a yoga class, a realization, and coming back to what matters

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The theme for today.

Today I took a study break to have lunch with two of my friends (who I miss and wish I saw on a more regular basis, FTR). We got to gossiping and when I mentioned an admittedly petty frustration I’m having with a blog I would probably be better off avoiding reading follow—the blogger sometimes says one thing and then does another.

My friend (lovingly) pointed out something about which I am sure there’s a cliché out there about, but I’ll just spit it out: I think I am so irked by this blogger because I can be guilty of the same thing. The things that bother us or that we judge in other people being the things that we are in some way self conscious of about or in ourselves and as dedicated as I am to loving my body, getting off the diet train, and redefining and owning what healthy and happy mean to me, I still slip up.

For a number of reasons (a list I’ll keep to myself), this month feels extra stressful. Old habits die hard and I’m finding myself looking for ways to feel like I’m in control of my world and comfort in the old ways I used to “take care” of myself using food. At yoga tonight, I found myself looking in the mirror and thinking about how much I wished my “belly” wasn’t there.

Maybe it was the instructor’s emphasis on focusing on our core (I sometimes joke that I was born without abs because my core feels non-existant), but at any rate, I found myself fixating on my abs (or lack thereof). Shame on that and shame on what happened next, but I couldn’t get my mind off of that thought for the majority of class. That being said, there’s something powerful about being stuck in a room half naked when all you want to do is get out (or being “stuck” in any situation, really), and by the end of it all I’d sorted out my thoughts.

My (condensed) thought process looked like this: It’s not fair that I spend so much time exercising and/or thinking about training and/or what I’m going to eat or not eat but I still look like this. à I could stop working out so much. à I don’t think that’s the answer…I like the workouts I do now. à I could give up ____________ (coffee, peanut butter, the occasional grain (oatmeal, rice cakes) I’ve been eating again lately. à For every restriction, there’s an equal and opposite binge. And I’m sick of yo-yoing. à Then what is the answer? à Losing weight? à You’ve been there and done that. à What’s really wrong here?

Hmmph.

Needless to say, this isn’t an internal dialogue I feel like having anymore

So what is the answer?

It’s cheesy (but that’s kind of my style), but the yoga instructor said something midclass that sparked some new thoughts in my mind. After a particularly challenging series of postures, she asked us to replace thoughts of “that was hard” with an appreciation for the fact that every time we challenge our bodies and feel the sensations that go along with that, we’re getting stronger.

Well, I’d certainly call overcoming my dose of body shame a challenge—and shifting the focus to look at it as an opportunity to get stronger relieved some of the negativity I was feeling about “still” struggling with it.

I (re)realized a few things. There’s nothing wrong with my body. If I lose 20lbs, my life will be essentially the same. I will still be stressed about my assignments. I will still get lonely and miss my family. I will still question whether or not I am on the right track or if I should have went to journalism school. I will still have bills that I wonder how I’ll ever pay without my parents’ help. I will still feel self conscious when I’m naked. I will still argue with my mother over the same old things. People I know will still get sick and die before they should.

In short, regardless of what my body looks like or how much I weigh, life will still have its ups and downs. Downs and ups. All that can happen if I take the emphasis off of the shape of my body and keep on the path towards focusing on acceptance is finding more space to love the ups. It’s tough to appreciate all that’s awesome if you’re caught up on what’s bringing you down: I have assignments that challenge me. I have a family to miss. I always know that I can get into journalism school if I need to. I have my parents’ support while I figure out how to pay my own bills. I have a healthy body that carries me through life. My mother and I are close enough that we can argue about things. I am blessed to have a big circle of friends filled with people who have impacted me.

