Monday, November 28, 2016

promises promises

i love the results a consistent meditation practice brings. but for a while i lost my practice.  as in i think it wandered off while i was shopping, and no amount of PA system calling could place it.

ok clearly it didn't wander off.  but that's what it felt like.  it surely wasn't my fault that i lost it. i had been waking up early to meditate every morning for 6 months straight.  i made an international trip to sydney and continued the practice, despite the irregular hours and erratic schedule while there.  upon arriving back in nyc, though, my sleep was the most disrupted it had ever been, and my meditation practice got lost in the jumble.  for the following 6 months, i meditated irregularly: a couple of times a week, when it was most convenient.

mostly, i beat myself up for not meditating.  mornings that i woke up later than intended were begun with a rush to get brekky and a thought that i'd ruined my meditation plan. i would silently feel bad about this, think about the things i could be accomplishing if i had meditated and had a clear slate to work from, and then grumpily go about getting out the door.

despite knowing how the daily meditation practice helped me, i felt like there was some mental block keeping me from re-engaging with the practice. a couple of weeks ago i attended a coaching call with elena and laurie from the handel group on keeping promises. when laurie asked for examples of promises we were having trouble keeping, i mentioned this lost meditation.

elena and laurie talked about how feeling bad is a diversion.  when it comes to making and keeping promises, engaging in the promised behavior provides you with personal integrity.  if you don’t do the behavior and then feel bad about it, you obscure the fact that you didn’t do the behavior.  so what’s happening is you’re listening to the other voice that provides you with an excuse.

this means that every morning i woke up without meditating and then silently yelled at myself up for not doing so, my mind felt like i had taken care of the problem.  i was actually giving myself more of an excuse to continue NOT meditating.  

you have to quiet that excuse voice by giving yourself a consequence when you don't engage in the promised behavior.  if you don’t do the promised behavior, you have to follow through by doing the consequence. this consequence replaces the voice that gives you an excuse.

although i've worked with the handel method before, i was skeptical that simply setting a consequence would magically find my wandering meditation practice.  but, i set a consequence: if i did not wake up early and meditate for 20 minutes, i would not be allowed to watch internet tv before bed.  (what i like about that consequence is that it is also providing me with a second opportunity for meditation if i miss the morning.)

i set the consequence and instantly i was back on track: my missing practice showed up. and it has been showing up every day for the past 12 days.  i told my mom about this, and she said "you must really like to watch tv at night!" i laughed, because i suppose i do, but that's not actually what happened here.  for example, when my alarm goes off, i don't think "i better get up and meditate so i can watch tv tonight!" i don't think at all, really.  i just do it.

this is an example of personal integrity: of wanting to keep that promise to myself.  of showing myself i CAN keep the promise.  of becoming dependent on myself.

the coolest part of that is that it is SUPER EASY. showing yourself that you can keep these promises to yourself gives you faith in yourself. and that faith keeps multiplying.

go ahead, try it.  maybe you could care less about where your meditation practice is.  but maybe you beat yourself up about delaying email replies, about not flossing, or about choosing a sugary drink over water.  choose one of those little things that has been driving you nuts, make yourself some promises promises... and then keep them.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

gratitude for what we attract

monday night i went to yoga and the teacher started talking about "gratitude, since thanksgiving is next week."  WHAT?! --yeah, i audibly yelled that in yoga class.  how the hell did thanksgiving sneak up on us?   (no, no, i know how; please don't bring that up.)  after that class, i began reflecting on my gratitude practice.  i've gone through different stages of keeping gratitude diaries and finding lessons i can be grateful for in each life experience.

the gratitude experience that stuck out in my mind was probably the first time i actively used gratitude in a difficult situation: i was having a break-up conversation with someone i didn't want to break up with--he was the initiator.  instead of reacting when he accused me of things, i silently reminded myself that i was grateful he was even talking to me, and then responded from a calm place.  when he called me a liar, i reminded myself that i was grateful he had overcome his fears about coming over, and responded with grace.

the gratitude i silently washed that conversation with changed the trajectory of that morning and of my future relationship with that individual.  we moved forward as friends, for which i was grateful.

shifting to an attitude of gratitude does have the power to change our experiences.  after contemplating that for the past few days, i incorporated a gratitude shifting practice into the yoga classes i taught this morning.  leaving class, i was feeling grounded and ready to tackle the day.

