This is Your Brain on Skinny (or Maybe This is MY Brain on Skinny)

We’ve all seen the ads: “This is your brain on drugs.” “This is your brain on music.” Well, here’s a new one: “This is your brain on skinny.”

I had lunch with a friend of mine a few weeks ago. We had a lovely time catching up. We’ve both moved our bodies over the years, sometimes more and sometimes less. We’ve watched the scales go up and down. We’ve starved and binged. We have done it all.

We were ending our lunch and saying our goodbyes when she stopped me and said, “I can tell you’ve lost some weight.” In an instant, everything went blurry. I managed to say thank you, but I was already somewhere else.   I felt something in my brain shift.

This was MY brain on skinny. Had someone been able to see an image of my brain in a functional MRI, they would’ve seen the same centers light up that do when an addict gets a hit. The addict in this scenario is me. Here’s why. You see, I never forgot what it was like to be heavy, not that I am skinny now (or ever have been, or even want to). I never forgot what my nickname was in grade school because I was rounder than the other kids (it was a mashup of a farm animal and my actual nickname). I never forgot how low I felt when I perceived myself to be less than because I was more (more hips, more thighs, more ass than the people I compared myself to).

I’m grateful that I am aware enough of myself to have noticed this reaction. It took a lot of yoga, a lot of inner work, and a lot of mindfulness to become aware. I can say with gratitude that yoga settled me into my body in a way that nothing else could. (Believe me, I know.) I would love to tell you I shut it down immediately, but I am a human…not a saint or a robot. What I did do was get on my mat. Then I wrote. And I got back on my mat and I wrote some more. Lather, rinse repeat.

When I start to feel things that I want to handle in a way that is healthy and safe, I grab (in no particular order) my mat, some art supplies, a music source and I head for a quiet space. I let the music lift me as I move and shift. I move my body and remind myself that my body is the perfect yoga body because it is MINE. What I cannot move out, I write out, draw out, or color out until I am back in that space of love, acceptance, and gratitude.

The past is just that: past. I know in my heart that I am divine. I am good enough. I am perfect just as I am. You are, too. Did you know that? We forget so easily when we see someone who has a different body or more resources, but at the end of the day, we are perfect. We are all perfect. Let that sink in…You. Are. Perfect.

The next time you catch yourself in comparison, remember you are perfect. Just as you are. Right this minute. You are perfect. How do I know? Because I am perfect, too. We can see that in each other, you know. Namaste.

Shine on!

New Year’s Eve always fills me with mixed emotions.  Actually, it fills me with the should’ves and could’ves.  Over time and with lots of practice, it’s better.  Those voices are not nearly as loud as they were when I started this journey.  This year, they seem to have piped up a bit, though.  It’s been a while since I’ve sent out a newsletter or properly tended my website.  2015 brought with it an unexpected surgery that took me totally out of the game for almost 2 months.  That seemed to be the kickoff for a chain of events that, while I couldn’t control any of them, certainly challenged me and my yoga practice every day.  I’ve said often that my yoga practice happens off the mat way more than on, and this year was no exception.

As I have for the last several years, I’m skipping the resolutions. I am setting intentions deliberately and with great care. And I’m getting ahead with one of mine, because I set an intention to shine.  The definition of shine is glow, sparkle, glitter, beam, radiate; to be a source of light.  The opposite of shine is dullness and darkness.  I chose shine because I feel like I’ve come out of a dark space, and am grateful to have relocated my shine.  It’s an intention I hope you will set for yourself as well, because we all have that light to shine.

Think about it.  How often do we hear about shining?  “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”  “Do not hide your light under a basket, but set it on a lampstand.”  What about Maya Angelou’s wise words: “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” I could go on, but you get it.  How bright could this world be if we all chose to shine?

I’m writing this evening to tell you thank you for being part of my journey.  I’m writing to tell you that 2016 is going to be full of creativity and color.  I’m writing to invite you to join me in 2016 for some adventures that will be announced shortly.

But more than anything, I am writing to tell you how valuable you are and how much I want to see your shine in 2016.

Wishing you a 2016 filled with love, wonder, and shine!

Shine on!

There’s Always Something: Practice Gratitude

Some of us are celebrating today.  Some of us are mourning.  Some of us are working.  Some of us are resting.  No matter your day, there’s always something to be thankful for.  That may sound trite, but I really do believe there is always a reason to be grateful.

It doesn’t matter the circumstance, do you have the ability to really look to find it?  We live in a society of instant gratification, Prime 2-day delivery, get-it-overnight so that the speed of life is ridiculous most of the time.  Can you stop yourself long enough to see the moments that are opportunities for gratitude?  Do you recognize the smile from a stranger as a gift?  Did you take a moment to look at the sunrise or sunset?  Did your cat curl up next to you again while you have on your black pants?  These are all easy to figure out.

