Tag Archives: meditation

Transformation

It’s that time of year again… the summer is drawing to a close, with everyone taking their last trips down the shore, enjoying the joys that summer always brings, while preparing excitedly for a brand new school year.

At this time every year, I like to reflect upon how insanely different my life (and my attitude) is since MS made the decision for me to retire on disability in May, 2014, after already being on sick leave for all but the first four weeks of the school year.

Back then, I couldn’t imagine my life without the career that had defined me in so many ways, and that I was so passionate about. I considered myself beyond lucky to have a job that I loved, because so many people are not as fortunate. People often told me that I was one of the few people they knew who actually liked her job. And I did. Every damn second of it.

Now that I am a few years removed from the feeling of such a devastating loss for me, I have clarity that I didn’t have before, and gratitude for everything, including the painful, emotional, difficult situation that started me on this part of my journey. I never dreamed that I could ever be in this beautiful place that I currently find myself in, happier than ever, which I could not have imagined when I was still working.

The other day, a Staples commercial came on TV advertising their usual 10 cent sale, and I was brought back to the days when I used to have lists of which retail establishment had things on sale that I needed for my classroom so that I could stock up for the year. I used to get so excited about these things, and now it hardly even phases me. I love that because it shows how much I have grown during the last couple of years.

I’m not saying that I got here without my share of growing pains, but I am saying that I understand it’s all a part of the process. Once I opened myself up to the possibilities of creating a new life, it changed my perception of everything I knew.

What I know now is that regardless of how much I loved my students (and still do!), my own family always needs to come first. I often lost sight of that as a teacher, but I don’t regret it because now I have all of these amazing young adults who make up such a big part of my life, and I love that. I love watching them venture out on their own, doing the adult thing, and spreading their wings to soar.

I also know that taking care of myself is vitally important. When I was working, I overlooked my own wellness in favor of my job and my students. Again, I don’t regret it because of the amount of love and gratitude they gave back to me (and still do), but I know that I am of no good use to anyone if I am not staying on top of my own health and wellness. This includes all the things I have incorporated into my post-teacher life: meditation, yoga, hardcore exercise, acupuncture, reiki, and healthy eating, all of which force me to put myself above all others so that I can stay strong for the long haul.

I remember the days when the weekends meant nothing more than time to grade, write lesson plans, and create dynamic presentations for my classes, leaving no time to actually enjoy spending time being fully present with my loved ones. Once again, I have no regrets about how I lived my career because it’s what the kids deserved and I don’t know how to do it any other way.

But now… now life is better than I ever thought possible. My circle of friends has changed, but in a good way because I am surrounded by other people who take nothing for granted and never waste an opportunity to laugh and smile because we are grateful for the life we are living, regardless of whether we chose it or not. I am more in love with my husband than ever because we have been given this incredible gift of time together. Hell, we even booked a vacation in September, something we have never, EVER done before. Some small part of me still feels like a rebel for doing it, but no matter how much time passes, I guess old habits do, indeed, die hard. But lucky for me, I have worked very hard to help these old habits go by the wayside.

The transformation from Mrs. Rankin to Rennie has not been an easy one, but it is ongoing and I’m getting better at it all the time. I have been transforming my entire world: physically, mentally, and spiritually for the last few years, and my progress has been slow but steady, and that’s ok. I know that as human beings, one of our biggest challenges is having the ability to change according to our life circumstances, good or bad. I’m not going to lie and say that the process has been an easy one, or that I don’t have my moments of weakness, but it does get easier with time and with the determination to live my very best life possible. Rather than crying about the fact that I am not going back to work this week, I am happily wishing my former colleagues the very best of luck as they begin the new school year. Life is, after all, what we make of it, and I am making mine everything I want it to be. So who wants to join me in a glass half full of lemonade?

The sunrise over the Raritan River by Rutgers University, a very symbolic photo at a place that will always hold an extra special place in my heart.

