How Compassion Fuels the Resistance

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Edu Bayer for The New York Times, August 14 2017

I don’t believe it could possibly be true, what with the Muslim ban, withdrawal from the Paris Accord, Russia, and the daily, inflammatory, bald-faced lies (etc, etc, etc), but Trump’s remarks at yesterday’s press conference have made me feel sicker and more pessimistic about the future than since the beginning of his term. This is the reason for my fear, anger, and tears on election night last year. This moment, right here, caught in the middle of Civil War II and WWIII.

Trump was right in one respect yesterday when he said that there are two sides to a story. There is a story of hatred and bigotry on one side and there is a story of fierce compassion and fighting against injustice on the other. But even those of us on the right side, whose hearts have been broken over and over again, we think: how could we possibly cultivate compassionate when we feel so sad and angry? And should we even?

“So many times people have approached me and said something along the lines of, ‘I don’t know about developing greater love and compassion. Surely that will consign me to only saying ‘yes’/ refusing to take a stand/ letting other people be treated unjustly/ being a wimp.'”

So how do we deal with our outrage? It is indeed natural to be outraged in the face of injustice or cruelty. But when anger becomes a steady presence, it narrows our options, perceptions and possibilities. It burns us up. Unfortunately, many of us are taught to see non-aggression, and the resistance to us-vs.-them thinking, as passivity, weakness, or delusional. In fact, it is an act of courage to step outside our familiar reaction patterns to discover approaches that can shift the dynamic we face.

It’s possible to feel outrage when it arises without it becoming our overriding motivation for seeking change. We can learn the art of fierce compassion — redefining strength, deconstructing isolation and renewing a sense of community, practicing letting go of rigid us-vs.-them thinking — while cultivating power and clarity in response to difficult situations. Love and compassion don’t at all have to make us weak, or lead us to losing discernment and vision. We just have to learn how to find them. And see, in truth, what they bring us.

Sharon Salzberg

If this is strikes a chord, then please read this talk from Sharon and Rev. angel Kyoda williams, A Guide for Spiritual Activists

As for the other side (the side of racist Nazi shitheads, that is), one tenet of the Buddhist teaching on anger is that it is a symptom of weakness and, actually, stupidity (they say “lack of awareness,” but I’m calling a spade a fucking spade).

“If there are sound reasons or bases for the points you demand, then there is no need to use violence. On the other hand, when there is no sound reason that concessions should be made to you but mainly your own desire, then reason cannot work and you have to rely on force. Thus, using force is not a sign of strength but rather a sign of weakness. Even in daily human contact, if we talk seriously, using reasons, there is no need to feel anger. We can argue the points. When we fail to prove with reason, then anger comes. When reason ends, then anger begins. Therefore, anger is a sign of weakness.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I have to believe that compassion is what fuels the resistance. It gives us the strength to defend what is right. It unites us. It inspires us into action and to stand up for each other, for our friends and neighbors, and also for those who seem may different from us on the surface, but who we know have the same desires as we do: to lead lives free from danger, suffering, pain, and struggle.

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Curating the Minimalist’s Closet

“Make things as simple as possible but no simpler.”

Albert Einstein.

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The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II by Frank Stella, 1959.

While I don’t consider myself a minimalist in any profound sense of the word, at times I do aspire to certain qualities of the movement. One reason might just be the pure exposure to this lifestyle trend, which nowadays pervades social media, wellness blogs, and the New York Times Best Seller list.

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Twin by Robert Ryman, 1966.

But although minimalism is surely a passing fad for many internet bandwagoners, lesser cynics argue that the growing movement indicates a response to a changing world that is increasingly more excessive, expensive, and precarious to navigate. Literal interpretations that result in neutral palettes and trips to goodwill, while often worthy efforts, only scratch the surface. For those who immerse themselves in this way of life, minimalism represents the manifestation of a broader vision that focuses on allowing material possessions to hold less power over our lives.

“That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves.

Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”

– Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus aka The Minimalists

More than ever, what we choose to buy and own says more about how we live, what we care about, who we are and who we want to become.

