Meditation 101 — 4 Things You Need to Know

When someone says they exercise, it really does not describe what they do. That’s not to say they may or may not actually exercise, it is just that what one person considers exercise may be the typical day for a person who does not consider themselves an “exerciser” at all. A completely sedentary individual may feel that a twenty-minute walk is exercise, whereas a triathlete would have a totally different set of criteria.

Meditation is the same. Eckhart Tolle prescribes to “being present” as much as possible and he does this instead of having a set practise to sit and meditate. Monks can meditate for hours on end, without moving. There are as many forms and levels of commitment in meditation as there are for exercise. So, when someone says, “I meditate” it really does not describe what they do.

Mindfulness, the scientific community’s word for meditation, has been shown to be beneficial in many aspects of your life and health. In order to reap these benefits, it is not necessary to join a monastery, all you need to feel the initial benefits is five minutes, yes, five minutes per day.

Shutting off all of your electronic devices and sitting alone with nothing to do can feel like a colossal waste of time, but believe me, it is worth the effort. I know, another thing that you are supposed to add to your “to-do” list may seem like a great inconvenience, in addition to having nothing concrete to show for it. There will be no posts to Facebook, emails answered or tasks completed, but it is still worth the time. Some benefits include more restful sleep, less stress and better health. Need I say more?

So here are the basics, Meditation 101:

1. Find five minutes

This is the largest stumbling block to getting this done so I’ll put it first. Take into consideration that it is five minutes. You do not need to change your shoes or shower afterwards. There is no specific wardrobe or equipment necessary. You do not need a meditation room or a special pillow. Just you and five minutes.

2. Become aware of your thoughts

During this five minutes become aware of your thoughts. We all have all of this stuff that goes on in our minds all day. You may have music playing, sometimes affectionately called an earworm. I usually do and I listen and can sing along if I feel like it. Then there is the tyrant that can tell you everything you are doing wrong and how you should be doing it properly. Many people have a parent (not necessarily one of your actual parents) but a voice that tells them what is good for them and how they should behave. In addition to that, you may run other scripts such as counting calories or planning meals; paying attention to your “to-do” list; or planning the next hour, day, week or decade.

You may have any or all of the above and you may have other things in your mind, not mentioned. This background noise will continue regardless of what you are doing. Notice it. Notice it but don’t pay attention to it. If you are having difficulty conceptualizing what I am talking about. Stop now and read this: “Can you hear this sentence being said in your mind?” Were you able to recognize that when you read you were actually saying the words in your mind and listening to them? This is true for most people, but not all.

You are the one who “hears” what you read. You are not the voice you hear, especially when reading! When meditating, try to “observe” the flotsam in your mind. Pay attention, but don’t get pulled in. For instance, if you remember you forgot to take the turkey out to thaw for Thanksgiving dinner, although important, it is not important now. You do not have to engage and think about what pan you will thaw it in, where to put it, whether or not to take the wrapping off… Be confident you will remember to take the turkey out later and let the thought pass out of your mind. Five minutes won’t matter on a 20 lb turkey anyway!

It is helpful to use visual imagery. I like bubbles. Each word becomes a bubble that floats to the surface. The meaning of the word is lost. The word is visualized as a bubble and it just floats up and pops. Cars passing by on a highway, or stones being thrown into water will also work. Use your imagination. The important thing is to ignore the meaning of the word and let it pass away.

3. Pay attention to your breathing

There are a lot of variations on this, but this is the simplest. When your brain wants all of your attention and keeps blathering on, focus on your breathing. Think about how it feels to breathe in and breathe out. Does your chest expand? Does your abdomen expand? Can you tell the air coming out when you exhale is slightly warmer than the air going in? Think about this.

4. To sit or not to sit?

That is the question. Many individuals cannot sit still for five minutes. I mean this literally. They are simply too anxious, too wound up and too restless to sit. If this describes you, choose a moving meditation. It is OK to walk, ride a bicycle, swim, run or any other activity. The one caveat here is you must be doing this activity in a situation where you do not have to pay attention to your surroundings.

Walking into traffic or running on uneven ground where you must avoid rocks and the like, will not work. The goal is to not have to pay attention to that voice that keeps you safe. If you ignore your brain when it says, there is an oncoming train, your meditation will not be helpful. So find a place, like a shopping mall, or a track where you can run or walk without paying attention. The same applies to swimming, cycling any other type of movement you prefer.

