“I’ve been lately thinking about my life’s time”; from John Denver’s Poems Prayers and Promises is one of, if not my favorite line from a song. It seems I’ve been doing a lot of that lately and today even more so as I’m supposed to be writing a few words for a youth black belt graduation.
Much has happened, in these past weeks, in my life and at my school. Which is probably why I’ve been erratic with my posts. Personally I’ve been preparing for a half marathon, and traveling west to visit family and to attend my nephew’s wedding. There’s also been a lot at the school; belt testing, including youth black belt, preparing the school for my absence, and the usual day-to-day activities of a martial art school. However the greatest impact has been the loss of too many people I’ve known either personally or through my school.
I realize that we are closing in on the end of a decade and typically these are transitional periods. Which makes me reflect deeper, not just about the lives we’ve lost, but what am I supposed to be learning? Is it just to appreciate more (stop and smell the roses) or does it go deeper? Am I supposed to be contributing more? Leading an exemplary life?
I take teaching others seriously–Martial arts instruction is more than physical. I’m hoping to relay that tonight in my words to the people attending the graduation, but more than that, I need to help people to realize that the most important thing we can do or teach is to be our best selves…
“The days they pass so quickly now.” Hopefully we can find the time to talk of “Poems, Prayers and Promises”For my old classmate Tricia, for the EBMA parent Michael, and for my friend Ron, til we meet again.
These past weeks have been fraught with long hours at work, and endless bad news…
My choices were curl into a fetal position and ignore it all, complain to anyone and everyone, or run for my sanity. I chose run.
Today with weary legs and a heavy heart I headed out for my ten-mile training run. I found out yesterday that a nursing school classmate had passed. Sixty-one isn’t old. Yet age doesn’t make a difference with death, it comes when it chooses not when we choose.
There has been so much illness among my friends, and associates lately — It is so disheartening. I understand it is all part of life and as we age it becomes more evident, it doesn’t mean it becomes less hard or scary it just is…
It is very easy at times like these to focus on all the scary the future holds or the seemingly better days of the past, but what is and always will be is now. That is what we need to focus on — It’s all we got.
This thought led me to recall one of my favorite Zen stories; There once was a monk who while walking happened upon a ferocious tiger. The monk backed away from the tiger to the edge of a cliff, where he noticed a vine the monk grabbed the vine holding on for dear life. When he noticed two mice were gnawing the vine. The monk had nowhere to go. He looked around and saw a beautiful strawberry. With one hand he picked the berry and ate it, “What a delicious berry,” Proclaimed the monk.
You see the tiger represents the past the monk clinging to the vine represents now and the fall into the chasm represents the future or death. My advice is to enjoy the now. Pick that strawberry and taste it with all your senses. Because no-one knows how long it will take the mice to chew through your vine…
People who are close to me often ask me why do you run? Are you crazy? My answer is I run to keep me from going crazy and then there are runs like yesterday where I can actually say I’m crazy about running…
Yesterday I woke up at 4:45 to participate in the Mount Hope Bridge Run. This run is a point to point 5k that includes running over an 89 year old suspension bridge from Portsmouth to Bristol Rhode Island. It is the only time pedestrians are allowed on the bridge. The early wake up time is because runners are shuttled from Roger Williams University to the starting line at the South end of the bridge.
I drive over this bridge at least twice a day four to five times a week to work and back. The views are spectacular which explains why so many of us are rear-ended on the bridge each year. You can’t help gawking at the spectacular sights. So to run this race was a no-brainer for me! I would’ve got out of bed at 2am if I had to.
The weather forecast wasn’t that pleasant, rain and possible thunder showers were predicted.Thankfully they held off and the horrendous humidity of the past week was tolerable.
Participants gathered on the Portsmouth side exchanging small talk, anxiously awaiting the start of the race. I love meeting people at these events, you have varied backgrounds but a common interest and on race day a goal to participate and finish. There are always conversations about different races, gear, injuries and training. It makes me smile to see families participating — Parents passing on their love of fitness to their children. Runners are the nicest people, they encourage and cheer each other, even though they are strangers.
It was finally time to start the race, the horn sounded and we were off! The views were spectacular, people were taking pictures and selfies. The first part was a steady incline until we got to the middle of the bridge where the American Flag was hanging. I have to admit I got a little lump in my throat passing under the flag. We continued on to mile one not too far from the base of the bridge then we headed toward the entrance of RWU and ran through the campus. There were a lot of rolling hills but the campus was lovely. The weather was still cooperating until the end. Where I crossed the finish line not with a PR but fairly close. I was greeted with fist bumps by some of the guys I met earlier in the day. I caught up with my student and we took in the views of the lighthouse and the bay.
