Sunday, April 26, 2015

Rebooting: Mind, Body, Soul

Hopefully, in your neck of the woods, spring is in the air. Here in Northern Illinois, sometimes it's spring, sometimes not...ahhh, Midwest either love it, hate it, or accept it. But after a relatively long winter, it's time to open up the windows, breathe in the clean fresh air, and re-energize your mind, body, and soul. For me, that means so many things.

Spring time is proof that dormancy is a must. It gives the creatures and plants of this world time to rest. If you're like me, I tend to view the last month of winter as God's joke. Are we being put to the test to see if we have what it takes to get through? Or is this a reminder that we still need our rest before we begin the re-awakening of life. Sometimes I animals feel cranky at having to slow down? Or do they appreciate the break? Humans do not have that luxury to shut down in the winter. We work, pay bills, all to keep our families healthy and safe. Is it OK to not feel guilty that we do not have the energy needed during these months? I'm learning to appreciate the battening down the hatches of winter. This past winter, for me, has been one of the best in recent memory. I allowed myself that time to rest, and now that spring is here, I feel ready to move on to the next big thing. Whatever that may be.

Although I do not get this right on a daily basis, and I do not want to give the impression that I always practice what I preach, I do know, however, that I have tools to reboot. Here is my list:

  • Start the morning with my yoga practice, reminding myself that yoga is not a regimented practice, but a where-you-are-at-at-any-given-moment practice, giving myself permission to have slow days and vigorous days. 
  • Reflect on my past, pray for strength for the day, and give thanks for all I have (I do this while I drive to work).
  • Greet each person with respect, even those you feel do not deserve it. Because by acting respectful, you are filling your higher purpose. I need to be able to look in the mirror at the end of the day and know that I did the best I could (which many times is way less than perfect).
  • Remind myself that hardships are temporary, as is ease and happiness. Be grateful for all experiences...they make up who we are--and aren't we all complicated?
  •  Practicing mindfulness in all aspects of my life. How I choose to act is in my control. Being reactionary is self-destructive. Difficulties in relationships happen. It's how you choose to respond that defines who you are.
  • Garden! I can't get enough. What a way to reboot! Getting my hands in the dirt and planting, weeding, pruning, gives my mind, body, and soul the lift it needs. In fact, I just planted kale and cauliflower. I'm sure looking forward to fresh salads from my organic garden.
  • Biking! I got a new recumbent bike that I love! The back support gives me the pain-free ride my body needs. And exercising outside! What could be better?!
  • Walking! Love it! Enough said.
  • Spending as much quality time with my family as possible. As a mom and a wife, I sure do make's how we move on and accept ourselves as we are, and love each other...warts an all.
  • Reading. That is something I do all year long. Especially in the winter. It refuels me at so many levels.
  • Creating. I make jewelry, crochet, and dabble in soap making--though this hasn't happened in a few years...maybe it's time to get back to that. To me, being able to create something with my hands allows me the meditative experience needed to keep me grounded. And what an expression of your soul.

I sure could go on and on. Maybe on those days where just getting out of bed is a chore, I will read this list and remember: practice. Life is an ever changing adventure. Nothing stays the same! Enjoy spring! Namaste.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Indie Author, M. Rae: With Grace Under Pressure

I had the pleasure of meeting indie author, M. Rae, during a summer writing workshop in 2014, and was excited to read her new book With Grace Under Pressure. As I was so taken with this beautiful story, and wanted to share it with as many people possible, I asked if she would like to be interviewed. My hope is that after you read the interview, you will purchase this gem of a book. You will not be disappointed.

With Grace Under Pressure is your first book. This is an eloquently told story of five women, who through different reasons, come together eventually to run a half-marathon. Would you talk about the experiences that led you to write so eloquently about each character?

Thank you for your kind words.  The characters in With Grace Under Pressure have some very different challenges to face and overcome, most of them being situations I have not personally experienced.  However, the things they all share, are also things I, and many of my readers share.  As a mother, I have certainly felt the ambivalence of Eva, the protectiveness of Japlo, the camaraderie of Gracie.  As a daughter I can relate to the undying support of a parent-- father and mother.  As a runner, I have ebbed in and out of the many reasons these women run: to compete, to clear my mind, to escape worries, to lose weight, to raise money for a charity.  As a friend, I have felt the incredible acceptance of that one person who just won’t let you fall, no matter what.  These moments are unique to each of us, but, as is true with so much in life, they are also the thread that weaves us all together in the human struggle to find meaning and inspiration.

I couldn't help but notice your literal and metaphorical use of the word run throughout the novel. Mindful of not giving away too much, briefly talk about how you see the characters as individual runners and what running means to them.

Running is the activity that brings these women together, but as individuals, the word holds connotations of power, independence, survival, organization, and even a bit of a revolution.  It is through this physical activity that each woman is able to attain her greater personal need for self-realization.

My blog focuses on yoga, healthy living, and living with chronic pain in safe and positive ways. Understanding that you are not giving medical advice or endorsing any program, per se, what would you say to my readers about running?

Running changes everything.  It changes your body, your health, your adaptability, your “grit”, your relationships.  It makes you strong in many different ways.  It is impossible to not get better, especially if you are new to running.  You just need to get out the door on a regular basis, and let your feet take care of the rest.

Now a technical question. One of your characters is portrayed as a new runner. She decides she needs new running shoes, since she has nothing at all to run in, and she is surprised to find a piece of equipment that is used to choose the shoe she will 
wear--she doesn't choose the shoe, the shoe chooses her. Does this technology exist and what can you tell us about this?

I am so glad you noticed that!  This is, in fact, a wishful version of a piece of technology that I have seen in stores (although it may be less wishful by this point).  I have had running shoe stores use a variety of computerized tools to choose a correct shoe style for me, but I have not personally seen that it suggests a particular shoe brand -- I imagine that might be difficult with all of the changes that shoes go through year to year, but it sure would be nice!   

How do you fit running into your life with your busy schedule? As much as you are comfortable, help us to get to know you.

I have found that running is one of the most time-efficient exercises for me.  The hardest part is truly making the decision to run “now”.  If I can run in the morning, before work, while most of the world is still asleep, I feel the best all day, and I don’t need to wonder if I’ll get to it the rest of the day.  Admittedly, it is hard to wake up early, but once you make it a habit, your body just responds.  
I also try to have running gear on or with me if I think I might have an extra 20 - 45 minutes during the day.  Lunch time, soccer practice, post-work/ pre-commute are pockets of time that are just begging to be filled with a good run instead of a latte and web surfing.
Running with a group or a buddy is a great way to make sure you have a reserved time for your run, with someone who will expect to see you there and will push you to get going, keep going, and finish strong.  
If you remove lounging, chatting, complaining and fussing from the whole process, you find that it is over in a very short time.  And of course, the faster you run, the farther you can go in that amount of time!  

What didn't I ask you that you would like to share with my readers?

While this novel focuses on women, and running, I do not feel it is a book about women running.  I hope that men and women, runners and non-runners, will find this to be a story of strength, community, and dedication to making our human experience one of ease, even as we face challenge.  
As Anna tells us,

“our greatest joys and deepest despairs are never ours to bear alone.”