Friday, June 24, 2011
It happens — you miss a few workouts and you feel like you've fallen off the weight-loss wagon. It's tempting to mentally slap yourself around, right? (Or head for the fridge.) Before you start, I want to remind you of something: Being hard on yourself is the Old You.
The New You knows how to deal with setbacks and get back on the wagon. And after all, there are no mistakes, just learning experiences. Weight loss is a process — it takes time. You will encounter small non-accomplishments — everyone does — but every pound you gain can be lost.
And if you miss a workout, it's not the end of the world! Get to the gym the next day and continue to focus on your short-term goals. Just because you made bad choices today doesn't mean you can't start over tomorrow. New day? New beginning. And don't you forget it!
Choosing to see challenging situations from a different perspective can open our minds to new possibilities and solutions. It is easy to become blinded by our situation when we are enmeshed in the struggle to figure it out. If we can instead lift our focus higher and choose a different perspective, we can gain a greater sense of clarity about our circumstances. With our enhanced awareness, we are able to receive insights regarding different actions we could take or come up with creative solutions to problems. By lifting your awareness above your challenges today, you will be able to see your situation clearly and come up with exciting new possibilities.
Friday, June 24, 2011
“I no longer look at every reflection of myself and see a map of disappointments. I see vigor, curves and force, an organic tumble of sensual, sexual energy. I stand straighter. I breathe deeper. My heart opens.”
Yearning for a change in routine but not quite able to fit a trip into my schedule for another five months, I recently decided to take a vacation from my face. After five decades, I figured I deserved a break. No peeks in the mirror, no stolen glances at reflective store windows. Even a glimpse into a handy piece of flatware would be tantamount. For the up and coming long weekend; a week away, I would go AWOL, facewise.
But I wondered, without the constant companionship of my reflection, would I be lonely? Curious? Confident? Relieved?
Decision made, I awoke this morning knowing I won't be seeing myself, I've, believe it or not already feel surprisingly sad, as if I were being deprived of a good friend. Or maybe just a favorite sweater. Still, a loss. And I just know that the undercurrent of withdrawal will persist throughout the week before my visual fast. For all my recent complaining about aging, I apparently get more sustenance from my reflection than I realize. LOL
There are practical problems, too. Just out of bed in the morning, I'll have no way of knowing how sleep had rearranged my physical appearance. No use asking my husband how I look. His response to that question is always reassuringly the same: fine. Hair wrapped in a towel, mouthful of toothpaste, fine. Perfect chignon, high-drama makeup, fine.
Reconnecting in the mirror each morning, I have discovered, is one of the ways I orient myself for the day. Being unable to check my face-mail, applying even the simplest things as a moisturizer, I would be reduced to presenting my face to my 53-year-old husband—not an entirely dependable critic, to judge by the things he has failed to notice about his own appearance. If I were to ask him"Is everything blended in?" I know already the answer I will get. "Yes, yes," he'll say, though, like any mature male, he never looks directly at my face but somewhere just above and beyond it. Because I'm not facile enough at applying makeup to be sure I wouldn't be coloring outside the lines, it would be easier for me to leave my makeup at home while taking a vacation from my face.
For three days, I'll be constantly forced to turn away from self-sightings. Sometimes it'll seem as if a doppelgänger is following me and I'll resolutely be aware of avoiding her glance. Or as if I'll be living in the same town as my husband's ex, and so need always to be conscious of avoiding an uncomfortable confrontation. There'll be a lot of avoiding. So I was at first happy to be able to look into my friend Andrea's eyes when I met her for lunch. She stared back at me unabashedly. "What?" I asked. "I don't think I've ever seen you without your makeup," she said. She stared some more. "Hunh," she said, seeming to understand the true nature of something for the first time. Plink, plink, plink went little shards of my self-esteem, hitting the floor.
Now there are more mirrors at my workplace than I care to count. Could I face my reflection for an hour or more every day and not look? I could. And feel noble about it, too. I can't stand people preening—unless you're in the boudoir, preening is for chimps. Having made a commitment to eschew looking altogether, I felt superior to those exercising their monkey business. I didn't need the reassurance of my reflected glory.
Like the tree falling in an empty forest, not looking in mirrors suggested some existential quandaries. I quit trying to blow-dry my hair and instead made an appointment for a blow-out (feeling geisha-like as I looked modestly down and away from the mirror during the process). But when it was over, I found myself staring straight into the unfamiliar face of a perplexing question: If I can't see myself, do I still look good? And conversely, on a rainy, bad-hair day, if I can't see myself, do I still look bad? The answer, of course, is subjective. And if the subject—that would be me—is absent, there's no definitive answer. Following that thought led me out of the forest into the shimmering dazzle of a bright idea. I sat there in the salon, blinking it into focus. Except for me, then, who cares?
