JSN Mindfulness Project – Day 16

Day 16:

4:30AM – Coffee/Meditation

There is a certain level of mystery and aura to Southern Oregon.  Perhaps, maybe, the strange Vortex in Jacksonville has something to do with it.  Off the beaten path on the northern edge of the Siskiyou Mountains lie the quaint and rural communities like Ruch, Buncom, Williams, along with the Applegate recreation area. Each town reminds me a bit of Worthington, the town I grew up in.  I could see myself living here someday.  Rumor has it that Steve Miller (Steve Miller Band) owns an multi-thousand acre ranch in Williams.  Each time I visit there I feel like I’m entering the land that time has forgotten.  Then you add in the plethora of idyllic and rugged trails that scale the ridge lines and peaks, which for me, adds to the idea that Southern Oregon is a little slice of heaven.  After being here, yet again, my enthusiasm to explore the area is more profound than ever.

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Looking down from one of the many ridge lines that surround Applegate Reservoir

Once you enter the heart of the Siskiyou’s cell phone coverage becomes nonexistent.  There are no beeps, notifications, alerts, or voicemails that come through.  For me, the silence and detachment from the outside world only adds to the idea of this place being special to me.  I feel “off the grid” in many ways. Furthermore the silence provokes and encourages a sense of peace, quiet, and the opportunity to practice mindfulness.  Southern Oregon is becoming a sanctuary of sorts, a place where I can enjoy the mountains, for hours on end, and not run into a single soul.  This remote corner of Oregon is pure, raw, and authentic.  The love affair shall continue.

Yesterday mornings mental carnival ride is still bothering me.  I think I know the reason why, which is helping me to let go of the episode and focus on the upcoming day of being back in the mountains.  Letting go of certain situations has been very hard for me over the last few days, despite the focus I have on practicing mindfulness.  The peace and quiet this weekend has helped, however I know that this external interlude of serenity, once I enter back into the world of hustle and bustle, could be fleeting if I deny being in the NOW.

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Cruising the Payette trail and ran into this bridge

6:30 PM – Having just returned from the drive from Southern Oregon I’m in some serious need of a little meditation to calm my body and mind down.  I’m jacked up from driving, having put Daft Punk’s Alive 07 album on volume 11 for the last stretch from Eugene to Adair Village.  Might have had an extra cup of coffee too.  Oh well, it’s what helps get me through long drives.

It’s nice to be home, refreshed from a solid 3 days in the mountains.  I feel like I put some good work in for my head running around the endless trail system that the Siskiyou’s have to offer.  The only conflict that I came across during todays run was a bout of hunger.  Yesterdays tension and strain seemed to have been alleviated and left on the trails by virtue of letting go; today was all about reminding myself that there is no conflict in the mountains.

I’m about to start reading Autobiography of a Yogi, of which I’ve heard many great things.  I’m excited to see what it unveils.

Check out the blogpost that started this journey through mindfulness:  https://spencernewell1032.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/the-fight-with-my-mind-something-needs-to-change-today/

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JSN Mindfulness Project: Day 15

Day 15:

4:45AM – Coffee/Meditation

This morning my mind is rattled.  From what, I cannot say.  Today will be all about enjoying being surrounded by the mountains.

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Traversing Little Greyback Mt.

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Memorial for “Geno” on the Little Greyback Trail

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Dutchmen Peak is somewhere in the clouds.

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Closed for the winter!  Watch-out tower from Squaw Peak

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Squaw Peak in the distance, 3 hours later from the Stein Butte ridgeline

6:00PM – Today was more about photos and less about writing.  I felt very conflicted for the first few hours running today, my body was tense and wound tight.  Once I got to the summit of Squaw Peak and took a huge breathe of the Siskiyou’s air the tension seemed to dissipate.  From the remainder of the run I felt calm, reminding myself that when I’m running in the mountains there is no conflict.  The only conflict is what I create for myself in the mind.

I feel at peace this evening.

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JSN Mindfulness Project: Day 14

Day 14:

4:00AM – Coffee/Meditation

Today I’m pretty clear that some days are better than others when it comes to being able to clear my mind and just breathe.  This morning was a challenge in this regard, reinforcing the fact that meditation isn’t about adhering to the labels of good or bad, it just IS.

I’m currently in the midst of some heavy mental processing.  Emotionally, there is some hard work being done as I’m beginning to reconcile a part of me that I’ve never been able to let go.  Breathing and being mindful during this process is a tool more valuable than I ever thought imaginable.

