Running. Meditation. Strength.

Credit: http://www.runnersworld.com/motivation/quotes

For the last several years, I have wanted to learn how to meditate.  No matter what I try, where I sit, the time of day, I just never seem to have the ability to quiet my mind, remain open, and just be.  It is so hard to be present with … the silence.  Nothingness.  Patiently waiting for … for whatever is supposed to actually happen when you are meditating.

Over the last year, I have come to realize, for me, running is my meditation.  It is a time in my day when I am usually on my own, the rhythmic pounding of left, right, left… looking for traffic, simply observing the world and being present.  I can run for hours and simply enjoy BE-ing in the world, moving on my feet, smiling for no reason other than … I am.

I have not run since Saturday, and I am feeling that … yearning of wanting to get out and move my body.  I miss the quiet spaces I find while putting in my paces around the waterfront.  I am so grateful tomorrow is a run day!  Being on the taper, I think I will feel the difference – lacking the extra mileage, and for the first time, I feel like NOT running will be harder than running every day.  It’s funny how things change.  🙂

Happy Running!
~Alaina

Superman and Angels; An Episode of the Morning Run

This summer during marathon training, mid-week was my medium length run; I was headed out the door to get in seven miles before work.  I had been reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall the night before this run, and read of these runners “kicking up their feet” …  I started thinking about my stride and realized it is primarily a shuffle.  Not much lift in the back, slide forward to the next foot and keep movin’ along.  So, I decided to work on my “kick” just to see what it felt like, and boy… it makes a difference!  I found that I have more spring, when the leg goes back, there’s more momentum for it to swing forward, and I think that overall it increased my pace, or at least increased my turn-over.

I was about half a mile into my seven mile run in the city, and while passing a restaurant, decided to check my form in the window, and … Bam!  I found myself sliding down the sidewalk, six feet from where my right toe hit one of the infamous pieces of sidewalk lifted by a root of a beautiful Portland tree.  I was practicing my Superman, and once again learned that it is true, I do not have hidden wings, and I cannot fly.  Unfortunately, I found myself in a similar situation splayed out on the sidewalk only a few short months ago, and the memory of that injury had not totally faded.  On that occasion, I was laid up with a swollen knee-cap for a week, icing every night, and was not able to return to my regular running schedule for over a month.

I cautiously tested out my limbs, slowly stood up, and recalled that unlike my previous encounter with pavement, there was no loud “crack!” when I landed this time, as I had magically fallen on a downhill slope which somehow let me catch most of my weight with my arms, and slide on my side a little rather than hitting my knee directly. The only noise I heard was the “ssssssshhhhhhh” of my shoes catching on the cement as they slid down the sidewalk.  I took that as a good sign.  I was determined to finish the run I had just begun, so after a couple careful steps, I gingerly tested out a jog, found my legs to be fine (except the quarter-sized raspberry on my left knee), so I continued on toward my daily hill climb.

As I was nearing the turn off to head up the hill, I found myself pacing with a woman who was running in the middle of the street.  I gauged her to be in her fifties or early sixties, and she was keeping an outstanding clip. I decided to let her know I appreciated her pace and hollered “You’ve got a great pace going!”  She looked over, and immediately grinned – “Well thank you!  That’s quite a compliment for someone of my age!”  We got to talking, and it turns out she is from Texas, used to flat terrain, has been running every day for many years, and has recently started working out with a trainer to build muscle to keep her bones strong.  She was peppy, friendly, and just the person I needed to run into that morning after another fall to keep my spirits bright.  And what an inspiration!

We chatted, introduced ourselves, and went our separate ways mid-hill, I was turning around, and she was continuing on up to the top.  Pleasant, happy, and genuinely joyful was this woman from Texas.  Any morning I want to meet the day with some cheer, I know where to run to meet up with this lovely lady.

I may have discovered I was not Superman, but that Wednesday morning, I met an Angel.

The people in the world that bring us joy make life that much more wonderful, and help us appreciate being on this planet.  Shine your joy, and help others find their light.