What an amazing run! What an amazing morning! I’m Crazy about running on days such as this…
During today’s long training run I had plenty of time to reflect (trying not to think about the heat and humidity ) on life; its randomness and its synchronicity the duality of Tao…
These thoughts initially started on Friday while running the bike path in Colt State Park. There’s this section of the path where gulls like to drop shellfish to crack them open. The path is littered with fragments of shells large pieces to very minute ones. The randomness of the sizes reminded me of people and their lives — How random longevity and abundance is… I know there is some control with our health by how we care for ourselves and wealth can be earned but there needs to be a certain amount of synchronicity or fate…
Today I was reflecting on how the bike path is like life’s path; There is beauty and there is danger. People who are focused only on their own gains and people who are looking out for one another. Everyone is sharing the same piece of earth going at different speeds and directions, trying to connect with friends and family while trying to avoid others we happen upon. There are bumps, briers, and blind curves to be aware of, yet among all the potential dangers there’s amazing natural beauty to admire. A lot like life don’t you think?
If that isn’t enough, the bike path has been recently repaved, and with that it’s gotten narrower and more dangerous. Rather like peoples’ mindsets — Also more dangerous…
I know this post is a bit heavy but so is my heart a small boy lost his life on that path a week ago, a random cruel accident. Which has made me more aware of my life’s path and how important it is to be grateful for my piece of shell…
Run, or walk your path well…
Each week at my martial art studio we have a physical focus and a mental focus. This week’s lessons happened to be the same thing; flexibility…
Being flexible in all areas of our lives is important. Physically it will allow us to move with more ease, and lessen our chances of injury. In martial arts, especially arts like Tae Kwon Do that focus on kicking, it is important to stretch regularly to improve and maintain flexible hips and legs.
With that said we all need to spend more time warming up before workouts and having a good cool down stretch post work out. I know as a runner (sloggers need to stretch) I’m often pressed for time before and after my run and don’t always stretch the way I should. However this particular post has more to do with the mental aspect of flexibility. If you have a question about stretching, feel free to ask and I will direct you to resources.
On to the point; being more flexible in a me first have it now society is becoming more and more difficult — No one wants to bend or give way to someone else or different idea. Me, Mine, Me… Is today’s mantra — My Way used to be a song by Sinatra it is now an anthem for today’s society.
So when things or people push don’t resist, let it flow past you, like water… Bruce Lee said,”Be like water my friend.” He was right. Not resisting doesn’t make us weak, it keeps us sane. Water is very powerful, check out the Grand Canyon. Also know that everyone is not following the same agenda — We’re all in the middle of something. So the next time your appointment has been rescheduled or your flight has been delayed. Take a breath and do some light stretching and take time to be more flexible, you’ll be happier and healthier for it…
I’ve just got another pair of Brooks running shoes, these are called Anthem – I didn’t name them, just bought them. Allow me a moment of shoe GEEKness… These shoes like the Pure Flows I normally wear are low drop trainers. Which mean they’re almost flat, less heel if you will. This type of shoe gives a more natural ride and allows me a better mid strike with my form — More of a connected feel.
Enough Geek speak… Brooks has the word connect written on the inner sole and no truer words have been written — Not so much for the science of the shoe but running in general. The moment I lace up my running shoes and run out the door, I feel more connected to the earth and the world around me.
In Oriental medicine and the practice of Qui Gong in the center of your forefoot is the meridian point kidney one. A rooting point, where you ground and center yourself, absorb chi from the earth.
In the practice of martial arts, there is a mind body connection, just like there is in running. However you need to be mindfully aware of it. When we just go through the motions just for the exercise we lose so much of the true benefits. I guess this is why many people who take up running don’t enjoy it, they’ve never made the Sole to Soul Connect.
I know when I run I’m more in tuned to the world around me, there are baby rabbits, woodchucks, Osprey with a fish in their talons, tiny chipmunks trying to trip me, glorious skies, and too many floral scents to name. More importantly being among all this gives me a truer sense of my place in the world. My ego and self importance gets a comeuppance and I know that I’m connected to everything on this planet and no one being is more important than the next.
These sort of discoveries are why I run, I don’t know if I would be physically better or worse if I didn’t run. I do know I’d be mentally less capable of managing stress and less spiritually evolved.
I’ll close with a quote that speaks to connecting to the world; “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” W.B. Yeatts
How do you connect?
Run on G
One of the many things I’ve learned from running is pacing. Many beginners tend to start off too quickly whether it is a long training run or a local road race. The object is to find your pace so that you can run efficiently throughout the race and finish with a kick.
Ironically I’m slow so my pacing is sloth, turtle, tortoise or in other words stop, walk, slog. All kidding aside, I do mind and record my pace more to understand what my body is doing rather than to win a race or obtain a PR.
Being a martial artist and a former nurse and a student of human nature I love learning about the mind-body connection and its effects on our daily lives. For instance yesterday I was feeling less than my usual self, I had a scratchy throat and general malaise – So I skipped my mid-week training run and opted for rest. I paced myself.
Even a few years ago that wouldn’t have happened, I would’ve ignored the signals my body was giving me and I would have gutted out the run. Probably feeling aggravated because nothing felt right and could have injured myself or exacerbated my mild cold symptoms to a full-blown bronchitis or pneumonia (it’s happened in the past).