One offshoots that I’ve somewhat successfully incorporated into my life is the minimalist closet.

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My capsule wardrobe from Spring 2016.

Advocates of the minimal wardrobes point to many BENEFITS that result from a smaller, more composed collection of clothing:

  • A smaller environmental footprint: Buying new stuff means making new stuff means more miles for transportation and shipping, manufacturing, and overall energy use. By consuming less you make less impact on the earth’s natural resources. Emphasizing quality over quantity helps us avoid fast-fashion pieces that can wear out quickly.
  • A healthier checking account: Because you’ve made such conscious choices concerning how to organize what you wear, you’re less likely to seek therapy through retail and purchase new items impulsively.
  • A better sense of personal style: Limiting your options and eliminating the noise from your closet helps cultivate and embrace what you like to wear and what looks and feels good.
  • More time: Minimalist dressers spend less energy worrying about what to wear and have more time to pursue, discover, and enjoy the things that are important to them.
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Yayoi Kusama.

A minimalist wardrobe can take many forms, and really, there are no hard and fast rules. But a few STRATEGIES have become particularly popular for those who want to mindfully pare down:

  • The “Capsule”: A seasonally curated collection of anywhere between 30-40 items rotated and updated 2 to 4 times per year. For inspiration try: Un-Fancy, Be More With Less
  • The “French Five Piece Wardrobe”: A collection of staples, kept fresh with the addition of 5 new items purchased bi-yearly. The idea here is to punch up a classic look by purchasing seasonal clothes that you love at the best quality you can afford. See it in action at: daarboven, WhoWhatWear
  • The “Uniform”: Iconic, ambitious, confident and bold. Steve Jobs in an Issey Miyake black mock turtleneck. Tom Wolfe’s head-turning white suit. Ironically, a surprising number of top fashion designers and editors, whose businesses depend on evolving trends, rely on wardrobes based in repetition (among these: Vogue’s Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour, Vera Wang, Karl Lagerfeld, and Michael Kors). Call it the epitome of style for those fiercely independent and prone to decision fatigue. And you can, too: Writer Alice Gregory on her turtlenecks and matchstick jeans, Matilda Kahl, Art Director, on how she created an office uniform of white shirts and black pants
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Author Fran Lebowitz’s daily outfit consists of a jacket, men’s shirt with cufflinks, Levi’s jeans, cowboy boots, two gold rings, and tortoiseshell glasses.

Some of us enjoy playing with our style while others find it anxiety-inducing and/or tedious. But for both camps, minimalism can help improve the experience of getting dressed. A super important thing to note from The Blissful Mind:

“Decluttering your home and closet doesn’t make you a minimalist. After all, you could declutter everything only to replace it with new stuff.”

Ultimately, whether diving head first into a lifetime of basic black, or just experimenting with wearing and purchasing fewer items for a season, these exercises should inspire us to do more with what we have and think more carefully about the relationship we have with our material possessions.

 

My Morning Routine

Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you’ll start to see a big difference in your life.

Yoko Ono.

My relationship with routine has been, paradoxically, unpredictable.

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But the older I get the more I crave the nourishment that comes along with having a reliable beginning and ending to each day. A good morning routine helps me deal with the stress, depression, moodiness, or boredom that may arise at home, on my commute, or at work.

With inspiration from blogs, articles, and my own intuition, here are the things that I’m trying in order to create a happy, positive morning!

+ 6:30-7:00: Wake up!

Step one: get out of bed, turn on the electric kettle, and head to the bathroom. I get back into bed for some extra cozy time while I wait for my water to boil, drink a glass of water and take a probiotic. I’ve recently committed to writing in my new Five Minute Journal before doing anything too complicated.

+ 7:30: Seated meditation

I make my coffee (lately that is Philz Philharmonic blend w/ Califia toasted coconut almondmilk) and head to the living room for morning meditation. I’ve begun incorporating Metta (also called Lovingkindness) in the final minutes of my usual 20-30 minute concentration practice, which is supposed to cultivate increased empathy and patience but for the moment hasn’t gone past the stage of just feeling a little goofy.

