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Conditioning for the Creative Muscles

This is a running blog, right? Oh how running ties into so many other elements of life for me (including motivate me to do other activites)… It stokes my engine, keeps the candle burning late into the night and re-ignites bright and early. It is while on runs that I visualize ideas I want to embody – to bring into being – without worry of for whom or what or when.

Two words have been abuzz in my head throughout the year, each materializing differently. They are: create, write.

I discovered earlier this year, in a discussion with a former boss, that creating is the thing that comes most natural to me. When I’m stressed or elated, down or hyper, what do I want to do? Create! Whether it’s cooking, painting, scribbling, fermenting, infusing, rearranging, it’s therapeutic, it’s satiating and when I’m truly in it, almost impossible to stop. I thrive on the act of making something – am getting used to the end product, but mostly just experience this animal that needs to build and make.

This inherent expression allowed me to reach depths and outward points I’d never been acquainted with until this year. I surrounded myself in years of art classes, checking out galleries and museums, hanging my pieces in smaller shows, giving works to family and friends, but never to the extent that I birthed in 2012. I had three art shows (The Holland Project – Hither & Thither, a Celebration of the Temporal, RAW Artists Reno Showcase – October, Artist of the month at Hub Coffee Company) was a featured artist in a live painting event for Toms Shoes at the Reno Whole Foods, and am in the process of creating a mural template for my parents’ upcoming cafe, Greatfull Gardens Cafe & Eatery.

Despite this proclivity, creating is not something I can do on command. It takes a certain energy, mostly unrelated to sleep or diet. Sadly, my social and exercise needs occasionally overtake my creative needs. Nonetheless, I am good at isolating myself to get in the zone and make something come of it.

However, there are more obstacles to this creative block. At times, I want to create but am so exhausted or preoccupied, I can barely move – I almost avoid my sketching utensils, without so much as glancing at my art and craft desk. It’s a self-induced guilt trip – easily avoided but I like having everything nearby so I can reach for it without digging in my garage or basement (eek!).

An example of this is after a full day of work. My weary brain grinds against my motionless hands and begs for exercise. Instead, I usually write some jarbly nonsense in my journal and start to read, then fall asleep. A lot of it (the lull) is my fault – trying to cram hundreds of things into one day – getting up at dawn, running, chucking out e-mails and paperwork and scrambling to work to end with a hasty return home to walk the dog and have quality time – so what’s left to create something?

What is the remedy for this?

As much as I panic about getting enough gifts completed for the holidays (I pride myself in years of making the majority of my gifts), at least it becomes part of my schedule during this time of year. I know if I don’t make something for the special people in my life, I will feel half-assed giving them some menial gift that I didn’t put any effort or thought into. At least with my small list, I have my creative work cut out for me for a month. I’ve become really excellent and doing new things so they can’t expect the same thing every year.

So then what? After Christmas, there are no shows on the books – YET. Does this mean I’ll stop? Not anymore. Although I am a deadline person, the feeling I experience when I am truly creating just for the sake of is irreplaceable. Just like running because it feels good – yoga because it deepens my comprehension of the moment – you get the picture.

Arguably, I’ll create more symbiotic pieces for a show – polish them a bit more, actually finish them. I work well with deadlines – respecting and adhering to them. That said, the hardest deadlines to keep are ones we place on ourselves – without consequence. Ultimately, I’ve already experienced the real consequence of not following through with pieces and that is just that.

As much emphasis I place on physical movement and exercise, this year I’ve gone leaps and bounds into what it means to give attention to my left brain’s needs – to explore that purpose that I muted for so long.

Yoga Journey Part II

Anyway, where was I.. Wiped out from what I learned to be “proper” chaturangas tonight. When you jump back from half-lift, you do not land in plank, but rather, in chaturanga itself. This takes the jolt away from the shoulders (sending it instead to the elbows, but regardless, it still felt smoother than my usual method).

