Your Body is Your Vehicle (take it on an epic adventure)

I am interrupting the previously scheduled European vacation programming to have a brief discussion about an essay I read today.

This essay made me so angry, and so happy at the same time.

Angry because of this:

I did some quick Googling on the topic, and there are a handful of “will cycling make my legs bigger?” articles out there. I even found a video titled “How to ride your bicycle without bulking up your quads, thighs, & legs.”

And exceptionally happy because of this:

I want a body that takes me places. I want to see things. I want thighs that help me to pedal hard up a hill. I want to feel things. I want a heart that’s happy and healthy, physically and emotionally.

I want to feel alive.

Most importantly, I know that I want a lifestyle that’s more full of “fuck yeahs” than feeling bad about what I should or shouldn’t look like.

I surprised myself by becoming completely enraged that there exist women who desire to ride a bike, but are stopped by fear of gaining muscle. I want to weep for everyone who let society squash their dreams, ideas and even their most seemingly insignificant desires. I want to punch every person who ever propagated the idea that a human body should appear a certain way.

I am also thinking about the three weeks I just spent exploring mountains, hiking, climbing, running and walking every possible inch of the Alps that I could get my hands and feet on. I didn’t think about my body as an object that was right or wrong. I didn’t think about what body parts I liked or disliked or wanted to change or what I feared to be judged. I thought only about where it could take me, how strong I could make it; I thought about what amazing shape I’d be in and how good it would feel if I spent the rest of my life trekking around Alpine towns, eating bread and butter, drinking wine and espresso and huffing and puffing on mountain ridges above the clouds; running, climbing, smiling.

I want to spend the rest of my days wearing clothes that are comfortable when I’m sweating, and cozy when I’m relaxing. I want to forever not care about what my body looks like, and start admiring it for what it can do and where it can take me. I want everyone around me, everyone reading this and everyone in existence to start to see their bodies as amazing vehicles for amazing, epic adventures.

Thank you Anna Brones for writing this essay. You are my hero today.

Reflections on Meditation

I have some long overdue van updates to come, but I wanted to break from the vanlife news and share something a little deeper and more personal. I used to do a lot of introspective writing, and I have always found great joy in making connections on a deeper level … but it’s also important not to forget about all the fun in things in life! So, while I work on more posts about the Great Winter Vancation, other recent adventures, and updates on the van construction (we installed a roof vent!!!!), I will share a snippet of other things in my life:

I began leaning on a steady meditation practice at the beginning of 2015. I was going through a stressful divorce, creating a new life for myself and seeking out change in any way I could find. The results were life-saving. Yet as time went on, as I felt stronger, my practice had slowly gone by the wayside. As 2016 came to a close, I thought about the things I wanted to change this year, the person I had become, the person I want to be and my journey, past, present and future. I needed to be more steady, more focused, and less chaotic.

These past few months I have been giving myself more inward focused care, and more time to grow my meditation practice. Last week I reached a profound milestone. I have made a promise to my own heart to be a more loving being, to always share compassion with all beings. This is my new everyday — my living, breathing mantra.

Today, during my walking meditation, I imagined myself as a tree — grounded and peaceful. My feet, roots communing with the earth on each step. The hairs on my head, branches and leaves. As I walked, my thoughts and worries and stressors all streamed behind me, taken by the wind and dissolved into the sky. The breeze rustling and multiplying the love in my heart, carrying it far, and wrapping all of my worries in a blanket of compassion before sending them off into the atmosphere. The growing compassion swelling my heart and spreading to the farthest reaches of all humanity. My mind, clearing and making room for all of the love, kindness and compassion absorbed throughout my day and beyond. Like a tree, I am strong and unwavering.

This is a beautiful life I’ve been given and each moment is wasted if not filled with love and kindness.

I am exceedingly fortunate that I am able to have these experiences; that my life has provided me the opportunity to have strong and admirable teachers, mentors and friends. I am thankful for each and everyone of them — and for all who read this, you are loved, even from afar.

The Simple Life – Part 1

April 2016 marks the beginning of a new era.

All in one week, I made the decision to rid myself of the majority of my possessions, participated in my first running race, celebrated one year of dating my amazing boyfriend, and received word that my divorce was final. So much, all in one week. My head is spinning, and at the same time, I feel like the world is my oyster. After successfully recovering from the Ragnar Relay (and after temporarily swearing off running forever), I regained my motivation to grab the bull by the horns, if you will.

Piece by piece I am severing the sentimental ties to things that are just things, and I am disposing of, giving away, selling and donating the majority of what I own. In four weeks’ time, I will leave the place I’ve called home for five years with a few bits and pieces — some heirlooms, some books, some clothes, my laptop and my gear, and I will be a free-er woman!

“The things you own, end up owning you” – Tyler Durden

So what might I have in store for the coming year? Simplicity. Very few belongings. I want to know I can live out of my backpack when I want to. More running, more cycling, more hiking, more going. I have plans travel more, find the world, nature and myself as much as possible.

