Archive for January, 2012|Monthly archive page

Be Careful What You Wish For

A few weeks ago, I realized that whatever changes I had made in my diet (namely the introduction of yams, peanut butter, caffeinated black tea, and rice protein powder). Unfortunately I have found the culprit.

I think I knew it already, but I just wasn’t ready to admit it.

It was the peanut butter.

Each time I added it back in (even at a tablespoon a day), the symptoms would come back: gassy, bloated, uncomfortable, with cravings (for more than a tablespoon of the same) out the wazoo.

Heart breaking.

As I railed, “How could this be happening?! Other people eat peanut butter and they’re find, etc.”

And then I remember saying, “I wish I could just develop an allergy to peanut butter – then it would be just like it is with gluten. Nothing could tempt me to eat gluten…..”

Well, it’s not as bad as it is with gluten, but I haven’t been tempted either so I guess I got what I asked for. Maybe I’ve finally gotten a hold of that manifestation thing after all.

I think maybe next time I’ll ask for money! 😉

Advertisements

The mind versus the body…..

All this time, I thought that it was my body that liked the hula hooping….

That may have been the case initially, but this morning it was definitely the other way around.

Whenever I wake up these days, I ask myself: What would you like to do today? Or, to be more verbatim about it, “What do we want to do today?”

Today, the first answer that surfaced was, “Cardio!”

Really?

I mean, I remember not too long ago telling Michael J that my goal for the year was to avoid traditional cardio at all costs – just to see what happens. But then I took a deep breath and thought, “Why not?” And, believe it or not, my body actually perked up! I instantly felt more awake, more excited, more up! (Or to quote an earlier post: turned in, tapped in, turned on).

So I head downstairs, hit the bathroom, get a drink and start to clear off the Nordic Track (aka the hula hoop rack) and I realize that something doesn’t feel right.

Oh yeah, doing cardio requires changing clothes.

It also means putting on shoes.

All of a sudden a little voice pops up, “What a hassle. Are we really going to do this?” And the whining continues as I look for said shoes, first on the main floor, then on the first floor, and then on the third floor. The litany of complaints continue as I remember that I forgot to grab my actual work out clothes while I was there (“What a waste of time. I thought we weren’t going to do this anymore? What if this makes your leg all sticky again? Cardio means sweating; you realize that don’t you? Do you even remember the last time you’ve sweated while exercising, which means there goes yet another 30 minutes gone while you have to get undressed, shower, get dressed again. Oh yeah, and when do we have time to do laundry? We need to be working on the book.”)

Seriously, it was like a broken record. And I realized, with a bit of a laugh, that was the mind – in action. Because the body likes to sweat and could care less about things like laundry, the book, or whatever else that the mind brought up. Well, with the exception of the non-sticky leg, so we (the three of us) compromised and did about an hour of cardio and 20 minutes of yoga. And you know what, it felt awesome.

So, what does this mean going forward? It may mean a little more cardio or it may not (but it probably will). It means being more in touch with what I really want to do – about what will serve me – without getting into the rut of what I think I want or, even worse, what I think I need. It does not mean, however, that I am going to return to my crazy cardio/punishing ways. But it may get added back in, with balance.

So instead of rotating between hooping and yoga and (recently) samba, it looks like there is another contender. And it makes sense, if you think about it. Because even though I’m having a great time sculpting the core and lengthening the muscles, that’s no reason – none whatsoever – to not love on the heart, the lungs, and all of the other systems that keep me alive without any thought or effort on my part whatsoever.

Of course, my mind immediately flew into scarcity – but if you start doing cardio, when are you going to hula hoop? What’s going to happen to your yoga practice?

Relax, Grasshopper.

There’s more than an hour in a day and more than one day in a week…. I’m sure we’ll find the time, and be better off for it.

Gratitude

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am exploring the concept of gratitude.

On the one hand, that makes a lot of sense, because that’s how I make my living – studying emotions. But to tell you the truth, I hadn’t ever really thought too much about gratitude. That’s not to say that I was never grateful or, heavens forbid, ungrateful, but gratitude – in and of itself – just wasn’t something that I ever thought a lot about.

