Tag Archives: meditation

A Reason to Drive to Minnesota to Throat Punch Me: Fitness

If you needed a reason to come to MN to throat punch me, here it is, and I even give you permission, rather the encouragement, to do it. Please, please, please, if I ever say I am going to quit swimming, biking, or running, or if I say I am just going to take a short break from it, get in your car, drive to Newport, Minnesota, and kick my ass. I’ll even give you gas money. If come to throat punch me for some other reason, you’re on your own with the gas money.

That being said, I’ve started running again, very slowly and methodically, but running none the less. I’ve just finished the second week, the second day, of the Couch Potato to 5K program, and it was glorious. I’m hoping to only have to use the guided program for a couple more weeks before my body is just back in the groove of this thing I love. I’m doing most of my running on this trail, The River Bottoms Trail, parts of which are contained in Fort Snelling State Park. The section I am using right now is the part that starts in Mendota, and it’s flat as a pancake, beautiful along the river, and packed dirt so it’s very forgiving, not like concrete or asphalt. As I get better and faster again at running, I’ll explore some of the other parts of the trail, too, but they seem more technical and I don’t want to risk injuring my knee again, so I want to be good and strong before being too adventurous. The waiting is torture. My favorite part of running is careening down hills and skittering back up the other side. It’s a beautiful childlike feeling, but for now I’ll be a 40-year-old who’s afraid to get reinjured.

To begin preparing to train for the Muncie 70.3 next July, I have decided to run three times a week, bike twice a week, and swim twice a week. I’ve already covered my running plan, so I’ll talk about biking. I’m hoping to rope Bec into my biking program next spring, but we’ll see how that goes. We love going for long rides together, so hopefully it’ll mean spending some quality time together once a week for a long ride. Mostly for now, I’m going to ride a couple of short rides each week, then settle into winter. I hate riding in cold weather, so I’ll be spending some time in the garage on the trainer, which I hate almost as much. Maybe I need to get a cheap TV to put out there to make the time pass more quickly. Such is life in Minnesota as a biker in the winter, but there is always spring.

Finally, I just sent for my community lap swim card. Talk about a super-cool, super-weird deal: the schools in our district open their pools for lap swim for anyone in the community. It costs $65 A YEAR to join the community lap swim program. $65 A YEAR! The pools are open four nights a week, and the one closest to my house is open on Monday and Wednesday from 8PM to 9PM, which is perfect. I can get in a nice swim two nights a week, just before bed. I had registered for Big Shoulders this year, but since I haven’t been swimming, I’m going to forgo my participation and watch my friend Teresa do Ironman Wisconsin. I’ll try for Big Shoulders again next year when I’ve been in the pool more.

Here is what I hope my weeks to come will look like:

Day

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Activity Swim Run Swim Run Bike LongRun Bike
Time 8-9PM Whenever 8-9PM Whenever Whenever Whenever

Afternoon

Getting back into this type of training is much more difficult than just sticking with it could ever be, so please, please, please, heed my offer. If I ever, ever, ever, mention quitting or taking a break, make the drive and throat punch me. I won’t be surprised about it, and I’ll pay for your gas.

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On a totally unrelated note, people who have very long acrylic fingernails should not be allowed to type in public. Isn’t that so the late 1990s early 2000s anyway? The clicking reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” The clicking is maddening. In fact, I think my work is finished here. I’m going to go home and shower, then find a place to get my newest tattoo. Happy Birthday to me.

A New Sabbath Day

I want and need a Sabbath, one day each week that I can count on to be strictly my time to spend with God, family, writing, and art, so the one day I said I wouldn’t work at Caribou is Sunday. Fortunately, Caribou eases you in to a full schedule, so I had yesterday and tomorrow off as well. Today we tried out our new Sunday thing, plan, routine, whatever you want to call it. Since Bec and I have radically different ideas about what we like in church, we’ve decided to have the best of both worlds and just attend two services. First, we get up early and head to St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in St. Paul, and then we head to Awaken Community in Lilydale. It’s a nice balance and nice way to start the Sabbath. And we get to see the children and grandchildren at Awaken, so that’s a pretty nice bonus. After church today, we came home, had lunch, and then napped. We’re exciting, I know.

We (Bec, Ann, and I) spent yesterday going to the Uptown and Powderhorn Art Fairs. We walked forever and looked at lots of amazing arts and crafts. I bought a card for my mom, a birthday gift for my brother, and an anniversary gift for the Combers. And if any of them read this, I just spoiled the surprise for them all. As we walked, I kept thinking about how God has honored my heart’s desire to have time off of work and to have a job I don’t bring home with me. I couldn’t get the image of myself, sitting in one of those booths and selling my own artwork, out of my mind. Even if it’s only a dream for now, since I have just begun sketching, it’s the freest I’ve felt in a long, long time.

