Friday, 22 May 2015

personal affirmations

Here's the thing. Sometimes I love and embrace personal affirmations; sometimes I think they're the stupidest mumbo jumbo bullshit ever. It seems to depend directly on whether I'm feeling a positive and strong energy and vibration, or whether I'm feeling low and down and oh so negative.

When I'm in the midst of anxiety and cynicism and depression, I ragingly hate hearing about positive affirmations, about how if I just changed my self-talk, I'd feel better. I see all these quotes and happy affirmations and I want to scream and tell the authors and posters how foolish and airy-fairy they are. I want to shut it all down and just be in my misery for a while.

And, when something comes along that shifts my energy, like springtime, or hearing a good speaker, or doing some yoga, or whatever, and I can find my way back to that place of lightness and hope and a bit of ease, I hear the affirmations come rising up in my consciousness. Interesting. Maybe they're always there, but I just can't hear them when my dark side is dominant:)

So the last couple of weeks, this is what I've had rise up in me every morning when I wake up:

May my heart be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.

It's a little metta meditation, a lovingkindness meditation from the Buddhist tradition. I used to use it a lot in my yoga teaching. It's sweet, I think. And just by repeating it a few times in the morning, it seems to set a really nice vibe for my day. It addresses my heart, my body, my mind and my emotions. I like it a lot.

But I just had a thought... if what we say or think creates our reality, then I don't want to just say "please, may I have this, may I be this". I want to say, "I am this".

So today, I'm repeating this little mantra:

My heart is filled with lovingkindness.
I am well.
I am peaceful and at ease.
I am happy.

Today, I like this affirmation. It seems to be raising my spirit and that's always a delight.

Try it on for yourself if you're in the mood or headspace for affirmations:) what do you think?

Thursday, 21 May 2015

meditation for mental health

I want to write about meditation today, because it's on my mind and heart a lot these days. I started learning about, and playing with meditation in 2004.

I started doing yoga dvd's in my living room, and one of the teachers did this little meditation at the end of her class, which I've since come to learn is a spinal kriya - you focus on the breath at your tailbone, and as you inhale, you "watch" the breath travel up your spine to the crown of the head, and then you exhale, watching the breath travel down the spine to your tailbone. And you repeat this, over and over. It is a "Watching the breath" meditation. I didn't have the language or knowledge at the time to even really realize it was a meditation, but I loved it from day 1. Years later, with much studying and practicing under my belt, I was introduced to it in a formal, titled way, and understood more of what was happening, physically, mentally, and spiritually with such a practice. But at the time, as a beginner, I just knew I loved it and that it felt sweet and delicious.

As I am writing this, I realize that maybe my introduction to meditation began long before 2004 - that was just my introduction to yogic meditation. I think my introduction may have been a lifetime before that, through the Christian church and my bible-reading, faithfully-praying family. My siblings and I were raised to pray and to read the Christian scriptures. Verses from the Bible like

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

This sounds to me like great instruction for positive thinking, rather than thinking about things that are negative or hurtful. Not so different from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy:)

The Bible regularly instructs its readers to meditate on God and his wonders. As do many scriptures from other world religions. There seems to be a constant desire, and consistent direction from all faiths, that meditation is good and helpful and delightful and important.

So I think it's neat to think that my introduction to meditation, and my desire to do so, came from a very young age. I'm forever grateful to my family and Christianity for that!

Now, I'm older. 38. Studied, thought, practiced, evaluated, all that rational grown-up stuff we do. Yoga is my path now. Has been for many years. Many of the meditations from the yogic and Buddhist traditions resonate with me more deeply than from the Christian tradition. I have a meditation teacher, Rolf Sovik, who is currently the President of the Himalayan Institute in Pennsylvania. He teaches meditation in a way that is simple and clear, and by following the guidelines he lays out, I come into a place of meditation quite easily and effectively. His "techniques" work for me, in that they help my nervous system quiet down before I sit and try to develop stillness in my mind. I need that.

I'm not much of a preacher of one right way - there are so many wonderful methods, techniques, and ways to meditate. Seek. Try some on. See what's right for you, what resonates with you, if you're interested in meditating. I'm just delighted to have found one that works for me.

