No Photos, Please

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Postaday prompt: Can’t Stand Me – What do you find more unbearable: watching a video of yourself, or listening to a recording of your voice? Why?

Having had my own weekly radio show I adapted to the sound of my own voice rather quickly. I am often complimented on my calming tone when I teach yoga, and in general, and so I accept that my voice is ‘nice.’

Seeing myself on video holds more of a charge. For me it’s my posture sometimes, although that has improved greatly since committing to a regular yoga practice, mostly it’s a reminder that the outside packaging still does not match the inner spirit. There’s still work to do.

I have couched my soul in its journey long enough. I have hidden my heart’s true desires behind protective layers of fat that require further protection and hiding from boxy, loose clothing. Mostly now I’m comfortable in my own body. I feel when it’s off, when it needs to lose a few pounds – like now – and I feel when it’s in optimal condition. It’s familiar and comfortable, we’ve been together a long time.

Then I see it. Caught at a weird angle in a photo or moving in a video and I think, ‘Who is that?’ I don’t think it’s ego or even an unrealistic idea of what I should look like. I think it’s that my spirit is so young and playful, ready to travel, ready to go, ready to try new things. It’s an athlete and a daredevil. What it’s encased in betrays all of that.

The outer shell is soft, a little too round, hiding muscles and litheness beneath. It could be sitting on a park bench feeding squirrels perfectly content, when the inner me is on its way to zipline or snorkel or catch a plane to an exotic location.

I’ve been doing a lot of work with myself and a formidable group of women on letting go of image, but the truth is, it’s a part of our culture and therefore our DNA. We have to come to terms with it rather than ignore it or sweep it under the rug.

In doing this work, this little social experiment, I have discovered that those with the “best” bodies are hardest on themselves. There is one woman who is heavier in the hips and thighs with a perfectly flat stomach and beautifully shaped arms and she wishes for thinner hips. I can’t imagine her any other way. She is perfect for her. Another is dismayed by her inability to gain weight, when what I see is the best physical expression of the woman beneath the skin.

I have become quite adept at seeing what each individual is supposed to look like. What their best most natural weight is supposed to be. And so many people are already there, struggling for someone else’s version of perfection. For some it’s carrying a little weight, for others nearly bone thin works best.

For myself a couple sizes smaller, not thin. Healthy, sporty even, or dare I say, pleasantly average. Then, I will be ready for my close-up.

 

21 Day Body Love Challenge – Watch Your Back

woman back

I don’t have a lot to say about my back. It’s strong, lightly decorated and it likes to stretch and twist. Just for fun we’ll throw shoulders into the mix. They’re more talkative than the back.

When I was in high school I was on the drill team. As such, I was required to go to band camp – yes it’s true. It was a blast! I can still recall the overwhelming minty scent of Ben Gay. As dancers and flag wavers our part in camp was extremely physical. We worked out, stretched and held positions a long time.

Part of our training was standing still. Easy now, not so much at 16 and 17, there was just so much to gossip about, who had time to stand still? I vividly recall taking the position of a statue with a flag in a long line of girls doing the same. I was holding a rather large, but not too heavy, flag, right in front of my nose, looking past it. My hands were neatly stacked, elbows out. I looked like a Marine, in cute white cowboy boots.

Heat began to build in my shoulders, then my back. I couldn’t move. It felt like hours, but I’m sure was just a few moments. My back was telling me all sorts of stories, hatching escape plans, getting more and more pissed off. Finally it broke me. Internally shaking with an unfamiliar rage, a single tear slid from eyes, down my cheek. I would not crack.

Another tear followed. I was in excruciating pain and had no idea why. I was just standing. I couldn’t take it anymore. I telepathically begged one of the drill sergeants to either let us out of this pose or notice my obvious distress and offer me his kind words. For the record, drill sergeants cannot be reached telepathically.

We were finally released. Once I let go of the flag or even moved it, the stress was gone. And along with it the pain, but I was worried I would have to endure this again and surely that would not be fair. I spoke to someone who was very sympathetic and told me that if I didn’t think I could handle being a Colonialette, there were other girls who could.

I soldiered on and made it through with just a tear or two more and a seething distaste for authority.

