Listening to my Body.

just be

Image found via Pinterest.

My low back hurts.

It’s not completely out but it is definitely talking to me.

I’ve felt it coming for a few days. There was that twinge going up into forearm plank Sunday morning. There was the moment when I almost fell off  a bike during a 14-mile ride later that same day and twisted kind of funny. There was the day my dog almost yanked me off my feet chasing a squirrel on our walk. Then there was moving our daughter out of her apartment yesterday. First I felt a little tweak lifting something  heavy onto the trailer and I was at an odd angle. When I really felt it was when I leaned down in the car to pick up a piece of paper.

That’s all it finally took, a stupid, small move but like I said, it had been building up.

So, no I’m not flat on my back. I can move, walk, (hopefully) drive, do some gentle yoga. I know how to care for my back.

When I ask my body what this is telling me this is what I hear: Less doing, more being.

That makes total sense. I feel like each time I get to this point it is because of exactly this. I get so caught up in doing: doing the laundry the minute it begins to pile up in the hamper, cleaning the house every day, logging more miles walking and biking, teaching and subbing and more teaching and subbing as I save money for our trip to Europe, writing and blogging every day.

So much doing, doing, doing.

So little just being.

So for now, if you need me I’ll be here, just being.

Being present.

Being still.

Being here.

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What If It Isn’t Up to Me?

surrender

I heard these magical words on the “Serenity, Now” episode from the podcast “From the Heart:Conversations with Yoga Girl.”

Rachel Brathen talks honestly about her back pain and her struggles with blaming herself when it goes out every 3-4 months. This time it happened when she picked up her baby girl.When she saw her chiropractor he said that of course she had to pick up her baby and suggested that maybe her back going out or not going out wasn’t up to her.

Wait, what?

Not up to her?

If it’s not up to her then maybe it’s not up to me, either.

Maybe it’s not to me when my own back goes out.

Maybe it’s not up to me to make sure everyone is happy around me whether it’s my family, friends or students.

Wow.

How self-centered this is.

Up to me, me, me.

What if it isn’t up to me?

What a relief.

I hear those words and I feel I can take a deep breath for the first time ever.

It’s not up to me.

What is up to me?

To be present.

Present to my family.

Present to my friends.

Present to my students.

Present to my body.

Present to my writing.

Present to each moment.

Surrender the need to fix and just be present to what is.

 

Befriending my Body…Finally.

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I’ve battled my body for as long as I can remember.

There are entries in my diary from high school where I admit to “cheating” and eating a Hostess apple pie or some Oreos. Reader, I wasn’t heavy. At all. I look back at pictures from that time and can’t imagine what I was thinking.

I can clearly recall two times in my life when I felt happy with my body. Two times. I am 52. Once was on my wedding day. I loved my dress. It fit perfectly and was exactly what I had it mind. Another time was in a beautiful one-piece swimsuit I ordered from Calvin Klein and I put it on and felt great. And it wasn’t it looks great for a bathing suit. Nope. I felt amazing in it.

But those two times that I can recall are like grains of salt in an ocean of judgment, berating, disdain, shame and loathing I’ve felt for my body throughout my life.

Recently, I’ve lost almost 22 pounds. And I feel great. I feel like I am befriending my body for the first time ever. But I had to ask myself this hard question: Am I befriending my body now because I’ve lost weight? Is my compassion contingent on that? I sat with that one and finally came to this conclusion: I believe I am losing weight because I am finally loving my body.

Let me explain.

When I hurt my back two years ago I did a lot of soul-searching. I felt betrayed by my body. I cried, a lot. I wrote, a lot. And what emerged was that my body felt betrayed by me. Betrayed by my lack of compassion, my insistence on numbers on scales and clothing tags revealing my worth, hiding behind sugary treats and big glasses of wine, moving to burn calories rather than moving because it feels good.

