Transformative Thinking

What’s my excuse? That’s the first thought in my head when I saw this picture and read the article about Cynthia Arnold. She just ran a marathon (3 hours, 11 minutes), pushing her three children in a stroller (a total weight of 185-lbs), and I don’t go outside for a short training run because I think it is too hot (or windy, or dark, or cold, or ???). My question to myself, was instantly answered by myself: “I have no excuse!” Next question to myself: “If you don’t have an excuse…get going!”

Really, I have no excuse for my lack of running these past six months (i.e. all of 2019)! All I have to do is put my shoes on, grab a bottle of water and a hat and shuffle myself out the door and down the street. Instead, most days I have to do mental gymnastics to entice myself to go outside (or onto the treadmill) to go for a run. I think my excuse is this: I believe every thought that comes into my head! And rather than wait for a change of season, I need to have a change of thinking. Clearly, this change needs a catalyst; and I am so grateful for the spark which ignited my motivation anew by Cynthia Arnold and her story which was recently published in Runner’s World.

When I consider how Cynthia runs and trains for her race events, all of a sudden I feel LIGHT, UN-ENCUMBERED, and UN-ATTACHED! Hello, I wake up to my life’s stage and remember that I have the privilege to run whenever or wherever I desire…day or night, hot or cold…summer or winter! True, my desire to run ebbs more than flows these days, but desire is not everything. What I think and believe about my desire or lack of desire is of primary importance. My lazy, weak thinking (and believing) becomes my very own cryptonite! As I think I am…I become. How can I transform my tired, lazy bread-crumb dragging thoughts into energenic, motivational running thoughts? Is transformational thinking a matter of choice? Or is something more mystical required?

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What alchemy may I invoke to jump start my lackluster motivation? Is it as simple as seeing someone like Cynthia doing an amazing thing and believing that the same is possible for myself? If I think those kinds of thoughts, and follow that trail of thinking like bread crumbs on the yellow brick running path, is it possible that I can transform my running, mind and body, in three months? or six months? Perhaps…and as you can see in the picture above, I am a runner striving to run her best…even with weak thinking! And yet, when I consider how important running is to me, and how much I want to better my running and enlarge my accomplishments, it is these kinds of thoughts which begin to make me feel like a runner again. These are the thoughts which make me feel empowered…motivated…energized. When I consider what I have accomplished in my running past, I am propelled to believe that any running goal which I desire strongly enough is indeed within the realm of possibility for me.

So I have to tell you, and I am certain you already know this truth: It is very hard, solitary work, to strive towards achieving something big for yourself! Living life to the full or overflowing is not for sissies or weaklings of spirit. And this is why I so appreciate the running community, near and far; because runners of every shape, size and ability engage the same challenges when aspiring to run their best, whether in training or racing. Clearly, what makes a runner successful, or anyone else for that matter, is the strength of one’s desire and the will to train one’s mind to master the doubts of doom or gloom.

I have worked hard, logged a lot of miles, and try every day to be grateful for my physical health. I always want to be faster, better, and place higher. I enjoy competing and even when I’ve met my arbitrary goal for a race, I always pick apart how I could have done it even better.  I’ve failed a lot in my races, but I don’t let the failures define me. Instead, I choose to be happy about what I can do.  Carissa Liebowitz

So in all of this writing to and for you, I hope to become a part of the alchemy which may energize each one of us towards transformative thinking and moving and acting. I hope thereby to encourage you, if you are at all struggling with soggy-bread-crumb thinking or lack-luster desire. I hope you will read the stories behind the lives of successful runners like Deena Kastor, Carissa Liebowitz, and Cynthia Arnold. Read their back stories and remember, they believed they could achieve great things for themselves…and they were not afraid to work hard and keep their focus steady.

When I see the pictures and read the stories of my running heroes, I think they suffer not as I do. I think my heroes, young or old, are immune to weak thinking and struggle not with lack of motivation, or strength or confidence. And then…they remind me; they tell their story and they remind me; they wake me up to myself and my life as only I may live it. They share their experiences and in doing so, they help transform me and my thinking. I take their thoughts, and add them to my warehouse, to my repertoire of running possibilities.

