Making the Impossible Possible

What drives you to create and innovate beauty into your life experience? Do you consider yourself a person on a mission? Can you identify at least one thing that makes you light up on the inside so much so that once you engage in that activity you lose yourself in it? If you identify positively with any of these questions, then you are a fortunate person, because you have likely experienced the super power of activating your passion-drive. And as renowned coach, author and researcher Brad Stulberg says, “One of the best feelings in the world is losing your attachment to yourself.”

Human beings are so made that whenever anything fires the soul, impossibilities vanish. A fire in the heart lifts everything in your life.

The Maxwell Daily Reader

I get lost in my passion-drive when I go for long training runs. Or when I sit down to write something meaningful for myself or others to read. While I enjoy losing myself in both of these activities, the goals I have in mind for myself during the activity can sometimes leave me gasping for air…literally and creatively speaking. Even though setting goals is a vital task towards goal achievement, having strong attachments to goal outcomes may often take us to the lands of disenchantment. It is during those times of shortcomings, that we may find our selves despairing if we identify to strongly with the outcome. If we believe that achieving is the ultimate end and reward of our striving, we may give up on ourselves too soon. If we believe that failure is to be avoided at all costs, then the beauty of our striving is stripped of its value to strengthen us in becoming better, more compassionate versions of our selves. So this is why holding our driving desires (goals) loosely is assistive as we journey towards our prize. At least this is what I have discovered.

“In short, when your goal is simply to get better, you set yourself up for a lifetime relationship with your passion, which no longer becomes something you do but rather someone you are. It’s a relationship that can withstand the gravest failures, the greatest successes, and the passage of time itself. For many of the most passionate people, getting better is about becoming stronger, kinder, and wiser.

-Brad Stulberg

While in my goal-driven modes I have found it very helpful to detach myself from the outcomes of any given day’s drive. I have the goal in mind when I begin, but as I go along, if I focus to strongly on an outcome, this mindset blinds me to the joy of the day’s journey and makes obstacles of every interruption which stunt my energy and creative flow. I cannot flow in my activity if I am holding tight to that thing I believe must achieve. However, when I am able to set aside my need to acquire those things I’m chasing, and instead transition my mind towards stillness of purpose, I find myself bobbling along in peaceful bliss-drive. Whether I run or write, I am learning to settle into myself, into my breathing, into my non-thinking and non-judging state of being. It is from this place of quiet streaming that my consciousness (or rather my sub-consciousness) is given wings to escape the cages of impossibilities. In this place of all knowing quietness, this is where I find confidence to believe in my dreams. In this place of streaming consciousness, I am what I am moving towards. So whether I am accumulating miles or word counts, my passion-drive propels me onward towards the promised land of beautiful possibilities.

“I think part of what allowed me to accomplish what I did on Sunday is just always looking forward to the future, so there wasn’t the pressure that this was the end-all-be-all for me. I have no idea where my running career at this level is going to go and where the story is going to end. Maybe the best is yet to come. It’s a beautiful and exciting thing to get up every day and see what I can do.”

Keira D’Amato – new American women’s record holder in the marathon distance (January 2022).


Who are you?

Are you what you eat? Nutritionists tell you this is so. Are you what you feel? Modern psychology says you are not your feelings. Are you what you say? Can we trust ourselves enough to tell our own truth? Are you what you do? Our capitalistic economies depend on us to identify ourselves by the things we do with our money. Or, are you what you think? Have you ever stopped to listen to what you are telling yourself about yourself? You should try it some time. Listening…to the dialog. You may have to sneak up on yourself, and pretend like you’re eves dropping on someone else’s conversation, but take some minutes in any given day to be quiet and alert to your inner dialog. Then notice how you feel about yourself after listening to your own talking thoughts.

“Remember first that everything you think, say, and do is a reflection of what you’ve decided about yourself; a statement of Who You Are; an act of creation in your deciding who you want to be.

Neale Donald Walsch

Do you have warm, accepting feelings about the YOU of your thinking? Or do you disdain and belittle the person, the YOU of your thinking? Do you realize YOU are the author of your life’s story? Can you wrap your mind around this truth: WHAT you think about yourself is WHO you become? Is it time for you to re-write your script?

