Tag Archives: san francisco

Getting Started

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On Biking

The  red-faced, wind-kissed cheeks and the smell of fresh air on your skin ,and knowing that you just came in from a slightly windy morning riding at the beach never really does get old. San Francisco has changed. For sure. But the morning fog still rolls, and and the crazy waves still crash on the shore of Ocean Beach. Still not up to “training pace” but getting out again on Sunday put me back into that infinity circle again of “what have I been missing!”

On Running

Crissy Fields is another one of those magical places. I ride my bike down Market, up Polk Street all the way up to the Marina; gives a real feel of how the city changes from one area to the other (from rags to riches…and all the colors in between). My heart becomes lighter as I climb up that last hill and the ocean comes into view.

20160522_092624Getting started, like with anything, always feels like a big push. And last Monday I drudged myself along for the first mile or so, convinced to keep going only by the ocean breeze and the sway of the grass. By mile 4 I was in a groove when I heard quick-footsteps behind me and then beside me. Realizing that we were basically the same pace, the other set of foot-steps and mine matched each other–first her running slightly faster with me a little behind and then vice-versa (the pains and gains of training with another). Half-way through, I gasped between breaths, “What’s…your…name…” and aside from that the only sounds we exchanged was the  rhythm of our feet and the quick breaths as we continued down the path.

On Swimming

Yesterday, I tried to run on the treadmill. Bad. Idea. Too tired. Too light-headed. Too stifling. Not happening. Didn’t even want to get into the pool after that. But it’s a rooftop outdoor pool. And it was, again, that perfect mix of fog and rain.”One lap,” I whispered to myself, shivering on the side of the pool. I dipped one foot in the water which sent my face into a scrunch.  I felt the whine coming low and fast and before it sent my legs running down into the locker room where a sauna awaited, I dove in, the  water making me forget whatever doubts I had about being here in the first place.

Sprints were on my agenda. Just one length of the pool at a time with a 20 second rest…how to get my time down to just 20 seconds? I put my attention on the pull part of the stroke; where the elbow is bent and the forearm pushes against the water. Could I push any harder? Recover any faster? Focusing on the push and recovery on the seventh of twelve lengths, I glanced up at the clock as my fingertips touched the wall. The clock read 20 seconds…all because of a bit of awareness and effort at one aspect of my stroke.

 

 

 

 

 

Surrender

Sometimes I wonder if my posts are heading more towards, what my aunt would say the “woo woo” side of things. Well if they are, so-be-it! Worrying about the “woo-woo” has prevented me from writing this post for too long. So take a deep breath and bring on your woo-woo!

I’ve been exploring this idea of surrender this year. If you don’t mind, praying for it, actually. And I’ve been playing with the line between “doing” and “waiting.’ I’ve spent times, dwelling at coffee shops (if you’ve been following my blog you know) and taking time to smell the flowers. I’ve also had super busy weeks filled with activity that leave me exhausted at the end of the day. Both ends of the spectrum  have given me great pleasure and stress depending on the moment.

So, this past week there were two instances that rang true for me about what surrender MIGHT mean. The first was during a morning meditation. After our silence, a cassette tape  (remember those?) of questions and answers with Satchidananda was played (the guru that founded Integral Yoga). The question from a man in the audience was, “I suffer from acute panic attacks. What can I do?”

Full disclosure, I usually tune out during the tape playing part of the meditation. However, having suffered from incredible anxiety myself and having been exposed recently to two close young adult friends of mine who were also experiencing anxiety attacks I listened in.

“Anxiety comes from expectations,” he said. “So ask yourself what am I anxious about? What am I expecting?” For many of us this is feels like way too a simplistic solution. But when I think about that myself I reflect on what my own anxiety has been around. So much of of it has been about fear of not being able to….or What if I lose….or simply, What if I am not enough..

he goes on to say, “So stop expecting things. Stop having desires.” And then he laughs knowingly. “Or keep desiring and keep wishing. But know if you don’t get what you are expecting or if what you want it’s because God didn’t want you to have it. Blame God for not getting your wants.”

The word God makes many people shudder. Perhaps another way to think about this  is that it’s just not meant to be.

