Category Archives: Breathing

Radiant Moments on Retreat

“Ah-ha” Moments from the Radiant Retreat 2008…

When asked about my biggest “a-ha moment” on the Radiant Retreat, I wrote this story:

In 3rd grade, we were prompted to write on a 3×5 card “Who is your hero and why?”

I knew my answer immediately: my cousin Jennifer.

As an eight-year-old the answer to “why” was: because she is an amateur actor. In actuality Jen was a professional actor, I just thought she was too young to be a professional. But what I really meant was: I looked up to her – in the highest way possible.

Jennifer inspired me because she was out there on her own in the world doing what moved her and sparked her soul. It was abundantly clear to my little 3rd grade brain that Jennifer was following her heroic path. Maybe it was the way she talked to me, the smile that beamed from her face, or the way she laughed with my parents about what it’s like to be an actor – but you could just tell.

Twenty years later and I seized the opportunity to practice yoga with Jen and attend the Radiant Retreat. I was sure my yoga asana practice would totally blossom and morph into an outer worldly experience. I was ready to take on all the handstands, inversions, backbends, and arm balances. I was going to work my butt off to “master” them all. But what happened on the Radiant Retreat was so much more rocking than a blossoming asana practice.

Conquering fancy poses became less of a priority. Jen’s yoga classes served to put my body and mind at ease. I opened up in an entirely new way and for the first time, I wrote things true to my soul and SHARED them. The first time I read out loud to the group my voice quivered but I began to soak in all that I was expressing; my vulnerability and exceptional truth.

I read out loud and proud. I laughed and cried and shared the 3rd-grade hero story with the group. And at the center of it all, I shared that I was committing to a strong desire to get to know my extended family a little better. And wasn’t it superb that they, my aunt and cousins, could be there?

The retreat gave me one week to feel safe in a beautiful space, and the truth and writing poured right out. And hasn’t stopped since.

And here is Jennifer’s response:

In 2008, my cousin, Maggie Converse, came on the Radiant Retreat and impossible things started becoming possible.

One blue sky Tulum morning after sunrise and meditation, all 30 of us stood in a Gratitude circle on the beach (an optional opportunity to share inspiration or gratitude), and Maggie spoke,

“I’m grateful for Jennifer. During a meditation, she came to mind as one of my hero’s…”

I missed most of what she said, too busy thinking, Really? Am I your hero? You came all the way to Tulum, age 24, and took a leap of faith. That’s inspiring.

Being “the oldest sister” in my family, I’m used to being the shepherdess, babysitter, take-charge chic and caretaker and I’d never thought of myself as a hero.

Maggie continued, finding the right words,

“I wanted to be closer to people in my family and that’s part of why I came on the retreat. So, it’s great to get closer to Jennifer, Kate (my cousin) and Kitsie (my Aunt) and to know my family…better.”

Maggie was right: our extended family wasn’t close. Divorced, remarried or spread across the map. Over the years, we saw one another at weddings and funerals and a few Thanksgivings. It was no one’s fault. My grandmother had been the hub and once she past the spokes had no center.

“Thank you,” I said, swallowing and digging my feet deeper into the sand. Absorbing the waves and sun: Hero, retreat leader, and family.

It felt magnificent to hear Maggie articulate what I’d wanted, thought and written in my journal years before and yet never knew how to change.

We stood together under the sun and knowing that impossible things can happen before breakfast.

And someone added, “I’m super excited for breakfast and a bowl of granola. This place is paradise. It sure beats Philly in March!”

When the circle broke up, I hugged Maggie and said, “Thank you for being my hero. And saying what I’ve been feeling for years. I love you.”

Jennifer & Maggie at Sandy Neck, Summer 2014

Jennifer & Maggie at Sandy Neck, Summer 2014

Radiant Retreat, Tulum, Mexico, March 21-28, 2015  – Register Now

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Upcoming Workshop: Expand Your Practice On and Off The Mat

Life Balance Jumpstart will be doing our second workshop of the year. I’m so excited to be teaming up with Sophie Slater next weekend to bring you this workshop, focusing on some of the philosophy and teachings of yoga. Come dive deeper into your practice with us — both on and off the mat!

