Sex, Drugs and Lots of Food

me on the gator

The photo purge continues. It may, in fact, never end. It’s part trip down memory lane and part making up stories of the lives of relatives I have never met.

While the story making up is endlessly entertaining, at least to me, the personal history part is the most informative.

As I look at photos of myself over the past thirty-some years, I notice one thing: I have never really been thin. As an adult, beyond college, I have always carried more weight than was necessary. And more than I wanted.

Oddly, this is a revelation. I mean, I kind of knew I wasn’t my ideal weight, but what surprises me the most is this: Since somewhere in my twenties, until this very moment that my fingers are striking these letters to make these sentences, I have been trying to get back to ‘that weight’. What weight? I made it all up. Somewhere in my memory I have constructed the perfect sized adult me. She’s about a size 8, not too thin, but not heavy. She’s athletic-ish, maybe she dances or hikes a lot. Her clothes are awesome, pretty simple but well-fitting and not boxy and concealing. Her movements are smooth, her way easy. And she is a figment of my imagination.

I may as well be making up stories about the photos of me.

There is a girl, about 14, that is very thin with legs that appear long and lithe, but that was clearly a growth spurt and before she understood what was really happening at home. Before she started eating her feelings and building her protective coating of fat.

This is not to blame my parents, but I kinda blame my parents.

At 15 I decided I was obese, about 130 lbs. – actually probably my perfect weight, maybe even a little thin for my age and body structure now – and I wanted to go to Weight Watchers. My mother agreed immediately. At least that’s how I remember it.

When I was combing my memories a number of years ago I pinned this whole unhealthy obsession with food and diets on my father. He liked thin women, it was known. So I was going to do that, get thin. I’d get his attention and love that way. (He did not, not love me, he was just one of those dads that preferred alcohol to emotion. Or daughters). Then after processing that, and resenting him for a few years, a light bulb went off. Wait a minute, I thought… Why did my mother agree so quickly to Weight Watchers? (I was the youngest one there, by the way, and the only one who could not drive herself.) It occurred to me that she could have questioned my motives or told me I was perfect the way I was. Isn’t that what parents are supposed to do? But she just packed me into the car and sent me in with enough cash to cover the meeting fee each week.

There’s way too much neurosis on everyone’s part to tease that riddle apart here, but suffice it to say that some damaging seeds were planted that got watered with unrelenting rains a year later when our family unit began to dissolve in angry and quiet ways.

The blame crown was now hers to wear for a while. But it really wasn’t her fault either.

My father, just out of reach emotionally, treated my mother like a doormat. He was condescending and rude at best, verbally abusive at worst. He never hit her, instead he withheld, brooded and shot the house full of threat without saying a word. There was never any reason to fear him, yet we all understood we were to be worried.

In the years between Weight Watchers and going off to college my mother surreptitiously planned her escape. She had been hiding a few meaningful things at a neighbor’s house, squirreled away some money and not so elegantly taken up with a friend’s husband. All the adults seemed to know. I was confused but understood what was at work on some level.

Aside from the affair thing I had encouraged her to leave my father.

At this point my weight was normal. Not healthy necessarily. For a while there I subsisted on an apple and a pint of milk a day. Period. Until grandma came for Christmas and baked her way into my heart and back onto my thighs.

I had firmly researched and implemented all sorts of self-inflicting shaming practices. I was not as thin as my mother and if my parent’s relationship was falling apart, then why should I bother becoming that perfect specimen of thinness? Crazy, right? But somehow this must be the thinking that coalesced and dropped even more seeds into my already tattered psyche.

I left for school when I was 19, opting for community college for that first year so I could continue to spend time with my boyfriend who was a year behind me. Even so, we opted for different universities that would cause us to be apart. He went south to the tidewater area of Virginia, I went one state further to East Carolina University.

As my tires crossed from Virginia into North Carolina I somehow knew I would never go home again. Not to any home I had known.

I immediately pledged a sorority. It was a calculated move – instant friends and a plethora of parties. Distraction became my medication. Food, alcohol, a few other unsavory, but very fun at the time, substances and sex all kept me even somehow.

Then mom came to visit and announced she was marrying her friend’s husband.

