27 August 2010


Today has been a departure. I'm not sure how or why, but I woke up outside of the happiness that's been encompassing me.  Sometimes, I think a dark cloud has to move through to release a little rain and clear the air.  I'm hoping that's the forecast.  I'm trying not to judge, though; and, as odd as it sounds, I'm trying to stay positive.  Just trying to experience the emotions and still be appreciative that I'm here to feel those, too.

Stumbling across anything by Rumi usually brightens my day; today it did the equivalent by comforting me with this:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

19 August 2010

Why I envy skeletons, think Angelina should embrace her Lara Croft body again, and my search for the perfect fiber supplement.

As previously mentioned, I've spent a good portion of my life becoming mortal enemies with food and my body.  Eating disorders defined who I was for the better part of 10 years.  I've lost weight - which was never enough - and I've gained weight - which was always too much - but I've never experienced weightlessness - that beautiful existence where you are what you are, and weight has nothing to do with it. I'm in love with my body right now for its strength and its capabilities and its potential.  A few days ago, for the first time in, well, maybe ever, I actually liked the way my legs looked in a summery romper.  This is, if it's not becoming clear, a big, HUGE deal.

The totally ridiculous paradox, though, is that I still step on a scale in the morning, hoping to have magically dropped 20 pounds overnight.  Then, upon seeing the ever-taunting, digital measure, a stream of swearing, cursing and belittling myself ensues, usually ending in an anxious frenzy, and a judgmental once-over in the mirror, landing on each and every one of my self-imposed, undesirable body parts.  I'm, as yet, uncertain of how I can praise my body for it's beauty and strength on an inhale and on the exhale diminish the very things that are providing the material for the praise.  Ideally, if my mind won, I would look like some kind of crack addict and still be strong enough to lift cars off trapped children.

Now, I'm aware that skeletons are not sexy, except maybe in a strictly scientific sense where their praises are being sung as the frame for us to move around.  That's sexy.  Add skin on top and throw it all in Dior - not so sexy.  But, I still wish for that over being told I have a "badonk" (which, incidentally, will not disappear no matter how much weight I lose.  I've tried.)  And, though I romanticize incredibly thin bodies, the gals I most want to emulate are the athletic, visibly strong ones.  Take Angelina Jolie, for instance.
 (Now, fully aware that I have no right to place any kind of judgment on a woman I don't know, I only include the following example as a recognizable visual for what is taking place in my head.)

She's a beautiful woman no matter what size, but when I look at these pictures side by side, my heart (and my thighs) shouts to me, "The second one! That's what you want! Strong! Healthy! Glowing!" But, there's also a scared, confused, eating-disordered girl in my head that whispers love songs about bony little bodies. I don't know why she wins; she's weak. And, yet, she's shaped much of my life into an ever-present, self-conscious battle where no one wins, least of all my well-being.

This has been the fight of my life, both because it's lasted for almost half of it and because there have been some scary moments that could have ended my precious time here.  How strange is that?  No one tells you when you're little that food is scary.  But it is.  The flip side - and isn't life all about flipping things over? - is that it's also incredibly sustaining.  I guess anything that sustains life should be granted some cautious reverence for it's ability to deny life, too.  While I don't suspect many vegetables are harboring some sort of malevolence or any grains wielding machetes, for their human counterparts there is a real need for mindfulness and awareness when it comes to consuming anything.  This is where I find myself.  I've made peace with the vegetables (malevolent, or not), and various other forms of foods mostly by adhering to a vegan diet.  Throw in some macrobiotic principles - nothing in extremes, eating locally and in season - and a whole lot of raw foods - whole, unprocessed foods, mainly the best the earth has to offer, heated no more than 116-120 degrees - and you'll arrive at my current residence.  Therapy and learning how to eat again were thrown in there at some point, but that's not really the crux of this issue.  Learning what my body needs on a basic, scientific level has given me knowledge with which to fight back against that whispering siren.  When you know what's going on, (sometimes) things aren't so scary.  That has been step one.  Step 1 lasted for a long time, years even, and there were predictable relapses and zero bodily comfort. 

