Just Words – Sort of About Stress & Self Worth

14 Thu, 2011 § 6 Comments

Yesterday, I needed a lot of “me” breaks.

I stayed productive filling out forms for school, researching whether it might be in our favor to move to another apartment later this year, baked yogurt biscuits (from scratch by hand) & even debated over a few job applications; but I also spent the day on the verge of losing it.  Like total meltdown.  I don’t even know how to put into words what I’ve been feeling or maybe I just don’t want to put a voice to it yet.

I could throw myself a pity party, but that isn’t really what I need.  Instead I took some me time throughout the day.  Some of it quiet; some of it intense — not necessarily distractions but specific ways I could focus my energy while clearing my head.  I usually come back with a refreshed perspective in place of the former doom.

So early in the morning, I went for a slow walk with Eisley & my camera.  Walking still means I’m in my head a lot; but once I start playing with the camera, my attention shifts to what I’m seeing & trying to capture rather than the stress in my head.  I really only came back with one image I like.  I might share it tomorrow.

Mid-day, I decided to drop in on a yoga class.  Especially tight muscles meant all of my energy went into breathing & trying to relax into even basic poses.

I was feeling better.  I was coping.  Still, “it” lingered.

Finally, Wednesday evenings mean spinning, which is usually a torturous treat I only look forward to.  Fifteen minutes before class, I was barely coaxing myself out the door, knowing it would only do good even if I didn’t feel up to it.

The substituting instructor destroyed us.  I have never sprinted that many intervals, ever.

In the midst of a truly brutal workout, there is no room to feel sorry for yourself or to call yourself weak or think your are worthless.  You dig, you push & you don’t give up.  You tell yourself you can do anything for 30 seconds, because you are so much stronger than you think you are; & you even have a little more to give & suddenly, you are pedaling even harder.  You feel like vomiting, but instead, you grin, grunt & push.  Drenched & fatigued, you can’t stop smiling all the way home.

Maybe I’m just riding the endorphin high.  The issues are still there, but suddenly I’m that strong, capable person again.  I can take this on, breathe, sort through it, push myself, smile & live each moment.

That’s all we can do anyway, right?

Love My Body

21 Thu, 2010 § 6 Comments

Yesterday was National Love Your Body Day [there is a “national” day for everything, isn’t there?].

I have been thinking about my body all day.

I love my body.

I still struggle with body image just like anybody else — some days more so than others — but why would I ever want to do anything unkind to my body which is so incredible?

~

I love my smile & how my whole body feels when I laugh.

I love how my eyes can sparkle — how do I make that happen more often? 😉

I love my scars — they are proof that I have lived.

My body is strong & capable of taking me to amazing & beautiful places.

My body went from not being able to pull myself up the easiest climbs to projecting difficult slabs.

My body’s intuition is amazing — it always whispers when something is not quite right — I just have to listen.

My body is amazing at healing itself when sick or injured & works its hardest when I am not — when I am sleeping!

My body adapts to whatever I throw at it.

My body is so much stronger than I think it is — it always pushes out one more rep or one more move or one more mile when I think I am spent.

I feel my body’s love, even if I have not always loved it.

~

Tell me why you love your body!

Just the Rock

24 Tue, 2010 § 2 Comments

Fading away in dejection, two weeks had passed; I was still depressed, lacking appetite & the desire for human interaction.  Shut the door.  Block out the world, a part of me taunted.  Curl into yourself & sleep.

Instead, I succumbed to another part urging me to get over it: I reached for the door knob; twisting it, I entered the world again.  I had to get out.  I had to live.

Today.

~

I had only attempted it a few times & it had been weeks — maybe even a month — since my last go.  As I stepped through the doors of the climbing gym, I knew my melancholy had made me weak but I bouldered anyway.  I could not hide but still needed to get away & think — no, clear my head — be alone.

Just be.

That day, I only saw the plastic.  I only felt my hands grasping, reaching to the next hold.  I keyed into my foot pointing, toeing solidly into the wall.  I felt gravity but was more aware of my body —  my muscles contracting; my breath moving in rhythm.  Falling never crossed my mind.  I simply climbed.  My heart felt happy.  In that moment, only I existed.

