July 25, 2013

The 21st Mile… Africa Yoga Project Research Mission 7/25/13

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:24 pm by satsanga

The 21st mile…..

Bog Update for the Africa Yoga Project Research Mission 7/25/2013

Watch your thoughts, for your thoughts can become words.

Watch your words, for your words can become actions.

Watch your actions, because your actions can become your habits.

Watch your habits, because they can become your character.

Watch your character, for your character can become your destiny.

I have run 8 full marathons- 26.2 miles of running. The first man whoever ran a marathon dropped dead when he finished- many of us found that inspiring (haha- true). It was something I used to do to better understand myself, my ability to set and keep a goals even when it became so physically hard your body, your mind, everything but your soul, wanted to quit. This often happened to me at the 21st mile. I was always pretty good with the training program, the gradual increase in miles to prepare the body, the nutrition, registering on time, picking up my packet, all of the preparation. No problem. To start a race, easy too- it is one of the best feelings on earth. I am on fire, ready, all possibilities are in front of me. I might make my personal best time. I might even feel amazing the whole way through. This might be my best race ever. These are my thoughts.

Around the 11th mile, I have a sense of my body, the weather, and how the race might go. That is, I begin to connect with the reality of the day. By mile 15, I get the sense, a tiny sense that maybe, just maybe, a finish might not be possible or maybe I will need to walk (in the old days I took this as a huge personal failure). By the 18th  mile, uh oh… I begin to think that this is really hard, maybe too hard. I notice pains, aches. Worse than that, my mind turns on me. I begin to tell myself stories  Maybe the shoes  I bought are bad. Maybe this course is a bad course, a stupid course, and maybe I don’t need to suffer through such a terrible course. Maybe another runner cut me off, “what the heck?” Maybe no one in my life really cares if I run this or not.

By mile 21, it can get really bad. Maybe no one cares at all. Maybe I try this hard in my life in everything I do and no one cares. Why, oh why am I doing this?

Friends, we all have a 21st mile. Do not listen to the victim, blaming mind. Because guess what is right around the corner. The 22nd mile. When you dig deep. You see it. You realize that you really only have 4 miles left and you run 4 miles, easy, all the time. Then the 23rd, and the 24th, and then, by God, you can see the finish line. There it is. At that 26th mile, the last 0.2 miles of the race, I always sprint to the end (or at least what feels like a sprint to me). I feel my chest full of love and so happy for the people in my life (the exact ones I was just doubting, the ones I said didn’t care, the ones I said never care- yeah- at the 21st mile).

I don’t run full marathons anymore. I still run and I do a lot of yoga. But the lessons I learned during those races could have only been learned on the road.

It is Thursday the 25th of July. We are collecting data from morning until night for the next 2 days with one subset of the team also collecting data the last day before they fly out.

This is the 21st mile.

This AM, Steve taught a great yoga class. It was pretty much his first yoga class teaching and we are so lucky to have been there and to have had it be in Kenya with our team. Thanks Steve!!

After breakfast, Susan and Brooke stayed back at the hotel and prepared 270ish packets for data collection. It took me and 2 grad students days to do that prep during my last concept mapping study. Jessalyn, Carla, Nan, Jerry, Steve, Joyce, Louis, Jemo, Musa, Irene, and I went to Pumwani outreach and then to Kibera (see previous blogs to learn more about these areas).

During the second phase of the study, each yoga student or teacher must rate each of the items (generated from brainstorming) in terms of how important that item is in their growth within the context of AYP and yoga. For example, students told us that practicing yoga makes them feel more openhearted or roho (in Swahili). For some students, that item might really resonate and they would rate that item a 5 or as really important;  whereas, another student who really likes the physical benefits of yoga, might circle a 1 indicating that openhearted feelings are unimportant to them. After they do that, they must sort items (all of these items are then handed to them like a deck of cards, one item-one card). They sort them in anyway that makes sense to them. They might put all of the physical benefits in one pile, relationship benefits in another, like that. This process takes time and patience.

