TBT – Do you have a few minutes?

***This edited blog was originally posted in February 2018***

When we get to February I always feel a surge of optimism. Spring is not so far away now, and those of us who get a little “cabin fever” this time of the year start noticing more light in the evenings.

In February of 2017 I started a habit of daily meditation. I had meditated before that occasionally. But last year, I committed to a minimum of 5 minutes per day. It was a do-able goal, and I count my yoga sessions as part of my practice, so with 3 classes a week, that made the goal easier as well. In February of 2019 I will celebrate 2 years of daily meditation.

It has changed my life, particularly since I have struggled with a.d.d. in the past. Meditation has helped me calm my mind and become less reactive to the “bouncing” thoughts. I can observe them and not follow them. I notice when I am caught in a story that I am spinning, and start to question whether that is even true. I hold less judgment about my mind, and more curiosity.

To those who have been thinking about starting a practice, I encourage you to start small. Literally commit to only 2 minutes the first time, focus on your breathing. It may not be easy at first! Add a minute a day, and see how this changes the quality of your days overall. It may take a few weeks before you really start to notice benefits, so give it at least 30 days.

zen flower
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People used to tell me I needed to have at least 15 minutes. That was a barrier. I could not imagine how I would fit that in every day. Now I average a lot more than that. It is not always easy, and sometimes I feel “too restless” to want to do it. But those are the times I am most likely to benefit, I now realize.

Last fall I read Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain and Body (Goleman and Davidson). For a clinical researcher, I loved learning about experiments, past and present to demonstrate the value of meditation. The authors actually critique some of their early studies, the bias and the lack of proper controls. They review the field and conclude that, even with some flawed studies in the beginning, reliable science is beginning to emerge on the benefits of meditation.

If silent meditation is not your cup of tea, there are many guided meditations available at the Insight Timer app that I use. Jon Kabat Zinn has a book called Mindfulness for Beginners with some guided meditations that I really like also. Another resource that was great for me about 2 years ago when I first wanted to commit to practice was Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.

For those of you who have a regular practice, I would love to hear how you got started. As I like to say about sleep, doing more of it is like a super-power! If only I had known when I was younger. I know now. So I will continue to encourage people to try it, and see what works for them.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

TBT – There is no “better” you

**This is an edited post from January 2018. It is a relevant reminder for the workshop I have coming up on the 27th.**

I have noticed a lot of flyers in fitness centers and around bulletin boards that invite people to “become a better you.” I really dislike this slogan.

You are just fine the way you are. Right now. No exceptions. You are worthy of love, compassion and forgiveness. Just because you are human. In this moment, and always.

Are you perfect? No. Are you human? Yes. You are an imperfect human being in the process of growing and becoming, as are we all. And that is a beautiful thing.

Are there some things you wish to change about yourself? Probably. Most of us want to lose weight, make more money, become more patient, perhaps become better partners or spouses. And this is fine. But this does not mean we become “better” as people. If we cannot accept that we are fine, and worthy of love and compassion, in this moment and always, it will be much harder to grow and change.

What bothers me about this “better” you is that it implies the you RIGHT NOW is not enough. But that is never true. You are enough. You are doing your best and that is always enough. You are worthy. Always.

You will not become “better” if you lose weight. Perhaps your health will be better, and you will have less discomfort in your body and more vitality if you lose weight. Those are all worthy goals, and by all means strive for those goals if they are important to you. But you must accept yourself and who you are in this very moment to allow transformation to occur.

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Does that sound paradoxical? I thought so at first when I encountered this idea. If I’m not striving and trying and working toward it, how can I be “better” at it? Certainly skills take practice, and many of us learned that working hard is the answer, or the way to riches, or even the way to God.

When you have goals that are important to you, absolutely you should work for them. Put the time in every day if you can. But realize that there is no “better” version of you that awaits. You may feel better about your skills, and you may accomplish great things. Wonderful! Congratulations!

But the YOU remains the same, lovable and worthy. Flawed and imperfect. And marvelously human, adaptable and growing all the time. If you accept all parts of yourself, the good and the bad, you begin to feel such compassion for yourself and others as well. 

No person is better than another. We are all just doing our best, even if it seems like not everyone is trying. We actually are doing the best that we know. Try this belief on for a bit. When I really came to know this as true, it gave me so much peace. And ironically, my thinking and emotions evolved as I embraced this acceptance.

You are the BEST YOU right now. And that is enough. Let go of the struggle to become better. Accept who you are. Love and cherish your essence.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Saturday Share – How are You Going to Eat for the Rest of Your Life? — Julie de Rohan

If your New Year diet has already failed, it’s not your fault. This post explains why.

via How are You Going to Eat for the Rest of Your Life? — Julie de Rohan

I had to share this post because Julie speaks to many of the issues I have experienced in my past struggles with food and diets. I love her notion of being curious rather than ashamed of our appetites and preferences. Treating our bodies with compassion and respect has more positive results than continuing the war with ourselves by dieting.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

TBT – Back to yoga!

**This is an edited post from January of 2017, after my recovery from an appendectomy. I enjoyed re-reading it as I was reflecting on the past year. The advice still applies.**

I just got the all-clear from the surgeon post appendectomy to return to yoga. She told me I need to be mindful not to overdo it, of course, but that I was healing quickly and should be fine now. It was the best news I got all week!

Thursday night I went back to yin yoga class. It felt awesome. I was mindful of a few poses where I did not fully extend, knowing that I will slowly work my way back to where I was. After a month away from this, it is wise to go slow, and take breaks.

