21 Day Body Love Challenge – Sticking My Neck Out

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Audrey Hepburn. She had the perfect neck according to my father. Before you get the wrong idea about dear old dad and his preferences for certain body parts, I should disclose that he was a pretty amazing artist. Trained at the Philadelphia Museum School before graduating from Penn, he took his talent and created a business out of art. We know it now as graphic design, but back in the day he would do actual oil painting portraits of sports figures and business professionals to be used in marketing materials that he would also create. So his interest in anatomy was based on his love of the human form. Mostly.

The neck. Before I had heard my father wax poetically about Audrey Hepburn’s swanlike neck, I had never given my own a second thought. It was the bridge between my head and all that other stuff. It helped me look up and down and side to side. After I understood what he was talking about I became obsessed with comparing everyone’s neck to my own. My mother had a nice long neck, no doubt what attracted my father to her, so I assumed my chances of neck approval were pretty high. Ultimately I ended up just shy of long and graceful and got something more like good enough and sturdy.

As I age I appreciate my neck more and more. It’s very flexible, even if it’s a little stiff upon waking. Years of yoga have created a great deal of mobility and space. I love that I can easily look over my shoulder, something I took for granted until I saw my own mother contort her entire upper body to look behind her.

However, like my mother, my face seems to be slipping into my neck. Hers went fast, mudslide fast. One day she had a beautiful long neck, the next, there was skin draping from her chin to her throat. I was horrified that this fate would befall me as well. I have watched my own face very carefully. It’s happening but the descent seems to be much more gradual allowing me time to adjust along the way.

What I do have are these little tabs (I refuse to call them jowls) that dip down a little on my jaw line. I’m going to blame my great grandparents for over-pinching my cheeks as a child. They were pretty irresistible. I have found that if I smile, they go away, they get pulled back up into my cheeks. So smiling has become my anti-aging salve. I do it as often as I can, mostly it’s not too creepy.

No matter how long or short or loose or firm the neck is, it holds a tantalizing secret. Located at the nape of the neck is a magical little erogenous zone. When activated by something as simple as the breath of a lover, goose bumps shoot to the surface and knees buckle. To quote a friend, “Never underestimate the power of a kiss on the back of the neck.” Swoon.

We can’t talk about the neck without talking about the throat, because we can’t talk at all without the throat. The neck and the throat together make up the throat chakra. This would also include the thyroid gland. For many women this is a problem area, all of it. When the throat chakra is blocked, which happens mostly because we feel we cannot speak our truth, issues arise.

It’s been difficult for our species – goddess – to own our voices and reclaim our power. We have been riding a roller coaster for centuries, secretly harnessing our own power but never fully understanding how to express it. It can be a precarious line to cross. Fear of being misunderstood or worse, of not being heard at all, often stops us from even exploring the edges of our personal power.

Sing, chant, hum, begin to flex the goddess muscles so that your truth can emerge. So that you can speak from your heart about all that matters to you. So that you can liberate yourself from your own fears. It’s a practice and it’s not always easy, but once developed, you will know no other way of being.

There is no part of the body that is non-essential, but the throat has the ability to change entire worlds with a single sentence. If you find yourself locked in a world that does not resonate with you, the voice is often the key.

“A short neck denotes a good mind. You see, the messages go quicker to the brain because they’ve shorter to go.” Dame Muriel Sarah

[The photo is not Audrey Hepburn (obviously), but my own mother circa 1968.]

21 Day Challenge – Day 9 – Non-negotiable

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It’s amazing what happens when you point yourself in a direction with intention and conviction. It’s not that things become easier or that you muscle through them, they just happen. Without having to “think” about options, the healthiest one is just naturally chosen.

I remember talking to a friend recently who was lamenting about his lack of time to do the things he really loved. Among those things were going to the gym, mountain biking, surfing and playing the guitar. He wants to start eating healthier and juicing. He’s been inside, working several jobs to provide for his family and get some financial traction.

He let go of all the things that support his true Self, that make him come alive.

He commented on some of the podcast heroes he listens to. “They’re working out at 4:30 AM. Everyday. Seven days a week. They have all this energy.” One does beget the other. Commitment + exercise + eating healthfully = Energy. And generally the equation stacks up exactly like that. Commitment must come first.

The commitment is not to the exercise and eating healthfully, it is to the result of doing that. Exercise and a good diet is just the stuff you do, not the goal itself. If the goal is to lose weight and get healthy that will only take you so far. It’s not a sustainable plan. There must be a bigger return on your investment. That would be the energy and attitude to accomplish, what? That’s up to each individual.

We all know these 4:30 AM people. We’re in awe of them and wish we could figure how they do it.  It’s not that they don’t have children or a crazy schedule or a ton of responsibility. It’s likely the contrary.   So what sets them apart from us? Their health and energy are non-negotiable. They won’t sleep in because they stayed up too late, The rarely have that extra round of drinks, if they imbibe at all. They’d rather their own stomach lining eat itself before going to a fast food restaurant, of any kind.

They’ve figured it out. It’s not a secret. It’s not even a mystery. It’s well-known and well documented. It’s a choice. They’ve made a conscious, cognizant choice to live their best life. Their enchanted life. Why would anyone settle for anything less? Why indeed.

I have been in optimal health before. I am pretty healthy now. But I let go of the early morning workouts if I don’t sleep well, putting them off until later, which usually translates to never – or at least not that day. Same goes for food. I’ll eat this little bit of chocolate but then I’ll stay on the treadmill an extra 15 minutes tomorrow. I’ve been working really hard, a glass of wine won’t hurt – or two. I’ll put off the project, the planning, the fill in the blank until I have a little more energy to focus.

I negotiate. I justify.

I am negotiating away my power. My valuable time. When I put things off I cannot enjoy the present moment. My energy is now divided between what I am doing – which is an important task like filing paperwork or vacuuming my car – and finishing the energetically heavy task that would allow me the freedom and time to do something creative.

When I do yoga everyday, go to the gym or for a nice long walk, and do yoga nidra, as I have been for 9 days now, I feel energized and alive. And this energy empowers me to make additional positive decisions for myself.  Do the hard thing first, watch less TV, spend more time on creativity, drink more water. It’s as if the flame has been turned up just enough to illuminate the other menu. The one I can’t see or comprehend when deep in sloth and debauchery.

Who is it I am negotiating with anyway? My ego? My evil twin? (I am a Gemini.) My inner sloth? If I am negotiating with a sloth and it wins that’s not saying a whole lot about my personal power. I mean, come on, have you seen a sloth move?

Like attracts like. If I am feeling good and energized and moving in a direction physically, spiritually, emotionally and professionally that looks at least interesting if not down right magical why would I do anything to jeopardize that? Right now I wouldn’t. And every day I say, right now I wouldn’t I reclaim a little bit more power.

I believe it takes a  while to get the non-negotiable rooted cellularly, but until it is I will do my best to place the sloth on the couch with some tasty leaves, put Madagascar on and go to my mat.

[Photo: While leaving a private yoga client’s home this morning I passed two horses in a nearby yard. One was asking me to come pet him while this guy was very involved in getting some sort of snack out of the tree. Side note: Horse represents power in the Native American culture.]