Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis The Season To Be Jolly?

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What is it about the holidays? Parties, shopping, family--and a heightened expectation that we all be filled with good holiday cheer--can lead to an intense array of feelings and reactions. More often than not, the pressure to be on our best holiday behavior can actually bring out the worst and not the best in us.

In an interview I did recently for a radio show on caregiving during the holidays, the host and I wondered why it is that holidays are such a hard time for taking care of ourselves. Many times we put our healthy routines and habits on hold to be with our families, complete holiday tasks and socialize. But along the way our bodies and our sense of self can deteriorate.

There seems to be a direct connection in my experience between the abandonment of self-care, the putting on of a 'happy face' and the ability to overindulge, feel bad about ourselves and disconnect from our bodies. The more we give ourselves away, the easier it is to abandon our bodies and our health. Almost as a way of compensating, we grab for the 'treats' that may make us feel worse in the end--alcohol, sugar, chocolate--without really listening to what we need. Since these treats may be the only form of (albeit false) self-care we get, we cling to them even more during the holidays than we might at other times.

So what keeps us connected during the holidays to our health and ourselves? This year, as you move into the holiday frenzy and toward food, family and friends, pay attention to the way you interact with your body and see if there's a way to stay connected. Notice if there's a way to fit in a moment for yourself amid the hustle--one that allows you to take a few deep breaths and pay attention to how your body is doing, what it might actually want or need. Use your body relationship as a way of actually checking in with yourself: are you tired? Sad? In need of some time to yourself? Your body often holds a host of messages that are available to you as soon as you check in.

Our bodies don't lie. As we listen, they require us to be authentic about our feelings and our needs. And as with any relationship, our bodies prefer connection over disconnection, even in small doses. Checking in at all--even in a moment--to your body's needs begins to rebuild trust in the relationship.

It also helps when we stay honest: if you do find yourself overindulging, see if you can stay connected to your body and apologize rather than feeling guilty, shutting down and (probably) perpetuating the cycle. Ask your body what it needs, and recommit to doing the best you can to listen.
Reconnecting to your body and what it needs slows things down and takes you out of concepts of whether you've done something 'right' or 'wrong.' Stay light about your humanness and your ability to make mistakes. Allow yourself to be exactly where you are, doing the best you can.

Maybe this is what's so hard about the holidays. For many of us, our identities are shifting to take in old family relationships, traditions and expectations of meaning and kindness. It gets harder to stay in touch with our authentic selves rather than a put-on a--sometimes fake-- holiday face. And yet if we're not fully present to our experiences, something is lost--we can feel ourselves going through the motions. The same is true of our bodies--and there's no truer proof of this than the extra five or ten pounds so commonly associated with the holidays.

If you can't yet be totally authentic with the family, see if there's a way to be authentic with your body. Listen to its messages and see what it might be like to respond. Even if things can't look the way they usually do with your regular routines of diet and exercise, see if you can do little things that keep you connected: breathing, listening, even stretching or going for a walk. You don't have to be perfect, you just have to show up. Take the pressure off you and your body and let yourselves be exactly as you are, showing up with whatever you truly need. The fa la la la la can wait.

Over the Streudel and Through the Nog:
The Body Reunion Solution to Avoiding Holiday Overeating

Tune in before you go off to do your holiday shopping!

We'll explore how to:
*Steer Clear of Negative Holiday Eating Habits
*Avoid the Guilt of Overdoing It
*Develop a Better Relationship to Your Body Through the Holidays
*Gain Tools to Make Healthier Choices, Now and Into the New Year

This one-hour class is ideal for anyone struggling with their body and food, compulsive overeating or exercise or a feeling of discomfort with how they look and feel in their bodies.

CALL-IN NUMBER: (218) 339 2500
Access Code: 594697#

There will be a chance to ask questions and participate as much or as little as you want!
I wish you all a Happy and Healthy Holiday...

All my best,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Gratitude Attitude

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We all know how easy it is to take our bodies for granted--atleast until they let us down. Then we're sure to let them know, whether conscious of it or not, how frustrated, disappointed or disgusted we are. We can't get well fast enough, lose weight fast enough or get in shape fast enough. We're tough critics of our own bodies most of the time.

