Tuesday, May 12, 2015

and then what happened?

I'm back.

When I last blogged, I was breathing my way through Sun Run Training, starting my yoga practice, and figuring out that it was all connected to singing. Then I just stopped blogging for a couple of months.

My computer died, life got busy, stuff happened, the dog ate my homework... but I am back.

So here are the updates:

I finished the Sun Run! and it was great! I ran with my friend Louise and her brother Greg. They are both good, fast runners, so we hung out together in the corral before the run, then I said goodbye to them as we crossed the starting line. An hour an a quarter later, they were waiting for me at the finish line. It felt so good to know that on January 19, I was not a runner, and on April 19, I finished my first 10k since I was about 25 years old. It was really emotional for me. At the 9k mark, I cried a little bit as I ran, just knowing that I did it! I did it! The final kilometer was euphoric! The Sun Run training program is truly excellent. I was well prepared for the run, so much so that I did not feel a bit of stiffness or tired muscles the next day. (I think yoga also gets some of the credit for this.) I ran tens and ones, so technically I was a walk-runner, running for 10 minutes and walking for one minute through the course of the 10k. I have continued with this running pattern since the event. Yes, I am still running. In fact, Louise and I have signed up for another 10k in June. So there. My main objective in taking up running was to find peace. I'm getting there. Running easy and free is more of an accomplishment than finishing a specified distance, I have discovered. It's a work in progress.

My yoga is also continuing. It's wonderful. I practice about 3 times a week, and I'm feeling lovely benefits: fewer aches and pains throughout the day, improved energy, the disappearance of my menopausal hot flashes, delightful community connection and PEACE! Yup, the peace is there, during the practice and in the day that follows. Yoga practice encourages me to be present and focused in a relaxed attentive state that is very nourishing to my thinking and emotions. It's hard to describe what happens, but during the hour of practice my inner dialogue turns down or off, and I feel like more of an integrated being - within myself, and in connection to the world and the people around me. After practice, I am more conscious of choices that good for myself and the world. A very simple example is my attention on the way home from yoga. In the car, I turn on a CD and listen to music, rather than just clicking on the radio and listening to news or talk. I feel so good that I want to do whatever is needed to preserve and protect that feeling. I'm discovering that yoga is a way of living, not just what you do when you are on the mat. I am grateful for this.

Singing. Yes! We are preparing some wonderful pieces for our concert on June 7 at Evergreen Centre in Coquitlam. Here's some info. Our adult choir, De Coro, will sing with the children's choirs. I love choir so much! I am learning how to read music, and continuing to understand how all of the sung parts fit together. I am having fun being an alto, singing (sometimes) weird sounds that sound beautiful combined with others. Choir is community by definition. After the June concert, choir will take a break until September. I am excited about next year. We may go on a choir tour together, to meet and collaborate with choristers from another country. We will learn new songs and continue to develop together. ?De Coro is just 2 years old. Being part of its formation and development, as a developing singer myself, is tremendously exciting and joyful.

So, that's what happened. Lots more, of course. I will finish with a bit of inspiration, and perhaps the reason why I remembered to blog again:

"70. Your blog posts."

Yesterday, in the mail, I received a wonderful Mother's Day Card from Fiona. It's titled, "MOM - 100 Reasons Why I Love You." It's the most beautiful thing I have received in a long time. Number 70 is my blog posts. I am reminded how they connect me with my daughter when we are far apart, and makes me think of all of the other connections sparked by blogging. So I will begin again.

question: what have you set down, then picked up again recently?

mompoet - a work in progress

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

it all comes down to breathing

I just figured out this week that the new things I am doing are all reliant on breathing, and so each activity dovetails with the other, and helps me to understand the others. Of course, every living thing we do relies on breathing because if we don't breathe, we die, or at least faint. That's not what I mean. I mean that awareness of breathing and working with breath is the key, in each new thing I am doing, to doing it well.

