Stick it to me. My first trip to the donation table.

blood12“Just a little poke, then you can relax.” Sure. I’ll chant Ohm and smile as copious bags of blood drain out of the miniscule vein of my left arm. “You won’t feel a thing.” Really? Guess the tense ache in my arm was just my imagination. “It won’t take long at all.” Ten and a half minutes, actually. To my Red Cross attendant, not long at all. To me? I’d trade ten and a half minutes in plank pose, on a bed of coals, over this little exercise.

But you know what? So what. I donated blood today. And the poke, the aching, the subsequent bruise, the stars in eyes upon sitting up are, quite frankly, no big f***ing deal when I consider what I just did today.

I donated blood.

Which means someone gets to live a little longer. And that someone, in the unexpected and sometimes cruel nature of life, could have been me. I have had my share of crazy accidents. Three on a road bike that landed me in the ER. Mercifully, I didn’t need any extra blood. But if I had…

Tragedies happen. Think Boston Bombings.

And if everyone took the attitude I previously held about donating blood – Ouch! I don’t have time. I don’t like needles. I don’t like looking at my own blood. I don’t like feeling lightheaded – then a heckuvalotta people would die unnecessarily.

My Red Cross attendant slapped a cheezy little sticker onto my sweatshirt after my ten and a half minute ordeal. And you know what? I am prouder than ever to have earned it. “Shannon B made a difference at Red Cross today!”

I did. And it means more to me than any top ten race result, A-plus report card, or certificate of completion. My cheezy sticker tells the world I made a difference today. Because I did.

Go to Red Cross today and let ’em stick it to you. You’ll be glad you did.

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What is flight? What is freedom? by Jennifer Vafakos

A terrific reminder to channel your inner ‘kid’. Remember a time when you didn’t hesitate to run (not walk) up to another child you’ve never met and ask them to play? Or try a cartwheel or crazy move without any fear of falling? Go back to that place, my dear friends.

laughinglotusnyc

Jennifer Vafakos Yesterday I watched children play in the park with uncontrolled laughter. How much fun they had running, jumping, handstanding, cheering one another on over abilities and just playing in the fountain. It looked like so much fun…and then the adult in me realized that the water smelled awful, so sad they don’t have a pool, the pavement is sooo hot…the children didn’t seem to mind any of this. All they seemed to care about was their moment in the sun and their friends. There was a sense of complete freedom and acceptance with one another. I had to laugh to myself because this past holiday weekend I saw this type of situation a few times. Watching the fireworks as young children were dancing…cute… yes but something more. I watched as one went over to the other and introduced herself and made an invitation to dance. There wasn’t any hesitation to…

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Teach the teacher: “Be present”

black-bass-hotel-restaurantDaily lesson from July 14, 2013 (Teach the teacher): “I’m feeling so scattered, and needed to hear that reminder to be in the moment,” my lovely student shared after practice. To recap: at the beginning of class, I shared my own recent struggle to get out of my monkey mind and into the present. You see, the evening prior, as my boyfriend and I drove along the Delaware River on a dark, purple-skied moody night, canopied by huge, lush trees and sprinkled with centuries-old little towns I’d only imagined in storybooks on our way to meet friends at the Black Bass Inn in Lumberville, PA, I nearly missed it all. As my head veered into the past (dang, I miss my nieces, my parents, my pals, my runs along Shilshole Bay in Seattle), and the future (do I really need to go for my annual physical Monday? I feel fine..), I risked skipping out on life. Because life is now. Right now.

To think I almost missed noticing architectural wonders dating back to 1740 (the Black Bass Inn); the roaring Delaware below – and all the directions it seemed to be moving at once; the bridges, each with their own personality, to stew over getting my blood pressure taken or to reminisce about a long-ago jog along a waterfront path 3,000 miles away that I no longer live?

You hear it all the time. Be present. But do you practice living in the now? I personally struggle most with anticipation. I get excited about what’s to come. Or anxious. Or downright scared. But as Eckhart Tolle reminds us, all we have is right now. Here is the quote I shared with my sweet student this morning, that might be of value to you too, lest you veer off the road and into thoughts of the past or future:

“Always say yes to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is NOW and always NOW? Surrender to what is. Say yes to life – and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.” – Eckhart Tolle

Point A to B. It’s the ‘To’ part that matters

NJ Transit“My wife is 45 and won’t go anywhere. Even if I arrange the car, driver, door-to-door service from point A to B. Unless I’m with her the whole way, she won’t go.” “Mine too man, and she’s only 30!”

Tidbits of a conversation I overheard (alright, I confess. I was eavesdropping) at a Starbucks in NYC between two businessmen discussing the challenges of planning a family vacay.

What timing. The conversation took place just as I stepped out of Penn Station, killing half an hour before meeting a girlfriend arriving from another direction to take a yoga class, enjoy lunch (restaurant TBD, all part of the adventure), and make our way back to our respective Burbian abodes (she: Long Island, me: somewhere near the NJ/PA border).

I have a completely different view on getting to my intended destination. I LOVE it. Sure, I can understand the aforementioned wives’ desire to arrive without all the hassles of getting there. But skip the journey, and you miss out on all the juicy stuff: learning new processes and procedures; developing self-reliance; cultivating patience; connecting with real live humans right smack in front of you; loosening up and adapting to changing circumstances.

Sit home and allow someone else to handle all the logistics, and you remain needy. Dependent. I thank my parents to this day for lovingly but firmly nudging me out the door in my teens toward public transportation. It began with a ride on the big yellow banana school bus (tip: the seats in the back are the best – offering serious air time over every bump). Not long after I graduated to flying across the world, navigating airports, busting through language barriers (a smile and funky hand signals work wonders), and figuring out subway systems (albeit with a few embarrassing moments stuck in a turnstile). At age 44 (one year shy of the aforementioned wive), I can’t imagine what life would be like without all the skills gained from the ‘getting to’ part of every journey I’ve taken:

  • Self-reliance. I get to be my own Sherpa.
  • Adaptability. Things can change on a dime. I’ve gotten good at finding a Plan B in many situations.
  • Connection. Admittedly, a little tougher now as everyone, even the elderly man next to me on the train yesterday whipped out a pair of ear buds. But when you’re lost, sometimes the quickest way back is to smile, ask another human, connect.
  • Confidence. I arrive. I pat myself on the back. I did it!!

Go for it. Get from A to B on your own. See how it feels.