Fear. Ego.

Something is happening.

It’s hard to put into words. So much of this journey is truly about feeling.

Well, lately I’ve been feeling some rather unpleasant things in my physical body. The emotional interpretations lead to two things: fear and ego.

The first one, I totally get. Fear is so huge for me still. Even though I often wonder, why?? My life is so amazing. I have manifested such extraordinary things and people and experiences. I sometimes wonder if I have any big dreams left to dream, since so many have already come true! So what the heck am I so afraid of?

Well, I know that when I slimmed down two years ago, I was afraid of putting the weight back on. Afraid of falling back into old habits. So guess what? I put the weight back on and fell back into old habits. Now I’m trying to move forward in a way that releases me from that old pattern. But in order to that, I’m going to have to release that huge fear.

I wonder if there is something else, too??

So what about ego? On the one hand, I thing this has a lot to do with control. And that left-brain intellect trying to keep hold of the reigns. My ego is thus getting in the way of allowing my divine guidance to come through.

Oddly enough, at the same time, I believe I also need to start trusting myself more. That feels a little like taking control. But didn’t I just say that I need to let go of control? Well, trusting myself is really trusting my divine guidance – my intuition. Trusting myself is not about trying to fix things and holding tight to old habits. There is a very different feeling when I think of trusting myself – a feeling of letting go.

I still need all my gurus – the ones I talk to directly, like my acupuncturist, my chiropractor, my massage therapist, and my mom 🙂  And the ones I gain wisdom from through reading, like Louise Hay, Abraham-Hicks, Doreen Virtue, Kris Carr, and Florence Scovel Shinn. But I am listening to my own voice and following my own intuition … or at least I’m trying to.

As this shift has been happening, I’m noticing something about food. I feel like eating everything … and yet, nothing sounds appealing. Food isn’t even tasting right. I feel over-full, even if I haven’t eaten a lot. I’m craving veggies and water. But even there, I’m not sure what I actually want to eat. I’m trying to just be with these feelings. No judgement. No criticism. Just see what happens next.

So to help me stay focused on releasing fears and ego – and to ask for some divine guidance, I just pulled a bunch of cards from those gurus. Here’s what I got:

Everything is working out for my highest good. – Louise Hay, Life Loves You cards

Divine wisdom guides me. – Louise Hay, Power Thought cards

Release fears while manifesting, and instead focus on feeling the joy as if your desire were already a reality. – Louise Hay, Love Yourself to Great Health

Release & Surrender – Doreen Virtue, Daily Guidance from your Angels. Oracle Cards

Invite your fears to tea. – Kris Carr, Crazy Sexy Love Notes cards

There is nothing for me to guard against. – Abraham-Hicks, Well-Being Cards

Physical Well-being is only one good thought away. – Abraham-Hicks, Well-Being Cards

Basically, I got a whole bunch of cards to support and inspire me – everything I needed to hear!

Taking Charge

After I got back from Florida, I was feeling really lost. When I mentioned to someone that I had been logging my food, she said I sounded so BORED. Huh. I hadn’t expected that. So I’ve been asking for some guidance. What to do? How to move forward??

One thing that has been crossing my path is the idea of learning more about what’s in my food. Starting to cut out processed foods. Looking at more whole, natural foods.

When I saw my chiropractor a few days later, I updated her on all this, and she said she thought I might be ready for a detox. I was so gung-ho about the idea, I decided to just go for it. (I really trust my chiropractor and her extraordinary intuitions.) As she worked on me during that sessions, one of the things she spoke of was taking charge.

So I started the detox this morning. It’s 2 shakes and a healthy meal from a list of foods.

OH, NO. She had warned me it might not taste good, but I was not prepared. It wasn’t so much the taste, but the texture. I was literally gagging on it. I somehow managed to get the whole thing down, but it was soooo unpleasant. And then I felt a little nauseated afterward. I thought if I followed a recipe for the shake mixed with fruit and almond milk instead of plain water it might help. NOPE. Same reaction.

As I sat there staring at the dreaded shake, I normally would have a huge battle within myself about failure and self-criticism. That popped up a bit. But what it really came down to: I can’t see how gagging over a drink is good for me. Even if the benefits of that shake should be great, it’s not going to do me much good if it triggers my gag reflex with every single swallow.

So instead of warring with myself and feeling like a failure, I decided to take charge, just like my chiro had said. This is MY life, MY journey. And I’m in the driver seat. Maybe this detox would have been good for me? I’ll never know, because I’m just not doing it. I am not going to put myself through that kind of torture. Right now, this simply is not the direction I want to take.

