Tag Archives: yoga

Morning has broken and great things are ahead

I’m a morning person. I wake up and almost inevitably the first words out of my mouth are “thank you, God.” I start the day pretty on top of the world (and try to fend off slipping into the bog of life’s struggles the rest of the day).

I’m kind of surprised how few people I know share this basic head-start I feel to each day. Even people who say they are most effective in the morning often tell me they aren’t “Morning people.” I’m not sure I understand.

I think one of the first steps of genuine wholeness, the hoof-to-head balance and wellness that makes life better starts in the first moments of every day. It’s like the clothes we put on. It sets the tone. If we opt for joy, joy stands a better chance of meeting us throughout the day. If we consider how much we have to celebrate on this side of heaven, our most creative sides are freed to expand and grow.

An artist created us and sustains us. We are the result of Her craft and She called us “good.” When we let our artistic expression loose, we become more divine.

Or as Tony the Tiger the said, “Theeyy’rree great!” (He may have been talking about Frosted Flakes, but I like to think it was life in general that got that big cat going. He’s a morning feline for sure).

But the point here is not to coerce, but to enthuse. I’ve written before that my favorite word is ardor. My wish for you is you wake up today with ardor for the day ahead. May your energy be infused with the joy of life.

Here are some little helpers I’m offering that may help you get off to a great start today:

First, grab your coffee or tea or water with lemon, sit in a good spot and stare at something pretty while you press play to this:

It’s hard to not to feel cheer when you listen to Cat Stevens.

Next, give yourself a minute of nothing but quiet. Sit and do less. Ahhhh. Breathe. Slide the corners of your mouth into a half-smile, just a little uplift. Pet the dog. Then breathe once more and say, “Thank you, _____.” (God, divine, self, sun, spirit, universe, etc.).

I’d get up and move around a little bit. Maybe a few sun salutations if you do yoga or simply stretching to the heavens. Make a loudish noise like AHHHHHHHH or WEEEEEEE! You can’t help but snicker a bit.

Think ahead to your day and try to nail down one thing you’re really looking forward to. Maybe it’s dessert or a phone call to a friend, or doing something you love, or someone you love, or whatever. But if you don’t have one thing, figure out something and cram it into the schedule. Make it happen. No matter what else goes awry today, you’ll have that to look forward to.

And now before you dive into your routine, I leave you with the wisdom of the Rabbi Zechariah the few months before the birth of Jesus who sang,

“Because of God’s tender mercy
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death
and to guide us to the path of peace.”

May the morning light of heaven greet you today.

Feel free to share this within a CHEERY GOOD MORNING to any “not a morning person” in your life. And return often just to feel the sun of positivity on your morning skin. Peace.

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Mr. Potato God could disappoint at time of need

When it comes to spirituality, I am a lot of things, and a lot of labels. I best describe me as an Anabaptist Christian Liberal with Catholic leanings seasoned by spiritual mystics from various practices and faiths. My spiritual exercises include yoga, physical exertion, prayer, liturgy, meditation, Bible study and reading.

I guess you could describe me as eclectic. 

But here’s what I am not: God.

And I have no interest in the job.

You should all breathe a sigh of relief. If I were God, we’d all be screwed.

I worry however that The Nones, that 59 million-strong swell of people who don’t associate with any one religion, may trick themselves into thinking they are God. What may start out as an earnest search for truth may become a lazy default that defines God or rejects God based on personal needs and wants or something so banal as convenience. We are too lazy to find God, we don’t want to ascribe to someone else’s view of God, so we simply dismiss God or invent our own.

The end result is what I call Mr. Potato God, a bizarre concoction of our own making that helps our deluded selves feel a bit better, but matters not at all.

I trod a fine line here and one that’s hard to get right without pissing off a whole host of 59 million people who I would love to connect with.  Still, I think its important so I’ll try to get it right.

By all rights, I am one of The Nones. I do resemble them. Like many of The Nones, I am educated, under the age of 55 and spiritually curious. Rather than accept the dogma of a single brand of faith, I am guilty of picking and choosing a bit. From the above description of my faith it would be easy to think I just pick and chose my faith from a buffet, defining God however best suits me.

It’s a fair accusation and assumption, but I don’t  think it is accurate. I am not the one who decides my faith. I am not inventing a God that works for me. To be blunt, I don’t need a God I can create. Instead, I see God as something of a puzzle. When a piece slides into place it’s not because I cut it to fit, but because it belongs right there. I may not have a good grasp of the whole puzzle but I know when a piece belongs.

