Signs of Life…Being Alive

Our community chorale has been practicing Stephen Sondheim’s music “Being Alive” and the lyrics have completely imbedded in my head over these last two months. So much so, that I find myself wondering about what it means to ‘be alive’.

In terms of my personal training business, I train my clients to be fully alert so they may focus their attention on their working muscles and breath when they engage in their strength and cardiopulmonary training. An unfocused mind during an exercise session is a lot like sleep walking: the body is moving, but the mind has no awareness of it.

“The Glory of God is a human being fully alive.” Saint Irenaeus

Life is full of intriguing, wonderful mystery, begging us to live out loud and on purpose. Yet, for all our aliveness, we often take being alive for granted. The question which plagues me and begs for an answer is this: What does a life look like…feel like…when it is lived fully alive?

If living to the full brings glory to the One who gives us life to live, then surely we must have built into us a capacity, a drive, an overwhelming need to live in abundant, over-the-top alive-ness! And as I ponder these thoughts frequently these days, the words of Sondheim’s song give me some insight into what life looks like when it is less than fully lived:

Somebody hold me too close
Somebody hurt me too deep
Somebody sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive, being alive

Perhaps we choose to live less than fully alive because being fully alive is uncomfortable! And yet I know from my physical training, that if I want to improve my stamina or strength, then I must learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable for a while. Now, that’s a funny way of thinking isn’t it? Yet, ironically this is another tool in my trainer’s tool box. The principle of learning to be comfortable with discomfort is a tool which athlete’s ply every time they train their physical body to perform, whether in practice or in competition.

Interesting how this idea of becoming accustomed to discomfort is best realized in the sphere of  relationships. As in, how we relate to others, ourselves, and the Divine directly impacts the quality of our aliveness. Relationship is the humus of a life fully lived. Because being alone is alone…not alive!

being alive

Monday Morning Antidote

So here you are again Monday! A day to begin the work of this week. You always seem to bring with you clouds of gray and winds of worry. But today, on this Monday, I will turn you inside out and upside down.

I will remind myself that I AM lives! I will bask in that thought often today, when tempted to fret. I will wallow not in the usual Monday Morning Doldrums, but rather I will immerse  myself in the beauty and mystery of the living I AM.  Here is my new Monday Morning Anthem: In Christ Alone; an excerpt from the song lyrics written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Farewell to you Monday Morning Blues!

 

ROAR

So this is grief and grieving? It is a strenuous process!!

Sometimes…like today…

I just need to do this one little thing ~ ROAR…

Yes, I roar; then, I run!

But this one thing I do,
When I run and roar…
I run towards…not away;
I run towards my life!
I roar for the fight of my life!

I have a life! ROAR!

I run towards life to embrace it;
To embrace it with
All my strength,
And hope,
And passion.

I RUN! I ROAR!

I am…
Better.

Simple…Uncomplicated Greatness

Why do I love Simple? Shouldn’t be difficult to understand. Because Simple is easy. By it’s very nature, Simple does not pretend or enlarge itself. Simple is beautiful of its own accord. Simple does not require knowledge or wisdom to be enjoyed. In fact, Simple is often overlooked and underappreciated by those whom are highly trained, experienced or educated.

The satisfaction of Simple is in its accessibility to all. Babes and elders alike comprehend the triumph of Simple, wherever it is mindfully encountered. If we consider the realm of beautiful things found in nature or art or science or music or personal relationships, Simple exists  as pure, clean, expression. An appreciation for Simple is easily apprehended because it exists in singular, uncomplicated form.

Think about it. When or where do you discover happiness? Is it found in something Simple or does happiness find you in complexity? Perhaps writing a list of those things which bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart will assist you in realizing the beauty and uncomplicated greatness of Simple.

A Few of My Favorite (Simple) Things:

1. Holding hands with someone I love
2. The sight and sound of falling rain or snow
3. Hugs
4. Running
5. Running fast
5. Sunrise…Sunset
6. Listening to beautiful piano music
7. Home grown garden tomatoes
8. Colorful Autumn leaves
9. Cute puppies/kittens
10. Toes dug into warm beach sand

Devastation

A wasteland. That’s what immediately comes to mind.

A path of destruction, laid waste by epic force.

Devastation!

Separating marrow from bone, body from spirit, heaven from earth.

Devastation!

How to transverse this monster? Around it, under it, alongside it, please no!

I must turn against the ugly specter, I must rejoin my former situation;

Before this Devastation!

How does living endure a course, through this blight?

Devastation!

With everything of value now smote?

Devastation!

Can beauty or praise or joy arise from your ash heap?

Devastation!

How I wish you were no more.

Devastation!

And yet, each rising of the morning sun,

Casts the shadow of Hope;

Darkness now temporary, soon overcome.

Through fire and flood, cleanse it will.

Devastation!

Lay falsehood to rest, purify any waste.

Devastation!

No truer course towards wakefulness is found,

Than through the wasteland…Devastation.