It’s only woo woo if you take it as making the choice to stop moving towards your goal. Right now my own life has many different moving pieces that are filled with uncertainty. They often offer glimmers of opportunity that are just barely out of reach. Sometimes they grab hold and take off and sometimes they don’t. The other day, I told a friend, “My schedule this week changed in the span of five minutes.” She commented, “your whole life right now is like dating!” We both laughed.

And yet, as I commented to a housemate, “I’m hopeful and I’m wanting these opportunities to happen. But I’m not going to be miserable if they don’t.” And she said softly, “Surrendering.”

Ahhh. To my desiring, striving, ambitious, and often lazy self-that was a definition of surrendering that I could get my head around: keep on keepin on no matter the outcome. But don’t stop moving forward (even if it feels like there’s a standstill or moving backwards).

Walking Towards the Sun

Lands End

Lands End

“What would you do if you had nothing?” an ex-boyfriend once asked me. I was in the middle of preparing report cards, and training for a half-ironman. I didn’t have a whole lot of time for him, and he was frustrated. Nonetheless, his question gave me pause. I loved being busy. It’s who I was, and without it? I didn’t know. I never stopped to think about what “nothing” was.

Coming back to San Francisco this past December, I felt totally lost and lonely. I had entered a huge urban metropolis that I wasn’t used to anymore. And I was confused by that lostness as I had once loved this city so much. I realized over that month that I was holding onto expectations of what this city was for me before, thinking that  I would drop back into the life I had previously and pick up where I left off. Once I started to let go of those expectations I was able to have patience with the ups and downs that come with moving to a new place. But still, I marveled at the busyness of it all. Maybe because I wasn’t part of it. And of course I had just come from living in community where, part of the busy day was consciously stopping to make time for meditation and for conversations at meal time.

So yeah, I was confused…especially because I had been a part of a bigger urban metropolis just 6 months prior. So the fact that it was strange and foreign was strange and foreign. Had I changed that much in just those six months? Was I jealous of all the busyness that I no longer felt that I was a part of? Did I suddenly feel that I had “nothing?”

As it was, my loneliness led me to the Integral Yoga Institute. Having just come from Yogaville, I was rejuvenated with the idea of teaching yoga again and was determined to do so. The Integral Yoga Institute is a center in San Francisco related to the Yogaville Ashram in Virginia. It is situated in an old victorian up on a hill from Dolores Park. At night, when I stand outside on the front steps the sun lights up the sky with different neon colors as it settles over the top of the city.  Since I was there, and desperate for housing in a seemingly very expensive city with a housing crisis I thought I would ask about residency as well. “Yes.” They said.  And so here I am two months later living in a yoga center with housemates and a community that practice meditation and yoga, and embraces peace of mind and transition.

Shortly after I moved in, I came down with a cold. That ate up quite a few expenses as well as had me laying low for almost a month. Almost no work, no going out, and certainly no signing up for the classes that I had hoped. I was, by nature of the cold, forced to stay home, get quiet and meditate. And meditate. And meditate. It was stressful at first. I am active. I am an ironman! And to sit and watch the busy lives of those around me while I had to sit, drained of energy was indeed frustrating. And then, something happened. I relaxed. I stopped worrying. There was no need. There was no use.

I have heard that if you trust in the universe it will provide. I have some tension with this. How is that not lazy? I believe that if I want something to happen then I need to put the energy out there to make it happen. And yet, once that’s done there needs to be a certain amount of trust that the right thing will bounce back.  I think what it comes down to is listening. It doesn’t mean being  lazy.  It means sitting and listening to that voice inside even if it doesn’t make sense. It means, at least in my case, practicing patience.

So in my three weeks in which I couldn’t do much I sat and listened a lot.I did nothing.  I have achieved a certain amount of relaxation that I fear is lethargy, although I am also making sure to keep an eye on that.I am yoga-ing, journaling, involved in a small fun project, discussing,  and my favorite, practicing to be a professional coffee shop dweller, an aspiration of which I had in my early twenties.

Simple Pleasures Cafe

Simple Pleasures Cafe

I was coming back from my favorite coffee shop, Simple Pleasures, late afternoon one day, after a morning in the foggy part of the city. I called my friend to say hi, and left a message. She texted me back and said, “I hope you get this with your phone dying and all, but I love that you ended your message with ‘I’m walking towards the sun.’