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Most yoga teachers understand this, but a few of them out there still “push” sometimes. If you  ever consider a class, I recommend one where the teacher tells you that you can always take breaks or make modifications. Feel free to sit in child’s pose, or if your knees are too strained by that, just lay in savasana (corpse pose) if that is needed. Really!

So many people push themselves, perhaps at the goading of a teacher, “come on, I know you are strong enough to hold this pose longer…” Um, no. I call that kind of teaching “yogaerobics” or perhaps the teacher is new to the practice of yoga.

Best advice: listen to your own body. Yes, it’s true that you will become stronger if you practice something like hatha or vinyasa regularly. But it is also that every body is different, and that you must respect your limits. That is wisdom.

It is also true that every DAY your body is different. Some days you may have more energy and other days maybe you did not sleep as well the night before, and you are more tired. It does not matter. The best practice is the one where you did what was right for that day, for each moment of your practice.

The best teacher is the one that encourages you to listen to your body and pace yourself. Teachers are guides, not the authorities. Your own body is the ultimate authority on what is right for you. When you learn that, everything else falls into place. Namaste!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

TBT – Go easy on yourself

Throwback Thursday – an edited post from December 2017 that feels timely. 

This time of year can be difficult, especially for anyone dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) that may originate from the lack of light and lack of fresh air.

Symptoms I experience can include anxiety, the blues, and changes in my mood or appetite. Many of us have increased cravings for carbohydrates, and we may feel sluggish or have difficulty concentrating.

For several years, I have used exercise, dietary strategies such as a vitamin D supplement in the morning and magnesium at night. I try to get enough vegetables for their anti-oxidant properties and fiber, but in Minnesota nothing is fresh this time of year, so it can be difficult.

Getting enough healthy fats in my diet more recently has been a wonderful benefit to my health overall. I have learned more and more on how balancing our brain chemistry with healthy fats is really important.  “The Chemistry of Calm” by Dr. Henry Emmons, contains some wonderful advice there on how to overcome anxiety. He presents the information from both Western and Eastern traditions. I strongly encourage you to check it out if you want more scientific background on drug-free ways to overcome anxiety.

I still struggle with insomnia periodically, usually when the seasons change and/or when I am under stress. I know how important sleep can be for good healthy, so I try valiantly to get more, and sometimes it still eludes me.

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Over the years, I have learned some strategies which help. It is a learning process, and I have to accept that it takes some time to change old habits. I am undoing a pattern that was established (and possibly reinforced) for 25-30 years. I may not unlearn it overnight. But due to the remarkable neuro-plasticity of our brains, we are capable of training ourselves out of old patterns.

The biggest factor to remember is to have compassion for ourselves, and not to label ourselves as “anxious” or to consider ourselves flawed in any way. Instead of saying, “I am an anxious person” try instead: “right now I am struggling with anxiety and I am learning how to manage it.” Thus, the condition is temporary and not a part of our identity.

It is important not to identify too strongly with any label, as this may convince us we a permanent, unalterable condition. The truth is that we have far more capacity for change than any of us realize. And this learning how to manage our struggles is where wisdom is born. Nothing is wrong with us. This is the human condition.

About half of our life may be happy or joyful (or maybe slightly more). But about half of or life will be negative emotions. This contrast is what makes life so rich and interesting. If we can go easy on ourselves, realize that sadness and feeling down sometimes are a part of life, then we can truly appreciate the joyful moments.

Compassion for ourselves and for other people is really the engine that helps us live a good life. We sometimes have that inner critic that resists compassion, questioning if we deserve it, speculating that we do not. If we come from religious backgrounds where original sin was a big part of the emphasis, this may be harder for us.

It may take some time and practice to cultivate compassion for ourselves. But it is possible. And with this self-compassion comes the ability to have compassion for others as well. In this time of dark, cold, weather, that can go a very long way.

If you are struggling with SAD, anxiety or depression, please get help from a trained mental health professional, and/or seek support. It is not a time to “go it alone” when you are dealing with this stuff. Sometimes families are not as understanding, so try to find someone who can help you get the support you need.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

My life-saving husband

This post is dedicated to my awesome and life-saving husband who, last year on this date insisted that I go to the hospital when I had some unexplained abdominal pain.

As it turned out, I had appendicitis and the very kind staff at Regions Hospital take wonderful care of me, scheduling me for surgery later that night. Hubby had realized that I needed help, but I was stubborn at first, telling him to go to work and that I would be fine. (“It’s just a gas pain,” I told myself.)

Cristy and Clem with the Tower Bridge in London
Hubby and me with the London Bridge in the background – September 18, 2018

I thought I may have had food poisoning, since I had just returned the night before from a work trip to Mexico. But no, I could not get myself off the couch to even make coffee that morning. I still felt like crap at noon, so I texted my husband and tell him I could not find my doctor’s phonenumber.

Clearly my brain was clouded over. He told me he was coming home right away to take me to the emergency room. I am so glad he did. Once I was evaluated and they knew what was going on, and about half an hour after I had some fairly strong pain medicine, I was chatting away and feeling SO much better.

So this is a post of gratitude for my dear husband, who is a most awesome and level-headed human being. I am blessed that the universe saw fit to connect us. I got a new lease on life after that experience. It helped me realize I needed to surrender to rest when my body needed to heal.

My parents developed a lot of love and gratitude for my husband as well. Considering my father almost died of an appendicitis, both he and my Mom saw hubby as their hero. He is definitely one of mine as well.

 

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com