THRIVE (Not Just SURVIVE!) This Holiday Season

 

The holidays can be challenging for everyone, but for a woman with an eating disorder it can be terrifying and traumatizing.

I spent years upon years dreading this time of year where overindulgence, consumption, and obligatory times of connecting to others reign.

I tried every tactic to try and survive these times - I starved myself for days leading up leaving me crabby and miserable (and a HUGE set up for a binge), I worked out for hours in excess, I placed unattainable and unrealistic rules and regulations on myself about what I was allowed to eat, how much and when this food was acceptable to be eaten.

It was all a setup to feel horrible about myself and perpetuated a cycle of self-loathing and destruction that fed off each other.

Each step on the path and each choice that I made affirmed my already skewed perspective of myself and affirmed my embedded belief system telling me that I was fat, unworthy, and absolutely incapable of eating “properly” and that I was simply doomed to fail.

Although I am embodied in my recovery, solid in who I am, and, for the most part, at peace with my body’s shape, size, and appearance, this time of year still brings it up for me.  Cellular memory is a very real experience of how we process and digest life and there is no doubt that it is at play for me this time of year.  The rat race of frenetic energy, the pressure for organizing the perfection of meals with family and friends, the knowing that there is overconsumption on the plate….it brings it up.  I find myself not breathing deeply, eating disembodied (i.e. fast and furious).  Somewhere in me I have associated this time of year (my birthday leading into the holidays) as a time of disconnect, over indulgence, the constancy of the ED (eating disorder) voice berating me, preaching to me and insisting obsessively that I move — move my body constantly.

So, how do we THRIVE instead of just SURVIVE the holidays?

Over the years I have healed my own patterning around my relationship with myself, my body, and the expectations of this time of year.  I offer some simple tactics in support of not just surviving this time of year, but to actually thrive — letting go of the dread and anxiety and moving into a place of honor, presence, and celebration.

  1. BREATHE:  Sounds simple enough yet as a woman in recovery I can speak that it is far from that.  I noticed years ago that I was holding my breath — my breathing became shallow and only occupied my body from the upper shoulders (creating a massive amount of tension) and up (creating heightened anxiety, insomnia, and feeding my heady overwhelm).  I had 0 connection to my belly and my source of nourishment and digestion.  The underlying message here is that if I don’t breathe fully into my belly — into my being — then I am not fully alive and present for this experience.  Understandably so as meals (especially over the holidays) were excruciatingly uncomfortable for me and I did not feel safe enough to really be there. The importance of stopping and breathing often throughout the days and especially before, during, and after mealtimes, cannot be emphasized enough.  It is the ultimate gesture and act of self-love, self-acceptance, and is the true gateway to healing.  PRACTICE:  Breathing properly takes practice, especially if we have been shallow breathing throughout our lives.  The first thing to do is simply become aware of your breathing patterns — Are you breathing deeply into your belly?  Are you breathing in just your upper body?  Are you breathing while you are eating or are you holding your breath?  There is no judgement here, we are simply becoming aware of our patterns so that we can consciously choose to shift them.  Find a room where you can be alone.  I would suggest doing this several times a day during the holiday time — use it as a reset for your entire system.  Go into your quiet space and lay down on the ground.  Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground.  Place one hand on your belly and one had on your heart.  Feel the rise and fall of your hands as you deeply breathe into your belly and your chest — belly and chest — belly and chest.  Feeling the entirely of your breath and connect with your body.  Do this for about 15 minutes several times a day.  
  2. GIVE PERMISSION:  I had so many self-inflicted restrictions for years and years that had the flavor of:  how much I was allowed to eat, what was permissible to eat, when I was allowed to eat, how much exercise I had to do in order to compensate for what I ate and how much I ate, and on an on an on.  I can remember a turning point years ago in which I let go of my extensive rules and regulations and gave myself permission.  I was recently reading the brilliant new book by Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness, and she talks about how, at one point in her life, she started writing herself permission slips and it shifted everything for her.  I can reflect that, I too, began writing myself permission slips and things shifted.  I let go of the self-berating ways of relating to myself, I released the shame that I was carrying, and a huge part of me relaxed into my human beingness.  It put things into perspective, allowed me to experience more pleasure and joy with my food intake and extended myself the invitation to really pull up a chair at the table and show up.  EXERCISE:  Take note of the rules and regulations that you have created for yourself around your eating and exercise.  Again, we are just noticing, not using this time to further berate or judge ourselves.  Choose one of those rules and literally write yourself a permission slip to do something different.  For example, if you have a rule that you cannot eat more than one helping of food at Thanksgiving yet your being is crying out for a little more of that delicious stuffing, give yourself permission to do so.  By giving ourselves permission to do things that have once been forbidden or fuel for self-punishment, we release the punitive energy and our being can relax and digest.  Do this in small steps so as to not overwhelm and shock your system, however do honor these permission slips and take the leap of trust in yourself to do so.  
  3. CHANGE YOUR SELF-TALK:  We are our worst critics, our most fierce enemy.  If we don’t believe in ourselves, how can we expect others to do so?  No one is going to do this work for us.  We can certainly get help and support in shifting our relationship to ourselves and our bodies but, when it comes down to it, we have to make new, life-enhancing choices.  Changing how we talk to ourselves is empowering, life-changing, and essential to our success at recovery and in taking steps towards thriving, not simply surviving.  The invitation here is to interrupt that negative self-talk and replace it with some whole-hearted self-love.  EXERCISE:  Notice the stream of thoughts that you are thinking about yourself.  Become aware of how you speak to yourself — quietly and perhaps even aloud.  We are becoming aware and absolutely not beating ourselves up.  This particular one can be a shock for some women — how harsh they are with themselves.  When I first started noticing how I was talking to myself I definitely had some grief surface. A part of my heart cracked open for myself.  This exercise and awareness can be a powerful gateway towards ourselves and our healing.  As you notice the more negative thoughts arise, consciously choose to replace them with a more positive and empowering statement or mantra. My current “go to” mantras are:  I love myself.  I love my body.  I love my life.  For me, these 3 statements cover it all and override anything I may be telling myself otherwise.  I use these mantras in meditation, throughout my days, and as a perfect interruption to a stream of thought that is not in my highest good.  
  4. TAP INTO PERSPECTIVE:  I am not making light of the magnitude of these patterns of being.  I spent decades truly believing that I was going to die if I ate too much — that getting fat was absolutely the worst possible thing that could happen to me — and that I needed to work out constantly in order to be okay.  These were very real feelings and beliefs for me.  The invitation here is to search for perspectiveEXERCISE: Noticing when you have convinced yourself that eating that pie is going to make you gain 10 pounds, that you are going to get fat and/or die if you don’t get that run in, and that the world around you will not go on unless you are “perfect” during this time.  Again, we are noticing, not judging or beating ourselves up.  Awareness of these false beliefs and replacing them with a more grounded belief system — i.e. you are NOT going to die if you eat that pie, your body will calibrate itself throughout this time as long as you are gentle and compassionate with yourself, etc.  Bottom line, we have to truly recognize and accept the fact that:  It is absolutely not the end of the world if we indulge, aren’t up to par on our exercise program, and actually relax into this time of year.  It all evens out and cultivating a sense of perspective is so important to recognizing the reality of the situation.  
  5. FAKE IT TIL YOU BECOME IT:  In treatment I took on the phrase “Fake it til you make it”.  I carried that with me for years — I just wanted to MAKE IT — whatever that actually meant.  To me, that was an end goal yet I didn’t even really get what making it was, so herein lies the dilemma.  I was seeking to attain some state of being yet I didn’t even know what that was.  Years ago, I heard a TED talk in which the woman stated “Fake it til you become it”.  That phrase landed for me.  I knew that I wanted to become healthy, embodied, and grounded in who I was.  This phrase gave me hope, drive, inspiration, and a palpable goal.  I could hook into this one and the repetition of saying it to myself kept me going through challenging moments.  EXERCISE:  I suggest doing this exercise sitting in a meditative posture. Take a moment, close your eyes, and find your breath.  Feel the expansion of your belly, the rooting down of your hips and sits bones, the rising up of your spine, the lightness and softness of your heart, the reach of the crown of your head up towards the sky.  Feel the entirety of your being and the presence of this moment.  As you find your ground and embodied awareness of yourself, tune into the phrase:  Fake it til you become it.  How does that feel to you to say it?  What comes up for you?  What is your interpretation of it?  Do you know what “becoming it” means to you personally?  Please do not condemn yourself if you are unable to access this place.  Here lies another opportunity and a different angle towards connecting us to our dreams, hopes, inspirations, and our deepest longings.  If you are able to, perhaps envision yourself at optimal health and balance, feel what that feels like.  It is said that when we are able to tap into how something feels it is a powerful step toward actualizing.  Abraham Hicks talks about moving towards feeling good and then our lives naturally unfold in that way.  Sometimes you cannot even imagine feeling good you feel so lousy.  Perhaps in these moments, “faking it” can become a valuable tool to shifting towards a feel good place.  Finding little things to focus on that do actually feel good and, as Abraham Hicks says, “milk them”.  Soak up that good moment in any way that you can for as long as you can and “fake it til you become it”.  

