Mountains of mindfulness

11174026-943C-4692-BDA5-0759E2402818.jpgI was just part of a running and mindfulness retreat in breathtaking Colorado.  (The views and the altitude were both breathe-stealing!)

Coming to this thing was Spencer’s idea well over a year ago.

We embrace events and opportunities like this as growing our cache of skills and connections for our business as well as helping each of us stay accountable to our own lifestyle choices and changes. Building our business while spending the weekend running trails in the incredible Colorado mountains and learning about mindfulness/meditation?

Why not?

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Spence and I on Green Mountain. Some folks on this hike/run were on their longest run ever, some were seasoned ultra runners and some had never been on trails. SO FUN!

I had a meditation practice coming into this retreat; barely.  I manage to eek out about 2-3 minutes of ‘mind-quiet’ time most days. I use the time, pre-coffee,  to set an intention, frame the day in kindness/compassion.  It was a hard habit to start, but I have managed to get it done most mornings for the last 9 months or so.  And I see results.  It works.

But going to a full 3 day retreat focused on meditation and mindfulness with some yoga and group runs throw in?  I wasn’t sure how ‘into it’ I was going to be… I told Spencer, I was absolutely going to listen, learn, observe. I didn’t arrive to Colorado with too many expectations, yet I did arrive with an open mind.  I was ready to meet some great people and just enjoy the experience — whatever it was all about.

Spoiler alert?

It was deeply impactful.

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Beth, Jason and I cruising down the hill and feeling GOOD.  Uh make that GREAT! Happy to be right there, in that moment, exactly as we were, doing exactly what we were doing.  Such goodness captured in a picture.

I loved the running, people, food, mountains, conversations. That’s kind of what I expected — or more accurately — was really hoping for.  What I was not expecting was how much I would deeply, truly love the workshops and the group meditation.

We talked NOT just about what mindfulness was, but what it looks like, how it plays in our lives and how to actually DO IT.  We were guided through meditation in the morning and then we went on group runs.

Abundance of laughter and pictures and meditation and great food and mindfulness and breathing.


I am sitting at our friend Matt’s house staring at the vast and rugged Colorado landscape. Jaw-dropping.  We’re waiting for the eclipse to get started! I’m thinking about what I get to practice and play with moving forward, thanks to the Olson’s and my other retreat-mates, that I didn’t have in my ‘tool kit’ just last week. I realize I’m slightly dreading the return to ‘normal’ life and routines.  I mean, this was an amazing, eye-opening, heart-filling experience.

Who wants to go back to work after this one-of-a-kind experience?

But than again… The point of mindfulness is that THIS moment is all you have and it’s all wonderfully, genuinely, exactly as it should be – every breathe, every moment.

Just enjoy the moment.

THIS moment.

Quit worrying about what could happen and just enjoy what IS happening.


Anyone in the ultra world will know the name Timothy Olson. Talented athlete with a really long and impressive list of accomplishments.  It turns out he is also a damn good daddy and hell of a nice human being on top of it all.  He and his wife, Krista (she’s an equally amazing human, momma, runner, businesswoman) and a cast of other incredible humans are the hosts and leaders for this weekend.

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Tim’s the one waving. 🙂

While I’m still processing things and figuring out what the key take-aways were; I didn’t want to lose sight of the few that were BIG for me… (And maybe they’ll resonate for you too!)

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Selfie skills for the win! I told them I could get all of them in one selfie.  We did it! SEE SPENCER…  When I randomly pause my Garmin during a key workout — it has a bigger purpose. 🙂

Fueled by love.  We often run or engage in some kind of physical activity and let it be fueled by fear, anger, resentment or some other not-so-great-emotion.

I have to run, I don’t want to gain weight.  

I am PISSED at something in my life, so I’m going to go pound it out on the trails.  

I ate XYZ and I have to go work it off as punishment because I shouldn’t have eaten it.

So we’re essentially using that predominant negative emotion as ‘fuel’.  WHAT IF…  What if we used love and compassion and kindness to ‘fuel’ our runs instead?  This epiphany hit during a casual bonfire circle Q & A.  And the message isn’t entirely new to me; I love the idea of re-framing and positive self-talk, etc.  But this simple answer hit me hard, like… I understood it like I’ve never understood it before and could pull context from that very days’ run of having used fear to fuel my strides. I always run with an edge of fear. ALWAYS.  What will people think?  What if I gain the weight back?  What if the whole group has to wait for me? What if diabetes creeps back in my life? LOTS of what if’s floating around that are fear-based, fear-laced.  What if I were to set the intent of the run and simply choose to fuel that run by counting blessings, harnessing love, recognize the good in life? That’s a ‘what-if ‘worth pondering a whole more deeply.

