Friday, February 28, 2014

If You Want to Love Your Body...

"Your body doesn't matter."

Profound words from L.A. yogi Bryan Kest (famed for coining "power yoga"), who was giving a workshop in town last week. Me - pregnant, tired, sweating in the heated room - I felt my body relax when those words rang out.

If you can see past some oxymorons between the whole mind-body connection of yoga and the concept of "your body doesn't matter," you might have the "a-ha" moment that I did. A weight was lifted off my shoulders when I heard that I can stop worrying about my body. It's there. It's aging. Let it go. You were made how you were made. You can ignore the advertisements for swimsuits and protein powders and even shaving cream. Your body is not what's important. Your body is not what's going to love and be loved and rejoice and transcend.

That's your heart.

...if only your mind can get out of the way.

I am not denying the importance of doing yoga poses to inspect your body for dis-ease sure to cause problems down the road. I'm saying, stop pinching your love handles in the mirror, and start looking at the thought patterns in your head talking sh** about your love handles. Those thoughts are a choice, and they are simply wrong. They are as addictive as sugar, and will ironically shame you into eating more of it. (I know I've tried to drown out the sound of my own thoughts in a pint of almond ice cream a time or two.)

So what happens when your thoughts stop? When there's quiet between your ears? You have room to breathe. You feel light. You feel like...taking a walk. Making love. Sipping tea. Devouring a casserole bowl full of luscious salad and berries. You are HEARING your body talk; asking you for what it wants.

By "ignoring" your body, aka quieting your thoughts about it, you are actually becoming more aware of its true nature. Not the shape and the stories about it, but the beautiful symphony of energy and function that your physical body truly is. It is perfect, even if it's "not." Your thoughts are the only things preventing you from KNOWING that.

Why don't you start by dropping the vicious thoughts and beliefs you've developed about food? A podcast called "Yoga Talk Show" recently featured nutrition guru Jonathan Bailor, whose lifetime of research has been widely quoted by experts from Harvard to Stanford. His concept (also a book) of "the calorie myth" establishes a reality that counting calories is about as accurate as "measuring intelligence by height." He said what we really need to focus on is eating for nutrients, and that happens "naturally" if you're consuming pure foods that come directly from the earth ("there isn't a bread tree"), while keeping in mind a few guidlines:

A suggestion for where to find Bailor's recommended nutrients
-Protein is not energy, but it repairs our body and we need it

-Energy comes from the carbohydrates with fiber, not sugar (both fiber and sugar are carbohydrates, but only fiber gives us energy. Sugar only substantiates a perpetual burning and craving of sugar)

-Fats are essential for satiating our appetite and providing nutrients, and don't necessarily induce fat retention; in fact, the more fats and less sugar you eat, your body will start to burn fat instead of ask for more sugar to burn.

Now, notice what your mind is saying right now. "Told you you shouldn't have had those jelly beans today, fatty!" or "Your diet doesn't look anything like that; you're a failure!" Well, Bailor discourages those thoughts. He says that when you let go of restrictions and move towards food you actually want (note: what your BODY craves, not your mind), then you don't have to keep track of what you eat or measure anything at all.

"Your body will start to function like a naturally thin person," he says, with your hormones and metabolism working to perpetuate health and even thinness.

The proof is in the past. Bailor points out that before the government gave us a "totally wrong" standard of nutrition and exercise (calories, food suggestions, etc) in the '70s, obesity and diabetes were not a big problem. But in the last 40 years, where we've been innundated with fitness products and fad diets, both diabetes and obesity have skyrocketed.

So we go back to basics. Not calorie-counting, just like our ancestors. Not following a food pyramid, just like our ancestors. Not stressing or thinking about swimsuit models and diet pills, just like our ancestors.

Turning off that stress - that need for control over the body - and enjoying a clear mind, is where you'll find health...and inevitably happiness.

And that has nothing to do with working out or calories.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pregnancy: The Best-Worst Thing to Happen to Me


When I looked at the stick, I thought, "Are you kidding me?"

We had just had the biggest fight, and I had ducked into the bathroom for a second for a time-out, only to find one of my unused pregnancy tests staring at me.

"What the heck," I thought, as I snatched it up.

The air was tense when I came out of the bathroom, but I wasn't thinking about the fight anymore.

I walked up to Chris and smiled awkwardly as I said, "Baby? We're pregnant."

He just stared at me as his eyes got mistier and mistier, until we both collapsed with joy into each other's arms.