In my profession as a personal trainer, people pay me to help them reconfigure their bodies. But what my clients may not be aware of, is that I am also training them to pay attention to their mind via what they are thinking and feeling…especially, what they are thinking about before and after they exercise. If a client thinks she can or cannot achieve the fitness goal she has set for herself, then I guarantee that she most certainly will achieve what she is believing about herself.

What you think means more than anything else in your life. More than what you earn, more than where you live, more than your social position, and more than what anyone else may think about you. Every problem introduces you to yourself. It shows you how you think and what you’re made of.”

George Matthew Adams

A very important part of my training program is to teach my clients how to be their very own best cheerleader.  When I am with them, I encourage them, with positive words, stories and suggestions to help them understand that they have the power to change a negative health behavior into a positive healthful habit. To make change in our life is just one choice away. But to choose one thing, means we must drop the other thing, the old thing, the old way. An exchange must be made, like the passing of a baton. To execute change one must first choose…to let go…to stop doing, or thinking or saying and believing those things that no longer serve our well-being.

Mind is everything; muscle–pieces of rubber. All that I am, I am because of my mind.

Paavo Nurmi, Finnish Olympian who won nine gold medals

When I am working with my clients, I hope to become a part of their changing landscape, a new voice in their head. If they spend enough time with me I have noticed these changes taking place in their life. It is often a slow, sometimes imperceptible process, but choice making and taking always induces change in their life-scape. Thinking becomes believing. Believing becomes being. The mind is the master, not the servant, of the body.

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

— Thomas Jefferson

Everyone feels lost and out of sorts in life from time to time. This is a natural by-product  of the human experience. Since we will deal with difficulties as long as we inhabit our physical body, perhaps we should consider our trials as benefactors in disguise. What if we turned our thinking around? What if we chose to think of those things we don’t like about our self or our life as gifts to help us discover who we really are or who we really want to be? What if we changed our perspective about our upsets or short comings? What if the challenges or frustrations of life were viewed as our soul’s clanging clarion call for recognition? for refreshment? for authentic, loving change?

Consider that your learning goal is the ongoing pursuit of a lifetime of consistent physical movement and self-care. If you are going to be successful staying physically active and taking care of yourself, you need to learn strategies that will enable you to prioritize your plans and be consistent, flexible, and creative as you learn to incorporate physical activity into the rest of your dynamic, ever-changing life. The strategy of beginning with the end in mind asks you to take the long view: Your goal is lifelong behavior change, and that’s what you want to keep in mind ~ always.

Michelle Segar ~ No Sweat

Now tell me again: Who are you?


Do Difficult Things that Force Engagement

By Steve Magness from TheGrowtheq.com

I remember the comment clearly. I was lying on the ground, drained of all energy, exhausted, unable to get up. My legs were a mixture of on fire and full of lead. I wanted to puke.

“Your parents haven’t felt what you are feeling for 30+ years, if ever.”

It was an odd comment. We were at the track, absolutely spent after a session of 400m repeats, and my coach at the time, Jon Warren, made the comment to fill the space as he awaited the handful of us who were there regaining consciousness so that we could first stand up, then cool down to finish our workout. As my brain regained oxygen, Warren’s comment sunk in; it’s one that has stuck with me for years, because it was true then, and had greater implications now.

“When you’re done with competing and just enjoying running, don’t stop doing hard workouts.” This piece of advice came years later from a good friend and author David Epstein. I believe his point was this: as something moves from a pursuit where we are trying to get better to something we do just for health and fun, we often neglect the really difficult parts. We go jogging every day. We forget the gut-busting interval sessions. We default to the pleasant and easy.

This isn’t an article about remembering to do intervals, it’s about the value of doing something hard.

Hard things bring a flood of experiences. The feeling you get provides intensity, depth, and nuance. You feel the difference between local pain in your quads—be it burning or numbness—the queasiness of your stomach, and the effect a CO2 overload has on your priorly clear mind. You get a rush of hormones, from those that lift you up to those which contribute to anxiety to those that make you motivated, numb the pain, and feel euphoric. You feel what it’s like to be locked-in, in the zone, or on the flip side how to navigate distraction and discomfort.

It doesn’t have to be running until exhaustion. We get a similar rush of various experiences when we give our full effort and attention to sculpting, writing, mastering an instrument, or taking on much better opponents in the latest video game that we’ve fallen for. Each experience brings its own unique cascade of feelings, emotions, and hormones, but the experience of doing something challenging, something that pushes our limits, is immense.