In a moment, the machinery of my vanity would be ground to a stop. And in the stillness, less concerned about my physical presentation—or maybe, relying less on what I'd hoped was the pleasant distraction others might find in my appearance—I think I'd feel a raw, unadorned freedom.
For all of my adult life, looking in the mirror, I have objectified myself, wanting to recognize myself as the person I—somewhat literally—make myself up to be. I've then toted this image, heavy with expectation, around in my head. But I don't have similar expectations of the people I love—my friends, my husband. Some days he looks good. Some days he looks really good. But during those times when he hasn't appeared princely to me, has it made me depressed? Have I run out to buy him hair dye? Scheduled urgent appointments for eyebrow grooming or teeth whitening? I haven't. I love his face simply because it's my most vivid reminder of who he is. What if I chose to regard myself in the same way, without the burden of expectation?
By the time I'm ready to look into the glass again, I feel sanguine. After all, for the past several days I'll have either thought I looked a lot worse than I did or I've looked a lot worse than I thought I did. Both perspectives have their advantages.
I stand at the bathroom sink. I'm not wearing makeup. The light's kind of harsh. Here's what I see: a woman friendly and forgiving. And I'm plainly glad it's me.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Our bellies/guts can be wonderful monitors of our emotional health and the truth can always be found there. And the truth shall set you free!
So often, emotions that we long to express get stored in our bodies instead of being released. The space where this most often happens is in our bellies/guts. Rather than telling people, our even ourselves, the way we truly feel, most of us bury our true feelings deep within ourselves, where they take up emotional space until we are ready to release them. Burying our feelings in our bellies/guts feels like a â€śsafeâ€ť response, a safe place/haven at the time so that we donâ€™t really have to deal with our present emotions. Yet, doing so can actually be detrimental to our emotional well-being and physical health.
One way to connect with and release our emotions is to do a focused exercise with our stomach area. Take a moment to center yourself with some deep breathing and quiet meditation, relaxing your body fully and turning off the constant chatter in our brains. With your right hand on your stomach, tell yourself three times: â€śPlease, what am I truly feeling, what are my true emotions and why.â€ť Listen for the answers. Repeat the exercise as many times as you need to, allowing yourself to drop deeper into your body's subconscious each time. Notice any physical response in the stomach area, whether you have a warm, relaxed feeling in the middle of your body or if you feel tight knots in response to any emotions that do come up. You may even want to write down any answers that come to you. Remember that the body doesnâ€™t lie. And the truth shall set you free!
Releasing our pent up feelings from our bellies/gut actually can prevent stress which in turn prevents disease and allow us to live more authentic and expressive lives. Sometimes, if too much emotional energy builds up, a blowout inevitably results that causes discomfort, irritation. You can help to alleviate this compression by doing the same exercise and adding sound to your emotional release. The more guttural the sounds released through your mouth, the more emotions you are likely letting go. Releasing your emotions from your belly doesnâ€™t have to be painful and hard; rather, it can be organic and effortless. Itâ€™s important not to judge whatever comes up before you. We tend to bury our feelings in our bellies/guts when we are ashamed of them or simply, we're not ready to express them. There is nothing wrong with having feelings, whatever they may be. You canâ€™t help your feelings; if anything, you can help yourself by acknowledging the truth of your emotions. And the truth shall set you free!
Giving ourselves a time and place for reflection allows us to concentrate more deeply on our thoughts. There are times when we find that our thoughts pull us out of the world, and we use them as an escape from what we need to do. Conversely, we might be distracted from our reflections by thinking about other subjects that may not have great meaning for us. Setting aside a specific time for contemplation, however, gives us the opportunity to focus on what we truly find important. We set a date with ourselves that allows us to fully enter our search for understandingâ€”and gain more profound insights as a result. By allowing yourself time for reflection today, you will uncover deeper meaning in your quest for awareness. And the truth shall set you free!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
When we take ownership of our thoughts we are less likely to project our issues or disowned qualities onto others.
We all have issues, as well as undesirable qualities or traits that we donâ€™t like about ourselves. Most of us realize that we are not perfect and that it is natural to have unpleasant thoughts, motivations, desires, or feelings. However, when a person does not acknowledge these, they may ascribe those characteristics to someone else, deeming other people instead as angry, jealous, or insecure. In psychological terms, such blaming and fault finding is called projection.