We had been trying for a couple months. And it really is true - once you stop thinking about it, it happens.

Me at like 14-15 weeks?
For the first few weeks, maybe even the first 12, I didn't let myself get excited. It's common for women who have miscarried (earlier in the year, we lost at 12 weeks) to feel disassociated with their baby, and refuse to put stock in it till he/she is safe in their arms. I still feel that way sometimes; like I shouldn't get too excited. But Chris has helped me have faith.

He has been Prince Charming this whole time. He told me today, "Make sure you keep eating, even if you're not hungry." Things like that, he does all the time. He's just so thoughtful about my comfort and about the little baby. You should have seen his jaw drop and his eyes tear up when he saw Will for the first time on the ultrasound. It was a moment I'll never forget.

Feeling my sweet husband's love through acts and words of utter selflessness and kindness has been such a beautiful thing. So has learning to listen to my body (if you only knew how much I've slowed down! I usually jam-pack my day, but that trip to the store? Not happening.) It's been amazing imagining and planning for the "big picture" of my life, to the point where I enrolled in a Yoga Teacher Training program. Not only is that skill to allow for flexible income once the baby's here, but it's an example of how this new life is making me rethink my purpose and focus on following true happiness. The scaling down to one car came because of that, as well.

But pregnancy has also made me feel fear. Fear that my baby is not getting the right nutrients. That my belly doesn't look "normal" for how far along I am (is it fat, or is that baby?). That maternity leave and my commitment to spend time with my family will make my bosses question my competency.

Pregnancy has also tested my will to live. I wish I was kidding. I am 18 weeks, and have been sick the whole time. Nausea, vomiting, headache, you name it. It's almost cost me my job, and definitely my positive attitude. There was one day last week where I had so many obligations that took me from 4 am to 8 pm, and I felt so sick, that all day I kept breaking down into full-on SOBS. All day. I felt like my sickness and sadness was alienating everyone from me (my co-worker told me as much), and I felt like I was pushing Chris away. I questioned what I was doing with my life. Considered just running away. I finally felt some hope by writing my bosses a letter requesting to go part-time.

Baby Boy at 16 weeks
(If you're wondering why I just don't take a prescription, a) I did and they barely worked, and b) the one I was prescribed was a serotonin-blocker, and Lord knows with this kind of sickness, one's prone to depression enough as it is!)

That low, low day was a turning point. The next day, I woke up to my 4:25 a.m. alarm, and as I do every morning, braced myself for the first wave of nausea. But when it came, I felt a sense of peace come along with it. At work, I kept a positive attitude both on the air, and off, as I let the sickness resonate in my body, but not my mind. I guarded my mind from being soured by the feeling swimming around in my stomach. I breathed. I inhaled peppermint oil. I knew I wasn't going to die.

One of my yoga colleagues said something, that kinda perfectly describes this: "Pain and suffering are two different things. You can allow yourself to feel pain, or you can resist it. The latter, resisting your pain, is the suffering."

Since that day, I have definitely felt miserable, but have not BEEN miserable. I have come to know that this sickness probably exist to remind me that my baby is healthy and alive inside of me. I know that it probably exists to test my committment to my job, and encourage me to find out what I really want to do in life. It's been there to help me grow as a person. To remind me to simplify my life. Maybe even to make me fall even deeper in love with my doting partner (don't ask me how that is even possible!).

Pregnancy's like that spoonful of apple cider vinegar. It's pungent and vile as it goes down to fight your heartburn, but when you feel its spicy cloud engulf the burning in your stomach, you're left with nothing but inner comfort and peace. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Return to the Simple Life

Things got bloated there for a second.

Bloated with money. With things. With emotions. With drink.

Eventually, we traded THIS...
A new job with newfound money, influenced me to put my life philosophy of "simple" on hold as I experimented with "things." Material things. I have always scraped pennies to live a meager lifestyle, and now that I wasn't scraping, I saw a whole new world of knicks and knacks. My husband and I went out and bought BMWs, trying to ignore the fact that they were in the shop all the time and hogging more than a comfortable amount of (premium) gasoline. We chased "pleasurable" experiences, unaware that when one is at ease, pleasure comes not from experiences, but from being. I mentioned in an earlier blog post how we quit drinking months ago...but before that, it was getting to be a routine, and not one for the betterment of ourselves or the world around us. And our emotions were running high, taking control; sparks easily inflamed with the smallest stream of fuel. Fears and anxieties getting the better of us. We loved each other madly, but as for ourselves and our lives, they were getting mucked up.