Back home, I suggested to my mother that I might be dying and she should take me to the doctor for extensive tests. She complied. There was nothing. Nothing visible on an x-ray or through a thorough examination. But my doctor was clever, he knew not all ailments, real or perceived, had their origins in the body. He asked a few questions about my life. Everything was fine, I said. No worries at school or with friends, I said. Parents are a mess and maybe splitting up, but that’s normal, I said. Now he had something to work with.

Whatever stress I was feeling because of my crumbling home life was showing up in my body. It could have popped up anywhere, it just happened to have the opportunity to build in my shoulders and back.

To this day, I have a spot in the center of my back, right behind my heart that holds emotional tension. It presents itself as a muscle spasm or a shortness of breath. Sometimes when I’m talking I can barely finish a sentence because I have run out of air. When I twist and stretch it releases. When I twist and stretch everyday it’s gone. For the time being.

I have long come to terms with the fate of my parents. As the oldest of two, much older, nearly 9 years, I had to carry the weight of the situation. My mother, who had always been a little meek, beaten down I suspect by years of being the butt of sarcastic, biting humor from my father, wanted to leave but felt powerless to do so. I encouraged her. I was 16. This is not an ideal place for a teenager to find herself. So I stored anything I was unable to deal with at the time in my body.

We all do this. Emotions get stored.

As much as I sometimes fight my yoga practice, preferring instead to think about, and talk about, and write about yoga; it is the one thing that moves the cells around just enough so that one or two at a time can fall to the floor. It takes me out of my head and into my body so that I can clear the emotional debris, which, are you listening, clears the mental cobwebs, allowing me more quality playtime in my head! It’s a win-win for the whole package.

I guess I had more to say about my back than I thought. Funny thing, writing, sometimes just scribbling out a word or two opens doors that have been left ajar for a long time.

The moral of the story? Watch your back. And your hips. And your shoulders. Watch your body parts, some of that “pain” is emotional. Bank on it. Oh, yeah, and do some yoga!

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” – Maya Angelou

 

21 Day Body Love Challenge

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I love my body. Everything about it. When was the last time you said, thought or heard another WOMAN say that about themselves? To be fair, self-loathing isn’t exclusively a female sport, but we certainly hold all the ribbons.

In recent months I have seen many responses to the model thin body. There are documentaries coming out and seeking funding that celebrate the female form, whatever shape that form has taken. There are rebuttals to perfection in blogs, rants on Twitter and even infomercials on the beauty of “regular” women.

The director/producer of the documentary on women’s bodies, seeking funding, went out on the streets and queried over 100 women in all shapes and sizes and when asked how they would describe their bodies the most common response was, “disgusting.”

This makes me very sad.

My body is flawed, much of it my own doing or not doing. I have scars, stretch marks, cellulite, wrinkles and sagging in new places every day. I have hated various parts of my body but that didn’t make things any easier. I have loved parts of my body to firmness and thinness, but that was fleeting when my love of Christmas cookies trumped my affection for thin thighs.

In part I think my argument with my body is not the shape so much as the knowledge that I am not doing all I could to improve my shape. I eat chocolate, drink wine and don’t move nearly as much as I plan. But still I have to reconcile myself with this physical form that houses the me that thinks, talks and sees things uniquely. So much emphasis is placed on being different, why has none of that been applied to the female form?

Now I find myself in a place of the compassionate observer, mostly.  There is still much I’d like to change about this meat suit gifted to me, but maybe I’m not supposed to. Perhaps this body, just like this, is here to teach me and others something. What if this body is the vehicle that will take me to the super-consciousness highway and where along the way I can pick up a few hitchhikers?

If I am truly God in disguise, then perhaps it is my mission to love the wrapping, love the cover of the book so that it can be opened and what’s inside can be read.

You are God in disguise or Divine consciousness in disguise or the Universe made manifest, or a dog in human clothing. I don’t care how you choose to look at it, what words you use, what belief system you have, you must just know that you are perfect and a reflection of divinity.

For the next 21 days I am going to explore this gift that has allowed me to travel, make a baby, snuggle my kitties and puppies, do yoga, dance my ass off, swim competitively and stumble and get back up. I am going to call out the Divine cells, one at a time until we are all on the same page. I will work with one piece of the puzzle at a time starting with my foundation – my feet, and ending with my salvation – my heart.