Yogic journey.. Yes – Rebecca’s class. I can still smell Portland summer on my way to class along the Willamette – my sole reason for remaining at this odd little 24-hr Fitness lay in her class. Lunch hour was packed – at least 40 students, all the diligent, fit Portland young professionals, pranayaming it up in the dimly lit group exercise room. I followed her class to the more posh location in the Pearl District, figuring out that I could in fact do crow, side plank, and a new favorite, flipped dog, or wild thing (yoga is meant to be fun – you can laugh in class I think).

Time continued to blow by and I found myself neck-deep in thesis writing, Fulbright Applications, marathon training, and microbrewery-bound Happy Hour studying. Making the journey to the gym on these long days of my final year in college was no longer a priority – I needed to survive marathon training and long work/school hours- yes, it became a survival thing.

Despite this shift, I was escalating my work duties as the Portland Kind Bar brand ambassador – scheduling demos and events support in places like Lululemon Athletica, prior to their free weekly yoga classes. Each class would bring in a guest teacher from the area – the store would be cleared out (yet still very clearly a retail outlet) and I was privileged to try a whole new swath of yoga styles each week after demoing sample of delicious Kind Bars. I even tried a Nia class in a docile NE Portland studio (if you haven’t tried Nia, find a class – laugh and flail to your heart’s content – it is such an uplifting experience- leave your smirking and judgements at the door though).

Though not as consistent, I developed a taste for what yoga was doing for me – good and bad, and how I wanted to continue doing it. Partial to Rebecca’s style of long sequences of poses, I began to become my own teacher, doing small flow sets at school, home, wherever really. This combined well with my long-time fondness of being upside-down; yogic inversions gave me a similar jolt to performing handstands. I actually have become much better at my handstands since.

Spring led to summer, summer led me to Reno out of Portland’s greyness. Biking, running, and yoga were a perfect marriage for keeping myself strong and getting to sleep on time. Yoga on my breaks while working at a warehouse woke me up to get through the monotony that is, well, a warehouse. Beach yoga with new loves, yoga for breakfast, yoga for dessert. Yes, I got a little carried away. Rather, I got better at the carrying – becoming unable to do a normal push-up. Adding time for five extra sun salutations each day. Aggie, my pup, stretching out on the mat underneath.

I found myself on long airplane rides, doing spine extensions in the cabin, later, on tile porches at biodynamic farms flowing with cows and horses and dead spiders, on another beach, a much quieter one in New Zealand’s North island. Finding comfort in discomfort- intrinsic to travel- I attribute to a summation and ongoing evolution of yoga.

Returning home – the draw only grew, and I sought other outlets for solace, flexibility, and strength. Next thing I knew, I was going 3-4 days a week, watching as though from above at my limbs entering with new-found ease into things like side crow, headstand, crow jump-backs, even. I found joy and expression in this deepened practice. The most recent manifestation of it, I attribute to one of the most authentic, inspiring yoga instructors (and friend) I have met, Jelena. Her approach is called dynamic vinyasa – like what I found in Rebecca’s class, but with super-charged sequences in a time frame of around 1 hr, 15 minutes. Jelena employs a no BS message – drawing on authors such as Eckhart Tolle – opening and closing each session with a resonant ohm, and fostering a true sense of togetherness, often not felt in the yoga teacher-student relationship (though it would seem appropriate due to yoga’s inherent inclusion & universality, it’s less-common than you’d think).

Now, I attend her classes whenever possible, currently held at Reno’s River School. I have enough tools to practice on my own each day, but lately, it’s getting harder to postpone my desire to share this life-changing practice with others in some capacity. Ideas are swimming around in my head, like Portland-based StreetYoga, a non-profit that teaches yoga to underprivileged youth and homeless adults… The realm is too great to narrow into one person’s experience of it, and like the uneven rhythms of life, I’m eager to continue exploring yoga’s many facets and forums.

Yoga Journey

I’ve come to embrace activities more than concrete labels in my soul-developing over the years. Among those words and activities is the practice of yoga. Looking back I remember having a conversation about yoga with the ex, ending with his jeering question, something about doing it because I think I’m better than him – it’s such a competitive sport. Although irrelevant, the question led me to examine why I choose to make yoga such a significant element of my charged and chaotic lifestyle. My fondness and engagement with my “practice” deepened subsequently and continues to do so.