Do you feel anxious or nervous about the upcoming holidays?  Are you already planning your “survival” tactics?  Are you preparing yourself by starving yourself and overexercising? Are you stuck in an internal, self-defeating dialogue — desperate for some relief?  Are you longing to feel relaxed and happy during the holidays despite how much you eat and how much exercise you are able to get?  Do you feel alone in your struggles with yourself?  

I can help you.  I am a survivor of decades of debilitating and all-consuming eating and exercise patterns.  I get it.

I am here to help, to support, to advocate for you to find that peace within yourself, with your behaviors, and to tap into that stream of self-love that is right there awaiting you.  My approach is real, raw, authentic, and does not involve deprivation.  It involves tactics from the front lines — things that have worked for me — holistic, yes, rigid, nope.  

I would love to talk with you, meet you, and support you.  I honor you and the path you have courageously walked.  

 

11 Things I Know To Be True In My Decades Of Recovery From An Eating Disorder And The Peace Making Process With Myself:

11 Things I Know To Be True In My Decades Of Recovery From An Eating Disorder And The Peace Making Process With Myself:

 

  1. Patience with your process is the key to a sustainable recovery.
  2. There is no perfection in this process.
  3. We have to utilize and tap into a wide array of resources — both inner and outer.  There is a wealth of support available at every phase of recovery, we must choose to seek and use that support.  
  4. There is no end point — you don’t get somewhere and then you are “good to go” — it is a process — a “road to recovery”.  This process doesn’t need to be painful — there is much joy in uncovering who you truly are.
  5. Deprivation does not work.
  6. You must slow down and find your breath — in life, in work, in everyday being.
  7. Using exercise as a punishment is a set up and a complete dishonoring of who you are.
  8. Self-love is more than a word — it is an action verb and requires daily attention.
  9. We must let go of any “rules and regulations” that we have put on ourselves.
  10. Focus on you and only you. Comparison is a detrimental trap and will keep you on the hamster wheel.
  11. Give yourself permission.  So much of the angst in disordered eating is around that internal conflict.  When we give ourselves permission, we release the negativity and everything shifts —even our metabolism.  

Self-Love and Post-Behavior Healing

 

“It’s not your job to love me, it’s mine”. ~Byron Katie

 

 

Learning to love self, all of self, every corner and crevice, every movement and feeling, the whole gamut of who we are. This is not easy work yet, to me, is absolutely essential in order to heal. We must find the love for ourselves even in midst of our dysfunctional ways of eating and relating to our bodies. We must find the love of ourselves as we embrace our addictions and the ways in which we have chosen to cope with our lives. This is truly the only way that we can ever heal, by embracing these patterns in ourselves and loving ourselves so deeply despite them.

 

Feeling the love in our imperfections. The love and acceptance for ourselves. No matter what. How we treat ourselves is a model as to how we want others to treat us. How on earth can we expect others to love us in our entirety if we don’t love ourselves in our entirety??

 

Sure, it’s “easy” to love ourselves when we are feeling good, healthy, happy, whole, and vibrant. Self-love and acceptance are much more conducive to times of ease and success in our lives. But how about during the times when you are feeling down and out, “fat” and unlovable, have eaten foods that perhaps are not the best for your body, have the urge to purge in some way, those times when you would prefer to crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head rather than face the public eye…??

 

Cultivating loving compassionate acceptance of ourselves during these times is the most powerful way to truly soothe your soul and heal from the inside out.

 

It is about telling a new story – dismantling the old ones and creating a new, life-serving one.

 

The opportunity lies here in re-patterning our biographies and making new choices in our lives. Our cells are literally able to reorganize and regenerate.  In doing so, our ingrained ways of relating to ourselves, and the world around us, can shift.

 

So many of us attach stories to how we function in the world and especially to how we engage with ourselves around our ability to nourish our bodies, hearts, and souls.

 

These stories become our imprint for living and unless we make a choice to look at them honestly and choose to run a different script, we will inevitably stay stuck in whatever story line has dominance. As a woman with a lifetime of eating disorders and dysfunctional ways of relating to my body and to myself, I know this one well. I have been in active recovery now for 20 years and am highly aware of the stories that have been attached to my actions and the steps that I needed to take in order to set a different course for myself. It has not been easy, nor was it an overnight process. I am living proof that it is possible with commitment, perseverance, and an unwavering foundation of love and compassion directed towards self. I am not saying that I have attained “perfection” in my relationship to myself and my recovery process. It is just that, a process, and I feel as though I have reached a state of perspective. I feel removed from the darkness and fog and am seeing clearly the entirety of the cycle.

 

It is through my own experiences and unfolding over these decades that I write with the intention of sharing my learning and hopefully my words will inspire others on their healing paths.

 

I have spent the past few years really looking at what “post behavior” looks like and how to “recover” if, perhaps, you fall down the rabbit hole of dysfunctional eating and/or exercise patterns, and the subsequent trap of self-loathing and negative self-talk. I spent years upon years solidly swaying from one extreme to the other, never utilizing the golden times after engaging in the behaviors as an opportunity to tap into deeper bodily wisdom and the medicine that resides in those in between states. I just kept swinging from one end of the pendulum to the next, usually spending a little time, (or sometimes A LOT of time) in the hole of self-loathing and punishment which would inevitably keep the cycle flowing without interruption. As this way of living is so all-consuming, I do not have much memory of those precious times in between, yet in recent years I have found the strength for the pause, the rest, the recalibration, and the result has been a complete re-creation and healing of a very dysfunctional way of living, being, and engaging with myself.

 

*I offer you some of the most important pieces I have learned during these liminal times. I can absolutely guarantee that if you choose to hit the pause button on your stories and actions and utilize the wisdom these times have to offer, you will transform your life and your way of being in your body.

 

~If you are able to find some presence while eating that forbidden food or in midst of a binge… Bring your WHOLE self to the moment and find GRATITUDE. Offer up a huge heartfelt thanks for the food you are (actually very blessed) to eat. Yes, even that bag of chips or 2nd bowl of ice cream! Finding gratitude for anything shifts everything.

 

~Self-care is the key to healing. If you find yourself feeling guilty about the greasy burger and fries you ate or the 3rd helping of Thai food, or whatever your M.O. is….DO NOT PUNISH YOURSELF. This is the time to treat yourself like a queen. This is not the time for deprivation or punishment. Rather tend to yourself with honor – eat what your beautiful body is asking for – move it with joy and reverence – spend extra time meditating and praying – increase your intake of herbs and supplements.  Whatever feels really good to your body and soul…DO IT. By not choosing to punish, berate, or hate on your body there is an opportunity for your entire relationship to your intake and your bodies ability to digest, to shift. I promise you.

 

~Along the same lines, but it is just so important so I reiterate here: The key to breaking the cycle is to love yourself up especially during those times when you feel un-loveable. NO PUNISHMENT! POUR ON THE SELF-LOVE!

 

~After “indulgence”, EAT REAL FOOD and don’t punish yourself by deprivation. It is a SET UP for failure. The absolute best thing that you could ever do for your body, yourself, your LIFE…is to EAT. Eat lots of greens, quinoa, fruit, protein…nourish yourself, hold yourself, and, for fucks sake, DO NOT HARM YOURSELF. Do not punish, berate, loathe, hate on, pinch, nip, tuck. The greatest act of self-love during these distressing times – is to eat real food and nourish yourself, your body, and your LIFE. This was revolutionary for me! One version of a dysfunction pattern that I engaged in was to starve myself if I overate at a previous meal or had a nighttime (or daytime!!) emotional eating attack. It never occurred to me to actually feed myself after that. When I started utilizing that time to prepare and cook nourishing foods for myself and eat them, everything changed. Now I will create some delicious comfort foods on the flip side of the dysfunction. I will bake healthy and yummy muffins and cookies, bake sweet potato fries, make homemade salad dressings to spice up the mundane, peruse recipes and cook something new and delicious, and take the time to create a lovely meal and mealtime for myself. I will prepare my food, organize it on my plate, set a place for myself at the table with a placemat and cloth napkin, light a candle and find the gratitude for the nourishment and for myself for the level of care I am providing. I have found that by becoming active in the kitchen, I am declaring self-love and my whole being responds.

 

~Listening to sacred chants and other uplifting music in my home as well as through headphones during a walk has been incredibly healing. Getting outside in some fresh air can offer a clear perspective! Add in beautiful chanting and song plugged into your system and there is the opportunity to shift your brain, body, and entire being.

 

~Be amongst the people! Get out of your house and place yourself around others. Engage with them quietly. Smile at strangers. Make eye contact. Receive reflection that you are actually OK. You are NOT crazy. You are NOT a dysfunctional alien. Despite what you may have just done to yourself and your body, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU! This one was huge for me many years ago when I was in the throes of the dysfunction. I happened to live right in downtown Boulder and, when possible, I would just take walks into town alone and just be around others. It helped me to see that I was not actually alone and that I was a part of something much bigger than the ridiculous amount of food I had just consumed.

