Saturday, August 4, 2012

Full Moon, Sanity, and Fasting

Since tonight is a full moon, and I am up at 3am accordingly, I thought I would ramble a little on this celestial orb. I've experimented with this using my own body as a laboratory since about 2008, and I've researched it from various angles as well. 


For whatever reason, the full moon wreaks havoc on the human system. Studies have shown that violent crimes such as homicide and rape increase under the light of a full, ripe moon, hanging like a peach from the heavens.



The legendary Chinese poet Li Bai drowned attempting to embrace the reflection of the moon in a pond. I feel for ya, Li Bai. I once attempted to drive across the country (from Phoenix to Chicago) in the middle of the night for what I thought was love, and realized only later that the full moon had had me in her grips. This happened twice, come to think of it, on two non consecutive occasions. Now, having been tempered a little with the wisdom of age, I know myself well enough to feel moon crazies coming on. 


As a monk in the order of Ananda Marga put it, paraphrasing the words of their founder: 

Baba tells us that the gravitational pull of the moon effects the oceans of the earth as well as the liquid portion of our body. On certain lunar days that force creates disturbance in the body and draws the fluids upwards creating undue pressure on the higher cakras, thereby inhibiting the mind. By fasting on the proper day we can offset this negative effect by keeping the stomach empty, in which case a vacuum results and the higher chakras are not adversesly affected. For these reasons and more, we should all be vigilant to fast on the proper day...”


Now that I have fasted in the light of many a full moon, I can physically feel the effects of the incipient event as physical sensations in my body, such as a lessening of the appetite and a restless sensation. I start to feel the lure of poetry and Paris for instance, and am easily lured off center, out into the land of ravenous appetites. Fasting and general awareness empower me to remain centered and to witness the gravitational pull and just be with it until it passes. The sensations generally last 3 days. 



In my experience, dry fasting is the most effective one day fast. "Dry Fasting" means taking no food or water for the day of the fast. Drinking a mixture of warm water mixed with sea salt and lime or lemon in the morning, to flush out the toxins that have accululated in the colon, can be efficacious. Studies have shown that if activity is kept to a minimum, the body will not become dehydrated despite the dry fast... it will do everything in its power to retain water. If a dry fast is impossible, or if you'll be under duress or exertion, a water fast is acceptable. And if fasting at all seems difficult or impossible, just being aware of the lure of the moon can have dramatic effects on physiology and behavior. 


An affirmation springs to mind:

"I live in a peaceful and loving universe. All is well in my world." 










Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Relationships and the Meaning of Life

Having recently ended a 2.5 year romantic relationship, I thought I would share some of my experiences on the matter.



First of all, what are romantic relationships for? Joy? Pleasure? Transformation (sometimes painful)? Magnification of experience? Balancing of sexual energy? Spiritual union of souls? I can safely say that if I knew the answer once, I no longer do. I'm leaning toward "magnification of experience" with some hesitation. 


Here's why... 

Essentially my partner, a beautiful soul with a "tough"  history, who I had lived with for almost the duration of our relationship, met another and became enraptured. She explained to me that though she loved me more than any man, she could not ignore the pounding of her heart, and the ineffable draw toward her soul counterpart. Her counterpart, in this case, was another woman.




There are schools of thought that say that whatever is going on in your relationship, endure, because you are there to bring to the surface and explore all of your issues. Our lovers are just mirrors of ourselves. I tried that, for about a week. While she was out with her new fascination, all night, I lied in bed in anguish, facing my own abandonment issues (we all have some). I looked at her half of the bed empty, and just cleansed my spirit with tears. I resisted watching a movie or listening to music. I resisted distractions, as I often instruct clients to do. It isn't easy, I thought, grinding my teeth, relaxing my jaw. I deliver the idea to clients with ease, and when we're triggered, it's difficult, no matter how evolved we are. That is a beautiful realization. It means we have issues that we are becoming aware of, and new possibilities are opening up to us, like lilies in the morning. 