If you decide to sit, the lotus position is not required. You may also lie down, but it is more likely you will fall asleep. For stationary meditation, you should be comfortable and it is preferable if you close your eyes. This is not recommended if you are running, for instance.

That’s it! There is no more to it. You can begin to feel the benefits of meditating with just this amount of understanding and five minutes a day. Good luck.

Moments

Our life is composed of moments. We like to dream about wonderful things like unfathomable riches, or a great vacation, getting that ring or promotion, but the truth is, we are living right now.

So, how do you feel right now? It is not too much of a leap to guess that you are warm, fed, clothed and have access to the internet. You are reading this, so you must be! But do you feel like you are OK? Are you savouring it?

Not too long ago I was faced with a relatively minor decision. I could pay $40.00 to take a “short cut” on the drive home, or I could drive over an hour through rush hour traffic, likely bumper to bumper.

Being fully conscious of my values and priorities, I decided to put some good music on, put the roof of my car down and just go through the traffic.

I could’ve stressed about the congestion, damming all of the people around me, wishing those in charge had made better planning decisions and been angry the entire way home. Or, I could recognize those around me were stressed, give them a little compassion and listen to some good music. It takes such little effort to drive that slow!

It may seem like a small thing, and it was, but our entire life is like that. A long time ago, I decided I didn’t want to look back on my life and see only stress and turmoil. For that drive, I was content. I knew it would take over an hour. An hour of my life I wanted to enjoy, not stress over.

Choosing to be happy now, even in gridlock, means that increasingly my life becomes filled with moments of contentment and joy. Isn’t that what we all want? Why not choose to be happy now? 

My Brain in the Pool

IMGP0470Breath, stroke, breath, stroke, the rhythmic splash of the water and the bubbles when I exhale become the focus of my mind. I love swimming. It is relaxing for me and a good example of not sitting in the lotus position to meditate. I completely “fall” into the rush of the water, the curl at the turn and my brain shuts off.

I still have thoughts, don’t get me wrong, but swimming is one of those types of activities that you don’t have to pay attention to your thoughts. You can observe your thoughts and then just feel the waves buoying you around. This can be the same in running, walking and hiking assuming that you are not in a place that requires vigilance. Or, you could sit still or lie down and let your mind relax.

We all need to take some time to turn our brains off. It gives them a break. Observe your thoughts for a while. See what you are thinking without making it important. If the thought came into your mind this time, it will return, no need to focus on it.

As little as ten minutes a day is all it takes to begin to receive the benefits of meditation. Better sleep, better concentration, better health… the list goes on and on. Why not turn your brain off today, if just for a little while?

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The Perfume Radical

photoIt turns out that nail polish may not have been my gateway makeup. I realized recently that I have worn perfume for a very long time. I feel undressed without it. I love the aroma surrounding me. I know others enjoy it because I often receive comments about how nice it smells.

This simple accoutrement brings me joy. There I said it. There is no other reason to wear perfume (for me at least) other than I enjoy it. I try to pick out a new scent each time I purchase perfume. I would have stayed with “Sensi” by Giorgio Armani forever, but it was discontinued. It suited me perfectly, had a classy, well-rounded floral scent and managed to last all day. Now that I have worn many different scents for a period of time, noticing a hint of a particular perfume can take me back to a period in my life.

Unfortunately, like so many other enjoyable things in our lives, our increasingly intolerant society is beginning to insist that many work places should be “scent free” as though shampoo and deodorant are unscented. Lets not forget the automatic air fresheners that are sprayed in many washrooms either! Most people appear to enjoy the fleeting smell of a nice perfume, the operative word there being “fleeting”.

Whenever the topic of the “scent free workplace” comes up, I make sure I mention that I wear perfume everyday. If you apply it properly, no one should be offended. It should never be noticeable beyond your arm’s length. Which means that only those that you are directly next to you would ever know you are wearing it.

When I say this people are often shocked. First, we have all become accustomed to accommodating everyone around us as much as possible. So it is politically incorrect to admit I do something, for pleasure alone, that some people have said bothers them. Second, if I am wearing perfume, why hasn’t anyone brought the “scent free” policy to my attention? The truth is that very few people actually have a true reaction to perfume. The policy got broad acceptance because of those very few individuals who wear too much scent and that can be unpleasant if you need to work near it or can’t get away from it.