The problem is not God, it’s me: my limitations, my lack of faith and my moral decay that keeps me from living On Earth as it is in Heaven.

That’s what transformation is all about. Knowing God in truth. God is God. The ways we understand Her are as varied as the types of tropical fish in the ocean times a million. Spiritual roads are varied but in the end, if truth is sought and love is found, there is God.

It’s a subtle difference, but an important one. Many times along my spiritual trek I have wanted to fit God in where I felt He should go. When my life hit bottom I pleaded, insisted and convinced myself the miracle would be a comin’ and I’d be given a reprieve. I couldn’t have been more wrong, time and time again. I learned to humbly accept that God is untamed and unbowed. I must discover Her, not invent her to suit my needs.

I found God more in my suffering than I ever did in times of so-called blessing. The Buddhists and the Christian mystics had this figured out long ago. It took so much pain to understand it. Believe me, if I were God, or even allowed to make God, I’d remove the suffering part of things. But I am not and suffering remains a part of the journey.

I am convinced the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous was a prophetic gift from God. It’s power is in the spiritual truths the steps follow. It’s a spiritual program and has been since its discovery by a couple of desperate drunks willing to seek God and try anything to stay sober.

But the notion that a Higher Power is whatever we want it to be remains a difficult one for me. I understand the need from an addict’s standpoint to start with whatever we can imagine God to be. But at some point along the 12-step path, we must allow the Higher Power to unveil itself regardless of what we can imagine. That’s how the 12-step founders saw it and I think they were right. I think we’ve shape-shifted this idea into places it wasn’t meant to go. We’ve made a Higher Power that is little more than a Mr. Potato God.

In the end such a God will disappoint.

My default preference is toward atheism. Mentally, life would be easier if it were random and death final. It suits my built-in recklessness. It explains the epidemic of selfishness and arrogance I see today. It makes idiocy like anti-social media make sense.

But in the core of my being I know God to exist. I’ve met the spirit in certain moments. In times of acute suffering, disappointment, failure, injustice I have recognized the presence of God with me. In times of utter joy, grace, blessing and beauty I feel God’s touch and breath. Nothing else has ever so radically redefined my life.

The challenge for me over the past thirty-two year off-road trek with God has not been to decide if I believe, it has been to uncover who it is that has called me by name. I only want to know the real, true, creator God. I only seek truth.

I find puzzle pieces from many different expressions of faith. This is what makes me like The Nones. I’m confident that a vast number of that vast number of The Nones have experiences and spiritual journey’s similar to my own. They too don’t think they are God.

But we all must walk lightly. Too often our need defines what we insist God be. By definition God can’t be so minimized and remain deity. In those times it takes great courage and relentless honesty to search for the living God.

The Nones are wary of those peddling religious certitude and there I join them wholeheartedly. God is a mystery and will remain so. The puzzle is never fully filled until the other side of Heaven on Earth. So we don’t know everything. We don’t even know how much we don’t know. This is why we reject those who insist they do. This is why we pick and choose a bit. Not because we think we are inventing a God of our choice–each making our own Mr. Potato God–but because we think truth is worth discovering wherever and whoever has a piece of it.

But this difference, this central idea of God being God and not us creating Him, is a vital one for all spiritual seekers, Nones or not.

90 BLANK in 90 days corrects my path

Ever have one of those moments when you look at a picture of you and it seems foreign? Is that me, you think? Do I look like that? I look fatter. I look angrier. I look… ugh.

The discomfit with the outward appearance then causes reflection on all the inner stuff the picture doesn’t show but you know lurks.

I had one of those moments recently. It wasn’t pleasant. I had lost contact with the various touchstones in my life that keep me centered, healthy and grateful. I lost the present with an absurd focus on the future. I lost the me I worked so hard to find.

In rehab terms they call this White Knuckling. For those trying to stay sober, they lose the joy and health that one fueled it and have lost contact with their inner state. Emotionally they are a wreck, imploding and even doing the destructive behaviors they would only do when using or drinking or behaving compulsively. The white knuckles snuck up on me because I didn’t want to drink. At least not yet anyway.

But old habits were returning. Working too much. Compulsive eating. A lack of patience with others. Frustration with myself.

Good habits were fading. In my search for a “new” workout routine, I stopped doing the one thing that really worked for me: yoga. My running declined. My clothes hung poorly off my growing gut and swelling love handles.