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+ 8:00: Exercise

This summer I’ve consciously been less regimented about my workouts. Anything from a good old fashioned 6 mile run to a half hour of intuitive, DIY living room yoga works. If I’m feeling especially low-energy or uninspired I might just do 15 minutes of simple, light stretching. I’m working on listening to what my body wants here! Sometimes it’s something more intense, and other times it’s enough to just get the blood moving a bit.

+ 8:45: Shower and breakfast

Almost nothing beats a post-run hot shower (in my opinion it’s like half of the reason to even do a morning run in the first place). To up the self-care ante I’ve been using a few drops of eucalyptus oil and a fun natural scrub (right now I’m using the delicious Fresh Cocoa Body Exfoliant) to give my morning shower a spa-like quality.

For breakfast at home I usually like to make toasted Ezekiel bread with avocado and a fried egg, or some similar version of this. But I have to admit that lately I’ve been grabbing a green juice or smoothie on my way to work (my current fave is a spirulina-spinach thing from Native Juice here in San Francisco) and sipping at my desk throughout the morning.

That’s it! These few small things are actually likely to put me in a better mood, if only temporarily. 🙂 There is so much advice out there on creating a “perfect” morning routine, and while a lot of these tips are helpful and inspiring, there is no one-size-fits-all. The best version of your morning is of course that one that allows you to feel strong and ready to go after the day. And for me, I feel more grounded when I start my day with some meditation, movement, a steamy shower and a little food! I’ve especially learned I need some extra chill time because I get really stressed and out of whack if I leap out of bed and start rushing around. However, I have a good friend who is completely the opposite. His body and brain just doesn’t work right before 10am and he needs way more stimulation to get going. So my morning routine would be totally counterproductive and leave him feeling sluggish for hours!

I’m interested to hear about your own morning routine. What things do you like to do to begin your day? And what about the self-described “non-morning” folks?

 

Is Running a Kind of Meditation? (Part I)

“I’m a lover of reality. When I argue with What Is, I lose, but only 100% of the time.”

Byron Katie.

A good portion of my previous post dealt with my current relationship with running. Although I’m devoting less of my time to this particular hobby lately, I don’t see it as taking a back seat or being put on hold. Rather, running is converging into a bigger picture of health and balance that is more in-the-moment but maybe also more sustainable. This picture has been heavily anchored by mindfulness practices, which are beginning to permeate many areas of my life including running.

Both running and mindfulness meditation could be described as repetitive in nature, solitary in practice, and often challenging to perform and maintain. Running Meditators (and Meditating Runners) acknowledge the overlapping qualities of these activities to amplify the benefits inherent in both. It’s also possible (but not always the case, as you’ll read below) to meditate on the run.

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“While there’s much to gain from performing the physical activity, there’s a lot we’re missing out on when we slip into a semi-conscious state when doing the exercise. It’s pretty normal for the mind to wander when you’re running, regardless of whether the thoughts are related to the running itself, or something quite separate. But the only way to ensure that you’re performing to the very best of your ability, is to leave the thinking behind and allow the body and mind to work together with a combined physical and mental focus.”

Via The Huffington Post / Headspace App

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“Meditating before running could change the brain in ways that are more beneficial for mental health than practicing either of those activities alone…”

A study published in April 2016 found that depressed subjects who practiced meditation followed by a 30 minute run, showed a significant change in brain activity and a 40 percent reduction in symptoms after just 8 weeks.

Via The New York Times

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“Running and meditation are very personal activities. Therefore they are lonely. This loneliness is one of their best qualities because it strengthens our incentive to motivate ourselves.”

“If we do not push ourselves enough, we do not grow, but if we push ourselves too much, we regress. What is enough will change, depending on where we are and what we are doing. In that sense, the present moment is always some kind of beginning.”

From Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham

So we notice that running and meditation have lots of similarities and further, a symbiotic relationship. Meditation can help a runner’s performance, and physical activity can also have substantial benefit for a meditator. BUT – Is running meditation?