With joy in running, and in all things…
~Alaina

Living Life, Minding the Present; Be-ing and Vulnerablilty

Many of my years as a child, growing into adulthood in my teens, and pressing further into my life as a career-person, aware and contributing to society, have been spent in a constant commentary with Ego.  It has taken a lot of reading (my large collection of self-help novels is yet to be unpacked in my new apartment), listening to motivational speakers, and connecting with others to finally recognize this aspect of myself.  I used to identify my “logical, critical thinking” with reasoning, and I am beginning to see this as the opposite.  This past year, I have been un-training myself to trust “reason” and let go, attempting to learn to listen to my subconscious and intuitive thinking.

Man, is it hard!

For someone who has always analyzed every situation, weighed the pros and cons, and rationally chosen the direction to walk down a path, choosing to feel my reaction and to literally go with my gut has been a challenge.

On the other hand, freeing my mind and following my body’s response has been extremely liberating.  I can still see my mind go into analytical mode, and I am nowhere near as good at this as I would like to be, yet, I am getting better at acknowledging the thoughts, and letting them go.  The physical response to words, actions, ideas, thoughts, anything introduced to your surrounding is always present.  

Since making the choice to live this way, I surprisingly have more time in each day.  Being less in my head has freed my hands to do other things, and my mind can better occupy time with thoughts of the here-and-now, rather than floating off into the oblivion of the unknown future questions and hypotheses.  I feel relieved and happy to have time to write more often!

Have you felt yourself shift?  Do you notice a difference in space and time when you stay present?

One of the side-effects of staying present is not having the time to prepare and protect.  One is forced by nature to remain vulnerable in each setting because nothing else is important.  We are able to truly experience our feelings (feel the gut reactions!) and process them in real-time, not wondering what may come next or how that will affect us.  We are free to Be.  What a wonderful way to live!

Now, I’m no Guru, but I have listened to the advise of a few of these knowledgable people, and hope I have gleaned enough to start making a difference in my life.  When I want to talk with someone, I will call them.  If I am pulled to respond to a text in a longer format to convey that I care, I will.  

Most importantly, I have learned, when someone has significance in your life, to let them know.

This holiday season, I am going to take a cue from a good man, Evan Sanders at The Better Man Project, and write to my loved ones.  Writing is a much more expressive, and eloquent, method for communication for me, and I want to let each and every special person in my life know that I appreciate them.  Because you really never know when your next opportunity will come.  (Thanks, Evan, for the brilliant idea, and reminder).  

Today’s top three:  Be present with those you love, wear your heart on your sleeve, and follow your intuition.  

with love, light, and delight,
~Alaina

Reflection: (a.k.a. Personal Learnings From the Day-Job’s Annual Review Process)

That time of year has come once again, the self-review stage at my place of work, and I have been agonizing about filling out my form for two weeks.  Tonight, I finally buckled down to complete my side of the process, and while filling out information for each category I felt blocked, uncertain, and like a certain amount of information needed to be provided (and uncertain I was meeting those expectations), when finally, with a sigh of relief, I reached the bottom.

At the end of this form, there was a space for “Employee Overall Comments”.  The first thought that occurred to me was that it was not necessary for me to fill anything in that box, I had clearly spent the last three hours thinking and writing a sufficient amount about my experiences, work ethic, and examples.  But then I felt compelled to write.  So I started, and thirty minutes after submitting that form, I cannot tell you exactly what I wrote.  But I can tell you this: the words that sprung from my thoughts to my fingers and into the world were strong, confident, and filled with emotion.

Filled with gratitude.  

I am so grateful to be working in an environment where I am able to use my knowledge, express my opinions, and be so appreciated.  I want to say thank you to all my co-workers; I do not have the words to express the great impact you have had on me over the years.  I value every moment working with each and every one of you, and thank you for all you have taught me, and for the encouragement you show me every day.

I knew I liked my job, but until this moment, I did not realize the full scale of how much I really enjoy going to work every dayEven amidst all the chaos, change, and uncertainty.  I know that I will be challenged, respected, and get to do good work.  I am So Grateful!