What if you’re at work today?  What if you spend part of your day at the hospital? What if you lost a loved one today?  Even in these times, there are reasons to be grateful.  There’s always something.

Take a moment today.  Take several.  Think of all the reasons in your life that you can be grateful.  If you made a list, you’d run out of paper before you ran out of reasons.

It may be Thanksgiving, but we should take these moments more than just one day a year to dig deep into gratitude.  We can choose to practice gratitude every day to connect ourselves to the present moment.  We can live in a way that inspires others to join us in our efforts.  We can set in motion a wave of gratitude that can change our world.

Blessings.  Peace.  Love.

Are You Living in Color?

Are you living in color?  I’m curious…are you?

I spent a long time just drifting  along.  There were many years that I existed, settling for a routine existence that made a lot of people feel good about me.  I was safe.  I fit the mold.  I was grey.

After a long period of struggle, after years of allowing my decisions to be made by external forces, I remembered something.  I remembered myself, my soul…I looked in the mirror and saw the spark of the person I once was.  She looked familiar, but way down deep, I saw a glint in her eye, a flash, a little color.  It was still there, although I had long forgotten.  I started thinking about when the last time I felt colorful was.  Sadly, it took a while for me to remember.

Fast forward…or maybe slow forward.  Once I recognized how grey I’d become, I missed the color down deep in my bones.  It wasn’t a feeling I can really explain with words even now, but it’s one that you’d recognize yourself if you’d ever felt it. I knew I had to make some serious changes.  I knew I was meant to do more, give more, share more, love more.  I knew I was not being true to myself by staying grey.  I knew I was not putting into the world what I was here to share.I had to get the color back.  I had no choice.

I could fill the rest of the day writing about all the steps forward and back I took over those years trying to get back into a life that was colorful.  I wanted vibrance and love and I wanted to connect with people in ways that I knew were possible, but that I hadn’t learned.  I wanted every day to shine.  And I will not lie and tell you it was easy, or without great cost on may levels.

But I will tell you this: it was the best gift I’ve ever given myself.  I set myself free.  That’s what the color is really; it’s freedom.  It’s sleeping well after a long day of work that I love and that loves me back.  It’s connection to other humans who accept nothing less than that freedom for themselves.  It’s finding ways to inspire others to seek that color.  It’s keeping myself in motion, and sharing that motion with others so that forward is the way we go, always in color.  Always reaching for lives that are by design loving toward ourselves and toward each other.  Always moving to freedom, away from expectations that don’t match our souls.

I know firsthand what living in color is like, and how life can change when you dig in deep and refuse to settle for anything less that what drives your soul.  I know it’s hard to go against the grain of families and friends and all the shoulds and coulds.  I know it’s painful to rebuild.  And I know that I cannot fathom life any other way.

So I’m asking you again…are you living in color?  If not, how could you?  What would it take?   It can be done…I’m living (colorful) proof.

Love and color, people.  Love and color.

 

 

 

Big Magic, Indeed

Every so often, something comes along and challenges you.  Challenges how you do things, how you plot your day, how you speak and move and see.  This happened to me a couple of weeks ago, and it’s take a little while for me to bring it here.

I’ve been a list maker for a long time.  They make me happy, especially the crossing off of a task well done, or really, …sometimes just done.  I put events on the calendar, no matter how small .  Everything is an appointment.

But wait…something was missing.  A couple of weeks ago, I started looking around my calendar.  I looked at the google calendar first…not there.  I moved on to the paper planner…not there either.  It was no where.  I went back weeks, then months.

Finally, back in July, I found what I was looking for:  ART.  ART was written in turquoise ink on July 2 at 1pm.  I had scheduled ART.  I stopped looking then, realizing that I was wasting precious time.  I learned what I came for.

What happened was Big Magic. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a fabulous book about creative living, and I read it cover to cover on a plane to Las Vegas. And the effect was immediate.  I thought as I read how awesome it was that I scheduled my time so well; I already had ART on my list.  But 1 day in the last few months doesn’t cut it.

Gilbert posits that we not only have to say we’re open, we have to do the work so the ideas come.  It’s up to us to find the way, the time to foster those creative sparks we all have.  (WE ALL HAVE THEM.) Read it.  Just do yourself the favor and read it.

After Big Magic got me all fired up, I revisited Gretchen Rubin‘s book Better than Before.  It’s about habit, and she covers how difficult they are to create or change. This is another one for you to read; I won’t get into it, except to say that I had to come here first to get clear on how to rebuild my habit of creativity.Rubin has some solid ideas about how we form and resist habits, and I was definitely resisting.