Singing - That's not so new now. I have been in a choir for almost 3 years. Breathing is everything in singing. My music charts are marked up with notes to myself about where to breathe, and where not to breathe. I have learned to prepare with a good uptake at just the right moment, to refresh my sound with a quick lift between phrases, and to stagger breathe alongside other singers in order to produce a smooth, clear, long, sustained note or phrase. When I get it right, it feels like floating or flying when I sing. When I don't get it right, I start over again and practice, practice, practice. Breathing in singing is not just getting air in. It's also how you release it, the shape of your face while you make sound, where in your face and throat the breath comes from, your control of the flow. Our choir leader asks us to conduct ourselves with our hands to stimulate just the kind of letting out of breath that we are going for. Breath is everything in singing.

Running - I am 6 weeks into my Sun Run training, and I have to say running is still mostly not fun. I am panting and pushing and trying to keep going when my feet feel like lead blocks. I know, from remembering running many years ago, that it's worth the work to get to where it will feel good, really good. On Sunday I notched up my running according to the training schedule I got from my Sun Run Clinic. I ran longer intervals and more of them. To help myself not talk myself out of completing the task, I focused on one aspect of my body running with each interval: spine, shoulders, face, feet (emphasizing light feet, light feet), hands, core, and of course, breath. I have noticed before that my stride and pace synchronize with my breathing, so I tried a chicken and egg experiment. Which was leading? the feet or the breath? Turns out that it feels difficult and unnatural to change the pace and stride length, and ask the breath to follow. On the other hand, it felt easy and natural to adjust the breath and let the feet follow. That was my big "Eureka" on that run. And guess what? I got through eight 5-minute running intervals, with one minute walk breaks in between, and I ran all the way from Rocky Point, a little past Old Orchard on Alderside, and back again. I had that really good feeling for the final five minutes of the run, but I think it was because I knew that I did it, and I could stop soon.

Yoga - This is my newest new thing, and it is totally about breathing. Every pose and every transition is governed by breathing, and there are breathing exercises. Breathing also guides the mind away from distracting thoughts and back to the moment, to the body and the movement and the pose and the sensation. It's every bit as important as the shape of the body in the pose.

The overlap is that learning how to breathe for singing makes running and yoga breathing easier. Running breathing makes singing and yoga easier. Yoga breathing makes singing and running easier, and brings peace. All of these new things I am doing to be peaceful, mindful, find joy from within my own self. It all comes down to breathing every time.

question: when did you last notice your breath?

mompoet - breathing in all the good that I can find

Friday, February 20, 2015

all good things

Thursday was one of those days when many good things happened.

In the morning, I attended a half-day session at work about mindfulness and meditation. The workshop was facilitated by Cheney Creamer of One Green Square Wellness Consulting. It was a very lovely morning - a spa day for the heart and mind. Cheney taught us simple and easy practices of mindfulness and meditation, grounded in scientific research and traditions from many cultures. My mind is spinning with possibilities for integrating these practices into my everyday living. Stay tuned for a post about it!

Back at the office I met with the seniors' Social Committee. My co-worker Linda has been working with this group of volunteers to plan the annual Chinese New Year Lunch, which will be celebrated next Friday. I joined in to catch up on the planning and prepare to help with the event. How fortunate I am to be helping this dynamic and dedicated group of senior volunteers to put on an 8 course banquet, with entertainment by our own members. I think I have the best job in the world.

Then I hopped in my car and drove to choir practice. On Thursday evening, De Coro met for an hour with the youth choir and children's choir to practice the two mass choir pieces that we will be presenting at our concert at the end of the month. We have been rehearsing our parts for several weeks. It was astonishing to see the risers filled with choristers, and to finally hear our voices all together. I am looking forward to continuing to work so that we are ready to present our newly commissioned piece to the world on February 28.

After that, I picked my friend Karen up from her house, and continued on to a meeting of a parent group that I am helping to form. It's called The Square Peg Society. Soon we'll have a web presence, and I'll tell you more about it then.

I got home after 10:30, but I stayed up, because Alex and Andy had waited, so we could all watch the final episode of Two and a Half Men together. I remembered that I forgot to eat supper, so I sat on the couch with my sweetie and my grown up son, and ate mashed turnip and carrot (I love it, really!) and watched what happened finally to Allan, Walden, Charlie and everyone else on the show. It wasn't perfect but it was a heck of a lot better than the final episode of How I Met Your Mother.

