Saturday, August 29, 2015

joyful mornings

Mornings are my favorite time of day. Most mornings I'm waiting quietly abed for the alarm to sound. When we are traveling overnight in our sailboat, I relish the 4 AM shift so I can enjoy the dawn. It's spectacular at sea. Dawn is pretty great most days, even when I can't see the horizon. 

One of the things I like about mornings, besides the light, sounds and smells, is that the morning transition is perfectly suited for routine. Routines give us structure and comfort. My morning routine is solid, and it helps me greet the new day with minimal decisions to make and activities that get my body and mind ready for whatever the day will bring. My morning routine, simply, gives me joy.

Exercise is first. Depending on the day of the week, it's either a run/walk outside, a cycling class, or yoga. I'm fortunate to live two blocks from the Y, so yoga and cycling are easy to get to. I set my clothes out the night before. Occasionally I skip a day, but I've usually decided that the night before. I don't give myself the option in the morning. I get mentally ready before I sleep. I have my alarms set with the activity for that day. If I am still asleep when it sounds (and it's Thursday), I'm greeted with "Get up! It's YOGA day!"  

Starting with exercise gives me an opportunity to connect with my body, to give it some attention and, in return, I get energy and a happy feeling that lasts for hours. I've been lately trying to combine exercise with meditation. Thich Nhat Han wrote a book about walking meditation and it was taught to us at the Zen Center. Leo Babauta also talks about breathing and being present in running. As long as I make sure I am running safely (cars, ground surface, dogs, etc.), the mind is free to focus on the breath while propelling the feet along. I do miss the seated meditation that I started in earnest this year (and started slacking off on), so will probably add that back in to my morning routine.

Breakfast is second. Prepping breakfast is a mindfulness practice in its own right. I assemble all the tools and ingredients and try to do all the process steps in the same order. Oatmeal and tea are my weekdays. Some eggs and croissants may peek in on the weekends. I make the quick oatmeal, so I measure out water to boil for our coffee, tea and oatmeal - no need for any pots to clean. I add raisins, chopped walnuts, my spice blend and a sliced banana. 

Washing up is third. This encompasses both the kitchen and the self. Cleaning the kitchen after every meal goes a long way towards making life pleasant. Doing the same sequence of things every day eliminates thinking about what needs to be done and frees the mind for problem solving or philosophy. Even simplifying one small thing makes a difference. I've started using the same soap for hair and skin: saves time and money and there is less to recycle at the end.

Dressing is fourth. Decision fatigue is a real thing, so I've reduced the choices in my closet. I grab either a dress or skirt + shirt combo. Every item in there is something I love. I only have to remember whether I've worn that outfit already this week, since I only wash things when they have been worn a few times. I have a pair of sandals, clogs, and knee boots, so shoe choice is weather dependent.

Ready to head out the door! I'm energized, fed and clean. Body and mind are prepared for a new day. 

Joyful Morning Oatmeal Spice Blend
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon orange peel

Mix in a small jar, enough for a week or so.

Monday, August 3, 2015

you got this

I’m holding on to a vertical wall by my fingers and toes looking intently at colorful plastic formations. My left hand can reach this one, my right foot can bump up to that one and then I have to slowly raise my left foot up to where my left hand is clinging in order to continue climbing upwards. About 25 feet below me, I hear a woman sing out “You got this!” It’s just the boost I need to stretch my leg up and barely connect that toe to stand up with enough balance to reach the next hold, and then the next and then next, until I’m up 45 feet, slapping the top bar with my free hand.

Once back on the ground (thanks to my trusty belay partner), I look for her to say “thank you”, but she’s already moved on to encourage someone else. It’s just another night at the gym.

I realized the other day that I’ve been spending much of my free time at the gym. I have been trying to simplify my life for some time now, following minimalist writers, such as Leo Babauta and Joshua Becker. They write about minimalism as decluttering your life to make room for your passions. I guess one of my passions is the gym. I didn’t plan it, it just happened. 

When we moved to back to land, I scouted apartments based on proximity to the YMCA. In the last city I lived in, it was a short bike ride to the downtown YMCA and all the yoga classes I could fit in. I wanted to do that again.

Mondays and Wednesdays I go to cycling at 6:00 AM, yoga at 1:00 PM and the rock gym at 5:30 PM. Tuesdays I just walk/run outside. Thursdays is yoga at 6:00 AM and sometimes the rock gym. Fridays is yoga at 1:00 PM and the rock gym.  Weekends are for walking and sailing. That’s 6 classes at the Y and usually 3 nights at the rock gym.

Why? It’s about being in touch with my body, for sure, but it’s also about community. There’s a bond between people who are pushing the limits of their bodies together in the same room. When we cycle on those stationary bikes with the music blaring, we are all racing together, as if the entire Tour de France is behind us. When we stretch, fold and twist in yoga, we are there for each other, breathing in and breathing out, intentional and focused.

And at the rock gym, it’s a combination spectator and participant sport. We climb, we chat, we take turns belaying each other. Groups of 2, 3, 4 form and disperse as people mill around working on the problems on the wall. We engage in dialog with the route setters, both verbally and with our bodies as we try to figure out the how to get up this one or that. We learn, we make friends, and we shout “You got this!”.