A woman I worked with recently who was diagnosed with cancer admitted that before cancer she pretty much just told her body what to do and assumed it would listen. Like her, most of us make our bodies our servants, meaning that they pretty much have to do what we want and don't get a lot of praise for it. How do you think they feel?

Because we demand so much of our lives, asking that we constantly do and be more, it's easy to neglect and become a task master to our bodies just as we are with ourselves. But we need to ask ourselves how it feels when someone else does that to us. A client of mine who works long days for a reputable company said recently that if no one acknowledged him for what he did, "I'd just say, 'screw this!'" The acknowledgement is what keeps him going. And yet how many of us do that to our bodies? We ask and ask and ask of them without pausing to thank or to give back.

With Thanksgiving just a day away, I'm thinking about the effect of gratitude and appreciation on the relationships I have in my life. Many of my friends have reached out this year to say how grateful they are to have me in their lives, and I have been so moved by this that I too am reaching out to tell those I care about the same. The effect--on both sides of gratitude--is uplifting. As both the recipient and the giver of gratitude, I feel lighter, energized and more alive. I wonder if our bodies, when we pause to appreciate them and acknowledge all they do for us, might also feel the same?

Consider the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto, featured in the recent movie, 'What the Bleep Do We Know?' If you saw the movie, you might remember the remarkable effect that certain words like 'thank-you' and 'I love you' seemed to have. In his research on the effect of words and thoughts, Dr. Emoto found that frozen water contained very different kinds of crystals depending on what thoughts were directed toward it: "Water from clear springs and water that has been exposed to loving words shows brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns. In contrast, polluted water, or water exposed to negative thoughts, forms incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors." (

If our bodies are more than 60% water, it becomes even more urgent to consider what effect loving thoughts of gratitude have on our physical selves, vs. thoughts of fear, loathing or frustration. We owe it to ourselves and our bodies to remember and communicate all that we appreciate. Our bodies won't leave us until we die, but--as with any partner that feels unseen or unappreciated--they can become distant and resentful. Over time, their resistance may manifest as disease, discomfort, or perhaps--if you take seriously this research on water crystals--a deep and essential disorder.

Whatever we ask of our bodies, we ultimately ask of ourselves. The tireless and relentless criticism and pushing harm both of us. Ask yourself what it would take to shift to an attitude of gratitude--today, tomorrow, or any day--rather than constantly asking more of yourself with no return. What would it take to acknowledge all your body does for you and to express your gratitude toward it on this day of almost-Thanksgiving? As you think about doing that, how does the energy in your body shift, change and open? How do you feel different?

You just might find as you make this shift that the pieces seem to fall together, that you already feel the energy and lightness of having received what you wanted all along. An attitude of gratitude not only acknowledges what we have, but it makes us more open to everything that's possible around us. What if all you have asked of yourself you already have: a table full of blessings laid out before you, ready to be tasted?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Have You Lost That Lovin' Feeling?

Out this month, the crazy comedy Couples Retreat (starring Jason Bateman, Vince Vaughn and others) tells the story of four couples who agree to go to a remote island to--they hope--have fun, catch some sun and overindulge. Instead, they're roped into confrontational therapy sessions, trust exercises and yoga classes that bring out the best and worst in all of them. Three of the four couples have gone thinking they're 'fine' and are there to support friends on the brink of divorcing. In the end, they all find out that they each have plenty of issues that need addressing.

I think this is more typical than any of us like to admit. We're in our lives, we're more or less happy and--unless someone asks us to--we're probably not going to change anything or put any additional effort into our relationships and ourselves. But a whole level of awareness, connection and growth is waiting in the wings, ready for us to push to another level, commit to more in our lives and really show up for who we are and want to be.

I wondered watching the movie on vacation in Hawaii--where my husband and I got some much needed time away--how many of us are just in 'okay' relationships with our bodies, accepting that we're kind-of disconnected, a little overweight, struggling with some health issue. Years go by like this; we figure we're too busy and there's too much going on to really do anything. We'll figure that all out and get more connected when we have time.