I do enjoy noticing the perfume during the day and my impression is others do as well. This applies equally well to fingernails. I enjoy the appearance of them throughout the day. My little artist enjoys painting them, perfecting the finish, matching them to my clothing or to the lighting.

Perhaps I’m a radical. I am tired of the smallest of minorities deciding the behaviour of the majority. We cannot reduce all inconvenience to zero. We cannot reduce all risk to zero. Is it wrong to simply enjoy things, even if there is a small but real chance that someone might be inconvenienced?

These small things are unimportant in the large scheme of life. I could not argue that I would not be able to live without my perfume, or nail polish, but they do bring us into the moment. Noticing my perfume or my nails brings a flash of joy and appreciation at unexpected times. I can see why these superficial things are important to me. They can remind me that life can be simple, that small things can make a big difference and everything is not about something larger.

A Good Reason to Make Meditation a Part of Your Life

IMG_5178Especially in North America, we are all about the logical, scientific mind. We are quite confident that if you can measure it, test it and quantify it, “It” is real and worth our attention. We are driven by accomplishments and the accumulation of stuff and it feels like we are all in a great race to be the biggest, best, richest or most powerful.

These “goals” are often future illusions that are created in our minds and accepted as a real reality of who we are and what we want. But, stay with me here, what if we were wrong? Maybe not completely wrong, but at the very least misguided. What if the ultimate purpose of our lives was to enjoy ourselves, to live in harmony and to be compassionate towards one another? Would that be such a bad world to live in?

In every moment we have the choice to be driven and focusing on the material world or we can be peaceful and recognize that there is always a connection with everyone and everything else. We are not alone and we do not need to be struggling all of the time. This may seem like a foreign concept to some, but it is something that can be achieved. It can be experienced by simply making room in your day to stop thinking. Stop the mind chatter and allow yourself to just experience being. In spiritual circles this is referred to as meditation. In scientific circles this is referred to as mindfulness and in religious circles it is referred to as prayer. Call it whatever you want. It is the opportunity to stop the daily race into the next moment and hang out in this moment for a while.

Why would we want to do this? I don’t think anyone can explain it better than Jill Bolte Taylor; so I’ll let you watch her video and I’ll meet you back here in a few moments.

http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

How was that? Did that give you any incentive to learn how to connect with your right brain? Well, if it did, let me give you some tips. First, this must become a daily practice. I know that we are all told that we should do many things everyday and they feel like just another chore, another check box to mark off, but this one will actually create more space in your life. Taking time to do nothing has the ability to actually make you more productive, improve your health, your attitude and your sleep, so in the long run it does not take up time, it actually frees up time.

There are many different ways to get in touch with your right hemisphere. The “classic” example is to sit quietly and to clear your mind. This is almost impossible for most people. Our left brains are so dominant, that we need to actively learn how to not pay attention to the word generating part so that we can experience the other side of our brains. It is sufficient to let your mind talk and talk while you are sitting but to just observe what it is saying. Sit outside of the thought, as it were. Notice the thoughts that are occurring but do not get engaged in what the thoughts are saying. This requires you to activate the right side of your brain, which would be doing the “observing” of the other side of the brain, and how it goes on and on.

It is not necessary to sit. You can do any activity that is methodical and does not require you to think too much. This could be walking, swimming or any other simple movement. You could do yoga poses or lie on the floor. Lying on the floor can be effective because it is probably, not necessarily, something that you don’t often do. It is also difficult to get up, unlike sitting, making being still easier. Any activity that does not require much thought will work. Even doing housework can be made into a meditative activity as long as the focus is on the activity, not the words that are going through your mind.

Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way” recommends writing morning pages. She says that you should write three pages daily. The pages are not thought out structured sentences. The writing is stream of consciousness writing. No one is ever going to read these pages.

Hopefully, you have seen why connecting with your right brain is something that is worthwhile. Give different types of meditation a chance and see what works for you. Do it daily for a while and watch how the quality of your life improves. Good Luck!

Some Like it Hot

IMG_0056Is it Hot Enough For You?

Do you remember shovelling snow, hating the slippery roads, wearing layers upon layers and still being cold? This heat wave is the weather that we were all looking forward to as we stepped into deep water secretly hidden under a thin layer of ice, soaking us through to our socks. True happiness comes from knowing one’s self and getting in touch with how we truly feel and what we truly want.

