Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The "Magic" of the Holidays

(image taken from http://www.layoutsparks.com/1/187496/winter-wonderland-christmas-tree.html)

When I was in college I went through a phase with my body where I had what you'd call a bit of 'magical' thinking. It wasn't that I was totally off my rocker, but I wanted to be able to eat whatever I wanted (a.k.a junk food) and not have there be any consequences. I was curious how much of my weight I could control with my thoughts, and not the physical consequences of the food. If I loved myself enough and sent loving thoughts to what I ate, would that transform it?

I've often heard my clients say how unfair it is that some people seem to be able to eat whatever they want, while instead they toil and experience weight gain, discomfort. I felt the same way. I wanted my body to magically be able to take in whatever I was giving it and just 'be' the weight I wanted it to.

The holidays too are a time that bring up the childlike longing for magic, for things to just turn out the way we want them to. Wasn't it nice as children to make list of the gifts we wanted and see them appear under the tree or on one night of Hanukkah? As we get older we realize that we are the creators of the magic, the buyers and wrappers of the gifts that somehow 'appeared.' We bake the fruitcake and make the holiday dinners. We begin to realize that that the magic is also created by us. It's much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz pulling aside the curtain to realize that the being she had put on such a pedestal was just a human being not so different from her.

It's a sobering realization, but also an important one when it comes to how we view our bodies. We need to find the right balance between the 'magic' that our love and consciousness can create and the very concrete ways that we can love and care for ourselves, take responsibility for our health, in the physical world. Love does heal all; but that doesn't give us the excuse to behave irresponsibly. We need to find the ways that love can come through our actions, and encourage us to create the body and the world we most dream of.

A client recently observed that when she was younger there was a feeling of seeing what she could 'get' from her body--just as we greedily make our lists for Santa and rummage under the tree. As she gets older, she realizes it's also about what she can give to her body, humbly and with gratitude, for all it does for her. It's a different way of living in our lives, to become the adults who can give as well as take, who can responsibly create the magic as well as revel in it.

This year, as the holiday comes to a close, see if you can find the balance, embrace the way of living that lets you be both a child and a kind and loving parent to yourself and your body. Watch for the part of you that wants your body to just 'take it'--whatever junk you have to throw at it--and still show up healthy and alive. And also watch for the part of you that's willing to do the work with your body of creating what feels better and makes you healthier. How do you embrace the magic and consciously and responsibly create it, all at the same time?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Bodies And the Path of Least Resistance

(Image taken from: randomfartings.blogspot.com)

Our bodies are constantly doing so many things we take for granted: breathing, detoxing, digesting, pumping blood through us.
It's awe-inspiring to stop for a moment and even consider what's happening inside us all the time. There are so many things we can criticize ourselves (and our bodies) for that sometimes it's important to stop and think about all the things that are happening automatically, without our having to make anything happen at all.

This holiday season, when the to-do lists mount and you are scrambling to parties or wrapping gifts, hosting family, baking or cooking, it might be interesting to ask yourself what the things are that you do without even thinking about them? Do you listen simply because you find other people fascinating? Have you always loved telling jokes? Do you have a knack for bringing people together?

It's so easy to push ourselves and our bodies hard to reach the goals we set, only to forget that there are certain basic things we are and do without even trying. What did your partner love about you when he or she first met you? What shines through even in the worst of times when things seem beyond your control?

One of the gifts of this holiday time, linked as it is to the winter solstice, is to see the light in the darkness, to recognize that the hardest part of winter is coming to an end and the light of a new season is coming. It's a time for inspiration, reflection, and for letting in new insights and ideas. We come out of darkness and into a different way of seeing.

Take a moment, through this metaphor of the body, to think about all that you bring to your life involuntarily--as easily as breath or pulse. If it's been awhile since you got in touch with those parts of yourself, give them some room for expression. Let them remind you that you have innate value, whether you are pushing yourself or not.

Do you like to move, laugh, reach out to others?

Our bodies teach us a lesson by doing certain things without our having to manipulate or force them. We need to remember that there are ways we have of being that are easy for us also, paths of least resistance. As we find and allow them, our lives can flow more effortlessly. That's good for all of us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Resolution to Choose Love

(Image from: korinakaycarlson.blogspot.com)

Our culture gives us so many ideas of how we're supposed to be: look a certain way, act a certain way, make a certain amount of money. Of course our bodies bear the brunt of that as well, and we can drive ourselves crazy constantly analyzing whether or not they are fitting the mold the way they 'should' be. I've worked with many clients who are genuinely in pain around that question, always feeling like they don't measure up.

I reached a crossroads in my own life not long ago of feeling like I'd had it with the constantly critical voices in my head, badgering me and telling me what I needed to be like or look like. I realized I was never going to get to loving my body except by choosing to be loving right now. There was no amount of change that was ever going to free me from the negative feelings except deciding to no longer let them in, to be accountable and compassionate to my body and love it right now.

