Why meditation?

You might have noticed the recent focus of my Instagram feed (@createyourdailyflow) has been encouraging students to experiment with meditation. I’m no meditation expert, by any means. But I’ve been playing around with this daily practice for about two years or so and I’m convinced that our students need it now more than ever.

I see our students continually pulled in multiple directions, they are stressed about keeping up with their coursework, while dealing with issues from home, trying to work at much as possible to pay for school and they’re feeling burned out, frustrated and just plain tired.

I’m not claiming to have a magic wand (although that would be really cool), but I do believe investing in one’s self can lead to greater peace + endurance on a daily basis. Helping students get grounded with their health + wellness helps them flourish in their academics. The mantra I use with our scholars is . . . EAT SLEEP MOVE McNair-Style.

Tending to your wellness is as important as tending to your academics.

As a matter of fact, doing the former only further enables the latter. Taking care of you helps you do good work and even better work. It helps you feel better overall. And it generally makes you a happier human being.

Win win, right?

It’s a simple concept, but not that easy. So as much as I’m still interested in supporting students in self-care, I’m even more interested in encouraging them to develop a mindfulness practice. Why? Because training our minds to become “more mindful” has the potential to transform our lives in so . . . many . . . ways.

Mindfulness and meditation are definitely becoming more mainstream these days as more researchers document its benefits. I just Googled “benefits of meditation” and spent almost an hour getting lost amidst the tons of articles and websites and studies on the topic. I found this awesome graphic from the Art of Living that perfectly encapsulates it in my mind.

benefits of meditation

In my experience, daily meditation simply helps me notice more, about how I’m feeling, what’s happening around me, my breath. I feel more grounded even when there’s a bunch of chaos swirling about. I tend to react less and simply BE more. I find it easier to “breathe into” the discomfort, whether in a challenging yoga pose or difficult situation at work. I feel like I can handle more disruption and adversity, you know, better. And I just feel more relaxed and focused and at peace . . .  cheesy, I know, but it’s kinda cool feeling at peace sometimes, right? So many benefits are creeping into my life.

I want these AWESOME BENEFITS to creep into your life too!

So I encourage you to simply “sit and breathe” for a few minutes each day. You can build from there. Start small, start with what works for you. Approach it in the spirit of experimentation and see what you find. And this one is hard, but try not to have any expectations about . . . anything. Just sit and observe yourself, observing your breath. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them and let them go. Let them float on by.

The beauty of meditation is, like anything else, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. You will settle into your breath and your being. You will ultimately hone your mind to be more present and not constantly jumping back into the past or into the future with worry + anxiety.

Give meditation a chance. Give it some time.

Check out our Mindful Scholar movement too >> CLICK HERE.

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Let us know how it goes! Amanda and I – seriously – are on a mission to encourage more students to explore how meditation can enhance their academic journeys. Tag us on Instagram @mindfulphdstudent and @createyourdailyflow and/or use the hash tag #mindfulscholar.

We would love to hear how you are doing and your thoughts on meditation . . .

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Chronicles of CrossFit

This week I watched three rockstar fellow gym mates get bummed out by a “less than hoped for” performance on an Open workout – 18.4 to be exact. They did pretty amazing in my eyes as well as others, so the “subpar” view really came from within. The workout was tough, a new standard made handstand push-ups even harder (not that handstand push-ups are ever easy, just clarifying). Lots of folks didn’t do as well as they hoped.

Our head coach even sent out a quick post-workout video encouraging athletes to keep their chins up, recognize progress they’ve made, even if their score on this particular workout didn’t show it. This is part of the process, for sure.

Striving for your best on any given day, putting it out there and then accepting where you’re at. It’s pretty darn cool when you get to witness new heights in others (and yourself), but it’s also pretty cool getting to see that integral process unfold, slowly but surely, when you work toward goals on a consistent basis, your strength will surface.

Sometimes you even surprise yourself!

I did the easiest version for this one since there were going to be 90 deadlifts (half @ 80# and half @ 95#) in addition to a bunch of hand release push-ups, I need to save my back!

My goal was to complete the workout within the nine minutes allotted and that I did, beating it by ten seconds. Today I watched two women do the “in between scale” with 95# and 135# deadlifts and they both finished within the time cap – so impressive! To say the least.

Why do I feel inspired to write about this?

Because it’s pretty frickin’ cool the kinds of experiences + lessons you really can get in a CrossFit gym. And maybe not every CF gym, but you certainly can in mine.