Focusing on external circumstances like the weather (what can we control less?), especially if we aren’t enjoying them, can be a bad habit that is often used to avoid paying attention to what we are feeling. Do you find yourself shopping when you don’t need anything and spending more money than you have? Do you eat when you are not hungry and past the point of being full? Do you need a drink in order to face your day, or perhaps several? People do many things to distract themselves from their feelings. If you do anything habitually, that you know you probably shouldn’t be doing as much as you do, you may be trying to avoid your emotions. Click here to read more…..

In order to truly get in touch with what you want it is necessary to stop thinking about what should be making you happy. It is easy to get pulled into the idea that the next promotion, the next purchase, the upcoming holiday is what will make us happy. These are all future events and are not happening now. It is important to become aware of the less tangible, more satisfying aspects of your life. Especially in North America, we are all about the logical, scientific mind. We are quite confident that if you can measure it, test it and quantify it, “It” is real and worth our attention. We are driven by…click here to read more….

I want to welcome you to your life. Some things can be changed, some cannot. The trick is to experience your life to the fullest and to allow yourself to indulge in your passions. So stop thinking so hard and doing so much and enjoy the weather before the snow returns.

The Most Important Moment is Now

IMGP1996

As science and spirituality continue to merge on many fronts, one of the more interesting discoveries is that meditation is being “discovered” as a treatment for many psychological disorders. Not only are people with serious problems benefiting from this practice, many people with everyday issues like anxiety and overeating have seen benefits. In addition to that it has been shown to slow some of the effects of aging (Epel, 2009 and Turner, 2010).

Now, stay with me here, I’m not going to tell you that you have to sit in the lotus position and say OOOvHHHMMMNnnnn for hours on end. Meditation, or as it is referred to in the scientific literature, mindfulness, can be achieved just by ignoring your brain for a while. The definition of mindfulness is generally thought to have two parts: focusing on the present moment and accepting what is without judgment (Coffey, 2010 and Bishop, 2004).

The key to all of this is that you must make this moment the most important moment. Worrying about the future, fretting about the past, planning what you need to do next, rethinking upsetting conversations, must all take a back seat. The moment of meditation needs to be the most important moment–while you are doing it. You can get back to worrying about what you are going to do if you happen to run into someone that you don’t like, or whether or not you should buy a dog or two cats–later. For now, recognize that everything is OK and that you do not have to do anything or plan anything for the next fifteen minutes. You may find that you do not want to go back to worrying when you are done.

In order to meditate you must sit, walk, run, swim, bike, lie down or ski. Well anything that you can do that allows you to disengage your mind. Walking in heavy traffic, for instance, would not be suitable because if your mind was not engaged there is a good chance that you would be pulled back into thinking about your surroundings pretty quickly and abruptly. The key is that it needs to be an activity, or no activity, that allows you to “turn off your brain”.

I am not going to tell you that you have to stop that word generating part of your brain that has nothing better to do than jabber all day about this and that and all of the things that you have to do and what happened several years ago at the beach when that large….but I digress. What you need to do is not pay attention to those thoughts. When words come into your mind (and we both know they will) simply observe them and pay no further attention.

It can be helpful to visualize the words as bubbles that float to the surface and pop, or as cars speeding down a highway off into the distance, or any other visual that you may find useful. What we are trying to avoid here is paying attention to the words. So, if you suddenly remember that you haven’t fed your pet fish, recognize that it won’t matter in the next 15 minutes. You will remember again. If you start to think about how angry the clerk made you at the store, see the words individually, don’t get pulled into the story, just observe that you had a thought and let it fall away.

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 6.12.48 PMThe key is to just be aware of the fact that your brain is generating words and to not care about what they are saying. Right now, in this moment, it is not important. It can be helpful to focus on your breath and keep bringing your attention to your breath. If you are moving during this time you might focus on each step or each stroke. You may just pay attention to all of the sensations coming from your body and the words being generated by your mind. Just accept them and do not engage with them. Do not criticize yourself for thinking, just notice and bring your attention back to your body or your breath or your movement.

