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.

Repeat after me: NO

One little word. You’d think by now we’d all know how to use it. But we don’t, do we? By now, in my 40’s, I should be able to say “no” and not feel any repercussions. I should be able to stand up tall, look you in the eye, and say no and mean it. And most days I can. But what happens on the days I don’t?

Those days are the ones that come back to haunt me: Yes, I’ll sub that class. Join you for a late dinner. Go to that movie. Take on that client. Overbook my schedule. And yes, while I’m at it, I’ll resent the hell out of every one of those things I did when I said yes instead of saying no. Because sometimes, saying yes to someone else means you’ve said no to yourself. And so it begins. This is how imbalance starts.

I’m not sure when no became a four letter word. I was raised to say yes ma’am, but I don’t think my Momma meant for me to agree with everything or take on the whole world, so why did I? The people-pleaser in me can answer that. I just wanted to please everyone. The introvert in me can also weigh in. It’s easier than potential conflict or explaining why. But here’s what happened: I wasn’t included in the pleased crowd, and it was harder on me to do what I said I would because I knew when I agreed that I didn’t want to. So what else happens? The scale tips to resentment, fatigue, bitterness, downright anger. We spew it out like venom and we turn it on ourselves. There’s no good side to this.

The problem starts early (I’m not even sure when) and snowballs. You see, yes becomes a habit. Like going to the gym or practicing yoga. Actually, more like smoking. Going to the gym and practicing yoga are good things; smoking-not so much. And unlike going to the gym, smoking is something you should quit. So is saying yes.

I can say this because I have done it: quitting smoking is difficult on the best days. Quitting “Yes-sing” makes quitting smoking look like a cake-walk. When I quit saying yes, it was like learning a new language. No. Nonononono. NO NO NO NO NO. OMG, what was this unfamiliar sound coming from my mouth? As it turns out, it was the sound of balance coming back into my life.

When you’ve said yes forever, people who’ve known this (you’ve trained them-sometimes over years- to expect a yes) have no idea what to do when you start to say no. They’ll ask you what’s wrong, are you alright, and whatever other questions they can come up with to see exactly what brought this on. They will look at you the first time you say no like you’ve sprouted a horn from your third eye space. “Bless her heart, something must be wrong. She said NO. I hope this passes.”  Keep going. That unfamiliar feeling…it’s fabulous. Get used to it. It’s balance. Maybe it’s been a while since you felt it, so it’s totally foreign. That’s ok. You’re on the right path.

What I’ve learned through this process is the fine art of listening to myself, my body, my gut. I can feel the physiological changes happening when a false yes comes out of my mouth. Let’s face it: it’s a big fat LIE. I’m not a liar, so I have given myself permission to just tell the truth. (It’s not ugly; it just is.) I have learned to say no.

I still waffle on occasion, but I have become a reformed Yes-woman. The road wasn’t easy. I still back pedal and fall into old behavior sometimes. But I have learned this, and it is the most important lesson: if it’s not a hell yes, it has to be a hell no. Hell no keeps me sane, keeps me rested, keeps me in a space of kindness instead of resentment. When I say no to you, I’m really saying YES to me. And at the end of the day, that is the yes that matters most.

 

 

 

Starting with Intention

It’s that time of year again: that time when we start to evaluate. One year is ending, another beginning. We dig out the list from last year…you know the one. It says things like “learn a new language, lose 10 pounds, read more books, drink less soda.” That list. It’s exhaustive. Once I re-read it, I usually wish I’d never found it. Actually, I wish I’d never written it.

But last year, I made a change. I kept my silly list of resolutions..the one with the boxes I could check off as I completed the tasks. Admittedly, it got very little attention. I also had another list. I sat down in earnest as 2014 arrived, and set forth my intentions for new year. Believe me when I say that this is the only list I’ll ever make at the New Year from now on. Intentions are life changers.

First, what is intention? You can consult Merriam-Webster, but I choose to understand intention as an aim or plan of action. AIM…as in direction.   When I set an intention, I choose my direction. Let that sink in for a minute. If I set my intention as joy, then I CHOOSE joy.

The hard part starts when we encounter something or someone that attempts to steal that intention, and we have to choose that intention over and over again.   We have to get out of our own way on this one. It’s so easy to choose: simplicity, happiness, gratitude, etc. But it’s definitely not easy to stay there.

Let me walk you through it. I’ll use simplicity as an example; it was an intention of mine for 2014, and may be again. Last year, when I went through my year-end review, as I’ve done for decades, I made some decisions. I wanted to do more. I wanted to have a shift in my life and my practices, personally and professionally. I knew changes were coming. It was time to honor them and learn what I could. As I winnowed down what needed to shift and how I wanted to feel, simplicity was the one word that worked to describe what I sought.