But our relationships suffer over time from this avoidance, and our relationship to our bodies is no exception. Slowly over time we stop forgetting to check in, stop forgetting how we really feel and what makes us most alive in and appreciative of our physical selves. Tasks take over, we shovel food in on the run, we don't get to exercise. We forget our bodies and ourselves. Like the couples in the movie, we figure we haven't hit a crisis yet and we're doing 'okay,' so we keep going. Like the couples in the movie, sooner or later it catches up with us.

We lose 'that lovin' feeling,' for lack of a better phrase--but who could say it better really? It just feels like it's too much effort to look the subtle malaise in the face. We settle for getting by instead of thriving.

The thing is, in our body relationships as in our relationships with others, it doesn't take something grand to reunite. We don't have to go to an island in the Bahamas and meditate for ten years. But we can make a choice to stop avoiding. We can decide that we're willing to reconnect, to take responsibility for the kind of life and body relationship we want to create. And we can start showing up in the moment with an intention to be present, to be willing to feel, to acknowledge when something is off and do what it takes to make it better.

This is accountability in relationships, and it happens in the moment much more than it happens in big gestures or grand schemes. No relationship on the rocks is truly saved by a trip to a tropical island as much as it's saved by the little sacrifices, the commitment to being in touch with how we feel, the little love note on a pillow. What are the little ways that you can start showing up for the relationship with your body right now rather than ignoring it? What might be different if you committed to really feeling great in your body rather than just 'okay'?

Many of us live for years just like the couples in the movie, putting up with an okay relationship and losing touch with how great it really can feel. If this sounds familiar, ask yourself what you might do differently right now, even if nothing about your life can radically change. You still have to go to work, eat dinner on the run, get up early with the kids. But if all it really takes is a moment, ask yourself: what would romancing your body again look like right now?

Can you decide to listen to it, to hear it when it needs to move, needs to sleep or needs to stop eating? There's nothing sexier than a partner who listens and adores us. What does your body need from you right now that would rekindle the passion in your relationship? Think about it. This is the foundation of the Body Reunion Process and the beginning of a whole new way of being in your body. It doesn't take much more than a shift of acknowledgment and a moment of remembering. You just might move past the seven year itch and into a second honeymoon.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What Reality Do You Create With Your Body?

We live in a world where more and more people are acknowledging that our thoughts can create our reality. New age thinkers urge us to pay attention to the power of our minds to create or uncreate happiness, peace and even wealth. And yet there's one untapped area where thoughts run rampant, where we may not even check ourselves or pay attention: the thoughts we are constantly having about our bodies.

Pay attention to this for a moment, even throughout your day. When you look in the mirror, when your pants don't fit as loosely as they did last week, when you get symptoms of a chronic illness coming back, grapple with a physical limitation or sore back, or even when you notice a wrinkle--what kinds of thoughts are you having toward your body in these moments, if you could turn up the volume on your inner dialogue? The results might surprise you.

'Oh gross.'
'God, I can't stand this.'
'God you can't do anything.'
'Could this pain just go away already?'

There are a couple of reasons why it's important to start paying attention to the inner dialogue. First, because if we take on that your body is something you're in relationship with all the time, this kind of attentiveness to the messages you send it gives you a chance to clean up your act. How do you think your body feels about the kinds of things it's hearing? How would you feel if you were on the other side of these thoughts and feelings?

Second, it's important because if your thoughts do create your reality, you're creating a negative loop you won't get out of. I don't believe that positive change and transformation can ever come from criticism, judgment and blame. We have to change our attitude within the relationship before anything can shift on the outside. In other words, there's no 'there' there. You can't get to the perfect body by constantly abusing and criticizing yourself. You have to take a radical stance to choose love and acceptance now.

This isn't always easy, but it's the work that the Body Reunion Solution advocates. It asks you to become the best person you can in relating to your body--because your body is also you. All the negative messages, the abuse and the criticism also land in the recesses of your heart and soul and create a landscape of blame and conflict inside you that affects--and creates--your life.