I’ve realized this and I’ve said it before, but what needs to change isn’t the size of my body—it’s my beliefs and my attitude about the size of my body. It’s the actions that I’m taking that aren’t really serving me, regardless of their bearing on my weight (using dieting as a coping mechanism, emotionally eating/distracting myself from my feelings, taking on too much at once, wearing stress like a badge of honour, etc. come to mind). These things might not be as easy to change as what I eat or how much I exercise, but they are the real issues. Losing weight for the sake of losing weight would be like grabbing a bandaid; making lasting change with these things it’s taken me so long to own up to (and maybe losing weight as a side effect of sorting them out–or not) gets at the real issues.

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Yoga is often like a touchstone for me and today, it really brought me back to what’s important. I found compassion for myself and my struggles and an appreciation for the ongoing process I’m working on. I found a way to get back to appreciating what’s good in my life and a bit more acceptance for where I’m at right now. l gave up some of the self judgment (and noticed some of the judgment I feel towards that other blogger slipping away) and took my focus onto what really matters to me. Rather than hating myself for being in that thought process, I realized that I’m loving (in the love-hate sense of the word) the opportunity to get stronger in what I stand for: finding the sweet spot where happy and healthy are at the max.

pretty!

Have you gone through a process of learning to love/accept your body? Were there ups and downs?
Do you find yoga helps you come back to your intentions? How do you centre yourself?
Do you think losing weight improves your life in grandiose ways? 

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on the right foot: shit storms and silver linings

a life lesson, a coaching gem, a question to get you thinking–what better day than monday for a positive post?

Today, I’m going to share a coaching tool that I picked up that’s been helping me in my personal life a whole lot lately as well as a big insight that’s come up for me recently.

In coaching, we call upon clients to access their “Appreciator”:

“The Appreciator is your inner authority that appreciates everything, the dark and the light, the wins and the losses, and the failures and successes, all without judgment. Everyone has access to their personal Appreciator, but accessing it is a choice.”

If it sounds like a cute way to remind people to look for silver linings, you’re right. Drawing out and calling upon the appreciator is a conscious choice to take an empowering perspective on whatever situation you’re in and can thus be powerful stuff.

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Last week was a bit of a shit storm for me. With lots going on (packing up and making the trek to my cousin’s wedding over the weekend, getting my things together for my trip to North Carolina tomorrow, and trying to keep up all the training and writing and normal things I do plus my coaching, working at GFC, and finishing my article for Canadian Cycling Magazine), a couple of poopy things happened that were kind of the icing on a knock me on my arse cake. I won’t go into details (you can guess how personal they must be if I’m not willing to put them out there) but from having a bag filled with almost $200 of brand new gear for my trip go missing (stolen?) within an hour of buying it to some family stuff, my week was filled with things that stressed me out.

Luckily, in the midst of the shit storm that was last week, I found myself drawing on my appreciator. Doing so started out as a “how can I make this less shitty?” attempt (which led to jokes and a bit of ease) and then led to a pretty big realization.

As much as I wanted to beat myself up for buying ice cream or for wanting to eat all the chocolate in my apartment (and I will admit that I did turn to food a bit for comfort), I recognized in the process that I was entirely capable of taking care of myself—even in a really overwhelming situation. I was choosing to use food as comfort just like I could choose to use my journal, talking to a friend, or blogging—things that I then started opting for instead.

When I was journaling, I wrote down, “The world is conspiring against me.” I made jokes about how if I had a kitten, it would probably die. Not funny and certainly not empowering.

Bringing in more of my appreciator, something big dawned on me. Rather than thinking that the world was out to get me, I could choose a positive perspective. What if the world is “conspiring” in a different way?

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Sure, conspiring typically connotes a bad outcome. But that it’s “typical” suggests that there’s an another alternative, albeit a weird option! What came into my mind was the notion that the world could just as easily be conspiring to serve me in a big way. I changed “The world is conspiring against me,” to “The world is conspiring to serve my greatest good,” and got on with things.

I looked at the beauty in being slammed with a bunch of stressful things all at once and not crumbling.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on beliefs about success being scary. The number of ways I’ve held back and haven’t let myself be as wildly successful as I know I’m capable of in an attempt to keep myself safe makes me sad. Realizing, though, that it was this idea that being at the top is scary and my fear of getting there and falling that was holding me back—not self-sabotage or my lack of ability—gave me hope. All I needed to do was shift those beliefs, right?