After that I gradually lost interest in the school part of school and engaged fully in extracurricular fun. I did play a few intramural sports, miniature golf (I know) and soccer, but otherwise the fun was centered around dark hours.

There’s so much more between then and now, but it seems this period defined so much of what would follow.

The weight and the desire to control everything around me didn’t fully manifest until I moved home from school and had to ask permission to stay somewhere with my mother or father. It was at this time I concluded that I was the only one who could take care of me and so I did. I stayed with my mother for less than a month, felt like a stranger in someone else’s house – because it was someone else’s house – and moved in with a new friend.

The coping mechanisms I had employed during college were still readily available and close at hand. I am fortunate to not have an addictive personality (whatever that truly means) so I never held onto any of the panaceas for long. Except food. I struggled forever to control food. Always failing, it seemed. Sometimes winning, but not for a sustained period of time.

The food struggle continues, but it has been channeled in a healthier way, through education. But it’s still at the top of my brain almost always.

I am not unhappy in my current state. There is some tension between where I am and where I would like to be, but the chasm is small and there is very little stress in that tension. And now with this new information that there’s not really an ideal me to return to, I can relax and realize that as I am is just fine, maybe even perfect. This does not mean I will not continue to engage in healthy practices or even push a little harder, but that fantasy ideal?

It’s gone.

21 Day Challenge – Day 17 – Poster Child

BS006

I have a great friend I share a cup of coffee with every other week or so. We chat about yoga, life, travel, everything.

This week we talked about the gym, because for some reason I am obsessed.  I have belonged to gyms since high school, why I’m just falling in love now I don’t know.

Anyhoo. We both agreed that we feel great when we work out, that cardio lifts our spirits and energizes us. So naturally after a period of euphoria we just stop going.  We both had gym stories to share; silliness on some of the machines, punching ourselves in the face by using the weights incorrectly, not being able to walk properly after a prolonged period on the elliptical. It was great fun.

This friend has had gastric bypass surgery, is working the plan and doing great, but still has a considerable amount of weight to lose. I could drop a few sizes and some poundage. So, when over our first pumpkin spiced lattes of the season one of us commented on being the perfect poster children for the gym, we could hardly contain ourselves. We laughed and laughed, until finally we sighed our last laugh out, looking off into the middle distance, smiles fading back to reality.

Are we destined to relive this conversation? Are we stuck in a loop?

This idea of habits has me intrigued. In yoga we call them samskaras, grooves that are created by doing something over and over again. Some good, some not so helpful. The deeper the groove, the more difficult it is to crawl out and make change.

Quantum physics backs this up. Thoughts that are wired together fire together. With the repetition of a thought or behavior we create neuro-pathways that encourage that same behavior over and over.

Over many years, way more than I care to admit – just makes me tired thinking about it – I have been stuck in this loop. Even with all the education I’ve had on the very topics of nutrition and health.

I am committed to my good health, but somewhere a tiny voice is saying, “Yeah, but eventually you’re gonna be right back here again in the not too distant future.” How do I shut it up? Or better yet, how do I prove it wrong?

The gym seems like a good place to start.

And maybe not too many more pumpkin spiced lattes.

21 Day Challenge – Day 14 – The Cheese Stands Alone

Goat cheese with fresh thyme

If I were to start this challenge over again I might do it a little differently. I might devote the whole three weeks to just movement, then spend another three weeks on food.

There’s so much to explore in both and to throw down the gauntlet on all of it can be overwhelming.

But I’m in the middle – past the middle – so I shall persevere.

Formulas don’t work the way they used to. Eat this, not that, lose weight. Add in a healthy dose of  exercise and watch the clothes start to fall off. Sleep better, wake up energized.

I have been at this for two weeks now and while I have gained a ton of energy I have not lost one pound. And I am frustrated.

This tells me two things, or maybe three:

  1. I care more about losing weight than maybe I want to admit, and
  2. It’s probably the food, oh and
  3. I’m older. Which changes everything.

Way back in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) days I had experimented with my food like a mad scientist. I identified a few foods that I needed to eliminate all together: dairy and wheat rising to the top of the list. I’ve done pretty good with the wheat for the past 8 years or so, but occasionally a cupcake sneaks in.