HELLO Step 2!  Step 2 and I are in love, mainly because I'm falling in love with a body I've only ever viewed with palpable hostility.  Step 2 and I are in the middle of this ridiculous Life Changingness and totally and utterly changing shapes - bodily, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  This is mainly to do with intentions one through three that I set for myself.  Eating with moderation, toleration and acceptance is easy enough to say, but to do it while still holding appreciation for whatever form your body might take is the real key.  Thanks to the daily asana practice, my body is becoming stronger each day, which makes it easier to admire.  Furthermore, I can't really give in to the starvation monster, as I would just pass out in class.  I have to put something in that belly.  

Just what do I put into that belly, though?  Apparently, raw foods agree wholeheartedly and completely with my constitution.  My appetite, digestion and energy have never been better. Having a a beautiful, raw genius at home making delicious uncooked food and serving them up with all the support and love I could have ever imagined really makes life easier 1) because unending, blissful love really is all around me at all times, and 2) because raw foods are, perhaps, the biggest pain in the ass ever to prepare.  (Disclaimer: once you get used to the added time, it's actually not so bad.  But, it sure drives home my point in this case.)  Morning smoothies have been a staple, as I can throw in some green juice, a vegan protein/vitamin super-powder galore, some aloe juice, and an ever-revolving mix of fiber supplements - so far, my favorites include any without psyllium, which seems to slow things down more than one would think.  (After years of messing with the way my body processed food, it appreciates any ingredients that soothe digestion.  Raw food is actually a comprehensive way of eating that incorporates that very notion into every meal.  Still, y'gotta throw a tummy a break.)  The rest of the day includes an assortment of fruit, and whatever meal is awaiting me when the day is done. 

Lastly, abstaining from alcohol has been one of the best things I've done for my body and it's relationship to food. I am hoping that I can incorporate glasses of wine here and there at some point, but for resetting my body, it has been a crucially awesome decision. Not to mention, I am actually getting a real high that used to be produced from alcohol and now I am actually getting it based on my own body's reactions to this beautiful life. Much like how, I would assume, you feel after seeing the Pyramids in Egypt after only ever having seen the Pyramids in Vegas.

Fancy, sure. But, authentic and ancient and mystifying? Eh, not so much.

There will surely be more posts on food, as I reacquaint myself with my unsuspecting enemy-turned-friend.  And, the work isn't done.  I still, don't understand why I can make so much progress, feel so strong, love the way my body works in class and then come home and hate that my stomach sticks out to far.  Or, be upset that I seem to be hovering ten pounds heavier than when I decided to do the teacher training several months ago (what is that about muscles weighing more than fat?  Can I use that lifeline?)  The bottom line:  women, and men for that matter, are told we should look a certain way.  It's reinforced in popular culture, and then reinforced in our own heads when we lose weight and gain approval.  It's reinforced in other minds when we determine what "overweight" means and then go on to associate all sorts of negative stigmas around that arbitrary figure.  It's reinforced in the loss of what humans actually look like and instead an idea of what we're supposed to look like.  

But, what it really comes down to, I think, is reinforcement by the sheer ignorance of what it is we each really want.  And, not wants as in, "I really want to eat a whole chocolate cake right now.  I know that's what I want, and so I know myself."  It's the kind of wants that are innate, in our cells and our hearts that are telling us what it is we need to sustain ourselves; what it is we need to prepare these human forms for the ultimate experiences in life, which are in the day-to-day moments; what it is we want to be the most we can be.  Knowing what it is I want is finally coming into focus.  And, it just so happens, I really want this body, with all it's curves and muscles and skin.  I want it because I can finally feel what it's capable of. Even the badonk. 

Maybe, especially the badonk.

18 August 2010

Rise and shine.

