Monday, March 23, 2020

Familiar and Not, Awkward and Not...

As most communities I’m a part of are doing/being, our CrossFit box has moved into virtual spaces to take our practices, our community, into a safe place to be and do what we are and do together. Facebook live at first, then the more stable (I’ve found, at least) platform of Zoom. About 8-9 days into this journey, we’ve landed in a well-detailed coaching-communicating plan, two regular Zoom invites a day, with a smattering of other coach-invited workouts via Zoom. Some of us are finding a new ‘normal’ in this virtual environment, allowing CF peeps into our home spaces, home workout rooms, and welcoming the coaching voice of encouragement, direction, guidance. Others are not finding their ways there, for reasons of their own. As it should be…invitation, not obligation is one of the mantras of my life overall. Each of us can be members of this gym community without finding our own preferences corralled into new containers we do not choose.

And yet...I’m curious...learning…

What is it about the Zoom invitation, the virtual space, seeing the faces and spaces of my CF peeps that feels familiar, welcome, that makes a difference in the flow of my day?

What is it that feels awkward (someone else’s word that I am taking on as my own too…), or shy, or difficult?

The prospects of having no access to my CrossFit life threw me into a bit of a tailspin 10 days ago. The energy probably spurred me into braving into the possibilities the most. I love the rhythms of my life and how I get to feel in my body because of the workout rhythms, health-re-education practices, camaraderie and shared laughter, learning. I am a better ‘me’ at home with Brian because of this…so…I was already a prime candidate to withstand some ‘new’, ‘shy’, ‘awkward’ in order to receive the benefits I’ve come to cherish by working out in community, with challenge and encouragement both.

The first jarring thing for me was, yes, seeing my own face and body ‘on screen’, knowing others were seeing this too. I don’t know for certain, but I suspect this is a first sizeable hurdle for the women I know. Even up to two years ago, I could hardly look at my form in the mirror when I got out of the shower. I would avert my eyes, usually with a sense of shame, ‘not measuring up’…either to an impossible Photoshopped ideal or to my own internalized voices I inherited from my family’s motherline, which largely disdained and criticized (our) women’s bodies. So…challenge and opportunity here.

To enter into Zoom regularly and with ease, more women are going to have to become more aware and more intentional about personally claiming their own faces and their own bodies as beautiful, just as they are, no matter what.

I know, I know…I rolled my eyes for decades about the invitation to consider myself beautiful, but, with my crooked smile and my particular quirks, it is an important part of my own sense of belonging now that I consider myself beautiful, every day.  Yes, says the woman who couldn’t do this until about 2 years ago, when I was 207 lbs and accepting my body precisely as it was. Now? For two years, I have simply refused to let toxic culture rob me of this delight every morning. My form is my own, and I have learned again and again to love its shape, no matter what. At my heaviest, at my lightest. I don’t know what pounds I am these days, but to be honest, I don’t give a rat’s ass about it. I’m beautiful just as I am, and I get to practice this awareness on a Zoom screen now too.

The irony here makes me smile too. The only thing new here is my facing myself, again and again. Coaches and peeps always see my face and my body when I come to the gym. There should be no more new awkward or new embarrassment from outside of myself. In that setting, I simply didn’t have to be aware of it, constantly, when I was going about my workout and our general rhythms, in person. So the only person who has any issue with ‘being seen’ on a Zoom screen, then, is me. I don’t look any different than I did 10 days ago to my CF peeps.

Interesting that I went straight for awkward for me as the first horse out of the gate. What I love about the Zoom invitation workout…? There is a familiarity I cherish—Lori, Michelle, Megan, Melissa…with new faces that can come, like Dustin this morning. I miss Attiga, Wendy, Kate, Jim. I miss learning from Jim while we’re tending to strength portions of the wko. I miss the chatter and banter during warm-up. I find myself wondering if we might all get so attuned that we could allow the unmuting, as we get adept at this…? It would mean no music on during your workout, and those with kids might prefer the mute function. I don’t usually have music and my dog can get bothersome for me but she’s quiet, for the most part.