I've had interesting experiences with meditation. Times when I'm so into it, I just want to do it forever. Times where I want to meditate for spiritual reasons. Definitely times when I let my meditation practice go for weeks or months because I just want to stay in bed. Right now, I'm coming back to a more regular meditation practice, for mental health reasons. I'm experiencing pretty high levels of anxiety right now, and have been for a few months. I've re-remembered that when I meditate regularly, the anxiety doesn't necessarily go away, but I don't feel despair or fear or terror about my anxiety. When I practice regularly, I am mindful of it, but don't have the devastating emotional and mental reactions about the anxiety that I do when I'm not meditating. I'm letting go of the strictness of the rules around a meditation practice (how long for, what techniques to get into it, etc), and am just sitting and meditating and watching my mind as I do. Sometimes the meditation time feels really chaotic. My mind is very busy, even during meditation. And that's just an opportunity for me to watch, to observe, to learn more about myself, to notice. To not get drawn into the stories or reactions of my mind, but simply to notice. With compassion. And the best thing about it for me, is that it really affects the rest of my day. My mind is still very busy, and worries try to take over, and my body does still manifest the symptoms of anxiety. But somehow it feels a little more quiet. Less desperate. I'm able to see and notice what's happening, and take a moment to breathe. To send love to myself. To be aware of my thoughts and feelings. All that precious cheesy stuff we do to keep ourselves moving forward:)

I think that's all for today. I am grateful for meditation. Right now, I feel like it's saving my life from the pain and terror of extreme anxiety.

love.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

beautiful bodies


When I think of the word “beauty”, visions of nature comes to mind. Works of art, both visual and musical, come to mind. Precious, unique interactions between humans come to mind. When I try to narrow in on a human form that I would connect with the word “beauty”, it is occasionally an image of a stunning female or male in perfect form. But it is also an image of my beautiful 80 year old grandma before she passed away, with all her wrinkles and folds and the beauty that shone out of her eyes. It is an image of my precious nieces giggling and staring adoringly at each other. It is an image of one average person reaching out to help another average person. My perception of beauty, when I stop to think about it, has very little to do with the representations we've come to accept as beautiful, from magazines and movies and media images, but instead, has more to do with qualities in art, in human interaction, in human connection, and in nature, that bring intense pleasure and deep satisfaction to my mind.
And I must confess that when I feel a connection with these things – heart-stirring works of art; a deep connection with a beautiful human being; moments beside a waterfall or rushing river – I feel the most beautiful. When I am able to slow down in life, able to take a day or two or three to slow down, to relax, to enjoy the sweetness of life, I feel the most beautiful. It is not when I dress up for work, or have a perfect hair day, or find the perfect outfit. Instead, it is when I get to live life fully.  It’s when I get to gather a whole bunch of healthy food and cook a delicious healthy meal to nourish my body. It's when I get a morning to sleep in and luxuriate between my sheets and just breathe into the space of being and not having to rush off anywhere. It's when I have a spontaneous, serendipitous conversation with a stranger or a friend, where deep truths are spoken about and beauty and life shines out of both people.

I am now 38. I would say that as I age, thankfully, my sense of inner beauty affects my sense of my physical body. Yoga has been an important part of my life for about 10 years now, and due to the experiences I’ve had with yoga, I have seen a real transformation about how I feel about my body. The practice of yoga has, wonderfully, increased my sense of acceptance. I still have days where I judge and criticize my body. For sure. But more and more, I sense a kindness toward my body, where it is right now. A few months ago, I had knee surgery. I was unable to do much physical movement for several months. OF COURSE my body changed a bit due to that. Things are softer now than they were when I was doing yoga 5 times a week and running and biking. And I am quietly delighted to sense a peace about this, rather than a harsh criticism of myself. I am able to go inside, and find acceptance. And see the beauty in reality, the beauty in struggle, the beauty in healing. The beauty in loving ourselves as we are, right where we are. Again, not that there aren't days where my inner critic judges the jiggles very harshly. But there is a little more self-love. A little more understanding that “this too shall pass” - our bodies are constantly evolving, and the best that l I can do is accept, and love, and recognize beauty in each stage.
The society that we live in makes it really tricky for us to accept and love and value our bodies. The media bombards us with images of thin, uber-fit, cut, ripped, zero-body-fat-bearing models. We see this in men and women. And the truth is, very very few people in our society actually look like that. The ones who do work very hard at it, eat very specifically, and usually have a reason to look like that. They're often models, actors, or fitness buffs who get paid to look the way they do. And good for them. But society, and the media, needs to stop holding them up as the model for how all people should look. We, average wonderful beautiful people, live busy lives with jobs and families and hobbies and interests that may be about more than just sculpting our bodies. And those other things, the families, the interests, the relationships, the experiences, and the human bodies that carry us around through it all, are what make us truly beautiful. Those things need to be elevated, valued, and magnified as ideals in our society, rather than the body images that are given such value in our society.

