Finding Silence.

I had to remind myself that is was Christmas Day all day. Even though my morning started at 5:02am, just like many Christmas’s of my youth, I did not open stockings, I didn’t walk downstairs, sleepy eyed and groggy to see a mountain of gifts beneath the tree my family decorated. I woke up at my normal time and did my normal routine—coffee, small breakfast, yoga, dressed and walked to school.

My roommate and I were asked to dress as Santa and his helper and pass out candy to the Thai kids who think Christmas is no more than children getting presents and Santa riding a sleigh—oh wait…This is how Christmas in Thailand began.

Most of my kids that I teach on Tuesdays were spending the week at a Buddhist Temple getting education on meditation, Buddha, dangers of social media, history, The King, healthy living—everything you can imagine. They were asked to wear all white and spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday observing and learning. I was a bit jealous.

My boss, Kim, invited me to join her at the Temple for lunch and observation. Walking into a big room, meditation mats on the floor, a Buddha shrine in the front we were welcomed by a smiling monk and soon the children filed in, silently and respectfully. They sat, prayed and waited patiently for the speaker to begin her lesson on online gaming and the dangerous effects it has on the mind.

After a modest lunch and weird dessert, my new friend Oho (pronounced OhO, a dipping sound—start high, go low, end high again. I like to just call him Oh!) offered to walk the grounds with me. Oh is a student hoping to obtain his Doctorate degree in the next year, I told him to practice his English on me and we talked quietly about ourselves, asking questions and getting to know one another as we enjoyed the Temple property.

It was quiet there. We often take quiet for granted without realizing it. Until I was at the Temple I hadn’t realized how noisy my home is; even right now at 5:27am there is a motorbike starting, a rooster crowing and the noise of the street that is close by. At the Temple it was silent and so effortlessly peaceful.

Oh and I stopped at a shrine, knelt, and he told me that this is the Buddha you pray to for wealth, money, and success, he told me to pray if I wished. I prayed. I prayed hard. I prayed for a wealth of strength and personal success in accomplishing goals I am setting for myself. I prayed for help. No one likes asking for help but Buddha was offering it to me on Christmas day so I prayed to Buddha.

Oh watched me. I’m sure he noticed my discomfort and my lack of knowing what to do. He told me to slow down when I bow (three times when you come, three times when you go) he taught me take that moment slower, showed me where to put my hands, he told me to breathe. We talked about the difficulties of meditation. I told him my difficulties with religion in the past and then asked me how I felt with Buddha. Connected I said. Welcomed. He smiled and offered his knowledge to me any time.

We continued walking, talking and overcoming the language barrier. I again, reminded myself it was Christmas afternoon and I was wandering a Temple with a practicing Buddhist. Happy that I missed the crazy shoppers from my retail days, smiling that I didn’t have any obligations to fill, or meals to help clean up after. Reminding myself that it was Christmas and I was around the world in a Buddhist Temple.

I hope my loved ones had a wonderful, stress free Christmas season. I hope they were able to breathe and enjoy the moment. I hope they enjoyed one another’s company and appreciated the quiet that a snowfall brings.

 

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Kim, Oho and I at the Temple

Kim, Oho and I at the Temple

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The Gifts We Give and Get Back

Holy time machine! Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and now it’s past New Years I feel like I’ve been in a time warp for the past month and a half! I started two new jobs, doubled my concept of what a “long run” is, got back in the pool and am gearing up for the next big celebration following New Years.

WHAT?! You ask?! Martin Luther King Jr Day isn’t really a big celebration day, rather a day of remembrance… RIGHT, I know! A few days after we remember Dr. King we celebrate the day of my birth. January 18th, mark your calendars folks, with a big star, heart or whatever symbol reminds you of me the best… just don’t forget it!

But before we talk about my birthday, we have to talk about Christmas. I know, I know, that was sooooooo 2011, but I want to share what I gave my family. Being the poor, no-longer-a-college-student-but-still-cheap-like-one kind of lifestyle I am currently living I sent my mother and my father and gave my brother a homemade card, it was made with a lot of love and a lot of Modge Podge.

The card wasn’t really the present, the present was what was written on the back and on each card I wrote: I’m giving the gift of inspiration and support. And promised to find a race and train (from afar) with each family member. A half-marathon with my Dad, raising money and going on an epic adventure with Team Athena and my Mother, my brother and I still haven’t figured out what race, but something awesome to come I’m sure.

Right now, for me, life is about the connections, the commitments we make to ourselves and to the people we love. I want to embrace what I love to do and spread the knowledge I have, I want to inspire and continue to be inspired by the awesome people I surround myself with. Since moving west I’ve been in awe at the athletes I see everyday, inspired by their love of sport, the outdoors and healthy lives. The fresh air, the sunshine and the sacred conversations we have on the trail are enough to keep me running every day.

If you do nothing else today, tomorrow, the rest of the week take a step outside (even if there’s a foot of snow) and breathe in the air, remember your lungs, fill them, feel your body and what it is capable of. Our bodies are incredible machines and I think we sometimes forget that, so take a moment every day to collect your thoughts, slow down and breathe deeply.