Think about it. Really. No pun intended. What reality do you want to be creating for yourself and your body, and what thoughts create that reality? Are you kinder? More at peace? More forgiving? Do you hold the sensations or symptoms in your body as the enemy or as something to work with together and seek to understand? Which stance brings your reality closer to the one you most want?

You'll feel the difference right away in how it feels to be in your body. A kind and supportive voice softens and opens the body, so that your reality literally does change right in front of you. Negative messages often create tightness, shallowness of breath and constriction. As you become aware of the effect your thoughts have on your body, you'll notice immediately--through your body--the effect they have on you.

So see if you can start choosing a different kind of thought. Change, 'Oh my God, gross,' when your jeans don't fit to, 'Hey, I know you're doing the best you can here. Let's work together to keep getting you to a healthy weight.' As you become aware of your thoughts toward your body throughout the day, see if you can change them into more positive and loving ones. Consider, at the end of the day, thanking your body for all it's done for you and see how it responds. Your body lets you know right away what kind of reality you're creating. What reality will you choose to live in today?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is Your Body Seen But Not Heard?

Lauren Greenfield(photo by Lauren Greenfield Alli, Annie, Hannah, and Berit, All 13, before the First Big Party of the Seventh Grade, Edina, Minnesota, 1998. Restricted gift of Anstiss and Ronald Krueck in honor of Renée Harrison Drake, with love and admiration.)

I was sitting around today with a group of wise woman, exploring the relationship we've each had with our bodies. They are therapists, initiated into the worlds of insight and reflection, able to reach back into their experiences and make meaning. Today we talked about the relationship we've had with our bodies as women, how it's changed and what may have changed it.

I've explored this topic repeatedly in my weight loss groups--the messages we receive, the events we move through that change how we relate to our bodies. But today, Kim and Susan talked about that difficult, uncomfortable time we all know as adolescence. Prior to our bodies changing shape before our very eyes, we admitted, we were each aware of them as useful friends, beings that were functional, that allowed us to run and move and experience the world. When puberty hit, they admitted, they began to get a lot of attention. Suddenly they were looked at, examined, seen in a way that they had never been before.

Kim noticed the same thing recently, she said, when she sat in on a high school class and watched the vast differences between two twelve year old girls: one skinny, flat-chested and awkward, and the other tall, curvacious and beautiful. The way they held themselves was different, she noted. The taller, more developed girl was already getting a kind of attention that required her to interact differently in the world, to sense into her boundaries, to make sense of being seen. The other girl was practically invisible. All because of the shape of their bodies.

What happens inside us, we wondered, when the world begins to see our bodies differently--maybe before we even really know them ourselves? What decisions do we begin to make about what our body is or does or can do for us? What we each grieved as we talked further was the shift that happened away from seeing our bodies as useful, functional allies we could do things with to--as the rest of the world reflected--objects that were seen and evaluated.

It's no surprise, when we consider that this experience happens to almost every woman as she begins to develop, that the sense of ourselves and our bodies from the inside out begins to evaporate. You may not even have seen it happen. You just found yourself attending to the body from the outside in: wanting to dress it better, do the right kind of exercise, get to the right weight. A relationship that privileged how you felt in your body slowly begins to give way to one that cares about how your body looks or performs.

This is why reconnecting to our bodies and the relationships with them is not just a healing practice but a radical, revolutionary stance. It says 'no' to a cultural norm that asks us as women to collude with viewing ourselves from the outside. As we choose to look at ourselves through the relationship we have with our bodies, how it feels to be in it, we take back our power. We choose whether or not our body is acceptable to us, not based on what it looks like but instead on whether or not we are in loving relationship with it.

Ask yourself if you've abandoned your body to look at it from the outside and see what it's like to try revisiting a relationship with it instead. Notice what it feels like, what it might be saying to you, what it needs right now. Can you see your body from the inside out? Can you still remember what that feels like?