Have you been surprised by the joys you find in your work?
Is there something you have suddenly and unexpectedly learned about yourself?

with joy and gratitude,
~Alaina

Saturday Run Adventures

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Loved this early kick of motivation from Runnersworld.com

A few years ago, a coworker friend of mine started organizing long runs on Saturdays.  As a somewhat avid runner at that point in time, I joined up and was fairly consistent with my attendance.  On an exceptionally nice day, when I was feeling not as adequate a runner, I joined the Saturday crew for an 8 mile run.  I had fallen off the “runner” wagon, and had not been running as frequently, so by the time we had started our return leg of the out-and-back, I was really hearing my knee pain talk.  My brain was shouting to take it easier, my mind was set on keeping up, and the pain in my knee finally caused a limp I could not control.  I was surprised by a screaming tendon and frustratingly uncontrollable tears and was forced to walk the last 2.5 miles to our starting location, where my friends awaited my return.

Ever since that day, I have been afraid of running more than eight miles.  I let this one event become my crutch, and clung to that experience as if it would not alway haunt me, but that each run exceeding 7.99 miles would undoubtably achieve the same result as that single, excruciating experience.

Then something amazing happened.  After doing a solo experiment of 6.5 miles the last weekend of December, I chose to go for a long run – 8.3 mi with my Saturday Run pals the first weekend of January… and I had no pain.  I was ecstatic!  Not only did my knee not hurt, but I was able to sprint the last couple of blocks.  I have signed myself up as a regular part of the Saturday Run crew again, and after last week’s run of 8.5 mi, tomorrow we’ll conquer 9.5 miles.

Last weekend, the run was so well planned, and the scenery so diverse, it felt much shorter than 8.5miles.  We started in Willamette Park and headed across the Sellwood Bridge (last weekend before they move the bridge).  It was a beautifully foggy day.

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After a short jaunt through the neighborhood we made our second crossing of the bridge, back up to the road and into River View Cemetery.  Up, up, and up the hill we went!

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After cresting the hill, we cheered for each other as we ran through the gate at the top as if we were finishing a race.  Turning back toward the hill, this time pointing downward, we passed the bagpiper who was warming up for a ceremony, and headed back down the hill at a nice clip toward the Park.  The combination of cool foggy air and the ease of downhill running made many a finger turn to ice despite our accelerated pace.  In the end we came around the bend, and it was once again a delight to have finished a long run with a great group of ladies.

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After last week’s run, I know I can make it 9.5 miles tomorrow, but I have to admit, I am a little nervous.
But I think that’s a good thing.  🙂
Happy Running, all you Saturday long run Adventurers!
~Alaina

Weathering Storms

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As we near the end of the Mayan calendar, and amidst the many recent tragedies, the arrival of the holiday season, and the eve of the New Year, I find myself reflecting upon the events of this last year, and realize that I have struggled and conquered many different challenges in a very short time.  Sunday night, the wind was howling outside. The storm was unlike any that I had seen pass through Portland for at least a few years, and I almost expected my windows to collapse inward from the pressure, as I could have easily folded under many of the great forces that blew across my path this year.

Yet I knew the windows would hold.  They leaked and allowed a bursts of air through the cracks in the aged caulking, but they are strong and built to withstand the gusts and downpours testing their stability.

I, too, remain standing after the wind has past, the dust settled, and life has moved forward.  This year, I have learned to stand up for myself and ask for what I want and need. I finally realized my worth in the workplace. I gained confidence in my abilities. I lost loved ones. I turned thirty. I am beginning to understand how much of my being is devoted to being creative, and accepting the responsibility to create; working with my hands brings me happiness – it’s time to stop procrastinating. I finally took my last steps toward independence and pursued driving lessons, passed my driver’s test last week, and I am now a licensed driver.  I moved three times, finally settling into my favorite building downtown.  I set up a workspace, so I have room to be creative. I learned and performed a choreographed dance routine with a group of dancers for the first time in my adult life.  I am learning about the logistics of starting a small business.  I started running with purpose, again. I am reconnecting with great friends with whom I had lost touch. And I cannot believe all of this and more happened in the space of twelve short months.

