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.

 


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.


Of Fire and Ice

Today marks six weeks.
Six weeks ago I took to bed a pounding headache,
Six weeks ago I awoke in a firey furnace.

But today, like so many days recently passed,
I awoke with gratefulness.
Not just because my health is much improved,
But because the remnants of my affliction
Reverberate still within me.

And with each new day I find a way,
To embrace the scrappy reminders with affection.
Like glowing embers after the inferno’s blaze,
The crackling sparks remind, remand, revive;
Jolting consciousness to awaken!

Wake Up!
To gratitude in gratefulness,
To acceptance in peacefulness,
To mystery in wonderment,
To strength in weakness,
To growth in restfulness.

Today marks six weeks.
Six weeks of persisting amidst the refiner’s fire.
Six weeks of re-learning, re-remembering, re-renewing!
Six weeks of gifting, receiving, and growing through it all;
Six weeks later, fully awake, fully alive!

 

Never fear the moments
you imagine will FREEZE you:
unexpected blasts of cold
can be what DRAWS you nearer
to the FLAME of His love.

Darn the COLD.

Thank God for the FIRE.

Welcome to the CLUB
of those braving the cold blasts
in a thousand DAILY ways. 

Every one of US,
in one HURTING WAY or another,
is in this CLUB.

The grace that’s in this MOMENT
is your MANNA.

Wish for the past
and you drink POISON.

Worry about the future
and you eat FIRE.

Stay in this MOMENT
and you eat the MANNA
needed for NOW.

The Way of Abundance ~ Ann Voskamp

grow through


There’s a lot of happiness in this world that depends on being brave enough to keep working when it’d be easier to quit. Nothing good gets started without getting to work —and nothing great gets finished without staying at the work.
The Way of Abundance ~ Ann Voskamp


Endurance is not just the ability to bear a difficult thing, but to turn it into glory.
William Barclay


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Endure


EXCELLENCE IS NOT RANDOM.

It is also more than a short-term ambition, accident, or accomplishment.

It is developed by design and achieved by setting and tenaciously pursuing high, competitive goals.

The greatest champions in history have all had a long-range vision and plan of what they wanted to accomplish in tandem with a complete daily devotion to their specialization.

Having daily or weekly improvement goals to meet will help ensure that you are always working right.

Stay focused on performing daily acts of excellence in the face of temptations to get sidetracked.

The Champion’s Mind ~ Jim Afremow, PhD


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FROM: LET YOUR MIND RUN by DEENA KASTOR

At the core of many of his stories was a distinction between success and excellence. Success was “having“: money, awards, status. Excellence was “being“: living your values, having them guide your daily life. Pursue excellence, Coach (Joe Vigil) would say, and success will follow.


Philippians 4:8 (NIV ~ Bible)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.


 

In Pursuit


Going All Out

I’m back! Back to running that is. I’m almost afraid to make such a public announcement, afraid I’ll jinx myself, because I’ve been away from my running self for well over a year. That my slump coincided with the passing of my mother is understandable, on an intellectual and emotional level, of course.

But on the physical and cognitive level, I could not accept that this once happy activity flat-lined without my permission. While I faithfully moved my legs on the treadmill, I could not muster the desire to go outside for runs around town. Something had changed for me and my running life. I do not know when or why or how I lost my happy running self. All I know was this: that girl was long gone! And she left me to run alone!

I eventually came to terms with the change, and I settled into a solitary routine which moved my body, but not my spirit. I accepted the fact that I was doing my body good even though I wasn’t experiencing the familiar endorphin rush. I entered 5K and 10K races here and there throughout the passing months, but more and more I felt like I was running in someone else’s body. I continued to run because I could, but I was lost, disconnected from by best self.

During those long months, I found solace by reading about running, or about famous runner athletes; I read about sports psychology and the power of the mind to enhance performance. All these things kept my head and heart in the sport. Most importantly, reading about running gave me hope…hope that I would eventually rediscover my focus, my muse, my love for happy running in the near future.

And then as providence would have it, this past January, an email appeared in my inbox. It’s subject line singularily suggestive and ultimately sinister:

Apply Today for the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon

What sort of a joke was this? I don’t run marathons! Why did those people from New York send me this email. I almost deleted the email without opening it. And I’m not sure why I even felt compelled to open it. But I did. And before I could think the whole thing through, I actually found myself applying for the marathon entry raffle. It took me less than two minutes to complete my registration. With one final push of the SUBMIT button, I became a player. What did I have to lose? Nothing!

More importantly, what did I have to gain? First and foremost in my mind, I would have to schedule a trip to New York City for sure. A trip to the place of my birth, which of course I have always wanted to visit since I was raised on the west coast of southern California from the age of 2 onward.

But wait, if I won an entry, that meant I would need to TRAIN to complete a marathon: 26.2 miles of running in one day! I’ve heard myself say out loud, on many occations, and often in mixed company, that running a marathon is a crazy, over-rated amount of running to ask a body, especially MY BODY, to do! Good grief, what had I done? What was I thinking? I had potentially committed myself to run a marathon! 26.2 MILES! Oh my, that was and still is a frightening thought. But wait, what are the chances of my winning an entry? 1 in 16,000! HA! No worries…I am not that lucky. But what if I am?

If I am that lucky, then there is no time to lose! I can not waste a month, or any months, of unfocused running because 26.2 miles is a very long way! Wait a minute…I signed up to run a Marathon? Well, no… not just yet. That happens later. I would have a month of anxious waiting to do before I would know the outcome of the raffle.