Crash! 11:15pm. Happy, sound sleep after a very good day.

question - what's good for you yesterday? today? tomorrow?

mompoet - a good day is a nugget of yes

Sunday, February 15, 2015

instead of counting sheep

I am not good at counting things. Maybe it's because I am easily distractible, maybe it's because I am not oriented to details. I am a big-picture, eagle's view, story arc kind of person. I am just not inclined to keeping accurate track of small increments.

When I am trying to calm myself and go to sleep, I don't count sheep or breaths. Instead I pray, which usually ends up in me listing everyone I love, care for, or am concerned for. Somewhere along the long recitation of people's names, and recollection of their faces, I will drift off.

Now I am learning to run, and I have to run and walk intervals. I have a wristwatch that keeps track of the length of time for each interval, and also of how many intervals. An alarm sounds at the end of each interval, so I know when to switch to walking or running. I need only to glance at it to see how many repetitions I have gone through so far. Still, I have a way that I prefer to keep track of when I have done 5 or 6 or 7 repetitions. I use days of the week. So if I need to run 7 repetitions, I will call the first one Sunday and the last one Saturday. If it's fewer cycles, I will begin on Monday or Tuesday, always ending on Saturday. Somehow, "This is Wednesday," feels better to me than "This is the 4th of 7 repetitions." They seem to go by more quickly, and I associate the feeling of each day of the week, with the place that repetition is in my run.

In yoga, I am learning that breathing is a way to let go of distractions. Focusing the mind on the breathing anchors me securely in the here and now, especially when distracting thoughts beckon. One of the teachers at the studio suggested breathing in to a five count and out to a 6 count. Again, the counting. I find I tense up approaching 5 on the breath in. Will I have room for 5? Counting 6 out is easier. But to me, it's somewhat distracting in itself. So I choose instead to recite something old and familiar. I breathe in, "Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold." Breathe out "Peas porridge in a pot, nine days old." So long as I don't start thinking about what to cook for dinner, or reminiscing on when I used to read nursery rhymes to my babies, this is an easier way than counting for me to slow my breathing. Of course I use this only when I am still. During movements the breath goes along with the movement and position, and in poses, it goes along with growing, strengthening and extending the pose. No counting required.

I still lose count of how many scoops of coffee I just scooped into the coffee maker, or how many teaspoons of baking powder I just measured into the muffin mixture. I'll have to think of a way to move through those tasks without losing track.

It's a good thing my fingers and toes are attached, and I have only 2 children. (I think)

question: do you like to count?

mompoet - don't count on my counting!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

thank the sky

Today I attended my first ever live music yoga class. It was at Moksha Yoga in Burnaby. I wasn't sure what to expect, except that I had heard that these classes are very popular, and that the music is good.

It was mid-morning on a Wednesday, and the practice room was more than half full. The teacher explained that she would practice with us, with minimal cueing to guide us. Then the musician, Laura, began playing her guitar and singing songs to us, for the whole hour of the class. We moved through the poses, stretching, holding and breathing together, in what the teacher, Simone, described as "a kind of dance through our yoga practice." It was lovely.

Almost always, when music starts up out of silence, my emotions well up and I want to cry, then to laugh, and to move and be alive and overflowing with all of my feelings. The class felt that way to me. It was really a beautiful experience.

Laura sang her own songs mostly, I remember these lines from one of them:

Thank the sky every day
in our own way.

I thank the sun, the moon and the stars for this experience.

question: have you encountered music in a place where it is not usually found?

mompoet - thanking the sky

Sunday, February 08, 2015

the little voice that talks to me when I run

I am sure I am not the only person who has an internal dialogue that runs sometimes as I go about my day. The little voice can help me remember things that I need to do, rehearse how I want to say things, or remind myself of commitments and intentions. The little voice is with me also when I run. Usually it is an encouraging voice, but the other day...

LV: Hey! This is a lot of running today!

ME: Oh, it's not so bad. Just 2 more 2-minute running intervals after this one, and there's a walking rest in between. We've done it before.

LV: Yeah, but I'm tired. I worked all day. My feet are tired. This is boring.

ME: Four more minutes of running and a few more minutes of walking aren't so bad. We can do it!

