Could you Please just throw me a piece of fruit! Even if it’s just a Blueberry!

It has taken me a week to be able to sit down and write this post, not completely sure that I am comfortable sharing such a raw moment in my life. However, to anyone who chooses to read this, I hope that you will draw some inspiration and comfort from my experience.

Last week I hit a spiritual low. Snake’s belly low. Crisis of faith low. Pitch dark, sobbing, img_2110-001not able to catch my breath low. Clutching a pillow to my chest as if it were a life vest low.

A few words from a text, that in my heart I knew were false, sent me in a downward spiral to a place so dark. A place I’ve only ever been once before, about a year ago.

For hours I sat on the floor, death grip on the pillow, paralyzed by fear and doubt, desperately counting my gratitude amidst audible sobs and pleas for help. Questioning what I’m missing, what I’m not seeing. Am I a fool? Who do I think I am? Doubts, doubts, doubts and more doubts. Fear at its ugliest. Asking… no, pleading really… for awareness and clarity. Just hit me over the head if you must! What the #*@& am I missing?

Sitting with such pain and fear is necessary, according to Buddhist practice, for pain and fear are our teachers. And so I sat….and sat….and sat, clinging to what minute ember of faith I could feel, until I was at least able to begin to breathe normally again.

While clarity and strength took days to resurface, I managed to pull myself together to run a necessary errand. If I could have put it off a day, believe me I would have. But it was meant for me to do that day, and at that specific moment, no matter the emotional wreck I was at the time.

Still red-eyed from crying, and disheveled, I drove down the road toward my destination, and in the perfect timing that is Universe, I looked up into the trees along the side of the road and saw my spirit animal. A Red-Tailed Hawk.

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My Spirit Animal – Aumakua
  • Digression – These hawks are very prevalent in my area, however, I never noticed them with any level of awareness until after my mother died, nearly 11 years now. Since then, I am aware of their presence and see them when I am in most need of reassurance and comfort. Just the day before I had seen three! The first was on my way to a meeting and two more on the way home from the meeting! Needless to say, it was a great meeting. Sometimes their presence is a surprise beacon, like just yesterday, and then I know that I am on the correct path.

Once home, I spent the remainder of the day perilously reaffirming my blessings, meditating, and focusing on my breathing, struggling to remain only in the present moment, mantras running through my mind, as if on auto-pilot.

Feeling completely shattered, fiercely wanting to retreat into hermit mode, I was mulling over canceling my training for the week. However, when morning dawned, I decided it might be beneficial to go and throw some heavy weight around. I did and it was exactly what I needed, add in some poignant therapy from the best trainer in the world!

peaceMore clarity came from sharing my breakdown with her, perilously keeping the tears at bay as best I could. At the end of our session, she summed up part of the crisis by revealing that I have not yet received any fruit from my arduous toil along this journey. That, and my spiritual fruit was less than fresh!

Aha, yes, I need a piece of fruit! Any piece of fruit. Even if it’s just a blueberry! A cherry! A raspberry! Could you please just throw me a piece of fruit! While I am waiting on the watermelon (I know to expect miracles) 😉 I am starving for any piece of fruit to sustain me until the harvest.

And now a week later, I am stronger in faith, yet still expecting a watermelon but asking for a blueberry, cherry, or raspberry while enlightened enough to know that anotherRood-fruit-framboos-braam-en-blauwe-bes-SXC crisis is inevitable. For each crisis is necessary to break down the ego a little more in order to strengthen our spiritual connection.

This I must do alone. I retreat into the darkness. I sit with the pain and the fear. I beg, plead, scream, and cry until exhausted, when finally silence then speaks its truth. Expect the watermelon, but here’s a blueberry for now.

A friend with whom I shared this experience asked why I hadn’t called her, or anyone. My answer is simply that I must sit with this alone. It is my journey. My path. My growth. My test. My awakening.