Dairy. It was so easy to give up. I rarely used milk, yogurt and sour cream showed up only occasionally and I wasn’t a huge cheese person. Then a few years ago someone accidentally put feta cheese on my salad. Then, at an Ayurveda training there was goat’s milk yogurt for breakfast. I fell in love with chai tea in India and couldn’t possibly use anything but whole milk in it when I came home. Which was just the gateway to half and half. Then I stumbled upon just three little words that would seal my dairy fate: goat’s milk cheese.

So dairy has inched its way back in and helped put some weight back on.

Before my formal education at IIN I had stumbled across the Blood Type Diet. There are many doubters, but here’s the thing: it’s just food, what would it hurt to just play with it?

I did and it worked. Absolutely, positively worked. It worked for me. It worked for others. When I was health coaching I always recommended it and if it was followed, it helped people lose weight, reduce inflammation, and minimize or eliminate allergies.

So naturally, after great success, I let it go.

Is it laziness? Ego? Somewhere in between I suspect. Habit plays a pretty significant role as well.

As much as I believed I was using the blood type diet and Ayurveda as lifestyle changes, somewhere in the back of my mind I thought of them as diets. Short term solutions. While I was in it, I was completely convinced that I had left all those habits behind, but habits, especially the unhelpful ones, have a way of bullying their way back in.

As I revisit the blood type diet I will do so with a sense of curiosity. I’ll take a new approach, challenge myself somehow. It is in my best interest.

Maybe that’s the problem.

 

21 Day Challenge – Day 13 – By the Numbers

The word Stamina on a fuel gauge measuring your drive, power, en

In the past when I set out to change my life through food and exercise I equated my success numerically. Mostly subtraction. How much weight did I lose? How many sizes did I go down? How many inches melted away?

The focus is different this time. I am hopeful for all the math above but my main objective, my ultimate focus is to gain this time. And I have. A lot.

I have more energy. I have more time. I have a better connection to my body. All these in less than two weeks.

I realize the focus of this journey may be more a result of my age, but I believe it has a lot to do with the cumulative effects of the awesomeness that I have been studying for the past 10 years.

My odyssey began, in reality in fourth grade when I believed my thighs to be hideously huge because my best friend had bird legs. I always chose skinny best friends. Later in life a few of them would confess they would have preferred curves like me at that age. Humans are ridiculous.

I digress.

Because of the thighs, I became a lifelong serial dieter. Weight Watchers, Dexatrim, Potato diet – that was my own invention, didn’t work as I’d planned – South Beach, Pritikin, no carbs, no fat, vegetarian, vegan. I am truly a diet expert.

Fed up with failed attempts to become super model thin, I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to make food my friend. It changed my life.

Then little by little I forgot it all. Or ignored it all. Now I’m bringing it all back. This time for the same reasons with hopefully similar results. And maybe for a little longer.

The numbers, I suppose are necessary for the ego, goal-oriented part of my brain. Since I am working with a trainer, so those numbers are all sealed in the “before” vault, along with all the pictures taken of me form the past 6 years.

I want to say this time feels different, but I suspect if my journals were unearthed, those words would appear before every big life altering decision I made.

But I’m still gonna say it. This time feels different.

21 Day Challenge – Day 5 – Gym Zombie

Zombies IMG_6407

Today I had no appointments or classes around which to build my schedule. Sounds divine in that laissez-faire kinda way. But for me, I need an anchor, I need structure and I am not so great at setting it for myself.

I have had an incredible amount of work lately – all good – but overwhelming at times, so today was to be a get-it-done kind of day.

I slept in – which is to say 7 AM. I drank my two (ish – don’t judge) cups of coffee, had some toast and sat down to craft my plan. But first, let’s see what’s happening on Facebook. Wonder what some of my favorite bloggers are ranting about today. The dog wants out. The cat catches then releases a sparkly fish on an elastic line. Facebook pings. Let’s check email. Then the other email. Has that new Indian restaurant opened yet? Oh look, how cute is her new puppy? Is that a text? Where’s my phone?

And so it goes.

I did manage after about 30 minutes wrapped up in STS (Shiny Thing Syndrome) to focus. I think the coffee helped. Seriously. It’s medicinal.

I plunged into my work – my computer work I like to think of it. Responding to emails, texts and messages. Creating flyers for upcoming events. Writing copy for my own blogs, imaginary books and for real people who pay me. Organizing teacher trainings. Creating email blasts and Facebook posts. Editing photos. Stuff like that.

