About two and a half years ago I bought a huge chalkboard, opened a bottle of wine, grabbed a box of chalkboard markers and started to write. The plan was to write out a bucket list full of all the things I wanted to do in my life. And I did just that. I wrote down all the big, scary, challenging and exciting things I wanted to do. After I did it I felt inspired. And then about six months ago I erased it all and replaced it with a calendar.
Turns out all those big goals actually scared the sh*t out of me. When I looked at them years after putting pen to board I realized how many of them hadn't happened yet.
Don't get me wrong, I'd changed a lot of things in my life, but when I looked at the actual list I had barely made a dent. I told myself my bucket list had changed. I told myself that I didn't actually feel inspired by all those goals anymore. I told myself a lot of them didn't make any sense anymore.
Some didn't. But most still did. And what was more important was the overall life I was trying to create was still very much represented in each and every one of the goals listed on that board.
In the past few months I've worked hard to get back on track towards the goals listed on that board. They might not all happen, but avoiding the things I really want out of life isn't the answer. My new goal: rewrite that bucket list.
When I was a kid I didn't care what anyone thought of me. I mean I was fearless, independent and marched to the beat of my own, out of tune, drum. And I loved every second of it.
At five it was refusing to wear matching socks. I mean what a waste of two perfectly good opportunities for self expression? At eight it was wearing purple leggings, white cowboy boots, and brightly colored sweaters to free dress day at my British elementary school. All the other little girls wore perfect little dresses and Mary Janes. At ten it was my teacher calling my mom and telling her I simply could not continue bringing books to read on the playground during recess. I had to leave my own little world and actually play with the other kids. At eleven it was my moms utter shock when I got up on stage during a school talent show and belted out the Spice Girls Wannabe at the top of my lungs. My outfit during the performance spoke for itself. At twelve it was a pair of patent leather riding boots I'd picked out on a trip to London. My teachers actually made fun of me. I laughed it off and told them they didn't know anything about fashion.
And then I hit middle school. I started dressing like the other kids. I started trying to fit in. I got a little scared. It stayed like that through high school, through college, and through a good part of my early 20s. Not all the fearlessness went away. I still bombed down ski slopes, backpacked the world, and pushed myself to try new things. But that fun loving, carefree spirit faded a little bit.
Maybe thats just what growing up does to us, but I want some of that crazy, mix-matched socks wearing, trend setting, off tune singing kid back. Yes there comes a point in life where we have to be serious sometimes, but why can't we bring a little more fun, playfulness into our adult life?
I've been trying to. The moment I knew I'd succeeded came when I got a text message from a coworker laughing at how they'd seen me singing and dancing in my car on the feeder road on my way home from work one night. It wasn't so much that I'd been doing those things, but the fact that instead of being utterly mortified at being caught I'd burst out laughing and had a huge smile on my face.
What is it that brings back that childlike carefree nature in us as adults? For me, its being around my close friends, the ones I know I can be totally and completely myself with. Its going out, laughing my head off, and acting like a total idiot. And its something I plan on doing a whole lot more of.
Life is too short to worry about what others say or think about you. So have fun and give them something to talk about
For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.- Cynthia Occelli
I remember the first time I saw this phrase on a lululemon shopping bag. I was working there at the time and went around talking to coworkers about why we thought putting that on the bag was a good idea?!?!
It sounded so sinister to me. Demise? Really? Was this what we wanted our customers walking out of the store thinking about. But the more I got to thinking about it the more I understand the value of the statement... and even the bold way it was phrased. After I'd noticed it, I couldn't stop thinking about it.
Nobody wants to think about their death. Its not a nice thing to think about, but I think its an important way to get some perspective. I came across an article today about a palliative nurse who worked with patients while they were dying. Over many years she interviewed them and came up with the top five regrets people had when they looked back on their lives. They were:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Looking over the article from a personal point of view I realized how much of what they said resonated with me. I am constantly at battle with myself, having a strong desire to live a life I truly love and at the same time feeling pressured by society to live the life I "should" be living. For the past year and a half I've been in constant inquiry with myself around this subject, trying new things and pushing myself in ways I never did before. For me, it took a complete shaking of my entire world to get me to a place where I actually started to think about these things. It took hitting rock bottom; the end of my marriage, moving back to the states, no job, no friends in Houston, for me to start thinking about what I really wanted and what would really make me happy. It took having all the comforts taken away from me to start thinking about how I wanted to rebuild.
Its easy to stay comfortable, to stay in the confines of what we know. Its easier than pushing out of our comfort zones, trying something that makes us vulnerable, and potentially failing. But it also means that a lot of us never live to our fullest potential, accomplish our goals, and live in a way that truly makes us happy. I know I'm guilty of it. But maybe spending a little time thinking about what I'd have done differently if I knew my time on this earth was almost up will help me break out of that a little bit.
So I challenge you to think about it, what changes can you make today so that you don't have these five regrets in the future?
