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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Broken open…

I had the good fortune to spend part of last weekend with some of my dearest friends.  The bonus was that we were able to share space together practicing yoga.  It had been some time since we’d all been together, so we were giddy in the first place.  But to share that space, well…that was icing on the cake.  

The instructor led us for an hour and one half, which actually felt like about ten minutes.  As he directed us about moving our bodies, he also led us to move our minds.  To shift.  To dig down into the dark spaces.  To breathe down into those places and lift up into light.  He commented that we work so hard on the exterior, that we sometimes neglect the interior (if any of you who attend with me read this, forgive the paraphrase).  Let that sink in…

I felt amazing during and after that practice.  Lifted.  Broken open.  I felt like I’d been able to crack those deeply formed shells.  And where those cracks were, deep down, stayed open.  They needed to stay that way.   

When I woke up before the moon fell Sunday in the wee hours, I still had that feeling.  That feeling of almost floating.  I felt light.  And I realized the cracks were still there.  I was reminded of the Japanese tradition of Kintsukroi.  This art is the repair of broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer, and the understanding that the piece is all the more beautiful for being broken.  I like to believe that lightness I felt was the sliver and gold filling those cracks.  

It’s only been a few days since, but I am still feeling the effects of that practice.  I’ve set the intention to remain broken open. To allow those broken places to be filled with light.  To be grateful for the experiences of breaking and healing.  To recognize that each break was necessary.  To bask in gratitude for the blessing that have received form those lessons.  

Over time, have you been broken?   Have you allowed yourself to be broken open?  Be willing to go there.  And fill the cracks with gold and silver.  You’re all the more beautiful for it.

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

Starry, Starry Night

I am sitting by a lake tonight. Occasionally I hear the splash of a fish jumping. I see the reflection of the stars across the water. I smell the campfire and hear the crackle of the logs. I am still licking the remnants of s’mores from my fingers.

I look up…and am suddenly mystified. In the last week I have undertaken some significant life changes. For the good, in my opinion, but still Significant with a capital S. And it is here, under this velvet canopy that I realize that my blessings outnumber the stars. I have stepped out on faith to chart a new path for myself. My path. Not anyone else’s. And I have received support from so many people~known and unknown~ that I am almost speechless.

So it is here that I say thank you. To everyone. To anyone who will read or listen. I am overflowing with gratitude. (I have learned that gratitude drowns fear.)

My challenge for you is this: walk outside. Look up into your night sky. And when you do, I hope that like me, you’ll find it impossible not to be overcome with gratitude.

Sweet dreams. And namaste…

Day #3

Did you do it? You know, that thing we do at the beginning of a new year. We make our lists of what needs to get done and we put it somewhere close for a few days. We’re only 3 days in, so you probably remember what’s on it right now. You still know where it is.

Here’s my challenge to you. Read it closely. What does it say? I bet if you look closely, you can learn a lot about where you were and even more about where you’re going.

And I will share mine…because I believe the more you check in with yourself and your progress, the more likely you are to succeed. I also believe in disclosure and accountability. So here it is:

Breathe
Spend more time out of doors
Learn a new craft and/or language
Journal
Teach often
Race again
Cook more & experiment in the kitchen
Travel often, even if it’s not far
Choose kindness
Leave my comfort zone
Love.

I admit it’s a short list, compared to some I’ve had before. But I can accomplish all of these. They will push me. There will be days that I don’t want to. But in the end, I know that I will benefit as will those around me. I have huge potential to make a difference with all of these action steps.

You have the same potential. What will you do? How will you step up?

My hope is that you will welcome 2013 with open arms and a glad heart. I have. And even though we’re only 3 days in, I already feel the benefits.

Love and light to you in the new year.

Namaste.

Working Without A Net

I heard a song by Christine Kane today called Right Outta Nowhere. The lyrics are great, but one line in particular spoke to me: Leap and the net will appear. I wrote a few weeks ago about stepping out in faith. It seems that this theme has been cropping up a lot for me lately, so I am revisiting it here.

I’ve been making a concerted effort to live through my heart and limit the input I usually take from my head. Don’t mistake me…I’m not gadding about all willy nilly. I am thinking and paying attention. But I am acting from a different space. I am choosing more often to take that step, to LEAP. The net has appeared time and time again. And along with the net, opportunities and blessings I’d have never received otherwise have arrived.

So I write this week to ask if you’re doing the same. Have you taken the step? Have you decided that even in fear, you are willing to be vulnerable enough to loosen your grip on the outcome so you can enjoy the process? Because if you haven’t, and I say this from experience, you’re missing out on something delicious.

I wish you peace on this journey…the peace that comes from living fully present.

Namaste.