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Posts Tagged ‘endurance’

I’ve been a runner for about three years now. But I was a yogi long before I was a runner. And these days, the two disciplines inform and bolster each other.

I discovered yoga back in Abilene, when a friend told me about some classes downtown at the Center for Contemporary Art. I showed up on a weeknight with my green Target yoga mat, unsure about where to put my feet or how to breathe or really, all of it. But I fell in love with wise, kind-eyed, practical McKay and her classes, and when I moved to Boston, one of the first things I did was find Healing Tree, the local studio. I took classes there for nearly nine years, until I moved to Eastie (and The Point, my current neighborhood studio) last summer.

When I started running in 2017, I kept on doing yoga: one or two vinyasa flow classes a week, the way I’d always done. I love yoga for the strength and flexibility it’s helped me hone, and the way a good class can clear my head, make me feel calmer, more settled, more at home in my body. Although running is a very different workout, I love it for many of the same reasons. So it makes sense that at least for me, they complement one another.

In normal, non-pandemic times, I go running most nights after work and squeeze in a yoga class once or twice a week. Since mid-March, I’ve been running (almost) every morning and going to yoga (in the park, when possible) once or twice a week, either at lunchtime or early evening.

Both disciplines help me pay attention to my body, help me grow stronger and more flexible, more attuned to my bones and muscles and how they interact with my mind. When I’m running, I pay more attention to my hips and shoulders because of yoga, and I’m sure the deep breathing practice doesn’t hurt, either. And my warrior poses and balance poses – tree, eagle, dancer – are stronger because I’m a runner. Both disciplines, too, remind me of the joy of effort and rest: working up a sweat and then a lovely cool-down walk when running, a series of challenging poses and then a peaceful savasana in a yoga class.

I didn’t really think about whether my running would affect my yoga, or vice versa, when I became a runner. But they balance one another quite well, and I’m glad for that. (Bonus: I can wear the same gear to do both, and – at least for now – practice both of them outside.)

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rocks waves blue sky two lights state park maine

Every once in a while, usually when I’m not looking, a line from a hymn sneaks into my soul and lodges there, like a bird building a covert nest under the eaves of a house.

This happens with non-religious music too (I’m looking at you, Taylor Swift), but when a hymn lyric sets up camp in my consciousness, it becomes a kind of mantra, or a kind of prayer. Last December, during Advent, it was my favorite four-part version of the Magnificat. This winter, a Lenten hymn caught my attention, and I hummed it over and over as we plodded toward Easter.

memorial church interior

This fall, it’s a line from a hymn I’ve known for years: God of Grace and God of Glory.

I’ve sung the several verses of this song all my life, in the big Baptist church where I grew up and in various other churches since then. I know most of the words by heart, and I love them all, but one line in particular has burrowed into my mind and soul lately:

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days.

I was laid off from my job a few months ago. I have not wanted to talk about it here on the blog, but that simple fact has informed every day of my life since I received the news. The job search has been longer and more difficult than I expected, and I miss the purpose and the camaraderie of my former workplace. I’ve had some interviews and a few promising leads, but it has been hard. And it continues to be hard.

After months of job hunting – the relentless cycle of applications and rejections, the constant worry about whether I’m doing it right or doing enough, the loneliness that comes from missing colleagues and community – I am finding it difficult to pray. There are a host of reasons for this, not all directly related to the job search, but I can’t always make the words come, or even bring myself to believe that it matters.

But this quiet hymn lyric keeps coming to mind, both on the hard days and the not-quite-so-hard days. I catch myself humming it at odd moments, or I find the words floating through my head. (We also sang this song at church yesterday, because my husband – who plans our worship services – is evidently a mind reader.)

Both halves of this line resonate with me. “The living of these days” speaks to a broad swath of struggles and worries, both personal and societal. When I’m wondering how to face these difficulties, I’m always hoping for more wisdom and more courage. And when I’m too tired or too dispirited to form a prayer, this seems to be a pretty good one.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage for the living of these days.

Amen.

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seasonal amnesia

“I swear everyone forgets what it’s like,” I said to my sister on the phone last week. “I love living in New England about two-thirds of the year.” And I do.

 

snow trees first parish church cambridge
But then we get to this part, and I realize: we always forget how it feels to walk through this stretch, these gray, frozen, mind-numbingly cold days of the second half (or so) of winter.

I don’t mind a chill in the air in late fall, when burnished leaves begin to turn brown and the nights grow crisp and starry. I like pulling out my sweaters and boots, brewing an extra cup of tea in the evening, baking a loaf of pumpkin bread and buying fresh cranberries at the grocery store. I love Thanksgiving, and I adore December, with its atmosphere of twinkly magic and the manifold joys of Christmas.

We had a foot of snow in December this year, which felt a bit ominous. But at the beginning of winter, no one really minds. We pulled out the snow shovels, dug out our cars and scraped off our windshields, and then we flew to Texas to spend the holidays with our loved ones. We knew the winter would really start after we came back. It started with a blizzard, and has lingered with a vengeance.

winter trees boston pink sunset

I forget, every year, what it’s like to feel stuck in this stage of winter, when I’m sick to death of winter clothes, dry skin, and biting, punishing winds. My vision narrows until all I can think about is getting home after work and curling up on the couch with tea and a good story. Dust collects in the corners of my house; why should I clean those hard-to-reach spots if it’s too dark to tell the difference? Running out of milk or bread is enough to make me change the plan for dinner completely – anything to avoid a trip to the grocery store after dark. The errands pile up until the weekend, when I can at least run them in the daylight. Everything feels gray and white and worn out, and it seems as if spring will never come.

I know I’ll look back on these words in May or July or September and I won’t quite remember how it feels. I’ll remember that it was cold, and that I wore my red down coat, black snow boots and fleece-lined tights for days on end. I’ll remember brewing endless cups of tea and eating bowl after bowl of soup. I’ll remember spending many evenings holed up at home, with a book and a blanket for company.

But I won’t quite remember this, the flat heaviness that has settled into my soul. It will lift and lighten when spring comes, and by summer it will be entirely gone.

This is both a relief and a blessing. If I remembered this feeling clearly all year round, I don’t know if I could face another Northeastern winter. I wonder sometimes when I will reach the end of my endurance, when the thought of another long stretch of cold, dark, snowy days will be enough to make me pull up stakes and move back south. I have a feeling I’ll get there eventually, no matter how much I love the mild New England summers and the glorious autumns.

For now, my seasonal amnesia lets me savor the summer and fall, revel in the spring when it finally arrives, and prepare for another winter without (entirely) giving up. But I’d still welcome spring any day now.

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