 

 


Dora’s Baton

We each have life’s race to run; in relay with all our others;
How will we finish? How will we know?
If our race was run well, that others might grow?
That others might grow into grace, joy and confidence…
Will my life, your life, make the transfer clear?
Will it at all, as we live each day, a difference make?
Will the ideals we hold close, of faith, hope, joy, and love…
Will these things pass well? Relay secure?
Will these connections be made…
Into their hands? Upon their feet? Into their hearts?
Will their lives pick up our pace?
Will their lives improve? Be challenged?
Those lives with whom we run life’s race?

To be sure of one thing, of this I am certain,
A runner runs best when she runs to her calling.
So give this race your all, my all too; and may we reflect often on this;
This relay race of life needs team mates devoted one to the other.
And while we run, while you run and I run too,
One more thing we might think or consider;
The baton, our baton, our life really,
Is lived best when lived and raced for the sake of the others.

For each race, each relay, each exchange we make,
Is a part of the whole scheme, whatever the take.
Yet more oft than not, we forget to enjoy,
Until we are done!
Yes, more oft than not, we forget to enjoy
Our race, your race, my race too,
Until it is done, and we are over the line,
That race, lost or won, forever in time!

And it seems true too, with the passing and crossing over of a life,
Only the cheering, weeping and rejoicing heard behind the line,
Reminds us again, so that we and all others might finally know,
How well our race, your race, my race was run;
Each wild and precious race, how was it run?

How will we know then, you wonder? This, today, is what I presently think:
That when we hand the baton of life over,
When it is gladly received by another runner,
Then we will know a life, a race, a baton, had meaning;
The baton received well, is recieved for the running!
Then we will know, a race first run with misgivings or fear,
Has transformed its runner with its passing, though how, it is unclear;
Then we will know, and perhaps understand, perceive,
Our baton held so dearly, must pass on to be received.
The baton must pass, and so do we; before an exchange of runners may proceed.

So now a request I make, and I make without further adieu,
The time to receive a baton is at hand, it’s true;
Receive the baton willing; and run with it fast;
Passed on from Dora, then on to you and to me;
Passed on for our learning; it’s time we receive.
Receive her baton, of faith, of joy and love for the others;
Receive her baton, take flight, not cover!
Receive it for life and all of those living!
Receive it from Dora, and all that it’s giving:
Wings for soaring, feet for running, breath for breathing,
Our baton, her baton, yours and mine too;
Carry it forward, for the next runner,
Carry it forward in strength, please do!

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!  ~Hebrews 12:1-3 The Message (MSG)

In Memory of Dora C: For all those who knew and loved you…may they be encouraged to run their course, strong and true, following your good life as a pattern for their own. May they rejoice in the gift of knowing you and receive your baton with happiness to run their race…towards the Beloved One.

 


Aging…It’s Not About Getting Older

It’s about getting better…about becoming more valuable…about becoming exquistely useful and sought after. Like a fine wine, aging well requires each of us to embrace the passing of days as our very own priceless gift.

Aging is an activity. It is something you do, not something that happens. When you age–active verb–you are proactive. If you really age, you become a better person. If you simply grow old, passively, you get worse. Chances are, you will be unhappy as you continue the fruitless fight against time.
Thomas Moore ~ Ageless Soul

Surely each new day given, whether we believe and receive it as such, is a gift. Rather than perceiving the days as pushing us towards old age, we may turn our perception inside out when we wake up to the alchemy of fine-life making. Every day provides possibility for growth and improvement.

And now I have to wonder…is a life well-aged meant to benefit myself alone? Or is a well-aged life more closely related to the fine wine analogy? After all, does a fine wine delight the one who drinks or abstains? Likewise, if we purpose to age well through our years, will we not only benefit ourselves but also pleasure those others with whom we share our days?

Active aging promotes the vision of all individuals—regardless of age, socioeconomic status or health—fully engaging in life within all seven dimensions of wellness: emotional, environmental, intellectual/cognitive, physical, professional/vocational, social and spiritual.
Source: International Council on Active Aging

So I say this to myself and my readers: do not be afraid of growing old…be afraid of going through the years and changing not for the better. The passing of days is opportunity to become a better version of me and you. Every new day is our gift, if only we receive it as such. Let’s engage the wonder and delight of youthfulness by unwrapping today with wide-eyed, expectant delight!