as part of my grab-my-day-by-the-horns, i texted someone and told them i needed them to do some healing before i could spend more time with them. it was a very hard text to write/conclusion to come to.  mainly because i care about the person, but also because i'm not great at boundaries: i often let other people's needs outweigh my own.  i had to protect myself in this situation, even though i didn't want to.

i felt a pain at letting this person go, even if only temporarily. but i also felt grateful that i had the strength to set that boundary for myself.  coincidentally (or, perhaps, cosmically), i found something moments after sending the text that i had copied for myself months ago from a friend's friend's blog (written by Rosie Rees):
You have attracted this person, relationship and situation into your life to GROW through it. They are mirroring back shadow elements of ourselves that we have not claimed. It is NOT your responsibility or duty to change them. They need to do that themselves.
let me just point out that i think the above statement is always true, which is why i tucked it aside for myself, but you know how some days some things just ring like SUPER TRUE?  (yes, "super true" is definitely a phrase you should be using now.)

i needed to be reminded that it wasn't my responsibility to help this person through all of their difficulties, especially when they weren't asking that of me. but what was most helpful to me was being reminded that i was seeing a reflection of myself in this person: i was watching him cope with his life difficulties by sliding back into alcohol/drug use.  moreover, i observed this as i was testing out not using any type of numbing agents.

he was the first person i went on a sober first date with--just a week into my original 40 day experiment. so as i was learning that i didn't need excessive alcohol in my life, my lessons were even more crystallized by the fact that he was experiencing negative ramifications from his own use.

i hope that he continues to grow and heal, but i know it isn't my job to arrange that.  however, it is up to me to decide how i feel now, after sending that text this morning.  and instead of being sad for losing him, i choose to be grateful for his appearance in my life at this time.

so just as i challenged my yoga classes this morning, see what you can shift by cultivating an attitude of gratitude. we can be grateful for even the seemingly worst aspects of our lives.  there are several instances in my life that i could point to and say "that really sucked," but flipping that around is actually equally easy, and much more fulfilling.

i am grateful for my husband leaving our home; i was able to grow and heal in ways i would not have been able to without that impetus. i am grateful for my struggle with bulimia; it has taught me more about myself and my relationships than another avoidance mechanism that i could have more easily blended into society's allowances.

i am grateful i have learned to set boundaries for myself; i am grateful i can choose to see gratitude in each moment. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

bye bye judgement, hello love

i worked the elections all day yesterday in harlem. i watched disenfranchised voters who suspected that, when i told them that were in the wrong polling location, it was because of a conspiracy to keep them from voting. (it was actually that two polling districts used to be in one building and one of them had moved 400 feet away.) despite the challenges, harlem voters turned up and voted in droves: my precinct had about seven times the turnout as in the last election. 

it broke my heart to hear their assumptions yesterday, but it really broke my heart walking around harlem today.

this morning i had decided that i was not getting out of bed to teach my two early morning harlem yoga classes. i figured everyone would hibernate through the day, and i knew i had nothing to offer in my teaching. but my conscience got the best of me and i showed up... and students showed up. 

at the end of the first class i taught, a young black woman from north carolina started sobbing, saying that she didn't know how she could live through the next four years.  a couple other women and i encircled her, held her, talked with her, and cried with her.

i didn't know how to respond to voters yesterday who didn't believe me; i didn't know what to teach in yoga this morning; i didn't know how to comfort the crying student this morning. i did what i could in each instance, following heart and offering what internal gifts i could find: feeling our sameness.

in "the universe has your back," gabby talks about separation, and all the ways that we make ourselves separate. sometimes it is easy to feel sameness, like when people commiserate with you about a shared loss. but other times, the separation and judgement feels so great.

i woke up at 134 am this morning to a message from a friend in sydney: "lucky you are a dual citizen!" it read. i knew instantly what the results of the election were.  and in that second, i felt separate.  alone.

i instantly blamed others for the results of the election and thus they became the source of my pain. but the blaming and separation didn't comfort me, and i was left feeling that nothing could.