Expand Your Practice On And Off the Mat

Yoga and the Yoga Sutras with Maggie Converse & Sophie Slater of Life Balance Jumpstart

Sunday March 15th 1:30- 3:30pm at M3 Yoga Westport
$35 ($30 for M3 Monthly/Annual members)

Do you love yoga?

If so, you might want to expand your knowledge of the origins of this powerful practice and acquire even more tools to help you carry that calm, confident, centered space you find on the yoga mat into your everyday life.

To do so, join Sophie Slater and Maggie Converse for this special workshop on Yoga & the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

It will be an afternoon of grounding yoga, meditation, and engaging introductory discourse on the Yoga Sutras of the great sage Patanjali, the 196 aphorism text that outlines the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga.

Bring your mat, a pen, and a curious mind. Sign up at M3 Yoga Westport by clicking here!

 

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The Wellness Make-over

My dear friend and colleague, Sophie Herbert Slater, and I went on a hike in Trout Brook Preserve about a month ago where she pitched to me this brilliant idea she had been brewing for months: a Life Balance Jumpstart program that would allow clients to work with one-on-one with us as yoga teachers and wellness coaches.

We are beyond excited that we are finally ready to launch Life Balance Jumpstart and invite you to sign up with us. (For the moment this is limited to those residing in the Fairfield County area.)

What does this entail? You can visit our website for the full details but to get an idea…

Life Balance Jumpstart is an intensive 5-week program designed to help YOU feel and be your best.  Our mission as experienced wellness coaches and yoga teachers is to share invaluable tools that will not only help you establish greater life balance now and in the future, but also assist you in navigating life with more grace, confidence, curiosity, and resilience.  Our passion is helping our clients feel balanced, nurtured, and connected with their sense of purpose. From here, so much is possible.

Sign up before January 15 and save 10%! Email lifejumpstart@gmail.com with questions and to get started on your wellness make-over.

Life Balance Jumpstart

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My Friend The Migraine

I am a little ashamed to write about this. Just as I am ashamed to admit every time I have a migraine. Here goes a post that’s not going to be very pretty, as I am writing it in the middle of what is turning into a 2 day migraine (let’s hope it stays that way.) It feels like a knife is wielding it’s way into my head on and off, on and off, throughout the day and sometimes it’s just on-on-on-on-on for a long time. Relentless pain with no relief. My brain is on fire. And then I get the nausea, vision auras, and if I’m really lucky, vomiting. I apologize if that grosses you out but it’s the truth.

The only relief I find is covering my entire head in ice packs (or my trusty migra-cap – thanks Mom!) or when I’m lucky enough to have someone squeeze my hand really hard to create enough pressure and pain so as to distract me from the pain in my head. I have had the occasional meditation class or session give me relief, either partial or absolute, and I know this is something I should turn to more often.

Instead what I will more often do is allow myself to enter the cycle of doom: a migraine starts coming on, I debate whether or not to take the uber-powerful prescription I have or do I ride it out, hoping it won’t last too long or be too painful? I then begin to identify WHY this particular migraine is setting in: stress from work, something I ate, bad karma. Seriously, all of that goes through my head and I play the blame game with myself, inevitably feeling immense guilt and stress not only for bringing this pain upon myself but also for how it might affect my actual life. Missing out on work, dinner with friends, being completely zonked when I teach a client even though it is quite evident to them that something is wrong. Words don’t come as easily and I don’t balance as well as I normally do in the balancing poses.

This particular migraine, while taxing, has been different. I am trying my darndest to stay positive. I did not cancel a thing and showed up for work at the office for as long as I could stand the fluorescent lights. These migraines give me a taste of what it might be like to have depression because I feel despondent, powerless, and unable to do some of the things I love most. Focusing on building my business with a migraine? Forget about it. Heck it’s hard to even read a chapter in a book.

For the people who know me, you also know that I get migraines, mostly because there is a good probability that I have had to cancel our plans at some point in time. Migraines make me dizzy, nauseas, throw up, unable to think coherently, depressed, down in the dumps, tearful, and worst of all – fearful. I am fearful that they will be a part of my life forever and that they might stop me from accomplishing goals that I set for myself. I realize this was a big reason why completing an Ironman was so huge for me.