It’s been a long journey over these last two years. Physical therapy, Bowen Therapy, Cranial Sacral, Shamanism, journaling, yoga, walking, meditation. Lots of tools that basically all led to me finally listening to my body. Really hearing what it needed rather than thinking I knew what was best.

I moved carefully and mindfully back into my yoga practice. I began starting each day with 5-10 minutes of meditation while in Constructive Rest Pose then moving into my PT exercises and other  gentle yoga moves that my body seems to love.

Next, I became a vegan again around my birthday. I had tried it a few years ago and it didn’t last long. I think I came at it from a distorted angle, looking for yet another quick fix that would solve my weight loss issue. This time I tried it to help my body heal. To fight inflammation, to ease the pain in my joints. I also became more aware of the impact my choices have on animals and the environment. Plus, my oldest daughter went vegan as well and she has been huge support in staying the course. Nowhere on my list this time was losing weight.

Eating vegan feels right in my body. I feel lighter, clearer. I have more energy, less aches and pains.

Finally, I had a physical in September. My weight was the highest it has been since I was post-pregnancy. I do not take any medications for cholesterol or blood pressure and I want to keep it that way. So, I started thinking about an approach to losing the extra weight, not an easy task at 52 and in the middle of menopause.

I decided to track my calories. I loaded Spark People onto my phone and was soon astonished at what constituted a serving versus what I had been eating. I didn’t become obsessed with it. I tracked my calories for most meals but still went out occasionally (though I eat out less often because the vegan options are so limited) and slowly I began to see results. The pounds began to drop and my back began to feel even better and mysterious aches began to dissipate. Because I am eating less sugar and foods that feel “noisy” in my body, I have more time to write, to do yoga, to read, to meditate. There’s a stillness at my core that has probably always been there but I wasn’t connected to it. Now I am.

Every change I have made has come from a place of love. A place of tender yet fierce compassion for my body, for what it needs.

At 52, I can finally trust that I am truly befriending my body.

The Shame of Pain.

Image. Sarah via Flickr

Image: Sarah via Flickr

I was going to start this post with this sentence:

I hurt my back.

But that feels like I am blaming myself. Which I was when it first happened 15 days ago. How could I have let this happen? What did I do wrong? How stupid of me.

I didn’t tell many people. When I realized that I hadn’t posted about this at all on social media, I had to ask myself why.

The answer?

At first it was that I was embarrassed. Here I am, a yoga teacher, and something happened to my back going into shoulder stand. But as I dug deeper, it felt more like shame. Shame that I had let this happen. Shame that I was bedridden. Shame that I was letting my students down. My fellow teachers down. Shame that I felt I was letting my family down by not being able to care for them.

Brené Brown says that guilt is I did something bad. Shame is that I AM bad.

Big difference.

Shame is slimy. And heavy. And I couldn’t understand why it was slithering around me now. So, I dug deeper. After all, being in bed gives one much time to ponder.

I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost 22 years. Over the years I’ve brought in varying amounts of money through writing, teaching writing, teaching yoga and graphic design. Since it’s always been extra money, I realized that I place much of my “value” on being able to take care of my family, take care of the house, take care of all the logistics of our daily lives.

Being unable to do my normal routine left me feeling like my value was suffering. Ridiculous, I know. Truly, my logical, conscious brain knows that. But I’m dealing with that sneaky subconscious part of my brain.

And I am dealing with it. Confronting its lies, the stories it weaves all designed to make me feel small and less than.

I’ve been using this time to write in my journal, meditate, practice self-Reiki and EFT and I am churning up a lot of stuff, stuff I will continue to post about as I process it all.

For now, I know that I am not to blame for what happened. That it doesn’t make me less than. I didn’t cause the pain. I am experiencing the pain. It happened for a reason. It’s got me doing some deep inner work.

I feel like I am peeling back and shedding layers and layers of crap.

I feel light.

I feel aligned.

I feel present to it all:

      The pain.

      The moment.

      My feelings.

      My life.