I was recently part of a photo shoot, in which I had to get naked. This photo shoot, and this piece of writing, are part of this beautiful project that two people are doing, about positive body image. I decided to go for this photo shoot after knee surgery, a time where my body was less “fit” than other times in my life. It was important for me to have the pictures done at this time, because I wanted to explore what it was like to accept my body as it is in this moment. I hoped the photo shoot would be a place where I could experience some playfulness, and freedom, in taking my clothes off in front of a camera, and seeing what would be expressed by working with a photographer who wanted to explore and promote positive body image. I hope that my pictures show some of the ease and acceptance that I'm learning to have about my body. I hope that my pictures express some of the peace and joy that I experience about my body through my yoga practice. I hope that my pictures reveal that a body that has some body fat, and some curves, and some jiggles, is beautiful. It is the container that carries everything that makes me, me. It is the vehicle that allows me to experience the beauty of nature, of relationships, of art, of living. For that, I am deeply grateful for my healthy, strong, always-changing, beautiful body.

 Thank you.

Friday, 8 May 2015

not knowing

Someone just posted this quote on FaceBook:

"I need to learn how to be content with simply not knowing and be at peace with the notion that everything does not need an explanation"

Hey, this one hits home for me. "But why? Why is it like that? Why do I react like that? Why is he like that?" My go-to way of operating, partly due to Western ways of thinking, partly due to what was modeled for me, and partly to ease my own discomfort, is to question. To dig, to analyze - the rationale being that in understanding and seeking explanations, it might make things better, more palatable;  it might take away pain or confusion or uncertainty about a situation.

If someone treats you poorly, you dig into their past to come up with a reason for why they are such a dick. If you experience pain about something, you analyze it to figure out the deep why. If there is uncertainty, you do everything you can to figure out the what/why/how to settle that feeling of unknowing.

Because unknowing is uncomfortable. Because facing the blunt reality of this life can be difficult. Because we do anything to escape from or ease pain. It's normal, and likely a survival mechanism.

But what if I could learn to be content with simply not knowing? What if I stop seeking an explanation for everything?

Right now I'm aware that I have a desire to be in a loving intimate relationship with a partner. It's not happening for me right now. And I'll tell you, I sometimes experience a lot of sadness and occasional pain about that. [I don't think I'm seeking comforting; I don't think I'm reaching out for anything with this confession, I just want to share my experience of being human, one that I imagine many can relate to]. And I have spent a LOT of time analyzing why. Therapy. Chats with friends. Journaling. Digging, seeking an explanation.

Is there something wrong with me? Am I giving off some horrid energy that keeps me single? Do I not actually want a relationship, though I think and feel that I do, and that's why I'm single? Am I hideous and unlovable? Is there more work I need to do on myself before it'll happen? Do I need to fix me? Do I have unrealistic expectations? Do I have deep horrid unresolved issues about my parents' relationship that I need to address? What is wrong with me? Why? And what can I do to fix whatever is wrong?

These are the thoughts that go round and round in my mind. I don't know if any of you out there relate - I imagine many single people who want a relationship have similar thoughts. Maybe. And sometimes there are things we need to address and look at. But I can say with honesty that I've done a lot of work, looked at issues, embraced healing, am pretty aware of past habits and patterns and beliefs. And still, I'm here.

For whatever reason, this is the life I get to live, and right now, up to now, it doesn't include another person as a life partner.

It does make me feel sad at times. I don't understand it. My friends and family tell me they don't understand it. But, maybe, "I need to learn how to be content with simply not knowing and be at peace with the notion that everything does not need an explanation".