 

~The final point that I want to make here is how essential it is to be able to truly sit and breathe with yourself when that is the last thing in the entire world that you want to do. Finding the courage and strength to choose to breathe deeply into your full belly and just allow it to be, expanding with the fullness, sitting with the uncomfortableness and not trying to get rid of yourself….IS HUGE and NOTHING SHORT OF MIRACULOUS! Here is where meditation has been transformative for me in my process and I know is crucial for women with similar biographies to mine. We cannot keep running from ourselves, especially during the times when we want to flee. Making the choice to sit put, send loving breath deep into your belly and heart, and holding yourself in that space of angst, is incredibly powerful and inevitably healing. Other ways of staying present in the breath and in your body is to get on the floor and roll around doing very gentle stretches and twists. I also will mindfully take a stroll (not a power hike or walk!!) and will put my hands on my hips and belly so that I can feel my foundation. The comfort of giving myself connection to my physical form has rippling effects to support  healing and an overall deeper sense of embodiment.

 

Take charge of your body and your life.

 

Bring mindfulness and a ton of compassionate and loving kindness to your entire being ~ even those shadow sides and less-than-fabulous habits and behaviors ~

and you create the potential to shift, heal, rise up, and unearth your powerful life force.

 

Making the choice to approach who we are with loving and compassionate acceptance is not easy work, yet is critically important to our healing and to embodying who we are and our brutally imperfect lives.

The Path of the Warrior Woman in Recovery

I sit here writing, humbled, yet again, by this windy and wild ride that I call recovery. A process of embodiment that encapsulates my lifetime and has consumed my life. Literally. I feel humbled, brought to my knees, and irrevocably in love with myself in a new and foreign way. I have shown my true colors, yet again, to myself and the world in the darkest of nights and the lightest of days…and, I prevail. Altered. Humbled. Aligned. Embodied. Alive. Grateful for all of the lessons that this layer has brought and assured that my message must be transmitted. I do not feel sorry for myself – I am not a martyr. I am a warrior in the deepest sense of the word and I am proud to say that I live my life authentically. I am exposed, raw, and ALIVE. I am not perfect, not by a long shot, but what is perfection really? I am in recovery and I probably always will be to some degree AND I choose every single day to show up.

No matter what.

These past few weeks have been hard, I am not going to lie. I have been brought to my knees over and over and over again and I have remained there. Paralyzed? No. But definitely altered. Definitely a bit confused as who this person is that is becoming.

Definitely longing for ground in moments where the foreign has reined and I cannot find that ground.

I have cried frequently, I have eaten more abundantly, I have reached for my creature comforts often, I have chosen to talk to friends while walking rather than myself. And, I have been feeling some pain. I have been aware of the discomfort being unearthed from the depths of my psyche – without explanation. I have allowed myself to hop on that surf board and ride the waves….some of the biggest thus far…without judgment or the need to label. Without interest in “fixing” myself as I am well aware that I am, in fact, not broken. I have tapped into yet another layer of self-acceptance – an inner knowing that everything is really OK – in fact, it is more than OK – all is quite good. I am moving through some of the depths of old stories, perhaps generations of messaging – and sometimes it is not pretty. This one was anything but that.

I feel exposed on a new level. 

I feel altered. I feel alive.

So, as we continue on this dance of life…taking the necessary steps towards ourselves…towards our wholeness…can we remember and embody who we are every step of the way? Can we make the choice every single moment of every day to not abandon the whole of who we are? To stand close to ourselves even when the pain feels unbearable and we would much prefer to flee the scene?

I believe that this is the path of the Warrior Woman.

The woman who chooses to stand upright through the pain, to live from her broken heart, and to hold herself close despite the palpable and penetrating need to run and numb.

Recovery is an opportunity to unearth oneself, to embody oneself, to love those around us for their imperfections just as we long to be loved for ours.

Recovery is a process without an ending.

It is a willingness to love and be loved…without conditions…without borders or barriers.

It is an opportunity to get to know oneself in the depths of everyday life.

Recovery is a declaration.

It is not a path for the faint or weary and demands ALL of us to show up – every single aspect of who you are must be on board for this dance.

It requires faith and courage….the willingness to be exposed…the willingness to fall down and the strength to pull oneself up again.

And again and again and again.

The Imperfection of Being a Woman

As I sit here enjoying homemade sweet potato fries with melted cheese dipping fervently into guacamole I am reminded what bullshit perfection is and how unrealistic it is to attain whatever society deems as perfection. When did it become accepted to berate women for being women in a feminine form? Why are curves not OK and yet a toned, shapeless body is what is praised and strived for by women everywhere? I look around me daily and see the active deprivation amongst my sisters in striving to attain a figure that is unattainable and, in the meantime, allowing this way of living dry up their creativity, passion, sexuality, and life force.  

As a woman with decades of active recovery from a debilitating eating disorder in her cells, I still find myself wavering about how to do this “right”. If I eat really well all day and practice yoga and get out on a trail, then I am doing recovery “right”? But, if I choose one day to indulge in a burger and a beer then I have fallen off the recovery wagon?? To me, recovery is all about balance. Being an embodied and whole woman means allowing, accepting, and embracing every crevice of who you are. For me, that means giving permission for me to really truly BE who I am and that means that, yes, on occasion – sometimes more often than other times – I eat greasy food and drink alcohol.

 

Do I still engage in my practices – yoga, meditation, time in nature, dance, self- examination and process? Absolutely. I feel, at 42 years of age, that I have a grasp – perhaps only a slight one – on who I truly am. Not who I have pretended to be – not who I think others want me to be, say, do, act – ME, all of the aspects of me. And, I can honestly say that most days, I kind of dig myself. I look in the mirror and more often than not I say something along the lines of ‘Damn, you look really good. You look healthy, alive, vibrant, and sexy’. Most days I am not evaluating myself by the cellulite on my ass, the extra belly rolls, the lines on my forehead, and the wrinkles that seem to be forming in the most unusual of places. That is most days, definitely not all days, but what I can say is that the days of praise are outweighing the days of criticism and that is nothing short of a miracle and progress in recovery at its finest.

 

I honestly never really knew whole heartedly if it was possible to live a human life, in a body, with a beating heart, a consciousness, a level of sensitivity to the world that exceeds many for better or worse – if I could ever pull together a life where I actually loved myself, respected myself, knew how to truly tend to myself in the deepest of ways possible. I did not know if I would ever attain peace inside myself to the degree that was needed in order to be able to consistently emanate that to my outer world.

 

I did not believe, as a 20-something and then as a 30-something, that self-love could happen unless I was perfect.

 

Perfect at recovery, perfect in my body, perfect in my relationships, perfect at life as a whole. Well, I am here to say, amongst many other things, that PERFECTION DOESN’T FUCKING EXIST. You can seriously literally and figuratively kill yourself in your quest for perfection. Women do it ALL THE TIME. They nip and tuck, run until their body fails them, nibble on their vegetables and fruits – denying their hunger from their core. Refusing to acknowledge who they truly are and negating what they really need to be consuming, how their bodies are really needing to be moved, and what their voices need to say. It is epidemic. Heartbreaking. Abundantly everywhere, in every community, every country, and, as a woman who gets it on the most fundamental level, I feel a responsibility to share the light. To share my story over and over again, honoring the various narrations of it – the fluctuations through the phases of my development, and the raw humbleness of my admission that I really don’t know what I am doing most days.

 

I am learning with each experience of each day and moment of our days, to trust my heart, to listen to and then actually follow my intuition.

 

To honor my hunger, not just for food but also for love, for sunlight, for solitude, for movement, for rest, for quiet. Listening, honoring, and acting on my highest voice. The one and only TRUE voice and the one that is speaking louder and louder by the years and teaching me what it really means to love, beginning with loving of the self. I never really understood what that meant….all those years of being preached to about the crucial nature of doing just that.

 

So, I sit here writing – a bit broken, tainted, beaten up, alive, committed, in love, wounded, determined, grateful, and steeped in the process of healing – with passion to spread the light. Feeling the responsibility and motivation to reach out to other women who struggle to find that ease with themselves. Those women whom every single day is a battle upstream. Those women who cannot see the light and who desperately long to.

 

May my words touch some in the most tender of places and inspire them to take steps towards their healing – perhaps baby steps, yet forward movement no less.

 

Reach out and connect, women!

 

You are not alone.

Embodying LOVE in Midst of Indignancy

To stay present in your body and heart amidst life’s challenges is no small task. The level of courage and commitment on behalf of oneself is honorable and carries with it the potential for infinite growth and the deepest sense of embodiment. Our experience of life – of living – of communing with others – of relating to ourselves – is magnified. Our senses are heightened and the possibilities of growing and morphing in our lives unfolds with endless possibilities.  

This is not easy work and I sit here writing this post whole, wounded, scarred, and yet embodied after experiencing one of the most challenging and traumatizing experiences of my life. I feel a responsibility to spread the light like never before. Staying small and quiet is no longer an option.

 

Remaining embodied through traumatizing experiences takes a tremendous amount of perseverance and trust. When we are gutted by what life throws at us, what is left is the raw remains of who we actually are. Our guards are lifted, egos in check, personas are questioned, and we are called to dig to the depths of who we truly are. From our core -- our essence.

 

This can be disorienting and so incredibly scary. Situations such as what I am emerging from, force you to question everything and your innate sense of life as it becomes foreign. You know that life will never be the same you just have no clue what its going to look or feel like.