The next step is to start to notice other things. How does your body feel? What are the sounds and smells around you? Is it cold, hot, midlin? Take note of these things, but don’t get engaged. For instance if you realize it is too cold, it is not the time to get a sweater. You can wait until you are done, you won’t freeze to death in 15 minutes (not in a place that you’ve chosen to meditate in anyhow). This is a great exercise in learning to observe your thoughts in a way that allows you to see how transient they are and that they occur even when you are paying attention to something else. But, more on that at another time.

So to recap, you want to be focused on the moment and to accept it for whatever it is–even if your fish is starving to death. Meditating in this way for 15 minutes a day is all that it takes. What is there to gain from doing absolutely nothing for 15 minutes everyday?….well, a lot actually. Meditation, or mindfulness, has been shown to decrease stress, depression and illness. It has been shown to slow the aging process and it is key in helping to break bad habits such as smoking or gossiping. So, by taking the time each day to recognize that the most important moment is now you can improve your life. Now that is easier than dieting or exercising wouldn’t you say?


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Right Brain/Left Brain — Chapter 7

http://pixgood.com/left-and-right-brain-art.html
http://pixgood.com/left-and-right-brain-art.html

I am in my office again. I just finished a pretty easy week at work. I was only covering my own desk, which meant that I had a reasonable amount to do. There are definitely ebbs and flows of work and this was a particularly light flow.

It is 6:00 p.m. EDT and it is pitch black outside. I wish that they would recognize that there has not been justification for Daylight savings time for over a hundred years and remove it. It is such a great example of how we deny the fact that we are animals in praise of our “greater knowledge,” from our logical brains. Daylight savings time throws entire populations into jet lag without even a change in sun patterns to help them adjust.

I first experienced an understanding of this disconnect in grade four when I had a crush on my classmate. It was during this time that I decided that my brain would be in charge instead of my natural inclinations. I had to take control of how I was acting. By nine years of age I had already learned that what my logical brain wanted should take precedence. Now I am spending more time trying to reconnect with what I actually want, not what I “should” want. I find this interesting.

It has long been known that the brain has two hemispheres. These look almost identical and it can appear as though they would do the same thing but they do not. There is a great video by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor during which she explains her experience after having a stroke that knocked her left-brain “off-line” so to speak. She explained that her right brain is connected to a greater knowing, a connection to the energy that is all around us.

At the risk of over simplifying this, the left-brain is the logical, thought producing hemisphere. It spends its entire day generating words that form thoughts. These repeating messages occur over and over again until we believe them. This is the part of the brain that says things like, “You shouldn’t do that”. The right side is more of the artistic side, but I like to call it the animal side. It is the part of the brain that knows how to survive and what it enjoys.

So we get ourselves into situations where the two sides of our brains are arguing. I was already having this argument at nine years of age. It occurred again when I was trying to decide whether or not to resume my marriage. Funny thing. The right side always won. This is true in other aspects of my life. The vision disturbances and the crying were both my body, or my animal side telling me that I was not OK despite the fact that my logical brain could come up with all kinds of quantifiable arguments about the logistics of leaving.

Stop for a moment and consider the fact that you are reading this sentence. To most people, this is experienced as “hearing the words” in your mind. As you read this, you hear the words, “As you read this” in your mind. Is this true for you? Is this how you experience reading to yourself? If it is, I have a question. Who is listening? Let me propose a possibility. It is not our bodies, our animal side or our right brain that is in control. It is also not our thoughts, the words that we tell ourselves or our left-brain that is in control, it is you, the one listening to your brain read the words.

One of the ways that this conflict plays out in our society is through all of the rules that are shared about how we should live that if followed, take us further away from the knowledge that we instinctively have about how to take care of ourselves. The media goes crazy condemning foods and then exonerating them. Telling us how much sleep, exercise, food and television we should indulge in. It does not take a genius to see that this is not working. It might be time to get back into our bodies and begin to listen to what they are saying.

Our bodies need to be cared for, not tortured. The food restriction, the belief in things like, “no pain, no gain” and our crazy schedules do not respect the fact that our bodies are where we live. We need to learn to listen to the messages that they are sending us about play and rest; enjoyment and focus; hunger and movement. Reconnecting is the key, not learning the newest fad.

All bodies will want to move. It may not be “exercise” but they are designed to be doing things. Our bodies know what they want to eat and when they are full. Also, we know how much sleep we need. In our overbooked lives, it is easy to let our left brains convince us that what we need to do is more important than taking care of ourselves. These brain over body arguments all need to be reexamined.