Let’s Run

It’s a blustery, winter weather kind of day today; and I’m glad for it. It’s December 2nd, and I’ve waited all summer long for this kind of day to give me an honest excuse for not going outside to run! So today I will honor the weather and this season. Today I will sit and stay…indoors…happily…with nowhere to run and nothing better to do than rest, read and rejuvenate. Funny thing is, while I sit, I am still thinking about running and of course…not running!

run clip art

So it seems appropriate that while I’ve been contemplating the benefits of my run life, and while resting my ever-ready-to-run legs, I should find refreshment for myself and my feet. What follows, is what has found me this morning…while I have been sitting. The quotes below, inspired by the run lives of others known and unknown to myself, will hopefully also inspire you, dear reader, to actively embrace your run life as a ‘moving-meditation’. May the thoughts which follow, give you reason, motivation, and inspiration to run the race of your life with heart and sole.

Now go forward in today and in today’s tomorrows. Go forward if you will and hold nothing of yourself in reserve! Live out loud, run out strong. Embrace your life in faithful answer to your calling…full of grace and strength and conviction!
Finish strong ~ Finish Well

run clip art

We were meant and designed to run long and hard. Training for that is not an imposition, not artificial, not unnatural. It is in the essence of our being.
Roger Robinson

Whatever you do, do it well; go at it hard; 100 percent. Tiger Holmes ~ 90 year old master’s swimming competitor

Running doesn’t get easier with age, but the payoffs grow greater.  Amby Burfoot – Run Forever

Growing old is one of the ways the soul nudges itself into attention to the spiritual aspect of life. The body’s changes teach us about fate, time, nature, mortality, and character. Aging forces us to decide what is important in life. Thomas Moore – Care of the Soul

In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say ‘I have finished.’ And there is a whole life’s worth of satisfaction in that. Author Unknown


There is only a shortage of awareness…

The root of suffering is the deprivation of love. Now in reality, there’s no such thing as the deprivation of love, but there is the deprivation of the capacity to experience the love that is never missing. James Finley

There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. Vincent Van Gogh

By its very design, the physical heart is made to give and to receive. It takes blood in from the body through one side and then pumps it out from the other, circulating it throughout the body. A healthy and open heart center does the same thing with love. It sends love out into the world and receives it in equal measure; it keeps love in circulation. Marci Shimoff

Your True Self is who you are, and always have been, created in the image and likeness of God who is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Love is both who you are and who you are still becoming, like a sunflower seed that becomes its own sunflower.

Most of human history has called the True Self your “soul” or your participation in the eternal life of God. All you can do is nurture your True Self, which is saying quite a lot. It is love becoming love in this unique form called “me.”  Richard Rohr

Love is but the song we sing,
And fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Know the dove is on the wing
And you need not know why
C’mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev’rybody get together
Try and love one another right now
Some will come and some will go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moments sunlight
Fading in the grass
C’mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev’rybody get together
Try and love one another right now
If you hear the song I sing,
You must understand
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command
C’mon people now,
Smile on your brother
Ev’rybody get together
Try and love one another right now
Right now
Right now!

No Shortage of This…Love


I am proud of my Oracle Community…and of those who serve it via the Oracle Community Center! Thank you for your giving-ness to others…not only during this Thanksgiving season, but also throughout the entirety of this past year! Your giving hands and servant’s heart will surely grow a harvest of blessings for all who dwell here. DEBreen

The whole universe story has come into being because God is a hidden treasure who longs to be known. If it takes a whole village to raise a child, it takes a whole cosmos to bear forth the depths of divine love. Cynthia Bourgeault

What if there were a way of radical grace and truth through a post-Christian landscape? It could lead us to prioritize the breaking of bread with people, the breaking of cynicism to give thanks, the daily gift of being broken and given to the people around us. What if the body of Christ recaptured its vision? Recaptured its vision as the only collective in the WORLD that exists for its NON-MEMBERS!

What if the body of Christ became a community that lives its calling to such offensive grace that it looks like we’re soft on truth, routinely accused of being gluttons and drunkards because the King of our kingdom lived around addicts, prostitutes, and shady tax collectors, the broken-down, the busted-up, and the religiously disdained. And He never once explained Himself, only continually gave of Himself.

What if the body of Christ became a community that will not dish out condemnation but courage, that will lean in and listen long and love large. What if the body of Christ defines success as showing up and bending down, serving well over debating well, serving after the lights go off because there’s a light in us?  Ann Voskamp ~ The Way of Abundance

God wants creation to become fully conscious that it is imbued with divine love and living in that love. This final outcome is what Teilhard called “the Omega Point” and St. Paul called the Pleroma.  Louis Savary and Patricia Berne

I am running, consuming breath, consuming wind, yet I am renewed!
For the love of living whisks me into mystery; into possibility
;
So onward as pursued and pursurer I pleasure…Love!
And the mystery I perceive when I run?
There is no end…Love…there is no
end!