Care to join me?

Use it or lose it; your life that is.

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The other day as a friend and I were chatting, she began to tell me about her sister. They had grown up in the mid-west and her sister chose to stay there. She had picked the wrong man, stayed with him too long and had two kids in the process. She had taken a job in a factory and worked there for many years to support her children after she divorced this wrong man. She was remarried now to a nice enough guy and she was, you know, just making her way through life.

Those last six words hit me like an arrow to the heart. “Just making her way through life.” I don’t think this is why we’re here. Any of us. We all have days or even weeks we’re just trying to get through, but there are people who LIVE there.

How can that be?

Everyday I hear someone say, “I hate my job. If I could just win the lottery, I’d be set.” But that’s not true. They have chosen to play small. They probably don’t realize it, they’re held down or back by fears that aren’t even theirs. Someone in their past taught them that the responsible thing to do was to provide for their family, create security and do good work. That’s all true, but they likely framed it in such a way that meant, it doesn’t matter what your calling is, what you’re drawn to, what lights your soul on fire, there’s plenty of time for that after the life-leaching world of punch clocks and pensions.

But that’s not true either.

Every time we engage in something against our authentic selves we lose a little life force. There may be time after work, after retirement, but the spark is gone, the energy depleted. If you feel it now, now is the time.

I think this goes beyond perspective, beyond belief systems. If you feel, ever, that you’re meant for more than whatever you’re doing, and you don’t act on it, you are living out of alignment. You are ignoring your higher self. And she will come back over and over again, eventually with a vengeance until finally she either gives up, withers and dies or you have no choice but to listen.

Catch the whisper, follow the thread, see where it goes. You can do this AND have a job. For now. Maybe you’re calling is something you can do right now in your present situation. Maybe it’s outside that box. Only you can know. That’s between you and her.

I once asked a friend who was working really hard at conceiving a child, why she wanted children. She looked at me dumbfounded. It wasn’t a judgment or challenge and she didn’t take it that way, she had just never thought about why. So let me ask you this: Why, then, do you want to live? We spend millions of dollars keeping ourselves alive for what? Because we’re afraid to die?

A fear of death is simply a fear of a life unlived.

No one sits around aspiring to just exist. Marking time as if time served gets us a gold star on some universal report card.

Consider that this life was given to you, entrusted to you. Your job is to use it. How, is up to you. Maybe it’s to be a great parent, supporting and encouraging your children to become the very best, useful versions of themselves. Maybe you’re to save the lives of others through medicine, psychology or just plain old love. Maybe you are to discover the mysteries of the universe, the secrets of history or the exact location of the g-spot.

Your main purpose, I suspect is to love and uplift others. The good news here is that you can be short, tall, skinny, fat, blind, deaf, physically or mentally challenged. You can begin right now, even with your current job or situation. Your work then is to find that thing that cracks open the shell of fear gripping your heart and lets just enough light in to remind you that your only real job is to be you and you ARE love.

This is not some fancy notion. And you don’t have to walk around with a beatific smile, donning long robes, gliding a few inches above the floor. Although that could be fun. You can be sarcastic. You can swear. You can eat too much chocolate. You can smile at a stranger. You can paint. You can write. You can applaud a friend’s successes and hold the hand of a dying loved one.

Know that the organization of your cells is uniquely yours. Own that. No one else can do things exactly the way you can. And. You. Are. Needed.

You are necessary.

We need you to use your life. Declare yourself an agent for change. Even if it’s just a change in your perspective. Forget talking about people or even events, discuss the big ideas, consciousness, unconditional love, compassion, or as Marianne Williamson has suggested, “loving the world back to health.”

Don’t just exist, that’s easy. You were made special, beyond existing. You were made to love.

[Photo: The butterfly represents transformation. I believe they are so abundant because we need this constant reminder that we can transform our lives or our perspective at any time, with each breath. Look down, are you on the right path?]

Look What I Can Do

me on ringsIt appears the treadmill is a good teacher and the second best place for aha moments – the first being “the chamber of insight” or as you may know it, the shower.