In recovery I often wrote a reminder to myself called the four Ps: Positive. Present. Productive. and it’s been so long since I wrote them I forgot the fourth P. That says a lot. I lost one P entirely and two of the other three were fading like the family photo in Back to the Future.

My picture wasn’t an actual photo this time. Usually it is. This time the picture was a living moment. I tried to do yoga again after a layoff of at least a month.

I’m no cover of a Yoga Journal on my best days, but I used to have a good practice. I was told I had some beauty to my practice and I even taught some others with confidence. All of that…. every bit of it… had disappeared when I huffed and puffed and grunted and moaned through a short yoga practice. I stumbled and staggered and strained. Midway through I looked up and caught a glance of my body in the mirror and it hit me.

I was white-knuckling life again. I looked it. I felt it. I could see it. The outward merely reflected the inward chaos.

I was filled with self-loathing.

In recovery when someone relapses the first advice they are often given is get back to a meeting. In fact, we are often told go to 90 meetings in 90 days to re-establish the habits and to make sobriety the intentional priority of each of those 90 days. Everything else comes second.

I hadn’t relapsed and had no intention of doing so. I don’t need a meeting to stay sober. But I needed the intention. I needed the focus and I needed to rebuild the habits that keep me healthy.

So I drafted my own 90 in 90 plan. I call it 90 BLANK in 90 days.

The blank, I realized, involve many things for me.

  • Yoga. A must.
  • Spiritual exercises including quiet prayer and journaling.
  • Healthy exercise
  • A vast decrease of chocolate
  • Gratitude
  • Art, like playing the guitar or working on my novel.
  • Time for others
  • Service
  • Learning Spanish

It’s odd, but all of these things were the touchstones of discipline that I used to get sober, get healthy, and get focused on being a better person with proper priorities. I needed them all back in one way or another if I was going to rid my mind of the self-loathing that had grown.

So I crafted a schedule. I stated the intention of each day going forward. I weaved in the above activities starting with yoga and spiritual disciplines every day. The other stuff weaved in and out, but intentionally so.

The first three days were hell. I hated how bad I felt during yoga. I hated seeing my belly hanging over my waistband. I hated struggling to do poses that had been doable just a few months before.

But I took the advice of my yoga teacher to try to observe myself without judgement.

“Where you are is where you are,” he’d say.

I didn’t want to be where I was, but, for now that was it. I couldn’t change it immediately. But I could return to my practice and know it would recover. I could recover, too.

After two weeks a spiritual mentor checked in. I told her, “I’m much better. Well, that’s not true. I’m much less EFFed. I’m getting better.”

The work continues and will for many more days until I hit the 90. It won’t stop then I realize, but the milestone will be important. I need the achievement of following through. I need to know I did it and will continue to do so.

This life I chose is not a fad. These things I believe are not temporal. Because in the end, I am convinced I didn’t choose it really. God chose me. And to be what She chooses me to be, I have to be the me she chose. The only way to do that is to live as me, every day, with the intention necessary to live it well.

Recovery is an active, present verb in my life and will remain so. I’m not sure I entirely got that before. The whole “one day at a time” thing doesn’t make much sense until you live it, one sober day, one healthy day, one loving day after another until you welcome it.

I wish I hadn’t lost track of these things and wish I didn’t need to also consider my life in recovery. But in seeing myself in the photo for what I was slipping into, I stopped the slide and returned to the disciplines I established. I came home and this home I’ve built is lasting.

For that I am pleased.

Just breathe: first step toward the God of peace

In the late 1990s my so-called perfect life was anything but. Typical of those like me who were relatively affluent, married, career-oriented, I had the accouterments of success. Outside I looked fine, stylish in fact… maybe even adorned. I had a designer purse and a nice car and my husband at the time worked in a successful family business.

And we were miserable.

My misery manifest itself in anxiety. Panic attacks. Fear. Times when my body rebelled against me. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and prescribed medication. But it was also the first time I began to pay attention to the little things that can make life better. Like air.

Breath.

Breathe in, breathe out. It was good advice then and it remains a go-to-medication now long after I have stopped taking drugs and stopped self-medicating with alcohol.

I realized a long time ago how important deep breathing is for physical and mental health. My journey towards a more healthy well-being started with the introduction of deep breathing. I’d simply start each morning by taking ten long, deep breaths in, followed by a long, slow exhale out. I developed a routine that I continue to this day.