Not running wasn’t the only way I paced myself, I also got extra rest and rescheduled a few tasks I had in my calendar. I’ve also learned to say no (not an easy task for me). Putting my health first has me saying no for the moment and rescheduling or if the task is too large absolutely no. A student of mine phrased it well when he told me, “It is easier to change a no to a yes, than a yes to a no.” He is right, how often do we agree to do something as a favor and it becomes a huge burden on your mental and physical health? By putting you first, pacing your self – You’ll make it to the end, of a race, a run and more importantly a healthy life…
During my training run today I was pondering a few of the things I’ve learned in life – So far…
When am I at my best? I thought about it and I came up with when I check off these three squares everyday.
Number one, feed my soul; When I wake up I say thank you, to my higher power for I have another day. Then I read something spiritual anything from the Tao, the bible, or even an inspiring blog post. Then I meditate for at least five minutes but usually ten to thirty minutes. In order to do this I’m in bed by 10pm and awake at 5:30am.
With my spirit fed now it’s onto number two and feed my body; This isn’t just about eating healthy — Which I do. It’s about working my body. At sixty-one I typically work out seven days a week. I run three, weight train two, yoga two or three and martial arts three to four. As you can see many days there are double workouts. Maintaining a healthy body requires work. The body is meant to be active, training keeps my cardio vascular conditioning my resting pulse is 54, blood pressure 108/58. Maintaining flexibility and weight training provide me with balance and core strength, which hopefully keep me from having falls and injuries in my dotage.
Number three feed my mind; I have a number of older friends and family members that inspire me every day and the one thing they have in common is they feed their minds. Whether it’s my ninety something neighbor who reads the newspaper and does crossword and jigsaw puzzles, my mom who paints, bakes, and plays cards with her eighty something sister or there’s John (my stepdad) who at nearly eighty-nine maintains massive flower and vegetable gardens, changes the oil on his cars, prunes trees, paints houses and fixes just about anything. They all use their minds to work out problems. I enjoy learning, either a new martial art technique, something in business, a teaching tip or just general information I’m always seeking new interests. I learn something new everyday.
There you have it my happiness and my growth as an individual requires I check those three squares everyday…
What feeds you?
This is a word that’s been in the forefront of my thoughts for a while now… Why does it seem more difficult for people to commit more now than ever?
Commitment is an issue we deal with every day in almost every aspect of our lives. Relationships are built upon it, showing up for work, school, the gym a run, paying your mortgage… Endless!
Maybe it’s the fact that we have too many commitments — We have so many more choices now than we ever did and with choice comes commitment. Being overcommitted is a sure way to lose focus on some of our bigger ones. For example how many marriages or relationships are taken for granted while attending to the work, social, and financial commitments. How many of us quit on ourselves? Diets ended because it was easier to grab fast food on the way to pick up a child from soccer practice or the dog from the groomer? Who’s joined a gym in January and hasn’t been there since February because “life” just got too hectic? Does your day planner or google calendar look more complicated than the plans for D Day?
Believe me I don’t have the magical cure and some of what I’ve written I can’t totally relate to, being single and sixty-one I have different complications — Such as elderly parents, and a business to run. We all have our “busy” but what I’ve come to realize the “hard” way is by avoiding the number one commitment “OURSELVES” we’re never going to be any good at keeping the others.
Believe me if you are sick of being unhappy or unfulfilled and you are just going through the motions of the other commitments. Everyone knows it sometime before you realize it. So before you start looking to change where you live, your hair style enhance your mood with food, drugs or alcohol. Sit quietly for a minute and think about what is it you need? What are you passionate about? What drives you?
For me I love people, I enjoy teaching and helping people but it starts with me… My routine for keeping me at my best goes like this; I commit to daily meditation and a few lines of spiritual reading, routine exercise and I block off Sunday mornings as nonnegotiable time I run for at least one hour. There is also my martial art training. Again my situation is different, but can’t you get up 10minutes earlier tomorrow to sit quietly or however you’d like to feed your spirit?
Believe me commitments are always going to be there, so why not embrace the most important one your mental, physical and spiritual health! Because if you don’t you’ll never be able to commit fully to anything or anyone else…
Two weeks ago I was rear ended in bumper to bumper traffic, the accident woke me up to a new view.
We’ve all have been there (most of us) minding our own business and then “BAM” out of nowhere you’re now here… with a smashed in back bumper, trunk and a sore neck and back. So between holding back the angry frustrated tears and trying to compose yourself to do the right things on the insurance check list. You think what now?
You go through the bureaucratic hoops set up by your insurence and their insurance companies — You humble yourself to family and friends for rides once your car goes in for repair. Then maybe if you’re lucky like me you get to drive your old car, your best old car!
I borrowed my stepdad’s 92 Toyota Passeao which was mine until I sold it to him in 2000. It is a tiny five speed with no bells or whistles (no air conditioning, old radio, and no power anything). However it had one accessory my current car didn’t have PEACE!
No hands free to answer my phone, no radio flashing the song tital and artist, no compass directions or air tempeture to keep me from what I was supposed to be focusing on DRIVING! Oh and what fun this car is to drive!
I’ve since got my car back, but the basic driving reminded me of all the tings I enjoy most, running, martial arts, cycling and kayaking all of which require nothing but my power, my single focus on the task at hand simple uncomplicated just like my old 92 Passeao…
Where do you find your single focus?