,” she told the Mankato Free Press in the June 15 edition.

The one and only time I could keep up with Becky was when I went out with her on her first rides after her aneurysm, in the summer of 2016. I told her, “The only time I can keep up with you is when you’re recovering from a brain explosion!” LOL!

Becky is the ultimate role model. This is precisely what I love about her:

“People write things off when they get to 50, 60 years old and think they’re not going to get back,” she said. “But we can. We can do more than we give ourselves credit for. I made training a priority. I made getting in shape a priority. And it worked.”

I’m training for a fall marathon and Becky is a major inspiration. If she can get on her bike for 24 hours at the age of 61, surely I can run for 5 hours at the age of 43. If she trained hard during a harsh Minnesota winter, I can get out there for training runs during a Minnesota summer.

No excuses. We all have the power to change our lives, to change our level of fitness.

Let Becky lead the way!

Becky is also a super impressive middle-grade/young-adult/essay writer. Read more of her writing here.