My personal school of thought says that sometimes the universe is bludgeoning us with signs, and ignoring them is not only reckless, but impossible. She was not my ideal mate, I realized, and I had been convincing myself otherwise for years, or trying to. Something had to arise to force a change. I am an energy bodyworker and holistic life coach, working to bring my whole life into congruence. How long could this blind spot possibly endure? 

A few weeks ago I was trained in The Work by Byron Katie. During the training, I found all of my assumptions I had about my lover were illusions that I was holding onto so hard that they were actually choking the life out of me. As I released them, with a trickle of tears, I felt so much love and gratitude for her, and I truly understood her dilemma. Instead of being a childish, selfish, foolish person, I saw her as being brave, confident, mature, and authentic. She was being courageous to explore this other side of herself. I knew that forever she would be a part of my life, if only holding space in my heart. I no longer call her out of neediness, but simply out of love. And usually I give her space, as I know that is what she needs. Space to clarify her desires. 


And like magic, coming into alignment with who we are allows our desires to manifest almost effortlessly. As Paulo Coehlo writes in The Alchemist, "When we are moving toward our Personal Legend, the universe conspires to help us achieve it." Similar concepts come across in Ask and it is Given. With her everything felt like a struggle. Since leaving a few weeks ago, I have manifested many things I had been desiring easily. A beautiful guitar, an iphone, an inspiring living space, a incomparable roommate, a host of new friends, a network of business connections. I began writing songs again and the music just seemed to flow. I had wanted to relocate to the Bay Area for about a year. When it came down to it, one moment made it inevitable. Since I was authentic in expressing my needs and desires, many generous souls opened their doors and their hearts to me. 

Just like a rainbow follows the storm, a breakdown is often (if not always) a breakthrough in disguise. 



So while I didn't ask for heart break, I did ask for intensive life training. That seems to be exactly what I'm getting. Next time I'll remember to be very specific about what I ask for.

Thank you universe for delivering me to my highest good. All is well in my world.



Fluid Running Tutorial


Fluid Running

Since Chris McDougall published Born to Run in 2009, I have been fascinated with the prospect of barefoot and minimalist running. I started doing it regularly in 2010. Born to Run is about the author visiting Mexico with some elite ultra runners and learning the ways of the reclusive, mythical Tarahumara Indians of the Copper Canyons. They run 50 miles, sometimes over 100 miles regularly, and they do it on Huarache sandals made of a bit of rubber tied to their foot.
I began my sojourn in minimalist running with Luna Huarache Sandals. They were simple and beautiful, with a thin Vibram sole. About a year later, after running about 20-30 miles per week in those, I upgraded to Vibram Five Fingers.

The Footwear

These are comparable to my first pair of Vibrams, which lasted about a year of pretty regular running.
These are comparable to my first pair of Vibrams, which lasted about a year of pretty regular running.
Source: Vibram Five Fingers
These are like the sandals I began running in. Mine were much more primitive; just the rubber with a hemp string.
These are like the sandals I began running in. Mine were much more primitive; just the rubber with a hemp string.

Pros and Cons

Pros of Barefoot Style Running
  1. Decrease of injuries (after form is mastered). It forces us to master an efficient form. Stress does not vector up into the hips and knees. 
  2. Beauty- The form is beautiful, the muscles all develop in proportion, the arches lift, and feet shrink a few sizes due to the muscles contracting, the toes spread out.
  3. Simplicity- It's nice to just throw on sandals or sock-less shoes and go run.
  4. Economy- Unlike regular running shoes, which need to be replaced every certain amount of miles (even though they still look fine), barefoot style shoes are really just to protect the bottom of your feet, so as long as they are still doing that, they're good to go!
  5. Community- People constantly stop and celebrate minimalist running with me. The other day I was running in the rain and someone in a car stopped and said "The Vibram guys are the only ones that run in the rain!"
  6. Education- You will inspire people to want to improve their health just be wearing these shoes. It sparks up conversations and you can explain what they're for and what they're supposed to do, etc.
Cons
  1. People will try to freak you out by saying how bad it is for you to run without "cushion" and "arch support"
  2. It can be painful as muscles you haven't used since childhood barefoot days adjust to being used again.