I feel empowered. I feel strong and confident. I do not feel like a failure.

So what next? Well, we’ll see. I still want to make healthy changes. Just using a different method….

Refreshing

There is something about heading into the fall that makes me want to embrace the remains of summer and start refreshing everything around me! I want to bask in the warmth of August and eat the fresh, beautiful foods of the season.

I also want to start cleaning everything out! Since I returned from our family vacation at the beginning of the month, I’m on a rampage to clear the junk out of our house and organize. I’m slowly working through the rooms in the house, and I feel like I’m reviving the energy throughout the whole house. Ahhhhhh!

One of my food challenges continues to be getting in enough servings of fruits and vegetables. I wish I liked more of them. Maybe that would help. But I’m giving up the self-judgment on that topic. I am willing to try new things, but I’m not going to beat myself up when I don’t like a food.

Still, I’m always looking for ways to bring those good-for-you fruits and veggies into my life. Sometimes I resort to a tried and true mom trick: I sneak them into my food 🙂  I roast veggies like eggplant and butternut squash with a little olive oil and salt. Then after they cool, I put them in the food processor. From there, I spoon the pureed veggies into an ice-cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, I pop them into a zip-top bag and put them back in the freezer. Then I have them ready to go when I want to add them to a sauce or soup, such as into a tomato sauce for spaghetti. It adds a bit of texture and the sweetness of the veggies that roasting can bring out. But I hardly notice that it’s there.

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Another thing I do to have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand is have them delivered. I use a service that delivers fresh, organic, local, in-season fruits and veggies. I just get the little box, and I only get it every other week. That’s enough for us! Sometimes I try something new, but I also tend to use all 5 of my substitutions to make sure I get foods that I and my family will actually eat.

Last week, I got a whole bunch of tomatoes. Boy are they amazing right now! And I knew just what I wanted to do with them: make a fresh, cool batch of bruschetta. I love this recipe from the Pioneer Woman. Cooking the garlic not only brings out the flavor, but it saves me and my sensitive stomach from a night of heartburn that I would otherwise get from raw garlic 🙂  She used 2 pints of tomatoes, but since mine were whole, I just used about 300g instead (I think it was about 4 or 5). I sliced up some French baguette and melted some fresh mozzarella on some of the slices and practically swooned over the flavors bursting in my mouth!

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Don’t those vibrant colors just make you want to get in your kitchen and whip up a batch, too??

Don’t Take It Personally

Back in what feels like a previous lifetime, I was a graduate student struggling to get my PhD. I always felt like I was hanging on by my fingernails. Every step of the process seemed so hard. I’m still somewhat mortified to recall the number of times I burst into tears when meeting with professors. (I’ve never been very good at taking criticism. Sounds like the topic for another post….) The thing that kept me going was that I loved teaching.

But then something changed. I met someone. In the blink of an eye, my life changed. Suddenly the entire focus of my life was no longer graduate school. I was giddy in love! (I’m happy to say I’ve been married to that same man for over seven years now!)

What changed for me professionally, though, was that I no longer took everything so personally. Because I had another focus in my life (a very positive, joyful one at that!), I wasn’t so deeply vested in my work. I still worked hard, and I did finish my degree. But the entire process shifted. When I stopped taking the critique so personally, I was not only happier, but I was much more able to actually hear the critique and make positive changes in my work. Would you believe I actually had to throw out two entire chapters of my dissertation?! All 80 pages! Months and months of work! But when I met with my advisor, and he told me that I should scrap the chapters and restructure the dissertation, I actually laughed! For one thing, I knew he was right. And as much as I wish I hadn’t had to go through all that work only to chuck it, my work was an awful lot stronger because of it.

I think there is a lesson to be learned here. I take what I consider to be my failures so very personally. I am so hard on myself.

It’s time to start taking this journey lighter. Yes, there are some dark days. Yes, there is some serious – and wonderful – emotional healing that I have done and continue to do. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be lighthearted. I can laugh! I can even laugh at myself. I can laugh at myself when I go a little off track. I can laugh at myself when I catch myself being judgmental. I can smile at myself when I see myself in the mirror. I can smile at the food I am about to enjoy. I can smile while I’m enjoying my workout.

In other words, I get to choose. How am I going to feel in this moment? Am I going to be overly critical? Am I going to give up?