I love the accountability of the 8 a.m. schedule, working out BEFORE I’ve had any food for the day. SUCH a difference from previous early months, seasons! I used to get scared my body wouldn’t have enough ‘fuel’ for the workout, and I’d get light-headed or weak. I may get light-headed or weak, of course, but now I just know it means Fran or Annie or Grace.

Voices and faces still connect me energetically into the community, which makes a difference for me too. I can feel this by who I’m missing seeing, even though we didn’t talk a lot before. Candy, if you do decide to join in, then I’ll unmute and yell your name, just like we always do, (Norm).

I’m sure there will be more to come, as we go, but for now…a good day.

Friday, March 20, 2020

A Guest Post -- Nala Principessa (Hess-Maguire)

Hi. My name is Nala. I can’t decide whether my last name is Hess or Maguire, because my humans chose different last names. They sometimes call me “Principessa,” so I think I choose that as a last name. Nala Principessa.  

I’m writing to you because my life has changed so drastically, so much in just one week, I don’t quite know what to do or think about it. This is the best time of my life, ever.

My young life was pretty tough, you should know. I never got to know my mother. The first family I stayed with seemed okay at first, but then something went terribly wrong. They left me. They forgot about me. I lived by myself, homeless on the streets of Fairborn for what seemed like forever. I was cold all the time. I was alone and afraid. A scary person then caught me with a rope and I wound up in a cage, with cold floors. I felt hopeless and so afraid, all the time.

Fast forward to two years ago, my humans came into the large room where another family was petting me, talking to me. I recognized Lisa immediately, probably from some previous life, and I bounded over to her. She sat down on the floor and I leaned into her. Finally, my heart said to her. I was home. We are family now.

I know I wasn’t the easiest animal to live with for a while. PTSD, most likely. They would leave and I would let them know how desperately I hated that. I demolished two iron-barred kennels they attempted to put me in. I will not be contained, I heard Lisa say in my voice, with a shake of her head and a smile.  I have had other adventures I could tell you about, but something drastic has happened just this week.

I don’t know what all I did right, but it must have been something good! My humans are around all the time. Lisa never seems to leave at all. Brian leaves more often, but he’s around a whole lot more.
  • I always have someone to snuggle with...
  • They play tug and chase with me way more than they used to...
  • I have humans who will pet me when I come to say I’m lonely.
  • I get walks more often. Last night, I got to chase squirrels in the preserve across the street! I never seem to catch one, but my human being is a lot of weight to lag behind me.
  • I get to be at CrossFit with Lisa--it's MAGIC!
  • I still get food when I need it…well, at least twice a day. I could use more food. I notice I’m getting more lunch meat than I used to.
  • We sit as a family in the morning now, all of us getting silent. Except when the birds sing and I can’t sit still.
  • We sit as a family in the evening, and I get to nap between my humans while they watch a tv show. They never choose one with dogs in it, so I get bored easily.
I don’t know what has changed in the world today, but these are the best days of my life.  I hope they last forever, just like this.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Ancient Wisdom -- I Am Because We Are

How fragile my own sense of invulnerability is…

I consider myself a fairly intense force of nature—strong-willed, intelligent, deep-hearted, fierce for what I value, friendly to most (even those a bit grumpy with me), curious in what I clearly don’t know. Confine me to quarters for more than 72 hours? All of it begins to unsteady itself … The veneer of invulnerability begins to unravel, if veneers even can unravel. (What are veneers made of anyway?)

My days have been spent shifting my work/communities—circle sisters, mostly—into ‘digital mode’, inviting those willing to try it into safe experimental spaces to see how they may fare, do they want to, can they…? It’s actually been a good way for me to keep distracted, useful, helpful. My way of being in the world has historically been the steadiest when I can be useful to others, particularly those I love. But now, with those mountains climbed and a successful circle held last night, the spaces will be opening up for physically distant, self-isolating hours, days, weeks…at home, alone, with my husband and my dog. The pit in my stomach sits there, waiting, every morning I arise.