The story of what brought me to yoga is a bit of a personal one. Without getting into it completely, I found yoga during a point in my life when I was the closest to rock bottom I've ever been. I was a broken, lost, sad version of myself. I didn't start yoga to fix any of that. I started yoga because it was a great workout and what I found as my practice deepened was that yoga wasn't just a workout for my body, it was something that was strengthening my whole being. I signed up for yoga teacher training because of how much yoga had meant for me. How much it had changed me and helped me.
Yesterday I had a bad day. It was just one of those days where it felt like a million people were pulling me in a million different directions. It was the type of day I'm sure each and every one of you has had. Things felt like they were all going wrong and I couldn't catch a break. After work I'd signed up to sub a friends yoga class. I left work, fought traffic, and got to the yoga studio ten minutes early. I sat in my car breathing and listening to music, telling myself that I needed to let it all go so that I could show up powerfully to my class.
I walked into the classroom and decided that instead of pretending I hadn't had a rough day I'd acknowledge it and share it with the class. After all the focus at the studio this week was centering, something that had clearly been a struggle for me that day. So I did. I shared it, straight from my heart and full of all my imperfections And as the next 60 minutes flowed by so did all the negative energy surrounding my day. I walked out of that class on cloud 9. Feeling full of life, of connection.
I teach yoga because I love it. Every single class I teach is a beautiful challenge. And every class I teach is a learning experience.
There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do and mostly Live.- Dalai Lama XIV
As a runner, yoga has really helped me to gain flexibility, decrease recovery time, and become more aware of my body and breath. This past weekend a friend and fellow yoga teacher and I taught a yoga for runners workshop. After an easy three mile loop we settled in for a practice designed to warm up the body and then move into deeper stretches specifically targeted to runners. Here is a worksheet with some of the poses we did:
I like to hold each pose for at least a minute or two on each side. Once I get to the deeper hip opening poses at the end of the worksheet (pigeon, frog etc.) I try to hold each side for 3-5 minutes to really get into the connective tissue.
I try to do a full practice using these poses once a week and then shorter, 10-15 minute practices after my runs.
With my third 40 days to personal revolution in week two I'm already starting to struggle with completing all the daily aspects of the program. For those of you who aren't familiar with 40 Days its a program developed by Barron Baptiste designed to transform the body and the mind. The 40 day program consists of:
They say third times a charm and thats what I'm going for with this forty days. Instead of cursing under my breath, fighting traffic, and stressing out about whether or not I'll make it to the yoga studio in time I've decided to let go of the expectation that I have to spend all 6 days in the studio and embrace the idea of bringing yoga into my life in a way that excites me. I love my practices in the studio, but sometimes life gets in the way and taking care of myself means that what I really need is something else.
One of my favorite ways to get both my home practice and nightly meditation practice in is to do them both before I go to bed. With my type A mind running a million miles a minute all the time a yoga practice before bed has helped me fall asleep faster, and stay asleep.
I tend to focus on a slower yoga practice where I hold the poses for a few minutes each. I start on the floor, sometimes doing a few slow Sun A's and then working into deeper stretches. I typically end my practice on my bed with an inversion up the wall. Once I'm done with my poses I settle in for my meditation. Every night I vary the poses I do depending on what my body feels like it needs.
Yoga Journal has a sequence that I like to pull poses from here:
By adapting the 40 days program to my life in this way I'm finding that I'm enjoying it a lot more and ultimately getting more out of it than I have before....and I'm sleeping better!
Sometimes self care sucks. Sometimes it means giving up on a goal. Sometimes it means letting someone down. And sometimes it means letting yourself down. Yesterday, for me, self care looked like pretty much all those things.
I'd been waiting until the last possible moment to see if my knee would get better in time for the Houston Marathon this weekend. It didn't. As my knee stayed the same my Instagram and Facebook feeds started blowing up with all things marathon. 5 more days....what are you running for this year? 4 more days the finish line is being constructed downtown. 3 more days....today is the last day to defer running in 2015 for 2016. For the past few weeks its been pictures of people's training runs. Pictures of finish lines and smiles. Excitement. As it all filled my newsfeed the logical decision I'd made weeks ago, to defer if it was the right decision for my body, got harder to make. I can't tell you how many times I'd pictured crossing that finish line. How many times I'd thought about running past the lululemon cheer station and seeing all the people I used to work with. Picturing race day got me through each and every one of my training runs. It was a really hard picture to let go of as I logged into the marathon site and clicked the button to defer the race.
In the bigger scheme of things putting the race off a year isn't that big a deal. I can still look forward to that moment I cross the finish line, it'll just be next year instead of this weekend. Self care can be hard. Sometimes it means giving up things you really want and for a type A like me, a lot of the time it means learning when to back off. Just like yoga, and really like life in general, self care is a practice.
Good luck to everyone running this Sunday! I'll be out there cheering! #houmarathon
I don't know about you, but I found myself in a post holiday rut this year. I came back from an amazing trip with my family to New York City and found falling back into the day to day tough. I felt uninspired, tired, and unfocused. After a week of that I decided I'd had enough so one Friday night I decided to forgo making plans, stay in and do something to make myself feel inspired again.