As the stresses in my life increased it became important to introduce other methods that would help alleviate stress. Meditation started to become a leading player in my life. The creation of a space in my home that existed and was free of television and other electronic devices was significant. The space with a comfortable chair and a warm blanket, and included lavender scented candles created an environment that allowed me the ability to live in it for as long as I could spare in any given day. Sometimes that was only five minutes, but it was enough time in that day.

Meditation consisted of me closing myself in that warm, safe environment. With closed eyes, I would begin my deep-breathing and would usually think of one word that was significant to me in that moment. I repeated that word (often times it was the word “peace”) as a way of clearing the space in my brain so that I could focus solely on meditating. This extended the deep-breathing to help relieve my anxiety symptoms.

My deep-breathing techniques have recently been enhanced by my introduction of yoga. I try to practice yoga three times a week for about an hour. Yoga has allowed me to strengthen my body, while also strengthening my mind. Yoga incorporates my deep-breathing and meditation. It has brought these two calming techniques together and taught me how to stay in the moment. It has become a mainstay in my life.

Yoga’s benefits for the mind and body are important for keeping me in control and ensuring that anxiety and stress stay away.

Within these practices of breath, meditation and yoga I have found a greater sense of purpose in prayer. In these times with God I find the root of my anxiety, which grew from the absence of God in my life during those so-called “successful” years. That generalized anxiety was more specific than I ever thought.

First I learned to calm my breath, which helped me calm my mind, which empowered me to calm my body, which infused my soul with the sense of calm that flowed me wholly like a gentle river back into relationship with the God of my youth.

I still struggle with anxiety from time to time. It’s still woven in my DNA and my brain and my biology. I know that’s a part of it. But I also know like all things, there are other parts as well. I don’t worry about a “cure.” Instead I use the anxiety for what it was designed to be, a reminder to stay close to the God who created me.

Whenever I start to lose my way, I can find it again… with that first, long, deep, wonderfully cleansing breath.

Mindfulness is like living on the ocean shore

A few years back The Bride and I spent nearly a month in Mexico living along the Sea of Cortez. The beautiful seas could kick up waves and whitecaps and turbulence like most great bodies of waters. But its remarkable ability for morning stillness captures my memories most. I’d get up and that enormous, powerful, mystical sea would lie calm as a lake without a ripple across its surface. The pelicans would fly low, barely above the crystal clear glass with a perfect view of the breakfast swimming below. They’d fly up and with the urgency of Robin Hood’s arrow pierce the tranquility, snatch their prey and fly back up to the skies above. The water would ripple outward at the momentary disturbance but soon return to the silent calm.

Th hectic nature of the day would rise. Fishermen would crack the water’s surface with their boats and winds would stir up the waves and the sprinkling of tourists would splash up on its shores. By mid-day the waters would resemble their natural state, sea-like, with whites and foam and curling waves.

I grew up with the powerful Pacific nearby, always within a quick drive to visit. It’s relentless power never stilled. It’s slamming shoreline never quieted. So the stillness of Cortez showed me a stark contrast that offers a silent portrait for stillness, a power my mighty Pacific has never known.

Throughout my life my mind has been the Pacific. I’d stare incredulously at The Bride when I’d ask, “what are you thinking?” and she’d reply, “nothing.”

Impossible, I thought. The idea of a silent mind was as foreign as building a house on Mars.

I learned to drink to quiet my mind. For more than twenty years I took my medicine faithfully, never once letting a night go by without some measure of calming elixir dulling the crashing waves inside my head.

The Bride struggled with anxiety in those years.  I felt such compassion for her even though I was oblivious to the idea of “worry.” I didn’t really grasp it. She once asked me — during a particularly scary time in our life with the storms of life crashing powerful waves against our existence — what I feared.

“Nothing,” I said, fully meaning it. Because the alcohol had done its work, the relentless activity of my mind had dulled and even though a storm brewed outside our doors, my mind felt calm. Ah booze, you once made me feel like Superman.

It’s this reality that causes me to resist a gentle suggestion that I consider anti-anxiety medication. I’d love my mind to slow down, but I prefer to figure a way to do it naturally through the disciplines of silence, of yoga practice, of prayer, of relationship.

