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.

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.

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.

What’s Your Next Move?

I’ve been reading a bit, studying, so I could find a way to practice while I have been away from the mat and from teaching. I discovered a book by Nicolai Bachman, The Path of the Yoga Sutras, that’s become one of my new favorites. Bachman discusses several points from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and does so in a way that is easily understood, providing examples and applications that are within the reach of anyone, whether or not they practice yoga at all.

Santosa, the second niyama (self-care, according to Bachman), has been my greatest struggle this summer. Contentment and gratitude. To truly practice this niyama, we have to be content and grateful for what we have right now, this minute. Some days that means I have to be content and grateful with the fact that my body doesn’t move like it did only a few weeks ago. I have to be content and grateful for what it does right this minute. I can’t compare myself to others, or expect my body to be different than it is, because those acts invite duhka…suffering.

I’ve had to read and re-read that chapter several times. I have become aware of when those feelings creep up so I don’t hold onto them; let them come to a slow boil. Instead, I’ve learned to meet them with gratitude. Gratitude for time off to heal and regain my strength and stamina. Gratitude for great care from friends and family. Gratitude for books, crayons, pencils, and paper. And gratitude for what my body is capable of right this minute.

Bachman says,”…accepting the pace at which your body can change and practicing accordingly can help you avoid … suffering.” He also says, “What is important is that we are moving in a positive direction.” Powerful words for anyone. Especially powerful to me.

So, I am grateful for comfortable shoes to walk in. I’m grateful for a nice breeze to cool me. And I’m grateful to recognize how far I’ve come over the last few weeks, even though I know there is still more healing ahead. And I’m content in the knowledge that I am moving in a positive direction.

What’s your next move?

  

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.

What’s that sound?

I’m sitting on a ridge in the shade. I see nothing but beauty in every direction. I’ve been up here for a bit, left reluctantly by friends who needed to go back down the hill for a bit. I really did not appreciate being left with nothing but my feet to get me down (4-wheelers are great, but that’s another post). But I did say it was ok, so it was now up to me to accept that I lied to myself. I’d need a mirror if I were going to cast blame.

But I’ve had enough time to get beyond
the original emotional response and settle into this nice, comfy isolation. I recognize that now. And I’m grateful. I’ve taken advantage of my situation. I’ve written, both for work and for pleasure. I’ve been able to think with a clarity that is at times elusive. And I’ve been able to witness all sorts of things I otherwise would not have. Even though I’m isolated, I’m surrounded.

A few minutes ago, I heard the most enchanting song. I have no idea which bird it belongs to, but it arrested me. I stopped everything. Shut it all down. So I could listen, and really HEAR. It rewarded me by continuing. Now, after it’s ceased that once again I hear the buzz of insects and the distant choir of a rooster (that’s obviously over-slept) and the donkeys (who go on frequently) in the next field over.

I could return to whatever I was doing before, but I think I’ll sit back and hope that creature returns. Maybe that’s my lesson….all kids of good things happen when I get still and open up for them. So perhaps I should do that more often…

Hope your day is as beautiful as mine.

With open eyes, open ears and an open heart….namaste.

20130526-153905.jpg

Truer Words…

I heard a song the other day called I MAKE MY OWN SUNSHINE, by Alyssa Bonagura. Give it a listen. It certainly made me think.

I’ve taken some time off from writing here. I spent the month of November really working on my ability to feel gratitude and happiness. For everything, really. I made an effort to notice the little things, like the way I got tickled when I had marshmallow all over my nose from a huge cup of hot cocoa. And the big things, like a longstanding request being accepted. So please forgive me for wallowing in that every day bliss. I hope you’ve tried that for yourself. If not, start now. What right this minute are you grateful for? What makes you happy…I mean deep down in your bones happy?

During this experiment, I’ve recognized happiness in all it’s forms and fashions. If our eyes are open, we can see it right in front of us. But we have to be willing to look. And, here’s the hard part, we have to be prepared to examine every situation for the happy. Because it’s there. I promise. It’s there when everything is exactly as you would prefer it. It’s also there when things are so out of sorts that we don’t even recognize ourselves or our surroundings.

Here’s the biggest issue I face: I sometimes want to hand over the job of my happiness to someone else. “You make me happy. Now.” So during my month away, I struggled along. I practiced yoga. I meditated. I really focused those efforts. And, not for the first time (as I’ve said before…work in progress), I learned NOT to hand that power over. That is MY job. No one else’s. And why would I entrust that to anyone but me? First, that is the most arrogant thing I could do. I mean, really, who do I think I am to deserve your undying effort to please me? That’s a tall order. An impossible order that only sets me up to be disappointed and you to disappoint. Why would I punish anyone that way? Second, how could I place that responsibility on another person? I can’t just absolve myself of all responsibility. I am the sole being in charge of ME.

So here are some lyrics to ponder:

It don’t matter if it’s raining
Nothing can phase me
I make my own sunshine
And if you think you can break me
Baby you’re crazy
I make my own sunshine.

So there it is…I make my own sunshine. So do you.

Namaste.