The Middle

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In January, I committed to my health in two important ways. The first, registering for yoga teacher training and training for a half-marathon.

The two journeys started on their own path but like many things in life, they are starting to support and combat one another.

Somewhere deep down (very, very deep down) I have missed running. I didn’t miss training indoors on the dreadmill or repetitive loops around the track. I didn’t miss battling Mother Nature’s elements either, but I did miss the routine and the build running programs offers. One week you’re absolutely certain there is no physical way your body can run more than six miles and a month later you’re running ten miles. I’m still in the “Ten miles, no way!” camp of training but I can see a small light at the end of the tunnel.

Yoga teacher training is a completely different discipline and I’ve embraced my role as a student. I’ve completed four of the ten weekends of teacher training and my thoughts and emotions are all over the place. I’m energized, humbled and intimated. Some weeks I’m more committed than others. New yoga pants have been purchased but a solid daily meditation practice? Not so much.

You know that feeling when you’re on a long road trip? You’ve burned through the trail-mix, looking forward to the next state but you’re not sure how and when you’ll ever reach your final destination? Is the final destination the best part or is it the trip itself? Does it matter?

Too literal of an analogy?

Even so, that’s where I am. The trail-mix will do but, didn’t we just eat that an hour ago? Each state is better than the last and how did I not know that Idaho was this beautiful? Where are we going again? Will I even know when we’ve arrived? I’m in the middle and by definition, the middle is the messiest. If not the messiest, it certainly feels the most confined.

This type of nonsensical question-asking is just the sort of the thing The Middle loves, I assume.

What does The Middle feel like?

A little yoga 101, there are eight limbs of yoga (we’re familiar with the third limb asanas, postures). The second limb are the Niyamas which are moral codes that guide us toward positive behavior. They are principles that help us live our yoga practice on and off of the mat. The third Niyama is tapas meaning, discipline and “burning enthusiasm.” Tapas can mean cultivating a sense of self-discipline, passion and courage in order to burn away “impurities” physically, mentally and emotionally, and paves the way to our true greatness. It’s the fieriness that gets our heart pumping, heightens our desire for personal growth.

Pretty intense, right? And that’s where I am right now.

For me, yoga has also become the “insulation to my live wire.”

Another tool in my toolbox to pull out when my thoughts get the best of me. The practice helps me pause and ask “Is this situation worthy of an emotional, intense, dramatic reaction?” The discipline has helped me stay present and recognize that emotions are not something to push through, but rather embrace and honor.

It is not a magic bullet, an easy pill or the means to an end. It’s intense to see real physical change and recognize the path to personal growth. I’m constantly worried I’ll slip back into bad habits or behavior patterns. Or that I’m a fraud or undeserving. I’m worried state of vulnerability is fleeting and over time, my shell will build back up.

We tend to be comfortable with the end result. We love the before and after. We love to know about the process to transformation but please, just give me an overview and a path to follow. Boxes to check until I can check the biggest box, the end result! Rarely do we pause and reflect on the true discipline personal transformation requires. Or, at least I rarely paused.

Since this reflection is truly about the middle and the transformation might only be significant to me, there’s really no ending. Only comfort in knowing we can make small incremental changes. They matter to our physical and mental health, our families, friends and community. Or maybe they don’t, maybe they’ll just matter to you and to me and that’s alright too.

Monday Motivation: Learn Something New

 

Well it's not my dog, but it's a cute dog. But what does he wonder?

Well it’s not my dog, but it’s a cute dog. But what does he wonder?

I’m baaaaccckkkkkk. Oh, you didn’t know I was gone? That’s alright, all is forgiven.

In a nutshell, I spent the last week on a real vacation in Florida – Disney and then Tampa. It was fun, it was magical, there was even a nap that occurred at one point. What more could an overworked and slightly looney girl ask for, am I right? More to come on that vacation. But first, let’s talk about learning something new.

Mind = Blown.

While on vacation I got in some good hearty reading. I read two books that I kept putting on the back burner over the last month and finally found the time to read them. The first was, “The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us” by Diane Ackerman. The second was, “The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits and World Dominators” by Chris Brogan.

And as the section header implies, my mind was blown (figuratively) after reading these two insanely different, yet both incredibly compelling books. And I probably could write a very, VERY long review on each, but that’s not what I want to do here. What I want to do is let you in on some things I learned from “The Human Age” because, well, I think they’re interesting things.

  • Sweden actually ships in garbage from other countries in order to fuel their cities…because they don’t have enough of their own garbage. They’re THAT clean.
  • 3D printers will likely end many industries. Not all, but a lot of them. Oh, they’ll also be able to make organs out of actual human tissue. Creepy, right?
  • 1/10 of your body is made of human cells, the rest is made of other stuff like bacteria and microbes. Gross, but fascinating, huh?
  • A robot that creates another robot is not necessarily like how you would build a robot. It’s how a robot thinks a robot should be built.
  • Animals may know you know something. But they don’t know you know they know something. Did you catch that?

Why am I reading up on 3D printers and the internal workings of animals? Because…

I just wanted to learn something new.

I have a question in my mind that needs to be answered for the book I’m writing. It’s a very open-ended question, but I knew I would need to fall deep into the rabbit hole if I wanted to paint a picture of the world my characters are currently living in.

The question was, “What separates humans from all other life forms?” On a scientific level I get it. I mean, well, sort of. I get it so far as what I learned in the Biology 101 class I took in college (that I barely passed). So I wanted to learn more.

Now, you might be asking, “Shouldn’t you write about what you know?” Well, I guess I’m trying to test that theory. Because I think a lot of people already know random Disney facts and the lyrics to Iggy Azalea songs so that didn’t seem all that interesting in terms of a story plot. But I digress. 

While going down one rabbit hole, I stumbled on this Brain Pickings article reviewing “The Human Age” and it was this very excerpt that offered a glimmer of an answer to what I was seeking.

[Animals] possess a theory of mind, and can intuit what a rival might do in a given situation and act accordingly. They exhibit deceit, compassion, the ability to see themselves through another’s eyes…

I don’t think they fret and reason endlessly about mental states, as we do. They simply dream a different dream, probably much like the one we used to dream, before we crocheted into our neural circuitry the ability to have ideas about everything. Other animals may know you know something, but they don’t know you know they know. Other mammals may think, but we think about having thoughts. Linnaeus categorized us in the subspecies of Homo sapiens sapiens, adding the extra sapiens because we don’t just know, we know that we know.

So then I found the book and started reading it. And then I learned WAY more about the way humans are shaping the world around us than just simply how we’re different from animals.

Your mind needs a break

On any given day I probably think about the same things over and over again. So to take a break and think about the world in a different way, or to think about anything in a different way, was a nice change. It doesn’t mean you have to take action. It’s enough to just absorb it and let it keep you wandering down a couple more rabbit holes. Don’t stress out about it. Just find something new that piques your interest. Maybe dig a little deeper instead of putting it on the back burner of your mind. And heck, if you find a way to apply the new knowledge in your everyday life, all the better!

Happy Monday, fellow Erudites!

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