Today we had a few challenges. In Pumwani, some of the yoga students did not speak English very often. The Research Team members who speak Swahili had to read through rating and the sorting items one by one, interpreting each. The students at Pumwani cared very deeply about what they were offering, taking the task very seriously. This took a lot of time and we wanted to let them have all the time they needed.

To get to Kibera in time, we had to skip lunch. We rallied in the car like stone soup. Everyone who had a little banana (here in Kenya the tiny bananas are the sweet ones), a granola bar, or a protein bar, threw them into the mix. So, we snacked for lunch. It was likely not enough fuel for the task ahead.

In Kibera, not all of the classrooms have a roof. The room we worked in did not.  It had a stone floor. It is enclosed in corrugated metal walls and wood bound by rope creates spaces in the room. The floor is covered in a red dust, the color of the soil around Kibera (see baby elephant orphanage photos. You can get a good sense of the color of the ground in those photos). The teachers pulled benches from their rooms for the students to use. Still, it is hard to sort out 85 cards into piles with the wind, and your classmates right next to you with their piles, squatting down, waiting for someone to translate things into Swahili (for some, Enlish is their 3rd language) or even just read to you in English to help you think more carefully thought it with all of the business (researchers) around. These kids worked hard for AYP and our Research Team worked to support their hugely, generous efforts.  The Research Team was strong and made it through on very low blood sugar.

It was really the 21st mile.

But, wait. What is that up ahead? If I, we, keep our eyes on the prize ahead, the finish line, the big picture, we can see that we only have two days left. That is it. We have come here to do what we know is so very critical to making big things happen and that finish line is right at the tips of our fingers. We can either turn toward the part of the mind that questions, doubts, thinks of our own needs, or we can take a deep breath in and keep on running.

And so, we did.

After we were finished with very last, beautiful, effortful child, the children of the Kibera School provided us with a acrobat show! It was nothing short of fantastically amazing. I will post the photos on Facebook as soon as I get Wi-Fi bars : ) They played drums, danced, juggled, jumped, flipped, and stood one upon another reaching so high I could not get all of the children into the frame of the photos. Then, we went to Benta’s house with a wide-open courtyard, bags for sale, and cookies, special Kenyan cookies- ahhhh—sweet heaven. Thank you Benta!

Then, it was home for dinner. We brought all of the data up to me and Jerry’s room for safe keeping, showered, and met at dinner. The family seva participants joined us in the dining room. We saw Angie, Paige, Billy, and Penzi and heard big news about AYP. Keep you ears open! Big things are coming!

As I write, I imagine that we are headed out for miles 22 and 23 tomorrow and miles 24 and 25 on Saturday. A few members are leaving for safari on Saturday and Sunday, so the rest of the team will run “the race” in Sunday AM to the finish line. There will still be lots to do- data input, analysis, writing the study up, etc… But we will have run the data collection marathon and we will have that finish-line ribbon in all of those data envelopes filled with the thoughts and hopes of hundreds of yoga teachers and students. We will hold this data in our hearts and in our carry-on baggage (there is NO way we are checking these bags) to honor the hard work of all of the students and teachers who have helps us and the AYP mission.

I have a mantra that helps me when I need to center. “As goes your breath, so goes your heart, as goes your heart, so go your thoughts.” When challenged by long days and logistical quirks, I stand– mindful of my feet — and say those words to myself while I practice deep slow breaths.  And oh how powerful the breath can be—

Breath, Heart, Thoughts……

Watch your thoughts, for your thoughts can become words.

Watch your words, for your words can become actions.

Watch your actions, because your actions can become your habits.

Watch your habits, because they can become your character.

Watch your character, for your character can become your destiny.

Yes, it is all in the breath on that 21st mile. We have got this!

I am so thankful for my team members (US and Kenyan) who are trying even at the 21st mile with no lunch and many challenges. I am so thankful for all of the people who donated money and clothes to help us get here and to help the Kenyans with donations.

I miss and love Chloe and Maya Cottone. I can’t wait to see you.

Namaste,

Catherine

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1 Comment »

  1. I love this post. Thank you so much for sharing; you thoughts, your experience, yourself! I will remember this on ever 21st mile – literal, and not. xo


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