A few weeks ago, I looked up the old Sunday school song by the same name.  I haven't attended a Christian church in years and I certainly can't remember the last time I identified as a "Christian"in my spirituality. What I can remember though, is the smile that this song brought to me as a child; as it happens, it still has the same effect.  I woke up one morning, rested and happy - the kind of morning that belongs in a musical, where you wake up singing, arms shining out as you stretch up and belt out the chorus as the sun and plants crescendo with you! - and it was the first thought to pop into my head.  "Rise and shine and give god the glory, glory!"  Again, I haven't necessarily identified with the same image of God that these lyrics once represented, but it still translates.  The underlying energy, the source, the universal love - or if you like, "God" - does garner some appreciation upon awakening.  I wake up and am happy to be alive, appreciative of what lies ahead in a whole new day.  I think it's natural to want to send some gratitude back out into the great beyond for that happiness and potential.  It's not out of necessity nor is it compulsory, it just feels good.

Mornings, in general, feel good.  You're rested, replenished, and young - your day is new, and completely ahead of you.  I've always loved mornings, the earlier the better.  I especially love being up right as the night turns into day, that velvet shift where it feels like you're the only person in the world awake.   The whole world is mine, in that moment, calm and new, until everyone else starts to wake up.  If I manage to accomplish something in that time, it feels as though I've illuded time, tricking him out of an extra hour or two for myself.

This morning, we went to an early class at 6:30.  It goes without saying that it feels amazing to roll out of bed and onto a mat.  Like my whole body is singing "Rise and Shine."  Adding to that innate sense of sunrise appreciation, then, is a whole practice that always leaves my body feeling open, gracious, and blissful.  It's a tremendous way to start the day.

It is apparent, now, that I'm in the morning of a new day in my life.  In every moment, in every cell, in every breath, there is tremendous gratitude.  There is tremendous happiness in simple things and in the monumental things, too.  And, there is tremendous promise in what lies ahead.  It feels like I've been talking about all the new things for a long time.  But, as long as I continue to feel as though I'm finally awakening, it's still my morning, rising and shining and giving lots of glory, glory.

13 August 2010

Flipping life over.

Lately, when I sit down to write, I'm overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of change occurring in my life.  It's not just on my mat in class.  It's everything, everywhere.  Most of it is incredibly encouraging and exciting; some of it is really painful.  But, all of it is effortless.  Things are just moving - moving in such positive directions so gracefully.  Even the shit that I haven't wanted to deal with, that I've put off and put off and put off is getting all stirred up and cleaned up.

Some things, like food and other consumables, have been easy.  The intentions I lined out for myself were intimidating, but it's been surprising how easy it's been to follow.  Now, to be fair, many of those guidelines were already part of my daily life - veganism, raw foods, etc. - but, others have proven in the past to be incredibly difficult to wean away from.  This would be the category for alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, not to mention the lack of all the love, respect, tolerance, acceptance and moderation to which I've committed.  I love coffee.  I love wine.  I love beating myself up about things I either a) have no control over, or b) know are bad for me, but do them anyway. These are things I've become accustomed to, turning to them for comfort and pleasure.  But, to my complete surprise, since Day 1 of le yogic journey, these things have all fallen away, naturally.  Truly, utterly, effortlessly.  I feel amazing, which helps - sounder sleep, more energy, and less anxiety are just some of the high points.  Mostly, though, it's nice to tune back in to what I really want.  Instead of thinking about what sounds good at the moment - "Mmm, maybe a margarita with this blog-writing would be great!" - I've instead started listening to what I really want and need.  Turns out, I don't really need a stimulant or a depressant at all moments.  They're almost like garnishes that have taken over the main dish - I still hope to incorporate them, sparingly, at some point in my life, but they'd taken my focus away from the main idea.