In a sense, that moment was about choosing love for its own sake--not because it makes sense, or because the world (or your body) has proven something to you, given you your dream, but because love itself is a better state of being to be in than hate, loathing and fear. And love, compassion, self-care, kindness beget more of the same. Choosing love meant my life got to change right now. And it was up to me, not anything outside of me. Learning to love my body meant that I could make choices that were healthy out of love and not out of judgment or fear.

I realize now, years later, that this work about the body has really been work about life, too. We are about to enter a season--that sparkling holiday time--when many people choose to be giving, loving, and compassionate just because. I walked into an office I do corporate work with recently and saw a pile of toys practically up to the ceiling for their holiday toy drive. My husband spent last Friday evening with a local charity packing up boxes and boxes of food to be given out over the holidays.

The question that always seems to linger after the holidays is 'why don't we do this all the time?' What would it take to be that kind, that generous, that compassionate even when it's not 'the most wonderful time of the year'? Do we need a reason?

Marci Shimoff wrote a great book called Happy For No Reason and followed it up with another book called Love For No Reason, in which she argues for the benefits of choosing love. Love feels better. Love increases our energy and vitality rather than decreasing it. Love gives to the world rather than deciding it's not enough.

I ask you this holiday season to consider how you might choose love in your body relationship not based on weight or fitness goals but just because it feels better to be in love. Then see if you can make that your New Year's resolution, and not just a number on a scale. What would it be like if you chose to live this year in love and compassion for all your body does? How would your body feel if you finally--without needing a reason or season--chose love? And isn't that what we've all been waiting for, to know that we're loved just as we are right now?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Secret Truths Your Body Holds

Do you know when you've stepped into something that doesn't feel right? Maybe someone is taking advantage of you and you get a weird feeling in your gut. You feel like you 'should' want to spend time with them, but when you try to make plans something more visceral stops you, as if your body knows something your mind doesn't.

The truth is, I think it does.

Our bodies carry memories, truths and feelings we've long since wished we could forget about, and they call us to resolve them, to move more fully into our lives.

A client I'm working with now, for example, would love to believe he's 'done' with an old love, a relationship that ended five years ago. But he keeps noticing that something is holding him back from forming new relationships. He's always comparing current potential partners to that relationship from way back when.

When I ask him if his body is carrying any reminders of that love, he's able to isolate a whole area in his heart and moving back to his shoulder where he actually feels heartache. When we move more fully into the sensation, it's clear that even if my client would love to believe he's done enough work to let the old relationship go, his body knows otherwise. There's something more there to be understood.

So we begin the unpacking: if your body could speak to you from this sensation, what would it want you to know? What is it feeling? As we begin to explore, we realize that what's coming up for him through the disappointment of this relationship is old: a familiar feeling from childhood of being let down again and again by his mother. His body has been holding this feeling in order to give him the opportunity to work through primitive patterns around being let down, learning to love himself even when others can't or won't give him what he wants or needs. Though it seems attached to one more recent story, his body is holding a whole pathway of healing for him, down to his deepest core.

Another client, an older woman in her 60's, tells me her parents survived some intense torture in Communist Russia but that no one has ever talked about it. She wonders why she's having regular panic attacks as she nears the age that her parents were before they escaped. Together we see where in the body the sensations are living that create the panic: what is her breathing like when she's sitting still? What does her anxiety feel like in her body before it gets big and overwhelming? Behind the panic attacks, in the pushing through of sensation in her body, is my client's scared self, the child who had lots of questions that never got answered. She begins to voice those fears and we find ways to help her feel safe inside, even in an unsafe, unpredictable world.

Your body's messages may surprise you. It may look as though you've put something behind you, but your body may still be carrying pieces of it, pieces that make themselves known when you are still, or when something else triggers that place inside of you. Sometimes we even carry unfinished stories from our families that need to be completed somehow, through us. It's as if the body knows what your soul work is and reflects it back to you in sensations, tightnesses or symptoms until you find it. Even illness can have its messages to convey.

Today, scan your body for any places that feel uncomfortable or tight and ask yourself if there's a story living there that you've put away. Even if it doesn't make sense to your mind, try going into the sensations and see what they're doing there, what they want you to know. First explore the physical sensations: what am I feeling? Where? What is the quality of the sensation? Then see if there's a feeling attached to it: sadness, anger, shock. Finally, ask yourself: if that feeling could speak a message to you, what would it say?

We learn very early on how to move with our bodies in the world. As babies they are our first contact with our own sensations, the vehicle through which we discover life. As we get older, we begin to privilege our mind and all the stories it tells us. But still on a basic level, the body is the final and most basic frontier of how we take in and process our lives.

What story does your body tell you that you might need to revisit? Can you make time to explore what's unspoken, the truth that your body won't let you forget?