From Type A to Type Ahh

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World – Ghandi


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Half Way to My Goal Checking In

zen_as_a_frog

This year instead of lofty or repetitive goals for the New Year I had one simple goal.  Meditate everyday for one straight year.  I started in November for very practical reasons.  In November I had an injured foot and needed to take weeks, which led to months off of running.  I picked up meditation as a way to stay married and employed.  I downloaded the Insight Timer and I have to say, after day 183 that is by far my favorite app on my phone.   Surprisingly it is also the only one changing my actual life.  Nope, not Facebook.

So this post is not to pat myself on the back but rather to reflect on a very surprising result of this experiment.  I only focused on one thing, meditate everyday.  In the weirdest set of cosmic karma I got improvement in so many areas of my life.  These are just a few things I have noticed since adding daily meditation.

  1. I have an inner calm instead of an inner critic.
  2. I have self-control!  Turns out I don’t have to say exactly what is on my mind at every moment and the world still ambles along just fine.
  3. I have time for everything that is truly important to me.
  4. I am comfortable with silence and find I crave it more.
  5. I can, for periods of time get control of my thoughts by focusing on my breath in the moment. I thought those things were wilder than a mustang!
  6. I don’t drink anymore.  I used to unwind with a glass a wine.  Now most days I am not wound so no need to unwind, and when I am wound sitting is far more helpful.
  7. I have more clarity about what is important and it helped me clear physical and mental clutter.
  8. Cut way back on TV because I want to be present with my loved ones, experiencing, growing and learning, not zoned out.
  9. Our finances were never out of control, at least not since we both got grown up jobs in fulfilling fields, but now I am more conscious of what we spend money on.  I set up an additional retirement investment account to work toward our long-term goal of retirement in 8 years and a move to the western part of the country.
  10. I am more grateful and hubby and I have instituted the three things we are grateful for exercise before dinner.
  11. I was always a doer and could get things done but there was a certain panic and inner turmoil and dialog behind it.  Now I can handle a single task complete it and move on.  I am more focused but it is a peaceful focus. Surprisingly, I get more done with less inner chaos.
  12. I am a better listener, but still have to work on that.
  13. I got back to writing and that is a creative pursuit I let drop because I thought I had no time.
  14. I increased my volunteering adding a no-kill cat shelter to coaching a run club at hubby’s school and volunteering in professional water organizations
  15. I have even said “no” and guess what?  The world did not actually spin-off its axis.

I don’t know how meditation led to all of this.  I only know that the thing I consciously decided to change was to meditate and on that road the rest of this fell into place.  Who knew all I needed to do all these years was shut up and sit down.  Well some people probably knew.


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What Running Taught Me about Marriage

IMG_2604My husband has 2 pet peeves about us as a couple.  We can never order the same thing at a restaurant and we can’t go out of the house wearing the same thing.  You might think who would?  My husband and I are runners so we race a lot and belong to the same track club so we have a number of identical shirts.  I believe my husband would stop at a mall to buy a new shirt before we would show up at a restaurant in matching couple attire.  At that restaurant there is a moment of tense silence before one of us declares what we will order, for fear the other one has eyed the same thing.

I guess this could be annoying.  It is just one of those things we have learned to laugh at, by that I mean I make relentless fun of it and he politely chuckles along at his own foibles. Long relationships require an even deeper sense of humor.  We have been together for 25 years and lived together for the last 24.  If you had asked me 7 years ago if I knew my husband I would have said absolutely.  But for his 45th birthday he made one request.  ” I want you to run one race with me.  That is what I want for my birthday.”  He might just as effectively asked me to give him a trip around the world, the latter seeming more likely.  My husband is an athlete, a naturally talented, but also hard-working athlete. He has played: soccer, basketball, done track, etc.  Me on the other hand, I believe I still hold the record at my high school for the slowest timed mile all 4 years of school.  I say this not to brag, but to set the scene for this request.  Yet somehow, following several colorful expletives, I found myself in running shoes at a 5K on his birthday.  Where I promptly declared “take a good look, this is the last time you will ever see me run.”  To check how “alterative” that fact was, see first paragraph.

