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Are You Carrying a Grudge…Against Yourself?

3 Nov

“Your capacity for salvation lies in your ability to forgive” Marianne Williamson

How many times have you laid awake at night beating yourself up for something you did “wrong” during the day? Did you somehow let yourself down by messing up at work, forgetting to do something, not being productive enough, etc.? The critic in my head likes to remind me at the end of each day how I didn’t eat healthy enough or exercise as much as I should have. It likes to remind me that I didn’t do enough work, didn’t spend my time as wisely or efficiently as I needed to. It basically likes to remind me that no matter what I do, I will never be enough.

But through a lot of work, self-study and sheer Grace, I have been able to acknowledge that my pattern of thinking is habitual and conditioned, but it is not who I am. It is a voice inside my head that for many, many years has had a lot of beef with me. I have held a grudge against myself for a long damn time and I am slowly starting undo what has been done by learning to forgive myself.

Being the proud owner of a grudge against another person is like carrying a bowling ball around in the pit of your stomach. It weighs you down, drains your energy and makes your world often seem very small. Now imagine holding that grudge against yourself. The weight can become unbearable, impossible to carry so we try to lighten it by “correcting” our behavior.

When I was a teenager I acted out in ways that I am not entirely proud of. I did drugs, skipped school, even spent a month in rehab. I had an eating disorder, sometimes cut myself and was simply angry and miserable all the time. I was angry at the world for not understanding me but even more so, I was angry at myself for not fitting in, not being normal. At about 17 years-old I straightened out, went to college, made good, healthy friends and even had a clean-cut boyfriend. I graduated on time with good grades and without much drama. I figured I atoned for my bad behavior as a teen, and went along on my merry way into adulthood.

Fast forward a little over ten years and that clean cut boyfriend and I were getting divorced and suddenly memories from my teen years kept creeping into my consciousness. Not only did I feel horrible about myself because I was getting divorced, I also felt like I was a horrible person for all the pain I caused myself and my family as a teenager. I felt like a failure, like I couldn’t keep it together if I tried. The fact is, I had never forgiven myself. And I was still carrying around that bowling ball, and it was only getting heavier.

But something miraculous happened as I fought with the demons of my past while I struggled to stay sane in the present. I decided to forgive myself. I decided to have a talk with the frightened, angry teenage girl who at the time was also a frightened, angry woman and tell her everything she did during that time was okay. Yeah, I fucked up, but so what? Everyone does. And as a matter of fact, better that I went through that confused, rebellious stage as an adolescent rather than an adult where I would have to pick up all of the pieces on my own. I looked my mistakes straight in the face with as much truth and honesty as I could summon, and chose to forgive.

Are you holding on to something you did in the past that is weighing you down and keeping you from living fully? Are you so ashamed of something you have done that you are struggling to live wholly, freely loving yourself and others in a way that is your birthright? We all make mistakes, we have all done something we are not proud of. It is a universal truth. Your shame and inability to forgive yourself can be healed if you face what it is you are ashamed of, be honest about what you have done and tell yourself:

Hey. I am worth it. I deserve freedom. No being deserves to suffer at their own hands. I LOVE MYSELF and I FORGIVE MYSELF. It is a disservice to me and to my loved ones to carry this grudge around. It is time to shed my layers of resentment and let go. I am more than worth it.

As one of my favorite (anonymous) quotes goes,

“You can’t undo anything you’ve already done, but you can face up to it.  You can tell the truth. You can seek forgiveness. And let God do the rest.”

As I look back now, what I felt was my shameful, awful past doesn’t look so bad anymore. In fact, I don’t regret one painful moment or one “bad” choice I made because without them, I would not be where I am today. While healing from my divorce I took a yoga workshop with Seane Corn and the most profound lesson I took away from that week was that no matter what has happened to you in your life, what choices you have made, what pain you have experienced: you are exactly where you are meant to be. So just hang on and cut yourself some slack.

So as you lay awake at night with that big bowling ball in your gut, just repeat this mantra to yourself and see if you wake up feeling a little lighter:

I FORGIVE. I FORGIVE. I FORGIVE.