then i was reminded of one day last week when i was freaking out about not having enough time to run as long as i wanted to. i only had time for a shorter run and i started out feeling angry that i hadn't left enough time to run. but i decided to try to change that: i decided to wish a positive thought to each person i ran by. like "i wish you love; i wish you happiness; i wish you abundance" etc. i ended up having an amazing run and feeling great. ...i felt like each person i passed was on my team.

so today, i remembered that experiment from last week's run.  when i looked at the maps of red vs blue, i wished positive thoughts for the voters who disagree with me.  when i got angry or sad thinking about the results of the election, i thought of the humanness we all share. when i let go of blaming and separating myself from them, my heart softened and i could feel healing.

love.  the more we respond from a place of love, the more we can all heal ourselves and our country. (so i guess the short answer is, no, i'm not moving back to sydney just yet.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

next destiny

tonight i got a text from my husband; it told me that i'm now divorced.  four years after our split, we are finally divorced.

i didn't know how to reply to the text.  i wanted to say something elegant; i wanted to process everything i was feeling; i wanted us to heal our wounds. 

i replied "oh my god."

*****************************************

i did a two day teacher training with elena this weekend.  upon arriving, elena had us draw cards from a deck.  each card had a quote.  mine was:

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
--FRANK OUTLAW


i like the quote; i like thinking that what we practice becomes us. i also like that we can create our destiny; and, that if we read deeper, we can change our destiny.

which is what i've been focusing on for the past 5 weeks. 37 days of no calorie counting, no drinking, no mood altering anything.   each day has gotten easier.  and now i feel better than normal about food and exercise. better than normal because i know what it is like to feel so undeniably obsessed with it. saturday i drank a juice without examining the calorie label.  sunday i'm pretty sure i had four full meals.  monday i ate some yogurt from a larger tub without measuring out a 1/2 cup serving so i'd know the calorie count.  these things all seem like actual miracles to me.

sunday night, at the end of the yoga training, i approached elena in a panic about my 40 days being almost up.  elena looked me in the eyes, grabbed my mala beads that were around my neck, pulled my face nose to nose with hers, and told me that she had an easy solution: she assigned me 40 more days.  i instantly felt relieved and thus knew that she was right in her assignment.

and i started to think about what it really was that i was in recovery from.  yes, the eating disorder; yes, i'm not using other substances right now... but was there a single addiction here? 

i think it's that i was addicted to numbing feelings and avoiding feeling hard emotions. and i do need another 40 days to continue to find my way without returning to any of the number of avoidant crutches i've used.

*****************************************

it's that addiction which i will now openly credit with accelerating the dissolution of my past relationships. 

processing the text tonight was surprisingly hard, despite the fact that the divorce was not at all sudden. friends questioned "is it because it's the end of a chapter?" "is it because you weren't expecting it?" "is it because of the way he told you?"  i kept saying that i didn't know.  lydia facetimed me from sydney, immediately upon receiving my text, and encouraged me to cry it out and try to determine what i was feeling.  when i still couldn't understand it, she prescribed meditation.

i meditated.  i sat.  i followed my breath.  i was present.  all the attempted processing, the breathing, even the meditation didn't identify what felt so hard about that text.  but, i did what i've almost never done: i sat with the hard feelings. instead of allowing myself to shrink inside a constricted breath, i was able to expand my breathing.

i would tell my best friend, who just soberly processed the death of her grandmother so beautifully: i'm proud of you.  I'M SO PROUD OF YOU.

so i breathe a deep breath, an expanded breath, into that pride i try to direct back toward myself. 

and i swear i can feel my next destiny inside that breath.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Halfway to Barbados

I was in the Miami airport, halfway to Barbados, and one of my favorite songs came through my iPhone headphones: “Moments,” by Tove Lo.  Partial lyrics: “I can get a little drunk/I get into all the don’ts/but on good days, I’m charming as fuck.”  Every time I hear those lyrics, I smile.  And I identify.  

Until I was halfway to Barbados. I was smiling, mouthing along to the lyrics, walking toward my gate, and, upon hearing those lyrics, I thought, “oh, that’s kinda sad.”

And I stopped in my tracks.  I actually stopped walking because I felt so confused. 

I have had a narrative in my head that I’m strong, even though I’m broken; that I’m surviving, even though I’m broken; that I’m functioning, even though I’m broken.