 

When trauma and invasion enter the system, the body naturally shuts down. Our protective shields go up and a level of disconnect emerges. This is natural and, quite frankly, necessary for many of us. When you have experienced abuse at the hands of the dysfunctional masculine in your life, it is not hard to become triggered. Shutting your system down in protection is our intrinsic way of sheltering our hearts from more heartbreak. The problem becomes when you shut down and do not do the work necessary to heal, shed, and reawaken – the trauma infests your body and entire system. We then walk around in protection mode, untrusting of the world, with our barriers around our hearts and bodies, and the armor builds. The trauma and the feelings associated with it do not go away. They just get pushed deeper into our systems – into our cells, our bones, our muscles, our psyche. Many turn to food, drugs, alcohol, over working, TV…anything that can serve as a distraction so as to not feel the pain of what we have experienced and are now carrying with us. There is no judgment here as I have been down many of those paths and still have some need for escape on occasion. What I am more aware of than ever is that there is no sustainability in that way of living. There is only more pain that will inevitably surface if you don’t actually deal with your experiences on an embodied level.

 

Yoga and meditation, if practiced regularly, can be so supportive in finding that presence and acceptance of ourselves in midst of challenge and angst. They can serve as a platform for self-inquiry and self-acceptance. There is the space for hard emotions to surface and move through our bodies and our hearts. There is the opportunity to simply breathe, pay attention to what is going on for us, and let it go. Over and over and over again. This is hard work. Can be grueling for those of us who have carried around generations of trauma and discourse in our systems. Yet, to me, is essential and it is my life’s path to support others in moving through their life’s anguish – through their beautiful bodies and their wounded hearts. To support others in finding that freedom by tapping into their inherent inner strength that is always there – just needs to be held in loving kindness, acceptance, and love.

 

I offer you this simple meditation in support of embodiment during indignant and agonizing times.

 

Come to lie on your backs on a comfortable, flat surface. A place where your spine can rest easefully and you are able to feel the connection of the earth underneath you.

 

Bend your knees, spread your feet wider than hips distance, and allow your knees to drop in towards each other. Feel your sacrum, right at the base of your spine, drop down into the ground. From that space invite in the support of your body and the earth beneath you.

 

Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly.

Come into your breath. Tune into the rise and fall of the inhalation and the exhalation.

 

From this still place – present to your body and it’s sensations – feeling the ground underneath you – the feel of your hands greeting your belly and your heart – your power centers – close your eyes and spend a few minutes simply feeling your experience. The entirety of the simplicity of being with yourself.

 

After a few minutes of only focusing on your breath begin to include a mantra with your inhalation and exhalation.

 

I invite you with your inhalation to say “Love” to yourself and your exhalation to repeat “Love”. Continue to do this for at least 10 minutes.

 

Simple, yet powerful way of infusing our bodies with the vibration of LOVE, PEACE, and ACCEPTANCE.

 

Repeat often.

 

Self-Care for the Body, Heart, and Soul

Recently I had my face and some words on the pages of a magazine. This introvert did not quite know what to do with it. Old familiar feelings around my self-worth reared their ugly head. While being published in a nationally circulated magazine should theoretically infuse a sense of pride and provide a boost to my self-esteem, quite the contrary occurred. I retreated, withdrew, and turned inward as a way of coping.  While these actions towards oneself are not necessarily negative, my experience became as such.  The voices of self-doubt and shame were at the forefront and were screaming.  I humbly continue to unravel why this was my response and how I can fully step into my life's purpose without the old, unnecessary, and seriously counterproductive voices of shame and self-doubt.  As with many uncomfortable life experiences I found incredible healing, wisdom, and medicine from the internal backlash and it certainly clarified my perspective on self-care and what that constitutes.   The entire experienced unearthed an undying desire to tend to myself in my body, heart, and soul.  

As a woman with a long history of eating disordered behaviors, dysmorphic body image, and a severe imbalance in my intake vs. my outtake, I have always considered the act of taking care of oneself in the realm of what I ate or didn’t eat, how much I exercised, and how many calories I burned.

 

I felt as though I was taking care of myself if I looked in the mirror and saw a slender and toned body – never looking into my own eyes and seeing the emptiness and disconnection.

 

If I looked good, then all must be well in my world of self-care.

 

This is clearly not a sustainable way of living, being and interacting with oneself and as I have gotten older, (yes, things do shift in your 40s!) I have recognized the dysfunction in my self-care choices through timely and potent messages that my body and spirit send me.

 

My soul has been crying out to be heard and truly attended to and it has become non-negotiable to ignore the signals.

 

My ears can no longer ignore the cries. 

 

My entire way of relating to myself has taken shape in a very different direction than ever before.  

 

There is a palpable honoring and embracing of who I am on every level.  What actually feels nourishing to my soul?  How can I honor my heart in each moment and tend to the various layers of emotion that it beholds?  What ways can I move my body that feel integrated, accepting, loving, and celebratory?  How can I take care of myself in ways that are grounding and that acknowledge and appreciate exactly where I am in my life in every moment -- in body, heart, and soul?  This has been uncharted territory  and a place that is in continual investigation, exploration, and unfoldment.

 

I have finally surrendered to myself – gotten out of my own way – tuned in – and landed.

 

I offer you my top 5 ways in which I tend to my body, my heart, and my soul. I never in my life thought that I would consider some of these things self-care much less give myself permission to do. The level of surrender and attunement with my body, heart and souls true needs feel to be nothing short of miraculous. If I can do it, I truly believe that anyone can.  The desire must be there, any and all pretenses must be dropped, and a sincere openness and willingness to being uncomfortable in the unknown during this exploration of Self and ones awakening.

 

~Take a bath in the middle of the day. Yes, you heard me correctly and this one has to be on the top of my list as it definitely was a challenge for me to surrender to. I live in the mecca of beauty and everyone is extremely active in the outdoor playground surrounding me. For me to give myself permission to get into the bath on a gorgeous sunny day is the ultimate act of surrender. It is attunement at its finest and when I do make this choice -- when I listen to my body, heart, and souls pleas for this level of care, I am fed at the deepest level possible. My entire being softens and I feel held.

 

~Take a walk in nature. A walk, not a run. Not a power walk. Not to burn calories. Not to run away from oneself or life.   A walk to drop in. A walk to connect to your body, to your breath, and to honor your true pacing. A walk to feel your body’s subtleties in motion. A time to tune in and take inventory. A walk that supports, nourishes, fills your heart, and empties your mind of stress. A time of breath and movement. A walk to enliven all of your senses and call you home.

 

~Practice yoga. I am not referring to a hot, power yoga class. I am talking about rolling out your mat and tuning in to what your body truly needs. I find that some days my body loves being in motion – even moving in and out of various poses at a more rapid pace. Most days, however, when I tune in my body is craving slow, deep, fluid, and organic movement. Some days I don’t even “do” an official asana (posture) – rather I am so in the moment with how my body wants to move and when I honor that, anything is possible. I spend a lot of my practice time these days on the ground – breathing – stretching – twisting – rolling around – and resting. This feels like a level of self-care that is essential, supportive, and truly honoring my body, heart, and soul.

 

~Meditate. Meditation is one of most powerful ways of tending to ourselves. The attunement with our inner selves is palpable and enhances who we are and how we live our lives. I never thought that I would be saying this. I always thought of meditation as torture – truly. I see now that sitting with myself for decades was difficult, painful, and really unbearable on so many levels. As I have now been meditating daily for several years, my entire perspective has shifted. I have a motto that I say to myself, “When all else fails, meditate”. Meditation is my go-to. It is like home base for me. Life sometimes feels as though it is spinning wildly and even my self-care practices feel like just another thing to “do”. Meditation is my faithful and trustworthy friend and I feel held by my practice. It is self-care at its finest.

 

~Retreat at home. This one has been huge in my world. I completely understand that many people do not ever have their house to themselves for an hour, much less an entire day. Dare I say that it is one of the “perks” of being a single mom?? I am blessed to have my house to myself for 6 days a month. Carving out the time and space for a “retreat” is a different story and a challenge in and of itself; and is something that I strive to do at least once a month. When I do, everything in me sings. Parts of me that have lain dormant awaken. Areas of my body that have felt like they were going to implode from the amount of tension soften. My heart feels honored. My soul feels heard. This doesn’t always mean that I have no connection with the outer world – as a mom that is difficult to do. Every time is different and unique, but what I can say is that I strive to: ignore my phone, stay off the social media, be quiet, give myself permission to not clean my house, cook and bake yummy food and then consume it, spend time on the couch with a book wrapped in a cozy blanket, remain in jammies or comfies for hours -- clothes that feel good on your body and allow you to move and breathe freely, journal, read uplifting material, take baths with Epsom salts and essential oils, say positive affirmations to myself often, take lots of deep belly breaths, long walks listening to Sanskrit chants, meditate, dance, and practice restorative yoga.

 

These are just some of the many ways in which I have cultivated a depth of self-care that goes beyond my physical body and it’s esthetics. It feels revolutionary for me to be living from this place and, sometimes, scary. Many times of tending to myself in this way feel like uncharted territory -- as if I am a foreigner in a foreign land without a map. And the truth is there is no map. There is no guidebook towards ourselves.

 

There is no direct and easy way to truly go IN on the level of the heart and soul.

 

It is a leap of faith – every single time.

 

The only thing that I know for certain is that making this choice to attune on the deepest levels is absolutely the most profound declaration of self-love and self-acceptance. Life becomes an exploration, an honoring, and a celebration.

 

The ripples of this union with Self are endless, beautiful, life enhancing, empowering, enlivening, contagious, and full of possibility.

 

Take the leap.

 

Jump off that cliff.