Recently, however, gratitude has been popping out all over the place. I get emails about gratitude. I have coaches who talk endlessly about gratitude. And just the other day, I turned my iPod on shuffle and up popped a segment of some random Eben Pagan program that was talking about, you guessed it, gratitude. Heck, for the last six or so weeks, even before all of this prodding started, I had set up a mastermind with my friend, where we start of by saying something that we’re grateful for! And just lately, on the advice of all those coaches, I have started keeping a daily list of 10 things for which I am grateful.

So what is gratitude?

According to Dictionary.com, gratitude (pronouned grat-i-tood), “is the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.”

Unfortunately, thankful refers to the feeling or expressing of gratitude, so things are beginning to get a bit circular, but I would imagine that you get the idea.

As is the same for most North Americans of European descent (or those that celebrate Thanksgiving in any meaningful way), I am more familiar with the term thankful – as in what are you most thankful for, as recited annually around the dinner table in front of friends and family. It is on those moments that we learn that we should be thankful for the good things in our lives. Very rarely do you hear anyone express their thanks for their problems, their miseries, their trials, their tribulations, or, last but certainly not least, their seeming failures.

Seriously, how many times (either as a child or as an adult) have you ever seen or heard someone actually give thanks for a divorce, a job loss, a tumor, or a death of a loved one? Especially in the moment in which it is happening? Despite all of the platitudes that we have also grown up with: “Every cloud has a silver lining…”, “whenever a door closes, a window opens…”, etc. And when we do hear it – usually decades after the fact – when someone actually says, “losing my job/getting cancer/losing my leg was the best thing that ever happened to me…” we generally have a hard time believing it. No matter how sincere they seem.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to have that kind of acceptance, that kind of gratitude in the moment?

Is that even possible?

I think it is possible, for some people. Indeed, there seems to be a upsurge of what some people are calling, “Radical Gratitude.”

I first saw this phrase in an email; it was one of those daily motivational things that seem to explode out of my inbox.

I’m paraphrasing here, but it said something like, “It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in your life, but not so easy to be grateful for the things that you don’t like. Pick one thing about your life (or your body) that you don’t like and find the gratitude. Find one thing about this that you absolutely love.”

That was it. No instruction. Just pick the one thing about yourself that you hate, and express gratitude for it.

You know, I tried standing in from the mirror and expressing gratitude for something – anything – that I didn’t like. I’m sure I came up with something, but I didn’t feel it. I would have laughed it off as some silly self-help thing, but the idea kept niggling. Eventually, I realized that I was grateful – really and truly – that I had a bad knee, because it reminds me (by locking up when I don’t) to tap into and take care of my physical body.

It was amazing how good it felt to stop hating my knee.

The very next day, I heard the Eben segment on gratitude. Being Eben, he put his discussion of gratitude in a much more elaborated framework:

1. Why – Why is gratitude important?
2. What – What is gratitude?
3. How – How do you experience gratitude?
4. What if? – What three steps can you do right now to start experiencing more gratitude in your life on a daily basis?

Simply put, gratitude is important because it has the ability to pull us out of almost any negative emotion state. If you can learn to find the gratitude in an authentic way, you can manage your emotional state, no matter now negative or overwhelming that state may me. In this regard, Eben (and other within the self-development genre, industry – whatever one chooses to call it) refers to gratitude as being the “crown jewel” of all other emotions.

What is gratitude? Well, as stated above, gratitude is the experience or expression of thankfulness; it is also a powerful emotion management/emotional regulation strategy. According to Eben, as well as many sociological accounts, gratitude is a tertiary or higher order emotion. In other words, it’s not one that is hard-wired into us via biology; it’s not something that simply occurs, such as fear, anger, disgust, happiness, and joy or is somehow linked to our evolutionary survival. Instead, gratitude is something that we learn – we learn to be grateful for certain things. Gratitude is constructed via the stories that we tell ourselves about the events that are happening to us, especially those events that result in basic emotions (fear, anger, disgust, happiness, or joy) or the secondary emotions (such as jealousy, anxiety, excitement, depression, envy, guilt, or shame).