I have found few things with which I can connect, fold myself into & become completely present.  Every time I touch the rock, I am seeking the presence I found that day at the gym.  Unfortunately, too often, that experience is not recaptured.  I am constantly distracted by & at war with my ego. When I do find presence, I climb harder & often — though not always — with a sense of ease.  More than that though, I appreciate what it offers & enjoy climbing most during these moments.  It is when I do not limit myself with assumptions about the route, the grade, my own expectations…when my ego fades & I do not compare myself to other climbers…& when fear is overcome…I can simply be.

Only the rock & my body exist.  I simply climb.  So tuned in, it is only my subconscious reacting.   Releasing my mind, I let my body connect with the rock.  When there is more, I fall.  When I let distractions in, I fall.

Falling is not a bad thing if you are pushing your limits.  In fact, falling is even good for the ego; but when it is because of the ego, more than just falling is at stake.  It taints our experiences, leading to frustration & obsession with external concerns.

I miss climbing.  I miss tuning into my body…connecting with the nature of the rock & working with it rather than fighting against it.  I miss finding presence through this moving meditation, taking what I learn & practicing it off the rock as well as on.  I miss giving my ego a bit of a beating. 😉

It is time to get back on the rock & recapture what I have lost: to see only the rock — to see, feel & concern myself with this moment only — to gently urge myself,

Be Here Now.

~

What have you lost to the world?  Are you ready to recapture it?

Move…Every Day

15 Sun, 2010 § 2 Comments

Biking! Chasing! Jumping! Climbing!

Throwing the ball! Swimming in the canal!

Rollerblading! Tubing! Scrambling!

= Fun as a Child

Fun meant exerting ourselves.  Fun meant moving.

~

This need-to-move (ie exercise) & I have had a long-standing, if not always smooth or consistent, affair.  Even as a young teenager, I would de-stress by taking a quick jog around town.  My flirtation with working out continued through college, constantly evolving & changing as I learned more, tried different activities/practices & became more comfortable with myself.  Once plagued with anxiety & depression, I realized how much better I felt when I exercised.  It amped up my energy levels & stomped out exhaustion & insomnia I had been battling.  Someone once told me to get energy out of anything; you first have to put energy into it.  When I put energy into exerting myself & pushing my limits, I gain exponentially physically, mentally & emotionally.  Simply, exercising makes me happy.  🙂

It is no secret that frequent & regular physical exercise boosts the immune system & helps prevent the ‘diseases of affluence.’  We have all heard that exercise increases levels of both serotonin & endorphins; but did you know these levels can stay elevated even several days after exercise is discontinued?  It is no wonder that physical activity contributes to improvement in mood, increased self-esteem & health management.   Dave has commented that he can usually gauge my mood by whether or not I have worked out that day…to what extent…how it went… 😀

Considering all of the benefits & chemical reactions that it produces, how can exercising not make me happy?  How can I not move every day?!

If you are not moving daily — or even if you are — here are some discoveries I have made throughout my own “love affair”:

Enjoy “Exercise”

Are you having fun yet?  Who says you have to be a runner?  Maybe yoga bores you.  Do you have to sweat buckets & feel like puking by the end of your workout?  You determine what is worth it & enjoyable to you, as long as you are sweating & raising your heart rate several times a week.  There are countless ways to get out there & move, so the excuse “I just don’t like exercising” is lame.  Rock climbing completely changed my body without feeling like a workout.  Maybe you are the social type & need the motivation & support of a Zumba class; or the solitary part of you likes hiking with only nature as your companion; perhaps you are in the zone when pumping weights; maybe you love racquetball, but have yet to try it; or thrive off of training for a triathlon.  If you are not having fun, you just have not found it yet.  [This following week, I am excited to share the activities I love & why.]

Determine Goals & Make Your Body “good for something

Our bodies will change; this is inevitable.  If we base our bodies’ worth solely on appearance, I am afraid only frustration & disappointment lie ahead, especially as we age.  Does this mean we can’t want that six-pack?  Of course not; but what good will it do you?  It might be pretty, but is it useful?  I want lean muscles, because they enhance my climbing.  Do I also like the way my arms & back look?  Yeah; it is a nice biproduct of striving for my own performance goals.  This is what really enhances self/body image: when you focus on more than just “looking good”, you actually connect with your body’s worth & ability.  “Looking good” just kind of follows…without obsessing over unrealistic “perfection”…without the need to compare your body to others.