Recognize that the part of you that is listening to this as you read it to yourself, can see both sides. You can hear the left brain spewing rules about how you should behave and the right brain desiring more freedom. You know what you actually want and taking time to be quiet in wordlessness will help you connect to this knowing more and more.

This is an excerpt from my book, “I Woke Up In Paradise”.

Read the entire book.
Read the entire book.

The Perfume Radical

photoIt turns out that nail polish may not have been my gateway makeup. I realized recently that I have worn perfume for a very long time. I feel undressed without it. I love the aroma surrounding me. I know others enjoy it because I often receive comments about how nice it smells.

This simple accoutrement brings me joy. There I said it. There is no other reason to wear perfume (for me at least) other than I enjoy it. I try to pick out a new scent each time I purchase perfume. I would have stayed with “Sensi” by Giorgio Armani forever, but it was discontinued. It suited me perfectly, had a classy, well-rounded floral scent and managed to last all day. Now that I have worn many different scents for a period of time, noticing a hint of a particular perfume can take me back to a period in my life.

Unfortunately, like so many other enjoyable things in our lives, our increasingly intolerant society is beginning to insist that many work places should be “scent free” as though shampoo and deodorant are unscented. Lets not forget the automatic air fresheners that are sprayed in many washrooms either! Most people appear to enjoy the fleeting smell of a nice perfume, the operative word there being “fleeting”.

Whenever the topic of the “scent free workplace” comes up, I make sure I mention that I wear perfume everyday. If you apply it properly, no one should be offended. It should never be noticeable beyond your arm’s length. Which means that only those that you are directly next to you would ever know you are wearing it.

When I say this people are often shocked. First, we have all become accustomed to accommodating everyone around us as much as possible. So it is politically incorrect to admit I do something, for pleasure alone, that some people have said bothers them. Second, if I am wearing perfume, why hasn’t anyone brought the “scent free” policy to my attention? The truth is that very few people actually have a true reaction to perfume. The policy got broad acceptance because of those very few individuals who wear too much scent and that can be unpleasant if you need to work near it or can’t get away from it.

I do enjoy noticing the perfume during the day and my impression is others do as well. This applies equally well to fingernails. I enjoy the appearance of them throughout the day. My little artist enjoys painting them, perfecting the finish, matching them to my clothing or to the lighting.

Perhaps I’m a radical. I am tired of the smallest of minorities deciding the behaviour of the majority. We cannot reduce all inconvenience to zero. We cannot reduce all risk to zero. Is it wrong to simply enjoy things, even if there is a small but real chance that someone might be inconvenienced?

These small things are unimportant in the large scheme of life. I could not argue that I would not be able to live without my perfume, or nail polish, but they do bring us into the moment. Noticing my perfume or my nails brings a flash of joy and appreciation at unexpected times. I can see why these superficial things are important to me. They can remind me that life can be simple, that small things can make a big difference and everything is not about something larger.

Respecting Body Signals

IMG_0231Like Pavlov’s Dog I immediately began to drool when I received the notice for the annual HK5K in my inbox yesterday. Immediately I began to plan my training schedule and start to think about how much work I would need to do and when I would have to make a commitment to doing the work. Then, I had to revisit my promise to myself. I have made an agreement with myself to love myself and treat myself properly. In coneiya, it becomes clear that we cannot punish ourselves, put ourselves down or disrespect ourselves if we are “one”.

Last year was a disaster. I was pumped up to do the run and my daughters had agreed to do it with me and then the world conspired to make sure that I wasn’t ready. I had a two-week bout of unexplainable diarrhea that came and went and left me feeling drained and tired. I never found out what caused it, but I was definitely under the weather. Add in company from out of town, unexpected knee and foot pain and it was a disaster waiting to happen — but I had already said that I would do the run and I was allowing myself to be pulled along by the commitment that I had already made to my daughters.

This year, it will be different. Isn’t that the final war cry of the about to be defeated? I decided that instead of looking externally for a workout schedule, like I did last year, I would develop my own. In my mind, and based on some of the training plans that I used decades ago as a competitive swimmer, I would aim for a 10% increase in distance. This is very easy to calculate when you are on a treadmill because you can actually watch the distance tick off and then stop when you complete the right distance.

So I calculated increments increasing by 10% and put out a schedule of running every other day, except of course, where I already had plans in place. I fleshed out my schedule to four runs a week by adding in smaller runs, where necessary, the day after or before another run. These smaller runs would be one half the length of the previous run so they should be easier.