So, how do you do it? First, you acknowledge that whatever is happening is happening or, if the event happened in the past, that whatever happened has happened. There’s absolutely no point trying to change reality. It is possible to change what happens in the future, but it’s pointless to try to change what’s happening right now or what’s happened in the past. It happened or it is happening. Accept it. Second, ask yourself: “What can I learn from what is happening right now or what has happened in the past? Third, taking that information into account, what can I do moving forward to improve my situation?

Now, Eben, being Eben, takes this to the logical extreme (that is, the death of a loved one) to illustrate that you don’t need to be happy that it happened in order to find gratitude. A loved one died. You realize that life is short and there are no guarantees other than your own death, whenever that may be. You start living your life on purpose so that you can accomplish as much as you can in the time that you are allowed. You’re not happy that your loved one died, but you are grateful that you had the insight regarding your own situation early enough to do something about it moving forward.

Finally, look for challenging things in your life which you had been wishing hadn’t happened (or wasn’t currently happening) and find the gratitude.

I must admit that I wasn’t actively following through on this. However, I was thinking about it a lot and I was keeping my gratitude list. You know, the one I mentioned before that had to include 5 body-centric things? Well, things were slipping on there that I have been railing against lately – my core, which might be bigger than I’d like but nonetheless keeps me upright; my bum knee, which keeps me mindful; my autoimmune system that is working really hard (one could say too hard) to keep all of the things that are not me from becoming me….. I’m sure you’re getting the idea. And I was feeling the gratitude, but I was having to reach for it. It felt authentic, but it didn’t feel easy.

This morning, however, after I finished a 45 minute yoga session (which was much easier than it had been the last three times I’d done it) and I just sat there on the floor in awe of how much more balance I have in my life, how much more I enjoy the exercise I do, how much more balance I have in my body, and (yes, I am shallow) how nice my shoulders looked in the reflection of the window pane against the dark New England morning. And then I asked myself, How did I get here? What happened to that stressed out woman who was always in the office by 8:00, usually after having completed a grueling 1 to 2 hour cardio workout, who was stiff, and tended to have difficulty walking in the morning because of her super tight hamstrings? What happened to that woman who used to breathe shallowly, if at all? What happened to that woman who gulped her food down in a hurry without ever tasting it? What happened to that woman who would have thought you had lost your mind if you’d told her she wouldn’t set foot in a gym in over a year, never miss it, and spend hours on end dancing in her living room or on a yoga mat? What happened to her? Not that I miss her or anything, because, you know what, she was pretty uptight and really not that much fun to be around. More to the point, she didn’t love herself, which made it pretty hard for anyone else to love her either.

What happened? Because whatever it was, in that moment, I was truly grateful.

And then I remembered.

My thyroid happened. Or, rather, my thyroid stopped happening.

Did that mean that I was grateful for my hypothyroidism? That there was something that had happened as a result of that malfunction that had actually changed my life for the better? I certainly wasn’t happy that it had happened, but was I grateful for the changes that occurred as a result? And even more important, would I have changed myself if the hypothyroidism hadn’t occurred?

I took out a pen and paper and wrote the following sentence: I am grateful for my hypothyroidism, because it’s changed the way that I relate to my mind, my body, and the world.

I sat with that. It felt true. I breathed into it. It still felt true. I sit here at my desk and read it again and I know in my heart of hearts, it is true.

I’ve found the gratitude (or perhaps I should say, the gratitude found me). Regardless, I am grateful and with that, I am at peace, perhaps for the first time since I realized that sleeping on the couch for five days in a row, crying jags, delusions, and depression weren’t my typical summertime MO.

I am grateful for the life I have now; therefore, I am grateful for the things that got me here.

Perhaps Eben is right; gratitude is the crown jewel of emotions (and one hell of a strategy). Now if I could only move my lag time to real-time.

My ten things:
1. My hypothyroidism
2. My job
3. My ability to communicate with others
4. Waking up in a warm bed next to a man who loves me and who is loved by me.
5. My thumb
6. My liver
7. My pancreas
8. My tongue
9. That I grew up as an overweight child
10. My ample behind (which cushioned me this morning when I fell on the ice).

What are you grateful for?