 

And come home.

 

 

 

The Silence Has Been Broken

I have been in recovery for almost 20 years from an eating disorder, which sent me into a residential treatment center back in my mid-20s. My surrender to admitting myself into this facility was the darkest and deepest hole that I have ever experienced.

It was both frightening and relieving knowing that I was FINALLY going to get some real support, help with my extreme struggles and that I didn’t have to hold it all together any longer. I didn’t have to keep fighting. I could let go, at least for moments, and know that I was going to be held.

My stint at this amazing venue was anything but pleasurable, yet I was comforted just by being there. My shit was flying and it was not pretty, but I knew it was what I needed to do. It was my chance at actually living a life. My chance at peace making. It was scary, yet I kept on going.

I must have known, in my 20-something psyche, that there was actually light at the end of the tunnel, although I absolutely had no awareness of that, nor did I have a clue as to what that even looked like.

 

I was interviewed this past week by a colleague and new friend of mine for her podcast, Curb the Binge. It was enlightening, humbling, empowering, scary as hell, and a deep relief.

The silence has been broken.

Much of what I said I have not said to anyone, and yet, I felt compelled to share publicly, online, to listeners I have never met.

There was something in me that was birthed that day, nearly 20 years after my surrender to needing help, I found myself in yet another place of surrender and vulnerability.

A space that was not familiar to me, however it felt so natural and enlivening.

I tapped into a softness, vulnerability, and clarity that my life’s path continues in service, yet in a very different direction than I ever imagined.

I have always had an aversion to even talking about food, weight, exercise, fat, calories, dieting, etc. etc. A part of me would recoil in disdain and confusion. Why couldn’t I even talk about these things that have been at the forefront of my everything for so many years? Why did I still want to jump out of my skin if someone even mentioned eating too much or skimping on the intake and amping up the exercise?

Why did I immediately go to the place of “they think I am fat, that is why they are talking to me about exercise”? Or “they must know that I ate a cookie today and that is why they are looking at me in that way”? Or, one of my all-time favorites, “well, I definitely need to go exercise again, even though I already did today, because they were clearly noticing that I overate at my last meal”?

So many versions of this bullshit that had run my life for almost 20 years. I speak in past tense as I do not feel that I am under those reigns anymore, but holy shit did it take a very long time.

I believe that it has been with me for lifetimes so there is no doubt that it could take lifetimes to unravel and truly heal….

Back in my early 20s I  had a soul retrieval with a Shaman in Albuquerque.

Believe it or don’t believe it but this woman was the real deal.

I was 23 years old as I was lying on the floor of her office on sheepskin rugs with her shaking rattles all around me and chanting. Yes, this midwestern girl was a bit shell-shocked but something in me knew that it was important work for me to be doing.

Rita, the Shaman, told me about a vision she had of me in a past life, one that has stuck with me all these years later. She saw me in a past life, an obese woman living in a cabin in the woods by myself. She described this woman (me) in detail as I was sitting in a chair inhaling bonbons. Now I have never even eaten a bonbon before, nor do I entirely know what they are, yet I can feel that vision in my cells.

That woman is in me, as one of many from past lifetimes.

She was so sad, scared, alone, and yet had found such deep solace in these bonbons. The texture, the taste, the way that the bonbons melted in her mouth. She was smiling internally as that comfort felt so satisfying, however on the outside she was fat, alone, and sad.

How can both exist in one person I have asked myself as I have reenacted versions of that woman’s persona for many years.

I have had times of severe isolation when the delicious comfort of food was all I had – it was my lifeline, my intimate relationship, and my best and most trustworthy friend. Many, many moments of this pattern when I could barely get myself to show my face outside of the house as I felt exposed, raw, guilty, and full of such incredible shame.

Times when I did actually think that the world revolved around me and my eating disorder as that was literally ALL that I could think about.

Through the pain, lay some solace in this way of being. Food was such incredible comfort to me that I actually have no regrets. Those times were a tremendous part of my unfolding. Those and so many more with an endless amount of variations all revolving around my body size, my food intake, and how much I did or did not exercise. That was it. That was what consumed my life and shaped everything I did, every relationship I had, every experience that I engaged in, every choice I made…. for decades. DECADES.

Here I sit, at 42 years old, comfortable in my skin.

I have found an ease in myself, a peace in my consumption, a surrender to life as it is, and a genuine appreciation for simply being alive in my incredibly imperfect, yet unbelievably beautiful body.

That is it.

Living life every single day is a gift.

It is impermanent and exceptionally challenging at times, but nonetheless, exquisite.

Yes, even if I have eaten everything in sight for a day, even if my aging body is beginning to sag in areas, soften, and wrinkle. I can still be in love with myself every single day. I have learned to embody who I am, on every level and feel that intuitive connection within.

I know what my body needs.

I know what my soul is craving.

I understand when I have those days when I really truly just need to comfort with food – those days when nothing else will do – none of my practices are working and a pile of nachos are it.

I feel it all and I have embraced it all.

I have accepted myself for who I truly am – all of the imperfections and seemingly unhealthy needs.

I have learned to trust myself implicitly.

I am my own expert on my body and my souls needs and I have choice every single moment of every single day.

Sometimes my choice involves giving into the wisdom of my cravings and pouring loving kindness all over them. Sometimes I choose to take a bath instead of reach for the cookie and I understand that neither is good nor bad it truly just is a choice.

Everyday I choose love – as cliché as that sounds – and I have embraced that love is found in endless forms and that the single most important part of this wild and curvy road of recovery is to stay close to myself.

To not abandon.

To not shame or shun.

To not punish or berate.

To speak kindly and lovingly to myself every damn day.

To honor my hunger, no matter what that looks like and no matter what anyone else thinks or says about it.

To stay so close to myself that nothing can penetrate or probe who I am.

To stay unwavering in my existence and to celebrate my inner and outer beauty.

To fall so deeply in love with who I am on the planet, finding that forgiveness and deep compassion for myself in my life.

Right now.

Today.

In this exact moment.

 

Unconditional self-acceptance.

 

Unconditional self-love.

 

No matter what.

3 Simple Life-Altering Daily Practices for Busy Mindful Mamas

I understand first hand how challenging it is to find even 5 minutes of peace and quiet while parenting small children. I have been single parenting my now 7 year-old-son for 6 years officially and it has been by far the most life shaping, heart wrenching, humbling, and empowering experience of my life. I have longed for moments of relief. An opportunity to just feel myself separate from him and his demanding needs. I have been a practitioner of yoga for over 20 years and, yet, for years I have struggled to find the time and space to really drop into my practice, always feeling like I am multi-tasking even when on the mat. Getting to a class has become impossible with the reality of having him so often and working when I do have the space. Bottom line, life is full and busy and when we have little ones who are begging for our attention it is very easy to put our own needs aside and lose our sense of self.

What so many mothers are missing is the essentialness of actually putting our own embodiment and self-care at the forefront and when we do so, everyone benefits. We become better mothers, partners, and overall feel a deeper sense of peace, joy and radiance for life even in those hard to reach areas.

I have endless empathy and compassion for all mothers and the magnitude of our ‘job’ and know that we must cultivate simple, user-friendly practices for ourselves in order to assure any sustainability.

 

Here are 3 simple daily practices that have worked for me to cultivate this state of being and to return to it when I need the reminder:

 

  1. Wake up at least 30 minutes before your children. An hour or more is ideal but if your kids are early risers such as my son and you cannot fathom being up at 4:30 then 30 minutes will do. Meditate for a portion of your solitude and use the rest of the time to make yourself a nice morning beverage and sit and write or read something inspirational. That quiet and tuning in first thing sets a beautiful tone to the day.
  2. Create an afternoon “siesta” or quiet time in your home. This is lovely to do after school for a bit or during the heat of the summer days. Get your kids set up with something to occupy them – preferably some reading or another project. Use this time to “restore” yourself. THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO CLEAN UP, DO DISHES, OR FOLD THE ENDLESS LAUNDRY. This is the time to get out your yoga props and get down on the ground. Re-connect with yourself through various gentle, yin, and restorative postures. There are some days I am so exhausted I literally put my legs up the wall for 45 minutes and fall asleep. Lots of bolsters and an eye pillow are essential for this session. DO NOT turn this into vinyasa flow hour. It is about restoring and rejuvenating your system so that you are balanced, grounded, and relaxed for the rest of your day and evening parenting. I always look at this time as the pause before Round 3 of the day and know that I need to stay grounded and embodied in order to have a successful last chapter.
  3. Have 1 green drink a day. It doesn’t have to be a big deal; i.e. a fresh juice, etc. A simple way of doing so is to have coconut water on hand and to mix in a green powder of some sort. Put them in a jar and shake it up and drink it when you are able to. Incorporating these greens into your daily routine will support your system and keep you feeling hydrated and nourished.

