new sabbath 06.20.21: a message from the hills.

i ran my first 5k on Juneteenth.

happy Sunday, y’all. i hope that you’ve had a wonderful Sabbath. happy Father’s Day to all of the fathers, the father figures, and the aspiring fathers in the space.

i’m spending this Sabbath with my father, my family, and my partners’s family. when woke up, i completed the daily liturgy before getting out of the bed. today’s readings had to with storms, and God’s power to subdue them. i thought it was so interesting to read these scriptures, because we had a major storm last night here in Atlanta. sadly, our Juneteenth celebrations got rained out, and the storms only got harder, stronger, and louder as the evening progressed. eventually, my dog had to take his anxiety medication, as thunder and lightening trigger his anxiety. at the end of today’s readings, i listened to a classic Gospel song that's based on the story of Jesus calming a storm that triggered the anxiety of his disciples.

after i had a delicious cup of Black woman-owned coffee, our Father’s Day activities commenced. and now, I'm spending this afternoon reflecting on my experience of running my first 5k yesterday. i didn’t want to make a “big deal” of this before the run because i had no idea how it would go. i regret that i didn’t amp myself up a bit more. i had a great time, and because i don’t consider myself particularly athletic, it’s a huge accomplishment. go me!

i train 3-5 times a week at the Blackest gym in the land. i love this place, and i love what they stand for in our community. moreover, i train with a coach who has a profound sense of the inherent spirituality of health and wellness, and regularly makes sermonic illustrations out of our team’s growth in the gym (yes, that’s me in that link. 😂). for the past year, prioritizing my physical health has been critical to maintaining my mental health, preparing to launch my coffee company, and to my holistic blooming. this place that celebrates Blackness, and that privileges and loves Black people, has enabled my health journey to be one of deep community and pride. for example, as we prepared to begin the run yesterday, there were several Red, Black and Green flags flying over us, and we danced “the wobble” as a part of our warm-up.

i organized a few members of our team to represent. the path ran through our neighborhood, and as we ran, we discovered just how robust the streets really are! there were so many hills on this path. there were at least 5 hills throughout, and the final 2 as we were completing the race. as i ran, i received a few spiritual downloads that i’d like to share with you:

  1. what goes up must come down.

    as i was running up the third hill, i stopped running to power walk. a man running to my left said to me, “sis, don’t stop now. you’re almost to the top! what goes up must come down.” at that point, i’d already made it to the highest point of the hill. i knew that if i could just power over the top, i’d be on my way down and gravity would take over.

    our struggles always seem hardest right at the top, when we’ve pushed our way through, and gotten ourselves uphill. our strength and determination are tested at the zenith, because we’ve exerted so much power just to get there. but, when we push through and clear the top, we then receive the assistance of gravity, and resume the run with more ease. coming down is the easy part, and it is the time in the race to recalibrate your breath, and to enjoy the feeling of being carried. this is also the best time to prepare for the next climb, as another hill is always on the horizon.

  2. the hills look higher from a distance.

    when you’re running and you have a ways to go, you can often see the forthcoming hills from afar. however, looking too far ahead can be discouraging and cause you to lose your focus. rather than looking into the distance, focus your eyes just far enough to safely place your next few steps. this will enable you to focus on the present and on the process. if you commit to tackling the hills when you get to them, rather than from afar, you will find that the hill is really not as high and hard as it looks from a distance. getting over this hill will require the same strength that got you over the last hill. if you did it before, dig deep and do it again.

  3. pace yourself.

    you can’t start the race out too fast or too strong, because you will exhaust yourself before you hit your stride. you have to begin at a pace that you can either sustain, or that you can build upon, as you continue to run. this method will allow you to establish the pace that works for you, as you run your race. while this might be difficult, this is an profound exercise of self-trust and self-accountability. it is a practice in focusing on yourself, your race, and your progress, and not someone else’s.

    in the end, i saw that there were people with whom i started who had already finished the race. then there were others who finished after me. the combination of being exhausted and excited made it impossible for me to feel anything other than happy for all of the runners.

  4. keep on breathing.

    since i’ve been training, one of my greatest challenges has been breathing. it’s easy to become so active that you forget to breathe. i’ve found that when i forget to breathe, i’m more focused on the results of my workout, and not on the process of getting stronger. the irony here is that when you don’t breathe, you’re actually making everything much harder than it has to be. when you breathe, you’re providing oxygen to your bones and renewing your heart to be able to withstand the workout.

    as i ran yesterday, i found that when i felt “out of breath,” i wasn’t breathing as i should: fully inhale. fully exhale. repeat. as a lifelong asthmatic, i realize that we often forget to focus on our breathing because it’s so basic. it comes so naturally, and perhaps this is what makes breathing so sacred. so holy. we often take our breath for granted, until we find that it’s harder to breathe. but, our breath is fundamental to each and every aspect of our being. it runs through our every movement. it is the common thread that binds moment to moment. coming back to this basic is at the heart of many mindfulness practices, including meditation and yoga. being mindful of our breath heightens our awareness of right here and right now. as i ran, i did the best i could to synchronize my breath with my strides. in so doing, i helped to calm myself into a rhythm and into full presence, even as it became more difficult to run.

  5. run together.

    while i can take credit for showing up to the race, i can’t take full credit for completing it. i knew that this would be a challenge, and i was right! but, it wasn’t impossible. my running mate, Maria, was incredible.

    i met Maria last summer when our team was working out at a local park, due to the pandemic. one particular Saturday, we were doing a brick workout at the park, and we had to bring our own bricks. i’d never done this workout before, so i showed up to the park with the wrong type - and size - of brick. when Maria saw my brick, she gave me the key to her car and told me, “get the brick that’s in my trunk.” y’all, this wasn’t a “brick.” it was a cinder block! i didn’t know, but i learned that day. 😂

    yesterday, Maria and I started together. at various points, one would pull off from the other, but we remained in the same vicinity. however, her partnership was most critical at the end of the race, when our destination was in sight and when 2 huge hills stood in the way. it was hard A.F. period! but, Maria was there, motivating and pushing me to keep going. “Neichelle, you got it. don’t stop now,” she would say. “we’re almost there. please don’t stop!” I began to feel that our success was going to be shared, just as our struggle had been for the past 3 miles. in the end, Maria finished just a few seconds before me, but we had a chance to celebrate together.

    i came up to the finish line, about two seconds from vomiting. but, there was a volunteer right at the finish line who was giving out cold water. Maria and i toasted to our successful completion before sitting down on the sidewalk to take in the feeling of finishing.

i believe that every experience that is for us will have its hills. and, while some hills, i.e. difficulties, are simply not worth the effort, there are others that are. whatever the goal might be this week, don’t expect for the way to be plain and flat. anticipate that you might come into some resistance, and when you do, you will have Help. stay present, keep breathing and find someone to push and pray you through.

you got it. don’t stop. you’re almost to the top.

have an awesome week, y’all. ❤️