Before getting into my yogic journey, here’s my mission statement for doing yoga:

To continuously reinforce holistic, dynamic, strengthening, and pacifying movement into my life in order to balance and enhance my overall well-being. To cross train and keep me solid in other activities. To help me be a more conscious, compassionate, and happy individual and ultimately to share this with others.

My initial motivation for trying yoga was the same I possessed in trying other new things: a test, a different perspective, perhaps a new hobby. I was drawn to the mysterious physical challenges that were said to occur in a relatively mild activity compared to other forms of exercise.

In effort to match my desired outcome with this peace-inducing activity, I followed a friend’s lead to try Bikram yoga – what could be more difficult that forcing your body into knots in a room over 100 degrees for 90 minutes? Expectations were met, even exceeded. Already somewhat strong and flexible, I felt empowered watching so much water leave my body, face redden, hamstrings and lower back ache with effort in class. My chest opened up, releasing new emotions and introducing me to a certain awareness I’d never experienced until then – I actually didn’t even realize this was happening until much later down the road. Not to mention, the reward of being re-birthed into normal temperatures and rinsing off in lavender Dr. Bronner’s. I guess I can say, thanks Bikram Choudry for patenting your incongruent, repetitive class – it stemmed my curiosity for the rest of yoga’s vast realm.

After trying other forms of yoga and feeling extremely bored, I revered Bikram even more because of his strictness and the gratification of seeing myself improve, (since his class never changes) – it’s the same 28 postures each time. Living in the Eastern Sierra and occasionally being trapped in it, I sought exercise in the confines of my shared bedroom. I set up a space heater in front of my mat, closed the door, and sweated away to the Bikram album on my iPod; this was Mr. Choudry himself teaching a full class. I chuckled at his nuanced barking toward students, and felt reassured that not all yogis were pretentious and artificially calm.

Time moved forward, I moved North, spinal fracture in recovery and all. Bikram’s series became redundant (not to mention, there are only so many studios to attend a $30 unlimited first month, common at Bikram’s establishments), so I joined a 24-Hr Fitness in hopes of encouraging my sedentary ex to work out more. Bored by weights and feeling tight, I was fortunate to happen upon an class by Rebecca. Simply called “vinyasa,” on the gym’s group fitness schedule, I had no idea that this class would transform my outlook on yoga (gasp) indefinitely. Her class introduced me to sun salutations, chaturangas, the warrior sequence, and not being in a heated room. At first, I was skeptical, as I took all the sweat and soreness from Bikram as a measure of my hard work and progress. I left Rebecca’s class not feeling swept of the electrolytes in my body, but instead, worked in a more wholesome, encompassing manner. I felt stronger internally and became curious as to how many ways I could (attempt to) put myself into a pretzel without having to heat up the body from an external source. I didn’t feel grimy, I didn’t feel pressured to lock my knees or whatever Bikram preaches (actually very dangerous if you are not flexible enough to do so outside a heated room).

Transformations began to occur drastically in my physiology and mental state. I slept deeper, ran harder, ate more mindfully, almost didn’t notice the sting in my upper back where the fracture was anymore. Funny things like being unable to do a regular pushup- my arms would automatically go in to chaturangas if I tried- began to happen. I would come home and do legs up the wall pose and bridge before bedtime. I’d run 3.5 miles to Rebecca’s class and boom – power up with my newfound love, vinyasa, and run home, almost collapsing upon arriving, but so clear-headed and full of vitality. It was during this time that I realized yoga didn’t slow me down, and I didn’t need it to hurt for it to work. Doing this on a regular basis, like once or twice a week, I realized, would amplify my innate desire to maximize what I get out of life in general. This epiphany only made me more hungry for yoga, and also prompted the desire to give some of the other forms I’d tried before a second chance.

Stay tuned for why the heck I’m writing so much about my “yogic journey.”

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Amazing meal of Wholly Awesome & Wholesome Deliciousness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broccoli. Radiccio. Walnut. Golden beet. Garlic. Gorgonzola. Whole wheat penne.