So now what? Well now I do what I can to prevent more migraines (long story for another post, for sure) but I also have to accept and make friends with the migraines. When a migraine comes on, I literally see it as my biggest enemy, I give it a personality, it freaking HATES my guts and wants to ruin my life. There has to be another way around it. A way of laughing at the migraines. Like the time that I got out of jury duty because of the fact that I got migraines that lasted up to 72 hours. I swear to God that this was not intentional and I was only answering the questionnaire with 100% honesty when they asked about medical conditions. Now that is actually kind of funny.

I would have to say that another positive that I see from them is forced time for introspection and reflection. While it might be painful, it forces me to rest, eat well, meditate while at the same time I want to disengage from email, Facebook, my iPhone… I feel numb to all of that and alive to my thoughts and emotions, wild as they may be. I’m thinking I should pay more attention to these migraines and what they bring up.

I typically assume this position. Except I normally have clothes on.

I typically assume this position. Except I normally have clothes on.

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Swimming and Breathing

Post-swim NYC Tri, 2012 – thrilled to be out of the water!

While discussing my upcoming 2013 race (Ironman Lake Placid – gulp) with my friend last week, we were going over the various distances (as people often inquire) of each leg:

swim 2.4 miles

bike 112 miles

run 26.2 miles

The numbers blew his mind, but his biggest concern was “What do you think about during the swim??” My immediate response: “Nothing … or at least that’s my goal.” And it’s absolutely true. While I have never done a 2.4 mile swim, my longest has been 1.2 miles for a half-Ironman, and for any open water swim I know myself and where my mind has the potential to go. If I let my mind wander I will a) start swimming off course, b) start psyching myself out, and, worst of all, c) panic.

An open water swim can be a pretty frightening and intense experience. You look through your goggles and on occasion you can see what is beneath you, however it’s not rare to hardly be able to see your hand in front of you. Adding to that people swimming by you, pawing at your feet or, worse, kicking you in the face (knock on wood I’ve never suffered any injury from this). I will never forget my very first open water swim: Seaside Sprint, Bridgeport, CT 2010. As soon as I looked in the water and saw nothing but darkness, I panicked.  I started feeling short of breath, my wetsuit immediately felt like it had shrunk 2 sizes. I tried floating on my back, keeping my head above water while doing breast-stroke, and distancing myself as much as possible from the other swimmers.

Long story short, I finally made it to the half-way point and got myself together. The one thing that took me through that final 1/2 mile was monitoring my breath. That and starting to hear a cheering crowd.

So, back to the original question “What do you think about during the swim?”

The swim portion of a triathlon can be a very lonely experience. You don’t have any crowds cheering for you and you can’t even make conversation with your fellow racers – one of the delights during the bike and run of a triathlon.

When I did NYC Triathlon in 2010, my first olympic-distance race, I was racing for American Cancer Society in memory of my uncle who had passed away from cancer. The first moment I started hating the swim, I looked up at the sky while taking a breath in, and thought of him. I thought of the hardships he went through and how through all of that, he still had so much love for his family and so much humor. If he could get through that, I could certainly get through a swim in the Hudson River. This brought me back to the present moment and, most importantly, my breath. Breathing is obviously an important part of swimming and each time I jump in the water, the first few minutes are always a little scary. But once I settle into the rhythm of my breath, the fear and trepidation of what’s to come and all the “what if’s” of race day start to melt away. Sometimes I will count my breathing, or even hum along to the rhythm I am creating. Don’t get me wrong, following your breath while swimming in open water is HARD work – in the same way that sitting still and meditating for an hour is hard – but if it prevents me from the panic and helps propel me forward into race day, I’m all for it!

Use your breath as a tool

How can you apply this to you? Well, think of any difficult or trying situation you have experienced or may experience in the future. This encompasses any situation where we find ourselves overwhelmed by stress or anxiety: starting a new job, having a difficult conversation with a loved one, or even spending time with certain relatives we may find hard to deal with around the holidays! Next time you find yourself in a tough spot, try taking a few deep breaths, and really LISTEN to your breath. Not to get all yogic on you but try to notice the quality of your breath – is it hard to breathe in deep? Does it feel a little restrained? Stay with it and see it you notice any difference in the way that you are able to approach the given situation. Oh, and let me know how you do.

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