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.

Watch Your Mouth

Have you ever listened to a friend talk about themselves?  You know that  conversation…She says,”I’m not good at _____,” and you spend the rest of your time with this friend explaining how they are in fact quite good at _____.  Isn’t it exhausting sometimes?  Don’t you want to tell her to stop belittling herself that way?  And don’t you wonder what it’s like when she looks in the mirror?

What’s it like when you look in your mirror?   What is the last kind thing you said about yourself to yourself?  You know…that little voice that handles your self-talk. Do you remember?  Why don’t you think about it?

Go ahead. Think about it.  I’ll wait….

While I wait and you think, I’ll share.  Earlier today, I was on a rare trip to the mall.  It always feels like a trip to hell, so I was on a mission. I knew exactly what I wanted, and calculated the approximate time it would take to procure the item in question.  I inherited this trait from my Dad.

Anyway, I walked in and spotted what I was there for.  On the way to the register, I spotted another item.  It was splendid, this gorgeous blousy thing the likes of which I rarely glance at, much less stop in my tracks over.  I am fortunate that my work clothes for the most part are yoga pants, so business or dress attire isn’t a necessity.  But this top…

I could feel myself light up the way I lit up as a kid when I’d saved my babysitting money to buy a pair of fancy pink ballet slipper-style heels.  (Those are another story…once a shoe girl, always a shoe girl.  Don’t let the Danskos fool you.)  I touched the fabric, and before I knew it, I had it in hand on my way to the register.  While I was standing in line, plotting my next moves, I didn’t hop into the land of shoulds (I should get something more subtle, less showy, more appropriate, black) or the  can’ts (I can’t wear that!). Instead, the chatter was fabulous.  I had a little celebration in my head.  I said to myself, “That color is going to look amazing!”  And I didn’t stop there.  I told myself how exciting it was to find something so vibrant and unusual.  I told myself how fantastic it’s going to look. And it went on from there.

I tell you all this, because it’s taken a long time to get to a place where I can listen to the voice in a way that is celebratory, instead of inflammatory.  I am happy to be in a space in my life where the self-talk is positive.  I can share this story.  There was a time when I wouldn’t have.  The things I’ve said to myself in the past are things that I’d unfriend you for saying.

Watch your mouth!  Watch what you say to yourself.  Think about it…would you say these things to your best friend?  If you wouldn’t say it to another human, why on this Earth would you say it to yourself?

Words carry so much energy and power.  They can force a smile or a frown.  They can cause tears or laughter, someone else’s or your own.

When you look in the mirror, watch your mouth.  Choose carefully and from love when you speak to yourself.

Love and turkey, y’all.  Namaste.

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.

7 Limbs

I have an opportunity.  I have no choice but to see it this way, so I am.  You see, I can’t teach yoga for the next several weeks.  I have to limit my activity and my practice.

I had a little surgery that keeps me grounded for a bit.  No driving for a couple of weeks.  No lifting.  No vigorous activities.

Notice I didn’t include yoga in the list of no-no’s.  That’s because it isn’t there.  (But wait, you ask, you just said you can’t teach or practice…so it must be on the list!)

Yoga is an 8-limbed path, many times depicted like a tree.  So, you see, I have 7 other limbs to practice.  Asana, postures and poses used in classes or home practice, are but one.  The other 7, not as popular in the mainstream as asana, but equally valuable are: Yama, Niyama, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

I’m going to use this time to dig a little deeper, seek out the dark corners and shine the light.  And you’re welcome to join me.  I hope you will.  What questions do you have?  If the yoga experience seems appealing, but the asana practice doesn’t, what would you like to know about deepening your own practice?

The beauty of yoga is that there are no rights or wrongs.  It is a practice as individual as each of us.

Love and light.

  
 

 

Peace Treaty

This week, it seems I’ve been at war.  With myself.  So I decided this morning when my feet hit the floor that the war is over.  It’s time for a peace treaty.

It seems that lately we’ve been bombarded with images and words about what is real (or not), what is beautiful (or not), what is right (or wrong). And I have to confess, I let it sink in a bit.  I hopped on the scale.  I compared myself to others.  I judged myself against some standards I can’t meet (and if I’m being really honest,  I don’t want to).  Have you let yourself go there?  I understand…I was there, too.   It’s a war zone.