Finding True Peace....In and Out

I have been approached often lately by clients and students about my journey through a 20+ year debilitating eating disorder and the genuine peace that I have found in this process of recovery. I feel called to begin to share pieces of my story and will do so through my blog as well as other platforms. Today I share some raw truth about my recovery process and the place in which I have landed. Every woman who goes on this ride has unique and varying personal experiences and, in no way am I saying that my way is the “right” way or that I am superior than anyone else who has struggled with these issues. I have simply found the light at the end of that long, dark tunnel and I seek to inspire and support others in finding their capacity to truly heal from their core in the most embodied and life-serving way possible. Here is my tidbit for the day…  

Bottom line: when it comes down to it – I have reached a place in life when I really palpably get on every level that life is truly short and that I have a choice every single day. Do I want to spend my precious days obsessing about eating a freaking cookie or too much pizza or whatever the food of the day is, OR do I want to spend my days celebrating being alive, breathing, in a body that not only functions but is healthy. Healthy from the inside out. Yes, I still have my days when I haven’t exercised and have been eating abundantly – but they don’t run the show any longer – maybe for a couple of minutes or even an hour; but that’s as far as it goes because life is fucking short and a belly roll here or there ain’t gonna stop me from living. Being happy and joyful and peaceful and relaxed in my body has become the most important thing. It has taken precedence. My love of food and feeding myself in a soulful way with good, nourishing food (and the occasional greasy, yummy, decadent treat) has become way more important than if I am ripped. The day has come when softness has become sexier than having the armor of tight, protective muscles surrounding every crevice of me. When my “work outs” consist of true body check in and movements which actually feel good to my body and my soul – movements that deeply honor my energy level, mood, and my needs of that moment rather than discounting it all and working out to burn calories with the intention of getting rid of more and more of myself. I feel no need to excavate myself, no desire to perpetually punish myself, and only the intention of loving myself as I am. Today. In this moment. Despite whether or not I got my hike in, I practiced yoga, I ate “perfectly” (whatever that actually means)…to me, this is true self-love, this is a genuine recovery, this is peace making at its finest. This is life-serving, life-altering, and life-giving, deep and essential work. We must be able to breathe into all of who we are in order to truly find the peace and ease we are so craving. And, guess what? Our bodies actually regulate themselves when we can breathe in that peace and calm. When we take the time to tend to and move with our bodies varying needs and rhythms and really, truly honor them. No punishment. No angst. No conditions.

This is real, raw, truthful recovery and, I believe is absolutely the only way to embody ourselves…to embody our lives.

13 Holy Nights ~ an ancient ritual

Tonight at sunset marks the beginning of the 13 Holy Nights, an ancient tradition in which we have the opportunity to tap into the energies of the upcoming year and actually imprint them in a conscious way. I have done this practice every year for many years and it is always so amazing to me to look back at what card I drew for the month as well as the people whom had shown up during the time and how it manifests in the next cycle. This is a profound opportunity to tap into your inner wisdom and plant seeds for a abundantly healthy and healing New Year, which feels even more important this year.

 

Here is how it works:

The Holy Nights are from sunset on December 24th until sunset January 6th. I recommend having a specific journal for this practice, a candle, and utilizing some sort of oracle cards.

 

When the sun sets on the 24th until sunset on the 25th we are imprinting the entire next year, 2017. It is recommended to draw a card (and write it down) and also to pay attention to anyone you happen to run into, your dreams, and any other themes that arise. It is also important to reflect on your previous year as a whole and perhaps choose to let go of some of what occurred.   Write everything down in your journal.

 

Then on the 25th when the sun sets until the 26th at sunset we are imprinting January of the next year. Again, draw a card, pay attention to dreams, people whom you cross paths with, any themes that arise for you, and spend a little time reflecting on this past January and choose to let go. Write everything down in your journal.

 

And so on….until the completion of the cycle at sunset of January 6th in which we have had the opportunity to imprint our entire next year with consciousness and awareness. It is a beautiful ritual to include in your end of year festivities.

 

It is important here to learn to RECEIVE all of the messages that come to you (even if they are perhaps not what you want to hear) – take note without judgement and empower yourself around your life as a whole. Over the years I never in my wildest dreams could have predicted the bombs that have dropped despite my highest intentions in creating my next years imprint, yet this practice has provided a deep sense of comfort, peace, and solace in the unfolding of my life.

 

Enjoy and I would love to hear of any of your experiences!!

Blessings on these Holy Nights!

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I broke my nightly alcohol habit and this is what happened..

The premise to this chapter of my story is that I have been solo parenting a very challenging little boy since he was a baby, for over 6 years. It has been a hell ride in so many ways and I developed early on a nightly (or late afternoon) habit of a glass of wine or a beer to “take the edge off”. There was something about it that helped me to feel more like a “normal” adult, that I was still a part of society although I felt otherwise. I was in isolation in my hell and was under a self-inflicted dark cloud, searching to connect to something or someone. As I was the only adult residing in my home with my temperamental child, sleepless nights, the stress and strain of managing everything on my own with adverse energy constantly coming towards me from my son’s dad; I had to reach towards something that could provide me with some relief, even if it was temporary.  

So began my nightly relationship with alcohol. I am also an avid practitioner of yoga for over 20 years, a teacher for the past decade, and a bodyworker; so to some degree this always felt like a conflicting response to my life’s stress than how I choose to live, work, and show up in the world. Yet, it was where I went and where I remained for many years.

 

By the time 5:00 rolled around, after being woken up numerous times a night, putting out fires with my son all day, working, and attempting at being a relatable human being; I was done with a capital D. Pouring that glass of wine or opening up a delicious microbrew brought me some semblance of relief and I became addicted to it. The problem was, as with most substances you are addicted to, using anything as a crutch and becoming dependent on it never really serves. Coupled with my history of depression, my daily ritual started taking a toll on my ability to function. My moods became sporadic, I couldn’t sleep although my son was, and I woke up foggy most days and was barely able to function. This was not after excessive drinking mind you; it was the cumulative effect of my lovely late afternoon/early evening pour.

 

I broke my nightly cup of goodness habit and this is what happened.

 

  1. I started sleeping soundly most nights. We all know that while alcohol may knock you out, most often we are awoken in the middle of the night sweating and tossing and turning, unable to fall back into a state of rest. Eliminating alcohol has reset my body’s ability to find rest and to stay in that state throughout the night.
  2. My mind is clearer. There are some days when I am simply in awe as to how much brighter and clearer I am thinking and seeing. It is as if my vision has literally changed and my mind has landed in a new equilibrium.
  3. I am able to regularly wake up at 5:00am and find my way onto my mat and my cushion. I do this 98% of the time (I cut myself some slack on the weekends because sometimes sleeping until the sun is actually up is so satisfying!). Beginning my days with an hour of asana and meditation has been incredibly supportive for everything. I am a better mom, a more present friend, my work life has opened up, I am so much more productive with my time, and overall I feel as though I have a much firmer grip on my life.
  4. I feel authentically happy and positive most of the time! This coming from someone who really thought the norm for living was to reside in a state of being simply “eh” most of the time, saving the joy for just those special moments. The other night I caught myself smiling for no apparent reason while doing the mama dance (i.e. cooking, cleaning, dishes, bath time, homework, etc). I was blown away and it took absolutely no effort. This was simply a moment in time. There is nothing glamorous about motherhood, yet I was so in the moment and happy. It was incredible.
  5. I feel alive and inspired to live my life as genuinely and healthfully as possible and to motivate others to do the same. Further layers of my life’s purpose are being revealed in each moment that I do not believe I could have accessed while living in my state of fog.
  6. I am falling deeper in love with my son. My home has become a space of love, softness, kindness, and compassion. While I was engaging in my nightly drinking, the challenges that were present became amplified and quite often worse as I just was unable to deal well. I was trying to check out, to exit, as it felt just too hard. Now, I am fully present with my son even if he is having a moment. I am so calmly present with myself and that ripples into my ability to meet him where he is. It’s an amazing and feels miraculous to me.

 

I am not blaming myself for my choices over the years, as I truly do understand that I have done what I needed to do in order to “survive”. Rather, I am simply acknowledging the pain of the situation and the medicine that I have found for myself in coping. By taking charge of my nightly addiction, reclaiming my body, and myself, I have opened my son and I up to so much more. We have found the light at the end of that long, dark tunnel and once you see the light, there truly is no turning back.eskimo kisses

The Gift of Self-Sabotage

This one I have mastered. This one I have been actually really, really good at. This one I have a deep intimacy with. This one feels like home base. This one is familiar. This one is comforting, yet not so comforting. This one has been my M.O. my entire life. This one I have longed for in a fucked up way and I would start to panic if I haven’t touched in with it in too long. It is an anxiety that has lived below the surface, that has risen when things feel just a little too good, because I simply could not allow myself to feel too good because then what?? Then I feel good. That’s all. Then I move forward in my life in an embodied, happy, and integrated place. Then I become more and more of myself, of whom I truly am, below the surface, above the surface…all of me.  

But, the little voices that love to interfere with that goodness quite often have reigned supreme in many situations.

 

I am recognizing, though, that self-sabotage and all of the actions that go along with it serve a purpose – they have kept me alive in many ways. They have served as protector, as mediator, as a fortress in which I have resided when the world and what was being asked of me was simply too scary. Self-sabotage and I go way back. I do not hold her in angst even as we meet again and again. I am softening to her just as I am softening to life. I am comforted by her presence at my back in a way that I am not with any other. And, it has come time to take some space from her hold. It has become clear and safe for me to emerge from that cycle of being, that cycle of living and that way of shielding myself from the scary world. Because the world is not scary anymore at 42 years of age. The petrified and lonely 7, 10, 13, 18 year old in me is safe, as I have embraced her wholly. I have taken the scared young Alison and I have wrapped myself around her many, many times and she feels it. She feels the love, the unconditional acceptance; she feels seen, acknowledged, and not blamed or punished. She feels what she was longing for all those years of struggle, of hidden addiction and self-inflicted torture. All those years of shoving food down her throat, binge drinking until passing out, throwing her body into any man’s bed who would take her – who would “love” her – who would take the pain of living away even just for a moment. At 42 years of age, I see it all, I feel it all, I understand it all, and I have the deepest compassion for the young Alison who was doing the best she could in the circumstances that society inflicted. I speak up for her now and all of the other young girls who did not feel safe enough to open up to the adults around them. Who felt that there was something wrong with them, who turned to substances to try and soothe the excruciating pain of being alive in a body that had, to them, failed.

