Thursday, December 17, 2015

Strength & Determination: It's Not What it Looks Like

~ "People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar." ~ Thich Nhat Hahn

This past weekend, I finished the Deception Pass 50 km event. Many of you know that this was not my first rodeo, but it didn't make it any easier ... read on to hear about it!

I feel so lucky to have this strong, healthy body that can carry me through so much adversity. I realize that it's not really luck, but rather it's my tenacity, my hard work, and the hushing of the naysaying voices in my mind. I kept running that day because I consciously chose to suffer - and to be okay with that. I knew deep within myself that in order to surpass what my old self might have done, I had to do what she never would have. In this case, that was to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, repeating my mantra in my mind and trudging on. Through the mud and the rain, under and over downed trees, pushing against the strong, relentless winds of the day. I don't pretend to be a hero to anyone ... but I can tell you I sure am a hero to that little girl who never wanted to participate in sports because she knew she'd never be the fastest. For me now, as a grown woman, I see that there is so much more in giving something your all. I feel blessed to have had these insights into my own personality, and I see now what so many others saw in me. I suddenly see the big picture.

Suffering is something that we usually endure because it comes upon us in a sudden and unexpected way. But when we choose suffering willingly, we set out on a quest to uncover an answer: What is the difference between suffering and not suffering? When we are not suffering, does it instantly bestow the gift of happiness? Or can we be living a carefree life, without a worry, and still choose to suffer? Many people, when I tell them about ultrarunning, tell me I'm crazy for choosing such a sport. They tend to crack jokes about not being able to run for even a minute, or only running if something is chasing them. But this reaction tells me so much about the self worth of the person standing in front of me. This tells me that they are terrified of discomfort, of suffering, and of failure. But when you declare that you are setting a goal, small or large, it is a huge act of bravery. The actual event has very little to do with the declaration, because the first step on a journey like this is the toughest one. Once you begin conquering your training plan, you realize that al you have to do is run one day at a time. There is no good that can come of looking 3 weeks ahead in the training plan, unless you're trying to talk yourself out of doing it.

This mindset is what helped me to finish this challenging run over the weekend. I put one foot in front of the other (over 60,000 times, according to my sweet little fitbit!). I kept going when I felt like I could not, and I insisted on finishing. Any time a negative thought went through my mind, I immediately cast it out. There is no room for doubt in these kinds of situations. It sure helped that the scenery is so stunning at Deception Pass. I could spend a lot of time there, walking the beach, contemplating life, and searching for nature's treasures along the shore. For me there is an instant feeling of meditation when I am near the ocean shore, and I love nothing more than communing with the vastness of the Universe in places like these. During this run, there were definitely moments of this vastness, and I was able to draw energy from this place in my toughest moments.

There was a moment, when I was running back across the bridge, where the wind was gusting and large, cold raindrops were pelting me. I raised my arms in a V and ran across the bridge like this, like my own hero blazing a path for enlightment. I looked down into a tree and saw our family totem: a Bald Eagle. I started to laugh and smile, and just kept going. That symbol, that gift from the Universe gave me tremendous power and energy at that time. I felt so incredibly blessed to see that.

In hindsight the run feels like a flash in the pan, and perhaps that's why I kept going, because I knew that the pain & suffering were only temporary. And it was suffering that I chose. At the end of my run, I was so grateful to be finished, but I am also so incredibly filled to the brim with gratitude for where I am at. Thank you for giving me the strength to carry on when I thought I could no longer run. Thank you for such a strong mind that controls my thoughts and feelings. Thank you for a strong body that could physically carry me through such adversity. Thank you for a spirit that can sense energies and transmute them into fuel. Thank you Thank you Thank you ~ Whoever you are.

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