It's been a process of several months. We started by kicking the drinking cold-turkey, then some guidance counseling to understand our emotions, then we found out we were pregnant (!!!) and our goals re-organized as we remembered to BE the example (of sustainability, of self-love, of service to others).

For THIS! A greener car, and simpler life.
Now, we are trimming the fat from our lives and our budgets. We traded in both of our Beamers for a low-emissions vehicle, making us a happily one-car family. We have fewer $300 dinners and more quiet cups of tea together. Instead of moving to the up-and-up neighborhood, we have decided to stay in our small and affordable home that's close to public transit. I am in Yoga Teacher Training (four months pregnant!) in order to build my future around helping others. And Chris and I are gentler with each other, knowing our fears and anxieties are no match for a heart full of love and kindness.

I've noticed this wave of energy before....when things are fighting you - work, life, relationships - it's time to rethink how you are approaching these things. Is what you're doing out of love, or out of fear? Are you living your true purpose (great book for finding yours is 'Find Your Life Purpose' by Mervyn Smallwood)? Is your "mind chatter" controlling your life, or is your pure heart?

Now that I have shifted my perspective and approach, I've noticed life isn't fighting me anymore. I wake up every day with hope in my soul and love in my heart, and a passion for living a simple, purposeful life.





Tuesday, September 3, 2013

One Year Later, Love Means THIS Now.

It's been exactly one year since Christopher William Jones and I kneeled down in a remote temple (of unglorious aesthetic), in the lone monk's personal quarters; on the raw cement floor; bug bites squished against the concrete; sweat pouring down our faces; my dress itching like a chipmunk in a haybale. The monk waving his water and incense around our faces as our eyes squinted closed. We listened intently to the chants as we tried to meditate our way into serenity. But the discomfort was almost too overpowering. So we chose surrender, and comfort came as we remembered the purpose of our suffering: To unite in pure, unconditional love, for always, no matter what.

This momentous (aforementioned) day - September 3, 2012 - holds more meaning to me now than it did back then. Our wedding day: Full of metaphors for the calms and storms that became our first year of marriage. The discomfort, at times so unbearable that you wonder how much more you can take; and the surrender, the quiet happiness of knowing you are loved, and that you love him no matter what, in return.

That day, there was bickering as I tried to convince him there was life at the temple; that the mangy street dogs in our way would not stop us. There was patience - oh, so much patience - as he helped me peruse the sweaty shops for a "wedding scarf." There was comradery, as we joked our way through a gag-inducing flea market, picking through rotten fruit to find edible gems for our monk. There was service, as - after a walk in the heat made anguishing by innumerable mosquito bites - Chris returned from out of a laundromat with two cold beers, and news that the folks inside would let me use their bathroom. There was excitement: An adventure across the island to get married! We were truly venturing into the unknown. There was hope, and faith, that there was a temple on the island, let alone a monk to perform the ceremony. There was support, as we kept each other's spirits afloat on a long journey to the edge of the country, at the end of which we weren't exactly sure where we'd end up.

It's obvious our life together has not been, nor will always be, easy. But it is robust; full of adventure; secure with unconditional support; demanding of awareness; illuminated by understanding, fun, fiesty, maddening, passionate, endearing and BLISSFUL.

I hear people say "he pushes me to be the best I can be," and that's never made sense until now. My darling is patient as I work out my quirks, on my way to finding my true self, while we both strive toward a more perfect partnership. He's looked inside as well to heal and to grow, and through these processes, we've become incomprehensibly close. We know each other's secrets, and insecurities; our  best traits and triumphs; our generosities and our inherent needs.

This, all of the aforementioned, is how I define love. I've never had this before, and am unspeakably grateful for it. This man who has come into my life: I love you. And I am thankful to be IN THIS with you. This LOVE. This LIFE. You are pure to me, and - with one year down - I want you to know I'll take a thousand more.

Monday, September 2, 2013

HAPPINESS Was ALWAYS Inside.

It's funny reading my past blogs, and thinking, "How was I so enlightened? I needed that advice just the other day!" It's like I've gone in and out of consciousness for the past year and a half. Sometimes, I'm elated - in love- self-assured. Others, I'm dismal, introspective, humble. I've posted about searching for answers, as well as having the answers. Nothing has been consistent. Except the inconsistency of my higher knowledge - which pops in to offer such good advice, but at such unpredictable times.