I don't know why I'm single. And maybe I can learn to accept, to sit with the feelings, to make friends with how life is right now, in each moment, and not have to dig so deeply for an explanation.

Some things just are the way they are. Accept. Breathe. Cry, rage, laugh, mope, play, sing, notice, be. What the fuck else can you do?


[As an aside, I'm definitely not saying it's all bad to be single. There are many fabulous, fun things about being single, as there are many fabulous, fun things about being in a relationship. There are also many challenging and difficult things about both lifestyles. That's not the topic of this blog. I'll save that for another day:)]

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

I am cleansed!!

Well, folks, I did it. successfully completed a 12-day cleanse, using the Wild Rose Cleanse; you can find out more about it at http://wildroseproducts.com/en-CA. There are great recipes online, and a fun cookbook you can order.

I feel great. I feel clean, I feel well, I feel healthy, I feel great. 12 days of only eating healthy, whole foods, and my body is a happy place to inhabit!



I don't think this cleanse is for everyone - the eating habits are probably pretty great for most people. Cut out sweet tropical fruits, sugar, flour, dairy and alcohol; eat mostly alkaline-forming foods, and reduce acid-forming foods (I'll include a list below). But the cleanse part, the herbal pills and drops that you take for 12 days, may not be good for everyone. They clean you out, with the laxative and diuretic properties; it might be a great idea to check with your doctor before you do it. Some of the herbs may affect people in different ways. You need to cut out any vitamins or supplements you take normally, and the effects of the pills likely affect any other medication you're taking, so don't enter into this without doing some research first.

But for me, I'm really glad I did this; feeling good.

I woke this morning thinking, oh fun, I can eat chocolate if I want to. And then I thought, I don't know if I want to. I've worked hard to feel this good, and my body loves it. I don't want to put shit in my body anymore. I've lost some weight; I feel good. I don't want to throw it all away now! Maybe the occasional treat.

I've just now had a chocolate. The first taste was delicious. and then the following two or three bites it took to finish it felt like an explosion of shocking sweetness in my mouth. Not actually the pleasant experience I thought it would be. More of a "ugh. this is so too sweet". And now there is an odd aftertaste in my mouth that I'm really not enjoying. Oh no, what if I've ruined my desire and enjoyment of unhealthy fake processed foods?!?! :) what a funny thing - my taste buds have changed in 12 days for sure - they've only had the sweetness of fruit for the last couple weeks, and this introduction of chocolate was not the joyous celebration I thought it would be. hmmm.

So, going forward, I think I'm going to stay with this eating plan. I think I'll commit to another 15 days, which will take me right up to my vacation to Curacao. I won't take anymore pills or drops - just stay with the healthy eating plan. Though I may take a cheat day now and then. I read somewhere about someone who eats as they wish on Sundays - I might try that plan. 6 days a week of these awesome eating habits that make my body feel amazing, and 1 day to splurge if I want to. I'll see how that works for the next couple of weeks.

So, fun readers, thanks for reading along on this little journey with me. I will testify that clean whole healthy eating makes me feel friggin fantastic!!!

Here's the lists of foods to eat and not eat for this fun plan. Have fun if you decide to jump in, and please write me and tell me all about your story! I'd really love to hear it!
And wishing all health and wellness for you all as we move happily into Spring!
Peace!



Section 1 (eat less than 20% each day) - Protein/Acid forming foods:

 
Most Recommended
Acceptable
Not Recommended
Fish
Beans (dried fresh)
Buttermilk
 
Beef (lean), lamb, liver, poultry, pork, veal
Cheese (of any kind)
 
Eggs
Shellfish
 
Lentils, dried peas, fresh peas
Yogurt
 
Nuts (except peanuts)
 
 
Oatmeal
 
 
Prunes, rhubarb (cooked)
 
 
White rice
 
 
Seeds, soy beans
 
 
Tofu (plain, unsweetened)
 



Section 2 (eat as much as you want!) - Alkaline forming foods:

