Cultivating Peace

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Columbine Trail, Lake Chabot

Most Saturday mornings find me running at the lake near my home. It’s a difficult, 9-mile run with terrain that changes from flat to 30% slopes and back again through scenery that will catch your breath. Parts of the trail are so narrow that a distracted mind is a footfall down steep gorges; you have to mind the three R’s: Roots, Rocks, and Ruts.

And it’s perfect for me…

This is the last run of the week for which the reward is a long tub soak and a day off for yoga on Sunday. It’s here that I cultivate peace; in my mind, my body and my spirit (ok yoga does that too, but not as much as this run). It’s here that I am able to observe the restrictions and obstacles I’ve been facing without fighting or judging and just breathe into it; work to my edge and focus on letting go. In the midst of this challenge I learn to be attentive, patient and focused; this brings me serenity, peace, solace, redemption.

Renewed, I can go out into the world with my perspective reframed, recommitted to my intentions and able to be the charm in other people’s days and an ambassador of peace.

How are you cultivating peace?

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Be Strong. Be Flexible.

My mom always told me I had a tough exterior. On the outside I was strong, inside I was mush. One of those who is always caving to the whims of my heart, the underdogs and a charming smile. Continue reading

Night Terrors

I’ve never been a good sleeper. It’s not that I have trouble falling asleep. I just can’t stay asleep. Sometimes reciting a mantra or stanza 27 from Keats’ epic poem “Eve of St. Agnes” helps. But, even from the time I was small, I often wake in the night to: Continue reading

Flying through the Trees

Blocked. The words stopped coming. My muse had left me. Too much time in front of the computer.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart,” encouraged William Wordsworth nearly three centuries ago. I couldn’t think, let alone breathe. Good old Willy was such a romantic. Everything probably looked and sounded better on parchment in quill ink.

I decided to head out–anywhere but here would do a girl a world of good. I didn’t really have a destination in mind as I pointed my car west and somehow ended up in RedwoodPark.

It was a weekday and there weren’t any other cars around as I pulled into the lot. “Good,” I thought, “people-free solitude.” It was unseasonably warm and the sunny, crystal clear day was already clearing my head.

I started to hike down the paved trail and as I descended deeper into the woods, I could feel a sense of calm and release creep over me. Nature is a healing balm. In spite of the lack of a truly wet winter, the forest was verdant with massive ferns and moss-robed redwoods. A gentle trickle was even flowing in the creek. The air was redolent with the musky smell of damp earth and sweet decay of fallen pine fronds which enraptured my senses. Dappled light was scattering through the canopy above sending shadows pirouetting across my path. What splendid idyll. I picked up my pace and started to jog.

All my tension fell away as the freedom of the spaciousness liberated my psyche. Energized, I was now in full gallop (Ping, my Chinese neighbor, branded me a horse when I run). Then I heard them, the sound of footfalls in the distance behind me. I looked back. Nobody. “Maybe it’s my echo,” I pondered. Undaunted and with cheetah-like stealth I pressed forward deeper into the trail, finally finding my rhythm.

Soon I reached the spot where the trail narrows and wends its way up and down along steeper slopes. A challenge but I felt like I was capable of moving the world. Suddenly, there it was again. Someone was pacing me only this time heavy breathing joined the running feet. My pulse quickened as my adrenaline surged and then I felt it. My spine tingled as a shiver coursed from my sacrum to the top of my head as the realization hit me, “I’m not alone.” “Just keep going,” I urged as I ramped up my pace until I felt like I was flying, flitting through the trees like a woodland sylph. Still, I was being pursued.

In my distracted state I lost my footing when a tree root popped out of nowhere stopping me short. I was falling, then not. I felt a pair of strong arms around my waist arresting my descent to the muddy trail. I struggled to free myself to no avail. Warm hands spun me around without letting go. What my eyes beheld left me in rapturous awe, a man with the visage of a Mayan god.

He wore the most intriguing medieval-looking carved amulet at the base of his throat secured by a leather lanyard. From the curve of his nose, broad forehead and honeyed, brown-sugar tone of his skin to the fullness of his lips and rock-solid body that was now firmly pressed against mine, this image of masculine beauty indicated a regal lineage and made me think one of two things had happened:

I had died and gone to heaven.

OR

I hit my head in the fall and was having the most pleasurable, exotic dream of my life.

“You’re hard to catch, like a feather blowing in the wind,” he spoke.

Guess I wasn’t dead.

“Are you okay?” he asked. On reflex, I touched his face.

He was real…..perhaps I’m not dreaming either.

I faltered. “Um. I am now,” I nearly whispered as I searched his sable-brown eyes for encouragement… Captivated by the weight of his stare, I began to catch a glimpse of what I thought was his soul. All at once it Continue reading

Why I Run

I’ve never been a competitive runner. It’s just the one activity I’ve always enjoyed doing. Even at 5am. Even in the rain. Even if it’s only 32 degrees outside (yep it gets that cold where I live in California and I’m not even in the mountains).Running is the only beauty/health product I need: it keeps my skin clear, my hair shiny, my mind focused, mood bright, helps me sleep better, body firm, blood pressure low (90/60), eating habits healthy (you start to crave things like frozen grapes instead of popsicles).

That runner’s high really does exist. If you’re a runner you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, imagine feeling like you are one with the pavement, everything else around you disappears and all there is is the sound of your breath and heartbeat in your head; you start to not even feel your feet on the ground because you are the ground, you are the air, you aren’t running you are the run.

And I’ve missed it all. Because I love it so much, sometimes I overdo. It’s been weeks since I last ran. I got hurt and have had to rehab my aging body (even though I’ve always taken care of myself, parts start to wear out and are slow to heal). It’s been a long hiatus and I’m itching to get back into it.

Today I’m meeting with a friend, who is a running coach, to help me get my running legs back. I’m beside myself with excitement. I want to be swift, free and unbridled moving through space and time as if nothing else exists.

Less is More

“Simplicity allows the true character of our lives to show through.”

~ Duane Elgin

During the last several years I’ve adopted a minimalist lifestyle, in part due to necessity and in larger part as a result of the desire to live more congruently with the thoughts and feelings that were emerging from practicing a more holistic lifestyle.

I like who I am and the life I’ve carved out and it made me weary watching and being around others who seemed to not mind being slaves to their possessions and constantly “keeping up with the Joneses”; there’s a “never enough” feeling that comes from that drama. Unfortunately, the area where I live, and society at large, is so wrapped up in this “look at me” mentality.

My son will be moving on to college soon so the time has come to pare down even more, to downsize. At first I wondered if it was necessary. How could there possibly be less that I need or could use that still filled the spaces? But there is! It’s amazing what we hold on to. There are definitely things that remain “must keep”. I’m still evolving and some of my “things” hold memories too dear to part with yet (even though the thoughts and feelings are inside of me).

But aside from the material bits and baubles that will be edited out during this stage of life spring cleaning, I’m finding that a de-cluttering of the mind has become part of the process. This mental cleanse is sort of a detox for the soul. I think because we assign so much meaning to our possessions, letting them go is also a way of letting go of limiting beliefs about ourselves and also a way of examining self-defeating behaviors (what was I thinking buying purple velvet pants?). Often, we fill our spaces with pretty this ‘n that’s to take up empty feelings, to stave of boredom or even to replace the people who are no longer present. Our clutter, especially our mental clutter, is sort of a barrier that distracts us from taking on new challenges and becoming who we are really meant to be.

It’s utterly liberating to unburden one’s self of the things that no longer serve or define who we are. And that’s really the point; material possessions shouldn’t define us.

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

~ Lao Tzu