Breathe. (Breathe deep.)

Open-hearted curiosity. Tim gave us his working definition of mindfulness.  And the piece that resonated deeply for me was ‘open-hearted curiosity‘.  In fact I didn’t hear what he said after that for a few moments because the idea struck me hard. Just that moment of pure wonder with no judgement attached…  His example to illustrate this idea was perfect.  He said to think about that moment when you stick your head outside the door to see what the weather is before heading out on a run.  You are not JUDGING what the weather is going to bring to/do to your run or your day, it’s just that instant/moment of wondering how the air is, what the skies look like, what the weather really is like at that moment…  THAT moment of suspended judgement is ‘open-hearted curiosity’.  I fell in love with that idea… 🙂  Coupled with open-hearted curiosity is the reminder to suspend judgement.  Just be curious.  I’m a harsh self-directed judger and conclusion-drawer and a story-builder.  I take one data point and can easily build the apocalypse in my head; convince my heart to go along with my head and the day is suddenly headed in another direction…  So suspending judgement and just being consistently, genuinely open-heartedly curious, is a BIG ONE FOR ME.  Just be curious.  Period.  Stop right there.  I’ve been eagerly practicing this one a lot already.

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Kindness. The world just needs more kindness. Ample and gentle reminders for us to find ways to insert kindness when we see the chance, when we’re given the chance. Smile at people on the trails. Help a fellow runner/hiker/outdoor-goer.  Take the kindness off of the trails and into life.  Kindness conquers a whole lot of ills in our world.  Kindness costs nothing.

BREATHE. (In through the nose, out through the mouth…)

Accepting pain. Instead of fighting pain and discomfort, accept it. Lean into it and accept it, feel it, acknowledge it. Breathe through it. I always figured part of what we were training for with all this dang mileage and ‘time on our feet’ was to abolish the pain; get stronger and fitter so pain was less and less of an issue.  Uh… Not true.  Pain is actually strengthened by our reaction to it. Fixating on things rarely ‘fixes’ them.  WHOA!  So reacting to the pain actually makes it stronger. Damn. That’s not good. This is true for physical pain and mental pain as well. The idea that accepting pain, facing it and not fighting it is what actually helps it diminish or be put into perspective was a pretty startling reminder/re-framing for me.

And just breathe…


Heading home with tired legs, full lungs, happy heart, new friends.

This adventure delivered more than I could have possibly imagined.

Full and happy heart.

#runmindful

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Fat Shaming

IMG_5633I want to talk about fat-shaming.

I have been fat-shamed.  Lots.  In some cases I remember incidences specifically. In some cases it’s more like hashmarks tallying up the number of times something happened…

I hear lot of stories about it too, from a surprisingly wide variety of people when they choose to get vulnerable and tell us their stories. Men and women, just to be clear. They try to be casual or funny.  They’re not.  They try to tell me it was parental/relative ‘love’.  It’s not.  They try to tell me they deserved to be the butt of a cruel joke.  They didn’t. They try to tell me they’re over it, they’ve dealt with it; then their face crumples.

You can’t ‘un-hear’ things said about you.

I have tried.  And tried. And tried.

The point of this post is to raise self-awareness and propose some action.

I’m actually kind of tired of trying to define it, explain it and wrap my head around all of the phrases/off-shoots/hashtags/movements.  I think I found one way to cut through the crap and change the tide. And if this isn’t the way – at least it’s action while we re-group… 🙂

This all starts with individuals being kinder, gentler to themselves and those around them that are struggling with weight, body image, food issues…

That simple. (And hard…)

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I’ve enjoyed some amazing support. The one person who knows my whole heart, whole story?  My sis. 

Fat shaming is about actions and words.

Equally devastating.

The actions range from elbowing someone’s fat rolls if they sit next to you on a plane, not hiring someone for a job because you don’t like how they look, making pig sounds as they walk by….  Need I go on?

 

Words  What you say to someone can stay rattling around in someone’s brain for years.  (And years….)  We all know that.

{Use your powers for good.}

I’ve written this before; but the old ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ childhood rhyme is utter bullshit.

Words wound. Words create. Words fill your heart with joy. Words build. Words destroy.

Words matter.

Deeply.

