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.

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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.

 

 

 

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.

Brave…

I heard a song a little while ago. I’d filed it away as something to go back to and then promptly forgot until I heard a it again the other day…while I was getting ready to go to campus.

Before I go any farther down this road, I have a little “splaining” to do, as Ricky Ricardo would say. I’m always telling people to step away from their comfort zone so I recently decided to follow my own advice. Now I’m teaching a couple of business courses at a local college. My comfort zone has been mocking me on a regular basis from its destination far, far away.

I digress. I was getting ready for class when I heard the song BRAVE by Sara Bareilles. You should give it a listen…the lyrics hit me square between my sleepy eyes. I’ll save you all the quotes and just tell you that it’s about stepping up. And it was perfect timing that it played for me that day.

I was waffling about doing something about an article I read in Yoga Journal. And after that aural motivation, I picked up the phone. I decided to be brave.

Just like that, I put something in motion. I still don’t have all the answers to my original question. But, I did ask. And I’m confident I’ll get them in due time. In the mean time, I’ve made the choice to be brave in some other ways. I registered for the 500 hour yoga teacher training. I added a few stand-up paddle board yoga classes to my teaching schedule. I said no when I meant it, instead of yes. And I said yes as often as I wanted without going off the deep end.

Edmund Morris said, “History admires the wise, but elevates the brave.” Even if the answers are not what I want, I asked the question. If I spend more time in the pool than on the paddle board, I made the leap from participant to instructor. I have been brave. And now that I know how it makes me feel, I will continue to be.

My request is simple. Get out your dictionary. Look up the definition of brave. Then listen to the song. And decide what you want to do that is BRAVE.

(And, if you feel like it tell me. I’d love to know!)

Happy Fall Equinox!

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.

Did You Really Just Say That?

I was working on a project today. And had someone ask me in front of a group if I was sure of the answer. As much as I like to think I’m getting better at this whole letting go and not taking things personally thing, this was a flaming reminder that I am still working on it.

But, oddly, I am grateful for the experience. It made me think about all the opportunities we have within ourselves to do the same thing internally that she did publicly. I did manage to keep my head from spinning as I replied that yes I was quite sure. And then it hit me: how often do I do this to myself on a daily basis? Think about it…you look in the mirror feeling good about what you’ll see and that little voice says “not so much.”. You feel lighter and stronger, but then weigh and see the number and immediately think “I already messed up this week, pass me some cake.” I could give examples all afternoon, but you don’t need mine. You have your own…

How often do we listen to the voice that says I’m NOT? What would happen if we listened to the one that said I AM?

It’s not always easy, but I’m taking it a day at a time. And that inner bitch is gonna shut up. Because I AM. I AM smart, funny, pretty, strong, determined. I AM ENOUGH of everything. What are you? Take some time today to remember.

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.