We are forced to deeply experience what it means to be engaged in the moment. Doing difficult things brings value. Especially in a distracted world.

Perhaps the world’s most notable expert on myth and ancient mystical traditions, Jospeh Campbell, was once asked by PBS’s Bill Moyers if he’s ever had a mystical peak experience. His response was that he had been privileged to have a few. They all occurred while running all-out repeats on the track. 

This is pure conjecture, but I often wonder if when we don’t take David Epstein’s advice to keep on doing interval workouts, or we fall for coach Warren’s prediction, that we end up searching for something that comes with that flood of feelings, hormones, and engagement. We yell and troll people on facebook and Twitter to feel something (anger with a hit of adrenaline). Or we fall into a bit more productive habit of adopting the latest fad of plunging into ice water every morning. We feel invigorated. Well, it’s something hard, that causes a stress response and forces engagement. Are there health benefits beyond that? Maybe, but doubtful.
 
I think it’s part of our nature, the need to feel that flood of hormones, sensations, and feelings. And I think it’s important that it comes in something we choose to do, that we have control over. After all, we’ve got enough difficult things in our life (work, COVID, etc.), but most of that we have no control over. That doesn’t give us the same effect of hard intervals or even plunging into freezing water.

I prefer hard things that come with tangible benefits besides just being hard, and ones that I enjoy, even if only in a “type-2” fun kind of way: running a weekly hard workout, trying to wrestle with difficult topics and turn them into books, deep conversations on tricky topics with friends, and so forth.

The point is this: whatever your thing is, I think it’s important to be intentional about having something that is difficult in your life and that you have control over.


Being the Light in 2022

Like a moth attracted to the fire’s flame, so too am I attracted to life’s brilliant lights whenever or wherever they appear out of my darkness. Have you not noticed how your soul is profoundly nourished in response to an encounter with beauty…whatever its form or fashion? The light of our soul seems to send out S.O.S. messages to the corners and crevices of our private habitations in the universe…in an effort to connect our life’s love-light…with that of the others. All of us together and still alone…living as though lost in darkness, we search for the beauty of soul-light where ever we go. To exist in humanity, is to hunger and thirst for the rightness of beauty’s light.

There are times when everything seems cloaked in darkness. You long for the light but don’t know where to find it. But what if you are the light? What if you are the very agent of illumination that a dark situation begs for?

Elizabeth Gilbert

It seems to me, that as we inhabit our lives we find ourselves naturally attracted to and desireous of all things beautiful. Is it not the mother tongue of our inmost being? Beauty, when encountered in its many realms, produces a visceral, immediate reflexive inhale of AWE. And wonder of wonders, beauty is as beauty does. It exists without regard for preference or desire. It is the soul’s defining north star. It is the purest embodiment of truth that is not easily fathomed or defined. It is unadulterated, unmanifest perfection. When I consider how to become the best me I might be, I look to the beauty of nature, the beauty of true love, and the beauty of light shining itself strong into the darkness, and then I know; beauty’s truth draws me forward into the next right thing.

The main thing to know is that there are forces within us that want to enslave us to patterns of thinking, feeling, speaking

and behaving that lead us just about anywhere other than lives of goodness. Sometimes a person has to suffer, sometimes terribly, to choose not to let their inner Pharaoh ruin their lives any further. Some people, sadly, never learn.

Rabbi Mordecai Finley

So here I sit, on January 1, 2022, contemplating and wondering what this year holds for myself and all those in my little world. It is tempting to look and perceive a future full of more uncertainty and gloom. It is tempting to believe that our collective soul-lights are smoldering themselves into deeper night. And yet, when I think or feel these dark thoughts, I am reminded, rebuffed, and revived by the light of my own soul’s shining light. The answer to our darkness dwells in our very own presence. Our each and every source to beauty’s life force burns brightest when we decide to let it shine through our brokenness; our own broken thinking and ways of being. A soul’s light shines because it is designed to do so. And a soul’s beauty is shrouded only when it chooses to dis-believe in its own beauty. The soul, mine and yours, is beautiful simply because it IS!