The Transient Psyche

Travelers, wanderers, experience seekers, however defined, we all share a common action in our various escapades, and that is movement. One day you’re in X train station, the next day at a biergarten on the Rhône, the following, running through the streets of San Francisco dressed as a sparkly pair of lips. You gain enough momentum and before you know it, your memory card is full, all of your underwear is dirty, and you find yourself wondering again, “Where am I going to sleep tonight?” It’s a riveting road, faces and fuzziness and new smells, tastes, sounds, enough to smother the gratification from time spent in front of a computer or any ongoing monotony that may last longer than a month…

You get the idea: I’m describing wanderlust. The by-product of wanderlust, traveling, has its own repercussion, or side effect. That is transience. It accompanies anyone’s voyages, abroad, across the U.S.A., in a tranquil national park.. It becomes addicting, yet after a long enough period (this varies for all, sometimes budget has a lot to do with it), one begins to yearn for “stability” or “home.” I can relate to this vacillation, especially during longer periods abroad. After just 12 days of sleeping on a wooden board in a leaky van, any mattress sounds like a Temperpedic. We all have our tolerance levels/comfort zones/adaptation abilities, but what goes up must eventually have an address (maybe).

Yes, humans were originally hunter-gatherers. We did not stick in one place just because “it’s pretty,” or, “i had some good kills-er, times here.” Living space was premised on availability of food and shelter. My guess: traveling and exploration of the unknown have flourished to this day not ONLY out of curiosity and desire to connect with others around the globe, or educational, business, and even conquering ventures, but ALSO, because we’re wired to move. It’s in our GENES (and jeans – one pair for six months? Yes please!). 

The problem with this desire to wander is that it eventually becomes a proclivity to do so. Exhausting, yet riveting, aimlessly drifting eventually wears on every noble traveler. Throw in a volunteer stint, or a seasonal job to prime the bank account for more wandering, and that adds a whole new dimension to the adventure. However, at the point that one decides to “settle down,” even if still away from “home,” he or she may immediately notice an uncanny reaction: to do just the opposite and continue wandering. Repulsion of oddities at the newest “residence,” anxiety toward the idea of getting “stuck,” desperation and the insatiable will to continue doing “new” things in “new” places.. Human nature sure is funny. Always wanting the opposite, even if it took so much effort to get there.

Over the years, my transient self has subsisted with continuous movement: countless travels, over 19 moves, 25 jobs (only the ones lasting more than two weeks), 6 cars (most of them sold to fund travels), friends, dog, bikes.. While these stats don’t define or sum up what I’ve lived amid the movement, I think they are fair indicators of the volume of it, hence the inclination to continue..

The biggest takeaway from this is that I have chosen to coexist with this element of my being instead of compete with it. For example, in moving to Mammoth, I knew I would be done with it from the beginning after being there a mere 6 months. On the contrary, moving to Portland, I planned on spending at least 2 years there, without putting an “end” to it, but rather, working with the idea that I’d re-evaluate after my goal was complete. Each place has indeed helped me shape what I believe to be an ideal life situation. I still find myself wondering about the next move, looking ahead to the next year, saying, “I’d like to see myself…” I always draw on the past movements for a reference, sometimes miss them a bit. At least there’s some respite in knowing it’s all for some good reason and I usually get a lot out of whatever I make of the present moment anyway, right?

Losing Things All the Time

The past month-ish has been a convergence of several elements of my life that before, never really seemed to fit together in any orderly/logical manner. I have found myself experiencing one great thing after another. It’s been this dreamy sort of flow, a sequence of events I wouldn’t have dared to imagine just a few months ago. There has been one glitch though. The whole reason I’m writing this post tonight is because I am missing (note: not ‘I lost’ because it will be found) my REAL journal, moleskine #2, journal #19. For the second time in my life (the first time it was stolen from me when I was in the 5th grade), the archive of my sporadic thought processes and goings-on is out of my reach.