Now, you might be thinking habit and creativity…hmmmm.  “But I want to be wildly creative and just be and make art, and commune with my crayons, clay, camera, etc.”  Let me ask you this: when is the last time you were wildly creative?  When was the last time you communed  with your art project of choice?

Exactly…was it on your list? Did it have a place among the other daily tasks you check off?  Mine didn’t either. My head exploded a little when I figured out how much I had put off being creative.  I identify as a creative person.  I’ll tell you straight up that I am creative, but I wasn’t giving my Creativity a permanent home in my day.  I was treating it like dessert, you know, something you get to have occasionally when you’re good or you’re celebrating. It showed.

Once this realization hit me like a truck delivering craft supplies, I made a change.  I added ART back to my daily calendar.  It’s there first thing.  I write, I color, I make something with my hands.  I invite it in and let it have a home with me.  I’ve already noticed a change.  Not only are my days brighter, but my ideas pop.  I have them more frequently, and with greater clarity on how to bring them forward and share.  And I am a happier human.  Score all around.  (And thanks to Gilbert and Rubin for their assistance!)

So,I have to wrap this up because the next thing I get to do is color.   It’s on my calendar.  And it’s first, because it’s vital to my well being, as much, if not more, than any gym time.

Got your crayons handy? Paint? Put it on the calendar…see what happens!

 

Easy? What if it really were easy?

easyI was in the company of some pretty awesome women Friday afternoon.  We gather every month, and when I am with them I feel surrounded by members of my tribe.  I feel at home.  We were having a discussion about how we were influenced by our parents, about expectations, and about how we choose to live now.  One thing that came up, that I’ve been thinking about for a while now, but that cemented for me over the last little while is the concept of easy.

Here’s the definition of easy from Google:

eas·y
ˈēzē/
adjective
  1. 1.
    achieved without great effort; presenting few difficulties.
    “an easy way of retrieving information”
    synonyms uncomplicated, undemanding, unchallenging,effortless, painless, trouble-free, facile, simple,straightforward, elementary;

    When did I decide that it couldn’t be easy? At what point was it decided that life would be hard, and that’s all there was to it?

    I remember clearly being told that things are not easy.  “Nothing easy is worth having.” That was a favorite.  “Life is just hard.” Another favorite.  When you hear things over and over, you eventually believe them…right?

    But, should you? What if, instead, I had believed it WOULD be easy?  That life was amazing. That I could achieve great things without great effort.  What would that be like?

    Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying that we shouldn’t work.  Work is fine.  I love my work…it’s what I do every day and I’m blessed to do it.  But what if I had made the shift years ago to decide that it was easy?

    I learned a few years ago that I could decide what kind of day I was going to have. I could get up and decide to have a good day.  I learned to practice mindfulness, to be present for each moment.  And I believe that’s when I started to learn that it could be EASY.

    I’m not saying without effort.  I’m definitely not saying without challenge.  But I am saying that we can meet these endeavors, all our endeavors, with an attitude of ease.  We can decide that we will be light, and reframe how we approach our lives.  We can connect to each moment, we can live an inspired life.  We can move with grace and fluidity instead of tension and resistance.

    Give it a try this week…set an intention to move through your day with ease.  Just give it a shot.  And see what happens…you might be surprised!

    Peace, love and ease, y’all.  Peace, love and ease.

The Ten Commandments…in Yoga???

The first time I learned about ASTEYA and the concept of non-stealing, my Catholic-school educated brain went PING!  Thou shalt not steal~I got this.  Wrong.  I got part of it.  We all know (hopefully) that we should not take what is not ours.  But that’s where my knowledge of non-stealing ended.

Let’s add some layers…this is where it gets murky and uncomfortable, so consider yourself  duly warned.  What about that book you borrowed from your neighbor last month?  Did you return it after you finished with it or do you even know where it is? Asteya is the not returning of said book.  Unintentional more than likely, but lacking in mindfulness.

My personal favorite aspect of this yama about non-stealing concerns attention seeking.  If someone does not give us the attention we believe we deserve, how do we handle that?  Are there temper tantrums, pouting, retaliation?  Do we get angry and source drama to feed what we think we need?  All good, relevant questions.  And should we have to steal someone else’s valuable time?  What lies at the root?  Insecurity, loneliness, jealousy?  We have to address these issues ourselves…that doesn’t belong to anyone else.

Rolf Gates’ book MEDITATIONS FROM THE MAT also goes into even further detail.  His discussion of asteya on days 31 through 33 points out that stealing is also a manifestation of a lack of faith that we will have what we need, that the universe will provide.  Doesn’t it always?  This yama calls us to step out in faith and to stop clutching.

Lots of thoughts about this one…it is one of my constant battles.  That said, I’m gathering library books and looking around to see  if there’s anything else I need to return.  Let the practice begin.

Namaste.