A Fairly Good Example of Barefoot Running

How to Run

I only recently "got a handle on it." It took years of trial and error. When I used to run in regular running shoes, I always got knee pains, particularly on the outside of my knee. Sometimes my hips would ache. Landing on the heels creates a lot of impact that travels up the legs. When I switched to barefoot style running, those problems were solved, but a host of new ones appeared. I could not figure them out. Someone sent me an article about barefoot running being just a fad, and pains being your body telling you to stop. I was about to hang up my Vibrams forever, when I decided to go for one more run, just to see how natural it felt.
On that my last run, I had a few epiphanies that completed the process, and now barefoot style running is a joy.
Principles to Run By
1. Land on the forefoot.
This is the cardinal rule of minimalist running. It is using the elegant design of the foot as it was designed to cushion the impact with each step. It happens pretty naturally when you're running without cushioning on the heel. It takes stress off of the knees and hips, but adds stress to the calves and achilles. So while this is the cardinal rule, it is not a panacea for every running ailment (as I learned the hard way... see below).

2. Spread the toes without gripping.
This is one of the primary benefits of being able to run in toe shoes; it allows us to distribute weight across the entire foot. Shoes normally crowd the toes together, and we compensate by adjusting our gait via our knees, hips, and even shoulders. Since the pinky toe is trained by shoes to take no weight, the feet turn outward to compensate. This creates strain in the knees.
The big toe and the small toe should be allowed to spread out. This also helps self correct problems with pronating and supinating. In addition, it revitalizes ancient chinese meridians that run through the toes.
a. First focus on creating space between the big toe and the second toe.
b. Next, focus on reactivating the small toe and allowing it to do its part.
Yoga toes, stretches, and Structural Foot Balancing (which I offer) will all be beneficial.

3. Let the heel touch down gently.
For the first year, I just bounced on my toes, never letting my heels touch the ground. This was what I got out of verbal descriptions of what I was supposed to be doing. It worked to an extent, but my calves would be so sore after each run, that I would have to take a few days off. This eventually graduated into shin splints and possibly stress fractures. I would take days and weeks off, and they would reappear right away.
After watching many videos of accomplished barefoot runners and Kenyan children running barefoot, I learned to let my heel touch down and this made the running much more fluid. The heel touches down milliseconds after the toe. The act of landing on the forefoot is very subtle.

4. Avoid rotating the torso.
This wastes energy that could better be spent propelling the body forward. It also increases the likelihood of injury, as your muscles need to stop the rotation with every step.
A rule of thumb is not to let the hands pass the sternum at the midline of the chest as they follow each stride.

5. Keep the knees bent.
This is one of the most important principles to take stress off of the calves and shins. Bending the knees spreads the effort through the entire leg. It takes a little bit of trial and error, but if you're not feeling anything in your quads and your glutes, the knees probably aren't bent enough.
I'd say start with about a 15 degree bend and work from there. This will make your stride much more graceful.

6. Keep strides small.
It feels strange at first, but strides should be small and quick. This conserves energy and reduces impact. As the form develops, speed happens naturally. This also allows you to calibrate the heaviness of steps depending on the terrain and step over rocks and other objects. When a sharp rock hits the ball of your foot in Vibrams, it hurts.

7. Lift the knees.
Lift the knees as though you were marching. This creates more forward momentum and helps allow the legs to calibrate the foot strike. 


8. Fall forward.
While studying Vibrational Healing Massage Therapy we practiced Fluid Walking. It essentially involves falling forward, and walking as though you were catching yourself. I applied it to running. 
With an almost imperceptible forward lean, run as if you are continually falling forward and catching yourself. If your knees are bent and you land on your forefoot and let the heel touch down gently, this allows for very graceful running, and it increases the natural running pace without much effort; you're using gravity to motivate you.