Stay Motivated

Having goals will help keep you motivated & focused.  I mentioned in a previous post, I do not necessarily think “numbers” are the healthiest gauge of health.  While suggested “healthy” weights can be a good guideline, it is easy to fall victim to chasing after arbitrary numbers.  If you need a number-based-focus, I prefer body fat % over weight.  Still, rather than stressing where the scale stops when you are standing still, focus on what your body can do when you are moving!  Appreciate it, find others who embrace this & enjoy being active together.  It is much more uplifting than petty competitions over who has the tiniest waist.

Crunched for time?  How many activities in your day keep you “busy” without actually being “productive” or necessary?  What makes you happy & healthyThese are necessary.  What is not?  Be honest with yourself & establish priorities.  My body weight interval training takes anywhere from 12-30 minutes & requires little to no equipment.  I often bike instead of driving.  I used to practice yoga or take a quick run on my lunch or class breaks.  I have even sneaked a quick workout in at the airport while waiting for our flight.  Tell me you can’t squeeze that into your day?

Cross Train


I have found cross-training is crucial for injury prevention as well as balancing my body.  I often use specific training, such as weights & pilates, to strengthen weaker muscles [those I do not use as often &/or those asked to carry a heavy brunt of my activities].  I have been climbing less often this season & knew I was destined to lose much of my strength.  However, because of the type of cross-training I am doing [including High Intensity Interval Training], I am bouldering harder than I ever have in the past.  Also, because I am not constantly straining the same muscles with overuse, I do not feel as close to injury as I previously have felt.  I like switching up the activities I do; so, while I may not excel at any one of them, my body feels healthy & balanced.

Rest

Our bodies need time to repair & recover from the stress we exert on them.  As I have read articles by “maturing” athletes, I have found it interesting how much their training differs from their “younger” days.  They seem to realize how crucial it is to incorporate rest days for recovery, as well as cross-training.  Yes, as our bodies age, they will require more time to recover; but wouldn’t you rather remain injury-free during your younger years so you can do what you love longer?

Embrace “active rest days”, meaning you do not spend your rest day sitting on your butt, vegging in front of the television.  You still move on these days: enjoy an activity you love like kayaking; stretch & de-stress with yoga; weight train opposing muscles that are neglected during regular training; simply walk.  Moving increases blood circulation which will speed recovery by bringing new blood to muscles as well as flushing out metabolic waste products [biproducts of exercise] which cause soreness.

~

Though I am happier with this past week’s activity level, I wanted to show the PREVIOUS WEEK; because, even though issues with my left calve kept me from being as active or intense as I would have liked, I was still able to move every day*.

Monday ~ Active Rest Day [Sore from Sat. hike & Sun. bike ride]

  • laps at the pool

Tuesday ~

  • a.m. Yoga Class, focusing on “wheel”
  • bike commute 8 mi each way split up by bodywork session [releasing fascia of the left calve & mobilizing my right fibula]
  • weights with Dave: rotator cuff & shoulder muscles, core

Wednesday ~

  • a.m. HIIT [High Intensity Interval Training]
  • midday laps in the pool with Dave [only 15-20 minutes before a light thunder storm hit]

Thursday ~

  • HIIT

Friday ~

  • a.m. Yoga/Pilates Class, “shoulder stands & core”

Saturday ~

  • ran 1-2 mi around the lake in a.m. followed by short workout [hold chaturanga dandasana w/leg extensions, mt. climbers & elevated push-ups] & walk with Eisley & Dave;
  • a little kayaking at Payson Lake with the family

Sunday ~ Dave & I desperately needed to sweat out our less-than-active & oh-so-delicious weekend 😛

  • 14 min-evening-run followed by Dave’s boot camp playground workout [I thought I was going to vomit]; to cool down we practiced Qigong, walked home & stretched.  I also worked on static handstands after balancing with Qigong per Dave’s suggestion — it made such a difference!

*Also walk Eisley every morning & evening before her meals & as much as possible throughout the day.