For my first little venture back into the art world, I plan to create a set of prints based on this poem by Wallace Stevens. There have been several interpretations of this poem created by several artists in a few diverse cultures. Artist Joan Colbert hand pulled my favorite set of linoleum block prints that is currently in existence. You can see them here. However, I think there is still room for me to add my voice into the mix, because my style of block printing has a bit more texture in the white spaces, and I plan to print both black and white on brown paper, adding some pastel work into the final prints.

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I got to Minnesota about three weeks ago. Today is August 3, and I arrived on July 11. Just after I got here, or more specifically on my 40th birthday, I made some simple goals, things I’d like to improve upon in my life. Here they are (again): quit smoking and drink only on weekends or not at all; eat primal with one “cheat” day a week; no ice cream; get a job; capitalize on quiet time (read, write, art); and run/walk, bike, swim. Since setting these goals, I’ve accomplished several and am still working on others. I struggle with the ice cream thing. It gives me joy. I’m going to keep eating ice cream for a while. I’ve started adding a brief bit of meditation into my morning routine, and I hope to add it into my evening routine as well. Meditation helps me to quiet my busy mind in a way that nothing else does; I can release my anger and sadness and cultivate compassion and joy through the simple act of breathing.

I’ve created one new goal in all of this, which I mentioned before, but I am going to mention again, and probably keep mentioning. I want to finish the Muncie 70.3 for my second time next July. I want to do it again to prove to myself that I can and to get a better time than last and to just be healthy again. I’ve been running and biking, and I will start swimming later this month, so I know I can do it. I just need to stay focused and remember that I am doing all of this to take care of myself and be well.

Mystic Monday: Guico I, Solitude

“You are aware that in the Old Testament, and especially in the New, almost all the greater and more profound secrets were revealed to God’s friends when they were alone and not in the midst of milling crowds. These same friends of God almost always avoided the hindrance of crowds and sought out the convenience of solitude when they wanted to mediate more deeply on something, or to pray with greater freedom, or when they wished to be removed from earthly concerns through mental energy. […] and you should agree that solitude is the greatest support for sweet psalmody, pious reading, fervent prayer, deep meditation, ecstatic contemplation, and the baptism of tears.” —Guico I, from The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism

My students and I have been reading the American Romantics for the past six weeks or so, and they are always struck by the amount of time the writers spend alone. I am always envious of the same. What strikes me about Christian mystics, especially the earlier ones, is their love and appreciation for silence, for being alone, and for prayer and meditation. Why aren’t American Christians as dedicated to making space for God’s voice? I try and fail to open up solitude and quiet, even for a few minutes. Thoreau writes in Walden: “I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” I, too, like to be alone, and I am wearied by even my best and closest friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with people, but being real and present with others is exhausting and sometimes confusing. But there is a difference between being alone because I want solitude, like Thoreau, and being alone because I strive to hear the voice of God, like Guico I.

How, then, can I as a 21st century Christian foster the type of solitude that elicits the revelation of God’s profound secrets? Where can I pause, meditate and pray, and hear those deep stirrings that I long for? Most days I am so caught up in my own life and its pressures and deadlines that I forget to take a moment to listen for God. I forget—no I don’t forget—I don’t make time to just be, to just sit in the presence of Nature and listen for God. I worry about the future, when I should just simply be. I try to interpret my past, when I should just simply be. I miss everything present because I am on a deadline. I know that “solitude is the greatest support for sweet psalmody, pious reading, fervent prayer, deep meditation, ecstatic contemplation, and the baptism of tears,” but I will never experience it if I don’t make solitude a priority and not just an escape from the chaos of the world. The solitude I need to experience God is an intentional solitude wherein I try to hear God’s voice, sense God’s presence, and feel God’s joys and sorrows.

I suppose the feeling of God in moments of intentional solitude mirrors Margaret Fuller’s awe at the face of a Niagara Falls that she thought she already knew everything about: “This was the climax of the effect which the falls produced upon me-neither the American nor the British fall moved me as did these rapids. For the magnificence, the sublimity of the latter I was prepared by descriptions and by paintings.” This reminds me of the ways in which God just sort of creeps up on us in the least expected ways. We look toward the falls for the great beauty, but we are taken aback by the simplicity and power of the falls. I hope I can find some ways to be taken in by the sublime nature of God’s unexpected beauty, but I know that will only happen if I make time to seek God intentionally through prayer and meditation in solitude. I wont’ be overcome by rapids in a crowd of people. So, I ask again, how can I make time for beautiful solitude in which I come to expect to hear the voice of God? Possibly I’ll make time for a retreat of solitude this summer, but more intentionally, I’ll make 15 minutes each morning for meditation and prayer.