But let’s start with step one: untie these ties!

Downsizing is a quite epic task when you’ve fully furnished and occupied 1000 square feet of living space for a few years. I feel like I have so little, yet there are so many things here. I’ve broken it down into what I hope are easy steps. I’ve been making progress with friends and neighbors, pawning off things that people can use for the sheer joy of seeing something go to a new home where it will be appreciated. So far, I’ve collected $40 by selling my old backpack on OfferUp, and sold my Craigslist dining set to a neighbor. I’ve given away my patio chairs, tripod, most of my plants, computer desk, and a handful of other items — books, DVDs, art, etc.

I  don’t even feel one bit jaded by not taking money for all of these things. I acquired much of them long ago, for minimal cost, and this is my way to give back to the people who have provided so much support and encouragement, pure friendship and love.

Over the course of this last week, amidst all of the shuffling, the bartering, the giving, I felt two very distinct and extreme emotions:

Separation Anxiety. I woke up in a complete panic over the thought of not having a washer and dryer anymore. What if I need them again one day?!?! I’m going to be using someone else’s! I’m going be dependent! OMG I’M LOSING MY INDEPENDENCE!

Elation. As I handed off two large framed prints that have been with me for many, many years, I felt a twinge of regret that they were just ripped from my life so quickly. And then they were gone. And suddenly, I no longer felt attachment to them. Suddenly, the thought of having them again became so unappealing. My thoughts gravitated to the appreciation expressed to me by the recipients of my belongings, and it felt great. I felt like a successful matchmaker.

The panic is subsiding over the big changes that I am making this month. I have been planning this change for so long, and it is finally unfolding. My calculated plan for happiness and freedom is well underway, and I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have spent the better part of the last two years searching for what I needed to do to find my own personal happiness, and the determination is paying off. I’ve never been happier. I have so little, yet I have so much. My chosen family is growing stronger every day. My support system is overwhelmingly amazing. I am doing things I never imagined I could do. My fears are diminishing and my confidence grows. Life is good!

The Art of Doing Nothing

I have been avoiding writing for a while now. I keep telling myself that I want to, but I then the writing never materializes. I’ve been slightly avoidant; finding little things to check off my list while procrastinating on the things that take more emotional involvement, or involve more difficult decision making. You could even say I’ve been wallowing in a little bit of self pity (This thing is so hard, I should just take it easy and have a glass of wine instead. Or, I’ve been working so much, I should just relax and do nothing.). 

And then … I actually end up doing nothing. And feeling terrible about it.

Is doing nothing such a bad thing? Maybe I really don’t know how to unwind. Doing nothing gives me that uneasy feeling of regret over wasting time that I could use to be “productive.” Contrarily, doing nothing can be a good thing — time to decompress, de-stress and let go of so much unwanted tension and pressure. Planning to do nothing is a hurdle for me; actually doing nothing is an even taller one.

The anxiety that stems from doing nothing has always negated any benefit that it might offer me. I’m absolutely terrible at relaxing. Just horrible at it. Every massage I’ve ever received yielded an unprecedented amount of abhorrent comments from every practitioner of the trade: “You’re ridiculously full of knots” and “You need to relax or I won’t even be able to do this” or “How on earth are you so tense?!”  Physical therapy, massage therapy, casual massages … all the same. Apparently I’m walking around with the tension of someone who actually has a stressful life. So what’s the deal? I need to learn to chill out …

Today, in front of God and man and all the Internet, I proclaim my promise to myself: to learn to properly relax. I am going to take very seriously my newly declared dedication to the art of doing nothing. From this point forward, I am going to actively pursue the steadfast ability to release tension, cope with unwanted stress and to sleep peacefully. I will remember the importance of a quiet mind and a calm soul. I will allow myself to do nothing without anxiety. I will give myself time to let it all go.

This is gonna be so good.


Observations and Reflections

Well, then. I finally missed a week of blogging. Let me explain (or make an excuse): There have a been a few changes at work, and I’ve been fairly busy with the transition. The days have been flying by and my brain has been just a bit exhausted.

With this increased level of mental exhaustion, I am reminded that it is very important to care for myself emotionally. Last week’s workload warranted a cleansing trip to Joshua Tree for some much needed escape from society – some time in the desert to clear my head, purify my soul; to meditate, to take a peaceful walk and just be. 

Once more, I sat atop a boulder, in the midst of a vast expanse of glorious desert, and took note of my observations. From Saturday night:

We have outcast ourselves from the tourist campers – they with fires burning and cumbersome canopies; chairs and tents tall enough to stand in; bringing with them too much of what my being needs to be away from. We find our own quiet piece of desert behind an outcropping of jumbled granite boulders. We sip boxed wine out of a titanium cup and watch quietly as the moon ascends toward the heavens, basked in a soft glow, masking the stars we know are lurking beneath. The moon is ringed by a phenomenal contrasting halo, a ring that continues to grow and transform as this majestic orb journeys across the sky. The stars begin to emerge, peacefully and calmly alighting in the sky as if turned on one by one.