You can probably predict the outcome of my raffle entry. However, I will not spoil that story in this post. In the meantime, though, you should know that during the days of waiting for the raffle announcment, I was pretending to be a runner again. I was running and pretending to train for a Marathon. And while I was pretending, a funny thing happened along the way…I met and found my happy running self again.

And I think I like this new, updated version of me. The reluctant marathon girl. I think I like what she has become; what she has done for me. She has given me a purpose for running. She has given me a goal to aim towards; she has renewed my focus which I thought I had lost for good. She has given me a reason to run (achieve) and a distance (fear) to overcome. Yippee! I have met my hero, and alas she is me!

Now all I need is a plan…but first, I will need to run…did I mention I’ve never run 26.2 miles at once…EVER?

Even though I may never know what propelled me to submit that fateful lottery entry, I am so very glad I did, because I’ve never felt so good, so alive since I’ve begun my training. I AM ALL IN! To be continued…

Nothing beats the inner peace of mind of knowing that you went all out with your best attitude and expended your full effort. Doing your best by discovering the borders of your physical limits is also your own true gauge of personal success.  Jim Afremow ~ The Champion’s Mind

 



Everything New

One week into 2018 and I am still thinking about the New Year and what I may accomplish in it and through it. And the idea of transformation and hope has persisted and continues to appear before my eyes in the things I’m reading and in the thoughts I’m thinking.

The hardest part is what to leave behind, … It’s time to let go!
– A. A. Milne (Winnie-The-Pooh)

To be transformed is to be made new, to be changed, to experience a metamorphosis; to become a new creation. Is this not the wonder and delight of crossing over into the New Year? This hope that the old things and old ways of doing things which don’t work will pass away, and the life and light of newness will attend us in the unfolding days of the new year.

When I let go of what I am,
I become what I might be.
– Lao Tzu

Why does the thought of a personal transformation so tickle my senses? Does it tickle you? Perhaps it tickles, perhaps it pings our collective intrigue because this is what we need…to be renewed, refreshed, revitalized!

Let’s touch everything we see
and change it to hope
Our hearts let’s change to flesh
No more stones of apathy for us!
Let’s look at everything that could be
believing it will be
if we dare
to walk on water
scared and hopeful.

Come, walk on the water with me!
Let’s wrap our fears in hope.
Across these waters we must go our lamps of courage high
Scared and hopeful we will go.
– 
Macrina Wiederkehr, O.S.B.

What needs transforming in my life? What needs changing? What needs to die so I may embrace a new way of being? Perhaps I need to learn a new way of relating? A new way of perceiving? A new way of communicating? A new way of loving?

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs;
ask yourself what makes you come alive.
And then go and do that.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
– Howard Thurman

It’s time isn’t it? Time to walk into the New Year with every expectation that I will be changed because I am ready. I am ready to be emptied so I may be filled again,  maybe even filled to overflowing with every good and needful thing. How about you? Will you go with me…will you walk out with me onto the waters of hope in 2018?


A New Year’s Conversation

Today is the first day of 2018; it is New Year’s day, and it seems everyone is eager to ask or know, “What is your New Year’s resolution?”  I have resigned myself (happily) to the fact that I will begin another New Year without a traditional ‘resolution’ in place. Perhaps I make too much ado about nothing, but my resolution resistance results from having carelessly made too many New Year’s resolutions in years past. I just feel over-aged (sensible, experienced) to be conned into making an order for change simply because the calendar page has flipped.

I acknowledge this practice is traditional and often considered a fashionable thing to do…making resolutions. And as such it does provide fodder for water cooler exchanges during the first weeks of the new year with those of whom we are acquainted. But in reality, the ‘new’ wears off most resolutions before month’s end. Surely there is a more effective mechanism for making long-standing change in one’s life which surpasses this conventional, seasonal system.

So what is our fascination with all things NEW? Why do new things beckon such hope in our psyche, as though all things are possible for us, personally and collectively…simply because we enter a New Year? Why do we give so much prestige to the beginning of things? A new relationship; a new material acquisition; a new skill learned; a new experience acquired. A new life born. A new season begun. Why is ‘new’ so appealing?

New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. Lao Tzu

Lest we forget that ‘new’ has a very limited shelf-life, perhaps we may better understand our attraction to ‘new things’ if we realize that our human nature is strongly wired to crave the rush of change and novel experiences. It is no wonder then, that we enjoy celebrating a New Year, and all new things, because in doing so we acknowledge and embrace NEW as a symbol of HOPE. And hope always expects that change will work in our behalf.

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning. Louis L’Amour

We see this cycle in the seasons of nature. One season gives way (dies) to usher in the new of the next season. And again, the dark of night transforms the new of day with the rising of the morning sun. Instinctively we know that ‘new’ equates to vitality and life force. The newborn infant screams this message loudly for all to hear: I am alive! I am viable! I am vital! I am ready to grow and to transform! And yet just minutes before the newborn’s birth, she was forcefully expelled from the womb of her first existence.

Now that I have finished this New Year’s conversation with you all, I feel a certain excitement creeping into my mind, my emotions and my thinking. I feel the desire to embrace this New Year, with all it’s propensity for change and uncertainty, with the lusty cry of a newborn babe! I have arrived! I am fully awakened to this new day in this new year! I am fully alive and equal to the coming challenges…fully prepared to experience this new season with eyes wide open…fully resolved to embrace hope through the months of this coming year…Happy New Year 2018! And Happy New Year to all who read this little blog post!

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. Henry Miller

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