In a couple of hours I’m going to make my way back down to Ashland, a town that I’m slowly falling in love with.  A friend of mine has given me the opportunity to housesit for her this weekend so that I can head back in to the rugged Siskiyou Mountain range to get in some good hard miles.  In talking with my buddy Andrew yesterday while running I found myself wondering why the Siskiyou’s mean so much to me.  After talking it through I realized that last September, while racing Pine to Palm 100 (a point to point race that traverses the Siskiyou’s), I underwent a significant period of self-realization.  During that race I became raw, stripped down to the core, and vulnerable.  The physical suffering that I experienced that day opened up a door for me to explore the bare bones of what I’m about.  Therefore, I’m always excited to return to Southern Oregon and continue my work in the mountains

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Cruising up a rainy Horn Gap trail in Ashland yesterday.  Rain, shine, wind, snow, it’s always fun for me to explore the Siskiyou’s.

6:30PM – Didn’t have to much of a chance to get in some meditation today as I spent most of the day in the car.  I feel a little off in regards to having inner peace, maybe that’s just the effect of traveling.  On the flip side I got in some great miles in Ashland, re-visiting a portion of the Pine to Palm 100 course.  I don’t think it’s really even set in yet that I actually ran for 100 miles last September.  Freaking crazy.  Experiencing the course today was a fantastic way to re-visit the feat as I was able to run the last 10 miles of the course all the way to what would be the finish line.

The house I’m staying at is fantastic.  There’s a huge window in the living room overlooking part of the Siskiyou mountain range.  This will be a perfect spot to catch up on some well-needed meditation tonight as the sun goes down.

Time to get my turmeric/ginger/magnesium mocktail on and call it a night.  Stoked to have another big day in the mountains tomorrow!

Check out the blogpost that started this journey through mindfulness:  https://spencernewell1032.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/the-fight-with-my-mind-something-needs-to-change-today/

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JSN Mindfulness Project: Day 13

Day 13:

4:45AM – Coffee/Meditation

H.A.L.T: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.  I love this acronym.  When I feel anxious and un-present I can usually trace either sensation back to one of these four feelings.  Normally it just stays at one.  Today however, I’m feeling the effects of two of the four.  I’m hungry and I’m tired.  I’m hungry because my metabolism is running at 110%, I can’t seem to put enough calories down in the last few days.  Trying to stay on top of nutrition and caloric intake can be tough sometimes,f I’m still sorting out what type of food and calories my stomach can handle when it requires more than the amount that I’m normally used to.  For me, this is certainly progress if I compare today with a couple of years ago when I was intentionally limiting calories to lose weight.

Being tired is another beast in and of itself.  That being said it’s much easier for me to handle now than it has been in the past.  For me, being tired is simply a part of the training process.  Periodization, the methodology I use for training, emphasizes a gradual build in fatigue followed by periods of rest to metabolize the hard training weeks into fitness.  Typically I feel the most tired towards the end of week 2 of a 3 week build period.  So, it makes sense that I’m feeling fatigued at this point in the training cycle.  But here’s the tricky part with being tired for me.  In the past when I’ve been tired my mind begins to fire up and tell me that I’m not strong enough or worthy enough to train at this level.  It sprinkles thoughts of weakness, despair, fear, and anxiety;  rather than being passive with these thoughts my default setting normally settles in to listen to them and heed their advice (being true to my false-self/living-in-the-past mentality).  Not today.

Yes, there is an element of self-awareness in being tired.  Each day when I feel tired I engage a level of discernment as to how I really feel.  I ask myself “why am I tired?”  Is it because I’m physically overdoing it or is it because it’s just where I am in the process?  I’ve struggled with answering this question for myself in the past.  Remember, for this addict, more is usually better.  Not being honest with myself has led to injury, among other things.  Luckily, rather than react to the feeling of being tired, I can employ a new technique for discernment:  clear the mind, get into my body, feel what’s going on, breathe, and make a judgement call.  We’ll see how it goes today.

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Just another day in the McDonald Dunn Forest.  Scenes like this help trip the mechanism that is my mind out of sync and back into being in the present moment

2:30PM – In keeping with the running theme today:  Recently, over the past couple of years, I have struggled to find the confidence to run with people.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company, it’s because I haven’t had the confidence as a runner to be OK to ask to slow down or hike on steep hills, especially if I’m shooting for an easy day. I know it’s my ego talking.  It’s hard to hold the negative thoughts at bay sometimes. For long stretches of time, sometimes months, I only ran by myself, on purpose, to avoid any mental conflicts I would instill upon myself.   That being said, running on my own is very therapeutic and meditative for this introvert, but still, I would like to continue to develop the confidence to run with others.  I know it’s a good way to have social contact and good conversation. With that, I’m really freaking proud to say that I’ve run with people for the last three days and it’s been a blast!

Insert gap, take 3 breathes, move forward.  Time for some Headspace.