Tuned out, tapped out, turned off

At some point last year, a friend of mine loaned me a copy of one of the Esther and Jerry Hick’s recordings regarding the law of attraction.

I’ve never been able to get my head fully around that to tell you the truth, despite the fact that I know quite a few people who not only swear by it, but who are also living their dreams.

Even though I haven’t quite “got” it, there is one thing that stuck with me.

At one point, Esther made some comment about being, “Tuned in, tapped in, and turned on.” She was essentially encouraging people to tune in, tap into, and get turned on by the universal energy, etc, etc.

When I returned from New York recently, that phrase really resonated with me, particularly as it related to my body. I felt totally tuned in, tapped in, and turned on. I was really present with my body and totally with it. I was loving my life, loving my body, and especially my tummy that was getting – like magic – thinner and thinner.

Essentially, I was living in pleasure. I ate with pleasure. I moved my body with pleasure. It was awesome and beautiful and, or so I had assumed, easy.

However, something changed once I returned from the holidays.

I started leading with my mind, instead of my body or even my spirit. I started doing what I thought I should be doing, what I “knew” (intellectually) would work. I wasn’t listening to my body – not at all. And I certainly wasn’t enjoying myself and allowing myself to experience a range of pleasurable experiences. In fact, even the things that had been pleasurable before, all of a sudden seemed rote.

And here it is (January 12) and just two days ago, I was in such a place of self-hatred that I barely recognized myself. I also had a ton of new digestive issues (that in the name of delicacy should remain unnamed) that hadn’t been there before. I had dislocated my knee while doing yoga. And I was spilling out of jeans that were a size bigger than the one’s I’d worn home from the holidays. To quote one of Michael J’s favorite modern composers: “WTF?!”

What the heck had happened?

It’s simple: I was no longer tuned in, tapped in, or turned on.

I was no longer listening to my body; instead, I was once again waging war. How quickly we revert to old patterns.

So in an effort to get back to tuned in, tapped in, and turned on (as opposed to tuned out, tapped out, and turned off), I am embarking on a number of experiments or, given that my body and I are one being, we are embarking on a series of experiments.

Although I (have you ever noticed how the the “I” almost always refers to the brain?) will be setting them up, she (as opposed to it) will be the one to decide if it’s a success. It will be up to me (aka “I”) to listen and to make adjustments accordingly.

Experiment One: Elimination

Well, as it turns out, I had added 4 new things into my diet since November:

1) black tea (on a more than daily basis),
2) yams (on a daily basis),
3) peanut butter (also on a daily basis, even though I have a sneaking suspicion that I have an allergy), and
4) a rice protein based shake mix (also on more than a daily basis, despite that one of my health coach friends told me months ago that people with Celiac’s or other forms of wheat/gluten intolerance should stay away from rice [go figure]).

Over the last three days I have removed all of these things from my diet and, lo and behold, I feel ridiculously better. Of course, I had to go through the “Woe is me, etc., etc.” phase, because, seriously? Yams? But bottom line, my body doesn’t like something on that list. I’m going to give a couple of weeks, then I’ll start adding things in one by one (though I’ll probably skip the rice protein, because I know for a fact that my body loves hemp powder and if the other things don’t automatically kick start indigestion, bloating, and general discomfort – isn’t it amazing how you don’t even realize quite how bad you feel until you begin to feel better – it’s really not worth the risk).

Experiment Number Two: Radical Self Love

To this end, I have dusted off some of my old handy dandy coaching tools that I have collected over the years. Just after 10 morning rituals, I’m already feeling a shift. But just to knock it up a notch – especially to repair the damage done to my relationship with my tummy (my tummy that I love because it allows me to hula hoop, process food for energy, walk upright, etc), I bought an info-product to learn Samba. The main lesson is literally called, “Thirty Days to Shake Your Booty.” Well, I’ve done it once, at least the first 15 minute section on macro movements.

Who knew Samba was really a combination of belly dancing and hoop dance?

According to the instructor (who I came across on the recommendation of Jenna LaFlamme, my pleasure guru), dancing is one way to get from stress to pleasure. It’s a way to love your body as it is, to appreciate your body despite its limitations, and to turn your body into a fat burning machine that will not only help you look better, but also younger, and more energized. Sounds pretty good, right? Sort of.