Think about a time when you were a child, before the awkwardness of puberty hit and remember the things you loved to do and experience with your body. Do you still do any of them now? And if you can't do them, what steps could you take in your life to bring back the qualities of that earlier relationship with your body--one centered on your senses, your body's aliveness and a spirit of exploration? Have a chat with that earlier body and ask it if there's anything it needs from you now that you may have left behind with childhood. Make a list of some ways you might revisit that earlier body and remember a time when your body was heard, and not just seen.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The secret behind 'The Secret': Using Your Body to Create the Life You Want

So what is the secret behind 'The Secret'--the best-seller that tells us we can create the lives we want with our own minds? I think one of the biggest keys to envisioning what we want is being able to EMBODY it. That is, being able to feel and sense it in our bodies as if it's already happened.

When I work with counseling clients, I'll often have them imagine the state they'd like to be feeling once a problem is solved, a relationship healed, peace of mind achieved. There is always a physical component, if you break it down: a body sense of what that state of mind actually feels like. I'll ask: what does your breathing feel like in that new state? Do you feel lighter, clearer? How does your chest feel, your neck, your head, your back?

Once a state of mind can be created through the body, you can return to it again and again by recreating it through these physical components: softening the breath, feeling your chest open and light, imagining your head clear. In a matter of seconds, the state that you most want to achieve is with you. As you practice, the result you most want is being created for you--from the most basic, physical level out into your life.

I had an amazing experience using this technique several years ago. I was in a relationship that was on and off, and struggled with wanting to know where it would go and how it would all turn out. I asked myself what state I most wanted to be feeling at the end of it all, and I realized that no matter how it turned out, what I wanted most was to be at peace.

So I practiced peace: I imagined what peace felt like in my breathing, my thinking, my stomach, my heart. I called in all the physical qualities of peace and began to create them. And whenever my head got crazy with emotion, fear, or wanting to figure it all out--when there was no clear cut answer--I would simply breathe my way back to what peace felt like, affirming that this state was what I wanted to get to. I had no idea how, I just kept creating it in my body.

It was a difficult time. But weeks and months--and a lot of inner and outer work--later, I found myself with the man who would become my husband, feeling exactly the state I had conjured up through my body. I remember it exactly: lying on the couch and realizing that the physical components I had created were just what I was feeling, and that the state I most wanted had found me. Peace now lived in me, just as I had felt it before.

I believe this is possible for all of us, and another way in which our connection to our bodies can change our lives. If you're going through a difficult time, ask yourself what state you'd like to experience on the other side and let yourself create it through your body: what would that state feel like, how would you breathe if you felt it? What would it be like to walk around in that state? Put yourself there, piece by physical piece. And keep creating it whenever other feelings of fear or worry get in the way.

See what happens. With your body as an ally and a co-creator, you just may breathe and feel your way into the life you've always wanted!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What Relationship Do YOU Have With Your Body?

Here's an interesting exercise I do with my clients: take a minute and think about how you would describe your current relationship with your body as if it were a person. Are you friends? Enemies? Strangers? Buddies? Get even more specific if you can. Does it feel like your body is rebelling against you? Or does it feel like a needy child you can never get to? Are you angry at it, something it did or because of weight gain or injury?

Even taking a minute to think about our bodies this way shifts the dynamic away from seeing them as inanimate, lifeless objects and toward a relationship that we also participate in.

Once you have a sense of the kind of relationship you experience with your body, think about the kinds of dynamics that contribute to this relationship--in much the same way you'd evaluate any other relationship. Are you ignoring it? Caught in a negative cycle? Not communicating?

Then ask yourself: if there was one behavior you could change in how you relate to your body right now, what would it be? Would you like to be more loving? Listen more? Be willing to forgive or be forgiven for past experiences?

Like any other relationship, your relationship with your body is constantly alive and shifting. The choices you make moment-to-moment can change everything. Ask yourself what it would feel like to be able to describe your relationship with your body as more of an ally, a friend, a lover. If you had that kind of positive relationship with your body, what else in your life would change as a result?

Here are some specific questions to help you pay attention to how you're interacting in this body relationship, and to further your ability to create something new:

1)What kinds of messages are you sending to your body day-to-day, right now, if you turn the volume up on your thoughts? Are they kind, loving and open or judgmental, attacking, sad or disappointed?

2)If you could change the relationship you're creating with your body by changing the messages you're sending, what kinds of messages would you like to send instead? Write out a few examples of how you would change a negative thought or message into a positive, supportive one.