~

Tell me about your own relationship — highs & struggles — with exercise.  What is holding you back?  What keeps you moving?

Empty Sink = Full Heart

5 Thu, 2010 § 2 Comments

I am Inadequate.

This is the self doubt with which I have been struggling recently.  What is it they say?  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”?  Apparently, I have given permission…to myself.

I have allowed the pressures of conventional requirements for modern “survival” engulf me, interfering with my personal ideal of living & happiness.  I have been questioning my career path…my worth…whether I pull my weight.  I have been tackling this demon head on; but last night, I needed a break.

~ I made cookies. ~

It is difficult to dwell on my own sense of inadequacy when immersed in a task centered around another person – especially if that task turns out delicious & is well received.

Sleepiness caught up, & I knowingly made a rare blunder I could only regret: I left the kitchen in disarray.  Mixing bowls, measuring cups, cookie sheets…filled the sink, spilling over the edges.

This morning I knew what waited downstairs as I approached with dread.  I hate waking up to a mess; I even have a difficult time enjoying dinner when I know there is a mess in the kitchen.

I rounded the corner into our small dining room & sat at the table, because I was not ready to tackle the sink.  I did not even want to look at it yet.  Finally I glanced.  I sat there staring for the longest time, smiling…at the empty sink.  I love when he does this.

Relief settled, & I was overwhelmed with a sense of being loved & valued.

How does his thoughtful act renew my sense of worth?  Perhaps it is reciprocated appreciation.  Maybe it is acknowledging someone needs me – & cares enough to show — admitting to myself the happiness I bring to his life.  Maybe love really is all you need.

I am not going to over-analyze it.  Today I am carrying that love with me.  I am reminded of what is truly imperative & will not sweat the rest.  Not today.  Other feelings might creep back in until more solidly resolved.  Now, enveloped in love, I feel adequate.  Now, in this moment, I am ok.  🙂

That is all we are given anyway, right?  This moment.

I will take what it offers & leave the rest.  When I try to grasp every particle this crazy world throws at me…discern, analyze, attach…I am left empty-handed…it transmits to my heart.

This moment, I smile, & this moment & this moment & this moment…

Let everything else follow.

~

How often do we overlook or dismiss the value we hold in others’ eyes?  How often do our relationships become commonplace, disregarded or stressed with the pressure of our own expectations?  Today, remember who you are to someone else [friend, lover, partner, mother, father, teacher…]  Try to see yourself as he does.  Whom do you value in your life?  Does she know – really know?  No act is too small to convey – or create – a river of emotion.

~

Who knew an empty sink would fill my heart so & renew my sense of self worth?

Thank you Dave.

Letting the Wind Go

30 Fri, 2010 § 6 Comments

“Love flowers best in openness & freedom.”

~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

There is something austere & beautiful about the sparseness & simplicity of the desert.  A stillness exists here unmatched by any place I have yet visited; the life that triumphs the desert’s harshness stands out bold & defiant.  I always learn something about myself among this resilience.  Sometimes – often – it is something I do not like admitting & deeply wish to change.

~

We have just begun preparing dinner.  There is a welcome, even if only subtle, breeze.  The slight relief it has offered from the scorching heat of the day abruptly ceases.  Suddenly, a huge opposing gust rages through camp.  The one-up digs in for a losing battle as I rush to grab a pole begging to be torn from the dirt.  It lifts like a kite…& I watch twenty-two pages of collected yoga practices scatter in every direction.  Dave rushes to my aid, & we quickly disassemble the one-up & take chase.

The wind is continuously shifting; just as I have a page in sight & determine its path, it immediately vanishes.  I run after them like a child chasing butterflies.  Uh, lie.  I chase these gems of wisdom & self-discovery…these corridors to fleeting nirvana…with tears lining my eyes & a pitiful whine,  “but they make me happy”, being carried off by the wind along with my pages…all the while cursing the wind.  What purpose does it even serve anyway?  Honestly, amidst my frustration, I could not credit the wind one redeeming act — I had completely forgotten the relief it offered only minutes earlier.

Why the tears?  Why over these pages?

