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Dancing (and Running) with the Spirit


Editor’s note: New missioner Stephanie Ashley Caban relates the adjustments to her fitness commitment as part of her Formation experience.

I don’t always like New Year’s Resolutions, possibly because I never saw a need to make one. However, I do enjoy the concept of learning to better oneself and encourage that to be done at any point in the year. My faith in God has been quite shaky throughout the past year. As much as one can do so, growth is needed in both body and mind. So this year, I decided to make some changes.

Before moving to Washington DC, I lived and worked in the Big Apple—New York City. Among the busy-ness of it all, I wanted to find time to further push my body to its’ limits in terms of exercise. I didn’t really end up doing that but I did manage to make more realistic goals. I decided to go to Yoga to the People four to five times a week. They have a couple of different studios throughout the city and they are all donation based. My frugal mindset, that of a recent college grad/someone currently doing a year of service, thought, “Oh hey, free yoga.” This was a blessing and something I stuck to for about seven months.

I also made an effort to go to Zumba. Unfortunately, that wasn’t donation-based, so I could only afford to do that once a week. It’s very much so a happy to be alive kind of time whenever I get to forget about the world and focus on bachata-ing across the floor. It’s one of the most wonderful feelings I’ve ever had. I made up my constant need for dancing by going to dance parties until 3 am and waking up two hours later for work. Thinking back on it, that might have not been the best idea, but it was absolutely worth it.

In preparation for my move to DC, I realized that this routine would have to change. Formation would take up the majority of my time and I don’t have as much access to free yoga or dancing, which was super concerning. This is when I decided to pick up running.

I don’t like running. I don’t think I will ever like running. But for the past four months, I have gotten up earlier than the sun to run for five, seven, ten, twelve, and now, fifteen minutes. My motivation comes from my desire to run faster than imaginary people chasing me because, you know, that can happen I guess. No, seriously, despite being a morning person, it’s taken a lot out of me to get up and do something I know will benefit me physically. With how rocky my belief in God has been, it’s given me more time in the mornings to reflect and center myself on more important things. You know how you dread going to the gym and then when you’re done with your workout, you feel absolutely grateful? Knowing that you can push yourself to be better physically, well, that same notion has carried over in a spiritual sense, too. If I keep asking questions and remain open in love, maybe I can let the Big Guy in just a tad bit more every day.

And so, my tired self and strong desire for dancing have been challenged ever since arriving to my new home. All the hills in the Brookland neighborhood where Casa San Salvador is located have not deterred my morning routine. Recently, I found some free salsa lessons nearby! It looks like change is just another new adventure, and I can still express my joy in life through dancing and exercising, all while taking on the biggest adventure – becoming me. 

Reflection question: How have you recently acted upon a desire to keep growing as a person?

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Stephanie Ashley Caban considers faith, acting, service, and Spanish to be fundamental aspects of her identity. A lifelong New Yorker, she was active in service during high school and then college at SUNY New Paltz. She then commited to a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA position at Reading Partners, a nonprofit literacy organization where her main job was community engagement. Stephanie's hobbies include acting, yoga, archery, hiking, reading, and going on adventures. Serving as an overseas missioner falls in line with her drive to embrace people of different backgrounds with an open mind and heart.