3)What would your ideal body relationship look like, if you could have it? How are you relating to and thinking about your body? What kind of energy and support do you get from that connection? Take a minute to imagine an ideal picture. What are you doing/feeling/experiencing in and with your body?

4) Notice the qualities in your ideal relationship and see if there's a way to create more of them now. Are you more trusting? Playful? Open? Sometimes just inviting more of those qualities in and beginning to live them can change how you relate to your body right now. Don't wait for some imaginary time in the future to be happier with your body, more at peace or more alive. See what happens if you begin to create those qualities from the inside out, now.

All of these questions can take you for a moment toward the opportunity to shift and heal how you relate to your body. You can do it! You will be amazed at how this not only transforms whatever health or weight challenge you're experiencing, but also opens you to greater and greater layers of who you really want to be in your life. No one wants to waste valuable energy on negative ways of relating and being. Only you have the power to break that pattern and choose a different way.

For more information on doing this work or on the upcoming book, visit or my private practice website at And stay tuned--you can join a FREE teleclass on Connecting to Your Body. The call is Friday, July 31st at 9:30am and is open to all who are interested with no obligation.

Simply go to and sign up in the 'contact me' page, writing in 'signing up for teleclass' in the comments. I will contact you in the upcoming weeks with reminders and the call-in number for the call. You are also welcome to include your own questions or concerns, or anything you'd like discussed on the call. I look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Give and Take of Relationships

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I talk a lot about the importance of connecting to our bodies, simply because being in healthy and connected relationship feels better than being disconnected. We make better choices, feel more integrated, and are better able to come from love rather than fear not only in our physical lives but in the world around us. But it's occurring to me lately that there's a whole other advantage to connecting with our bodies. As we learn to listen better to our bodies, they listen better to us. Connecting to our bodies gives us a voice in what's happening physically so that we can begin to actively participate in our own health.

I had an experience like this several years ago with a client who was preparing for cancer treatment. We'd had a few conversations about the body relationship, so we thought we'd try an experiment. As his upcoming radiation loomed, we decided he should write a letter to his body about it. In the letter he would tell his body what the radiation was for, why he was doing it, and let his body know that it didn't have to fight against what was going to happen. He then pictured himself coming out of the treatment with no side effects--seeing himself in the waiting room following the procedure with an amazing amount of energy and appetite. He was actively communicating with his body to let it know what was about to happen as well as what he wanted the result to be.

I probably don't need to tell you what happened. This client had virtually no side effects: didn't lose weight, didn't lose his hair and didn't lose his appetite. His doctors were stunned. Frankly--because this was early in my bodymind work--I was stunned. But on the deepest level it didn't surprise either of us. We truly believed that having the right relationship with his body through all of this would change everything.

Connection, relationship, gives us endless possibilities that were not available before.
In other words, if you're tired, if you need more energy, or if you have an outcome--such as making it through a surgery successfully or being able to lose weight--that really matters to you, you are now able to work with your body rather than assuming there's nothing you or it can do. You might give your body a picture of the outcome you'd prefer and ask it if it would be willing to work with you to accomplish it. You might be able to let your body know that you're choosing a treatment--such as radiation or chemotherapy--that often has side effects and ask it if it might be willing to let the treatment in without defending against it.

When you learn the tools I teach of communicating with your body, you are not only learning great meditative or relationship tools. You are also gaining tools that move you into new possibilities within your body. Reconnected, you can give and receive information and be open to the healing that can happen as a result. As you continue to evolve in your understanding of your body as a being you're in relationship with, you can begin sharing some of what you'd like it to know about your vision or your desire for healing or wellness. See what comes back. What does your body have to say about this? What might it be willing to do? The results may just surprise you.

Your body has been waiting for you to extend the olive branch, waiting to have the chance to teach you and to listen to your greatest dream of health. You may or may not get an external result that changes everything, as this client did. But I believe that what you will always get--when you have the courage to communicate what you want--is useful insight from your body that will guide you toward your best and healthiest self.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Connecting to Our Bodies As a Spiritual Practice?