Other things, though, have been more difficult.  The aforementioned shit, for instance.  The past two days have been agony thanks to an onslaught of student loan demons from every corner of my increasingly-regretted degree.  And, yet, all I can think is that, when a birth occurs there's got to be some pain.  There has to be a transition and things have to be cleaned up in order to emerge more beautiful than before.  Yesterday, after a lengthy stint of telephone-debate and minimum payments, I high-tailed it as quickly as I could to the first class available.  Now, if there's one aspect of yoga I would place in the dislike category, it's handstands.  I hate them.  Well, actually, I hate that I can't do them.  It's not really fair to blame them.  It's that I can't get all 6' of this body over it's own head to give my blood-flow a little rest.  And, sure enough, straight from one hell to another, I walked into a class of hour-long inversions.  By the end, I still couldn't do a handstand by myself without the wall.   But, I absolutely felt closer to achieving it.  I'm not there yet, but I will be. Which, makes me believe that my student loans will have to resolve themselves in some way, too.  I'm open and honest and ready to take them head on - which is more than I can say I've ever been willing to do.  And, I think with that preparedness, I just have to keep inching toward success.  I'm not there yet, but I will be.  None of it can be rushed, otherwise I'll just fall on my head, or kick someone else over.  I just have to remain open and undiscouraged.  (Unfortunately for handstands, they're now the symbol in my practice of student loans in my life.  I'll conquer both before it's all over.)

I like feeling empowered.  It makes these situations that arise feel necessary.  Without them, without anything to overcome, I'd just be the gushing idiot running around, irritatingly giddy.  I'm looking forward to that title someday, but for now, it's nice to feel these changes rooting into the most un-yogic things in my life and changing how I'm handling those, too.  As several conversations have noted lately, without the lows in life, how would we know the highs?  How would we appreciate being so blissfully happy if we hadn't experienced the tumultuous sadness?

Everything has two sides.  When we become aware of how to flip it over and see the other side, we can see the situation or the entity for what it is, it's revealed to us.  Until we learn how to flip over, though, it remains concealed.  So, I'll just keep trying to flip this body, these thoughts, these experiences over; continuing to reveal to myself what I've concealed from myself.

04 August 2010

She moves in mysterious ways, ahhh ah ah.

I've heard of tears in yoga class but had never actually experienced them myself until yesterday.  I'm not sure if it was tears of finally starting to feel my body move in ways I never thought possible or the grace of the strength that I've started to feel overflowing into every aspect of every movement of every day, but I gave in to the sheer bliss that came as little streams ran from the corners of my eyes into my already sweat-drenched hair.

What really clenched the moment, though, was this poem, read softly and quietly as I lay in Savasana, meditating on what I could become, meditating on what I have become over the course of a week, letting the feeling well up in my heart, into my throat and when I could no longer contain it, letting it spill over and out of my body in big beautiful, joyous tears:

"The Thing Is"  Ellen Bass

The thing is...

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you've held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

It's nice to be holding life again.

01 August 2010

Come on, I know you're God, quit playing around.

Did you ever have semesters in college where you would pick out the most diverse classes imaginable and, yet, they still ended up complementing each other in some capacity?  Your French Conversation class and your International Politics lecture ended up providing a new and informed view in a topic that came up in your Haunting & Healing class?  So, maybe you didn't switch majors 8 times, and maybe you didn't end up with a degree in three different subjects because you couldn't pick just one; bear with me.  A similar instance being when you pick up a newspaper, read a random article and it then later comes up in conversation.  That eery feeling of everything being interconnected is one of my favorite things ever.

Incidentally, it's happening to me right now!  (Ok, seeing as how this is my blog, it's may not be entirely fair to use the term "incidentally.")  I started reading Steve Ross' book, Happy Yoga, a few months ago.  I would pick it up and put it down and pick it up and put it down and the cycle continued for a few weeks.  Then, I finally had some time to really delve into what it was saying and it has been incredibly transformative.  The eery coincidental part is that it is now backing up everything that's happening in the teacher training.  Like some sort of user's manual to all the in-between-the-lines stuff, it has allowed a larger shift in my personal reconstruction.  Plus, it gives me something to grin at when my teacher says something the universe has just prepared for me to receive.  

The book revolves around seven reasons why there's nothing to worry about: 

1) You can't get happy, you can only be happy
2) You can have true love
3) You're not fat
4) You're not your daily grind
5) You can change your world
6) You will never die
7) You can be yogic, and to the yogi, everything is bliss

It may sound a bit too self-helpish or perky at first glance, but it is astonishingly eye-opening and grounded.  While I don't want to give all the secrets away, I will comment briefly on the section regarding love.