That intention of simplicity led me down several paths. Environmental simplicity was the most obvious. I’ve cleaned out closets, recycled, given away, sold. I actually let go of some books. I’ve reconsidered purchases. Do I need another book? Do I need more shoes? Another t-shirt? Could someone else be better served by this ___________ (fill in the blank with random household items that are not serving me any longer)? These are just the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s where the real work starts: how can I bring simplicity to my day-to-day existence on this planet? Am I clear about what I want? Is there simplicity in my living? I can’t be everything to everyone, nor should I try. So simplicity in my day-to-day existence means coming back to my authentic self. Choosing me. Choosing what makes my heart sing. For me, that meant saying no and setting boundaries. (Remember, I told you this was the hard part.) It meant saying no to work that doesn’t fulfill me, even when the price tag made me think twice. It meant choosing who gets my time. It meant choosing to practice yoga and meditate more consistently at home, to read and study, to write, to color, to knit, to rest. And it still means all of these things. That’s the beauty, to me. Once the intention is set, even when you’ve achieved what you desire, you’re still living that intention. It’s a spiral that, when you honor yourself, lifts you up higher and higher.

As the days get shorter and the year draws to a close, take a few moments here and there. Start to write. Write for you. Write what’s on your heart, not what you think someone else wants/expects/needs. As you find the words for your intention, breathe them in. Gather them. Fill yourself with them. Soon, you’ll find there’s no room for anything but your highest good.

(If you want to learn more about setting intentions, join me at Mountain Yoga January 10, 2015, or  Serenity Now January 11, 2015 for a Mini-Retreat to explore Starting with Intention.  January is also the start of Living with Intention, a monthly group that will meet at Shakti in the Mountains to celebrate, encourage and explore an entire year of intentional living.)

Tick Tock

So I suppose I should apologize for not writing. But I can’t. I firmly believe that you only say you’re sorry when you are. And I’m not.

It’s not that I haven’t missed posting. I have. I found myself wanting desperately to share so many adventures. But this summer has had a unique quality about it. I’ve spent a lot of time away. I don’t just mean out of town, but away as in with no means to post. Most of the time I write, what I’m discussing is happening or has just happened. Hard to do with no power. And that was good. I was forced to sit and just be. Sometimes I do that. Sometimes I write instead. (This is where the work in progress reminder goes.)

So I’ll move on to what has pushed me today. I’m sitting in a classroom. The school building has that smell. You know, like libraries have a smell. Or like your Grandmother’s house has a smell. You know…

My purpose is to get several things accomplished. I’m sitting in on a meeting for a friend. I’m preparing to teach a class unlike anything I’ve ever done. I have some time so I’m examining my calendar. I’m suddenly keenly aware that this magical Summer is vanishing, bringing with it a Fall full of new adventures and challenges. Emphasis on NEW.

And it’s hit me…I am going back to school. In a capacity totally unknown to me. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m a little scared. I’m up to the challenge.

I remember with great clarity those feelings. They’re the same ones I had the first day of every school year I participated in, from kindergarten through graduate school.

So I’ll exhale now. And remind myself what a gift school is for the student and the teacher. I’ll also remember that those roles are interchangeable. It seems every time I seek to teach, I become the student all over. What a gift that is!

As the first day draws near for me, and countless students and teachers everywhere, let me simply say thank you for what we are about to have the privilege of doing. And witnessing.

And may I also say that it is my hope that we may all see the light in others as we want them to see it in us.

Namaste….

What have I done for me lately?

I re-read my list of goals for the new year. Actually, I read it often. And I backslide momentarily into the why haven’t yous (why haven’t you done this, or that, or the other). But it’s only for a moment. Because then I remind myself of what I have done!

All these things are works in progress…so there’s no need to panic. It’s only January. I can do all of these and more!!! And I can savor each moment of each day and each effort!!!

So, when I examine my goals and my purpose, I can say without hesitation that I am doing what I need to to take care of me. I don’t have to ask what others have done for me…it’s not their job. So, sometimes in those little moments of stillness when I start
to wonder if I’m doing enough, I simply smile. Of course I am.

I ask what have I done for ME lately…and I answer: napped, read a new book, pottery class, yoga, scuba…the list goes on.

What have you done for YOU lately? May your list be as long as your arm and your smile as bright as the sun when you read it!

Peace, love and bright light….

Taking Off the Mask…

Happy Halloween! This has always been one of my favorite holidays. I have great memories from my childhood of choosing outlandish costumes, dressing up, and going out with my parents and little brother to assault the neighborhood and forage for candy. We had the best times!

Do you remember those plastic/rubber masks we had back in the day? You know, they’d stick to your face and you’d get all sweaty. They hindered your breathing so every so often, you’d have to stop walking and use the hand not holding the goodies to push it back and gasp for air. Remember how great that fresh air felt? How easily you could breathe? And then, when you recovered you’d plop the mask back down and keep plodding to the next house.

Fast forward a few years… Can you remember that feeling of lifting off the mask? How often do you feel it these days? Today we are all busy. We all have multiple roles. We have friends, family, co-workers, bosses, lovers, strangers that we relate to every day all day. How many masks do you have?

I’ve spent the last several years stripping away these masks. I am, of course, a work in progress. But I do breathe easier. I smile a lot more. I am relaxed. I am comfortable in my skin. I have had to learn a few lessons…not everyone embraces me. They missed the old me that said yes, went along with the crowd, that allowed others to impose their needs on me. But not all of the lessons have been unpleasant. I have found people and a life that support the changes I needed to make. I have also learned who my true friends are…they’re the ones who said we knew it was you all along.

So, I ask: what mask can you strip away? Take a deep breath…do you want to put it back on? I thought so…

Love, peace and candy corn.