Evolution

There is no rhyme or reason to what I blog about. Honestly.  I have a list of things that I’ve kept through the years that are options to write about, but I do prefer to be more topical and I try to write about whatever moves me from week to week. I find inspiration from so many different people and events, so I never have to worry that I won’t have something to say. This week, my inspiration came from my trainer. 

When she came into my life three years ago I was a different person than I am today. I often don’t even realize the changes that I have made but today it naturally came up during the course of my workout. I consider her a dear friend and she has changed my life, and her perspective is incredibly valuable to me. 

I was enrolled in her class almost exactly three years ago, as part of a 12 week wellness program for MS patients. It was something I had always wanted to participate in but because I was still working prior to that, it was not a possibility because the program took place during the week, during the day. I walked in there in the midst of a deep depression fueled by a relapse that took me away from my livelihood. I was under the misguided impression that my co-workers were my friends and I felt completely removed and isolated from them. I missed my students like crazy and I desperately wanted to feel well enough to work, but I was struggling to regain my strength. Plus I was carrying at least 30 pounds of extra weight brought on by high dose steroids and lack of mobility. With hindsight being 20/20, I can say for certain that I was at an all time low emotional place, and I didn’t even know it. 

Then I met Diane. She was like a ray of sunshine in a sea of darkness for me. On day one, I have to admit that I was a little intimidated. After all, she is exactly what you would expect of a trainer who demands that you listen and give everything your all, and who is accustomed to getting results. As an athlete, I was used to that, but because I was as low as I was, I feared I would let her down… or more importantly, that I would let myself down. 

After the 12 weeks, I continued to attend classes with Diane, as part of the benefit to having completed the 12 week wellness program was having access to “graduate” classes such as Strength & Balance and Spin classes. I found the classes so empowering because they were allowing me to begin taking control of my body again. The more empowered I became, the harder I worked, and the better I felt. Additionally, I met a whole gang of other MS warriors who quickly became the support I was longing for from the friends who turned out to be anything but. And so began the process of evolving for the teacher formerly known as Mrs. Rankin. 

One thing I know for sure is that we, as humans, owe it to ourselves to be open to evolving. Evolution, to me, simply means changing, learning, and growing. I didn’t realize how much work I had cut out for myself back then because I couldn’t see beyond the darkness of my normally optimistic soul. Diane (and my MS family) helped me begin to put the pieces of my life back together again, and thankfully, they each have taken their rightful place in my heart as we all move forward together.

I am forever grateful for the love and support of my very special MS family. They helped me find myself when I was so lost.

I am forever grateful for the love and support of my very special MS family. They helped me find myself when I was so lost.

Through exercise, I began to help my body get strong again. Through meditation, I have learned how to achieve true inner piece. And through therapy, I am still working on accepting my life as is, because it’s the only one I get. 

Don’t get me wrong: not every single day in the last three years has been sunshine and roses. But that’s ok because when I look back and I compare myself to where I was then, I am proud of the progress I have made across the board, both physically and emotionally. Looking at me, it’s easy to see the changes I’ve made physically. But equally important is the fact that I am more grounded, more centered, and I am definitely a much complete individual than I was before. I can only hope that when I look back on today three years from now that I can say the same because I’m actually pretty excited to see where I can go from here. 

I never thought I would be here today, feeling such joy every single day, and that I would be so grateful for my life as it is now. I am way different than I was three years ago, yet innately the same as I have always been. Except now I like to think that I am the new and improved version of the person I once was. As the saying goes, I may not be there yet, but I’m getting closer every day. 

#truth

#truth

The moral of the story today is that no matter how deep the darkness, there is light to be found, as long as you open your eyes to it. And after all, we can’t truly appreciate how glorious the sun is if we don’t experience the rain. Just as flowers don’t grow without rain, we as human beings don’t grow without overcoming the obstacles in our path. I, for one, hope to never stop evolving because seeing how far I have come is perhaps the most empowering feeling I have ever experienced. You should try it. You might be surprised at the new, improved you that emerges on the other side. I dare you. 