My companion tells me stories of math and science and history. The moon’s luminance continues to grow and the ring continues to transform; a perfect display of nature’s splendor. The sky is streaked with remnants of the daytime — wisps of clouds, contrails evidencing local flight paths drifting through the moonlight. There is so much beauty surrounding us. The air is calm. The cicadas carry on in their eternal praises to their maker. The desert lives and buzzes and rests all at once. We are surrounded by what can only be described as large. Not foreboding, but most certainly majestic, breathtaking and inspiring.

I am at peace here. Tonight I share that peace with someone close to me. I can feel the power of this place in my bones, permeating my soul and allowing my heart to be restored. My tired self is awakened and refreshed. Tomorrow I can go on, back to my busy world, back to obligations that are now opportunities. My heart may be broken from loss and grief, but I can fill the empty spaces with the wonder of nature, with peace and with the warmth of sharing this special place and these moments.

Later, we notice on the ground before us, one tiny ant carrying another dead ant. Why? Are they having an ant funeral? I laugh. I take a drink and I see my reflection in the bottom of the titanium cup. I have so much to be thankful for.

I have so much.

Joshua Tree Landscape

On Letting Go

Recently, I didn’t know when to let go, and I paid for it in skin.

At the top of the Palm Springs aerial tramway, lies a popular summer climbing area — cooler temperatures and plentiful boulders make for an easy and fun getaway from the scorching heat in the valley below. On the last boulder problem of the day, my feet lost purchase and I, confident in my grip on the rock, held firm knowing that I would place a foot and continue up the slab. Only I did not place a foot. And down I came, solidly feet first onto the crash pad beneath me.

Except for one important thing: I did not let go. My right hand held a firm grip on a sandpaper granite crack and when I refused to let go, off came quite a bit of skin. I am fortunate and thankful that the bleeding held off long enough to scramble for my trusty bandana and a search for the first aid kit. There are lessons to be learned here.

Maybe I’m not really looking so much for a lesson in climbing (perhaps I should; I could stand to improve), but that’s not where I’m going with this.  I was thinking it over, rolling around what happened in my head — it all happened so quickly that I couldn’t even say. Why didn’t I let go? Why did I let the pull of my weight and the friction of the granite sandpaper my skin clean off?

It’s simply not in my nature to let go of things. There is a mental game in climbing, and it translates well to many other areas of my frazzled life. One such specific area is knowing when to let go:  To let go of preconceived notions of who I am, what I should be doing with my life, what I think that others think of me. It’s all bullshit. I wrestle every day with wondering who I really am, and how I might best define myself — whether I am defined by my nature, or if I can chose how I am defined. Why do I even need to be defined? What good does any of that do? What purpose will my definition serve?

I was reading an old post on a wonderful blog that I recently discovered, and this quote from Alejandro Jodorowsky reached out and slapped me (translation from blogger, An Odd Geography:

Eres tú mismo, precisamente cuando no sabes quién eres y ni te importa saberlo.

(You are yourself, exactly when you don’t know who you are and you don’t care to find out.)

So. I have chosen once more in my life to let go of trying to define myself. But why is it so difficult for me to let go and just be myself? I’ve been through this before. It’s something that Joan Tollifson speaks to extensively in that book I adore, Bare Bones Meditation. Letting go. 

Even in my meditation class this week, I was reminded to let go. I was instructed to map out my tomorrow; guided to imagine positivity in my morning. I found this to be a significant struggle — in my daily grind, I have been feeling entirely negative. I am constantly reminding myself how much certain things bring me down. I’ve allowed myself to be convinced that X, Y and Z make me unhappy, therefore shutting out any chance of being satisfied by, happy with, or even just content with certain situations. It’s not that X, Y and Z are making me unhappy … but rather, that I have convinced myself of such.

As I was visualizing my next day at the office, the negative thoughts kept rolling through. What a challenge it is to dismiss them … but yet, I must. I must, because there is no way I will do anything about any negative situation until I change my mind about it. I’ve been here before. I ask myself why have I become so foolish as to fall for this trick again?! I have already defined my workdays as negative experiences. I have defined myself as a person who has preconceived negative thoughts about something. I roll in with an expectation of having a terrible day. For the love of all things holy, let that shit go ….

So yes, I realize my ponderings have rambled a tad bit. But as my muddled mind grasps at any semblance of clarity, I find that I have taken take two things to heart when practicing the art of letting go:

  1. Let go of preconceived notions of self. Stop defining.
  2. Let go of preconceived attitudes toward the world around me. Stop expecting.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Photo Jul 13, 10 40 52 AM