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Every Saturday our gym has been coming together at 9 a.m. to do the workout of the week in conjunction with the Open. We have teams (with funny names!), people volunteer to judge one another, we all rally around and cheer for each other and everyone gets to feel the love, no matter if you’re pulling 315# at RX mens or 80# like me.

We run the gamut with age and I’m constantly inspired by fellow CrossFitters who are my elder. They show me what’s possible and that age means only as much as you have it mean. Don’t get me wrong, on most days, I’m nearly double the age of fellow peeps in the gym, and that’s okay. I find that I learn from pretty much everyone I connect with, and that’s what makes our place extra special.

Last week I put myself to the test and got my first kipping pull-up!

It’s funny. Each week we can choose the “scale” we are going to do for the workout and my initial instinct was to select the easiest option because, you know, I couldn’t really do a pull-up. I use bands (and lots of them lol) which make things easier, but we couldn’t use them for this workout. I went ahead and selected the easy option.

Then I got to thinking on Friday during my noon class. I wondered if I might be able to eek out at least one kipping pull-up. I got all the bands out, tried one with the green band. Got it. Tried one with the blue band. Got it. Tried one with the red band. Got it.

Hymmm.

The red band is sort of like using nothing, but it’s still using a band. Mental. It’s in my head. How much of this is really in our heads? How often do we limit ourselves because of what we *think* to be true? That’s the beauty of the Open really. It’s a time to challenge ourselves, try things and see, to perhaps push ourselves in ways we don’t normally. You know, so we can experience what’s actually possible.

I got input on my decision from several coaches, I called a friend, I kinda got a nervous feeling in my belly, but I did it anyway. I changed myself to scale one instead of two, which meant I was going to be doing a bunch of jump roping, overhead squats, dumb bell snatches, and yes, I would see if a kipping pull-up would be possible, without my comforting red band. My goal was to get one.

I dreamt about it the night before. I was super focused the day of. I was nervous. I convinced Conner to be my judge so that she could coach me through. And that she did. And I got one! And then about 20 or so more … more or less. That first one was the best, and I probably got my chin above the bar on most others, but now I know I need to work on my form, more of a “pop and pull,” if you will. Setting up a training session next week to do just that. Want to build on the momentum.

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Suffice it to say this process teaches us a lot. About ourselves. About each other. About our community as a whole. In a way, the Open helps form a strong base for relationships that bloom + develop throughout the rest of the year. As for those who keep coming back, the Open also gives you a benchmark for your progress.

We can all take pride in the growth that happens every year. Which is why the athletes I mentioned at the top of this post, came around to feeling “less bummed” about maybe not getting as many handstand push-ups; truth is, the ones they got will carry them far.

This piece is long (!), but I want to go back to the coaching part of this. I had intended to write an entire post about Brock (smile), a superb athlete and one of our younger coaches who judged me in 18.2. Dumb bell squats and over the bar burpees galore with a one rep max clean to boot! What Brock provided me that day (or Conner, as I’m on the bar trying to do a pull-up), it’s hard to really capture. 

The coaching + support we receive at CrossFit Worthy goes above + beyond.

It truly does.

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CrossFit Worthy coaches (photo credit: Heather Barnes)

I’m trying to describe the feeling as I’m flopping my body on the floor and back up, while at the same time, Brock is “negotiating” with me how I’m going to immediately pick up the dumb bells for the next set of squats. He’s literally lying on the gym floor so he can be face to face telling me this. With my body saying, “this is kinda stupid,” Brock helped my mind stay focused on the task at hand. Finish the workout. Have time to get a clean in that I’ll be proud of (which I did!) and feel accomplished for having done it.

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ultimate coaching = Brock (photo credit: Kaylee Kok)

Lastly, I have mention always having the best “cheering section” for each workout, with multiple folks encouraging me along, in addition to our “special kiddos” who are learning all about this process at an early age! They sure help keep me going. For 18.2, my good friend and her kids had a front row seat, which is the best.

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special cheering section! photo credit: Cece First

Suffice it to say I’m really glad to be having this experience at this point in my life. It helps me stay grounded, focused, connected, empowered, motivated, strong, accomplished, engaged and happy. I’m already bummed that our last CF Open workout is this weekend. I’m out of town, so I’ll miss all the Worthy fun, but I’m going to make some new friends at CrossFit Asheville instead! We might be in store for some thrusters.

Oh joy!