When we are the target of projections, it can be confusing and frustrating, not to mention maddening, particularly when we know that we are not the cause of another personâ€™s distress. Even people who are well aware of their issues may find that sensitive subjects can bring up unexpected projections. They may feel insecure about a lack of funds and thus view a friend as extravagant. Or, if they really want to get in shape, they may preach the benefits of exercise to anyone and everyone.
While we can try to avoid people we know who engage in projecting their â€śstuffâ€ť onto others, we canâ€™t always steer clear of such encounters. We can, however, deflect some projections through mindfulness and meditation. A useful visualization tool is to imagine wrapping ourselves in a protective light everyday. At other times, we may have to put up a protective shield when we feel a projection coming our way, reminding ourselves that someone elseâ€™s issues are not ours. Although itâ€™s difficult not to react when we are the recipient of a projection, it is a good idea to try to remain calm and let the other person know if they are being unreasonable and disrespectful. We all know that itâ€™s not fun to be dumped on. Likewise, we should be mindful that we donâ€™t take our own frustrations out on others. When we take ownership of our thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings, we are less likely to project our issues or disowned qualities onto others.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Does the thought of change give you a knot in your stomach? It use to. Now I don't stress about itâ€”I welcome it with open arms!
Besides, who I am now is not who I was last year, last week, yesterday, even a minute ago. Life never stands still anyway, regardless of what I do. I've realized that change is the very nature of existenceâ€”my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, ideas, even my relationships are as changeable as the sunshine and rain , as night and day. But I've also realized that as much as change is inevitable, it is not always welcome or easy to deal with. Naturally, it can upset my world and generate many conflicting feelings.
Be that as it may, it's actually those very moments when everything looks hopeless that I have a real chance to grow into something better; what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, I now call a butterfly!
Did you know that when we can step back from anger, fear or grief and take a breath, before emotion takes over. the journey to such transformation is so much smoother That's when we can enable the issue to pass, because not even those feelings that seem so enormous, important or overwhelming stay the same. What is vital now, right this moment, like everything else, will lose its relevance with time.
Knowing this means we can be much more at ease with change. As thoughts come and go, as we watch emotions rise and fall like the ocean's waves, as physical, emotional or mental pain is felt and then gone, we see how this coming and going applies to everything, even our breath. This sense of rhythm reminds us that, if we wait long enough, even the darkest of times will pass too.
We all remember that Mahatma Gandhi famously said, "You must be the change you want to see in the world." In other words, although life changes are inevitable, you can also initiate personal change so that we can rise to the challenge and become a bigger and better person as a result. How do we do this? Recognize that change is inevitable; that there is always the potential for positive change in every moment; and that we have the option to stay grounded and in touch with our peace. All this is possible through meditation.
If we realize and embrace these three things......
1. That all Things are Coming and Going
Everything that is happening now will change into something else; every thought and feeling, no matter how intense or dramatic, will one day be immaterial. Without change in one's self, we become stifled and stagnant. As nothing lasts forever, so we can appreciate every moment, fully and completely, knowing it will never happen again. Coming to a still place, gently breathe in and out, silently repeating: And this too shall pass.
2. That each Day Starts Anew
Just as palm trees transform muddy rainwater into sweet coconut milk, so do we have the opportunity to transform fear into courage, selfishness into kindness, and loss into fresh beginnings. Spring is here, with new life bursting forth, and in the same way, we too are capable of creating a new life for ourselves in each and every moment. Life is about not having answers and taking chances, all without knowing what is going to happen next. Sitting quietly, breathing deeply and joyfully, silently repeat: I open my mind and heart to new possibilities.
Author Maria Robinson said: "Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending."
3. Not just being at peace but Being Peace
As every wave has both a peak and a descent, the clue to transformation is being able to paddle in the dip so we are ready to ride the next crest. Meditation creates a space where times of pain, sadness, anger, fear, hurt, confusion, doubt and all other conflicting emotions can come and be known and gently released. It enables us to be present with whatever is, and to accept, honor and move with change. All kinds of thoughts may ariseâ€”or feelings, sensations and images. We watch, without denying, pushing away or holding on. We can comfortably rest in stillness, without any judgment or discrimination.
Just as the breath comes in and out, so it is like the coming and going of all change.
So, breathe in and out gently, and watch the natural rhythm of your breath. Silently repeat: May I be easeful, may I be peaceful, may I flow with the changes. And enjoy each moment, as it is a precious gift!
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