Recap: Wanderlust 108 – Charlotte 2016

Wanderlust 2016 - Charlotte

Where it began

Run. Yoga. Mediate.

The trifecta of health and balance for one’s mind, body, and spirit. Back in April, I had the opportunity to engage in these trio activities with two incredible friends. We hopped on the Amtrak in Durham after work on a Friday, heading to the Queen City (Charlotte).

Sheila, Michelle and I outside the Charlotte Amtrak station

A group of 3? Talk about synergy!

Wanderlust, known for its enormous yoga festivals, often in exotic locations, created day-long spin-offs dubbed Wanderlust 108.  Under “what to expect” the site notes:

lots of high fives, a little sweat, and a deep chill.

Wanderlust 108: Ready to start the 5k

The chill factor was in full effect – brr!

If I could offer some additional “what to expect” thoughts, I would include: an incredibly array of multicolored yoga pants; patchouli; and

Kombucha

Kombucha, of course.

As this Saturday neared, we kept a close eye on the weather. North Carolina had plunged into a cold snap, and Saturday’s temperatures were not looking ideal for outdoor recreation. It was windy – several yoga mats attempted flight. And it was cold – at least at the start. Fortunately, the sun provided respite and made the experience much more bearable.

Wanderlust 108 - Charlotte

Queen City Yoga

The day began with a 5k run followed by a group dance party with MC Yogi (I kid you not), a Vinyasa flow, and a guided mediation (more on the last part below).

Wanderlust 108 - Charlotte

Michelle is in to win

Wanderlust 108 - Charlotte

Sheila gives peace and… brackets?

Wanderlust 108 - Charlotte

Look ma! I’m sitting on a slackline.

A mindfulness triathalon. How zen. How challenging.

Never before had I meditated. I certainly had read my fair share of articles on the importance of mediation and centering and breathing exercises…blah blah blah. Yes, I shut those out because – let’s be real: we’ve got to get physical.


This is where the reader (that’s you) should leap from your chair and say:

 

YouLie

Ugh. I’m a bit ashamed I included such an image in this blog post. But, back to the subject at hand: my pursuits of strength have resided solely in the physical. I’m all about doing. I make to-do lists. I complete projects. I’ve got a plan. I’m constantly moving and moving and moving.

Not only does this lead to energy depletion, but it denies me from living fully. I don’t allow myself the space to turn inward and be still. For too long, I viewed that as a weakness. Diving headfirst by mediating in an open field among hundreds of strangers allowed me the first taste of meditation’s power.

I wish I could report that since attending Wanderlust 108, I’ve walked down a more enlightened path, prioritizing a time for quiet reflection each day. For the first two days after Charlotte, I tried to establish a morning routine. And then…oh, you know. Life happened.

Still, I had the opportunity of knowing what could be and now I can practice the intentional time-out.

As soon as I finish that run…

One of the other best takeaways from the 24 hour Charlotte adventure:

Vegan pimento cheese

Yes, that is VEGAN pimento cheese!

Do you meditate or engage in intentional mindfulness? If so, how did you end up making the practice part of your life?

The 18 hour test

IMAG566717 hours, 55 minutes into the adventure.

Staring at the fire pit, now without flames licking towards the sky, Aaron turns to me:

“Are we still married?”

17 hours, 56 minutes.

“Yes, we are still married,” I reply.

Our first camping trial together proved a success. We survived a severe thunderstorm that even folks, from the comforts of their four walls and sealed windows, pointed to as wild and dangerous. During Mother Nature’s powerful display, we laid on our backs, gripped both by fear and the realization that there was no where else we could go. Even the three feet to our car felt insurmountable.

IMAG5669

We found the other 17 hours of our camping expedition much more enjoyable (and relaxing). We sat on the banks of Jordan Lake, surveying the boats and birds taking flight; built a fire worthy of s’mores; and mucked on hidden trails, recently turned into swampland.

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Spending such time in nature has a way of washing away the grime that builds up, day in and day out, “living life.” For me, this is living, surrounded in a castle of timbers.

And a New York Times to boot.

And a New York Times to boot.

 

 

 

 

The dreaded evil body image voice

Yes, I am going to go there: body image.

bodyshape

Who in their right mind ever wants to be the fruit-shaped designs?! An apple? A PEAR? For crying out loud. My mother compares our family’s female shape of our family to the Irish potato.

Pass the bucket of vegan chicken now, please.

In all seriousness, I struggle with negative body image. I know that many of you reading this feel the same way. What prompted this post was the re-emergence of the inner evil voice this past Friday morning. Here’s how it unfolded:

  1. Step into black dress to prepare for a full day workshop presentation.
  2. Look at myself in the mirror, forward facing – ok, I can do this.
  3. Turn to the side and look in the same mirror.
  4. What is that? A belly? Why did I have two beers last night? I should have only had one. And then I ate falafel? IN A PITA? WHAT WAS I THINKING? WHY DID I DO THAT AND NOT WORK OUT THIS MORNING AND WHY DO I MAKE SUCH TERRIBLE CHOICES.