I used to feel an anticipation bubble when I would wake up, usually 6:15 or a little earlier. I would ease out of bed, trying not to wake my husband, so to get into my workout clothes. Soon ‘adult recess’ would come! My body loved the anticipation as much as the movement. I’d make the coffee, take the dog out while the water was heating, take coffee into our room (and yes, usually a muffin for my husband—I am his major supplier, as per his desire for being loved in that way). We’d have ‘coffee in bed’ for a while before I’d finish morning ablutions and get on my way to the gym. I’d sometimes listen to a guided meditation or a ‘pray as you go’ recording of the day, or sometimes just music. I had solitude before and after the gym. On some days when my work-a-life would allow it, I’d stop off at Wholly Grounds after CF for a café latte (with unsweetened almond milk) and an hour of writing for me. Blog-post writing usually, on leadership or CrossFit or ‘miscellaneous’. Home to shower, eat a DH plan breakfast, and off into a full workday, sometimes until 10 p.m.

My days have drastically changed, and changed so fast my head and heart are spinning. I know I am not alone in this whiplash. As I completed ‘Annie’ in the garage, then went for the CFD invited run (walk/jog/row), I heard myself thinking: This is changing you and you need to let it change you. If you get in your own way, if you resist and hold onto what you knew before, it’ll just get harder and harder.

So I need to let go of the rhythms I knew and loved. I need to enter into my life with a curiosity of what I (and my peeps) may need, and how I may best communicate what I need with those in my life... One of the Seven Whispers then—Ask for what you need; offer what you can. When I felt the tearful edge, I reached out to a CF coach for a simple voice-touch, with a clear purpose of naming my need/intention to return to plan-eating after my birthday, but also to simply name my unsteadiness. It was good to be heard, and know myself needing nothing more than that. A friend reached out to me for a Facetime writing date. That feels fun and easy—yes!

So my new rhythms, just this week… I awake when I awake, make the coffee and check the FB feed for CF connection, and my email for things I’ll need to tend that day. On wise days, I begin with three pages of ‘brain-drain’ writing called ‘morning pages.’ Perhaps on even wiser days, I simply enter into the wko first thing. But the ebb and flow of the day has required immediate attention to immediate needs—Zoom learning, communications, new preparations, tending to things Brian has needed. Soon, I’ll be able to devote attentions to my online teaching, blessed to be on ‘reading week’ this week, without deadlines or need for video-taped lectures. And soon the jigsaw puzzle will come out, the knitting project will lengthen, the kitchen will be cleaned and recleaned, with baking seed-bread and coconut muffins next on the agenda. I know I will feel steadier when I am focused on welcoming what-is, and thinking creatively about what my spaciousness here could offer me, and those around me.

Because I am who I am, a seeker and more, I have landed in an online Novena, held by the Abbey in the Arts. First day was Tuesday (17th), but each day is recorded so to enjoy at one's own pace and schedule. This may be a good practice-oriented way of being in my listening heart right now. My husband and I have entered into a tentatively regular contemplative practice together. And the virtual coaching/contact with CF peeps is keeping me positive and ‘in it’ fairly well. I miss this rhythm the most, probably. This 'container' and my regular discipline within it have returned me to my body and internal wisdom so very well. I notice the fear of losing what I have come to know inside... I noticed my old-energies/self-defeating talk increasing in volume about “I’m not fitting in,” and “others are more connected than I am right now.”... Such old tapes inside...known well enough to honor them, befriend them, and release them into the air with love. There is great freedom is simply welcoming what is AND knowing you are connected in trust and discipline and silliness-fun of who we are.

So my welcoming practice phrases will go like this for the next hours, days, weeks:

I welcome what is and I practice getting curious…
I let go of my desire for security/survival.
I let go of my desire for approval, esteem, pleasure, affection.
I let go of my desire for control, power.
I embrace the moment as it is.