Word of the Day: Frustrated!

4 Oct

A fun and new feature to my blog called, “Word of the Week” is in presently in the works, but as I sat down to finish up the post I started, I lost it.  I threw up my hands, slammed my computer shut and stomped out of the room.

Screw the Word of the Week (which was intended to inspire and provoke warm-fuzzy feelings), I have a word of the day: FRUSTRATED. Over the last week, my back injury has taken a turn from the worse. My pain, which had become very manageable – to the point where I was beginning to run and practice yoga again – came back with a vengeance. Sleeping, sitting, riding in the car, bending over…forget about it, these things have become my worst nightmares. I have spent every night this past week sobbing in bed, chewing pain killers like candy and praying to God to make the pain go away.

I have an extruded disc (the soft, gel-like pads that cushion the vertebrae) at my L4/L5 vertebrae that is pressing down on multiple nerve roots along my spinal column. Sounds gross because it is. I told my boyfriend the other night I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy, it’s that bad. I have been in so much pain and so irate about it that Asking the Universe to feel better sounded like a cruel joke. Who the hell was that naive, clueless person who wrote that post last week? Not me, that’s for sure!

As a yogi, I have often believed that being pissed off, irate and generally unhappy about something is spiritually immature, like a two-year old having a tantrum. I figured that if I maintained a positive attitude, took perspective and was grateful for all of my blessings, then riding the wave of this injury would be a piece of cake. I mean, would the Buddha piss and moan about a herniated disc when there are millions of others suffering and in need of compassion? Would Jesus sit around and feel sorry for himself, sob and cry all night and lament that His life was over? I mean, I’m a yoga teacher for godssakes, I’ve been through WAY WORSE, why is this so devastating?

The more I’ve sat with this, I’ve realized that the one who needs compassion is me. I fought hard to never feel or act like a victim this summer when I had a debilitating back injury…then got in a car accident that miraculously didn’t kill me or my boyfriend…then watched my father get very sick and spend weeks recovering in the hospital. It was a SHITTY SUMMER. There, I said it. I refused to say it because I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was going through another hard time in my life because (tantrum time) it’s not fair, damn it! But the big breakdowns, the hours of tears over the last several nights have more to do with just the physical pain that I am in. They happened because I am tired of being tough, tired of pretending that everything is okay, and tired of completely minimizing my own suffering.

Once I acknowledged this, once I gave myself the freedom to actually feel like shit, cry in front of my friends and family and even hash this out on my blog, I’ve noticed that my physical pain has lessened. Maybe it’s the Percocet, or maybe it’s the forgiveness I am offering myself. It’s actually okay to feel sorry for yourself. It’s okay to stay in bed, need your mom and take pain medication when you hurt. It’s okay to not have a vigorous yoga practice or be training for a marathon. Once your health is being jeopardized, it’s hard to think of anything else, and what I have realized is that the way I treat my body is related to the way I see myself in this world. Being kind and gentle with one’s body, holding it safely and honoring it for the sacred package that it is, is one of the biggest responaibilities we have on this earth. This injury plus, my terrifying car accident and my father’s illness put a big, fat blinking MORTALITY sign in my face, and I did not like what I saw. But by being with the pain, both emotionally and physically, I am starting to see that the healing process has a light at the end of the tunnel.

I am most likely getting surgery, all of this acceptance of my pain has not changed that fact (shoot!), but I am approaching it differently now. Rather than feeling like a failure for not getting better with alternative treatments, visualization, positive affirmations, massage/acupuncture and the rest of the gamut, I realized that suffering daily with back pain for months on end is what’s spiritually immature. Loving myself, accepting that I am human and that I am hurting and need help are what I need in my life, and listening to what I truly need might be one of the most spiritually evolved practices I can do.