Even though I have gotten smaller, that's not what my journey has been about. It's about finding strength, hard work, staying positive, and never giving up. Even though may I have gotten smaller, my inner strength has grown exponentially larger.

Even though I have gotten smaller, that’s not what my journey has been about. It’s about finding strength, hard work, staying positive, and never giving up. Even though may I have gotten smaller, my inner strength has grown exponentially larger.

Yoga

Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice that has been practiced for thousands of years. For me, it gives me the same peace of mind that Transcendental Meditation does, except it’s definitely not easy for me. I haven’t been at it as long as TM, and even though I’m not great at it, I seldom miss my class, and I am improving.

Plow: not easy with big boobs and a belly! If you aren't careful, you could suffocate. Trust me!

Plow: not easy with big boobs and a belly! If you aren’t careful, you could suffocate. Trust me!

My first experience with yoga was a turn-off for me when the instructor put all of us MS patients in a chair. No modifications (or “up-buttons”) were offered for those of us who did not require a chair, which definitely started me off on the wrong foot. I automatically assumed I hated yoga and it took me a really long time to even attempt it again after the chair experience.

Upward facing dog.

Upward facing dog.

It wasn’t until my trainer decided to start doing a Monday night yoga class for her existing clients that I finally decided to try again. First of all, any time I have the opportunity to work out with Diane, regardless of the type of exercise it involves, I jump at it. Yoga can be very difficult (read: frustrating!) for anyone, and even more so for an MS patient who struggles with balance and vertigo every single day. But more importantly, my limited experiences with yoga prior to this class were not positive ones, to say the least. In addition to my lack of balance, I’m not exactly the most flexible person anymore, even though (once upon a time in a life that doesn’t even feel mine at this point) I was a gymnast. In those first yoga classes I attempted with other instructors, my disappointment with my inability to hold certain poses completely blocked any chance I had of making the mind/body connection that is so vitally important in yoga. But because Diane has this crazy way of making me want to try things even though I am afraid to fail (being a perfectionist is a hard habit to break!), I happily began my positive yoga experience in my happy place with the best of the best.

Downward facing dog

Downward facing dog

I never envisioned that I would become hooked on yoga this way. There is something so powerful about practicing something that has been studied by people since ancient times. It makes sense that I would enjoy yoga, since I also practice the ancient ritual of Transcendental Meditation. These two long-used techniques seem to go hand-in-hand for me. When I’m doing yoga my mind goes to that same meditative state of deep relaxation as it does during TM. I become so tuned in to my body that I can feel the energy moving through my body. In fact, when my eyes are closed, I actually see the energy (in the form of bright, vibrant light) as my body opens up and it flows freely through all of my chakras.

Shoulder stand

Shoulder stand

Now let me tell you that yoga is NOT easy for me. But the benefits I have experienced are amazing. On yoga nights, I sometimes even sleep through the entire night, which is a miracle in itself because sleep has long been an issue for me. It’s also a reminder for me to always be aware of my body. I honestly feel that if I was this in-tune to myself back in the day, I could have been diagnosed with MS at least ten years earlier than I was, which is significant in that I could have been taking a Disease Modifying Treatment sooner, thus holding off progression for as long as possible. In any case I derive the same sense of inner peace that I do from TM when I am doing yoga, and that feeling is pretty damn awesome.

I don't know what this pose os called, but it's really hard!

I don’t know what this pose os called, but it’s really hard!

Don’t get me wrong here…there are plenty of yoga poses that I am still unable to do. But I haven’t given up, and I do think I get better all the time. I have learned not to get upset at myself for the things I CAN’T do, and instead be proud of what I CAN do. This philosophy has been hard-learned, but living according to it has made me feel so much more fulfilled as a person, particularly after having to give up my career. I think it’s a lesson that everyone should live by. If we all focused on accomplishments rather than disappointments, we’d all most certainly live genuinely more authentically happy lives. I have learned that true wealth comes not from money, but from happiness, and even though I don’t earn a paycheck anymore, I’m wealthier than I ever thought possible.

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