Friday, February 15, 2013

Shh, just listen...

After not writing anything substantial in MONTHS, I had no intention of writing anything today.  At least, I didn't think that I did.  But then I could hear my brain telling me that it was time, and (for once) I listened.

And so that is what this is about.  Listening.  Not listening to music or talking or any other person; this is about listening to yourself.  I will keep this short, too, because I don't want you to waste your morning reading: I want you to turn everything off and listen to you.

This is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately.  It comes from different areas of my life, but (as with most things) the thought is strongest when I am moving.  Usually moving for me means running, but this morning it meant yoga.  Recently, I have taken to writing my own routines.  This lets me focus on what I need most at that time, rather than listening to someone else tell me what to do and when to do it.  But this morning, I chose not to follow even my own plan and instead I just listened to what my body was telling me to do.  It was wonderful.  And it made me realize how important it is to just be quiet and listen.

This was not a new phenomenon, but it did solidify something that has been obvious but not tangible to me for some time now: it is essential to listen to what I have to say, to myself, to really be me.  As a runner and a teacher, I spend a lot of time planning things and deciding how things are going to work before I am in the moment, doing those things.  Especially with my body (with exercise, with food, with sleep), I am always telling it what to do, and not taking the time to listen to what it is telling me that it needs.  Which is not a healthy relationship!  But a few weeks ago I got a fantastic new book (okay, all new books and even old books are fantastic, but this one is actually pretty cool) about training.  It has a bunch of stuff about weight loss in it, and one of the first ideas that stood out to me was that you have to listen to what your body is telling you about hunger.  And I thought, "Oh, that makes total sense."  It probably seems pretty obvious to you, too; and I also am willing to wager that, like me, you don't do it.  You eat by the clock on the wall, not the signals in your body.

I am also going to take this one step farther and say that hunger is just one aspect of our lives where we don't listen very well.  I know for myself, I don't always listen about sleep, feelings (the ones I don't want to have anyway), stress, fun, or training.  The training one is huge, for me; I am always following "the plan" rather than checking in with myself to see if the plan makes sense.  And that is no way to train.  Yes, there are days when I would rather stay in bed than go out in the cold and run; but there are also days when I need to stay in bed.  Just like there are days when I need to push pace or distance, and there are days when I need a recovery run.  The problem is not that I have so many needs.  The problem is when you choose only to meet those needs based on the calendar or the clock or someone else's plan for you, instead of on a careful check-in with yourself.

So, because I said this would be short,  I will try to make a coherent point about all this so that you have something to take away (and hopefully to work with in your own life).  Today, make the effort to listen to yourself.  What is your body telling you?  What do you need today, and why do you need it?  Yes, I know that you have deadlines and responsibilities (okay, a big part of why I am wrapping this up is because I have to get to work, like ten minutes ago!), and people who depend on you.  I am not saying that you should lock yourself in the bathroom with a book and a bottle of wine, ignoring the world around you.  But I am saying, take a couple minutes to shut out everything else and listen to yourself.  Just ask "What do you need today?" And then do your best to meet those needs--whether it means eating before lunch time, or skipping your workout, or finally sitting down to share all the words that are filling up your brain.  :)

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