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Okay, the thing is--the more I keep exploring how to reconnect to my body and teach other people about it, the more I realize how significant this work is, on so many levels. We are a culture addicted to multi-tasking, blackberries and to-do lists. We live mostly in our heads and many of us are going a mile-a-minute. Heck, I don't even know if that's considered FAST anymore?!

As we begin to pay attention to our bodies--how we feel about them, what they need, what they might be saying to us--we actually get called to be slower, more conscious and more deliberate. If we're hungry we might eat. If we're tired, we could take a nap. If we're restless we might exercise. Most of the time we have no idea that any of these things are true, or which is which. In our multi-tasking world our tasks all get mushed together!

Reconnecting to the body asks us to be more precise and more present. What a hassle! you argue.
No, it's a gift. I'm beginning to think that this is what we have bodies for, that there's something simple, profound and even spiritual about beginning to reconnect.

If we think of our bodies as living, breathing things instead of objects to be controlled, our whole worldview changes. Something softens. We become more alive to our senses and our moment-to-moment awarenesses. Trust me, it's a really natural high.

I encourage you, no matter what you're struggling with--whether it's a health issue or a weight issue or just general discomfort and judgment around your body: take a minute. Slow down. Listen. Think of your body as if it were a person you're relating to and see how it feels right now. Get curious about whether or not it needs or wants anything from you. What would it mean if you listened?

I spent years dieting, running around, trying to 'do' all the things I thought I was supposed to do to lose weight. I (I'm not kidding) went to the gym three hours a day, tried all kinds of diets and fasts and ended up miserable and no skinnier. Somewhere in all of that I realized I had completely stopped listening to or loving my body. I had stepped out altogether and was trying to run my body like a well-organized to-do list.

What didn't work was that I didn't sleep when I was tired, didn't eat when I was hungry. I had no idea when any of these things were even going on. When I started to listen, I actually did things that were in sync with my body. If I listened, sometimes what I most wanted when I reached for a cookie was a good cry. Or a nap. Or a chance to reach out to a friend.

As I started to listen, I started to lose weight: not because I was trying but because I was at peace and in alignment with the moment. I didn't need, literally, to carry any extra baggage around. I was totally present to right now.
I'm no genius, but it makes sense. And it can make sense for you too.

As I run my weight loss groups and workshops for people with health issues ( I realize more and more that the gift of the problems we have with our bodies--yes, I said 'gift'-- is that they actually call us into relationship, into the now, into listening to what's really going on. That's a spiritual path of the highest order, whether we like it or not. Consider yourself a body monk. And start listening. As you get called into the present moment where your body lives, your whole life just might change.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Battle of the Scale

Here is a classic example of how we give away our power. I'm listening to my body, exercising regularly, feeling great, alive and energized. I then go to a doctor's appointment, step on the scale--I haven't stepped on a scale in atleast six months--and the nurse adjusts, adjusts, adjusts. The number in front of me, finally, is eight pounds higher than it was the last time. Eight pounds.

For days, I can't stop thinking about those eight pounds. I wonder what I did wrong, what I'm doing wrong, how I could have been so wrong. I basically do a complete head trip on myself and my body, completely abandoning this wonderful relationship I had going on. In the end, the power of that number takes over.

How many times does this happen to us, on so many levels in our lives? The external measurement and its adequacy or inadequacy completely decimates any personal process or progress we were making. As the panic increased, I made all kinds of decisions about what kind of person I was, about my body, about my choices. Despite the fact that I was feeling healthy and happy before this happened, I allowed myself to be changed completely by a number.

It was a real wakeup call for me of what an ongoing journey it is to stay in touch with our bodies and our relationship to them without being distracted away by our judgments, the external picture, or the number on a scale. To honor our relationships and how it feels to be in our bodies FIRST is radical behavior. It's countercultural.

When I do weightloss workshops using the principles of BodyReunion work, this is just the kind of relationship we're invoking. Rather than focusing on how much you weigh or what things look like on the outside, you're asked to deeply examine how you feel in your body, the kinds of messages you send it, and what kind of relationship it feels like to you: a lover, a child, a friend? Or someone who's betrayed you? As we begin to repair the ways that we are with our bodies, we repair--on the deepest and most lasting level--our habits, our choices. We begin to participate in a relationship with our bodies that helps us make kinder, healthier choices on into the future.