9. Run with Joy.
If running starts to become painful or miserable, either adjust your thought process or stop doing it. You can mix in affirmations or visualizations, or imagine yourself running toward a goal.
Running with a negative state of mind can increase the likelihood of injury, because barefoot running requires a lack of tension and a modicum of grace. Stress creates stiffness in some parts of the body which will tweak the form.

Top of Foot Pain, aptly titled TOFP

Top of Foot Pain is a Ubiquitous Barefoot running ailment.
Top of Foot Pain is a Ubiquitous Barefoot running ailment.

Top of Foot Pain: What it is, how to fix it

A terrible pain the top of the foot sometimes develops as the toes remember how to spread out. This is scar tissue that has formed between the metatarsals (8-12 above) breaking apart as more space is created.
I noticed I had it for a few weeks between metatarsal 8 and 9, and after it passed, there was much more space between those two toes. More recently I got it between 11 and 12, and when it passed, the same effect was there. It can be agonizing. Instead of running on it, I suggest pinching between the bones and just helping to break up the scar tissue and get more blood flow to the area. Also, if you put cotton balls between the toes during convalescence, it helps ease the pain. Using those yoga toes here would also be a good idea.
Just remember, that though the pain can be intense, this is in the long run a good thing... it is your foot evolving!

A Video on the Footstrike and Impact

Summarizing Principles

Remember, think of moving forward smoothly and minimize bouncing up and down.
All intention goes forward.
After a level of grace is acquired, speed happens naturally, because the body is running so efficiently and doing what it was designed to do.

Flow Healing Arts Fluid Running Seminars

I will soon be giving fluid running seminars in the Bay Area and possibly other areas. Please contact me if you are interested in participating. 



Friday, May 11, 2012

Natural Vision Improvement


A few people asked for a summary of what I do with natural vision improvement, so I thought I would share the information here. Some of this will be reiterated in my upcoming not quite titled Self Healing Manual.

Introduction

I had vision problems growing up. Once, while visiting an eye doctor in the hopes of being prescribed glasses so that I could see, an interesting, serendipitous thing occurred. My doctor was out, and had been replaced by a substitute. This man was kind radical at the time. "You could get glasses," he said. "But your eyes will start to depend on them and get weaker over time. Or I can show you some exercises you can do to strengthen your eyes." I did the exercises religiously. For a few months. Then stopped entirely.

Years later, I was wearing glasses. I had kind of given up on the exercises. It wasn't that they weren't effective, but just that I hadn't gotten the whole picture.  After wearing glasses for some years, I decided to give it another chance. I was an artist after all, and my vision was a part of my livelihood. I read every book I could get my hands on on the topic, and I began diligently formulating and practicing the tips below. I am happy to say that I no longer require glasses and the world has taken on a vibrancy that I never could have imagined. I believe that this natural vision improvement is available to almost everyone. 



Vision Coaching

Hi! Thank you for your interest in Natural Vision Improvement!

First of all, I want to acknowledge you for having the faith in healing and in the beautiful design of your own body!

Only a fraction vision problems have to do with a malfunction of the eye. Since vision is mostly about how the mind uses the eyes, problems are mostly a matter of perception and understanding. Eyes that function are fluid, adaptable to many circumstances.  Close the eyelids and feel the eyeballs. Are they soft and fluid, or hard and rigid? Massage them as needed, gently, to remind them to soften. Rigid ways of thinking, being, and seeing can effect vision.

If we are very open to our experience of our vision moment to moment, we may find that on vacations, or in relaxed settings, our vision becomes clearer. Tension creates an energy blockage and thus impaired vision. Relaxation allows vision to flow.

Our eyes can literally adapt to almost any circumstance. If we begin to rely on prescription glasses or contacts, the eyes adapt by becoming weaker. This is a trap because over the years, the cycle continues and they keep adapting. This weakens the eye’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances, such as light and distance. If we rely on glasses, it is best to only use them as needed for a time, until they prescription improves, or they are no longer needed at all.