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When it comes to changing our beliefs, it’s safe to say that it can be easier said than done. But what I had on my hands last week was an opportunity.

I’d “fallen” and survived. I wasn’t crushed.

If I can fail without considering myself without considering myself a failure, if I can stumble without stopping, and if I am entirely capable of picking myself and getting on with things after getting knocked down, the prospect of success (and the risk it carries) is less terrifying.

That was a lot of words to sum this up:

  1.  Shit storms happen. Finding our appreciators and consciously choosing to focus on the silver lining can open up all kinds of power.
  2.  The evidence that we need to shift our beliefs can show up on it’s own if we choose to recognize it as such.
  3.  I found me some balls to go after success a little more boldly from here on out.

What’s a silver lining your appreciator’s found lately?
Can you think of any beliefs you’ve successfully switched? What was it like?
What are your beliefs/thoughts around success? How are they informing your life?

Things to do when you can’t sleep

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…NOT. I am stressed. I know this for many reasons including the fact that I can’t sleep. For someone used to going to bed at 10:30 and waking up at 5:30, being awake at 2:30 (I tweeted to mark the time) is not ideal. I tossed and turned for a while and finally got hungry enough to just get up. I admittedly had a real coffee later than normal yesterday, but I think my mind racing had more to do with not being able to sleep. Eventually, I unset my alarm and got up, snacked, and worked on my take home exam/essay some more. Things to do besides worry about not being able to sleep:

  • read blogs
  • write in your journal
  • embrace the opportunity to have a true “midnight snack”
  • research wild trips you’ll likely never be able to go on—or find one you actually want to try! (I am particularly drawn to the semester long treks through NOLS)
  • finish the draft of an essay you’re worried about
  • read a book
  • paint your nails
  • clean
Those come from experience. Enjoy.

My midnight snack of choice was a boring bowl of greek yogurt that got more exciting when I added a spoonful of peanut butter. I think there’s a saying that a spoonful of peanut butter makes life complete? 😉 20120410-073052.jpg I almost repeated my morning snack, which was similar—greek yogurt with honey, cocoa, and a few Mini Eggs. I think my thoughts just caught up with me at night because I was going all day and didn’t have time for them to sink in or swirl around my head. After my morning post yesterday, I ended up spinning at the gym before heading to The Gazette. I ran into Nina and ended up eating lunch (turkey sandwich with leftover kale chips). I love seeing her, but realizing we are almost done this semester and that she might not be here next year makes me uber sad and reminds me of all the other good friends who are going to be friends from remote locations after this year :(! I worked for a bit but I started to get really anxious about my assignments so I went to the library. I saw Ellen, who has a knack for making me happier, and sat in the less stressful cafe part of the library where eating my afternoon granola bar wouldn’t piss everyone off and where my stress levels wouldn’t increase by association. 20120410-073032.jpg Afterwards, I went for a swim! Luckily I had company, otherwise I’d probably have bailed. I did a short set with more kicking than was originally planned to save my shoulder a bit of stress. It really didn’t hurt much, just felt tight, so I don’t know what to do. I have a massage (for my hip, mostly) on Thursday, but I think I’ll see if getting her to loosen up my oh so stressed back/neck/shoulders helps things out. I also have physio on Friday so I can bring it up there too! After the swim, I had dinner with Nina (spinach salad with leftover sweet potatoes, salmon, cranberries, and pecans) and after arming myself with Mini Eggs, we met Angela for a night of studying at Starbucks. Studying with friends makes me more likely to smile and not to go into tunnel vision about “never finishing this essay” or about “having nothing to do in the summer”—common worries for me during the final stretch here! So, even though it’s kind of a stressful time, I’m trying really hard to spend as much time with people as I can and to enjoy the last bit of time here! I had a few “OMG I AM SO GLAD I’M COMING BACK NEXT YEAR” moments yesterday. Not only does taking time to see people and to just slow down keep me sane and make me happy, it also is important since the semester is coming to an end and I’m realizing how much I’m going to miss these folks. And, tear. 20120410-073036.jpg This morning I woke up a little full from last night’s middle of the night snack, sad that I missed swim, but ready to get on with my day. I started things off with a few of my favourite things: cereal, coffee, and blogging. It’s on to working on my exam, trying to make it to campus, spinning, and teaching bootcamp. Busy is better than bored! Do you get stressed when things end/change? What do you do if you can’t sleep? What kind of trip would you go on if you had unlimited money and resources?  