 
Most Recommended
Acceptable
Not Recommended
Millet, buckwheat
Almond milk (unsweetened)
Bananas, grapes, melon, oranges, pineapple, tropical fruits
Brown rice
Apples, apricots, berries, cherries, lemons, peaches, pears, plums, nectarines
Currants, dried fruits, raisins
Quinoa
Popcorn (no artificial stuff on it)
Fruit juices
Almonds
Pumpkins, squash, yams, sweet potatoes
Any flours, soups thickened with flour
 
Sesame seeds, tahini
Honey, malt, malt syrup, molasses
 
Tomatoes (in moderation)
Pasta

 To be avoided entirely:
Breads                  
Flours or flour products
Dairy products (may have butter)
Tropical fruits
All fermented foods (wine, beer, vinegar, soy sauce, black tea, miso)
 
Notes:
*coffee, green tea and herbal tea are acceptable, max 2 cups a day
**barley, kasha, bulgar, spelt, kamut, amaranth, oats, and rye whole grains are allowed as part of the 20% list as they are acid-forming
***cook and use lots of olive oil, flax oil, sunflower oil or coconut oil (my new favourite!)

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Finish Line!!!

It's in sight!! Today is the last day, day 12! I am thrilled, proud, delighted to say, I made it!! Well, I have half of today still to go, but I'm feeling strong and confidant that I'll make it:)

I made it through Easter weekend, a feat unto itself! [I feel ok with a little bragging after this one]. not even one bite of chocolate, though I was so so friggin tempted to break!! so much chocolate all around me... and desserts... my aunt had pecan maple pie, which normally I could take or leave, but man, my mouth wanted it so badly. But I didn't. nope, not even one bite. I'm seriously impressed with my self-control:) there's that wee bit of bragging I'm allowing myself:)

I've had some delicious meals since I last wrote. I didn't have to work Friday (Good Friday, a holiday), and took the opportunity to make myself a fun breakfast of sweet potato fries and eggs with spinach and garlic - delicious!


For lunch, to keep me fueled for writing a paper for this class I'm taking, I made a quinoa salad and guacamole. For the quinoa salad, I cooked up some beluga lentils (tiny, black, I think a fun combination with quinoa), added tomatoes, lots of cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. The guacamole was ripe avocado, tomatoes, lemon juice, a touch of olive oil, and a finely-chopped shallot. I ate it with brown rice cakes.


It was a perfect feast, and filled me up till dinner, which was leftover tilapia and brown rice I had from a couple days before.

Saturday I headed to visit family, and that night I made a chicken stirfry with all kinds of veggs and coconut milk, over brown rice for my sis and parents. Yum. They enjoyed it, and were happy with how full and healthy and content they felt afterward.

Sunday was a tricky day for me. The fam went out for a beautiful Easter brunch at a hotel near by. And let me tell you, they put on an amazing brunch. The first thing displayed as you entered the room was a table laden with about 15 different desserts, cakes, pies, squares, treats. Oh jeez. Here we go. The buffet had everything from shrimp cocktails to eggs benedict, exquisite pastries, salads, bacon, sausage, breads, spreads, cheeses and a huge freshly baked ham. oh my goodness. Thankfully they had tons of veggies, roasted and raw, beautifully baked salmon and lean prime rib, so I did feast on those things. I had one cheat, the second of these 12 days - I ate a shrimp. Shellfish is not allowed in this cleanse. But I made a conscious choice to eat one. and it was so delicious:) Otherwise, I was solid though so so very tempted! But thankful for the delicious variety of options, to be able to eat well and healthily even at a buffet. A little bit of cantaloupe somewhat satisfied my sweets craving. I was so so longing for all that chocolate cake though!!

Sunday night was a feast at my aunt and uncle's - cheeses and spreads and crackers for appetizers, a big ham, scalloped potatoes, pecan pie, and the always-wild-fun family easter egg hunt which ends with everyone gathering piles of chocolate eggs. But there were lots of fun green salads with nuts and seeds, and I made a big quinoa salad, and my mom made a dish of mashed sweet potatoes, and so I feasted on healthy choices. I made my second conscious decision to cheat at this meal, by eating a very small piece of ham. Two cheats, on Day 10, both little bits of protein. I was ok with these decisions, so close to the end. My body is now processing and digesting food quite well and effectively. I didn't bend to the deep cravings for all that chocolate that surrounded me, but I brought a little home, which I will enjoy over the next few weeks, a wee little bit at a time:) I can't wait for the taste and experience of those first few mini-eggs!