Going back to that college experience - and before... and after - I have always strived for approval.  Approval of my intelligence, approval of my talent, approval of my image, approval of my choices, approval, approval, approval!  Much to my surprise, I realized I'd never actually approved of myself;  which made it a lot easier to make poor decisions, as I didn't approve of myself anyway. Though I've worked for many years prior to reading this book on loving and respecting who I am, it was not until I read Ross' words on the subject that I had a real, tangible clarity about who exactly I'm trying to please and, in turn, from whom I'm trying to garner love.  The idea is, if you just stop wanting love and become love, emanating love for yourself and everyone else, the need for approval ceases and allows everything to unfold as it should.  I cannot do justice to the concept, which is why everyone should read the book.  Suffice it to say, it's really lovely to be a student in a position where there's no worry about whether my questions or my answers or my practice will be the right ones.  As long as I'm being genuine to myself, doing the best I can, I already have love.  Because I am love.  All of this makes me more open and receptive to what's being taught, which is, perhaps, the biggest gift of all. 

It's also refreshing to rediscover Buddhist and yogic principles that reawaken my mind to forgotten lessons.  It's a relief to remember that I am, we all are, God.  We aren't, in fact, learning anything outside us that isn't already inside us (except maybe plank pose.  We have to be taught plank. I don't think any ethereal being would ever do plank pose, because it's straight from hell.)  We simply are remembering our sacredness that's been there all along.  Which is so comforting!  In Ross' chapter discussing the separation of the worldly body and the true self, he says the following:
"A yogic saint is someone who sees only the divine in the everyday experience of life.  So if a saint is throwing garbage at you, what you experience is duality: the saint and the garbage vs. you.  What the saint experiences is God throwing garbage at God, or better yet, God throwing God at God.  He sees past the periphery of form.  When a saint sees another person, he doesn't see another person.  He sees God in a form, pretending not to be God.  That's why yogic saints look at you with that twinkle in their eye that says, 'Come on, I know you're God, quit playing around.'"
What could be more galvanizing to diving more deeply into a yoga practice than being reminded that yoga is, or can be, a blissful existence in your own divinity?

Eery interconnectedness.  The universe's creepy way of giving you affirmation.

My common ground with a French rat.

There is a scene in Ratatouille in which Remi - food-connoisseur chef-extraordinaire rodent - is attempting to guide Emil - his rotund brother, whose brain might be as moldy as his food - in experiencing tastes with passion and awareness as opposed to mindless eating.  When Remi eats strawberries and cheese, the tastes are displayed like fireworks in his consciousness, full of light and colors and excitement. Emil's tastes, on the other hand, are but a dim flicker of berry and chevre monotones and squiggles.  There is an awakening... it's just not nearly as pronounced.

So, today, in my pre-asana meditation, as our teacher gently guided us to be aware of the new awakenings occurring in our minds and bodies, I have to admit I felt more like a fat rat than a connoisseur.  There were dull flickers of waking, but no fireworks yet.

I'm not, actually, all that confounded at this.  My body seems wholly foreign and alien to me at times, so a lack of momentous awakenings seems less about an absence and more about me becoming fluent with my own body's language.  I know where my knees and my hips and my heart and my spine are - but I don't know what it is to live in them.  How to use them without thinking, without translation through my brain.  It's a fascinating revelation - 26 years in one body and I have yet to really become acquainted with it.  I am WELL-acquainted with the parts of it I dislike - those have received all sorts of unwanted and negative attention from their own worst enemy.  Yet, I am still unable to use those or any other part of my own body with the comfort and ease that should evolve from using something relentlessly for two and a half decades.

How is it that I don't really know my body?  How it moves and what it likes and what it dislikes and what it needs.  My mind acknowledges and analyzes these concerns in an external, logical sort of way.  I can recognize and see these issues occurring and being meaningful.  The internalization of that information, though, where my mind stops analyzing and my body becomes aware down to its fingertips and toes, that is where awakenings become enlightenment.  I think.

'Til then, though, just a fat rat on a mat, working on my fireworks.