 

Self-sabotage has been my go-to.

It has kept me safe in so many ways and allowed me to heal in my own timing. It has allowed me to unfurl in a way that has felt welcoming to my entire being. The layers that have been needed to work through have been dense and have required patience, perseverance, and compassion in the most palpable sense of the word. Doing this healing work amongst living a life, working, having a baby, the incessant demands of solitary parenting, being a friend, attempting at being a lover… is not a straightforward path.

Self-sabotage has allowed for me to pace myself while living my life amongst other human seekers. It has protected my heart when the pain of it all has just felt too unbearable. It has allowed me to take the steps backward that perhaps I have needed to do in order to regroup, reevaluate, and recreate.

At 42 years of age, I have released the grip of self-sabotage, released the need to take such extreme steps backward, and continue to tap into the beautiful wisdom that lies within and truly knows exactly what I need to do next, how to genuinely comfort myself, and where the love is…within._dsc0123

4 ways to create a retreat in your life without spending a bunch of money or traveling anywhere:

I have been a single mom with little time for myself and limited resources. Many years ago I felt the craving for a retreat yet did not have the time or money to take myself away for the peace and tranquility that I was longing for. I decided that I needed to figure out ways to bring those qualities into my “free-time” in a way that could truly nourish and serve me. I have found that it is important to declare to yourself that these particular hours of the day are your retreat time, so that you don’t schedule anything for yourself. The retreat can be an hour, several hours, or an entire day; whatever you are able to do. There is ALWAYS something that needs to be done, so choosing to honor yourself by retreating in this way is an exquisite act of self-love. You are claiming this time for YOU and for whatever YOU may need at the time. My retreats fluctuate in level of unplugging, activity, or indoors vs. outdoors. I prepare in advance and have nutritious food on hand so that I do not have to make a trip to a store or restaurant and can simply be in my own flow of need. What may feel like a retreat for me definitely may not for others and I have many suggestions to cater to each individuals needs. For me, it depends on what my week before has been like, how tired I am, and if I need to be physical or if more stillness is in order.  

Here are 4 ways that I have found to retreat that don’t cost a dime and restore my body and spirit:

 

  1. Turn off your phone or at least have the ringer off for a few hours. This one is tricky for those of us with children, but I would suggest, if possible, even an hour at a time of not checking your phone will give your brain a break from technology.
  2. Take long walks listening to beautiful chanting. I put on a hat, some sunglasses, and my headphones so that I can feel some privacy, tune out the world, and tune into myself. I have musical suggestions on my website on the “Resource” page.
  3. Treat yourself to a long and luxurious restorative yoga and movement session. Create a space where you can spread out any props, a mat, meditation cushion, and anything else that helps support you in dropping in. I draw the curtains and lock the doors, just to ensure that I am not interrupted. I always do this in front of my alter with a candle lit to proclaim the time as sacred. I also have a notebook near by to write insights or notes as they arise. I have found that when I take the time to be quiet with myself, I receive many powerful messages from the Universe and my creative juices start flowing.
  4. Indulge in a self-massage session followed by a candlelit bath. I lay a towel down on the floor of my bedroom and grab my jar of coconut oil and a calming blend of essential oil and give myself a slow, head-to-toe massage. Savor each part of your body and use affirmations to enhance your experience of truly loving your body and giving gratitude for its health. I allow the oil to sink into my skin for a bit afterwards and then will melt into a candlelit bath. This is a beautiful practice to cultivate in our daily lives and is especially potent to do when you are retreating.

 

Carving out this time and space to hit the pause on your life and tune in, will reap its rewards in your daily life. I have found that if I give this time to myself I am much more resourced for the rest of the week’s ups and downs and am overall a happier and more balanced person.

 

I have many other ideas, suggestions and individualized support to help you to create your own personal retreat. Please contact me for more information or to set up an appointment.

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The Pendulum of an Eating Disorder and Using Yoga and Meditation to find that Sweet Spot of Embrace and Acceptance

I have been thinner. I have been fatter. Many times. But, I was not satiated or happy any of those times. I did not have a sense of inner or outer peace. I did not feel beautiful or sexy or feminine. I felt as though I was walking around in an overdeveloped women’s body that was exuding masculinity. I was hard, rigid, tightly wound, stressed, and, bottom line, not happy. There was no joy, no satisfaction in attaining this shape. I could “do” all of the challenging asanas and I could run up and down trails without issue. I spent my precious life force energy obsessing about when and how I could get to the next workout – how much I could accomplish in a day – and how I could incorporate working out into everything I did. I did not stop moving. I carried weights around the house – struck a pose whenever I could – used my counter top in my kitchen as a barre – danced while cooking – walked while on the phone – and none of that included my “actual” workouts. I was burning calories left and right and eating well. I was thin, angular, muscular, and miserable. I had attained the outer form that I desired – at least I thought it was what I desired – yet, once there, I was left unsatisfied, strung out, burnt out, exhausted, and flat out suffering and tormented. I looked damn good but felt lousy.  

I knew better though. After all of my years in recovery from a debilitating eating disorder, I knew that any extreme in either direction is a set up. A set up for failure in the continual search for happiness and acceptance. A set up for a set back in my progressive recovery. A set up for the potential to swing the other way. Over the years I have definitely hung onto this swinging pendulum and allowed it to take me up and down. I envision one of those massive pirate ships at amusement parks that nauseatingly swing from one side to the other with the crowd that is on the side that is heightened screaming wildly. There is a very brief pause in the middle before it swings to the outer side. That is such the analogy and visual of how I have lived most of my adult life. Those mid-cycle pauses have been only moments (days usually but the occasional week here and there) but they were all sweet, enlightening, settling -- a much needed moment to breathe -- a palpable time to regroup, reorient, and shift ever so slightly before the movement towards the other side begins. Of course, over the years the extreme conditions on both sides have lessened their grasp. It is as if my Higher Self could never let myself fall back into either rabbit hole.

 

Today I sit, on the cusp of my 42nd birthday, more balanced than ever – steeped in and devoted to my daily practices and the ever evolvement of myself as a beautiful, strong, courageous, open-hearted, and soft goddess; not trying to mold my inner or outer life into something it is not – into someone else’s reality. At peace most moments of most days with who I am in the world, how I look, and how I feel. I acknowledge with gratitude how my asana practice has morphed and matured as I have. No, I “cannot” currently do all of the crazy and wild arm balances that I used to be able to do, nor do I care to. As I continue to cultivate and authentically ground myself as a 40-something woman and mother, I find myself reaching towards the ground more. I move slowly in asana, holding poses deeply with a lot of breath and intention. I love a more yin style practice still doing some standing poses, but not harming my body and killing my spirit in the process. I crave meditation – nice, long, quiet sits in front of my sacred alter and I savor the opportunity to do a well-propped restorative practice. It is all medicine for me and continuously invites me into that sweet spot, that moment of pause on the pendulum, and the more devoted I am over the years the longer I remain in that landing; that deep belly breath, and the most potent connection possible to whom I truly am at my most beautiful essence. I have the choice with each of those moments, this I know and more and more I choose myself -- I choose peace – I choose self-acceptance – and I choose to embrace life in all its glory and my magnificent womanly body in all its manifestations.

 

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"Gearing up" for first day of 2nd grade for Kai!

This is the first year that I have been able to take Kai back-to-school shopping at stores other than thrift stores. This is the first year that my boy has gotten to go to “regular” stores with brand new clothes and accessories which all of the other “regular” kids are able to go to without batting an eye. For me, for us, this year was a big year. While it may seem trivial and superficial, unless you have been in the position in which all you could afford for your child was a $2.00 used backpack from the local thrift store, in which you convinced him to be excited about; you simply cannot relate. Telling me that you “understand” when you are living in a million dollar house and have everything that you need and then some; you simply cannot relate. Not at all will you be able to understand that feeling of not knowing exactly how you are going to outfit your child for the school year, how you will afford groceries, get by until your next day of work. And, it’s okay. I am not asking you to understand, I am simply requesting that you do not claim to understand. These words are not emerging from a bitter place. Not from a place of angst or martyrdom. Not from a place of hatred, longing or feeling sorry for myself. These words come from a sense of humble pride, a sense of true gratitude for all that I have attained and a place of perspective.