Last night I cooked a meatloaf with ground turkey, spinach, onions, garlic, and quinoa, some sweet potato fries, and a big bunch of steamed broccoli with a bit of coconut oil and salt and pepper. That's lunch for today, with a bit of guacamole for snack time I think.

Tonight I will take the very last of the herbal pills and drops that have been my companion through these 12 days. My plan is to enjoy a little chocolate tomorrow, and to have little treats and splurges occasionally, but to try to stay with this type of eating. I feel so good - so clean, so clear. My body feels tight, and like it's working properly. My mood is fairly stable, and I haven't once felt hungry, in these 12 days. I've lost some weight, and have tons of energy. Putting good things in my bod seems to be a good thing, all-round!

I'll write one last hurrah tomorrow, in celebration of the end of my cleanse. See you then.


Thursday, 2 April 2015

smooth sailing seven

Day 7 of this 12-day cleanse is going well so far! I'm past the half-way mark. Most of the odd internal workings have settled down. No headaches today, and definitely less washroom breaks. I'm feeling well, pretty much like I usually do, minus any heaviness or sluggishness that I experience after my chocolate bar indulgences or after a lunch with bread and dairy.

It's true, when I think about it, I don't have any of those bloaty, sleepy, foggy, dopey feelings I sometimes experience after meals with dairy, flour, or sweets. I feel pretty alert. Pretty clear headed.

Last night I did make that delicious spaghetti sauce with ground chicken (see ingredients in yesterday's blog). And for the first time I cooked a spaghetti squash and used that instead of pasta. And it was so so delicious!!



 

Look at how that spaghetti squash looks just like noodles! To cook the squash, I cut it in half, took all the seeds out, brushed olive oil and S&P on the insides, then turned it upside down on a baking sheet and cooked it, skin-side up, for 45 minutes on 400 degrees. When when it had a cooled a little, I took a fork and gently pulled at the flesh and it came away all noodly!! Add the fresh healthy yummy sauce (oh, I added Kale to the sauce as well), and it's a sweet dish! It is actually quite sweet, because of the squash, so I added a little salt, because I like my "Italian" salty rather than sweet.

I must confess that I cheated a little. I love stringy cheese on my spaghetti. But I'm sticking to this no-dairy thing. So I found this:

It's not dairy, not soy, but it has tapioca flour in it. Flour is banished from this way of eating,  because of how it sticks to the walls of the intestines, but I figured, as the only cheat I've done so far, tapioca flour, and the very little bit of it I ate, is, well, it's not that bad, is it?! And look at the finished product:

Deliciousness. The "cheese" actually melts and becomes wonderfully stringy, just like Mozza. And the fun thing about this meal is, I had it around 6:30pm, and seriously wasn't hungry at all for the rest of the evening. No cravings for evening snacks.

I will say, though the cheese was a fun addition, I did pay a little for the cheat. That little bit of flour, when added to a system that has been cleaned out and has only processed all whole natural food for a week now, hit my intestines hard. I really don't think it's sticking to my intestinal wall like wallpaper paste, because cramps and trips to the loo followed soon after ingesting.

But I slept well through the night, and woke ready for my herbal pills and drops and steel cut oats and berries and nuts and seeds. I'm loving this morning breakfast, though I think I may try some fun egg concoction tomorrow, to satisfy my need for variety.

For lunch today, I went out with a friend, and had a huge veg salad with beautifully done medium-rare steak on top. Skipped the dressing and had olive oil and salt and pepper on top. An hour later I think I'm a little hungry, so may soon have my apple slices and almond butter.

Tonight I may have leftover spaghetti, or I may try a fun ground-chicken/quinoa meatloaf recipe I found, with sweet potato fries. Seriously, you can eat really well on this cleanse!

The cravings have disappeared, I think - now its more of a mind game. I WANT pizza and beer and chocolate. But my body's not craving any of it. I will dig in to my wealth of self-control, and keep going. only 5 more days to go after today:) and a cleaner, healthier body with some unhelpful unhealthful habits broken. yes.