Walking has always been a head-clearer for me. If I’m walking in my neighborhood I don’t wear headphones, I like the sounds of birds, children, cars and the wind. When I’m at the gym, I’m definitely plugged in. And the music is loud. It propels me forward, because lets face it, the History channel, reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Fox News just don’t really inspire me to break a sweat.

As my heart rate is rising and The Black Eyed Peas are encouraging me to pump it pump it, my mind is free to wander. Have you ever thought about how amazing that is? How we are able to do one thing, think another, look at something that has nothing to do with the first two and be aware that we are witnessing all of it? Pretty special, we are.

The most recent treadmill insight came as a nice energetic head slap. Don’t you just love it when you think you are a certain way, you are sure of it, you know yourself, then the tiniest thing flips everything upside down? You begin to question everything you believe to be true about yourself. Or at least I do.

I honestly believed that I no longer cared what others thought of me. Right? We all have that inner diva who still wants attention on some level. I noticed that as I was pumping away on the treadmill I couldn’t help but let my eyes wander to the heavy sweater next to me. At what speed was his treadmill set? Was I faster? Did he notice? Look, I’m faster. And I’ve been on here longer.

Out of left field. I wanted him – a random, middle-aged, slightly chubby man – to be impressed by my speed. Ignoring the fact that there were at least 10 people actually running that were way more impressive. I have no idea what this guy even looks like. I don’t know his story. I didn’t care. Did he notice and was he impressed?

Wow.

Of course I let that realization ping all over my frenetic mind coming up with all sorts of conclusions and ridiculous speculation. Who was I now, if not the strong, confident woman who didn’t care what others thought? But the fact remained that, of course I care what people think of me. It’s the human condition. If we don’t care what they think we look like, we want them to think we are smart or funny or have some other unique skill or trait that makes us completely unique.

The way we dress, talk, spend our money and our time all tell others something about us. This does not necessarily make us narcissistic, but human. How we look, what we say and how we say it is how we find each other. It’s how we relate.

The less we get caught up in the story we’re trying to convey to the world, the more likely we are to find those whose energy is a match for our own. Trying hard to convince others we are a certain way covers our authenticity and creates false impressions. The more we relax with who we are, the more peace we have. The more our true selves and authentic uniqueness can shine.

Dropping the masks and facades takes time. Lots of time and lots of practice.

For me, the realization was helpful. In truth, they all are, some are just harder to swallow. It showed me there is much work to be done. Continuing to let go through practices like yoga nidra, yoga and meditation. Continuing to be aware of these realizations and allowing space for them.

And apparently continuing to use the treadmill. At any speed.

Future Self

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It was sometime during the afternoon yesterday that I met my future self. Not the perfect, slim, wrinkle-free, jet-setting, rich one of my over-fertile imagination. I met the settled, comfortable in her own skin, deep smile lined, glowing with a secret, one. I much prefer her. She’s the type of person I’d like to have coffee with. She was in a word: Enchanting.

She told me a million magical things in the nanosecond she was before me. It was all familiar. I already knew it all, I had simply forgotten.

I had forgotten that the weight of the world does not depend on the tiny little decisions I make every day. That my path was strong, that I knew the way and it was okay to deviate and explore because all roads led back to that path. That I am beautiful beyond measure, not because my eyes are blue, not because I have expensive shoes but because in spite of those things there’s a radiance that, if I let it out, cannot be articulated or seen, only felt.

She reminded me that all people are made of energy so we are each the same. At times we take the energy of another; at times we give our energy to those in need and when we meet someone we resonate with on the same frequency we are shown our own magnificence and we are duty bound to recognize it. To deny one’s gifts depletes one’s energy. Embrace that which makes you shine.

Above all she reminded me to stop struggling. Allow the pendulum to rest. Bask in just being. Allow the world to enchant me. If I wait patiently a dragonfly will land on my dress, the wind will blow.

And finally she shared her deepest, fiercest, unconditional love for me, for where I am, for who I am and for who I would become. She reminded me that she is me. That without love for myself, unconditional love, it is impossible to love another unconditionally. It can be no other way.

To recall her, what she looked like, would be a struggle, but her light was undeniable. My light. She was probably somewhere in her mid to late seventies. I was. But it was not her age or any identifiable features she wanted to share with me. Her message clear.