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Today was a big day for me. Today was a big day for Kai. Today was a big day for Kai and I, as a unit. We outfitted him for school at real stores with new, sparkly items. We put together an ensemble of clothes that felt great to him which he tried on in real dressing rooms where other kids were choosing their ensembles for the first day of school. We went to a real store where there were brand new backpacks galore and my kid actually had the opportunity to choose a new backpack from rows upon rows of backpacks. There were choices. Kai was lit up in a way I have never seen before. After selecting the brand spanking new items to adore himself with, we went and got a real, professional haircut. It is not as if he has not had brand new items before, not by a long shot. My child is privileged and is spoiled rotten by some adoring grandparents. Today was exceptionally different as it was just Kai and I and guess who paid for every single item??? I did. I paid for everything all day long. I had the opportunity to, for the first time in Kai’s 7 years of life, to treat my child to what he desired. To items that have boosted his little battered self-confidence and to assist him in feeling excited about starting a new school year when school has been a less-than-positive experience for him. I did it.

And, I would not give up our experiences of having to shop in thrift stores. It is actually one of my all time favorite ways to shop…it is an adventure…a creative endeavor…a scavenger hunt. I love it. Kai loves it. I am happy that I have gifted Kai in his young years an appreciation for “things”, a deeper understanding of the cost of much of the excessiveness of today’s society, and a gratitude for when we actually do have the money to buy nice things and eat at restaurants. I believe that Kai will never take things for granted. My heart assures me that I am instilling some progressive values about money, true abundance, and attainment. I feel really enlightened about the path we are on together on every level and would not change a thing. I am grateful for everything we have; we are truly abundant as we have a beautiful roof over our heads, beds to sleep in, and vibrant and plentiful food in our fridge. It has not been without struggle yet I know in my heart of hearts how blessed we are.

Today was an important day, a special time of acknowledgement, repair, and bonding. It was celebratory of sorts…both of us feeling pride in each other. Both of us feeling the exceptional ease of the day, the joy in our mutual attainment, and shear bliss in feeling as one unit. Bonded through our progression of life thus far…together. We have been partners for these 7 years, just Kai and I in our mutual solitude and authentic partnership. We are bonded for life, a rare and unique connection and relationship… the most unique, challenging, heart opening, and humbling partnership of our lifetimes.

As featured on YOGANONYMOUS: 5 Tangible and Embodied Reasons to Meditate Daily

I am a busy single mom. For the past year I have been waking up before my son (and often before the sun!), dragging myself out of bed and finding my way to my cushion in front of my alter. I light a candle and meditate for 30-45 minutes. It has made a tremendous difference in my life and in my entire being. If I can do it, anyone can. We all know that countless studies have proven the benefits of meditation but here are some tangible and embodied reasons that I have found through my own practice:

 

  1. Deeper connection to your body: This includes better digestion, improved posture, and palpable awareness of heightened sensations through rooting down into your sits bones and rising up on the cushion. Couple this with intentional breath and there is the opportunity to feel a profound sense of embodiment.
  2. Improved coping skills for living: One gains greater opportunity to respond to what life throws at you from an embodied and integrated place. With a regular practice you cultivate the ability to come back to your breath and respond from that place of ground and empowerment when life throws less-than-desirable situations at you. My experience is that it simply becomes more natural to do so, with less effort. You are essentially re-patterning your entire way of being.
  3. Feel more confident and empowered: Stepping out of the space of allowing the mind to dictate your life is very empowering. You start to see all of the many, many choices available to you and are able to discern what is truth and ignore the deception of the mind; or at least shift how you respond to what it is telling you.
  4. It becomes a sanctuary from the chaos of life: When I first began it did feel like yet another obligation that I had to endure, but now, I look forward to it and crave it. The outer quiet and stillness allows me to drop into myself in a unique way. There is something very important about doing so first thing in the morning rather than in the evening. The sanctity of the time when the sun is just rising, our minds and bodies are empty after a nights rest is conducive for a profound time of connection to self. What my ego named as a chore all those months ago, has become my temple and the stillness and quiet that I crave before jumping into the chaos of motherhood and the varying tasks ahead.
  5. Calms the entire system: The technique that I use is that of focusing on a single point. I use a candle and a simple mantra. I fluctuate between several including: So Hum (I Am), Sat Nam (I Am Truth), I Am Worthy, I Am Love, I Am (you fill in the blank as to what serves you). The single pointedness gives my busy eyes something to focus on and the repetition of the mantra gives my overly active mind something to grasp onto. It is a win-win.0094

Meditate!

For years upon years I have been running on fumes, in survival mode, barely dragging my ass out of bed in the morning, feeling completely unresourced and definitely not ready for the day ahead….much less any inspiration for anything other than just getting through the day. I was tired, exhausted to the bone, and honestly felt much along the lines of dread at the tasks that lay before me. Overwhelm, depressed, longing for things to be different, angst at all that I was faced with….amongst some of the many feelings and emotions that I was dealing with on a daily basis as the solo parent to my high-need little boy. Life did not feel fun. We all know that parenting has its moments and they do not always want to make you jump for joy. But, I have observed that most parents I know counter those less-than-fun moments with adventurous and life altering experiences with their kids…be it camping trips, taking their kids skiing, merging with other families and doing dinners, vacations….I think you get my point. Being a single mom that has not been my experience at all. It is rare that we are asked to join in with other families on fun expeditions. I have always questioned is it because I am not partnered, my child is just too much to handle, or perhaps because I cannot afford what they are doing. Whatever the reason is, my experience of parenting Kai has been a lonely arduous one with very little fun and relief. I have not been able to take him on vacations or for expansive getaways for many reasons. Financially it has not been feasible, and quite frankly it is more work for me to keep Kai happy and it has felt ‘easier’ to just stay close to home. Until now.  

A couple of months ago I committed to myself that I was going to start meditating daily (I meditated but always very sporadic and usually at the end of the day when I was exhausted and all I wanted to be was horizontal and passed out!) in the mornings before Kai woke up. My son has always been an early riser so I knew that this was going to take some serious will to make happen and to sustain. I started setting my alarm for 5 or 5:30 (depending on how early I got to bed) and I would drag my bum out of bed and plant myself in front of my alter, light the candle, and sit for 30-45 minutes. For the first many weeks, this was challenging and I had to wrestle with the voices telling me to turn that damn alarm off and stay in bed…I needed the rest or whatever bullshit my mind was telling me. But, I pushed through and have continued this practice – I can honestly say that I love it and actually look forward to it. It is an amazing way for me to start my day. The stillness and quiet of the morning and just checking in with my breath, my body, my mind, my heart; feels magical. I have taken it a step further and head to my computer and my notebook after meditating and continue in this quiet space of contemplation by reading inspiring blogposts (I really like sarahprout.com right now), writing, doing rituals through my intentions and words. It has served me so well and I believe has strengthened my capacity as a woman and as a mother. I feel my life accelerating, I feel my embodiment deepening, and overall I feel clearer and more present for my days…no more dread. I am not saying that my shit isn’t coming up but what is happening is that things are moving through me quickly. I allow myself to feel whatever it is, and then it moves; sometimes with tears, sometimes with movement in my body, sometimes simply breathing deeply into my heart in midst of it. Everything is energy. We have the capacity to shift our energy at any moment and there is no doubt that when we do, those in our lives do to. Sometimes through exiting as our vibrations are no longer in sync, sometimes matching our rising and meeting us where we are – perhaps inspiring others to do the same.

 

My path has been unique, as I know all of ours are. I have been in the absolute depths of despair, truly unable to see any light at the end of any tunnel. I am not there anymore and I never, in those moments, imagined that I wouldn’t be. I am stronger, clearer, and more grounded in who I am and how I show up in the world than ever before. It takes work, it takes consistent effort, and an undying belief in oneself. Life will not stop throwing curve balls and challenges, but we must strengthen that muscle of coping. We must choose life as it is precious and short. There are no accidents. Everything is unfolding in its own divine timing and as soon as we start believing that, believing in ourselves, and let go of the resistance; amazing things can unfurl and life can become much more fun.

 

Bottom line, committing to a regular meditation practice has opened my life up in immeasurable ways. I am a believer like no other and am on a mission to inspire and support fellow mama travelers on this wild and rocky path of motherhood.

If I can do it, you can.

then there came the day....

and then there came the day when i stopped trying to get rid of myself and started truly embracing myself — warts and all…stopped exercising incessantly…stopped sticking those headphones in and forcing the repetitive motion of my legs on an elliptical….stopped telling myself stories of ‘needing to’ and started checking in about what i really ‘needed’.  what was my body actually asking for?  what would feel really damn good?  what kinds of movements would nourish rather than punish?  what foods would feed not only my body but also my soul?

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i stopped relying on the mirror to bring me happiness and i chose to find it within…no matter what that damn mirror said.  i stopped listening to that loud voice that was so comfortable with punishment and suffering — that incessant voice of defeat and negativity — and i started allowing the voice of loving kindness, compassion, wisdom and maturity to be at the forefront.  true acknowledgement of the role that the latter has had on my 40 years of being….i needed her to survive….but, now, she is getting in the way of me living my truest shining light of a life and i do not need or want her around anymore.  it is with the deepest compassion that i bid farewell — honoring the past and the incredible journey we have taken together — finding gratitude for the lessons and opportunities that she has provided me….and, now it is time to release and allow the space of transformation and genuine power to emerge.  that which has been bubbling.  that which has been on simmer for many years — is finally really ready to come to a boil — she cannot be contained any longer.

so it is with the utmost respect, love, and courage that i lean into her….with trust, faith, determination, and an undeniable belief in myself and the power to self-heal. ~Alison Rothman 2015