On a recent episode of the wonderful podcast “10% Happier with Dan Harris,” Dan and ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll discuss the difference between seated meditation and sports or other recreation:

Rich: “For many years as an ultra endurance athlete, like, I spent a lot of time in solitude training … and there’s certainly an active meditation component to that … and for many years I sort of said, well, that’s my meditation… but…

‘…There is something to a structured, formalized meditation practice that is qualitatively different from what you’re experiencing when you’re training.”

Dan: “One [of the reasons people give for not meditating] is: “‘Blank‘ is my meditation…. Running is my meditation. Gardening is my meditation. Petting my dog is my meditation.’ .. And my answer to that is: maybe. Depends on how you’re doing it. Like, if you run the way I run, which is that you’re rehearsing all the stuff you’re going to stay to your boss, or you’re listening to a podcast or listening to music, that is not meditation. If you are running and your headphones are out and you’re feeling your footfalls, you’re feeling the wind on your face, you’re feeling the motion of your body, and then every time you get distracted you start again – well then you’re meditating.”

How and why should we meditate while running? In part Part II of this post we’ll explore running meditation in practice and also look at the question “Should I meditate while running?”

 

 

 

“Perhaps the earth can teach us, as when everything seems dead in winter and later proves to be alive.”

Pablo Neruda.

What’s going on? Not much blogging, it seems. So, if you will, bear with me for a post about the blog.

Although the name and “About” section of the WAWT blog suggests a more wide-ranging exploration of wellness in general, it’s obvious that the main focus up to now has been running. When my interest in the sport led me to races and wanting to discover more sophisticated training methods, run-centric blogs fulfilled a desire to learn and engage with athletes of all levels. And reading these blogs inspired me to share my own experience and insights not least because, as I’m sure many of you have learned, while family and friends are generally supportive, not everyone wants to hear the daily details of your marathon nutrition plan or splits from your morning tempo run. 🙂 In addition to serving as an outlet for my health pursuits, this blog began as a way for me reconnect with the joy of writing, which has always been a passion.

I began 2017 excited about some longer-term, lofty-but-probably-doable goals. But throughout the year, these ambitions have naturally fallen by the wayside and I haven’t forced myself back on the track because, honestly, they just feel too narrow. Running seems to be settling into my life in a way that is more integrated, balanced, and deeper. I’m less focused on quantitative goals, like running a particular race or making sure I get in a certain amount of miles so that I don’t “lose fitness.” Less concerned about what I “should” do and less fearful of what will “happen” if I don’t. Now, running is just THERE. I just trust it so much more… so generous and available whenever I need it!

So how am I filling all of this spare time now that I’m not eating, sleeping and exercising like a marathoner? Well, lots of yoga, vipassana meditation, reading, moisturizing my dry hands, discovering podcasts, cooking vegetables, finishing rounds of golf with IPAs, buying jigsaw puzzles, listening to music and I mean like REALLY trying to LISTEN. I’ve also gone on some beautiful, soul-nourishing runs. Basically, I am trying to, as much as I can, live with some fucking ease here, guys.

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So all of this preamble just to lock in an intention to use this platform to share, expand, and deepen my passion for physical and mental wellness, using this term as broadly as possible.

Finally, as you might know, “Well and Warm Together” is a line pulled from one of my favorite books, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway:

“We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.” 

I chose to name the blog after this quote because it reminds me about the small things that make living life more bearable, sometimes even exquisite and joyful. This is sort of the thesis of what I want this blog to be about, so I hope that some of you will continue to join me in this conversation!

Ok. That’s it. Oh jeez – I really didn’t mean to make this sound like some kind of eulogy for my running career… it’s not! ANYWAY I hope you’ll forgive some of the earnestness in this post too. I promise to try to infuse my natural proclivity for dry wit and sarcasm in to my future blog posts as I’ve attempted in the past. But goddamn all of this oneness with the universe is making me soft! 😛 Ok I’m really going to stop writing now.

xo