Yoga has become a place where I can escape – I can curl into its warmth, stretch into its expansion – my inadequacy does not exist here.  Not because I “excel”, but because it is something I have learned – am still learning – to embrace playfully without judgment.  But playfully without attachment?  Without ownership?  Apparently not.  Why did I feel I needed these pages to embrace my practice?  Was it my own insecurities?  Was I letting my sense of inadequacy creep in?  A need for identity?  While knowledgeable guidance is fundamentally valuable, do I need someone else to define my practice?  Do I need to define my practice?

We managed to gather a handful.  Of course my favorites were without their mate or still missing completely.

Broken.  Defeated.  I accepted my losses…bitterly…still clinging to a twinge of naive hope we would see Play Leads the Way [which includes a favorite pose, Lord of the Dance, I hope to master someday] waving frantically from a net of sage the next morning.

Dave & I collected other items the wind had thrown: plates, books, chairs, sunglasses, hats, etc.  Eisley insisted on helping scour for chips – we could not keep her away – she was even looking the next day. 😀  Dave finally had to crush them.  We took down what didn’t stand a chance against the furry & tethered the rest.  We looked at each other through furious, indecisive gusts of wind, smirked & asked “now what?”

We gave in.  We could not stop the wind.  It had claimed what it would have.  So we walked.  I teased about my absurd attachment to these papers, we toyed again with the idea of packing up, but instead, we simply walked.

Dave took photos at the overlook as I flowed through a favorite playful practice.  We embraced what the moment still offered, enhanced by the charm of the sun setting.  The wind was still a rye, but we were enjoying ourselves; & I had let go.

During the walk back to camp, we recovered four more pages, completing all but two sequences [most of which were found by Dave].  His final find that evening?  He smiled at me as he read “Play Leads the Way”.

“When we are established in non-attachment, the nature & purpose of existence are understood.”

~The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

By letting go, the entire tone & mood of our evening changed.  It is useless to cling — there are very few things we have ultimate control over — yet we have a choice regarding the attitude we embrace.  “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me & 90% how I react to it” [Charles R. Swindoll].

Life in the desert is met by some of the harshest obstacles acting against it, yet the cactus does not whine, make excuses, cling to illusions of becoming a fern nor grow bitter.  It accepts the moment, uses whatever resources it is given, embraces the freedom of its sparse surroundings & blossoms into what it is meant to be.

Mind your mind; let everything else follow.

~

As we made our final departure the next morning, Dave asked me to please adjust the side mirror.  As I reached out the window for the corner of the mirror, a sheet of white waved from the brush just beyond.

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Breaking Through the Facade

18 Sun, 2010 § 4 Comments

Without those lingering Demons, I feel like I can breathe.  The picture is clearer: I can really see my body; that “perfect image” I’ve pursued for so long doesn’t exist, & that’s okay.  Now that I’ve let go of harmful, unrealistic expectations that keep me down, I can focus on Strengths & put my energy into making Realistic goals.  Rather than stressing over getting to point B [my ideal] the fastest, I enjoy the daily steps that lead toward a healthier life:

  • Move Every Day.  Have fun & stay excited.  Not having fun yet?  You just haven’t found it yet; keeping looking.  Be adventurous with workouts — I love to challenge myself — & cross-train (for balance & injury prevention).
  • Listen to My Body — Love, Value & Nourish it.  My body does amazing things for me daily; appreciate every aspect of it & do only good things to & for it.
  • Eat Real Food.  Primarily eat plant-based foods, in their whole, natural form.  Stay away from processed & refined foods with additives.  Enjoy what you eat; this is crucial when developing good eating habits. Follow a healthy eating habit not a diet.
  • Do Not Compare Other Bodies.  I have just spent all this energy accepting my unique, realistic body; I don’t want to blur this image.  Every body is different.
  • Do Not Stress the Numbers: calorie counting, sizes, the scale, etc.  These are not true measurements of health.  Embrace the concept of Size “Healthy”.
  • Make my Body Good for Something [as Dave likes to phrase it].  “Actual capacity strengthens confidence; a facade is merely physical.” [Mark Twight]  When your primary focus is to be strong & fit — to be able to truly use your body — rather than just look good, your entire perspective & body image shift.  It’s beautiful.