It hit me early Thursday morning..literally hit me:  I broke my toe.  And as I was assessing the damage, I started studying my foot.  I saw all the little rough spots from being barefoot and in the yoga studio so much.  That was my A-HA moment…I stopped long enough to be grateful for all that mat time.  I was grateful for my little scraggly foot and how it got there.  I will not get hired to be a foot model.  But I share a lovely yoga practice with you any time I get the chance.

I was overwhelmed by this feeling of relief.  I got it.  I had choose to celebrate that moment and that discovery.  I had to be at peace with what is, and grateful for it.  And, I had to make a decision to choose to do that every time the opportunity appeared.  Believe me, there were lots this week.  I didn’t make this choice early enough to escape without harm.  But, as I say often, I am a work in progress.  Progress was made.

Now, please don’t be fooled.  This is not the first time for this particular bolt of lightning to strike.  This lesson is one that I’ve learned again and again.  I may have to learn it all over tomorrow.  But what I can do is practice…I can shut down that voice that says “you’re too_____, you’re not ________.”  I can stop it by yelling at the top of my lungs, “OH, HELL YES, I AM.”  Even if I only yell in the mirror…

I have a plan.  Every time the voice starts up with something negative, I am reframing it.  With gratitude.  The only perfect I can ever be is me.  When I lose sight of that, the war rages.  So the treaty shall stand.  NO MORE WAR.  I AM WILDLY, FABULOUSLY, IMPERFECTLY ME.

YOU ARE WILDLY, FABULOUSLY IMPERFECTLY YOU.

See how that works…  I am giving myself this gift.  A Peace Treaty.  I’m sure I’ll have to give it over and over.  And over and over. But it will be worth the effort and practice.  Because I am worth the practice and effort.

So are you…Namaste.

From the Mouths of Babes…

I cannot believe it is the middle of September.  We are back into another school year, which I love.  I don’t have children, but it seems that everything runs on a little better schedule during the school year.  I don’t know if it is because spare time is at a premium or what, but I truly don’t care.  I’m just grateful. 

As those thoughts pour from my mind to this “page,” I can’t help but snicker a little bit.  I do love how things seem to flow better on a schedule.  So what has become of mine lately?  It’s as if I threw my calendar out altogether.  Every activity, writing date, yoga class, happy hour that I so enjoy and truly live for has been a scattered mess of feeling obligated and shackled.  I’ve been wandering through my days willy-nilly just getting by. 

So I decided a few days ago before I came back here, that I’d examine what I’ve been doing.   And for whom…  I simply discovered that I said yes to everyone.  Everyone but ME.  (This is an old behavior pattern-one I haven’t seen in a long time.  If anything, I had said no to so many things to avoid feeling this way that I’m lucky I still get invitations.) And in leaving myself out of the equation, I lost my focus, my joy, my peace.  I can have every minute planned and be perfectly happy.  I just put myself at the back of the line. 

So I have spent the last couple of days reorienting myself to the front. It’s all good.  Lesson learned (again).  In yoga, we strive to quiet the ego, to turn inward and examine.  By handling my life over to everyone on the outside, I let my ego take over.  The old YES woman that I was for so many years stepped right back up.  YES YES YES she said, until the new woman who went to such great ends to rid herself of that particular struggle collapsed a little bit under the weight. 

I started teaching yoga at the local university this semester.  And I always love to teach, but I have found a new lens to view the classes I am teaching there.  There are several young men who are coming to class.  A couple are there to check out the scenery.  At that age, it’s probably a good strategy.  A couple were told by coaches that it would help their performance in other athletic endeavors.  I’m really just glad they’re all there.  But one young man who’d been in class a few times stopped me after class last week and thanked me.  When I thanked him for coming to class and told him I thought that was pretty cool, he kind of grinned and said that he didn’t think he’d like it so he came back a second time to see.  And then he came back because he decided that even though it was hard, he really liked it.  I asked him what was hard, and this 19-year-old summed up perfectly my last couple of weeks:  “It’s hard for me to get here, and it’s hard for me to be still, but I know I have to do this.  I’m better when I do.”  And so from this college student came exactly the words I needed to hear to remind myself that I am in charge.  I can make the right choices or not, but ultimately it is up to me. 

What choices are you making?  Are they serving you?  Are they serving anyone when they’re made in that default, people-pleasing space?  No judgment here…

May we all take the right steps for our highest gain…Namaste.