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Love Bears Witness


I’m still on an emotional ‘high’ after finishing my first marathon (Marine Corps Marathon) on Sunday, October 28, 2018. The following words from these others capture perfectly the waves of emotion I am riding to the shores since crossing that line.

“there’s something about the marathon. whether you’re running against the clock, against your previous self, in memory of someone you love, to celebrate or fight against cancer, to prove to yourself what you can do—it’s all about love.” CarlySheree 2018 NYC Marathon finisher

The day will come when, after harnessing space, winds, the tide and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, [humanity] will have discovered fire. Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)

Love [people] even in [their] sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Love and is the highest love on earth. Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.  Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“When you don’t challenge yourself, you miss out on so much.”
Denise Sauriol ~ Chicago-based running coach (the marathon whisperer)

“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree”.
Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

“What do I want my one life to really be about? What you most want is what you most love. And what you love is what you’ll ultimately have for all eternity”.  Ann Voskamp

“They say a good love is one that sits you down, gives you a drink of water, and pats you on top of the head. But I say a good love is one that casts you into the wind, sets you ablaze, makes you burn through the skies and ignite the night like a phoenix; the kind that cuts you loose like a wildfire and you can’t stop running simply because you keep on burning everything that you touch! I say that’s a good love; one that burns and flies, and you run with it!”
C. JoyBell C.

Catch me if you can…Love!
I am running, yet you pursure me..Love!
For the love of living does chase me down with relentless passion.
This one and only life I have been given, it demands to be fully liven!
So to the full I will live it, I will love it! I will run it!
And with overflowing gratitude will I give it.
I am running, consuming breath, consuming wind, yet I am renewed!
For the love of living whisks me into mystery; into possibility
;
So onward as pursued and pursurer I pleasure…Love!
And the mystery I perceive when I run?
There is no end…Love…there is no
end!
DEBreen

Love Wins


Showing Up…Is the Reward

I have never run a ‘race pace’ so slow in all the races I have entered in the last five years. But I have never felt more accomplished than I do now 9 days after completing my first marathon.  If you have read any of my previous blog posts from the past several months, you will know how meaningful this marathon finish is to me. I am exceedingly grateful and supremely amazed that I was able to convince my legs to keep moving for 26.2 miles non-stop for five and a half hours. Clearly, the body is able if the mind is willing and believing!

“All you need is the courage to believe in yourself and put one foot in front of the other.” — Kathrine Switzer

As a personal trainer, many of my clients had no doubt I could accomplish this distance to completion. But I had other thoughts and beliefs about my ability; thoughts that could not comprehend such an accomplishment. Giving attention to those kinds of thoughts did not make a finish line seem likely in my future. I did not like thinking those kinds of thoughts nor did I like the way those thoughts made me feel. They made me feel impotent in my striving; they made me feel foolish for desiring such a goal for myself; those lousy negative thoughts took away my joy. And whenever I caught myself in that downward spiral, I got mad and made myself wake up to change the channel of my thinking.

“You don’t need to do twenty-five squats today to build your quad muscles. You need to think five positive thoughts about your motivations for running, fitness, and lifelong health. Because it’s not the quads that will get your legs moving, it’s the thoughts.” –Amby Burfoot

Clearly, the work before race day had already been done in my physical training. And as the calendar pages flipped closer to my marathon, I realized the greatest obstacle I would face would be my own thinking thoughts. So there was nothing else for me to do except give myself permission to think thoughts about all those things that could and would go right for me during the marathon.

I remember now, how those kinds of thoughts felt like such a luxury to me during the race…truly like the wind beneath the wings of my feet. Astonishment was my traveling companion in those last six miles to the finish…how was it possible to arrive at this distance feeling so exhilarated and and so grateful?

I have never before known such personal determination. And yet, I know there were so many others who gave me assistance on my way to the finish line…of this I am most gratefully certain! Between the cheering spectators on the course and at home, I sit here today, nine days later amazed. Amazed that I moved my legs for more than fifty-two thousand consecutive steps to cross a finish line I set out to concur more than nine months ago…my first marathon finish. What an honor and privilege it is to run this race we call life!

MCM 2018 finish

Deb (#679) finishing the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon

“Life is for participating, not for spectating.”
― Kathrine Switzer


Do Not Ever Be Afraid Of Ashes

What seems like Ashes in your life
Can be the actual fertilizer
that grows your life.
Souls grow most in soil
Made rich by Ashes.

