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.

Acceptance is the first step in order to fall in love with your passions

 

How do you respond to the request “Tell me a little about yourself.”?

Typically, I launch into a 30 second elevator pitch – checking off accomplishments and current status. Went to school (insert school), work in (insert industry), which means (explain industry/company/role) and I live (city/neighborhood) with (self/people/family). Blah.

Last week at a work dinner, I was asked to “Tell my story.” As I launched into my typically story – bullet points about my past – I was interrupted and asked a series of follow-up questions. Many, many follow-up questions. It was a great way to get a few laughs at the dinner table and a memorable way to get to know someone deeper. Sure, I played tennis in school, but he wanted to know if I enjoyed it now. Throughout this line of questioning, he correctly deciphered that I enjoy running and loved cooking shows. It was a great way to get to get the answer: “What do you do outside of work? What are your hobbies?”

A hobby is an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for fun. I’ve dipped my toe into various hobbies but rarely do I dive in and give it my all. I rarely experience the reward in learning a new skill. I have a dusty sewing machine, almost-new knitting needles, half-assed attempts at calligraphy and boxing gloves. I’m not even certain how the boxing gloves made it into my closet.

The point is, we’ve all latched onto some craze or felt a surge of energy when trying something new. I enjoy learning about new subjects. I’ve checked out sewing books from the library and signed up for online calligraphy classes with little to show for the investment in time and money. It’s frustrating and annoying. Why do I bother to explore hobbies when the majority of them fail? Isn’t this supposed to be fun? Why am I stressing out about my calligraphy form? I’m sure someone could analyze the reasons why but I’ll take a stab in the dark and assume it’s because I think it’s easier. Easier to not try verses try and fail.

It’s easier…but not fun. Or fulfilling. Over the past year, I’ve experienced personal success with running. It took me months to even call myself “a runner.” It took me even longer to realize how much I truly love the sport. With every new investment – running shoes, race fees, clothing – I questioned my intentions and commitment level. Would this be “worth it” in the end? Ultimately, I experienced some level of “mom-guilt.” Everyone (EVERYONE) tells you to take time for yourself but, is this too much time? Too much focus on my needs and wants? Regardless of someone’s definition of “too much,” I fell in love with running and now consider it to not only be one of  my hobbies but, one of my passions.

Rather than skim the surface of my loves: running, yoga, writing…what would happen if I took a leap to really give it my all? The risk of failure is greater but the reward is sweeter (Jamie hits this point in another post). Ragnar gave me a taste into the pay-off of training. Now what?

In order to keep myself accountable, I joined my gym’s yoga/running program. Our class instructor sends out a weekly running schedule and healthy recipe. Each Saturday morning we get together for a group yoga class and go on a run. I was hesitant to sign up for this program because of the investment. It’s not expensive but, am I willing to wake up early every Saturday in order to run? Am I willing to make up these runs even if I’m out of town?

My goal is to continue running on a regular basis – regardless of race schedule. Plain and simple.This program combines my three fitness “loves” – running, weight training and yoga into one. How could I resist?

Getting “into” something takes guts and can sometimes be read as selfish. Who cares what others think. Just go for it and take the shot.

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