Keep On Keeping On

Me at the "Run or Dye" 5K (like the tutu?)
Me at the “Run or Dye” 5K (like the tutu?)

A million and nine thoughts bombard my mind any given day, any given moment. As one of those quiet introverts, I admit I spend a lot of time in my head. In fact, it can be maddening at times. I can spend hours daydreaming, pondering some question or trying to glean some sort of insight and meaning into it all (and rather unsuccessfully so). From the little questions like “What should I make for dinner tomorrow?” to the medium ones like “When will I finally be debt free?” to the really big ones like “Who made God?” I have a hard time just clearing my mind of all the clutter and just living in the moment.

This summer I’ve been working on a practice I’ve been reading about called “mindfulness.” The concept is simple in that you try to focus on your breathing or a word for a period of time and as stray thoughts come across your mind, you dismiss them without judgement and get back to your focus. My daughter’s therapist read us a story about a monkey and a panda. The panda was peaceful and happy because “when he was walking, he thought about walking; when he was working, he thought about working and when he was playing he thought about playing.” Sounds good. Right. I certainly can use more happiness and peacefulness in my life!

Along with mindfulness, my summer has also been about running. I started the couch to 5K program back in April and am proud to say I’ve participated in six 5K races. I finished all six and actually ran without walking in three of them. My goal of having a stronger and healthier body is coming along. Which brings me to my next goal of having a healthier mind and a happier outlook, which brings me back to mindfulness. Thus, I brought the two ideas together and I am practicing mindfulness when I’m running/walking. I make myself focus only on my footfall or my posture as I run. If I start thinking about the errands I need to run later or the laundry I need to move to the dryer, I stop myself when I realize my mind is drifting and bring it back around to the feel of my body as I run, the way the wind feels against my hot skin or on pulling air into my lungs and exhaling.

This exercise helps me focus on being a better runner (note I didn’t say faster!). I’m hoping eventually I’ll be able to use mindfulness to  free myself of distractions in other areas of my life and focus on what I’m doing at the given moment. I don’t need to worry about tomorrow’s dinner, until tomorrow, right?  On the other hand, I do need to have the right ingredients on hand, so I guess there is something to say about planning. So how do I reconcile the two ideas of living in the moment versus planning ahead? Well, my plan is to set aside time to plan ahead (when I’m planning, I’ll think about planning, right!)

I once read if you keep on doing the same thing, you’ll keep getting the same result. Thus, I’m all for changing it up and plugging away at being more mindful.

Has anyone else tried to practice mindfulness? Any tips or ideas you can share?

 

Red Rover, Red Rover…

a-to-z-letters-rDoes anyone remember that asinine game, called Red Rover? It seemed all my gym teachers loved to torture us, I mean, force us, I mean, let us play this game as a special “treat.” Oh sure, some kids that got all excited and couldn’t wait to play. Me, not so much. And to up the fun even more, the teacher couldn’t just let us count off to get the two teams, she had to do the whole “captain” thing. Inevitably I’d be picked last or close to it, which really didn’t bother me all that much, as I was hoping not to be picked at all.

Once the teams assembled, I tried to get on the end of the line. Being the skinny, geeky kid, the other side always ran toward my arms. At first I’d try to hold tight so the opposing runner couldn’t break through my arms, but quickly realized it was better to just let go and avoid getting my arm broken. And in the off-chance, the other team actually chanted, “Red Rover, Red Rover send ‘Shar’ right over,” dread filled me as I ran over and get stopped every time:( I wonder who even made that dumb game up. My daughter tells me they still play this disturbing game at her school too. Luckily she’s a bit more athletic than I am.  Why, I have no idea. It’s not even remotely fun.

Next to math, phys ed was my least favorite subject. Maybe if I’d put more effort into it back then, I’d be better at exercising now, though. I mean I want to look good and be healthy, but when I try to exercise, something always thwarts my attempts. Recently I started a running program (those that know me can stop laughing now). I got this app called the Couch to 5K. You alternate walking and running until you can run 5 kilometers. I downloaded it to my iPhone. It’s really pretty sweet in that it tracks your route, speed and tells you when to walk, when to jog and most importantly when to stop!

The first time I tried it out, the girls wanted to come along. About half way through and a mile from home, my youngest stopped dead right in front of me during a jog segment. I couldn’t stop and ended up tripping over her and landing on top of her. She scraped her leg and I banged up my knee. I ended up carrying her home. Day 2 went without a hitch, but on Day 3 the app crashed in the middle of my workout and I lost all my data. Then today when I tried again my iPhone died. So much for the tracking data. On the upside, I know I did better today and wasn’t quite as winded when I made it home. Maybe I’ll actually run a 5K someday. We’ll see…