Balanced Living for Creatives

Balanced Living for Creatives
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October 20, 2013

Pass Me By

Rocky Mountains Backdrop
I was on the dirt trail doing my small run along the reservoir when two young women runners jogged past me. They were chatting as they went, passed me easily. I run soooo slow. When I was younger I would probably have picked up my pace. Or I would have felt competitive and tried to catch them. But now, that's not my goal. I'm in it for Posture, Breathe, and Relax. My spine straight like a needle in a ball of cotton. My deep breaths expanding my belly for diaphragmatic breathing. And frequent check-ins to find the tension and relax muscles over all. I ran slow, but I ran almost three miles. And felt great afterwards knowing the biggest health benefits are by doing that long, slow mileage. Almost ALL runners are faster than me, so I won't say "Don't Pass Me By." I will say, "Go ahead, pass me by." I'm just inordinately pleased that it wasn't two women walking that passed me. 

October 17, 2013

Tai Chi Travel Adventures

Tai Chi, on a Beach
When I took my first tai chi classes, almost 25 years ago, I immediately discovered the joy in practicing out of doors, in nature. At first, I just went to my local woodsy hiking place, Middlesex Fells in Massachusetts. I would walk the trail into the woods and then cut in off the trail, some place where no one would see. I'd find a flat clearing or sometimes a large flat boulder. Only need about 4 square feet to do the short form.  Face the north and begin.
I loved doing it outdoors! I have done tai chi on the beach at Wingaersheek (sp?) much like what you see in this photo by By Mike H from Seattle, USA (Tai chi) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. And so whenever I traveled to a new and interesting place, I started doing a bit of tai chi at exotic spots. On Cape Cod, I went out to the end of a rock jetty on Nantucket sound and did it on a flat rock while the waves crashed in. I practiced it somewhere near San Diego on a wooden pier out over the Pacific, again with the lovely sound of waves. I did it in Japan, though inside, in my Riokan traditional Japanese inn room, bare with only tatami mats and a lovely nook with scroll and blossoms. I tried to do it in India, on the balcony overlooking the Dalai Lama's residence and monastery in Dharmsala, but I found it hard to concentrate (!!) and then the monkeys came. I practiced it early one morning in Burma in a lovely garden outside our room. And I did a few movements on a balcony over the MeKong River looking into Laos on the other side, with a full shiny moon above. I am NOT an expert in Tai Chi and I can't even say that I study it. I just do it. With joy.

October 14, 2013

Follow Your Joy Into Balance


Living a good life is very much about health. It’s about eating right and about exercise and fitness. And yet, there is really so much more to a healthy life; it’s about our activities, what we do with our lives on a daily basis, and about the people we have in our lives. Paying attention to all these things is what allows a balance in life. Some of the daily activities that make up the bulk of our lives are some kind of engaging work, family and social connections, active entertainment, healthy eating and exercise, spirituality, the arts, and travel. We need all these elements in our lives and for the best quality in life we need them in balance. That doesn’t mean that we spend the same amount of time in each area, but that we don’t allow any one area to be overwhelmingly dominant of our time and efforts.
     I struggle, like all of us, to find that balance. Whenever I focus too much on any one area, I begin to feel the unbalance. Whenever I neglect any one area, I feel unbalanced. For many years, as I wanted to be a professional artist, I focused almost all of my time solely on art: making art, looking at art, studying art and artists. I learned a lot about art, yes, but also about myself since art is a foray into self. I did many other things, such as travel through various areas of Asia. I studied lots of interesting topics, such as history of plants and world religions.
     But art by necessity is a solitary occupation, and I focused on art to the exclusion of allowing people into my life. And any activities I did, I only wanted them to be connected to art. I did travel paintings. I would hike, but only far enough in to paint a scene. I neglected exercise to better spend my time on studying art. “Unbalanced” rang high.
     Now I’m spending more time at tai chi and meditation. I’m running again and exercising. I’m connecting more with family and rejuvenating old friendships. While studying art, I learned the importance of following my joy. And this is something I can recommend for everyone. Follow your joy into a balanced life.

October 12, 2013

A Bad Run is Better than No Run

There always comes that time when you just don't FEEL like doing it. I had no desire to push myself, to either run hard or fast, I did believe it important to get out there and make the attempt. Strong runners would say to just push right through it. But I feel that my goal right now is to just be consistent and regular in making the time to run an important part of my life. And so I went. I ran slow, sooo slow. I felt no desire to make it a long run either. While I didn't actually walk during any of it, my pace through the running steps was probably slower than a walk at some points. No matter. I did it, and I'm glad. The title of this post, A bad run is better than no run, is one of the quotes in this article, The 10 Best Motivational Quotes for Fitness and Exercise. 

October 11, 2013

Nature into Balance


Nice View of the Rockies
It’s easier to get a sense of the balance in your life when you pay attention to the balance of the natural world around you. Nature is balanced, almost by definition. Spending time out in nature is a good way to feel that sense both in you and around you. When I get out into nature, such as a hike in the Rocky Mountains I feel a sense of wonder and connectedness. Nature is both beautiful and magnificent. My cares and concerns seem so small and insignificant when I look out over a tremendous valley and know the mountain range continues on, and on. I feel creative, I feel inspired, and I also feel a sense of fulfillment from being in nature that I cannot or do not get from anywhere else. I like to make that feeling part of my balanced life.

October 3, 2013

Running, Over Age 50

Jimmy Carter Jogging
I used to run when I was in my 20s, 30s, and 40s. Then as the aches of getting older kicked in I slacked off. I always used to say to myself, "Use it or lose it." Because I have slacked off for so many years in a row, I have lost that easy conditioning. Now I want to get it back. 
     If you are like me and taking up running after age 50, the first thing to consider (besides asking your doctor, if you have health issues) is that you need to take it slow. Running slow is a good thing. Building up mileage or time slowly is a good thing. It will allow your heart and lung conditioning to keep pace with your muscle conditioning of legs and body. Slow is good. And running every other day allows time between runs to recover.
     I find it best to keep a comfortable easy pace. For me that is very slow, even slower than someone who is walking at a good clip. It's healthy to take it that slow, but it also has the added benefit of being easy on my motivation--I don't mind getting out there to run when I know it is easy and feels good.
     The important part of early training is to do the running regularly and make it a habit. Remember the saying 21 days to a habit? If you can keep up your runs for three weeks straight, it becomes a habit and that means you are less likely to lose motivation because its always harder to break a habit than to build one. Run slow, run easy, keep it fun and pleasant for those first three weeks.
     If you are training for a race or a fund-raising run, like a 5k, it would be easier to begin that training after those first three weeks. You will have a level of cardio-fitness built up. And the habit you've set is a good framework for beginning to build up the length or time of your runs.
     If you are like me, you are running to stay healthy and moving. I am not training for high mileage and and race speeds. I approach my running like I would do walking meditation. My big goals are to work towards good posture, breathing deeply, and relaxing my body. I count breaths or find markers that remind me to relax, just like I describe in the article I wrote for my website, SimpleTens, Muscle Relaxation of the Head and Back. I check in, scan my body, and relax everything. It feels good, I finish with good posture, and I want to keep running regularly.