Yet after all this growth and change, I find myself in a place of discontent.  I am progressing, but not yet satisfied and happy with this level of personal growth.  I find questions such as: “How do I know what drives me?” “What brings me joy?” “What are my next steps?” circling in my head for hours.  I still feel a great sense of… something missing, a gnawing need for a great shift in my life, a sense that there is something bigger I am supposed to be doing, and I do not know which direction to walk because I do not know what I need to pursue. I feel like I am standing at the edge of some great discovery, looking out over a great, wide canyon, but I am unsure whether to jump from the edge or traverse across the great divide on a more methodical route, with ropes and carabiners to prevent my fall.

And every time these thoughts and questions return, I come back here, to write and allow the process to guide me.

Perhaps through writing, drawing, and baking – creating – I will find the answers I seek revealed in the outputs of these endeavors.

Searching for Red, Found Sparkle Instead!

After a long day at work, I took a few minutes to peruse the local mall in search of a red shirt for a dance performance I will be a part of  in about two and a half weeks.  (Yes, I do enjoy social partner dancing, usually West Coast Swing or Blues.  This performance will be a choreographed routine of with six couples; one minute and forty seconds of Nightclub 2-step and West Coast Swing, each).  Much to my surprise, my search was for naught.  I was positive I would find a plethora of red attire this close to the December holidays, but apparently, apparel stores are on a much more conservative schedule to release holiday product than our local grocers.  Or, perhaps red and green are “out” this year, and the light peachy-orange color I’m seeing everywhere is the new red…?

Despite my failed attempt during my costume search, I did discover much beauty in the quiet evening at the mall. There may not have been holiday red, but the lack of festive color fled from my mind when I was blown away by shine, sparkle, and some holiday “snow” bubbles…

Sparkling lights – bubble blower creating “snow” from above.

Enormous decorations hung from the ceiling:

Ceiling ornamentals

Even the transit stop looked glorious in the lamp-light.  Maybe it was the reprieve from the rain, but I was seeing beauty everywhere tonight.  And I am so grateful.

If you’re like me, you probably have your phone out much of the time you are on your commute – checking Facebook, email, making phone calls… Do yourself a favor, and look up.  Take some time to really see what is around you, find some joy in what you witness, and share that experience with others, so they can take time to do the same.

Happy Wednesday!
~Alaina

Evening Quiet

As I ready myself for sleep tonight, I have decided to leave my curtains open.

Yes, I live in the city, and my neighbors may, possibly, see me sleeping.

But I like the light of the city to brighten the room.  I delight in daylight brightening my walls to a golden glow and waking me more naturally than any alarm ever will.  Therefore, I choose light over convention.  Call me a rebel, but from this day forth, I choose to do what pleases me, and do the things to which I commit my words and time.  Because these choices and acts are what make life worth living.

So do as you please:
Go for a run.  See that movie before it is out of the theatre.  Go to the beach for the day. Plan the trip and take it because you never know when you may not be able to run or go to a movie, walk in the sand or get on a plane.

I have learned that doing what you enjoy is important.  It is the reason we are here and how we learn about ourselves.  It is how we define our purpose, making us happy beings.

So, tonight, open your curtains and stare at the stars before you drift off.  Even the small pleasures which bring us joy stand to be counted and applied; they are a part of what makes it worthwhile to be here, living the human experience.

Spring

As days warm and we head toward Spring

there is no knowing what life will bring.

A joyous dance, or a sunlit flower

but greatness found in every hour.

 

Life brings us troubles, it gets us down,

and at times, we’re left with a frown.

My wish for you, may it come true,

Is bright skies of deep, deep blue.

Never enough…

…minutes to sip on your morning coffee before work.

…time in the day to accomplish everything you thought you wanted to do.

…hours in the day to get to know a new friend.

…days in the week to work, eat, sleep, and play.

Plenty enough…

…laughs in a lifetime to share with all you know.

…smiles to cheer the frowns away.

…hugs to clear the blues away.

…kisses to make the boo-boos all better.

…love to bring comfort and joy.

Laugh a little louder today.  Bring some happy to the world.