All I have to do to get there, is be here.

21 Day Challenge – Day 16 – Catch of the Day

trees 2 IMG_1991This 21 Day Challenge is revealing to me my non-negotiables. Those things that I will not only fit in, but make a priority.

At the beginning of these 21 days I was consumed with my task list, at the expense of almost everything else. It was a good lesson. All the other priorities that previously took precedence over me – work, cleaning, grocery shopping – still got done. I managed to fit them in around the new non-negotiables.

It had to happen that way. I could not have reorganized my priorities with pen and paper, I had to live them. I had to take this concept from my head into my body. There was no other way.

While at the gym today I recognized that this challenge, the yoga and the gym especially, is for my mind and my spirit way more than it is for my body. My body is both the problem and the solution.

I have come to see the body as something like a net. Little things that may be annoying or wonderful pass through the net every day. We may notice them, but we can easily let them go and allow them to flow right through us. The bigger things get caught. The argument with a loved one, an illness in the family, a lost job or a job with which we are completely misaligned. The heavy things stick. We have to acknowledge them and break them down into little pieces that can pass through.

But that doesn’t always happen.

These bigger things are stressors, they pull on the ropes, dragging us down. They web up the net making it more and more difficult for even the little things to pass through, so now a hangnail or burnt toast is a stressor.

Some ice cream or wine will put a nice coat on it, softening it so momentarily it takes on a different shape, tricking us into believing we have freed the stress from the net. But we haven’t.

It is clogged, we are heavy – sometimes literally, sometimes energetically – but it feels the same. We drag, we sit too long, wonder too much at how to fix it or change it. We ignore it, maybe it’s not that bad.

If we’re really lucky, or maybe secretly smart, we take a yoga class. Or we go for a walk. Or we have to run to catch up to someone. And something shifts. We feel it now, the weight of the stress, every single molecule glomming up the net, hanging like seaweed and noodles, stuck like wet bread coated with grease.

We know now we did this. Simultaneously we know we can undo it. There’s another class, another walk and pieces of stress begin to dry up and drop off. We leave a trail of energetic waste behind us on each step we consciously take.

For a moment we consider what exactly all this is. What events or people caused this? Then we know it does not matter. Because we are the common denominator. We caused this. We allowed this. This was all accumulated with our permission.

So now we have choices. We can be the net clear of debris for all situations to pass through without reaction, without holding on, or we can continue to collect stories to prove our point and hold us back.

Because it is the mind that got us into this trouble, it is best to leave the mind out of the solution. Get into the body. Move. As we move deliberately with intention there is a lightness of spirit that returns. The net begins to clear.

More tension falls away. Maybe we cry in our yoga class. We don’t know why, nothing is sad. Stored emotions are the detritus that clings to our energy field bogging it down and as we begin to move, we release. It may happen during a run or during a commercial for coffee. It’s all okay. It’s all necessary. We cannot think our way out of this.

Take it to the body. The body is the tool to relax the mind and energize the spirit. What an amazing combination. Relaxed energy.

It is from here we can begin to see clearly.

[Photo: Can’t see the forest for the trees.]

21 Day Challenge – Day 11 – Midway Tricks and Treats

Halloween IMG_1876As I reach the halfway point of my challenge I am assessing my progress and looking forward to what I may want to add in.

Thus far my performance has been stellar. I have met all of my daily challenges except for one. Doing yoga ndira twice a day, every day, was perhaps a bit ambitious. I have forgiven myself. What I have learned is there is a best time of the day for me to do yoga nidra and so I am committing to that time each day. The yoga, gym, writing and photography have been a cinch and alcohol hasn’t even registered as a miss.

Once I complete this first 21 days I’m considering adding some new tools to my enchanted life toolbox. The yoga, yoga nidra and gym are keepers. Writing and photography are a passion and part of a much bigger plan so I don’t think I’ll give that up. The wine? We’ll see where that goes. I still have 10 days on my current plan so I won’t be adding anything quite yet, but I am considering what could enhance my magic making even more.

I have decided to look at food. I know, looking at my relationship to food on Halloween is like being at a romance film festival on Valentine’s Day alone. But all this sugar has me thinking – and hyper.