It draws me in sometimes and I can’t extract myself. Just one more tweak here, one more edit there. On my magical list in the sky today was the gym. Maybe a class. I received a more comprehensive list from my trainer, but I still don’t know what machines are what or how to use them. It’s frustrating. Still I thought maybe a class. Zumba?

I remembered it being in the afternoon, around 4, but I checked the schedule just to be sure. There was a class at 9:45. Missed that one. Around 3:30 I suited up, grabbed my iPod, and then headed out the door. On the way I double-checked the schedule. It was at 4:30 YESTERDAY. I went anyway. It’s the new me.

Since I didn’t have my new list – conveniently – I snubbed the machines. I wanted to go straight to the treadmill, we’re friends, but chose the elliptical instead. I decided on 10/10/10. Elliptical, treadmill, bike. Sounded reasonable.

About 1:30 in on the elliptical I started scrambling for excuses to abandon ship. Maybe this wasn’t good for my knees. My heart rate might be too high. Then I decided to become curious. Let’s just pay attention to how this feels, what’s going on in my body, I suggested to the ‘Flight’ part of my brain.

Four minutes in I hit my stride. I took a visual walk around my sweaty play pen. So many people looking unhappy. Working really hard and never getting there. That’s what I saw on their faces, anyway. They were doing it for someone else, to get something, not for their own energy. They were still reaping all the benefit, healthier heart, leaner muscle mass, but was that enough for them? It didn’t seem like it.

As I make my way around the vast room of clanking weights and grunting people I finally land on the stair climbers. We haven’t officially met yet. I  tend to walk a wide berth around them as if trolls can reach out and pull me onto the bottom step forcing me to walk up.

Atop the one closest to me is a man in his 30’s probably. He is leaning on the arm grip, barely able to sustain. He looks over at me, mouth open, eyes dead. He has achieved gym zombie status and apparently my brains are the only thing that can save him right now. We lock eyes as he continues to climb to nowhere. Creeped out I return my attention to reruns of Sex in the City set to the beat of the Gipsy Kings.

10 minutes done. Could have done more. 10 minutes on the treadmill. Then a relatively boring 10 minutes on the bike.

It’s raining. Hard. I can walk through the rain to my car, or stay here and do something else.

It felt good to get wet.

 

 

21 Day Challenge – Day 4 – Every Breath You Take

437Today I feel strong. As I walk to the front of my mat in yoga class I feel steady and sure. I have my breath.

Prana. Chi. Life force.

So little is taught about breathing. I guess since it just sort of happens we don’t really pay much attention to it. Until we can’t breathe “normally” anymore. Unless we grew up with asthma or allergies. But mostly it’s just there.

If we do pay attention to the breath we can change every system in the body. We can balance the mind, stoke digestive fires, cleanse the blood and overall awaken the physical form.

There was an Ayurveda study done in India on obese subjects. One group was placed on a diet specifically for their individual constitution. The other group was given pranayama – a specific breath to be done a requisite number of times – 30 minutes before each meal.

The group that deliberately breathed lost significant amounts of weight.

A personal friend of mine has been experimenting with the same phenomenon. He has been practicing various forms of pranayama throughout the day – occasionally switching it up to see what difference it makes. He continues to eat and imbibe as always, his activity level has remained the same, and he has lost weight. He also reports an overall sense of well-being.

The breath he uses is different than the one used in the study. The amount of time he breathes consciously differs as well. But the results are very similar.

Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga. It’s easily overlooked outside of the classroom. It’s often forgotten inside the classroom. And it’s practically non-existent in daily life as a practice.

Prana is life force, like Chi in Chinese medicine, it works with the breath, but it is not the breath. Prana is in every living thing. We receive prana from the food we eat, the sun, the air and certainly from breathing. Throughout most days we are leaking prana, giving it away to negative thoughts, anger, jealously. We are squandering Life Force. Losing. Life. Force.

All one has to do to get it back is breathe. Consciously.

Here is the breath used in the Ayurveda study. Try it. Twice a day. 5 minutes each time. Start there. Not for weight loss – although that may be a happy side effect – but for Life.

Naadhi Shodhana – alternate nostril breathing.