More Tea?

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Ray’s Teaset. Yogaville, Virginia

On February 14, 2002 I wrote in my journal, “Floating in the ocean with nothing better to do than stare at the bright blue  sky.” This was from the white sands of the beaches in Northeastern Brazil. It was my third year of college and this was my study abroad…I was studying the relationship between ocean and sky. I wasn’t, actually. But there was something that I was trying to grasp in that journal entry that I’m just finally moving towards twelve years later:  relaxation.

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The road outside my mom’s house. The start of the 40 mile biking adventure from the suburbs to Boston.

In that moment as in other vacation moments I’ve wondered how to bring that “floating” sensation to “every day life” or “the real world.” After leaving Mexico, where I taught 2nd grade for three years, I decided to take the year off from teaching.On purpose, with no job or home in place, I flew to Boston where I floated in between my parent’s homes  by bike, by car, and by train. Things just worked out. My dad gave me his old car for the price of a new muffler. I found a job substitute teaching very easily, and out of the blue came the email that my acupuncturist said I would get. Would you like to staff the Basic Yoga Teacher Training it read from my yoga teacher.

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The trails in Yogaville

And so I floated to Yogaville, an ashram situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Once there, floating was easy. My “work” was supporting a program that I truly believe in while I too practiced with the students. Work was learning the elements of Integral Yoga again, practicing yoga every day, and meditating. “Work” was getting to know participants and their floating lives, learning and conversing with the other interesting members of the staff. “Work” was hiking the trails,
long conversations in the dining hall with others’, and jamming to poetry and chants. While I was “working” the support and love I felt as a staff was the same that I had felt four years prior when participating in the program itself. Floating felt natural as I found that many participants in the program and others that were living in the ashram were also floating.

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The Dunes Trail. Arcata, Ca

From there, I floated to another retreat on the coast of Northern California.. While these two retreats were different they had a very similar effect on me and the message was clear: “Relax into love and you can’t go wrong.” The question among many of us was, “But how do I do that during every day life?”

Something in both places that was said resonated me. “This is every day life.”

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San Francisco in the Fog.

Living in community, acting with and discussing what it means to move with awareness. And most of all, learning to live in the in-between, because that is the only thing real that exists.”And yet, that is a very scary place to be, especially when living in a city; a city where“floating” doesn’t always feel acceptable because everyone’s always racing to get on the next train especially me!

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Yogaville, Virginia

Or where there are so many distractions  it’s hard to remember what feels true and to remember to give myself the time to stop and listen to the voice of love inside. And being in a city has brought up old anxieties and it’s hard to be patient with myself. I somehow feel that  because I just came from these magical places of conscious floaters that I should automatically be different and when I put that should on myself  I feel the fear of being in that “in-between” place creep up and from that fear tension grows.

And yet, also while being in this city,I have been lucky enough to float from amazing person to person, including loving family that has let me into their home.

The stories of inspiration, trauma, and  love that I have heard are incredible.No one has spoken of perfection or of lack of want. But everyone has spoken with an understanding of the importance of following one’s heart and understanding of that chilling fear when hearing the voice that says, I am lost. And yet, with patience and tranquility the answer of what’s next always comes.

Before I left Mexico, I had lunch with a friend. When I started telling him all of my plans and everything I wanted to do with all of my excitement he said, “Sarah, I see you as lost.” My face fell and I started crying. “You need to have a plan.” he said.

I heard a “but” creeping up inside me. What’s wrong with being lost? It said.

“Yes.” I nodded my head. “A plan.”

“And not just sit around and have long lunches and tea with people.”

“Right.” I thought.

And I left that lunch feeling miserable. Why hadn’t I voiced what I had heard? There was nothing wrong with being “lost.”. And besides, I love long teas!  I learned how to do that in Mexico!

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Tea Ceremony at Yogaville led by Ray.

Yesterday, I floated from one two hour tea date to the next. I was able to completely be with them in the moment because there was nothing else I had to do. Floating gives me the time to be still so that I can finally hear that voice within me that guides me to either go left, right, or stare at the blue sky while floating on the waves on the white sand beaches in Brazil.