Last weekend, we volunteered at the Nearly Naked Ruck March here in Duluth. The event is hosted by the 23rd Veteran, an organization in Northern Minnesota that works to help veterans with PTSD lead successful civilian lives.
Yesterday, we had the opportunity to volunteer with Duluth’s Adventure Club, an after school program through Positive Energy Outdoors that gets kids outside, learning about nature and playing.
We first heard about Adventure Club through our town’s volunteer connector website, hosted by the United Way. It was advertised as an after school program that blends outdoor education with unstructured nature play for children K-5th grade. The kids will meet up in the gym of their school for unstructured play time, followed by an outdoor education activity like plant and animal identification or building snow shelters, followed by a snack and ending with unstructured outdoor play time on the playground and school forest.
Two in one day?! I know, we’re real busy. We took the whole day off today in hopes of catching up on some volunteer work and were able to squeeze in another opportunity by the day’s end.
The local YMCA does a lot for the Duluth community and we’ve been hoping to get involved for a couple of months now. They’re well known in our town for their mentor programs and KeyZone after school programs. Also, amazingly enough, because they’re a nonprofit they provide memberships to everyone regardless of an ability to pay. They have almost 10,000 members at the Duluth YMCA, a number of which benefit from reduced or free memberships.
Cooper and I went back to CHUM today to help unload their delivery from the local food bank. Once a month, they receive a large order and need as many hands as they can to unload and organize the food on their shelves and into their “shopping” area. We’ve been trying to make it back since the last time we went and were happy to finally find a time to help out.
This past weekend was my last yoga weekend in Duluth. We have one more weekend together, down in the Cities at the Minneapolis Yoga Conference, and then we can enter the world as certified teachers.
There was a strong sense of finality throughout the weekend as we recognized that this our last time together in the space we’ve shared now for five months. At the end of class on Sunday, we each went around saying some words that described how we were feeling. One classmate said “a sense of loss”. Studying yoga is such an interesting thing because the philosophies teach you to be unattached both to worldly possessions and desires. Appreciating the community we’ve built around one another in class without feeling attachment to that connection is so incredibly difficult.
Some good news– I got a job yesterday! The week of unemployment was wonderful and relaxing but it was hard not to fight the moments of stress that came in waves throughout my very quiet days. I had the opportunity to see a lot of friends and work on a number of things I’ve been putting off, but the security of employment and fear of not having it would trickle its way back into my mind reminding me that I should be experiencing a little bit of anxiety. Getting the phone call yesterday about my new job was definitely a highlight of my week, giving me the freedom to fully enjoy these last few days of unemployment.
Having the week off did give me a lot of time to catch up on some much needed PCT planning. Over the last couple of months something would pop into my head that needed to be done and I would frantically write it down hoping I would have the energy to work on it once I got home from work. Fast-forward to this week where I have nothing but time and viola! So much planning completed.
This past month I wrote about compassionate self-discipline and I promised a three part series to be posted sometime in December about happiness.
And then, *long sigh*, life happened. I fell out of a rhythm with my practice and I completely distracted myself from moving forward with my goals as I allowed other things to cloud my mind.
Outside of the intense energy circulating the holiday season, I had entered a new job that wasn’t shaping up to be a positive experience. After a month of feeling like I couldn’t breathe I finally decided I needed to find a new job and in a completely uncharacteristic move, I quit without anything else lined up or without a single days notice.
The first weekend of December I reached the halfway mark of my yoga certification. I’ve been relatively quiet about this experience so far and in truth it’s because I’ve felt really busy the past few months. Getting back into the rhythm of being in school, after a two year hiatus, was a bit more challenging than I expected. This month, I’m making an effort to slow down and find more balance.
I’m sometimes so in awe of what an incredible experience this is. I’ve loved yoga since I first began practicing in high school but this education is so much more than an on the mat practice. I’ve learned more about myself, had some pretty awakening realizations, and have made visible strides to have an “off-the-mat” yoga practice. This education is not only transforming the mechanics of my body, it’s challenging me to take control of my mind and have a more meaningful existence.
This past weekend we volunteered again at Damiano’s soup kitchen in honor of our friend, Laura Jenkins!
Laura served as a team leader in AmeriCorps NCCC during our time in the Pacific Region, and Cooper had the pleasure of being one of her corps member for part of the year. During Laura’s year of service, her team volunteered at a soup kitchen and had a really positive experience. She requested that we give time to an organization that works to alleviate hunger, so back to the Damiano Center we went.
Today we had our first experience volunteering with CHUM. The organization began in the early 70’s when ten community churches in the Central Hillside neighborhood worked together to meet basic needs of low-income residents within the neighborhood. Now, the organization provides emergency shelter, food, advocacy, outreach, and support for low-income residents of Duluth.