This does not come as a huge surprise to me. I always misplace things, often within small 1-minute windows of having said item/s in my hand, only to be frantically looking in the most obscure places the next. This habit has led to several inconveniences and delays in my “adult” life. Take for example, the weekend of my second marathon in San Francisco, when I left my wallet behind in Portland. Of course, I only drove to the city one way on this trip and had a flight booked to return home. Picture my Dad trying to convince Reno’s lax TSA that I’m indeed, Rachael, at airport security in Reno at 6am Monday morning. That was only a minor error. There was also the time I had a CD BIBLE (you know, the 120-space phonebook-size beast we all had with every CD ever owned), and I was CONVINCED that it was stolen out of my unlocked car while I was running. I was so overcome with desperation to find the thing, I actually filed a police report. Guess where it was? In my dirty clothes hamper! Things that make you chuckle, right? But this journal one is kind of a big deal.

The result of this lapse has been a significant upheaval, both mental and physical. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve unmade and remade my bed, checked the same drawer, car floor, dumped my backpack, dug through trash.. I want so badly to write in its few remaining pages, maybe put a fall leaf in the little jacket in the back. It contains some pretty pivotal details of the past year and a half or so that I really would rather not wind up in the hands of an undeserving vagrant. Knowing my flighty mind, it’s not entirely impossible that it is indeed in a stranger’s hands, or worse, in a dumpster or the ashes from one of the fires my roommates and I had within the last week.

What I am NOT getting at is  that I am a completely irresponsible moron. This post is not a demonstrative. It’s a type of reconciliation, a plea, to the forces that be, maybe even to my flighty brain. I am sorry to overlook the whereabouts of something I consult everyday, even amidst moving and being uncontrollably bubbly lately. It’s been a long time since this has happened, and I learned my lesson. I will not misplace things anymore. I really don’t want to start another journal before finishing this one or have an entire volume missing from my archived life. Funny how all that stuff I wrote about is still there (it did happen in TIME), but me, the physical representation of it all, feels all empty and such. Not dissing on the blog, but that beat up black little moleskine is on a completely different plane than RackelRuns.

PLEASE come back to me, Journal #19.

Woof-TF? Part V

Basically, all this confusing stuff went down from after I last wrote. I can’t really piece together the events, but I’ve been all over the place the past few months. Mom brought me back to Grandma’s, she stayed for a bit on this teeny little bed, we went for lots of runs, she disappeared for long periods of time, we played in snow (my favorite element – mostly because of how it tickles my nose), I ate tortillas, the cat and I became friends, but mostly, it was weird. I just figured Mom was leaving again and that’s why she was in and out so erratically.

Ends up, we made out good. Mom showed up one day and put my food bin, toys, and a bunch of other junk in her car. I managed to squeeze in somehow, but that didn’t matter because I had the front seat at my paw tips to really get a good view of what was happening. We went up the long, windy road that usually stops somewhere fun where I can splash and run and chew on sticks. Man, was it cold. The air smelled strikingly familiar, and all that came to mind was paddling in aqua-colored water. I got out, a bit on the uneasy side, but could tell by mom’s movements that I shouldn’t worry. Where is this place? I shivered, checked around, making sure she wasn’t going to pack up and leave me.

Aggie at her finest

We’ve already been here a week and I feel the happiest I’ve ever felt. Mom and her intriguing companion took me to the water for a walk, thinking I’d just tag along and sniff things here and there. Snow and ice aside, I just had to get in the water. The two wouldn’t throw my sticks too far, so I had to make up for it by launching them myself into the icy abyss. What a mistake! The usual refreshment was nonexistent, instead, I lost feeling in part of my brain I think.

I don’t know why we are here, but I already made a new friend (who needs to lighten up a bit). He seems like he hasn’t been around a lady very much in any recent time frame. I figure we can take our friendship step by step. I wouldn’t want to wear him out with too much play, but I just can’t get enough, especially since I feel like I’m actually home for the first time in quite awhile.

That being said, stay tuned to my future antics and adventures. After all, going from crazy 3-legged cat lady to couch eating to here has been a significantly nutty ride…

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