LV: It won't make a difference if we finish the running now. We can walk longer. It's almost as good as running. I'm tired.

ME: Well, we could just run 5 intervals instead of 7. I'm sure it wouldn't set us back substantially.

LV: Good! That's just what I was thinking.

ME: But what if we get to the Sun Run in April, and we run 8 kilometers, then we say to ourself, "That's enough. We can just stop now. We don't need to run 10 kilometers really."

LV: Humph!

(by this time LV and me are running our 6th interval)

LV: Well, that's 6 intervals. Surely we can finish running and just walk. It won't hurt to skip the 7th interval.

ME: So then, at the Sun Run, we can run 9 kilometers then give up and say, "Nine kilometers is really as good as 10 kilometers. We don't need to run 10 kilometers, do we?"

LV: Oh shut up you smarty-pants.

ME: HA HA! (we are running our 7th interval by now)

ME: See. We did it! I knew we could.

LV: So did I. I was just messing with you.

ME: Thanks very much for that.

I am glad that I can almost always discern when it's right to heed my little voice's advice, and when it's right to talk back to it and say no. I have a feeling it's going to come around soon anyway, and act like this was all its idea in the first place.

question: do you have the little voice? what does it say to you?

mompoet - listening to my head, and my heart, with curiosity and openness

Saturday, February 07, 2015

happy new year

It has been almost a year since my last mompoet post. Today I was out on my run, and I decided it's time to start blogging again. I have made a few changes this year. I think blogging will help me make sense of things as I go along. If it's interesting for anyone to read, that's good too.

I have stopped trying to explain to myself why I stopped blogging. I think a lot of factors have contributed, but really, I think it's just because I like to do one leisure/creative/expressive thing for a few years, with all my passion and all of my heart, then take a break, or switch to something else. I can see that in the way I set down my writing and slam poetry practice, and joined a choir. It's that way with my fitness activities too. For a long time I chose spin class and weight room. Then it was mostly walking. Now I'm trying something new: running and yoga. It feels right, right now, so I am enjoying the moment and looking forward to an exploration of new things.

I do like new things. I may pick up the old again - hopefully that's the case with blogging. But what's important is that I am doing things that are interesting, meaningful and encourage me to be open, curious and generous.

I have been in bit of a slump for the past year or so. I found that I have been watching television more than I think is good, and looking forward to a glass of wine almost every day after work. This is not shockingly unhealthy behaviour. It's just that there's so much better available. Although I have maintained a reasonable level of physical activity, and stayed artistically active and spiritually engaged, life has been a bit blah. I don't like blah. I like juicy, challenging, exciting. I have, in a nutshell, been resting too much.

So here goes.

Three weeks ago, I started running with a Sun Run in Training group. We meet one evening each week to run together, then through the week I do two more runs on my own, following a training program set out by Sports Medicine BC. I used to run when I was in university. But that was 30 years ago. I trust the Sun Run program will be a safe an fun way to get myself back to where I can do a 10k. The real goal is to find the calm and zestful feeling that I remember from my old running days. It's like an active rest that makes air and water taste better for the rest of the day. I want to do it without injuring myself, so that I can make it part of my ongoing practice. I'll blog about my experiences as a 53 year old learning to run again. I expect there may be a little TMI from time to time (too much information), but I will try to give advance warning, so you can decide to read those parts or not.

Last weekend, I signed up for an introductory month of yoga classes at Moksha Yoga in Burnaby. It's hot yoga, and it is lovely. I did yoga through my employee fitness at work about 10 years ago, but I never really got into it. I remember thinking that the stretches were too difficult, and holding the poses was too hard. I feel insufficient. That's not how you are supposed to feel in a yoga class. I decided that this was not for me. My daughter practices yoga. She encouraged me to try it and told me that her experience with Moksha during a summer theatre stint was very good. I have been to 4 classes already, and I love it. There's so much space to find my way through the series of poses, and I am feeling the good feelings. I have an energy and openness that I haven't felt in a long time. This is good stuff.

That's all for now. I am going to hit the shower, then cook a yummy lunch. I'll talk to you soon!

question: what makes you feel open, curious and generous?

mompoet - trying new things