One of our team names is But Did You Die. LOL

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P.S. Had to include one last SUPER FUN photo … because … that’s how we roll.

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these girls make my day (photo credit: Kaylee Kok)

18.1

It’s Open season for the CrossFit Games which is a worldwide competition for CrossFit athletes. I’ve never really considered myself an athlete, but this is my third year participating in the CrossFit Open. I’m not “officially” signed up, but I get to participate because my most awesome gym, CrossFit Worthy, hosts the competition for anyone who wants to join each Saturday during the five weeks it runs every spring.

It’s pretty darn cool to have this experience, especially as a novice CrossFitter.

They announce each workout on Thursday, and it’s kind of a big deal. Clues are posted on Instagram. People have fun guessing what the workout will be. Lots of folks watch it live and then check out several people actually doing the workout. That’s when you get to learn the movement standards, “strategizing” starts to happen and you begin to wonder what YOU WILL BE ABLE TO ACTUALLY DO when your turn is up!

Most everyone at my gym is participating, so that makes the anticipation + overall process doubly fun.

I did 18.1 (what the first workout is called) at a scaled version which included a 20 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) with 8 big tucks (on the bar), 10 clean + jerks (with a 20 pound dumbbell) and then a 12 calorie row (you just keeping doing those 3 movements over and over).

I got just over eight rounds, which is good for me!

Athletes have until Monday to record their scores, so we can still do the workout during open gym that day. Sometimes people will re-do the workout to see if they can enhance their score. I’ve re-done things a handful of times over the past two seasons and it’s taught me a lot about myself.

I’m not a huge “goal setting” person, but I was curious if I could do *any* rounds at the RX level (the prescribed weight for like, you know, the “real” athletes lol). This meant doing the same workout, but much harder with actual toes to bar (T2B) and using a 35# dumbbell, a super big jump in weight for me!

I made myself a goal of achieving five rounds, just to see if I could do it.

My friend Rocky judged me and helped get me through. And I surpassed my goal! Did just over five rounds, including an additional 8 T2B and 5 clean + jerks. That was the hardest part! Really really had to concentrate on getting that weight UP, locking out my arm and legs each time. Was about hyperventilating by the end of 20 minutes, but I made it!

Check out my video on RX-ing 18.1 >> CLICK HERE :)

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chatting up 18.1

Why am I writing about this experience? Because for me, it’s pretty monumental in building my confidence, getting real about what I’m capable of and pushing myself in ways I normally don’t. I say this all the time, but CrossFit has been one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done.

Our community at CrossFit Worthy is a big reason why.

When I see firsthand that I can lift a weight I really didn’t think I could, then I begin to see that I *might* be able to do other things I really didn’t think I could do. The experience TRANSLATES and that’s where the magic really happens. I’m building “muscle memories” that translate to the heart.

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So, what are YOU doing these days to challenge yourself?

It’s a good thing to do from time to time.

Especially if you tend to be a “creature of comfort” like me.

Get out there and see what’s possible.

You might be surprised.

<3

 

 

 

 

Starting anew

Hello there!

I’m getting back into blogging to share ponderings, insights, my own evolution really. I’ve been blogging for about four years now, although it seems longer. I think it takes a good amount of courage to self express and although it makes me nervous sometimes, I feel called to keep doing it. As a matter of fact, I’m feeling called to do it even more.

I try to show up for our students and shine my light in ways that will lead to greater clarity + grounding in their lives, for today and in the long-term. Planting seeds I like to call it. If I’m honest, I’m working to do this better for my own family. We’re all a work in progress. The cool thing is that we’re connected and sharing in the journey.

I know I have something good to offer and this spring I’m diving deeper to find it. I feel grounded in my work with McNair more than ever. I’m utterly blessed to support our scholars in their own evolution. Truth is their growth spurs my own.

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photo credit: graciela mercedes

I’m determined to keep developing my own voice so that I can contribute in even more meaningful ways. A dear friend took this photograph of me back in summer of 2016 and I frequently use it as a profile pic. I like that she caught me in the moment and I love the light. It’s one of my favorite places to sit outside and enjoy lunch too – Green Tree!

I see my work ultimately helping students be in the moment more. We all need to be in the moment more. Learning to be okay with what is, and thus, worrying less about how everything is going to turn out in the future is key. Using our breath as an anchor is a great place to start. Noticing the beauty that surrounds us, especially the smallest things that can easily go unnoticed is also key.