So now, both sober and finding far more common ground over our anxiety, we together pursue the mindfulness that keeps life in balance. The daily activity and winds through our life whip up a good internal storm now again, but the focus on that Sea of Cortez dawn-like calm remains a daily pursuit. Some days are more Cortez like than others. The Pacific routinely makes its presence felt on our shores. But we’ve learned a few things along the way that I consider critical for finding the balance that leads to a healthy emotional, mental state.

  • Relentless truthfulness — with yourself most of all — is critical. I read from the interesting book Pastrix, by Nadia Bolz-Weber, that Jesus didn’t compare good and evil but truth and evil. We don’t overcome our evil with white-knuckled goodness but truthfulness. As Jesus said, “the truth will set you free.”
  • Honor the silence — Even if I can only go for a few minutes, the discipline of silence is worthy of practice just as I exercise my body physically. Few doubt any longer the health benefits of silent meditation. I am often ragged at best with my efforts, but it’s worth it, in particular, the intentional disconnect to the digital world this affords me.
  • Season liberally with grace — Peace is not a place we arrive to but a condition of life’s journey. We will storm through life often enough. We will, frankly, make a hot fucking mess of our lives even on our best days. I am so grateful for grace. The 11th step is the daily moral inventory, which is paramount in my life. It’s like letting the air out of the balloon that has built up all day. I still struggle with the practice of simply admitting it when I’ve screwed up. This step forces me to do so and the waves inside me calm when I do. God’s grace is so abundant. I need to be reminded of it daily.
  • Learning what is — A change in the weather often comes when I simply embrace the weather. I hear the storm inside my mind. My nerves crackle with the energy of a power line. I feel the disquiet in my chest and gut. I do best when I simply name it all. This is what is it is, I tell myself. I’m anxious. I’m pissed. I’m scared. I’m tired. Life feels shitty right now in this moment. I learn to see what it is. Because once I do so, the mother’s heart of God comforts me and reminds me, “All that is true, but your are OK. You are still here. This storm will pass.” And sure enough, soon enough, if does — and for the last 57 months, it has passed without me taking the drink I always want in times like those.
  • Avoid future tripping — Do you ever have a conversation with yourself about a future conversation coming up that you fear will be ugly? I’ve driven down the road playing out the scene I anticipate before me so thoroughly, I can’t recall the drive at all. But my body feels the experience as if it’s happened. The back and forth rehearsal, in which I’ve played all the roles, usually goes dramatically bad. I play out the future and it’s like a Shakespearean Tragedy — full of woe. Then the real event arrives and it’s rarely as bad as I anticipated. But my body went through the agony of the worst anyway. This future tripping feels real and I suffer it as real, even when I’ve done it all in my mind. Perhaps this is why Jesus gently reminded us, “Do not worry about tomorrow, today has enough troubles of its own.” Jesus never expected us not to feel anxiety, he only offered the advice of staying present, in the moment, so you only experience what’s real not the pain you envision.
  • Combine heart and head with yoga and prayer — too much of our spirituality is sedate, which gives little release to the physical needs of our bodies. Yoga has remained over the last five thousand years because it refuses to compartmentalize our souls but deals with us as what we are, a vastly interconnected human being that all needs to sync in harmony to run at peak performance. Yoga allows the body to lead the mind and connect with the soul holistically. When I couple it with prayer I simply feel better almost every time. I rib my oldest friend — a gay pastor who loves modern Evangelical church services (ugh..) — that all those antics would be better served dancing at an Ozzy concert. He tells me with a silly smile, “I love happy clappy services. I’ll admit it.” I suspect it’s like his yoga, when his body can match the worship in his mind, so maybe it’s not so bad after all.

If you struggle as I do with anxiety, and with mindfulness and the discipline of being present, I hope some of this will help. Please understand that for many — perhaps even me, who knows — the problem is a chemical dysfunction within the brain and could best be treated with medication. I don’t suggest anyone should feel bad for taking what makes them feel better, no more than a diabetic takes insulin. That choice is yours and you should do as you will. I just know that these things don’t hurt either and we all can benefit from them to a lesser or greater degree.

Namaste, God Bless, Peace, and may grace abound.

 

 

Honoring the verb to be

As a writer I’ve been taught a relentless hatred for the verb to be. It is flabby, weak, uninspiring and dull. Yet, like crabgrass that refuses to yield, the verb to be is an arduous foe, constantly cropping up in my articles as it already has several times in these sentences. God I hate the verb to be.