Vishnu mudra rightMake a fist with the right hand. Extend the thumb and last two fingers. The thumb and fingers rest lightly on the nose, just above the nostrils so very little pressure or movement is needed to close each side.

 

Take a deep breath in through the nose. Close the right nostril with the thumb.

Exhale through the left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril. Close the left nostril.

Exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril. Close the right nostril.

Continue with this process for 5 minutes. Finish by exhaling through the right nostril. Place both hands in the lap, close the eyes briefly – maybe meditate for five minutes – then return to your normal routine.

Other ways to increase life force:

– Eat a mostly organic, plant based diet

– Exercise with intention and presence

– Be present. Thoughts of the future or past are normal, but too much time spent in either place robs you of precious life force than can be used right now.

– Cultivate compassion. Anger, jealously, regret, hate all deplete prana. When you catch yourself enveloped in any of these strong emotions, breathe.

Just breathe. Consciously. Often. Inhale gratitude. Exhale love.

 

21 Day Challenge – Day 3 – Reality

Image of female foot running on treadmill

The insides of my elbows hurt. How is that even possible? What’s even in there?

Today I went back to the gym. It was 6-ish in the morning and many sweaty bodies were already punishing themselves.

I dutifully hopped on the treadmill to do my 5 minute warm-up. As I wandered the belted highway I glanced out at the sea of machines. My trainer had texted me a collection of letters and numbers that I was to decipher into some sort of exercise routine.

Once my heart rate was up and my mind a little clearer I walked with confidence toward the bent and twisted steel with random pads and moving parts. Some looked familiar from a past life of gym false starts. Some looked fun. Some looked torturous. Many were mysterious.

Today is legs and shoulders. I pick the leg extension machine. It’s on my list. I adjust the seat and experiment with weights – my trainer is evidently trusting me to determine this minor detail as those numbers were not included in the hieroglyphics. I do 4 sets of 12. Feeling accomplished I saunter down the row looking for anything familiar. I spot the seated leg curl machine.

I sit down. I stand up. I adjust the seat. I play with the weights. I slide my legs over the seat, under the knee pad and reach for the padded roller that my Achilles tendon is to rest on, with the heel of my right foot. The knee pad is blocking my progress. I twist a little in the seat to see if I can angle one foot up to crank the pad down. I am kicking at it like I’m trying to dislodge it from under my couch.

The twist and lean is not working. I notice the gentlemen to my left has pulled something to lower the roller then effortlessly swung his ankles over the pad. I yank on levers that are not levers but solid bars meant for me to grip when I grunt with barred teeth as I push the roller down. Which may never happen. I look over at the weights. I grab the rubber thingy that acts a pulley to see if I can lift it enough to drop the roller.

My hand comes away with black grease all over it that I will likely wipe on my face before I exit this contraption. And the weights do not budge.

I am not meant to use this machine.

I walk around like I’m taking a break between sets. Just breathing. You know.

I spy a similar leg curl machine on which one lies belly down. I like the looks of it. I lower myself on the giant pad, kick my feet under the two rollers and reach for the hand grips. As I curl my fingers around the handles I slide forward losing contact with the foot pads, defeating the purpose. Clearly this machine is set up for [insert giant man-beast here]. I get up, adjust anything that will move and flop back down. Contact. I pull my heels toward my glutes for 2 sets. Done.

On to shoulder presses. I find the machine quickly, pick a weight and pump like a pro.

There are at least four more puzzles to be solved, but I have squandered my allotted half hour and walk back toward my comfort zone – the treadmill.

As I adjust the speed and incline randomly to the encouragement of Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas, I glance up at the televisions accidentally catching the image of the ISIS/ISIL executioner with his weapon of death held aloft while looking down at the young reporter he will kill. My body begins to shake. I am punched in the heart. I cannot look away quickly enough.

On the adjacent screen is some vapid reality show on the fascinating, tumultuous lives of women wrestlers.

I am struck by the reality dichotomy in which we live. For a moment I am dismayed to the point of abandoning this ridiculousness. Why bother? What is the point?

Then I remember, I must first lift the veil and scrub my energy clean so that I can reveal my own inner light. So I can be part of the solution. Defeat is not an option. I must do this.