I've felt the Nirvana of knowing who I am. But it has come and gone, along with great traumas - of which, I've experienced plenty over the past year and a half - as well as moments of blissful ecstasy. 

I've done a lot of therapy. Meditation. Horse therapy. Mom advice. Counselors. I've delved so deep into my psyche - seeing things I can never audibly describe to anyone - that sometimes, I feel like a ratted twine-ball of analysis, that would more easily be swept away than patiently untangled. But the untangling is paying off. And one strand at a time, I am finding a consistency to my thoughts, my feelings; to who I am.

I quit drinking. I didn't think I had a problem - I don't drink all that often. But I realized that I'm not a one-and-done kind of drinker. I'm a none-or-10 kind of drinker. But...that's because it stresses me out to drink. I drink MORE to drown the worries about how MUCH I'm drinking (is it too much? how about the calories? will I be hungover tomorrow?), or how I'm acting (am I being overly sensitive to the conversation? how will my husband/friend/etc say I've acted tonight?), or how I'll get home.

THE FREEDOM!!!

It's awesome to know a world where I don't have to even worry about whether drinking is an option or not...it's NOT! I don't have to stress about whether or not I'll have to turn down that Sunday afternoon glass of wine...the decision is made! And my husband is equally as excited about his own sobriety, too. It's like, a new world has opened up to us, which has complex levels of fun hidden at every turn. It's not just a numb monotone; the sound of which not even all the fancy dinners and operas and hotels in the world can lift up into exalted harmony.

Getting that stress out of my life, as well as being in a job I LOVE (I'm a morning radio host now),  making time for my husband and family, playing outside, cooking and being organic is putting a tractor beam straight into my soul. I'm ME for the first time in a long time, and as I keep doing exactly what I'm doing, every day, I will solidify that TRUE ME more and more.

Crazy how out of touch we can get with ourselves. Walls upon walls, lies we tell to our innermost self, alter egos and false realities...wow, it's a scary world in there.

So step back. Breathe in. Look deep. It's scary at first, and takes extreme patience and support, but let me assure you that that big mess is just waiting to be cleaned up....only to reveal a shining marble masterpiece underneath. One that is genuinely YOU. And you, the real YOU, my dear, hold all the intuitive intelligence you'll ever need. 


Thursday, July 25, 2013

HALLELUJAH! I Found the PERFECT Natural Deodorant!

My years-long quest for a natural (aluminum- and propylene glycol-free) deodorant has caused heartache, pain, and a two-foot buffer between my husband and I. So I am praising the heavens for my recent discovery of THAI CRYSTAL.

The stuff is cheap ($6, Whole Foods) and has literally one ingredient: Mineral salts. Wet your armpits a bit and rub the salt-lick rock on 'em, and your odor will be neutralized ALL DAY LONG (and it dries instantly). It truly lasts up to its 24-hour promise! Even in triple-digit temps, you'll be B.O.-free! My husband can vouch, and he has a highly discerning nose.

So, everybody, may I present, the straight-up LORD of natural deodorants! Cheers to the odor-free years ahead!
 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Natural Deodorant Reviews

I haven't worn deodorant with aluminum or propylene glycol in it since I found out about their effects nearly two years ago. But I haven't felt 100-percent confident in my "scent" since I switched. I feel like I will find a good one, then after a few weeks (or a few minutes) it stops working, forcing me to switch brands. So, I figured I'd save you the trouble of trying the ones I already have:

Alba Botanica Deodorant Stick - Fail. Fail. Fail. From the beginning, it failed. And I was rooting for it, as the ingredients are IDEAL (baking soda, lichen, tea trea). And it TINGLED when I first put it on. I thought for sure it would work. But after the first

Jason Tea Tree or Lavendar Natural Deodorant - This brand worked GREAT for 3-4 weeks just applying in the morning, but then, one day, I started to smell after a few hours. GRR!

Burt's Bees Natural Deodorant - Offering a somewhat manly, woodsy scent (men would love it), I thought it would be an option powerful enough to withstand a summer day. WRONG. I swear, even the moment it slid on my skin and mixed with my chemistry it FAILED. Husband said I smell WORSE wearing this than just my own body odor. Disappointing!


Coconut Oil - Despite its ability to treat/cur/clean pretty much anything, it does not DEODORIZE under the arms.

**What I have had the most luck with is called "crystal spray" (any brand), which seems to neutralize odors for the long-haul. So if you have suggestions, FIRE AWAY! I need your help!