How To Ask the Universe for What You Want

24 Sep

Last night I was talking with my boyfriend about ideas for today’s blog, and when I told him my idea he asked me what the hell I think I am–a yoga teacher or a guru? Now, I’m not a claiming to be a self-help guru, but I am most certainly a yoga teacher and throughout my years of practice I have discovered that yoga goes much deeper than physical poses. Yoga touches us physically, emotionally and spiritually. At the core of yoga it’s about uniting with the Divine, which results in living our most fulfilled, authentic and purposeful lives. So no, I ain’t no guru but I think it’s best to teach what we know, and I know that asking the Universe for what we really, truly want works. It’s not hocus pocus, it’s not magic, it is real and it works, and I’m going to tell you how. Read on, skeptics, read on.

Like many of us, there was a time in my life when I was just chugging along, struggling to even get through the day, oftentimes asking myself,”Will I ever be happy? Is this all there is?” I was bored, directionless and sad. But under that malcontent was a budding seed of awareness that was guiding me to my new life. I was practicing yoga daily, meditating and delving deeply into my spiritual practice. At the beginning of most yoga classes I took, the teacher had us sit down, get quiet and set our intention for our practice. Because I was so unhappy, the only thing that ever came to mind was “I want to be happy so bad“. When you set that seed of intention over and over again, even if it’s somewhat vague, the Universe listens. “Okay, so you want to be happy?”, the Universe asks. “Are you ready to make some serious changes? Ask and you will receive.” Fast forward a year and a half, and I can honestly say that I am happier than I have ever been. No, it didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t smooth sailing to get here, but I never gave up hope that I would and could be happy again, and slowly but surely I realized that that something bigger, something more powerful than myself was supporting me in my intention for happiness.

Maybe there is something very specific you have in mind that you want to ask for. It could be something as major as healing from a major illness, or something less serious, like better abs. The Universe listens when your intentions are clear, earnest and humble. I’m not sure the Universe will conspire to get you a Ferrari, but if somehow that Ferrari will serve the greater good then ya never know.

So how do you ask the Universe for what you want? First of all, you need to believe that you deserve what you want. Sounds simple, but when you take a deep, hard look at yourself you may find that you don’t believe you are worthy or deserving of what you desire. Many of us think it is selfish to want, that it is somehow narcissistic to crave happiness and fulfillment or even having our basic needs met. But I say that is B.S. What’s selfish is being miserable. Your misery and feelings of worthlessness leak into your work, relationships and the rest of your life, making other people around feel like crap.

Here are some steps in asking the Universe for what you want:

1. Get quiet. Find a place in your home or in nature where you will be undisturbed for at least 20 minutes, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Envision yourself happy, joyful and filled with purpose. What are you doing? Who is around you? Spenda good five minutes envisioning this scenario.

2. Write down in a journal what you saw, what you were doing and who you were with. Maybe you saw yourself writing that novel you’ve been dreaming about but telling yourself you’ll never have the time/resources/talent to do. Maybe you saw yourself blissfully in love with an “imaginary” partner. Write it down, describe that person. Describe their looks, their personality, their voice, etc. Be very specific, the Universe likes specificity. Remember though, even if what you want is vague the Universe can definitely work with that, it just might take a little more time.

3. Sit or kneel with your hands in the universal gesture of asking, with palms upturned. Your hands can be on your lap or even up in the air. I like this gesture, it symbolizes humility and reverence. When asking the Universe remember this is not a demand, it is a request. The more humble, the better. So go ahead, ask. Say it out loud. Don’t be shy, the more you speak it, the more real it becomes.

4. Once you are done asking it is time to listen. So again, get quiet and still and just listen. You may feel completely ridiculous and you may not hear a thing, but listen all the same. Chances are the booming voice of God isn’t going to come through your stereo speakers (I think that would scare the shit out of me anyway). It will probably be much more subtle, like a flash of insight, a feeling of deep knowing, or profound inspiration. Or you might not feel a damn thing but hey, you tried. And keep trying, perservere and you might be very surprised.