So where is the light at the end of our collective tunnel? Is it possible for all of our dimming lights to shine bright, as one for all? May we then, each one decide, to choose, to remember and to act today, and every day hereafter, as though we are THE LIGHTS in the tunnels of dark! Let’s try, shall we…as we may not even have every one of the 365 opportunities ahead of us to perfect this work. May we agree to endeavor to become what we already are and let our soul’s beauty shine like never before? Shall we muster forward and shine like beautiful light-cutting sabers, slicing through the depths of despair, from our insides out? If each one of us could muster our courage, what a beautiful world we might create.

You are not here to waste your time deciding whether my life is true and beautiful enough for you. You are here to decide if your life, relationships, and world are true and beautiful enough for you. And if they are not and you dare to admit they are not, you must decide if you have the guts, the right–perhaps even the duty–to burn to the ground that which is not true and beautiful enough and get started building what is.

Glennon Doyle

13 Rules For Life

From the Growth Equation Newsletter by Brad Stulberg

The secret is there is no secret. What follows are 13 rules—supported by ancient wisdom and modern science—to help you feel better and be better.

Move your body. Aim for at least 30 minutes every day. More is better. Walk. Run. Lift weights. Dance. Garden. If possible, do some of this outdoors. Whatever you do, don’t try to be a hero, lest you’ll wind up injured. Start small. Consistent effort compounds over time; inertia is real and it works in both directions.

Eat whole foods. Avoid stuff that comes wrapped in plastic. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Pick one to three habitual eating patterns that aren’t great and upgrade them.

Build community. The people with whom you surround yourself shape you. Being super productive is fine, but not if it crowds out time for cultivating relationships. Most people feel best in a tribe. It’s our nature.

Care deeply. The things you care about will break your heart. That’s fine. Keep caring. Stay in the arena. The depth of your life is directly proportional to the depth of your caring.

Hold pain tenderly. When it hurts, be kind to yourself. If you can’t, call upon your community and let them be your life boat.

Give help. We’re all in this together. What comes around goes around.

Get help. We’re all in this together. What comes around goes around. (Also: good therapy helps everyone.)

Stay on the path. Know your core values. These are the tenets you want to embody, the ways in which you wish to live your life. Let them serve as your guideposts.

Fall off the path. Mess up. Because you are a human.

Get back on the path. Do not judge yourself too harshly, but learn from your mistakes. Go to the place you fell off and start walking again.

Be patient. It’s a nine-inning game. We often think we’re in the bottom of the seventh when we’re really only in the top of the third.

Accept what is—and keep going anyways. Somewhere between burying your head in the sand and pollyanna delusion is wise hope. That’s the place to be.

Sleep when you’re tired. Machines are hard. Humans are soft. These are facts.

— Brad


A Living Practice

We’ve all heard the addage ‘practice makes perfect’ and further itterations state that ‘practicing perfectly makes perfect’. In the realm of our health and fitness practices, these pithy sayings point us to the principle of enduring sustainability. So many times our personal approach to exercise and nutrition resembles a mish-mash of practicing or following the latest trends for exercise and diet programing. It’s no wonder we get lost and burned out trying to perfect our well-being when we chase after ever-change models of wellness. Is there a better way to ‘perfectly practice’ for the outcomes we desire in our health?

According to Terry Patten, author of The New Repbublic of the Heart, knowing what matters most to you and having the courage to pursue it is a good start, but it’s not enough. He posits that you must act on your choices, your values over and over again. He believes you’ve got to “make a practice” out of living.

He writes that life satisfaction is a byproduct of transitioning from being a seeker, or someone who wants a certain lifestyle, to a practitioner, or someone who lives that lifestyle day in and day out. “Practice,” Patten writes, “is about waking up again and again, and choosing to show up in life in alignment with one’s highest intelligence,” or what matters most.

So the question for ourselves today is: What practice am I perfecting? In regards to my health? In regards to my stated goals for improved fitness? Today, what choices am I making and what behaviors am I reinforcing? Are my actions supporting my values, my beliefs, my goals? Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. Patten writes, “A whole life of regular, ongoing practice is necessary. We are always reinforcing the neural circuits associated with what we are doing. Whatever way we are being, we’re more likely to be that way in the future. This means we are always practicing something.”

This knowledge behooves us to live our practice with actions that support the values we have identified as foundational to our well-being and well-living. How do we accomplish these value oriented goals over so many tomorrows? I think we can make it simple for ourselves, by simply making our practice the practice of living…authentically, thoughtfully, whole-heartedly.


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?

deb-5k-heritage-park-e1563302834584.jpg

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.

 

 


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 conquer 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


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