The End and the Beginning

New Year’s Eve asks us to look back into the past year in order to assess where we’ve been, and it simultaneously begs us to look forward with hope that our future is brighter than, or at least as bright as, our past. Everybody and their brother is posting their reflections and their resolutions, so I figured why shouldn’t I. At the very least, this post will give my friends a heads up about the resolutions I’ll be breaking come January 3rd or 4th.

Obviously, if you’ve read this blog in the past year, you’ll notice that the past 365 days haven’t been a cakewalk for me. While my life has been incredibly blessed, I’ve had a really difficult time recognizing my blessings and reveling in them. My goals for this year in no particular order were:

  1. Eat paleo.
  2. Watch less TV.
  3. Exercise in a variety of ways (including swimming) while running (barefoot) a race a month.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Read more, including the Bible and Common Prayer.
  6. Play and find my inner hippie again.
  7. In short, do things which bring me joy. Relax.

Listing my goals out like that reminds me of Benjamin Franklin and his list of 13 Virtues or John and Charles Wesley’s tabulations of their moral behaviors. I suppose if I am going to list my resolutions or goals, I should keep track of how well I am doing with them in some manner. I don’t. I ate mostly paleo and lost about 50 pounds (I did gain some of that back this holiday season!). I can’t say I’ve watched less television; in fact, I may have watched more (Oh, Mariska, how you tempt me!). I did exercise a lot, but not as much as I would have liked. I finished my first triathlon, so that’s pretty decent. I totally left out meditation and prayer for a good portion of the year. I felt so disconnected, and I am not sure whether my lack of meditation caused the disconnection, or if I didn’t meditate because I felt disconnected. Either way, I didn’t spend enough time alone with my thoughts and God. I read a lot more, but not the specific texts I mentioned I would focus on. I played more, and playing was lovely. I did things which should have brought me joy, but they didn’t always. Instead I feel as if I just focused on the negative, even when I swore I would focus on the positives. I’m a realist; it’s difficult for me to be to be positive. I am going (to try to) to fix that this year. #PollyAnna2012 will become #joyful or #merrymaking or #radicaljoy for this year.

In short, I want this year to bring less of this:

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And much, much more of this:

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Speaking of this year, here are my goals in order of their current importance to me and my mental and physical well being:

  1. CULTIVATE JOY: Do things which me bring me joy. Embrace the random. Enjoy the mediocre. Don’t stress over things I can’t control. Live in the moment and revel in those I spend my time with. Put down my phone or my other distractions and really love and live the moment.
  2. CONSUME CLEANLY: Eat better food. Drink less cider and more water. Put into my belly those foods which will best fuel my body for physical activities and mental joy. I’m going to attempt to jumpstart this with a new Whole 30, beginning on January 7. I want a clean slate and a clean body for the new year.
  3. EXERCISE: Exercise in a variety of ways (including swimming) while running at least a mile a day. Finish a Half Ironman triathlon before my 39th birthday. Carpool or walk or ride my bike to work every day. Use the body and the buses for transportation as frequently as possible.
  4. BE INTENTIONAL: Watch no TV, except an occasional movie. Use social media for no more than half an hour each day. Replace the time spent on nothingness and meaningless conversation with strangers with pursuits of intellect and kinship. Meditate, pray, read, and contemplate theological and academic things. Practice silence. I also would love to finish this dissertation.
  5. PLAY: Play and find my inner hippie again. In the spring, I’ll start a disc golf club at school.
  6. STAND UP: Begin standing up against injustice in a real and tangible way. Use grace and love to resist those things which are unethical or immoral. Help the Burris GSA, Prism, to be more active and visual by bringing meaningful activities into my students’ lives.

These are my hopes, dreams, goals, resolutions for 2013. I hope to use Sunday mornings to write in this space about these goals and about current events. I will begin tomorrow morning, though it isn’t Sunday, by writing in depth about that first goal of practicing joy. Practicing joy will no doubt be my most difficult goal, but for me it is by far the most important. I can’t have another year like this year. Any suggestions you have about cultivating joy are welcome! How do you cultivate joy?

For some running inspiration, join us with this challenge:

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