Also, sunglasses are not recommended. They eyes were created to spend most of their time outdoors in natural light. Sunglasses filter out life giving sun, which the eyes convert into vitamin D. Also, our rods and cones require full spectrum light to “recharge” so that we can see colors accurately and process night vision. If sunglasses are worn, they recharge at different ratios or not enough in general, so our eyes will be more sensitive to some colors than others. If we wear sunglasses constantly, without them we will need to squint to keep sunlight out. This creates tension and impairs vision. Vision should always be relaxed and fluid. Breathe into the eye sockets and feel the muscles relax. Consciously avoid squinting and allow the pupils to dilate as they were designed to do.



Close your eyes. Do you feel the small eye muscles grabbing? Breathe and notice. Just keep them closed until the grabbing ceases, breathe, and open them again. Repeat the process. This is just to get the mind aware of what the muscles are doing. Once you learn to feel tension in the eyes, you can learn to relax the eyes.

Like any other part of the body, the eyes require healthy fuel to function properly. Overall health and alkalinity of the body is important however, to keep the eyes in good shape, so that they can metabolize sunlight efficiently.

So remember, eye muscles are not “weak.” They are one of the most efficient muscles in the body. They just need to be “retrained” to work at sending and receiving messages from the brain. This can be done by tracing figure 8 shapes in space or on a wall, by tracing the outline of certain complex objects, or by covering one eye, holding a detailed object (like a brush, or a pen with writing on it), and moving that object further and closer while focusing on it with the open eye.

Also, the human eye was meant to maintain a relatively small point of focus, but to jump around constantly to build the entire picture out of these parts. As you watch someone cross the street, for instance, instead of watching their whole body, try to jump from their face to different parts of their body. This feels like a learned skill, but it is actually the natural way we saw as children. 

Again, our eyes thrive outdoors looking middle to far distances. We spend most of our lives indoors looking at things from a close distance, fixated on monitors, books, etc. Our eyes are not malfunctioning, they have just adapted to our new lifestyle. This understanding alone can be a very powerful vision improvement tool!

Learning from Dogs. Animals are great for learning fluidity. Notice now they never really squint or strain their eyes? They just close the eyelid slightly as needed when their pupils can't handle harsh lighting. 


Tips:

o   Breathe regularly (often when vision blurs, we’ll notice that our breath has become shallow or ceased)
o   Blink lightly and constantly (this moistens and massages the eyes)
o   Notice tension in the eyes and allow it to pass away
o   Avoid squinting (retrain the pupils to dilate as needed)
o   Avoid “trying” to see. Vision works effortlessly. Trying impedes vision. Practice trusting the eyes and the body.
o   Eye exercises as needed
o   Wear glasses only as needed if at all
o   Avoid sunglasses
o   Get natural light
o   Super-hydrate and detoxify your body (this helps maintain fluidity in the eyes, and allows them to self-cleanse effectively).
o   Clarify your goals for the future. This clarifies vision!
o   Conversely, gaze into the distance with your eyes. This will help you become clear about your future! And it helps your eyes adapt to a wide range of circumstances, as they were designed to do.

Best of luck to you on your quest for clarity!

Steven 
Flow Healing Arts

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gluten Free Healing

"Healing is a process. I choose to enjoy the process." 
Louise Hay paraphrase. 



For years I suffered ill health without knowing the cause (though perhaps instinctively I knew).  I poured over tomes on alternative health, websites, and arcane articles. After many trials and tribulations, the answers slowly began to reveal themselves, and in 2003 I was diagnosed with a gluten allergy, as well as an allergy to wheat, gliadin, eggs, and dairy. Back then, those items comprised mostly everything I ate. Something had to change.

Since then, through research, and trial and error, and some dumb luck, I've come upon a system that has healed me. As of right now, I can eat gluten with no symptoms, (though they will start to manifest if I eat large quantities of it every day). My symptoms are intestinal distress, flaky skin, low energy, blurred vision, endless thirst, and a rash. I used to flare up if I even got a trace amount of gluten, as in via contaminated oats.

The question:


If you suffer from this, or any health concern, it often helps to ask yourself:

"What is my body trying to tell me?"