Fire makes a fertilizer for growth, and
Ashes can be the best soil for
The best soul growth — period.

That flame of
the Unexpected,
the Unwanted,
the Unnerving,
that can make
Kindling of your life,
that disaster that burns up
Your people
and burns down
Your dreams?

What you can’t explain in your life
Could be explained as gift.

The Way of Abundance ~ Ann Voskamp

Authentic God experience always “burns” you, yet it does not destroy you (Exodus 3:2-3), just as the burning bush revealed to Moses. But most of us are not prepared for such burning, nor even told to expect it. By definition, authentic God experience is always “too much”! It consoles our True Self only after it has devastated our false self.  —Richard Rohr

From Ashes to Growth


Above All Else – Focus

SEEK TO PLEASE ME above all else.
Let that GOAL be your FOCAL POINT as you go through this day.
Such a mind-set will protect you
from scattering your ENERGY to the winds.
Jesus Calling ~ Sarah Young

Above all else…this is a high standard! Seeking to please HIM! In EVERYTHING! This means I will think first on HIM and of HIM. I will consider my thoughts, my words, my actions..first…for His sake. This seems a most difficult, lofty task, and yet when I consider how being ‘in love’ with someone makes even hard things easy. Then after all, this does not seem such an extraordinary request…for myself or any of us others who claim to love and follow Jesus.

As I consider this appeal from the perspective of my running life, I acknowledge the value and power of keeping my focus. And as a runner, the finish line is a mighty enduring focal point. A finish line, any finish line really, provides immense purpose and drive to keep one’s momentum moving forward. And today, with this devotional reading appearing before my eyes, I am reminded again that the great I AM desires to be at the center of my focus: SEEK TO PLEASE ME ABOVE ALL ELSE!

This is an energetic goal to train towards, is it not? To give the Divine One our attention and preference? This goal alone can consume one’s entire life’s purpose. If ever I considered myself an ‘athlete’, how now would I train myself to succeed in achieving such an ambitious goal? What sort of athletic maneuvers does one perform to become strong towards this end…to seek His pleasure above all else? When I contemplate this imperative, perhaps this task is not too difficult when love is at its core.

Focus your attention on the path just ahead of you
and on the One who never leaves your side.
Jesus Calling ~ Sarah Young

To please the One who is above all and above all others simply requires my trusting focus; narrow my attention to the path just ahead. Never forget His promise, “I will be with you always”. Yes, of course, this makes perfect sense. Isn’t this what I do when I run a race or run a long distance? Isn’t this how I stay above the fray of defeating thoughts when I am weary and full of worry and feel faint. When I lose heart and breath, this is my sign to focus on the path just ahead…not a mile ahead…not 10 minutes ahead. Just focus on the present moment…just attend to the rhythm of my moving feet, beating heart, breathing lungs.

POUR ALL YOUR ENERGY into trusting Me.
It is through trust that you stay
connected to Me, aware of My Presence.
Jesus Calling ~ Sarah Young

When I consider my true reality, that I inhabit any present moment in the confines of time and eternity simultaneously, I wake up to my strength in the ETERNAL ONE, because I am body, soul, spirit. I felt that strength on Sunday last. I felt it while I was slogging through mile 13…mile 14…mile 15…the steps toward the end were painful indeed. BUT when I thought of the One who lives and moves in Me, of how time and eternity co-exist in ME, I felt energized and lifted up towards the object of my goal…the finish line. For those present moments, I was able to transcend the momentary discomforts of putting feet forward. When I focused on my present reality, my weakness became my strength because His presence gave vigor to my breath and joy to my pain.

And now you know what I know; now you know what kind of thoughts give me GO and FUEL my fire. These kinds of thoughts propel me towards a seemingly un-obtainable goal…running for 26.2 miles…in ONE DAY. These kinds of thoughts fueled me forward last Sunday; even though the thoughts sputtered and flickered off and on, in and out. These thoughts of the ONE…ABOVE ALL ELSE…nourished my flagging reserves.

To think of His Presence…in Me…beside Me…lifted me onward and upward into something like bliss. Those last miles taught me, educated me, via aches, pains and fears of every imagining, that ultimately all things are possible when a mind and heart are focused…ABOVE ALL ELSE!

Matthew 6:30-33 The Message (MSG)

30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.