Obviously, these expectations are specific to my approach, but I’ve tried to add general points that may be motivating to others.  I hope it makes you want to love your body & move it! 🙂

Be Realistic with your own Expectations.  Include your list in the comments below or on your own blog & link here.

Which Demons Sabotage Your Self Image?

14 Wed, 2010 § 1 Comment

I am ready to let go of mine.

Since my “Lat Episode“, I’ve been mulling over the expectations & standards I hold my self to & by which I judge my self image.

If only the media would back off…if only guys didn’t oogle over swim suit models…if women didn’t swoon over muscles…if someone hadn’t placed arbitrary numbers & sizes in our heads…We wouldn’t have to look a certain way.  What other excuses do we cling to ferociously?

There are always excuses though, right?  Someone else to blame for the way we view our bodies?  It is not my fault my self view is what it is.  Sorry.  It is; that’s included in the definition of self image.  We cling to these excuses & hold ourselves to unrealistic expectations.

I’m letting go.  Yikes.  Really?  It means I’m going to have to swallow a few things:

  • Mirrors are deceptive; my mind can play tricks.  I should never base my mood by the image I “see”.
  • My waist, from ribs to hip, is about 2 inches in length; that’s it.  No changing nature’s design.
  • I have a back baby–it’s strong–but combine that with narrow hips = broad upper body.  But it means I can do a pull up…& climb.
  • My arms may never be as slender & sculpted as I’d like.  I have muscle; I’m no twig.
  • I am small busted.  Period.  (What I can see is muscle & not rib though.)
  • Some endeavors are tough: revealing my six pack will take time & effort.  My core is strong, but my waist (& face) is the first to store & last to lose fat.  Just fact.
  • Dietary needs are transitional;  they change with season, age, activity level–even the day.  It is not reasonable to restrict myself with labels, but rather, listen to & provide my body with present needs.
  • I am not a predetermined-calorie-intake-machine, & I like food!  It’s absurd to think we come with a fixed, pre-specified, daily calorie limit; my caloric needs change day to day according to various factors such as activity level.  Besides, not all calories are created equal 😉

Now that it’s out there, I’m left with fewer excuses to cling to unproductive delusions & can accept realities.  I have only myself to hold me to these.

Your turn.  What unrealistic expectations are you holding?  Let go.  Post your own list below in the comments section or create one on your own blog & link it here.  I know it seems scary, but it’s liberating!  We’re one step deeper into loving ourselves.

My Lats Say Hello

12 Mon, 2010 § 4 Comments

9 a.m., I’m moving through Sun Salutations in one of my yoga classes.  I’m focusing my breath, my mind…I lengthen my arms to the sky & suddenly glance in the mirror as I begin to fold forward.

“Hey!” my Latissimus Dorsi shouts back.  For those of you wondering, this is the muscle that wings out on each side just under the arm.  It’s usually prominent on body builders, not women in yoga class.  This is confirmed as I quickly scan the room using the mirror.  No other Lats to be seen—only beautiful curves of the female form (no men today).  As we raise our arms, I check mine again.  Yep, the outline of my curve = Lats, not breasts.

I gently nudged the thought from my mind & returned focus to my breath.  Obviously, that thought never completely left.  It’s been lingering in my subconscious (& not-so-subconscious)…toying with my self worth.

My body is strong.  It is becoming stronger every day, which in turn, has made me start to truly love my body for the first time.  So what happened in yoga the other day?

My Ego.

It emerges by first planting seeds of doubt & insecurity; then, it judges others to build itself back up.  “Yeah, but I bet they can’t do a pull up.”  Whether this is the case or not, it has no relevance to me & my body.

When self worth is pursued by the ego, it breaks only to be pieced together again through comparison to others.  Seemingly whole, but ultimately fragile with cracks of external, superficial assurances.

How do we overcome the ego?

Let go.

Let go of comparisons & judgments.  Let go of personalizing.  Let go of external identifications.  Let go of reactions.  Let go of attachments.  Let go of excuses.

Be Here Now.

Don’t complicate things; stick with the facts.

My name is Allie.  I can do a pull up.  My “curves” are my Lats.

What insecurities have you learned to love about yourself?  Are learning to love?  Are going to start loving? 😉

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