And when I paused to consider what was wrong, halfway through “Moments,” I realized it was a miracle moment: what was wrong was that I didn’t feel broken anymore. 

I smiled.  I smiled so big that I must have looked a little crazy to, well, everyone else in the airport. And I thought to myself, “I’m whole. I’m whole now.”

Feeling whole felt so fulfilling, and so different than anything I could remember, that it felt startling.  It feels scary for me to write: scary because I’m nervous that the feeling of wholeness might be transient.  My literal mind says, “but of course I was always whole; I just forgot.” And so I begin typing, assuring myself it’s safe to commit to digital ink.

The shift could be linked to the 40 days, friends’ life changes, the spontaneous impending vacation, the yoga workshops with Elena over the past two days, the reading and journaling I have been doing with Gabby’s new book The Universe Has Your Back, …or most likely a little bit of all of the above.

One of the lessons Gabby references from A Course in Miracles is that we “create visions of the world we want to see,” meaning that the stories we tell ourselves are powerful. The backstory to who we are, even if it is never written down or spoken aloud, resounds through our minds. 

The truth is, I liked thinking of myself as broken.  I liked the fragility and girlishness about it. I played into it. I felt like it gave me character.

But it was an excuse. The more I challenged the notion that I was broken, even though I wasn’t always doing it consciously, the harder it became to believe.  Until the Miami Miracle Moment, when it became impossible to believe.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

icarus

it's the evening of day 20 of my 40 day challenge.  40 days of no substances and no calorie counting.  20 days in: i've learned a few things.

a la movies   
no substances: i'm fun, and can party just as ridiculously sans alcohol.  i've been out with friends drinking late on weekend evenings, dancing til the wee hours, totally sober.  well, okay, maybe the diet cokes hyped me up a bit. so maybe 99% sober. 

some people haven't been inviting me to things as much, fearful that i wouldn't go or that i wouldn't have fun without being able to drink. but i don't blame them; i would probably suspect the same of most of my friends. luckily i also have a bestie who is doing the challenge with me.  and we look very cute sober at a movie on a saturday night.

first dates, cocktail parties where i don't know anyone, and business dinners are all a little terrifying without any alcohol. however, i've met a few brave dates open to the challenge, and made friends at parties and dinners despite the sobriety.

personally, i've been feeling more confident and happy: realizing i'm fun on my own and that i can make it through these events sober has translated into less fear overall.   the confidence has even bled into other areas of my life.  i've stood up for myself with colleagues that weren't listening to my expertise, and i've expressed my needs to friends and partners more readily. 

it's also made me much more sympathetic to people who have quit drinking.  i've always thought that recovering from bulimia was very hard because food is something that is necessary: you cannot exist in a world where people do not eat.  although i had sympathy for anyone in any type of recovery, i still felt like "but you don't HAVE to be around (insert drug or alcohol here) if you don't want to!"

but i don't know how true that is for alcohol, really.  it's quite pervasive in our social lives.  although i'm quite happy not drinking right now, i also know that it's not forever.  so to my sober peeps: i'm sorry if i minimized your struggle, even if only in my own mind.  also: i'm totes up for sober parties, even after my 40 days are up.

no counting: eating without counting every bite and calculating each calorie is way less stressful.  i never liked counting every chip at the mexican restaurant, or estimating how many tablespoons of ketchup i just squeezed on to my plate. i was doing it to ease the craziness in my brain, but it was actually only contributing to it.  (i know, i know, if you have never dealt with this issue, it sounds like a "DUH" statement.)

i'm more present when i'm eating with friends.  i listen to them talking instead of re-counting the number of calories i have consumed thus far at the meal.  i can reply to them and engage in conversation instead of calculating whether i have enough calories left in my day to have a bite of the dessert they ordered.

it has been hard, a million moments of each day.  i've created a few thought exercises to distract myself when i start to try to count something on my plate when eating alone or start to try to remember all the things i've eaten in a day. (they involve trying to remember very minute details in other areas of my life.) but, in general, it feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  not basing my self-value on a number, and whether or not i feel like it is the right number, is freeing. 

i no longer wake up after a day where i decided i had 200 too many calories with a sense of dread: a feeling that i had to make up for being "bad" the day before by eating less or exercising extra, trying to find extra time for working out or brainstorming places to save calories.  or even panicking because i might have a social event in the evening that i knew would involve alcohol--and extra calories. which leads me to the following. 