Besides gaining a sense that I could do more than I thought I could, running has taught me so much about myself, my husband, and my marriage.  The first thing I learned was during that very first race.  My husband is someone who can be counted on, and who shows up.  He started that race with me and my painfully slow  12 minute mile until he was convinced I would be fine.  He went to finish his race and as I was about a 1/2 mile from finishing something I thought impossible; he came out of nowhere and ran me in, full of support.  He would demonstrate that support over and over as I pursued longer distances and he waited in blazing heat and freezing weather to meet at the last mile of half marathons and run me in. He ran his first half last December and even though I was two months into rehabbing platars fasciitis, I was there following him and I ran him in the last mile.

I have learned I am stronger than I thought and that most challenges may feel physically impossible, but are really a mental game.  Hence meditation has helped my running and my ability to handle challenges.  Watching my husband who is a streak runner, not that! Get your mind out of the gutter, he runs everyday at least a mile. He has demonstrated his uncompromising ability to commit.   Today is day 1275 of his current streak.  It really just underscored what I already knew.  Believe it or not, I am not always easy to live with or totally delightful. Yet he stays, all the time he makes the choice to stay.  I guess I am his marriage streak or his mental tolerance streak or maybe both.  My husband is a bastion of commitment, and no matter how much I have tried over the years to throw him off his game he just comes back fighting harder for our marriage.

Lastly, running is a living metaphor of our marriage.  We often run together.  If you don’t do that regularly you might not appreciate how hard it actually is.  You have to tune in totally to your partner at that moment.  Everyday every run is different.  When one partner is strong and the other weak, tired, or injured there is a real-time adjustment.  One of you has to sacrifice your run to encourage the other to finish strong.  I always say in the best marriages the partners make strong the broken parts in each other.  That is never more evident than when you are running together.  We are older now and we find that we “race” less, we still go but the competitive edge has worn off.  Now we run with the hard-earned synchronicity of 25 years of alternating between leading and lagging.  It is a fun ride.


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Family and Feeding Your Soul

Feed-your-soul-meme

I wish I had this quote yesterday.  So yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I don’t know about all of you but one of the most challenging forks in my road to being a better, more peaceful, calmer, and more compassionate person drives right through my family.  It is a bumpy and unpaved road.  Yesterday was yet another day to prove the rule.

I won’t go into all of it.  Suffice to say my mother, who I love very much, is addicted to a certain kind of chaos and martyrdom.  She says yes to the wants of everyone and the care of every person, except herself.  My sister, who has battled depression and eating disorders, throughout her life continues down the same path she has always travelled.  When that path is on a downward trajectory her greatest pleasure is piling as many folks into the car as possible on the way down.  Sounds like fun?  Would you like to join us for a Fourth of July Barbecue?

Normally, I would have suffered through dinner, drank more than enough wine and actually, if I am being honest, have helped raise the discord because I have been unable to not take the bait I have been conditioned to take.  This time was different.  Their moods and idiosyncracies  became their own.  I no longer needed to respond.  Instead I focused on Mom’s big heart and how tough she is. I was able to fully celebrate all of who she is as a woman without the judgement.  For my sister I found a new profound, compassion.  I can’t imagine being that unhappy having that much pain.  Stripping the joy from even the things you love.  She was remarking how her dogs, her passion, are nothing but a burden now.  I had a flash of my cats and how they, along with so many things, feed my soul.

Today I was off of work, because I have to work through Saturday and instead of just saying “sure I will do that.”  I found a day in my calendar with nothing scheduled and told my boss I was switching days off.  No long explanation.  I don’t have to work an extra day.  That has always been a choice.  There will be times when I feel I have to, but today was not that day.  I found my sister on my mind as I got up this morning.  I saw my husband off.  I went to my mediation space did a little yoga and sat.  After that I had a healthy breakfast and went for a run and a bike ride.  While on the trail looking at people and nature, listening to birds and feeling my strong healthy body, I felt my soul recharge.  I felt that compassion for my sister and my mother.  I have not always been as diligent about these issues of self care in the past, but I have also never been like my mom and sister.

Today as I fill my soul and get ready for the week, I hope that my family can strip away the pain and find the purpose and the joy in even the difficult or mundane things.  Tomorrow I head off, for purpose driven work I enjoy.  I have a new softer place of compassion for my family.  The freedom of realizing their choices don’t have to be mine so I don’t have to be judge and jury.