Home stretch

In 3 days, this semester will be over! I only have one exam this semester and then I’ve got time off before summer school. Can’t wait is an understatement.

Yesterday was a productive day which didn’t feel much like Easter, except for the mini eggs I treated myself to for dessert. The Easter Bunny (my mother) delivered a family size bag on Saturday, so I put a decent amount in a container to last me a while and will take the rest to the Gazette office tomorrow to share with all the people who couldn’t make it home to obtain junk food from their families in the name of studying.

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Things started off with a pretty mundane breakfast.

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Then I spent a few hours at Starbucks (my version of the library), where I wrote Bonnie’s birthday post  and did a bit of homework while drinking copious amounts of coffee and snacking on an apple with nut butter.

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When my butt was numb, I headed home to go for a run. Of course I managed to time my 30 minute run for the middle of the hour when it rained…but running in the rain doesn’t bother me as long as I’m warm, and warm I was.

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Yeah, the point of the picture is to show off my new shoes–which match my running jacket! I love it when life coordinates itself. I also love wearing brand new shoes on a muddy trail. Liberating!

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After my 30 minutes of bliss, I got greedy with giving myself permission to have awesome breaks and went to yoga for an hour of sweaty awesomeness. The class was a power class but luckily for my shoulder, which came alive during the class, it wasn’t that tough but was more of a stretch.

I did manage to catch the lyrics to one of the instructor’s songs I love. I proceeded to google it, download it on iTunes, and listen to it on repeat for the rest of the day.

When I got home and showered, even though I’d had a second apple in the car on the way to yoga to tide me over after my run, I was ready for lunch so I tossed together leftover turkey, sweet potatoes, and a salad with cranberries and pecans.

It hit the spot! I went back to Starbucks (I have a problem) and I got down to work on my assignment due today. I finished most of it using plenty of decaf coffee as fuel. I also mowed down on a Kashi bar when my tummy started to talk to me.

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When I got home, I wanted something quick for dinner so I threw together stuff I had kicking around the fridge. I cooked beef and mushrooms and onions (oh red meat, I missed you…I felt a twinge of guilt but again, I’m trying to be more conscious about my meat choices and definitely am grateful to this cow), kale chips, and added some  leftover mashed potatoes to make a meal. Yum.

I finished up my assignment last night and headed to bed, expecting to fall asleep immediately. Instead, my mind raced until I let it all out in my journal. Lots on my mind…but at the end of the day I realized all I can do is do my best. Yes, it’s cheesy, but spending the day with me myself and I yesterday was awesome. It gave me the fuel I needed to write a personal essay about that topic—realizing that you come home to you at the end of the day and that you need to learn to be okay with that person first and foremost. Epiphany much. I’ll share that essay ASAP, as soon as it’s done serving it’s scholastic purposes.

And now it’s later than I thought it would be and I’ve checked breakfast and submitting my final portfolio for my writing class off the list. One of my courses is officially done, so that’s kind of a big deal.

Now I’m debating whether or not to head to the pool to attempt a swim with my shoulder. It’s fine but it I’m a bit anxious to swim since it likes to wake up during the middle of the day or a workout. Decisions…

How was your Easter?
Is school wrapping up for you?