Posted in Meditative Monday

The movement movement

Movement is the new exercise. Exercise is pedaling nowhere watching the miles click by on a monitor. Movement is breathing the fresh air, nodding to your neighbors and feeling the sun on your face. Movement is dance. Or stretching the kinks away, or even mowing the lawn. Movement can even be lifting weights in a sweaty gym, but not for me.

Movement is physical activity, no matter how small. Exercise is a type of physical activity, but implies counting reps or miles and following a program in the hope of achieving a level of fitness.

I love the idea of movement. But lately, I’ve been trying to be a little more vigorous about my movement without slipping into exercise. I have some autumn goals I’m looking toward, and I want to be strong and capable when they get here. For me, it’s a slippery slope to exercise. And I hate exercise. If it becomes exercise, (pardon my French, NIKE) I’ll just never do it.

Last weekend was hot and humid. It was my least favorite weather. And for a Minnesotan to say it was the worst weather of all, is saying something.

I strapped a water bottle to my bike with the intention of cycling just a little bit farther than I had the time before. And I did. Until, on the way back, I ran out of gas, so to speak. My water was warm. It was hot in the shade. Even after resting, I had trouble swinging my leg over the crossbar without losing my balance. To make a long story short, I eventually made it home safely and was fine after resting in the back yard.

Since then, I’ve had every excuse in the book why I can’t hop on my bicycle for even a few blocks. I’d ruined it for myself.

The days of rest gave me some space to assess the situation. I hadn’t practiced mindful movement. I’d made the mileage the goal. I’d turned it into exercise, which I personally equate to mental, physical and emotional torture.

So I pictured a meter. At zero is rest. At the far right is death. In between, the needle moves from leisure to torture. The sweet spot on the meter is where I find challenge. If I want to continue getting stronger, I need to push past leisurely movement and try not to venture into torture. The minute I hit torture, I’m going to shut down — physically, emotionally and psychologically — I’d literally rather sit on the couch feeling horrible about myself.

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Torture = feeling too sick, hot or tired to continue; cursing myself because I can’t do what I think I “should;” playing mind games to keep myself moving

Leisure = feeling good to get up off the couch; smiling at flowers or bugs along the way; shaking off stress

Challenge = awareness of breath and body; gratitude for the ability to move and breathe; mastery of presence — finding the sweet spot on the meter

For me, running a marathon or training for the Olympics sounds like self torture. I simply want to walk a 5k without limping across the finish line. This is the movement movement. It’s personal, it’s mindful and it feeds the body, mind and soul.

Peace . . .

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Posted in Meditative Monday

Monday, Monday; doo doo, doo doo-doo doo . . .

Monday again. You know you’re singing that song. Or maybe it’s Rainy Days and Mondays. Perhaps You Can Kiss Me on a Monday? Why are there so many songs about Monday? Where is my coffee? And why is it smiling?

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Every day of the week seems to have its own personality. Monday is grumpy. It’s the crabby receptionist at the front desk. If you can pay your dues and get past her, the rest is downhill.

Tuesday is awkward. It just doesn’t know how to be a real day at all. You forge forward, just happy to have gotten past Monday unscathed. No one ever wrote a song about Tuesday. That’s not entirely true, but can you name one without Googling it?

Wednesday is the middle child. You can’t quite see Friday, but you’re far enough in to have forgotten Monday. Wednesday shrugs off the worst of the week. Its happy-go lucky and you’re glad it shows up every week.

Thursday is serious. This is the day that you have to get things done, because Friday comes to town tomorrow, and you know you can’t get anything done with him around.

Friday is the party guy. He’s magnetic. Every day wants to be him. He shows up with a smile on his face and a six-pack under his arm. He lets you get away with things the other days of the week would never dream of.

Saturday is easy-going. Ask Saturday what it wants to do, and it’s going to say it doesn’t care; whatever you want to do. Free love and macrame. Work boots and blisters. Hammocks and wine. Errands and grilling out.

Sunday is unpredictable. You walk on eggshells around that one. She teeters between lazing around the house in pajamas and angrily preparing to meet Monday head on.

So today is Monday, and I’m gritting my teeth behind a fake smile, ready to meet her head on. I’m showered, dressed, fully present, and determined not to let her get me down. I’m going to greet her and however she responds is going to roll off me like water off a duck.

We can do this, people.

Peace . . .

 

Posted in Meditative Monday

Mindful grief

I wore a brightly-flowered skirt and matching blouse to my father’s funeral. Immediately upon entering the church I knew I was inappropriately dressed. I’d forgotten funeral etiquette. After giving birth two months earlier, I had nothing to wear that fit, and I’d gone shopping in a haze.

When I tell this story, most friends usually try to comfort me and say I chose something that would make my dad smile. Actually, if he was looking down, Dad would have thought my skirt terribly unbefitting. Yet there I was, in front of the whole congregation competing with the alter gladiolas.

I made no apologies, and to this day chuckle at the misstep. I was young, consumed by grief, drunken with hormones, and a mother of three. If anyone was allowed the mistake, surely I was.

There may be five common stages, but we all move through grief at our own pace and in our own way. There’s no right way to grieve. It’s a personal thing. Even when faith, culture and etiquette dictate one right way to mourn, it’s crucial we show self-compassion and honor whatever it is that helps us to heal.

By accommodating our own process, it affords us the ability to do the same for others. It may be easier for us to feel empathy for the one who cries than for the one who didn’t attend the funeral. Yet, it’s entirely possible that the one who didn’t show feels such pain they can’t leave the house. It’s possible the one who is angry has hurtful regrets. It’s possible the one who makes jokes is afraid.