The schedule was complete and it gave me a full two weeks before the race to determine if I would be capable of running the full 5K before I had to commit to the race. There would be no need, this year, to tell anyone that I was training, until, of course, I was certain that I could do the run. If I never got to the level of running then no one would be the wiser and I would have established a pattern of exercising on the treadmill that would continue – theoretically – into the fall when I have to close the pool and I begin my desperate search for a new form of regular exercise.

So day one, I napped. Now, I know that that seems ridiculous, but I am trying to treat myself like I care about myself. This is in stark contrast to societies messages of “no pain no gain” and the like. I do not think that it is simply your force of will that gets things done. Coneiya teaches us that it is when your mind and your body agree and respect each other that the most lasting progress is made.

Anyone that has ever dieted and lost weight, short term, can attest to the fact that the iron will of your brain sooner or later fails. There is simply no way that most of us can use the army sergeant part of our personalities long term. Self-flagellation, self-criticism and unrealistic expectations ultimately lead to self-hatred, insecurity a sense of failure and loss of hope.

That is not where I wanted my new running schedule to take me. Last year, buoyed on by peer pressure and the belief that I could just put mind over matter, I ran the 5K with my daughters to end up ultimately hurting myself and then doing very little physical activity for several months afterwards. This is not a good thing.

So I napped, felt refreshed and then strapped on my running shoes. I have a sweet set up in my bedroom. The treadmill is off to the side and I can see the television from where I run so I put on Netflix. Did you know that all of the seasons of Star Trek the Next Generation are now on Netflix? True story. If anyone can support me through my run it is Jean Luc Picard. But I digress…

The plan was to run one kilometre. I have run much more than that in the not so distant past so I was not worried. I did the required three-minute warm up and turned up the speed to represent a slow run. This is always a point of contention with me, myself and I. At what speed are you running? If you are doing a slow jog at the speed of a walk, is that considered a run? I chose a speed that was moderate to low based on my personal experience and began.

Nothing went well. The first thing that I noticed is that one kilometre was not only out of reach, but was not even a consideration on the first day. I determined that I could go half a kilometre and then maybe a break and then run the remaining bit in as many pieces as it took. My logical mind was busy doing calculations. I could stay on my “schedule” if I just did the kilometre in pieces. I know from experience that I improve quickly once I am making an effort, so it is just a matter of doing the work.

Wasn’t gonna happen. Not only did I not make it to half a kilometre, it was difficult to make it twenty percent of the way. I struggled to get up to the even number, which is a testament to how foolish I can be. It is just as easy to remember any number, but I insisted with myself that I get to the even number. It took all that I had.

Then I walked. I was still convinced that I could walk until the blood flow regenerated my body and my breathing decreased somewhat and then I could do perhaps another twenty percent. If I did a total of five of those I would’ve run my kilometer even if I had to walk in between. My brain just does not stop doing these calculations.

Wasn’t gonna happen. Well, after a short walk I tried to run again, at a slower speed, (is it actually running? – can’t say) and I only made one tenth of a kilometre. So now what to do, what to do? I walked again. I was exhausted and I was aware that my legs were too weak to push myself too much further. That is the mistake I made last year. Despite knowing that my legs were getting wobbly I continued and hurt my knee — my good knee. I lived to regret that and I was not willing (or capable for that matter) of continuing the exercise.

So, I made a deal with myself. I would finish the kilometre. Yes folks, I managed the kilometre. One kilometre with a combination of sixty percent walking and fourty percent running was all that I completed. The good bits are that I did not hurt myself. Even this morning, the dreaded day after, I am a little stiff but not in pain. I respected myself and I am proud of that. Being a highly competitive person it is difficult to admit to this failure, so publically in my blog, but I’m trying to be honest. I’m sure I’m not the only one that can’t run a kilometre after not running for over ten months.

My new perspective on this is that I’ll continue. If I respect my body signals and do not hurt myself, I will continue to run on the treadmill. Isn’t that better than giving up or having to stop because of injury? Having running as a regular practice is a good thing even if I never run in a 5K for the rest of my life and I haven’t told anyone yet. I’m confident that my daughters don’t read my blog.

So wish me luck! My second day of training I am aiming for 1.1K. I hope that I can run more than 40% of it!