Or am I going to laugh it off? Am I going to take a deep breath and begin again? Am I going to go easy on myself?

Yes. It’s time to go easy on myself. And stop taking it all so personally!

The Magic of Yoga

Almost six years ago, I started practicing yoga. At first, I went to relieve muscles that were tight from so much time spent in front of a computer and hunched over books. I had no idea at the time that yoga would propel me down a life-changing path.

In the beginning, I felt awkward and conspicuous. But it felt good, so I kept at it.

My yoga studio is really special. Each 90-minute class begins with a short lecture on various aspects of yoga history, culture, and philosophy. Then there is focus on the breath and encouragement to set an intention for the class. It offers a beautifully supportive environment and encourages students to be true to themselves and listen to their bodies.

Two years later, I happened upon a special edition of Yoga Journal magazine that focused on weight loss. Every single article in the magazine spoke to me. I knew yoga would play a significant role in my journey.

This journey of change still had to wait a bit, as I was about to become pregnant with my second child. Through both of my pregnancies, I continued my yoga practice in a prenatal class. Not only was it beneficial to my physical self, but the groups were so supportive and provided a wonderful space to exchange information and make friends. Knowing there was a little life growing inside of me also helped me listen more carefully to my body and not push myself beyond my limits merely for the sake of keeping up with my neighbor.

What have I learned in yoga?

Throughout my years of practice, I have grown stronger and more flexible. I can now do poses that I thought I would never get into. My heels touch the ground in downward dog (well, most of the time!). I never thought my tight shoulders would allow me to get into eagle arms, but not too long ago I tried again and was thrilled to find I could twist my arms into the previously impossible pose! Hurrah! Ooooh, it feels so good to see and feel the progress! Does it matter that it’s take 5 years to get there? No way! If I’d never tried, I never would have gotten there.

But the benefits have been far more than physical. I have learned  –  and continue to learn  –  to focus on my own body and not compare myself to others in the class. My teachers always encourage this mindset of non-judgment. “Listen to your own body before you listen to me,” one says. As I practice the skill of non-judgement, I have become more accepting of my body. And in turn, I have come to appreciate my body more and more. Look at what it can do! And the more I appreciate my body, the more it is capable of doing.

Yes, I have become stronger and more flexible. But even from the very beginning, there were poses I could easily slip in to. I not only felt strong and flexible in these poses: I felt graceful … even beautiful at times. Focusing on these positive feelings inspires me to continue my practice. And I was further able to take these feelings of grace and beauty with me off the mat and into my daily life.

I learned that I have strengths and weaknesses. And both can always be improved upon. I know that my body still has certain physical weaknesses, including a back left sore from my pregnancies and childbirth. So instead of trying to force myself into backbends and further injuring my low back, I lie face-down on the mat and simply breathe. Sometimes I still have to talk myself out of my fears of judgment from others: even if someone is looking at me (which they probably are not, as they are focused on their own poses), there is no reason for anyone to judge. Remember? We all have strengths and weakness, and we need to honor our bodies for where they are in that moment.

I will admit to a moment of comparison. It was a moment of great revelation for me. A young man accompanied his mother to class one day. He looked to be about college-age and very athletic  –  maybe a baseball player. I had never considered myself to be athletic. Although I had played a variety of sports as a kid, I always felt inferior  –  largely due to the feeling of being overweight. It didn’t help that gym teachers never encouraged me or made me feel that I was capable of improving. So there I sat in my yoga class with this young man a few mats over from me in the back row of class. The old feelings of inferiority crept in. But as I caught sight of him out of the corner of my eye, I was astonished to see how much difficulty he had with the poses  –  poses that I easily got into! What? Could this be? This comparison, however, was not one of self-deprecation and was by no means a feeling of superiority over this young man. It was, as I said, a revelation. It may sound obvious, but in that moment I realized that “being athletic” had a thousand different interpretations. It did not simply mean one was good at sports. I finally realized that I, too, was athletic in my yogi way!

It was a huge moment for me. I was no longer that big girl, so horribly self-conscious. Through my yoga class, the awkward, bruised little girl in me, who had felt so inadequate for so long, finally began to feel soothed. My confidence began to grow more and more. And as it did, so did my appreciation and love for my body.

It felt amazing.

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I was inspired to finally write this post in part by an article I just read in the latest issue of Yoga Journal about the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and their efforts to raise awareness of yoga as a practice that embraces and can be embraced by every body. (See Yoga Journal, February 2015, p. 50) You can read more about the coalition here.