Normally I find dancing stressful, but I am going into this with an open mind. So far so good, because even though I didn’t “get it” right out of the gate, I still had fun. And I can tell after just 15 minutes, I’ll be feeling this in the morning. The class also came with a beautifully laid out 27ish page ebook with daily rituals to practice self love that will catapult us into “body joy.” I haven’t digested all of the material yet, but once I do….

So here I am, starting over yet again – but with a shorter turn around time than ever, for which I am grateful. Speaking of, one of the samba instructor’s recommendations is to start a daily gratitude list stating ten things for which you are grateful, five of which must involve your body. This is one of those things that I have read about over and over and never done (that and creating a vision board!) But, for the sake of experimentation and of getting tuned, in tapped in, and turned on as quickly as possible, here it goes:

Day 1:

1. I am grateful for Michael J, because he is
2. I am grateful for my hands, which allow me to communicate my thoughts to the world
3. I am grateful for my feet, which allow me to move easily from one location to another
4. I am grateful for my lungs, which allow me to breathe and to connect viscerally with my environment
5. I am grateful for my bad knee, because it reminds me to be mindful with my body
6. I am grateful for my hair, because I’m vain and it keeps me warm
7. I am grateful for my family, for raising me
8. I am grateful that I have access to clean water, good food, and clean air
9. I am grateful that I am resilient
10. I am grateful for the time that I have to work on things that I love, including myself.

I won’t post these everyday, but it’s worth thinking about.

And, just out of curiosity, what are some of the things for which you are most grateful?

Making a good thing even better

Do you remember when you were a kid and you’re favorite thing in the world was making that ridiculous slurpy sound that comes when you’re trying – literally – to suck the bottom of a cup through a straw to make sure that you’ve got the last bit of milkshake out? Or was that just me, given that the whole world is merely a projection of our interior stories? Regardless….

For what ever reason, those days have been long gone for me. Maybe it was the late in life milk allergy (actually, I was allergic early in life too, but was so out of touch with my body during my childhood and teen years that I stopped noticing). Or maybe it was because somewhere I read something that suggested that it really wasn’t a good idea to be swallowing something that had just passed through a tube or cheap, industrial plastic. Maybe it was the straws that I grew up on as a kid were actually kind of beat (to paraphrase Michael J). Or maybe I just decided that I was too old for such silly noises while I ate or that my father – who is very big on inter-state rivalries – wasn’t around to tell me: “You know, in Arkansas, that means you’re done.”

So, even though I have green smoothies (or sometimes not green smoothies) every day, if not more, I did it sans straws. Instead, I used a spoon and felt very much the responsible adult. And life was good – or so I thought.

Then, lo and behold, Michael J bought me a Christmas present and it was, as you’ve probably guessed, a straw.

But not just any old cheap plastic straw that’s too narrow to use for anything other than soda and collapses under the slightest bit of suction. Oh no. A beautiful glass straw (complete with a life-time guarantee, since I have been known to be “hard on things”) that is plenty broad and has a nice beautiful bend.

I love it. It truly is a piece of functional art.

Moreover, and against all predictions to the contrary, it slows me down. No longer do I gulp my smoothies down with a spoon. I sip it. And occasionally I’ll pull the straw out and suck the smoothie out. And sometimes, though not in front of guests, I find myself practically fellat-ing the thing as I suck the outside of the straw clean before dipping it back into the class. Playing with my food? You ask.

To quote one of the great luminaries of our time (NOT!): “You betcha.”

Recently, I attended a two day pleasure camp with Pleasure Revolutionary, Jena La Flamme. Three of the big takeaways around food were 1) slow down, 2) eat with pleasure, 3) breathe. (There are many others, mind you, but you’ll have to join her for a week in Rhinebeck, NY this summer to find out more ;).

Over the holidays, I must admit, that I had sort of lost sight of these relatively simple guiding principles. Indeed, there were many times over the break that I realized that I was not eating with pleasure (but rather, for pleasure), I was not breathing, and I was certainly not slow. When I returned home, I was dismayed to find that my waist had ballooned to pre-program proportions. And as I lamented all this to Michael J. he said, why don’t you just start doing the pleasure principles again.