We can’t know what stories are deeply buried in another’s heart. Sometimes we scarcely know what’s in our own.

May we feel deeply for all affected by death and open our hearts to love and compassion for their healing.

Peace . . .
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Posted in Meditative Monday

Everything I learned about body positivity I learned at the dog park

Sabbie runs into the park in circles. It’s all about the ball.

Throw the ball! Throw the ball! Don’t just stand there, throw the ball! What are you waiting for? Throw the ball!

Mosh gets so excited he can’t believe they’re actually there. He drives Sabbie nuts.

Sabbie! We’re at the park. Can you believe it? We’re at the park! Play with me! Play with me! Come on . . . play with me!

As he settles into it, it’s clear all Mosh ever really wants in life is someone to chase him. He doesn’t care if your fur is white, or mottled, or toasty brown with the little burnt tips on your ears and toes. In fact, I’ve never met a dog who cares if another is purebred or a mongrel. It’s what’s under the fur that counts. We could learn a lot from our canine friends.

DSCN0639There are dogs in wheelchairs and three-legged dogs, and blind dogs too. The great thing about dogs is that they don’t leave anyone out. Everyone with a nose and a butt are welcomed to join their circle.

Ever seen a dog tease another one about his age? No, I didn’t think so. If you’re willing to play, join in! If you need to take a break and watch, that’s fine too.

I’ve seen little terriers humping (or trying to, anyway) Great Danes. The heart wants what the heart wants. More importantly, I’ve never seen any of the other dogs care.  Why do some people care so much who someone else loves?

Are female dogs concerned with their body image? No way. They know they’ve got it. If she swings her tail in just the right way, it doesn’t matter if she’s the shape of a German sausage, she’s going to have that boy-dog on a short leash.

A dog doesn’t care if you’re sporting a diamond collar or a fleece sweater or little rubber boots. Well . . . okay, those boots are kind of weird. But he knows your human put those on you, and those humans? They have issues.

Peace . . .

Posted in Meditative Monday

A moment of stillness

I wrote this yesterday. Today is going to be preeeetty crazy. Tomorrow will be worse. And all week I’m going to wish it was the weekend. In a way I’m in the past, present and future all at the same time, which means I am nowhere.

How sad is it that we spend five days of the week wishing it was the sixth day of the week, and the seventh getting ready for the first five of the following week?

Luckily it’s still beneficial to fit a minute of stillness somewhere in my day.

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Are you facing a day from hell? Try this:

  • Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor
  • Close your eyes
  • Breathe into any tension you feel and release it through your mouth
  • Continue to breathe slowly and deeply, paying attention to each inhale and exhale
  • Repeat 5 or 6 times, pausing briefly at the top and bottom of the breath
  • Gradually become aware of your surroundings as you open your eyes and return to your day

Peace . . .

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Posted in Meditative Monday

It’s the storms we weather

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A small group of seniors introduced themselves to me in the park one day last fall. Their expressions bore the spots and scars of age. One leaned precariously on another for support, her shriveled face lined and soft.

Inspired to stop and say hello, their friendly smiles brightened. They welcomed me to sit a while. It had been some time since someone had. They spoke to me of the sunnier, warmer season of their youth; of children who adored them and women who knew their names.

As I stood to leave, I snapped a photo, capturing their withered, fragile forms. We come to this world innocent, as young and flawless blossoms. It’s the storms we weather and the joy we encounter that engrave wisdom on our bodies and bestow upon us beauty.

Peace . . .

 

Posted in Meditative Monday

Like an old friend

UntitledThe best thing about mindfulness is that you can return to it at any time. It’s not the same as starting over. Starting over is what you do on Monday or January 1st. Returning is like a friendship. No matter how long you’ve been gone, once you’re back it’s like you never left.

Mindfulness allows you to process your world non-judgmentally. All living beings process their world using their senses.

Take the simple act of eating. Chances are you’ve eaten in the last couple of hours. What can you tell me about it? Certainly you know what it was, and possibly where or how much.

Try this the next time you eat….

  • Set your food in front of you. Settle your brain. Relax your jaw and shoulders, and any other tension you feel.
  • What does the food look like — the color of the food, table, plate? How does the light bounce across its surface? Is there steam?
  • Hold it to your nose. What ingredients can you smell?
  • Feel the food on your fingers or tongue. What is the texture?
  • As you bite it, is it silent or crunchy? Snap. Crackle. Pop.
  • Finally, taste it. Can you pick out individual ingredients? Does the flavor change as you chew?
  • Combine your senses. Can you taste it better if you close your eyes, or if you look at the food?
  • When is it time to swallow? When the texture is gone, when the flavor is gone, or when another bite is on your fork? Wait to pick up your fork until you know you’re ready for a new bite. Take your time.

What else can be practiced like this? What if we didn’t take a step until we were finished with the one before it, walking at a pace that pleasures us, rather than the one that gets us there faster, or raises our heart rate? What if we stop to look at a landscape as long as we find it beautiful instead of glancing at it through the window of the car as we drive by?

No matter how fast we go, the world forges on ahead of us. So many of us suffer from anxiety and depression, always feeling behind and playing catch up. Being mindful is one way to curb the anxiety.

Turning to meditation may help, looking inward to the rhythm of our own breath which is constant and faithful. Yoga is another discipline which, using breath, meditation and body postures, is widely used to practice mindfulness.

But there’s no rush. Like an old friend, it’s always there for you when you’re ready to return.

Peace . . .