I have carried shame and hate towards my body as long as I can remember. As a child (we’re getting into some personal baggage right now, so buckle up), I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror and berate myself: verbally and physically. I would tell myself that I was fat; I was ugly; I would hit myself on my thighs or my stomach with my hands, a hairbrush. This behavior would continue until I shocked tears from my eyes.

Why was I so viscous to myself? I was raised in a supportive, loving household. I recognized that I was heavier than other girls my age (as my mother reflected as I grew older: I wouldn’t be easily knocked over in the wind). But, what would drive a nine-year-old to treat herself with such disrespect and hate? Because it was hate. A unjustified self-loathing that consumed rational thought and compassion.

It would be overly-simplistic to point to teasing as the main culprit. Granted, I did receive my fair share of schoolyard taunts during my formative years. I was not above returning the favor, either. Did I start reading Seventeen too early? Did the own bodily insecurity of other women in my life plant those seeds of doubt within me? I liken it to the cocktail: external and internal forces at play, festering within me. At some point: the energy had to escape. Unfortunately, it escaped in a destructive, unhealthy manner.

I grew out of such disturbing behaviors. But, the little voice tucked in those inner recesses of my mind burrowed in, poking its nasty head out at some of the most inopportune moments: before a date, during times of peak loneliness, swimsuit shopping. In her book Yes Please, Amy Poehler talks about her own battle with this voice – the one that drips in doubt and turns sane women into monsters.

I am not alone in this struggle. It’s not unique to women either. And, I thought (and hoped) that as I changed my lifestyle, whether increasing my exercise or eliminating products, my body image issues would gently fade away. I would be happy with me.

Some days that happens. And there are some days, like that Friday morning, where I dismiss my hard work, try to ignore the enjoyment of living, and be my own worst enemy.

I am not writing this to elicit positive feedback or encouragement of “oh, but you look so X, Y, Z.” No. See, this inner voice – it’s inside me and my own head. External factors may have helped to plant that voice, but I’m the one who has to find and use the tools to extract it for good.

I write this because I want to be open with this struggle. This isn’t my only struggle. But, I feel like it can be one overlooked.

I hope this public discourse instills in me a sense of accountability greater than myself. At the end of my life, whenever that time may come, the memories and impacts of what I – or any of us – leave behind will have nothing to do with whether we were categorized as an apple, a triangle, or an Irish potato. It is about the gifts we give to this world through our talents and energies; it is about the relationships we forge and challenges we face head on; and it is about those moments of levity, of laughter, of love, and adventure that we experienced with others.

Time to press reset on self-love. I will acknowledge these negative feelings, and then I will change my self-narrative, one day at a time. I invite you to join me, if you are not there already. If you are: thank you. You are modeling what it is like to live and love fully.

keepcalm

Used to be…

A couple of months ago, I sat down with a new professional connection, eager to discuss our goals and visions for the year ahead. It became clear that she had done a little bit of homework on me prior to our meeting, as she said this:

I saw you used to be a blogger.”

Used to be?! Oh right. My inevitable self-destructive demise as a writer had once again struck. No matter how many times I may promise, internally or externally, that this will not happen again, it does.

How is it that I maintain motivation for other outlets in my life, such as working out or failing to say “no” to requests for participating and engagement, but that when it comes to finding a space to reflect, create, and write, I flounder?

Over the holiday weekend, I started to read Stephen King’s On Writing in hopes of finding inspiration and guidance. There is still a small voice inside of me that sees a future in writing. That picture is unclear as to what that would entail (or, let’s be real, whether that is a viable option). But I so enjoy the craft of stringing words into sentences, evoking images of what is and what could be, and pushing the boundaries of reality and the alternative reality that our imaginations feed and expand.

While I’m still in the front third of King’s book, I have latched on to one of his early pieces of advice: create your space. As a writer, you need to have a physical space that allows you to travel off into the distant realms of your mind; to have a sense of focus but also flexibility. This morning, I’m writing from our kitchen table. I know this can’t be my space as I’m distracted by the coffee pot, the birds dive-bombing the feeders out in the backyard.

For me, it needs to be more than selecting a place in the home (or elsewhere) to write. It’s creating that opportunity in my schedule as well. And how does that work? This is where I turn to my partner-in-crime, who has been telling me from day one to learn how to say “no” more. If I’m engaging in activities that aren’t fulfilling me, especially when there are clear pleasures that I am not taking on (I.E. WRITING), then the simple action is to end the ones that I simply do, not love. For me, this is much easier said than done.

Today, I start here. Writing at the kitchen table. Waiting for my oatmeal to finish cooking in the microwave as another hummingbird defies gravity in its quest for the sweet nectar hanging from its precarious hook.