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I am Just a Girl Learning to Say No!

wonder woman

Growth is hard.  In fact lots of things are hard.  Especially giving up an image that you have worked so hard to portray, once you realize it is exactly that, an image.  Oh and also that it is too much work to haul that image around and put it on and take it off. Confession time, I like accomplishing things.  There was a time in my life when a neat to-do list with perfectly lined up check marks brought a tear to my eye. (Sob) Sorry I need a minute.  I am now trying to focus on being present and accepting the imperfect and sadly the sometimes incomplete aspects of life.

When you are trying to change the universal law is that you will be given plenty of opportunities.  Right now my opportunity cup runneth over.  I am in the middle of managing a drought, which means increased workload and my best employee has taken another job. Normally, I would assume Wonder Woman posture lasso of truth at my side and personal life, goals and relationships fading behind me.  Also as you can well imagine, I  would be delightful to be around.

Something is different this time, after much research I figured it out…drumroll please, me.  Turns out if you react differently and make saner choices and stop trying to navigate in an imaginary invisible jet things are different.  I just finished reading this book on the 7 essential coaching questions so I can be a better manager.  Ironically, I found a question that I not only shared with my remaining staff, but I am using it to coach myself.  “What do I have to say no to if I say yes to this?”  What a concept.  It sounds like nirvana, right?  Except that I am not great at saying no.  In fact you might say I suck at it.  I am really attached to that whole Wonder Woman thing.  You know when you walk out of a meeting and hear them say “I don’t know how she does all of those things and still runs this project.”  I am not going to sugar coat it.  Letting that go is hard.  Using the idea of what I have to say no to in order to say yes to something is helping me stick to my priorities.  Meditation has helped to, because now I find when I am asked to do something, I can consciously find a little space by taking a breath before responding “yes” as quickly as your leg jumps when the Dr. hits your knee with rubber hammer.  It helps.

All of these little things add up.  The other thing I am trying to do is be present and conscious of the benefits I notice after I have said “no.”  For example a week ago I had all of these things scheduled and someone asked me to meet for dinner with a colleague from out-of-town.  I said no after many breaths.  The night of the dinner as I enjoyed a quiet evening of healthy food and conversation with my husband at home, I took time in that moment to experience it and fully realize the gain of saying no was so much greater than if I had said yes and less stressful.  Regret can really take it out of you.

I am by no means the girl who says “no.”  I am working on it and I am all the calmer as I wade into the temporarily choppy waters of chaos.  And me without my to do list!


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The Secrets of Silence

meditation

So I have now been meditating for 166 straight days.  It is no longer a struggle to find the time, in fact now that I am meditating regularly I actually have more time, ironically.  I really could not figure that out.  As I was sitting down reading yesterday after coaching run club and before preparing dinner I was struck by how on Earth I had time to do that.  I never had time to do that before.  So instead of reading I found myself sitting silently in the present moment contemplating that question.

Surprisingly, the silence helped me to figure some things out.  Here is what I have learned about meditation’s effect on me.  Not anyone else, just little old type A me.  This is no guarantee that you will find the same things.  Make no mistake some days meditation is harder than training for a half marathon.  Of course to be fair my body is easier to train than my monkey mind.

  1. I get up earlier when I meditate at night because I sleep more soundly and fall asleep faster without rehashing the day or planning for tomorrow.
  2. When I get up earlier I have time to start my day with some yoga to get in my body and then meditate.
  3. My best morning runs are now done while listening to ocean waves on my Insight Timer and a mantra “run light, run happy”
  4. I don’t react as often and harshly as I used to.  When I do, I sometimes can see myself like a movie and reset my actions.  This has caused less conflict and has freed up more time.
  5. I am more conscious of my decisions and their impact, so I focus on things that matter and choose ways to zone out less. This has freed up time for what matters.
  6. I spend less time worrying about how bad something could be or rehashing something that happened.  It is much easier to just experience it in the present and let it go.
  7. Meditation led me to a realization that I did not need as much so I simplified and that has led to less time looking for things, moving things, cleaning things, etc.
  8. I find that when I stopped participating in the drama of some of my relationships they seemed to have less drama.  Particularly evident with a challenging co-worker and my mom.  The dynamic changed just by me deciding not to take things so personally.  This freed up both physical and mental time.
  9. In general I am quieter.  I try and take time to listen and find myself speaking less.  This would be extraordinary if you knew me.

I no longer wonder if I will continue to meditate.  It is now a part of who I am.  I expect this is just the beginning of the journey but I am enjoying it so far.