Check out the blogpost that started this journey through mindfulness:  https://spencernewell1032.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/the-fight-with-my-mind-something-needs-to-change-today/

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JSN Mindfulness Project: Day 12

Day 12:

4:30AM – Coffee/meditation

This morning is all about the NOW.  It’s been a while since I’ve read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, perhaps over a year.  To this day, even more so than before, I still access and apply his concepts of the present moment.

Keeping in tune with the NOW, the idea of false-self versus true-self has a strong reverberation for me lately.  As I understand, the false-self lives in the past and dwells on the future while the true-self lives in the present, the NOW.  During today’s morning meditation my understanding of these concepts was rock-solid and unshakeable.  Here’s an example of this in motion as it relates to running, a relatively easy and relatable topic to discuss.

I’ve never won an ultra-distance running race.  In the back of my head it’s been a goal of mine ever since I started this crazy sport five years ago.  Would I like for this to happen one day? Absolutely!  I’m competitive in nature and for me I’d love to know the hard work of training every single day will pay off in the form of a solid result, among many other things.  However, I feel confident today in knowing that a result is not the be-all-end-all goal.  In fact, the more miles I put in and the harder I train, the more fun and rewarding this sport becomes for me, regardless of if I race or not.  It certainly used to be only about results, but not anymore. If the result is everything in my life that I have to shoot for than I feel like I’d be missing the whole point.

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2013 Hagg Lake 50k, my 2nd ever ultra-distance running race, carrying an old mindset that I’m either winning or losing.  

So how does the false-self and true-self play into this scenario?  Well, if I identify a result in running solely as proof that I’m good enough, fast enough, fit enough, etc, then I am living in the past, my false-self is at work.  Here’s why, I know it might be a bit a leap but bear with me:  the false-self wants to justify all of the pain and agony of years of being in endurance sports and not having  achieved success or a result, based on the standards and athletes that I’ve compared myself with.  In the past I have identified “losing”, not coming in first or on the podium, as a failure and a reason to not feel worthy.  I’ve held on to this idea for years.  Therefore, in the present day, if I do not achieve a certain result that I think I should expect, based on my past of “suffering” through being mediocre (an illusion), then I would have failed, my false-self would come out on top.  If I hold on to expectations from the past, through this idea of false-self, I am doomed, especially because of my addictive nature that more is always better.  Tripping up this mechanism and way of thinking seems to be a path to freedom for me, to relate more to the true-self, the present.  When running, in my body of true-self, I am free to fly, to enjoy the process, to work hard because I love to work hard,  and to be present with every single footstep.  Although I’m not able to be in this mindset for every single run I find today it’s significantly easier to accomplish then say, just last year when running was ALL about results.  I think I can get pretty used to the idea of befriending my true-self.

Trying out a new concoction for relaxation and recovery.  Yesterday evening I mixed up some hot water with Cacao powder, magnesium, turmeric, ginger, and almond milk.  It turned out pretty tasty believe it or not. I’ve been finding that turmeric and ginger really help me recover faster because they naturally reduce inflammation in the body.

Check out the blogpost that started this journey through mindfulness:  https://spencernewell1032.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/the-fight-with-my-mind-something-needs-to-change-today/

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JSN Mindfulness Project: Day 11

Day 11:

4:45AM Coffee/Meditation

I used to watch a lot of television, especially first thing in the morning along with my cup of coffee and breakfast.  Lately, because I’ve made a conscious effort to be more mindful in the mornings before the sun rises, I’ve veered away from this daily ritual.  After just 11 days of replacing television with the quiet and serene setting of my bedroom I see what a profound affect the shift in habits has had on my overall mindset heading into the day.  Television jacks me up, similar to social media it can be like crack.  Looking back it’s clear that including TV in my morning ritual would set my mind off in a thousand different directions for the remainder of the day.  Instead, filling that void with singular intentions of meditating, eating, stretching, etc, I find that I more apt to carry a sense of peace and mindfulness into the rest of my day.  For now it seems to be working so I’m just going to go with it.

Meditating this morning was a challenge.  Thoughts were cranking in my head from the moment I opened my eyes.  The thoughts weren’t harmful or dark in any way, they were just there in their own pesky way.  A friend of mine asked me yesterday if my goal in this process was to gain control my thoughts.  The question was appropriate given the context of the conversation.  My first reaction was to say yes, I am trying to control what goes through my head, simply due to the fact that I have a tendency to display issues with control.  But yesterday, I caught myself in the act before I responded.  It was a tremendous opportunity to insert a mindful response.   Rather than going into my default setting, saying that I was in search of control,  I was able to look beyond my initial reaction and explore a different approach, a more gentle way.  Ultimately my answer was no, I’m not looking to control my thoughts because thoughts are going to happen regardless, it’s just the way it is.