Devastation

Peace

What shall I make of this day? I am awake and desire so much from myself and what lies ahead in the delectable minutes before me. My heart, my mind, my whole being has been so full and overflowing of JOY! For months! What is this…who is this? What have I become? I wish for this to never end…this is almost too much for me to take in. I have become a stranger to myself. There has been a feeling of such quality, and depth and strength; so full and rich and vibrant it must…it needs…it demands to overflow the container of my life. I feel it ooze out of me into the messy world I inhabit.

So here I sit this morning, and it has been far too long since I have enjoyed a moment of this kind of solitude; composed and disposed of a mind to companion with myself; to dialogue on paper so as to perceive…to understand…to comprehend the meaning of this change which has bubbled over my thinking for so very many, many months now. I feel like I have walked into someone else’s life…where is my darkness; my despair; my sadness. What has become of them? They have flown away, carried off to parts unknown. Grateful I am to have lost those traveling companions, I am so full of awe and giddy delight of this new place of thinking and feeling and living; it is sweet; pure; peaceful. What have I done to deserve such recompense? In quite times, before I wander off to sleep I am almost afraid to wake lest my dreamscape vaporize upon morning’s first light; tempted I am, to fear waking and a return of the shadow lands.

Ultimately, what brings joy to any experience isn’t the experience itself but the quality of thinking that we bring to it. Slowing Down to the Speed of Life by Richard Carlson & Joseph Bailey

But no, every morning, every day is new! There is One who travels so closely with me these days and informs me otherwise. Here, now, together we go; there is no fear; no longing for another day; only perfect rest and bliss and love of everything…because everything is as it should be. My prayer, then, if I could form one perfect thought this morning, before the first light of dawn, is for you…the one who has read these words of mine.

Rise up in your solitude, in your quiet place and wait and hope and trust for your Peace to come and rest upon your heart and mind and soul. Today this is my hope and prayer for you. That in quietness you will discover what is most beneficial, most healing and helpful to you. Be patient; faint not; carry on in faithful service whatever and wherever your calling finds or places you. Be the change you want to see: in yourself…in others…in the world.

 

Dancing, Blessing, & Moving For Joy

I was over 50 years old before I personally connected  with the happy benefits of moving my body to music…in public…in front of other people…with other people. I know that sounds odd in today’s modern, immodest age, but that is just the kind of person I grew into.

Yet as a personal trainer and recreational sportsperson, I am well versed in the feel-good endorphins illicted in the body when it is engaged in moderate physical activities. I just  never considered or experienced the value of participating in a group fitness class  based in music or dance. I assumed such benefits were reserved for those who had a background in dance, and I had no such experience with dance in a social or fitness setting. Thankfully, in the early days of my fitness education training, my mentor (who was also my employer) strongly encouraged me to consider providing a group music-based fitness class to his facility’s program offerings.

The soul is seen when it reaches out in love. Blessing is done by the soul.
Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another.
We must think it, and feel it, and will it.
We communicate it with our bodies.
Blessing is kind of like an ancient dance of the Hokey-Pokey;
Before you finish you have to ‘put your whole self in.’
Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You ~ John Ortberg

Now fast forward 8 years and I have had the privilege of leading as many as 7 group movement classes per week in addition to a roster full of personal training clients. Half of those group classes involve moving to music; and I like to think of these music-based classes as synchronized movement therapy. I still don’t think of myself as a dancer, but in the six years of leading these group music-based movement classes I have witnessed over and over again, the transformative and healthful benefits produced upon the lives of those who regularly attend these physical activity classes.

Changing your personal meaning of exercise and physical activity from a chore into a gift will transform your relationship with movement.
No Sweat ~ Michelle Segar

And be assured, the only requirement necessary to receive a health benefit from moving is to simply choose a mindset of being a blessing…to yourself. When you attend to your body’s need for movement with the intentional purpose of having fun (read: joy), you practically guarantee a blessing upon yourself, your soul. Additionally, such a mindset (job one = fun) quickly displaces feelings of competition or uncomfortable self-awareness you might otherwise experience in a group setting.

As the instructor of these music-movement classes, I have discovered I am not immune to this soul blessing phenomenon which takes place during and after the classes I lead.  It is a mystical effect, of which I cannot easily explain. But many times during a class period this blessing energy is not only visible on the radiant, gleaming faces of group participants, but I also sense the invisible yet nearly tangible presence of joy (love?) mixing and moving in our midst…the likes of which make me feel like a silly, awestruck five year old child.

Always remember this: Most of our aging is just decay, and decay is optional; it’s  under your control. Some of life’s changes are not under your control, but this one
is. Taking charge of your life, physically and emotionally, is the best possible antidote to standard aging.  And it all starts with exercise.
Younger Next Year ~ Chris Crowley & Henry S Lodge, M.D.

Wherever I go and with whomever I talk, I preach the blessing-benefits available for the taking when we discover a physical activity which brings playful joyfulness into our lives. There is not a one-size-fits-all list of sanctioned activities which constitutes ‘real exercise’. No, the most vital part of soul/body blessing is in bringing and moving one’s self purposefully to each and every activity which brings joyful feelings to one’s heart and puts beaming smiles on one’s face.

When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.
Jean Shinoda Bolen