and the combo of the two: alcohol has calories. i've definitely played the sorority girl game of eating less to drink more.  i've run extra to drink more.  i've chosen which drinks to enjoy based on their calorie count (no different than foods).

not drinking for the past few weeks has taught me how afraid of alcohol calories i really am: on mornings of social functions i used to feel anxiety.  lately i have not.  and, scarily enough, i've realized it's because i don't feel internal pressure to run an extra few miles to prep for the looming alcohol calories. i can workout the normal amount without the fear of "going over" the calorie count i've allotted for my day.

and i've also started to become terrified for the time when the 40 days is up.  not counting calories has been a really big step in my recovery.  what if i'm not able to refrain from calorie counting when i introduce alcohol back into the equation? what if i try to go overboard on running (again)? what if...

yeah.

if it was one of my friends saying things like this to me, i'd give the advice i always do: wasting time worrying about this in advance of the actual situation is not helpful.  and so, i keep up the meditation and the yoga.  i practice.  and i trust that i can keep flying that line between the sea and the sun.



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

clarity

today i started 40 clear days.  meaning no alcohol or mood changers of any type. i've never tried to go any expanded amount of time without being able to relax with a glass of wine.  i have friends that do "dry july," which i've never consider doing, since that's my birthday month.  i have friends who have done cleanses, which i just never really felt called to do.  and luckily i never get sick, so i'm never forced to go on breaks while on antibiotics.

but last week i decided i wanted to do 40 clear days.  kind of spontaneously actually.  i texted my bff and told her and she immediately signed up. ("signed up" means she said "ok, i'll do it too!") over the course of the next few days before i started, a few other friends committed to their own variations of the theme.

and then, last night, right before i started, i added a challenge: a challenge that is way scarier than going to dinner or bars with my friends and watching them drink; way more horrifying than feeling left out of a social situation; much more terrifying than fomo.  i decided that i'd try to stop counting my calories for the next 40 days.

counting calories is something i've been doing some version of for 25 years.  i don't write everything i eat down anymore, and i don't keep track of each day's input and output now, but i still keep a running tally in my head every day.  i know that my usual breakfast has 450 calories.  i know i usually run 6 miles a day.  i know i usually have -250 going into lunch.  i check my daily mileage tracker regularly to see if i get to count extra calories as "burned."  i try to fit extra activity in where i can and automatically subtract it off my total consumed for the day.  ...the math is constant.

harlem street food, exhibit 1.
and it's also exhausting.  my brain gets quite consumed by this activity.  when i'm bored in a meeting, i recalculate for the day.  when i'm eating, i'm actually calculating calories. i can't concentrate on conversation at the dinner table until i've figured out the calorie count.

so i decided to experiment with letting it go--since i was getting clear.

today: i had my usual breakfast.  so i knew how many calories there were without having to do any work.  i ran an hour, and i knew how many calories i burned, so i didn't have to do the math.  it wasn't working.

so for lunch, i skipped usual options and went rogue.  i went to a cart on the street and bought a falafel pita: something that would've taken me several attempts and re-attempts until i decided which calorie total was closest to the truth.

while i was eating it, my brain actually tried to start adding things up.  SEVERAL TIMES.  so i pulled up an article and focused really hard on reading it while i was eating.  and then went right to the next task and kept yelling at myself: DO NOT THINK ABOUT HOW MANY CALORIES WERE IN THAT WRAP.

very occasionally, cat is calm.
i had a few more meetings.  i prepped for evening teaching.  i went to yoga.  i rushed back to teach and grabbed a snack en route.  i knew there were 250 calories in what i was eating, but i didn't know what to add it to.  i didn't know what my total was for the day. it hurt my brain not to think about it, but i pushed it away as i rushed into the classroom. 

i ate dinner watching tv. i kept quieting my mind.  but writing this is still quite an effort in non-addition.

however, it's 1am and i don't know my daily total.  i don't know if i'm "over" or "under" for the day.  the mental energy to not add, subtract, and re-calculate all day was almost equal to the amount of energy i would have expended doing so. i assume it will be easier tomorrow.

and, if it isn't, i'll just scratch cat behind the ears and think about  how much a glass of wine would help me forget about counting calories.