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.

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.

  
 

 

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.)

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.

Take the First Step…

There’s a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that I love. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Lately, I’m finding staircases all around. At least I am seeing the first steps…

I realize that not choosing to take those first steps is a disservice. When I choose not to step out in faith, I am saying to the universe and the powers that be that I believe I know best. How arrogant of me! I ask for opportunities to grow and become the person I am supposed to be, but when I sit in fear, what am I really saying? I’m not acting from a space of gratitude for those opportunities. I am instead shrinking from the responsibilities placed
upon me to do the work.

So, I sit here today, putting out this message so that it is clear: I am taking the first steps. I do not need to see the whole staircase. I trust it is there.

I have many chances being given, so it is with excitement and gratitude that I will accept them all. I will have no expectation other than they are the gifts I have asked for.

So, reader, do you dare join me on the staircase? I would rather fall down the stairs than to never attempt the journey. I hope you find the space to believe that yourself.

What frightens you? I am choosing to think that I cannot fail…so guess
what? I cannot. Neither can you.

Shanti.

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.

The Ten Commandments…in Yoga???

The first time I learned about ASTEYA and the concept of non-stealing, my Catholic-school educated brain went PING!  Thou shalt not steal~I got this.  Wrong.  I got part of it.  We all know (hopefully) that we should not take what is not ours.  But that’s where my knowledge of non-stealing ended.

Let’s add some layers…this is where it gets murky and uncomfortable, so consider yourself  duly warned.  What about that book you borrowed from your neighbor last month?  Did you return it after you finished with it or do you even know where it is? Asteya is the not returning of said book.  Unintentional more than likely, but lacking in mindfulness.

My personal favorite aspect of this yama about non-stealing concerns attention seeking.  If someone does not give us the attention we believe we deserve, how do we handle that?  Are there temper tantrums, pouting, retaliation?  Do we get angry and source drama to feed what we think we need?  All good, relevant questions.  And should we have to steal someone else’s valuable time?  What lies at the root?  Insecurity, loneliness, jealousy?  We have to address these issues ourselves…that doesn’t belong to anyone else.

Rolf Gates’ book MEDITATIONS FROM THE MAT also goes into even further detail.  His discussion of asteya on days 31 through 33 points out that stealing is also a manifestation of a lack of faith that we will have what we need, that the universe will provide.  Doesn’t it always?  This yama calls us to step out in faith and to stop clutching.

Lots of thoughts about this one…it is one of my constant battles.  That said, I’m gathering library books and looking around to see  if there’s anything else I need to return.  Let the practice begin.

Namaste.