IN HER SHOES TRAILBLAZER – Ingrid Harrison, 53
Sitting down for coffee with Ingrid Harrison (pictured above sandwiched between her beautiful family) is like taking in a sun rise. Breathing shifts from shallow and fast to deep and slow; conversation is punctuated with joyful aaaahhhs and insightful aaa-ha’s!
For Ingrid the shift began 10 years ago, that’s when she was described as a go-er, do-er, a breath holder, a mom of three busy kids, a recovery room nurse, a competitive runner and triathlete — a ball of intense, driven energy. Wanting to untwist and de-stress she tried yoga but couldn’t do it, the ‘final resting pose’ that allows mind and body to completely empty was not possible or even understandable.
Then she injured herself at work and her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Left with no choice but to surrender, the process of letting go began.
Today, Ingrid describes herself as, “softened…the hard lines aren’t there anymore.” She’s still actively parenting, her youngest will graduate high school in June.
She’s still running her but her partners are now the family ‘doodle’ (poodle mix) dogs. She’s still working and about to celebrate her thirtieth year as a perianesthesia nurse but (here’s the difference) Ingrid’s traded the drive of ‘best times’ and winning for the serenity of the yoga mat as a devotee and instructor.
Ingrid found peace and contentment.
Cheryl: That’s a real 360! Can you walk us through the journey?
INGRID: Funny, most of my friends would still describe me as a goer and doer! The 360 is not what I am doing but my approach. I used to take on my tasks and goals with the intention of “being the best”. My approach now is to “do my best”. This “doing my best” changes from day to day, depending on what I have going on in my life. It takes away the judgment and creates acceptance. This for me has been so freeing.
Cheryl: I can actually ‘feel’ it in my body as I replace ‘be’ with ‘do’. Can you talk more about letting go?
INGRID: The” letting go” for me has been both physically and emotionally empowering. When I take away judgment and expectation of an event or task I create a physical and emotional environment of acceptance. This for me generates a softness, and lightness to my body. The ability to exhale…and “let go” facilitates contentment in my life.
Cheryl: I understand what you’re saying about the exhale there is a sense of releasing all that is not needed. Yoga has been life changing for you. You not only started your own yoga practice but you’ve gone on to become a certified instructor. You’ve also been instrumental in bringing yoga to your work place so health care professionals can benefit.
INGRID: I came to yoga with a physical injury and as I started to heal physically, I also noticed a subtle shift in my approach to work and family. The practice gave me permission to be myself, and listen to my body. My previous philosophy was to push through pain and tiredness. I became a yoga instructor to share my love of the practice, and to help people also gain insight into their bodies through the mind, body, and spirit connection. Teaching my colleagues at the hospital has been a real gift. Health care workers are some of the most physically and emotionally stressed people. Week to week I noticed subtle changes in my colleagues, they became softer, kinder, and more content. It’s an amazing practice!
Cheryl: Is yoga transformative for all who practice? I hear people speak of different kinds of yoga are some more restorative than others?
INGRID: Most people come to yoga for the physical benefits. What’s surprising is as the physical body is getting stronger, the spiritual side is also developing. Yoga invites the practice of the breath and quieting of the mind. This creates subtle changes in how we react to stress. The transformation is unique to each person. As a yoga instructor I noticed the shift in my colleagues from high stress to relaxed. There are many types of yoga and they all have varying physical practices. Restorative yoga invites deep states of rest with the use of props, while a flow yoga practice is building strength through a more cardiovascular workout. Both are beneficial for the practioner, having different focuses and outcomes.
Cheryl: You often speak of living-in-the-moment. This is so difficult to do….the mind is so busy and wants to jump forward to work on problems that haven’t even happened or go back to chew on the past. There are big ramifications to this…when our minds are forward or back we are unable to see the wonderful gifts that are there for us in the present. How do you anchor yourself in the present moment?
INGRID: Living moment to moment is not an easy task. When I find myself reliving the past or jumping forward I consciously bring myself back to the moment. It’s a work in progress. One of the leaders in mindfulness, Jon Kabat Zin, describes mindfulness as having a love affair with my life. Spending time with my family and really being present. Knowing that living in the present moment is precious.
Cheryl: You celebrated your 50th birthday 3 years ago…how did that feel? Any particular insights you can share?
INGRID: In my job, getting older is a bonus! Fifty for me has been amazing. Fifty is feeling confident in what you are doing but not being afraid to try something new. Fifty is finding beauty in our emotional and physical selves despite the changes that happen as we age. At fifty for me there is a sense of contentment.
Cheryl: Just for fun compare the Ingrid of today with your ‘former’ self.
INGRID: Today’s Ingrid is confident, kind, and accepting.
Cheryl: How would you like Life Part II to be characterized?
INGRID: Living life with intention, in yoga we call it a Sankalpa…a desire to live your hearts longing
After talking to Ingrid I’m reminded of a joyful heart mediation from Christiane Northrup. Take a deep slow breath into your heart. See it smiling. Exhale long and slow. Repeat.
This feels like Ingrid.