We all will experience times like this in our lives, but we must not expect, nor allow, someone to rescue us from it. They are incapable and it isn’t their responsibility. Some may benefit from comfort from a friend, and that is fine. But we all must push through the darkness and emerge on our own efforts, spiritually stronger than before.

Expect the watermelon but be grateful for the blueberry, cherry, or raspberry to sustain you until harvest. 

 

 

 

Life on the Rocks: A Tortoise on the Wall

Yesterday I tried out a new climbing gym with my family. In order to climb, we had to pass the belay test and also the bouldering test. The belay test was nothing new and I passed without issue, no surprise there. The bouldering test consisted of demonstrating a controlled fall and an uncontrolled fall. After watching my family complete the test I

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dropping from a boulder

decided to skip it and not boulder. I am a newbie climber and the idea of falling still geeks me out. I only started falling from a boulder route last week….previously I would climb back down instead of allowing myself to drop from the wall. I just wasn’t ready to drop myself from the wall and fall onto the mat, landing on my back, arms flailed out to the side, the demonstration of an uncontrolled fall. I probably could have passed the controlled fall, as that one lands on your feet into a crouch with fists hitting the mat between your legs. I need to “practice” falling more to build my confidence before testing. This was the first gym that required a bouldering test…I was unprepared mentally for it.

While there, I attempted one climb, a 5.5. I bailed after about half way up the wall. I have bailed on every wall climb I have ever attempted in any gym. On the crag, I have never bailed. There is some mental block that creeps into my head when I’m climbing in a gymhalf-way-up that stifles my ascent, but for some reason, I can push past it outdoors. What is that all about?

When I come down from the wall, I am immediately disappointed with myself, not relieved that I’m on the ground. An hour or so later I want to try again but I don’t because I’m not convinced the attempt will not end in another bailout. Why does that even bother me?

Somehow I need to figure out a way to keep going. Do I need to just dangle in the air to strengthen my resolve? Do I need to initiate an announced and an unannounced fall to test my trust of the rope and my belayer? Do I need to dangle in the air and just rest and shake out my arms and legs? Am I physically tired? Am I afraid of something? If so, what am I afraid of? Falling? What am I not trusting? The rope? My family on belay? Myself? My body’s physical abilities? I still struggle with trusting my body in my weightlifting too.

I have always had a fear of heights but I started climbing because it looked like fun and I didn’t want my fears to prevent me from trying something new that I thought I’d enjoy. I also have a fear of falling that stems from a childhood experience. I have not yet taken a fall, planned or otherwise, on the rocks or the wall. Just writing this seems to resonate with me that maybe this is a necessary evil to progress past at least one mental block.

I also have not allowed myself to just dangle in the air. As a newbie climber, I’m like the

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tortoise climbing a dirt pile

tortoise, slowly progressing in my efforts, but regressing into the safety of my shell when feeling threatened or unsafe. But if I want to continue to progress in my skill, and I do, I want to begin lead climbing, then I am going to have to emerge from the safety and comfort of my current abilities, stick my neck out and press forward.

Each time I have an opportunity to go climbing, I grab it. I know I need to continue to climb in order to improve. I actually begin jonesing when I haven’t climbed in a while. I know this block is in my mind, but it must be fairly deep because it continues to limit me. I just need to figure out how to create a deeper desire to complete a send, than the deepness of the fear that is holding me back.

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tortoise climbing a garden wall

I am ok with progressing as a tortoise on the wall; I just need to learn how to more accurately assess what threats are real, and what threats are imagined. But to be honest, that is a relative assessment dependent upon the situation in which each tortoise experiences the journey of life, or climbing in this case.

 

(Images are from Bing.com)

 

Life at the Bar: The Little Gray Box

I have been weightlifting twice a week since last February, something I never believed I would mentally entertain, let alone physically consider at 53 years old. But 10 months in and now 54, I have progressed in strength beyond my expectations. I have learned how to deadlift, front squat, back squat, and overhead squat. I started with a 15# training bar and am now using a deadlift35# bar with added plates! Depending on my lift, those plates get pretty weighty ;). When I reached a deadlift weight of 175# and front and back squat weights of 100+, I finally allowed myself to consider that to be what I call “Big Girl” weight!