So imagine how counter I find the yogic teaching to simply “be.” No active verbs, full of tension, drama and angst needed on the yoga mat, I’ve been told. Nor in life for that matter. Just be. (Even as I write this I stop and reconsider my first graph, nagging at letting those is-es stay for artistic effect… I’m twitchy over it I tell you…)

Be.

Be? BE what?

And therein lies the secret I’ve spent three years, several times a week quietly, fluidly, clumsily, breathlessly battling with the chatter in my mind to find what it means to be.

I get it mostly even as I admit I really don’t. The present moment is a restless embrace. It doesn’t last long. It refuses to easily allow being savored. But I’ve had enough moments to know where I’m headed even if its a fuzzy, muddled conception at best. Or was anyway, until the other day when suddenly the fuzz cleared and the crackling blur gave way to high-def clarity, even if for a mere moment.

I stood in Warrior One. I always strain a bit more than necessary in Warrior One. I’m a Warrior Two guy. That hip barks at the twist of Warrior One. So there I stood, struggling along when I noticed The Bride. She looked radiant on her mat beside me, effortlessly holding the pose, arms up, leg back like a photo in Yoga Journal.

As she mentioned she’s relatively new to yoga. She stubbornly held to the happy clappy bouncy flouncy mantra of fictional targeted fat burns and more-is-more exercise videos while I went about my yoga practice alone.

It took everything I had to let her be.

I nudged now and again. I glanced her way, eyes provocatively (so I thought) luring her to the mat. I couldn’t hide my annoyance at Jillian Roberts or Michaels or Go Daddy whoever she is. But mostly I let The Bride be.

Eventually she dabbled. I held back my enthusiasm. I even joined her bouncing around — “Come on girls…” notwithstanding — to show my solidarity and openness to change. It took a long time, and still, somehow, I let her be.

Finally, I could recognize her ah-ha moment. She started joining me in yoga practice. First, once a week. Then recently it began to change. She started to adjust her workout to fit mine. She started asking to do yoga. I could barely contain my enthusiasm. Still… somehow… I let her be.

Her first poses were less than beautiful. She had never really been taught. I wanted to spend just a few sessions working with her, showing her the proper poses and helping her find the energy of her inner self shining through. We’d do our practices and I found myself glancing over at her — something I really never do with anyone else in other settings — to see how she was doing. The saggy leg or the sloppy sun salutations twitched my nerves just a bit, yet somehow, strangely, I let her be.

Then came the other day as I struggled with my Warrior One I looked her way and saw what she had become, all by herself, in her own way and her own time. In that moment she was radiant.

I smiled and returned to me… present to myself for the first time in awhile in our practices because of my preoccupation with The Bride. A few moments later I heard her voice, quiet yet clear ask me, “how does this look?”

I saw the energy in her pose. I recognized the purposefulness yet less-is-more signature of a budding yogi.

“Beautiful,” I said. “Really beautiful.”

That’s what it’s like to simply be and it was wonderful, demanding a pause, to be in the present and honor it. I do so, even allowing the to-be verbs run amok in this post, welcome, for today only I hope, to simply honor the wisdom of the verb to be.

Anxiety not just all in your mind

Shortly after I turned 30 I remember thinking that there was something physically wrong with me. I just didn’t feel right. I was confused and worried about what it could be. I saw a doctor. She performed a complete physical on me. She asked me what my symptoms were. I proceeded to list them. I feel nauseous. I feel like I’m going to pass out. I feel my heart racing and it feels like it’s going to blast out of my chest at any given moment. I was sure I had a disease.

I remembered that I was careful to list off any nagging feeling that had plagued me. I was sure she was going to tell me that something was wrong with me. Instead she told me I was in picture-perfect health. There is nothing wrong with you, she told me… physically.

Discouragement swept over me. Something was wrong… I told her. Instead, she recommended that I see a therapist. I thought at the time, that there must be something wrong. I need a shrink?? A head doctor? Come on, doc, I’m not crazy! Check me out again, it’s got to be something. Maybe I need a second opinion? I was certain she had missed something.

When she assured me that it seemed to be “all in my head” I made the call, and started a relationship with a therapist who diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder. She told me the symptoms that I was having were related to panic attacks. At the time I was having them at least once a day, sometimes more.

At any given moment I could have an attack. I remember being in a crowded restaurant and feeling that hot flash all the way down my body. This wave of dizziness would travel from my head, and it seemed to rush all through my body. I cannot tell you how many restaurants or movies, that I had to leave because of this feeling. Fight or flight, I remember this is what my therapist called it.