The symptom is not something wrong with our body. It is our body giving us a sign that it wants us to change something in our lives; perhaps our diet, our lifestyle, or our outlook.

As Douglas Graham puts it: "The dis-ease is the cure."


Principles that have helped me heal myself:

Cleansing


Regular cleansing has been a vital component of my healing process. I love the master cleanse (lemonade made of maple syrup and fresh lemons), but I have also tried dry fasting, water fasting, juice fasting, fruitarianism, and various mono-diets (melons, bananas, grapes, and brown rice). Keeping the colon clean gives it a chance to self repair, and allows it to release the coating of mucus that it often adopts as a protective mechanism. It does protect the intestinal wall but also prevents proper absorption of nutrients. Hot lemon water in the morning works wonders for flushing this out. I'd suggest starting with at least a liter and working up to 3. I also use coconut oil to cleanse and flush out yeast at the end of a fast. Some people do well on a longer fast now and then. I find that I do better on a shorter fast a few times per month.

Superhydrating


Superhydrating means flooding your cells with water, training them to absorb more and more of it. Mixing some cucumber, wheat grass, or lemon juice in with the water helps the body assimilate it. Hydration is important for most bodily processes, digestion in particular. An example would be drinking 4 liters of pure water every day before noon.

Alkalizing 

Many people who become gluten intolerant live acid lifestyles. What constitutes an acid lifestyle? Meals consisting mostly of meat and grains, with few fresh vegetables or fruits. Stress also contributes, as does coffee, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners.

I'm designing a bodywork / lifestyle program for people with gluten intolerance, starch sensitivities, or other intestinal discomforts.


Aerobic Exercise 


Keeping the heart rate in the range of 180 - age for long periods of time can have dramatic impacts on overall health. It oxygenates the cells, moves lymph, alkalizes and detoxifies the body, and boosts the metabolism, aiding digestion.


Chakra Balancing
Painting by Barry Stevens


First and second chakra issues can contribute to intestinal distress and some food allergies. This can be assisted by fine tuned bodywork, such as the Vibrational Healing Massage Therapy that I offer, or Yoga, or Shiatsu or Qigong.

Releasing the lower abdominal diaphragm, the illiopsoas, and the glutes can also have positive results, and be of great benefit quickly.


Listening to the Body
Chen Tai Chi
Through meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, and various brands of bodywork, I've learned to be present in my own body. I've found that people with gluten intolerance are often up in their heads (myself included). Being present in the body allows one to listen to and interpret its signals.

The body is capable of miraculous healing. There is nothing that the body cannot handle. The only effort required on our part is to get out of the way and let it shine. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What flows through you

"What is the secret to keeping up? You must let the psyche move through the meridians. Whether you are tired or not, whether you have energy or you do not, whether you are sick or healthy - these things are like the rain and the clouds, hot weather and cold, winter, fall - a part of life. But if you let your own energy flow through you, you will be all right.”
-- Yogi Bhajan




The meridians make up an intangible, invisible network of energy that courses through the body, like rivers of life force. They run mostly up and down the torso and out into the limbs,  connecting various organs and systems. It could take a lifetime of study to truly understand and master this complex network of our anatomy! (A great place to start is Subtle Body; An Encyclopedia of your Energy Anatomy by Cindy Dale). Some healers can see energy visually. Others "listen" for it or "feel" it. 

The kundalini

The beauty is; you don't have to be an expert on esoteric anatomy to flow with the beauty of perfect vitality! Indeed some of the healthiest people have no idea of how these things work! They just intuitively flow in alignment with it. 

Stretch




Stretching can get stuck energy moving. There are specific stretches that effect specific meridians, but you can also do general stretches, or take up Yoga, or try a session of Vibrational Healing Massage Therapy, Thai Massage, Shiatsu, Assisted Stretching, etc. A combination of stretching and deep breathing can produce powerful results. 