The seven whispers--phrases that can be mantra-like throughout the day--have been a good antidote to internal unsteadiness too: 

Maintain peace of mind
Move at the pace of guidance
Practice certainty of purpose 
Surrender to surprise
Ask for what you need and offer what you can
Love the folks in front of you
Return to the world

I love this life and my small immediate family. I am also newly aware of how very much I need the “so many others” in my life—circling ones, CrossFit peeps, friends, colleagues. While I do not do well saying the small sentence I need…it is illustrative of longstanding African wisdom, Zulu origin: I am because we are. End of sentence. We are. Human being means connected being, together.

Such fragile beautiful creatures, us, now being faced with new invitations to deeper learning, knowing, interconnection. Hmmm… Let this change you, Lisa. Step into the flow…

Sunday, March 15, 2020

CrossFit Dedication Goes Viral...I mean, VIRTUAL!! -- a learning journey begins

What makes CrossFit what it is, exactly, and can it be done virtually? Being a theology prof in an institution that has asked and answered this question in the affirmative for spiritual things, I'm smiling to say can the right folks, with the community already in place. Which is what we've got right here.

Not all CF boxes could do this, after all. Each ‘box’ is different, with different emphases grounded in the coach’s/coaches’ temperaments and proclivities. Today, as the gym wisely closed for the ‘social distancing’ era of Coronavirus and Covid-19, I found myself driving home musing on CrossFit in a virtual or digital expression and how remarkably appropriate--even fit--CrossFit Dedication is for this challenge. So what are these butterflies in my stomach this morning? What is the deep belly smile about?

The smile first… My gut says that our ‘box’ is particularly well placed, staffed, seasoned, and innovative to cruise through the challenges with a sense of calm and leadership. Not without its panics or overwhelms, to be sure—it is a strange shift to move into virtual spaces when you and your body have thrived so in a shared common space/rhythm. The economic scare of it is real for them/us, I’m sure. While facing unprecedented circumstances here, I still have a deep-belly-smile for what we will learn along this way… One of the newer coaches, long-term members, posted today in the vein of the ‘problem into opportunity’ wisdom of Chögyam Trungpa, after all. (quote below, from a ‘daily’ I enjoy).

I would be remiss, however, if I did not at least name my own belly full of butterflies at the prospects of my not having access to my new CF home, peeps, snacks…the utter levity and impassioned seriousness, both. I’ve not upheld the discipline and rhythm my body loves on my own before, or in my immediate family before. I’d been moving toward a body-centric awareness for the last 15 years, but not like I get to know now. My own motivation and discipline come from within me, yes, but sometimes it feels more ‘pulled from out there.’ Getting to see my ‘peeps’ and enjoy the banter of an early morning class. (That would be 8 a.m., as 5:30 a.m. are not really up for banter at that time in the mornin’). I love enjoying the movement in a circle of others, whose practice deepens my own. (Buddhists have known this for centuries, after all). Working out at home, on my own, will not have the same ‘pull’ or sense of invitation, aligning of energies, that pushes me further, deeper, stronger. So that’s one butterfly—honoring it will be different and finding the gift in it too.

This time-out-of-time could be an answer to my sense of a writing project beginning to push its way into my awareness, my professional commitments. My best writing times have historically been ‘as soon as I awake until about 9:30/10 a.m..’ I’ve been aware of the conflict rising in me, as I am an 8 a.m. regular by now and unwilling to alter that course. In this new era, I could actually work out at 5:30 a.m. without ever leaving my home. Done by 6:15/6:30 a.m., moving right into writing til breakfast, say 10 a.m. Huh. Has potential.

My husband has even acknowledged his own interest in maybe working out with me here at home. My eyebrows went up in surprise, as he has largely avoided anything CrossFit related for himself. I have invited him repeatedly to Community WKO on Saturdays, with nothing but crickets in response. Interesting. Second butterfly, then…a different workout partner. A partner with whom I’ve wanted to find new and different ways to connect in our now twenty-years of life together. At least different than what he historically prefers and I all too often acquiesce into—food, cocktail hour, video escapism of some kind. Working out together? We haven’t done that in forever...