“I don’t know how!” I practically wailed (and most certainly whined).

He looked at me funny. “Don’t you just have to slow down and breathe?”

And them, almost like magic, he handed me my Christmas present….

Some things are luck. Some things are serendipitous. Others, really are close to magic.

Somehow, my glass straw, pulled me back from the brink and back into pleasure.

I’ve slowed down. I’ve remembered to breath. And most of all, I am enjoying my food – even that which is not accessible to said straw.

I love my straw. It’s awesome. It makes me laugh and makes me feel like a little kid. There truly is something delightful about that ridiculous noise, not to mention the act of getting every little bit out of the bottom of my glass.

New Year’s Intentions

Before I go pawing back through my posts to see if I have ever written a post of New Year’s Resolutions (which, this right here tells you how effective they are!) I am going to set what can best be described as intentions.

So what’s the difference, you say? Well, according to dictionary.com, not much:

res·o·lu·tion
   [rez-uh-loo-shuhn]
noun
1. a formal expression of opinion or intention made, usually after voting, by a formal organization, a legislature,
a club, or other group. Compare concurrent resolution, joint resolution.

2. a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.

3. the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.

4. the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.

5. the act or process of resolving or separating into constituent or elementary parts.

in·ten·tion
   [in-ten-shuhn]
noun
1. an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.

2. the end or object intended; purpose.

3. intentions,
a. purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct: a bungler with good intentions.
b. purpose or attitude with respect to marriage: Our friends are beginning to ask what our intentions are.

4. the act or fact of intending.

So why would I prefer the word intention, when, in some ways, intention seems more slippery than resolution. I mean, nowhere in the definition of intention – any of them – do you find the words “firm,” “determined” or “resolute.” If I were serious about what I intend, shouldn’t I be determined, resolute, and of firm mind? Yes. And, well, no. Because when making changes in behavior, sometimes being determined, resolute and firm can be stifling, whereas allowing yourself a little wiggle room now and then is a good thing.

So here’s why – this year – I am setting intentions, instead of resolutions.

1. At this point in our history (I started to say evolutionary history, just to freak out my sociologist friends), our relationships with resolutions – particularly New Year’s Resolutions – is somewhat of a joke. We make them, almost with the intention to break them. Such a tradition doesn’t exist for intentions (neither do the neural pathways that support such behavior).

2. Also, if you break a resolution, game over. However, if you don’t get around to doing what you intended to do, the consequences don’t seem to severe. Indeed, it’s more like, when you intend to call your mother. You may not get around to it today, but there’s always tomorrow or the next day. This may seem minor, but this is actually a huge difference. Most people head into their resolutions with firmness and commitment, but once they break it (or them, since oftentimes resolutions are related) they forget about them. With intentions, you are always intending. You don’t do it today, yet the intent remains. And just that reminder – that intention – may be just what you need to keep you on track (albeit not necessarily on the straight and narrow) for a longer period of time. Of course, the possibility does exist that you’ll never get started, but to the degree that you remain conscious of your intention, our behavior should change, even with minimal effort on your part.

3) Resolutions are to all or nothing. Even the well worn phrase, “breaking resolutions,” suggests that resolutions are fragile and impermanent. With intentions, however, we don’t just make them, we “set” them. Now granted, we do set things that are impermanent, such as a table or an alarm, but we also set things that are considerably more permanent, like cement, as in when laying the foundation for a house or a home. Again, I know that these minor details may seem silly and irrelevant – I get that. However, sociologists, cognitive behavioral therapists, and sociolinguists – not to mention politicians, preachers, and marketers – have known for decades that words structure our reality, our emotions, and, no pun intended, our resolve.

So what are my intentions this year, 2012?

1. To start applying all of the me-tools that I have learned over the last two years.

2. To be present – when engaging with my husband, my family, my friends, my finances, my work, my body, my food,
myself….

3. To live in balance.

4. To produce more than I take in.

5. To pursue pleasure in all realms.

6. To love more (myself included).

7. And to laugh often.

Happy New Years.

May your 2012 bring you every wonderful thing that you can possibly imagine and more….