The movement of energy through the body can be broken down in minute and complex ways. Different traditions also use different terms and symbols for balance and imbalance. But the blockage of energy  is essentially a movement away from our true nature (through lifestyle, negative thinking, sedentary habits, etc), and moving back toward our true nature allows it to flow freely again


Enjoy yourself, cultivate a rich inner landscape, lovingly care for body, nourish your mind, and the energy inside will move where it's needed, and leave a trail of bliss and perfect healing in its wake. 


Namaste,


Steven



Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Chasing Buddha


I am running through Elk Grove, just south of Sacramento. This area is very underdeveloped in some places. There are vast swathes of grassland, untended orchards, and swamps with ancient, leafless oaks that twist up into the sky, and miniature rivers, some mere trickles, gingerly winding through the landscape.


There's a chill in the air, as winter clings to her throne. I love this time of year; the incipience of spring. Fruit trees flowering everywhere remind me of Japanese woodblock prints. This is me thinking. I keep reminding myself to just be.
Hiroshige
I think of how I came to this place. It was by accident. We were going to go up to Alaska, and the plan got sidetracked, so my girlfriend and I settled here where she grew up. A few other escape plans fell through, so we stayed. There's nothing out here. It's at the periphery of where I want to be. I visited once years ago when I lived in San Francisco, en route to Sacramento, and I remember thinking: "What do people do out here?"

"There are no accidents," I remind myself, gently. 

As I run, a new affirmation runs through my head. I speak it aloud when my determination wanes:

"I trust in the process of life. I am safe."

How irrational fears keep us from reaching our full potential. As I slip into fearful thinking, my legs begin to ache and I gasp for air. I crank up the affirmation, and remind myself that all is well. The pain subsides a little each time I say it with conviction. 

I watch my mind waver. As I let it run its course, watching it without judgement, a dialog ensues:

"Why are you here?" it says. "In the middle of nowhere. It's a dead end. There's nothing out here but brown grass and old farm houses. You know this isn't your destiny, yet you can't afford to move. You're trapped out here! Admit it!"

I smile, because I know how clever the mind chatter can be. As I crunch along a narrow dirt path, a flock of geese fly over in a perfect V.  It's an arrow, pointing to the present moment. 


"I'm here," I say. "So I decide be fully present. There is so much beauty here. The brown grass really brings out the blue in the sky."


A variation on this theme keeps playing as I approach the 8 mile mark. I hit a wall. My left calf is seizing up. I allow the run to taper off into a walk. 

I think of the marathon monks, the Lung-gom-pa monks in Tibet, and in Japan the monks of Mount Hiei, who run endless hours on scant nourishment, in minimal footwear, chanting mantras, chasing Buddha. I wonder if they hit walls? 


They must. They're monks, but they're human. The mantras bring them closer to their full potential. The Tibetans write something on their feet in sanskrit that lends them superhuman legs and thunderous hearts. I wonder how that works? It's impossible for a monk shod in sandals to run 52 miles a day for three months in a row, subsisting on little bowls of grain. My mind starts rebelling. 

"Grain is hardly a food at all," it says. "It's not possible. Maybe they slip in something else? It's almost by accident that grain became the human staple. Man can't live on bread alone."

There's that word again. "Accident." I start jogging again. What does that word even mean? To me it means not taking responsibility I guess, and not "trusting in the process of life." These monks are expressing their full potential, because they believe in what they're doing. Their literally chasing their dreams without hesitation. It is I who am letting my mind hold me back by being skeptical of them. I am not here by accident. This is not a land of nowhere. And if they run for days on end,  I can make it home. 

"The things which are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27)

I gradually increase my speed until I'm sprinting. I can tell people in cars are watching me. I wonder what they're thinking; if they're inspired; annoyed. I sprint for what seems like miles, nourished by only the pure potentiality and the gut wrenching beauty that's always surrounding me but I rarely get to see. I get winded as my own heart thunders in my ribs, my joints creek, and my nose whistles. But my body adapts, and I find a fast stride that feels natural and liquid, like these flowing streams. I smile into the sun. 

As I stumble up to the house I'm staying in, I notice that it's beginning to look more like a home. 

"I'm manifesting my own destiny with every step, with every breath, with every word," I tell myself,  opening the door.