My therapist wondered if I was having any stress in my life. Anything to make me feel anxious?  Where should I start, I thought.

anxietyattacks

I was prescribed drugs. I took Xanax daily and washed it down with beer. Anything that I could pump into my body that would take away the fight and flight. I drank quite a bit back then. I drank because it made me feel more comfortable and at ease in social situations. At first, I thought my anxiety disorder was a more social anxiety disorder, and as long as I took my Xanax and washed it down with those beers I could hang with it.

When I started having panic attacks in the car while driving, I realized that I would have to consider other ways to deal with it. I remember a friend once told me that she heard vocal lessons, where you focused on breathing, was helpful. So, I started voice lessons. Why not, I said to myself? I was always told I had a good singing voice. Maybe this would kill two birds with one stone. I would become the next Gwen Stefani and front my very own rock band, while smothering this anxiety and burying it for the rest of my life.

Slowly, the breathing helped a bit, as did a regular exercise routine. I started counseling and confronted that massive pile of stress from my messed up life.

I erased the Xanax from my life, as well as the alcohol.

The panic attacks didn’t go away for good. In fact, to this day I still have one on occasion, but I know how to deal with them. Instead of running away from them, I actually embrace the symptoms. I stop whatever I’m doing, acknowledge all of my feelings, and stay in the present moment as each fight or flight feeling travels through my entire body.

I realized it wasn’t “all in my head.” My body is interconnected. My brain, my heart, my soul, my feelings are as interwoven as strands of a rope. My disorder was real, something was wrong with me — the whole me — and yet I was still OK. In fact, I was on the road to being better, which was why I went to the doctor for a physical in the first place. It wasn’t something I could just “stop thinking about” as people would tell. I had to deal with it and I did.

For those of us who suffer from a generalized anxiety or panic disorder (which I do), you might be able to relate to this article. I found it very accurate for me personally.

What I want to say to those that may be suffering, is that you are not “crazy.” Most importantly, you are not alone, AND you can manage them.

My advice:

  • Get a physical so you can erase doubt that you may have a disease.
  • Talk to a professional. They have tools that can help you deal in your day to day battle.
  • Tell your family and friends. A good support system is crucial to help you manage.
  • Exercise regularly and practice yoga for the meditation, wellness and breathing benefits.
  • Most importantly: Love yourself, because you are good enough!

No pain can actually be gain

My husband has been a fairly dedicated yogi for about three years now. He’s been touting the benefits to me for months. I give him credit. For a long time he just did his thing and let me do mine. But eventually… he started telling me with increasingly regularity how yoga could help me look the way I want to look.

To which I responded simply, “bullshit!”

Toned arms, core, butt with no sweat, no pain? I don’t believe in the gain with yoga. I’ve listened to those energetic fitness types for far too long not to “push it girl!”

Imagine my surprise when over the past month I slowly started to come around to his way of thinking. I have slowly incorporated yoga into my exercise repertoire, and as a result I also modified my cardio-burning routines.

I used to spend an hour, sweat pouring down me, shins, knees crashing down on the pavement as I jog at a steady 10-minute mile (or so I wish!) sometimes four or five days a week. I’d endure Jillian Michaels or Tony Horton pushing me, up and down, hopping and bopping my way to better abs and ass.

All I seemed to end up with was sore legs and, because of my clumsiness on the trails, twisted ankles.

It pains me to say to my husband… deep breath…  “You were right about yoga. You were right!”

Within the past two weeks I’m finally starting to see toned arms, and to my delight obliques are starting to show. All with yoga? Are you kidding me?? I thought I could only see these results with those intense, sweat-dripping, Jillian Michaels drill-Sargent-type workouts that you see performed each week on The Biggest Loser. My happiness with my arms is not the only benefit. It seems my sunnier outlook may also be a benefit of yoga. And, I credit yoga with also revamping my food selections. Sugar has been cut drastically. In its place I find myself eating more fruits and raw vegetables throughout the day. I no longer skip meals to the point that I’m famished at dinner time. It’s been awhile since I tore through a bag of chips. I just haven’t felt the desire for my salty mistress. I’m feeling way too good to want to sabotage my progress, And I’ve lost three pounds!

Instead of obsessing over the latest celebrity gossip on tmz.com or Eonline I find myself reading health tidbits and different exercise suggestions on everyday health and popsugar.

