Our Best Selves

“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”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor my old classmate Tricia, for the EBMA parent Michael, and for my friend Ron, til we meet again.

Run on,

Gin

The Long Road…

I completed my second half-marathon yesterday, and I’ve gained some new insights…

First thirteen plus miles is a long way to run, no matter how fast you go. Secondly practice may not make perfect but it makes you more proficient ( I took nearly twenty minutes off my last year’s time), granted when you’re slow it is easy to make big improvements. However improvements are never made if we don’t make the effort.

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Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

Life is difficult, there are challenges far greater than running a long distance. People are struggling with health, family and emotional issues everyday. But if we take control of what is in our immediate control and work on improving even one small aspect of ourselves. We can gain the confidence to go beyond our comfort zone.

If you had told me two years ago that I would be running in long distance races. Contemplating on running in races out of my immediate area. I would have laughed. Yet I’m doing just that — Running a half-marathon was to be a one-off something to mark my sixtieth birthday. Then something wonderful happened along the way, running/slogging long distances made me more centered, it made me happy. Whether it was being out in nature, away from a screen, or the ample physical and health benefits. Running made me better and apparently the more I’ve trained the better I’ve gotten.

Yes, it’s been a long road from alternating running and walking between telephone poles. Finally being able to slog a mile without stopping, then running a full 5k and now running a half marathon where I felt good afterward! Taking that first step and following through to some 30,000 steps to yesterday’s finish line has taught me I can reach a goal if I’m willing to put in the work.

I hope I can be an example to the students I teach, that it takes more than wishing to reach a goal. It takes commitment and hard work. Who knows maybe I will inspire someone to take a step on the long road to wherever …

Now is All We Have…

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.animal-big-cat-roar-47312 

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…

Run on,

Gin

Crazy about running…

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…

Run on,

G

 

 

Bike Path/Life Path

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…

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Flexibility…

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…

Run on,

G

Sole to Soul Connect

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.

asphalt-clouds-endurance-421160I’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