So imagine my humility, knowing all this, to be thrown by a number on a scale. I realize the power of all that old thinking and judgment, that would have me abandon my body, criticize it, want it to be different and not trust it to show me what it wants and needs. The way that number caught my breath and shot me into that cycle of self-flagellation is amazing to me. If I'm doing it, with all my years of looking at that stuff, I'm sure we all do. How do we stop?

It's important to stop, because that cycle of self-judgment just takes us further out of our power and our choice. It makes us feel like we've done something wrong and can't be trusted. I found myself wanting to eat more, be less in touch with myself. I felt like a child who had been yelled at but hadn't done anything wrong: ashamed, confused, acting out. I recognize that every time this happens, I can make a different choice. I want to find a way to do that especially now, so that I can share it with other people. Here are some thoughts about breaking the cycle:

1)Ask yourself what's really important. Remember that what you most want is a peaceful and kind relationship with your body. No matter what it looks like right now, or what the number is on the scale, you can trust that this peace is both what you want in the moment and what you will want in the end.

2)Dialogue with your body. Check in with your body and ask it--rather than relying on the scale like a fortune teller to give you your answer--if it feels okay right now, if it needs anything from you. Does it feel like you're eating too much, ignoring it, not listening? Pay attention to what you hear.

3)Be willing to trust what you hear. It may feel like a leap of faith, but the information you get is the information you need. Trust that if your body is at peace, it's okay to be exactly where you are. If your body does have something to say about your relationship, then listen to that. Maybe you've stopped paying as much attention to when it's full. Maybe you've been pushing it too hard to exercise when it's tired. Trust that you'll keep listening and asking, and as long as you do that you are doing the best you can to take care of your body now and in the future. Make the adjustments you need to make as you listen.

4)Reconnect. Apologize to yourself and your body for getting scared. Be transparent about what triggers you, and how easy it is to get worried about a number as a sign of your progress. Say what you need to say to reestablish the relationship and choose it above the number.

5) Let go of the fear. Ask yourself what it would take to let go of the fear of that external evaluation and choose a loving relationship instead. Know that this takes work and courage. Know that you can do it.

You are the only one who has the ultimate power around your body relationship: how you respond to it, how you feel in it, what you're doing with it. Don't let a number take you off course. Don't let someone or something else tell you whether your body is okay.

Take a deep breath (I'm taking one now). How many times has this happened? How can you use this process to assure yourself that it doesn't need to happen again?
As I write these words, I feel and know this experience so intimately. We never stop learning the power of returning to and choosing ourselves.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Our Bodies ARE Ourselves

Our Bodies, Ourselves: A Book by and for Women (Touchstone Books)

Remember that women's book from the 70's called Our Bodies, Ourselves? I think it's now in multiple editions. It's still a resource for information about birth control, female anatomy and even emotions, hormones, women's rights. I'm writing about it today because the title really says something I've thought to be true for a long time: our bodies ARE ourselves. How we relate to them, treat them and even think about them affects us and shapes us. And yet most of us treat them as objects, to be whipped into submission. We want to get them into the best shape possible, push them to do the best work possible, or drive them around, travel them around, sleep them around. Our bodies quietly accompany us in our lives while we do all these things. Most of the time they don't say a word.

But sometimes they do. They may show up from the silence in the form of a disease that no one can diagnose; or those extra ten pounds that don't seem to go anywhere; or the fact that we can't orgasm when we want to. Our bodies don't lie. After awhile, when we don't listen, they begin to get more clever about trying to communicate. They begin to inconvenience us.

I write this because I think acknowledging and working with our bodies before they get to this point is essential. I'm writing and creating this blog because I believe there's another way. The new road is one of listening to and respecting our bodies as the living, breathing beings they are. As we become conscious of the relationship we're already participating in with our bodies, healing on all kinds of levels becomes possible: the undoing of disease, letting go of weight and even gaining of energy.

I'll share with you my thoughts and stories, and I welcome yours.