I have this huge chalkboard I keep above the fire place in my living room. I wrote a huge quote on it when I bought it and then never really did anything with it. It was time for a change. I pulled out my chalkboard markers, wrote "bucket list" in large letters at the top and then spent the next few hours filling the board with all the things I wanted to do in my life. As I wrote I realized how much I'd already been lucky enough to do and all the amazing things I had to look forward to. Once I was done I put the chalkboard back in its place on my mantle so I'd always have my goals close by.
I've always believed there is a power in writing things down. Writing out my bucket list changed my outlook. It helped me refocus on the things that mattered to me and gave me clarity on where I am trying to go. It was very clear when I looked over what I wrote that there were a few things that really mattered to me: travel, yoga/fitness, family, helping others, and challenging myself in my work. Creating my bucket list helped me then create my goals for 2015 and bigger goals I wanted to accomplish in years to come.
Developing your own bucket list
I don't think I ever really understood new years resolutions until I taught my first yoga class of 2015. My normal class time is 5:45-7pm on Saturday nights, not exactly a time that draws huge crowds. A busy class for me is 10-12 people so you can imagine my surprise last Saturday night when I walked in to a room twice as full as I'd ever seen it.
While I loved having so many people in my class it did get me thinking. What is it about the first day of a new year that gets everyone deciding to change their lives? Why is it that we need a specific day to put all our plans into action and be our biggest selves? Why is it that we don't just make the changes we need or want to make as soon as we realize we want to change?
That's why I decided that my only resolution of 2015 would be to stop waiting. Stop wasting time. Stop making excuses. Stop focusing on all the reasons things wouldn't work and instead focus on the reasons they would. We spend a whole lot of our lives waiting. Telling ourselves what we'll do in the future, what we'll do when we are ready. How many times have you found yourself starting off a thought with "when X happens then I'll do Y?" I know I'm guilty of it.
So instead of making resolutions this year I'll stop making excuses and start living. Instead of living for the future I'll live right here, right now.
I've had a goal since I was in high school: to run a marathon. For over ten years things got in the way. In college I was busy, busy with school, work, clubs, and lets be honest having a bit too much of a social life. After I graduated and moved to China I wasn't nearly as busy, I ran almost everyday and trained like I should have. The only problem was there was no marathon in the "small" Chinese city I was living in (small meant over 5 million people...tiny right?). I went to grad school in SoCal so there were no shortages of races. I ran my first and second marathons while I was there, but I couldn't seem to nail down training with all the other things I had going on in my life. The timing just wasn't quite right. After grad school I found myself back in China in a bigger city....but this time the air quality just made running nothing short of torture.
When I found myself back in the states in Houston, Texas it was time. My first year back I missed the lottery, but the second year I entered and found out I'd gotten a spot a few days into my yoga teacher training. I was so excited.
I started training for the January race in September. It was rough. Running in Houston during September was like being in a hot yoga room. As soon as you started a film of humidity covered your skin. It just wasn't pretty. My allergies were going crazy. My legs felt like they were each a million pounds. But I had a goal and this time I was determined to cross that finish line. I signed up for the Houston Warm Up Series to help me stay on track.
Eventually the Houston heat gave way to some really beautiful running weather. I found ways to combat blisters the size of eggs on my feet, gave into having perpetually black toe nails (nothing a little nail polish can't fix...or at least hide), and got used to dragging my self out of bed bright and early Sunday mornings to get my long runs in.
It was on my last race of the Warm Up Series that it happened. About five miles in there was a sharp searing pain in my right knee. I stopped running and try to walk it off. The internal negotiation started. What could I do? I have a high pain threshold, I've broken bones and shed no tears. Its to the point where people don't believe there is actually anything wrong with me. I wanted to finish. I had to finish. This HAD to happen. So like the good little type A that I am I keep going through the next 13.6 miles. I ran through the pain, I slowed down from my normal pace, but I didn't listen to my body. I refused to give up.
Sure enough I crossed that finish line. I completed the 30K that was my longest run to date. I battled through the pain, got my medal, and thought I could just ice my knee back to health. I stayed off it for a week before I tried running again. It was a no go. A mile in the pain was back and as sharp as ever. Knee braces, icing, resting. Nothing worked. I'd wait and try again and the pain was always there.
Last Sunday, after a week of resting it, I tried to do a long run. After two miles I was done. I just couldn't. With the marathon two weeks away my yoga teacher training finally kicked in. Listen to your body. Listen. To. Your. Body!
It should have kicked in during the 30K. It did actually, its just my competitive side told it to shut up. So Sunday I listened. I stopped. I walked home and I went to the pool instead. I swam instead and my knee didn't hurt, but my heart did because I knew the changes of running the 2015 Houston Marathon were slim to none. Crushing my marathon goal was going to be pushed out another year. All that work was for nothing.
But thats just it. It wasn't for nothing. Yes I probably won't be running the Houston Marathon this year thats true, but I accomplished so much in training for it that its not actually a failure at all. I ran the longest race of my life, I learned what I was capable, and ultimately learned when to back off. I have no doubt that I'll cross running a marathon off my bucket list in the near future and when I do start training for it I'll have all the knowledge of what worked and what didn't this time to help me. So instead of being disappointed, instead of focusing on crossing something off my list, I'll chose to be happy with the journey instead.