12:30PM – I’ve been sitting on hold with my health insurance company for 28 minutes.  I figured this would be a good opportunity to enter into some mindful writing because their “hold music” is putting me to sleep.  Why can’t they play some Gareth or Armin instead of repeating some 3 minute segment of really shitty classical music.  Insert gap, 3 deep breathes, sip warm green tea, continue writing.

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I recently came across a concept that is very interesting to me given the project I am undertaking. Check it: “The truth never causes pain.  The only pain in a crisis is the false self’s resistance to the truth.”  This is profound for me.  Just the other day someone in my life, a mentor of sorts, brought a truth to my attention in regards to my process of self-discovery.  And my initial reaction to hearing this truth?  I immediately put up walls and let my false-self takeover to say the other person was wrong, therefore creating an unnecessary conflict between us in the process.  This person is someone on my team that I know and trust.  He has nothing but the best of intentions for me. The comment was a small truth, but a truth none-the-less.  So why did I find it necessary to put up the walls and let my ego take over and create a circumstance of right versus wrong?  Well, that is how I’ve always done things.  Regardless of whatever truth someone tells me about myself I’ve always tended to create conflict by dismissing the comment as incorrect.  Returning to the other day with my friend I was able to catch myself in the act (after a few seconds of anxiety), let my guard down, and just hear him out as to why he brought up this tiny truth.  Wouldn’t you know it, he was correct in his assessment about what he saw going on with me.  Lesson learned.  The truth caused me pain.  Take away the false sense of self and there would be no pain.  Now that’s fucking profound.

1:45PM – Still on hold with my health insurance company.  Here’s a truth:  Someone needs to pick up the damn phone.

Check out the blogpost that started this journey through mindfulness:  https://spencernewell1032.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/the-fight-with-my-mind-something-needs-to-change-today/

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JSN Mindfulness Project: Day 10

Day 10:

4:45AM – Coffee/Meditation

An old thought pattern resurfaced for a minute this morning that wasn’t very comfortable.  The thought occurred to me that I’m further alienating friends by writing each day about spirituality and mindfulness.  I have NO idea where this thought pattern originated from.  I know it was pure illusion. Regardless, I began to obsess that all of my friends figured I was becoming religious, in the conventional sense, therefore alienating me even more.  For the record I’m not a religious person so to speak, many times I have heard  the words spirituality and religion go hand in hand.  For me, that is not necessarily the case, I respect all people’s beliefs whether  it’s in Jesus, Allah, Krishna, or the Boston Red Sox for that matter.  Regardless, the toxic thought pattern and illusion of self-alienation triggered a fear in me, the fear of being alone, one fear that I have not had too much trouble in putting aside as much as I had before.  Luckily I was able to meditate through the toxic and illusory narrative, putting my mind at ease with breathing and simply letting the thought go.  Who’s to say it won’t resurface again but at least I feel confident in the tools I have today, knowing that I can wade through thoughts such as this with a little more ease.  It is clear that this will always be a process.

I’m really looking forward to today.  It’s a full rest day from training, dedicated to recovering my body from lots of great miles last week in the woods.  For me, today is all about self-care.  The day will include lots of good food, a 90 minute massage from my gal Wendie, stretching, foam-rolling, and perhaps an evening walk to shake out my legs.  Normally I feel guilty with taking rest, perhaps it’s the addictive nature that usually says  more is always better!  I believe I am continuing to see a shift in this regard for with having more mindfulness I am more apt to really listen to my body as to what it needs.  Today it needs to chill the fuck out, stay horizontal as much as possible, and just relax.

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As much as I love running in the Mac – Dunn Forest scenes like this (taken last fall in Canmore, AB) make me excited for a summer of exploring big mountains.

7:30PM – Today has been great in terms of maintaining awareness toward the present moment.  Overall I feel like each successive day has become easier, not so much in staying mindful, but in recognizing when an old thought pattern resurfaces, recognizing it, then moving forward without reaction or an attached emotion.  When I began this mindfulness project my hope was to not achieve full awareness, whatever that means.  Again, I’m not looking for the finish line of achieving anything here, I’m just trying to encourage a shift in my habitual nature as it relates to staying conscious and aware.  Although today was a good day in terms of the continuation of laying the groundwork to a new way of life, I know that there is much work to be done.  Sometimes it will be easier and sometimes it will be harder…but can’t it just BE?  This self-imposed mission of mindfulness for 20 days is not the end goal, it’s a way to learn about what it might feel like if perhaps I was able to establish an effective pattern of action moving forward, each and every day.

Heard the best quote today:  “Hard work can overtake talent when talent doesn’t do the hard work.”

After evening meditation and some light reading I’m calling it a night.  After the day off from running I’m pumped to get back at it tomorrow, especially because I get to run with a friend that I have not run with in almost a year!

Check out the blogpost that started this journey to mindfulness:  https://spencernewell1032.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/the-fight-with-my-mind-something-needs-to-change-today/

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