The largest butterfly is simply fluttering around within me, necessarily being returned—forced into—a much more localized, family-centric life for a period of weeks or months. Home-bound living has always felt claustrophobic for me. One of the reasons my husband and I chose to not have children. I simply never had a desire to have them, to be at home with the kids or feeling guilty for not being home with the kids. Not my calling or purpose in life, for sure. I put over 25000 miles on my car every year. I work in two cities, two different jobs, connecting with webs of relationships and circles that share my values. I love my life and all the complicated webs of relationships I get to flit into and flit back out of. I even moonlight in my husband’s job—preacher’s wife, which you can imagine how well that goes most weeks, as blunt as I can be sometimes J—and now I get to live at home for weeks on end with my husband? I love him, but c’mon…I don’t do home-bound very well, even when I try not to project it or take it out on anyone. So…gift could be…? The nature preserve across the street from my home. Regular morning runs or afternoon runs, if the 5:30 a.m. workout happened. Creating space ‘away’ in the upstairs bedroom (Check!), for writing and reading, learning and napping. Long nature walks with him and our dog, Nala. Easier, more comfortable times of simply being together, reading, knitting. (I would be the knitter here :)).

Even so, for both our sakes, it’s a good a thing this public-health-civic-effort to “flatten the curve” is temporary. We will learn a lot together, some we want to learn, some we would wish we could avoid. Both will be fruitful in the end, with gifts and graces all around. I have the WOD book/calendar that I got at Christmastime down in the home-gym space. He could choose one he wants to try and we could explore it together. I have various dumbbells and a ‘power-tower’ that I can use toward my pull-up goals. I am blessed with a nature preserve to do both trail and easy-paved ‘loop’ running. I even got the deck of Get Fit cards to play with too.

Whether it’s three weeks or three months or maybe even six months, this is a peculiar time with a peculiar invitation for each of us, all of us. What creative things might arise because of it? (And I don’t mean the 2033 ‘quaranteens’!) What new things will be tried out of necessity that would never have been imagined without it? Will human beings learn to face themselves, the quiet (and not so quiet) noise within, which we usually keep at bay through media distraction and Facebook, Twitter, our favorite news cycle? Will more of us learn to stop projecting our fears outward onto others, and face our own fears inside, actually finding a deep peace right there, that we never knew we had?

In the meantime, I’m already heartened by what is rising… 5:30 a.m. virtual class. CFD Open silliness about teams (Go Team Gray!!) for the now defunct, or at least postponed, CFD Open. Reminders to reach out to coaches with questions and to stay connected in the challenges of our own goals, fitness hopes. All will be well and all manner of things will be well. (Julian of Norwich, she’s a fierce and calming one, 14th century mystic).

When the curve has been flattened, when the health system is robustly confident in what it can offer, we human beings will return to gathering for class at our gym/box, connecting with our CF community and encouraging each other in the challenges and often counter-cultural values of fitness. I’m already looking forward to finding out how each of us will have changed by then. Just get better. Yes ma’am (and Matt :)). We’re ON it. Together.

Chögyam Trungpa, Ocean of Dharma:

One actually experiences mind as fundamentally pure, that is, healthy and positive, and “problems” as temporary and superficial defilements. Such a viewpoint does not mean getting rid of problems, but rather shifting one’s focus. Problems are seen in a much broader context of health: one begins to let go of clinging to one’s fears/neuroses and to step beyond obsession and identification with them. The emphasis is no longer on the problems themselves but rather on the ground of experience through realizing the nature of mind itself. When problems are seen in this way, then there is less panic and everything seems more workable. When problems arise, instead of being seen as purely threats, they become learning situations, opportunities to find out more about one’s own mind, and to continue on one’s journey.