These lifestyle changes that I’ve made are all for better health and fitness, but I won’t make it a fad in my life. As far as I’m concerned they are here to stay. I welcome your feedback on changes that you made towards a lifetime of health and fitness. Maybe we can motivate each other to stay the course?

Please Stop Putting Non-food Into Our Food | Food Riot

Check out this great article on what we eat. I mean, I love my yoga mat, but not for dinner!

This sets the stage for tomorrow’s blog post on organicanizing the BPA out of my kitchen. Enjoy.

Look, it’s bad enough that our diets are all out of whack because food companies have to cover up things that taste horrendous with mountains of sugar, fats, and salt. And on top of that, we have to wonder and worry about GMOs, organic vs. non-organic, the global impacts of buying local, whether human beings are “meant” to eat this or that food, obesity crises — it’s a wonder that we can put any food into our mouths without dissolving into neurotic blobs of jelly over it. Eating in the 21st century has become a complicated issue.

So, at the very least, can y’all please stop putting non-food into our food? Please.

The most recent “what the f*** have I been eating” incident has been a plastic-based chemical found in the bread at Subway. Every time we’ve gone to Subway, we have essentially been ingesting a tiny bit of the stuff in yoga mats and rubber-soled shoes. Instead of kind of being horrified by this, in an “oh my God, what have we turned into that we’re feeding plastic to people”, Subway was just like, well, the USDA says this shit won’t kill you, but if you don’t WANT to eat plastic I guess we’ll take it out.

And look, y’all. I have nothing against food-based chemicals in our food. Like, carrageenan is made from sea kelp; I have a package of sea kelp in my pantry right now, so a chemical derived from it doesn’t bug me as a food additive. (I have sea kelp to make veggie stocks. It’s like umami magic.) Guar gum, which is derived from a bean, doesn’t freak me out as a food additive anymore than cornstarch does. Beans are a thing that you eat. I’m cool with these chemicals.

What I don’t eat, and don’t want to eat, is a yoga mat.

via Please Stop Putting Non-food Into Our Food | Food Riot.

Another new WeBromance- Yogaglo

My yoga teacher told me about a pretty kick-ass (to use a decidedly non-yogi term) web site that offers a vast array of yoga classes online. It quickly became one of my new favorite weBromances.

I love yoga. But I’m not a huge fan of yoga classes. But I’m also not the best at leading myself through a period of yoga practice without the encouragement and guidance of a yoga instructor. All of this far too often gives me built-in bullskat excuses to avoid yoga.

Then I wonder why I’m all bunched up and losing my patience. I never said I was the smartest guy in the world.

So here’s where yogaglo.com steps in. For $18 a month — the cost of a couple of classes — I can do all the classes I want with exceptional teachers. It’s a stunning smorgasbord of delights all available to me with a click of a button.

Apparently this company has endured some very non-peaceful criticism of late (I included a link below if it interests you… I doesn’t me to be honest). I don’t know much about that and maybe touting them here will put me in a storm I don’t want to be in. I just really like the classes this site provides me and that’s plenty enough for me.

I just do go in for yoga politics.

I also discovered a teacher very similar to the classes I’ve taken, offering a style of yoga I’m comfortable with. Her name is Jo and she’s a pretty kick-ass teacher as well.

Jo_bio

Have you ever noticed how beautiful female yoga practioners are? Of course you have. But have noticed how not-so beautiful the men are? What’s up with that? Perhaps its proof that God is indeed feminine. But alas, I digress.

Yoga is double-down on my day for me. It provides the spiritual quiet, calming, grounding and focus on the present that does more for my outlook than most other spiritual disciplines. It also kicks my ass most days, so I get my physical exercise in at the same time.

I admit to a bias here, but I’ve watched a lot of those cable TV workout shows and most are incorporating a good deal of yoga movement. The problem is they are sooooo Western. It’s like they rip off the physical side of yoga and trash the entire foundation of how it works — a practice that has been developed and nurtured for about as long as evolution. Then they package it with ripped bodies cheering you on to have your own ripped body too, with a whole lot of western rah rah and some serious “cardio” to get those nasty fat cells exploding.

My bride loves these shows and doesn’t really like yoga. I think she’s all wet. But that’s what makes love what it is right?

Yoga is Eastern. It is ritual and practice and breath and not a bunch of jumping around in pursuit of six-pack abs. It goes beyond the physical to a more holistic approach to well-being, with all the physical benefits packed in.

Try it. Really it’s as simple as that.