At the core fat-shaming – defined by Psychology today is ‘An act of bullying, singling out, discriminating, or making fun of a fat person. The shaming may be performed under the guise of helping the person who is overweight/obese realize they need to lose weight or they will die, become ill, and/or never succeed in life or relationships. Fat shaming is an individual bias against people who are considered unattractive, stupid, lazy, or lacking self control.”

For me the fat shaming started early.

Middle and High school were predictably the worst.

Now they would have called it bullying.

The worst was coming out to my car my Junior year.  Popular back in the day was the bumper sticker that said some version of ‘No Fat Chicks’.  A doctored version with the ‘no’ removed was stuck on my car.  I was being called a ‘fat chick’.  I suspected people thought it — this removed all doubt. I was a farm-girl in the middle of LA and I was fat.  I was an oddity no matter what… But my farm girl side had the tools; I pulled out some silver tape, covered the bumper sticker and drove home. A car full of high school boys were laughing and pointing and taunting. I knew all of them. My mom, both of us in tears, helped me scrape it off my car. We never told anyone. To this day it can make me cry if I think about it long enough. The tears then were for the cruel act.  The tears now are of sadness that my mom is gone, coupled with the deep gratitude and love for the woman, beyond that of being my mom, who knew what it was like to be ‘unacceptably large’ in our society.

Back then; my friends, relatives and most of the responsible adults around me just turned a blind eye.  I was told to ‘lose weight’ and the ‘mean comments’ would stop. So hard for me sometimes to accept friend requests on social media outlets from people who said things that 25 years later I still remember.  However, I friend these high school ‘friends’ because the only way to change the tide on ANY of this for ME is to forgive and do what I can to make things different for myself and others as we move forward.

You can’t embrace your future if you’re busy clinging onto useless bitterness tied to your past.

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My mom.

Workplace.  Dating.  Stores.  Restaurants.  Travel.  You name it — I have a story that relates to being embarrassed, belittled, made fun of, hurt. And before someone suggests it; these were not times where I was being overly-sensitive or reading too much into something. These were pointed comments and situations that were clearly aimed at me being fat in their space, them trying to ‘save me’ or simply ‘stating the obvious’.

I would bet solid money that most of you reading this blog have some stories that you could also share.

I also have the stories of having lost weight and people making comments that assure me they like me much better now…  In and of itself another form of emotional upset. “You’re pretty now!’, ‘Why are you still single?’ and ‘You must love your life now!’

I’ve been diving into this topic with both feet trying to learn what can be done to change the tide. And trying to learn how to help other men and women who struggle.  If you would like a little side-trip to understand just how pervasive this issue is, or you’re still not clear exactly what constitutes fat-shaming….  Google fat-shaming and click on the option to view images.  It should break your heart.

Fat isn’t the only thing shamed. Anything we deem ‘not normal’, ‘not acceptable’ with help from marketing and social media is fair game — right?  Since I was the former 392 pound woman; fat shaming is where my heart and brain lie. I can talk about being morbidly obese in the US.  And no longer being obese.  I can talk about both.  And I do. All the time.

It’s not like you can hide being fat/overweight/obese.

It’s not like I was fat/overweight/obese to piss anyone off, or make myself a target.  There were some really complicated dynamics behind my weight — as with ANYONE — and being shamed for it never drove me to do anything other than eat, hide, cry…  It never provoked the need to change.  Only to try to hide and to avoid people…

So you’re wondering what to do?

So am I to be honest.

I think we just have to start somewhere.  The following list is the best of the advice I could glean from the tumble down the rabbit hole of the  interwebs/books/podcasts/experts; so this is where I am going to start…

  • Be kind to MYSELF.  The worst, most destructive, most hateful fat-shaming is the shaming we do to ourselves.
  • Shut other people down when they say mean things about themselves or other people.  Support the positive.
  • Stop commenting on anyone’s food and clothing choices, how their body looks.
  • Comment on and praise actions, kindnesses, abilities, rather than appearance.
  • Don’t re-post, like or comment on mean-shit on social media.  It’s NOT funny.  What if it was ME, YOU or someone we loved the picture was captioning?
  • Don’t assume. I don’t know what someone else journey is, why they eat a certain way, what they’re facing, what health challenges exist in their lives…  Take one breath, one moment, adjust my thinking about the fact that maybe I don’t know what’s best for them.  Or what might hurt them.
  • Taste my words before I spit them out.
  • Use my ‘powers’ for good.

What have I missed?  What else would you add to this list?

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