So, I wanted to put out an introductory post, if you will. Letting folks know of my intentions, because once you declare and share something, chances are greater bringing your vision to fruition. I’m really good at having ideas + starting things and then petering out when my confidence wanes or bumps in the road appear. I’m putting this to a stop right here.

I invite you to come along on the journey as I’m always game to learning from others, hearing your story and offering support + encouragement.

In essence, I’m interested in creating community and holding the space.

For us all.

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Letting ourselves emerge

One of the things I love about attending a yoga class is being prompted to think in new ways. In addition to queuing the different poses, a teacher will usually weave in a particular “theme” or “language” meant to elucidate a certain concept or idea typically related to the philosophy of yoga. In essence, the goal of yoga is becoming more in tune with your true self.

Today, we were invited to consider how much of our “true selves” we actually show to the world on a regular basis. True, there are probably parts of ourselves that are easy to share, certain qualities, beliefs, manners of being. Perhaps even truer are other parts of ourselves more easily kept hidden. Perhaps they fall beyond what is considered “the norm” or maybe we are afraid that if we show who we really are or what we really believe in, we won’t be accepted by others. We are afraid to stand in our own truth for fear of being judged and rejected.

When we are mindful, we can usually start to notice how we only allow certain parts of ourselves to show, depending upon the situation we find ourselves in.

What’s interesting about a yoga practice is that we explore such topics through breath and movement. We take a look at these “more subtle notions” through tangible things like breathing and moving our bodies.

Today, we were encouraged to embrace the totality of ourselves, flaws and weaknesses, in all. Strengths too. By observing our mind as we move from pose to pose, we learn to lean into the discomfort of simply being ourselves, just as we are. We have lots of “stories” we tell about ourselves. We aren’t good at this, we aren’t good at that. This happened and so I’m this way because of that.

Today in our yoga practice, we were encouraged to let go of these stories (that “ticker tape” constantly running in our heads), and instead, embrace the present moment of who we are. Right now. At this moment.

Can I stand in my own truth of who I am as an individual?

Maybe.

The real opportunity comes from challenging those stories, or in many cases, “limiting beliefs,” we hold so dear. Today our practice culminated with a pretty challenging pose. Immediately, my internal “ticker tape” began saying, it would be easier to just stick with the simpler version of this, you probably can’t get your leg up like that anyway, it might be too strenuous.

Instead of listening to that ticker tape, I tried it. It didn’t look pretty, especially in relation to the two beautiful teachers surrounding me and going into the fully realized version of it, but I tried it. Then I refined how I tried it, on the second side, with feedback from my teacher.

It was probably a “smidge” better on that second side, but the deal is, it was *my version* of that pose for today. Sure, my teachers’ versions still appeared “more better” (vocab from my 8-year-old, smile) in my mind’s eye; but I dropped that story, if just for the moment, and recognized myself for having tried and having accomplished “my version” of that more advanced yoga pose, for today.

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Heather doing “the pose” quite beautifully. This is “her version” of the pose.

I’m doing this in CrossFit too. Just yesterday I back-squatted 120 pounds. Five more pounds than I did last week. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I tried it. I focused and leaned into the discomfort involved in trying something I hadn’t done before; something I, in the back of my head, was already second guessing I could do. Darn ticker tape running and doing its job, like it always does.

And so I did that too. And maybe it wasn’t perfect, but I did it. And as a result, I inserted this notion of being able to do it, into my brain. Cool thing is, next time around, my “ticker tape” might just resurrect this belief instead!

My teacher then read an excerpt from The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo:

“Like many of us, I seem to be continually challenged not to hide who I am. Over and over, I keep finding myself in situations that require me to be all of who I am in order to make my way through. Whether breaking a pattern of imbalance with a lifelong friend, or admitting my impatience to listen to my lover, or owning my envy of a colleague, or even confronting the self-centeredness of strangers stealing parking spaces, I find I must be present – even if I say nothing. I find I must not suppress my full nature, or my life doesn’t emerge.

Aside from the feeling of integrity or satisfaction that comes over me when I can fully be myself, I am finding that being who I am – not hiding any of myself – is a necessary threshold that I must meet or my life will not evolve. It is a doorway I must make my way to or nothing happens. My life just stalls.”

What it comes down to is leaning into the discomfort of new territory and discovering who you really are, even if it’s scary and even if it’s easier to stay right where we are. When we do this (especially on a regular basis), we expose, more and more, our true selves and who we really are as individuals.

It’s how we grow.

It’s how we shed our stories and allow ourselves to evolve.

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