With a renewed resolve I turn up the volume on my trusty iPod and plug into my body. I become present with every movement, every sensation. I feel my heart rate rise and fall as I adjust the incline. I slow my breathing down as I speed up my pace, experimenting with my own capacity.

I am a soldier for peace. I am a warrior of light. That is the cause for which I am working.

 

21 Day Challenge – Taking it to the Body

bigstock-Beautiful-young-woman-jumping--15095405

It’s Challenge Time again! If you’ve been playing along, you’ll remember we added the good stuff in on our first challenge. Then we fell in love with our own bodies – right? – on the second challenge. Now it’s time to work with that beautiful beast known as the human form. This is more about uncovering your best, most healthy vehicle. Not about bikini season, that wedding or high school reunion. It’s not about a number on the scale or on a tag.

Think energy. Dr. John Douillard (you’ll hear more about him later) says we should have the same amount of energy all day long. When we get up, in the afternoon, when it’s time for bed. Is that happening for you?

Think radiance. Think joy. Think nourishment. This is not punishment, on the contrary it is the best gift you could give to yourself.

This could be about weight loss or weight gain. Maybe it’s about sleeping well or eating better. All valid goals, but it is also about longevity and sustainability so move into it at a pace that works for you.

At its core, this challenge is about using the body as a gateway to YOU. It is the act of sloughing off and peeling away the dust and detritus of daily living and stress so that the inner light that is YOU can shine through.

So, are you ready?

I will chronicle what I am doing daily and offer potential challenges for you. I am not looking for fellow travelers on this well-worn path. I am looking for your insights about you as you navigate food labels, personal trainers, yoga instructors and the ever present well-meaning friend. I am holding you up. I know you’ve got this. I know that even if you are at your peak, there is something you can change. Maybe the challenge for you is doing less physical activity.

The first week will be dedicated to movement. You know, exercise. It is your task to bring movement into your life everyday. Over and above walking from your car to your office or around the grocery store. Go to the gym, do yoga, swim, dance, ride a bike. If you’re already pretty active this week should be a breeze. If not, get out there and go for a walk. Your body will thank you.

I look forward to seeing you along the way these next 21 days.

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 – Heart of the Brain Matter

Grey zen stone in shape of heart, on sand background

If you are reading this you have a heart. And thank you. Even if someone is reading this to you, you have a heart. It is one tangled mess of a muscle that we cannot live without.

But when you think heart, do you think of that dark red pulsing thing with its aorta and valves and ventricles? Or do you think of the simplified Valentine? Perhaps something in between. Or maybe you think more of energy and emotion. There are no wrong answers.

When I think of my own heart I first listen carefully, trying to notice my heart beat. Sometimes it’s making its presence known, at other times it’s quietly doing its job. But then I begin to attach stories and emotion to it. How many times I’ve had it broken, or put it out there. How it likes to love. Or doesn’t.

The heart knows stuff, but it’s the connection to the brain that helps us understand that stuff.

People who have undergone heart transplant surgery often report liking or disliking something they never did before. They have flashes, like someone else’s memories. There are brain cells in the heart. At the very least there is a connection.

Much research has been done in recent years on the heart-brain connection.  The heart sends more information to the brain than the other way around. According to the Institute of HeartMath, the heart sends signals to the brain that can influence perception, emotional experience and higher mental processes.

They are in cahoots. To fall in love with your own heart would be to also fall in love with your brain and ultimately your mind. This is the mind-body connection. When we are able to fully connect to both in harmony, we begin to find synchronicity in life and are treated to serendipitous moments and magic we like to think of as coincidence. We’re aware and present.  In love with life.

When our heart gets broken we disconnect. We don’t want to feel the icky feelings. Not right now. If we don’t think about it, it doesn’t exist. We’ll come back to it later when we’re feeling better, which is a lot like saying you’ll join the gym as soon as you lose some weight. The disconnect only stalls things, it doesn’t fix them.

Staying connected, even through the pain, maybe especially through the pain, allows us to live more fully. If we begin to disconnect during strong emotional times, we’ll also miss the absolute joy that is available to us.

Feel the feelings. Think the thoughts. Let them find their way to each other, then let them work it out. It’s integration and it brings with it a tremendous feeling of grounded joy.

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.” – Paramahansa Yogananda