I have a love hate relationship with sugar. I love it. It hates me. Oh, it says it loves me, sweet talking me into believing it will treat me right but I can see right through its foil wrapper. Those are empty calories mister.

But every now and then it’s hard to resist. Sugar doesn’t act alone, he’s just the front man for a much bigger gang of carbohydrates.

I’ve been on this ride before. I got so serious about food that I became a Holistic Health Coach. I know a lot about food, dietary theories, exercise, physiology and the disease process. I studied the Blood Type Diet, Ayurveda, Veganism, Vegetarianism and Raw food. I know food.

I became obsessed and rigid with food, denying myself so much that I naturally swung the opposite direction in reaction – why can’t I have what I want when I want it? The answer to that question, unfortunately, is all over my hips.

So now I seek the middle ground. What will support my ultimate intention and goals?

As food has not been a direct part of this challenge I have not created any restrictions but I have paid attention. I’ve made good choices. But I can do more. And sometimes less.

If I am eating loads of veggies and fruits, very little grain, very little animal product, no dairy and next to no sugar aside from what lives naturally in fruit, I feel fantastic. If on the other hand I shovel candy, coffee with heavy cream, lunch meat and starchy foods in my face on a regular basis – not so fantastic. I believe this is probably true for most people. Why do we go back to the foods that do not serve our magical selves?

It doesn’t happen all at once, things just creep back in. The mind begins to convince us that we deserve a treat. That’s a trick. (See what I did there?) We don’t deserve sugar, potato chips, soda and deep dish pizza, we deserve to feel amazing.

Eating too much of anything, but especially too much sugar, is like putting a wet blanket over the inner fire. It dulls the brightness, causing that perky flame inside to sit on the couch and put its feet up for a while with one hand tucked in its waistband and the remote control in the other.

Food is a huge part of the healthy, enchanted lifestyle I seek. I’ll begin the investigation and self-inquiry into the foods that are the most supportive for my energy level and shininess. Again, not to be a size zero. Who really wants to be a zero anyway? But to stay clear, focused and feel alive and vibrant. To keep the creative juices flowing and the energy level high.

The bottom line, I want to treat my body like the gift it is, like a temple. Not a haunted house.

[Photo: Playing around with some indoor photography. A touch of Halloween.]

21 Day Challenge – Day 10 – Ebb and Flow

crow IMG_1821Today I woke up a little cranky. I’m not sure why this happens but on occasion it does. I recognize it and do what I can to love my crankiness back to cheerfulness.

I have learned over the years to sit with the feelings I am having as I am having them. Feel them for awhile, then if they are telling me nothing useful I dismiss them by looking for something that can bring me back to the present moment and to an appreciation and gratitude for Right Now. A bird, my dog, the wind. It’s often nature.

I have noticed that Wednesdays pose a particular challenge for me. There is a definite ebb and flow to my week. This is acutely obvious when I am home – not traveling – and when I am working on a big project. Wednesday is that silence between the waves when everything is suspended for just a breath before a set crashes to shore. It’s the prolonged ebb. Slow, lazy,outgoing ocean.

Wednesdays for me are the soaking point. Water has been poured on my energy since Sunday. It starts as an energizing spritz on the face. Monday I am cleansed with a refreshing shower, energized and ready to go, by Tuesday I am beginning to prune a little and by Wednesday I am covered in  towels soaked with rainwater in a downpour. Luckily the sun begins to dry things up a bit on Thursday, by Friday I am shiny clean and Saturday is nothing but blue skies.

The gift of a life examined while living it is catching the gentle dips and rises in energy. Recognizing not every moment of every day is going to be AWESOME! Realizing that there is always work to do if we are to live fully. Work is service – even if you get paid for it; especially if you don’t.  And sometimes service feels heavy.

What am I to do with this information, this recognition now? I could do nothing. I could force a smile on my face and keep going. Or, likely I will honor this rhythm I have identified as my own and plan accordingly. I will not hibernate on the wet days, I’ll simply allow for them.

It is in the ebb the ocean builds its power. Necessary and natural.

[Photo: Do crows know when it’s Halloween or do we just notice them more then?]