My trainer, Heather, is the absolute BOMB! She has been patiently training me for over 2 1/2 years now. She pushes me to limits beyond what I would ever push myself. There are days where I will beg for a bone, and she refuses to toss me one ;). There are days where she is generous and throws me a bone without me asking. I am always grateful! barbell_overhead_squat

I really do love lifting, even though my face and eye rolls may not always reflect that love during my workout. Lifting has been a catalyst for pushing other boundaries and limits. I am now rock climbing too, pushing away my fear of heights.

My favorite lifts are front squats, back squats, deadlifts, and overhead squats, although the overhead squat is still rather challenging for me. The goal in squats is to get the glutes at least parallel to the floor, better yet, below parallel, as in “glutes to boots” as the saying goes ;). barbell-front-squat-proper-form

In our gym, there are several large red vinyl boxes of varying heights used for box jumps, among other punishments. Heather would have me squat down onto the 12″ box to assist me in improving my depth, sometimes even pausing on the box before standing up – now that is a gripe and a grind!

In addition to the boxes used for box jumps, there is a little homemade box (thanks, Russ!) covered in gray duct tape that is only 10″ high. Now 2″ inches doesn’t seem like a big difference, but when wp-1481043797694.jpgyou have a 35# bar with an additional 45#+ worth of plates on it, either in a front squat position or a back squat position, that extra 2″ feels like a mile! I have had several “come to Jesus” meetings with that little gray box and one did not end well ;).

I was back squatting about 6 months ago onto that little gray box and completely lost my form, and crumbled. Heather had to remove the bar from my back. I was utterly defeated, mentally and physically. That vile gray box became a symbol of failure. When talk turns to pulling it out, I automatically go to that place in my head of failure. Stupid, right?barbell_squat_women_2

I can squat to below parallel without that little gray box, but the minute it comes out I lose all confidence. I either cheat my depth or my form completely falls apart. What the hell is that all about? It is definitely a mental thing, I know. For Pete’s sake, it’s only an inanimate 10″ gray box, but you’d think it was the devil by the look on my face, and the conversation it evokes within my mind.

Even now, half way into my Russian Squat Challenge, where I am currently front squatting 80# in 6 sets of 5 and 6 reps with a depth squat-progressionlower than parallel, I am still afraid of that little wicked 10″ gray box! Just the other day, Heather was talking about bringing it out, and I was like “No Way!” “Why?” “Is my depth not good enough?” I’m surprised I don’t have nightmares about that box! 😉

That little 10″ gray box that sits so quietly tucked aginst the wall, dwarfed by the bench, innocent and unassuming, easy to ignore, until it is moved under the rack where I am lifting, then it becomes this demon so looming, so scary, so wp-1481043776118.jpgdownright threatening and defeating. I don’t want to fear that little 10″ gray box, but I do. And now that I have admitted to fearing it, I have no excuse not to push past it.

I have a decision to make. Am I going to allow that little gray 10″ box to rule over me, or am I proactively going to conquer it, over and over again until I no longer fear it? Am I going to overcome it once and for all so that I can look at it sitting along the wall and mentally chuckle at it instead of seeing it as the beast of defeat and fear?  This new me has committed to pushing limits and fears, so I guess I already have my answer.

Monday morning I faced a Russian Squat Challenge of 6 sets of 6 reps at 80#, after 6 sets of 2 reps at 80# as “warm up” ;). That in and of itself, along with the other punishment, was sufficient for a Monday, even though I finished a whopping 6 minutes early! However, Wednesday may be the day where that little 10″ gray box and I have another “Come to Jesus” meeting to work out our differences, abolish fears, misunderstandings, negativity, and accept each other for who we really are as individuals and learn to work together in harmony :).

Aaaah yeah,  Life at the Bar with the Little Gray Box!

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