5. Repeat as necessary.

This is a starting place, and just like any new skill it gets easier with practice. Before you know it you’ll be asking the Universe for things left and right, and that’s when beautiful things begin to happen. By this I mean you begin to let go of control and trust that the Universe has your best interest in mind. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “When you make a decision, the Universe conspires to make it happen.” You are a co-creator with the Universe, and it is up to you to make the decision of what is is you want, and the Universe is gonna do whatever it can to help you out. Believe you deserve it (you do), be clear in your intentions, and then trust and let go. And when you do, what you thought was impossible becomes possible and real miracles occur.

Lose Weight with Yoga: 7 Brilliant Ways to Help You Do It.

8 Aug

Weight loss huh? Bet that title grabbed your attention. Google the phrase “weight loss” and you’ll see about 275 million results. We live in a country where one out of three people are obese, yet we are more concerned with weight loss and dieting than we have ever been before. There’s a disconnection present, a preoccupation people have with what they should look like over a holistic approach to health. This, I believe, is where yoga comes in. The literal translation of the word yoga is “to yolk,” or to unite, and refers to the uniting of mind, body and spirit. What makes yoga different from any other form of diet and exercise is that it’s not JUST about calories or JUST about exercise, it’s about looking at the self as a whole, and achieving vibrant and lasting health from there.

I’ll admit it, I have been dieting since I was eleven years old. I’ve seen the scale go up and down more times than the stock market, sometimes as dramatically as 40lbs in one year. But every time that scale has crept up, I can honestly say that weight gain was not a result of simple mathematics. It wasn’t that I was eating fast food every night and playing video games all day; something in my life was very out of balance and for me, weight gain was the result. Now, it’s not that I have cracked the code to a life of model-skinny weight and Madonna’s biceps, but I have found that my yoga practice has led me to a place of a healthy weight and a kind of radical self acceptance that crash dieting, starvation or excessive exercise never could have.

How, do you ask? Here are seven ways that yoga can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight:

1. Mindfulness. Yoga promotes it. A yoga practice of asana (poses), pranayama (breath work) and meditation encourages a mindful relationship with the present moment, and helps to create a bit of space between the obsessive thoughts in our minds that often lead to overeating or choosing less wholesome foods. And let’s be honest: you are what you eat. Do you want to be a Ho-Ho or piece of fresh fruit? The mindfulness you cultivate in your yoga practice allows you to make wiser food choices, which in the long run promote weight loss. And  like my friend and Personal Trainer Breanne Curran always says, “you can’t out-train a crappy diet.”

2. Inward Reflection. The more you practice yoga, the more inward your focus becomes and the more self-awareness you develop. You will never lose weight and keep it off long term if you don’t acknowledge what led you to gain in the first place. Most people want a quick fix, to see the numbers drop without any real introspection and work. But as I have found for myself and many others stuggling with weight is that we gained the weight for a reason that goes beyond eating too much and not exercising enough, and if we don’t get to the root of why, we’ll be prisoners of the cycle forever.

3. Self-Acceptance. The biggest killer of any weight loss attempt is self-loathing, criticism and neglect. One of the most prominent messages in yoga is compassion, and as anyone with a spiritual practice knows, you cannot extend compassion to others if you don’t first extend it to yourself. With compassion comes forgiveness, and in order to lose weight you have to be able to forgive yourself for your mistakes in order to move on. If you expect your weight loss journey to go off without a hitch, perfectly according to plan you will set yourself up for disaster. But if you are able to view a setback or slip up with compassion and self-acceptance, you are much more likely to keep going and succeed.

4. Body Awareness. For many years, my body was just a vehicle to transport my head around, I had very little awareness of it otherwise and if I did, I was aware that I didn’t like how it looked. But with yoga I have been able to get quiet, tune into my breath and feel and experience the amazing organism that is my body and as a result, have learned to appreciate it much more. Now I know what hunger really feels like and am able to discern whether I am hungry for food or (insert love, entertainment, a xanax, etc). And the other amazing thing about this newfound awareness is that I am able to discern how I feel after eating certain foods, so I choose foods that help me feel energized, light and alive.

5. Impermanence. One of the biggest obstacles in my own journey has been lamenting and attaching to the “skinny” Meghan. If only I could fit into my skinny jeans or look as good in a bikini as I used to, then I would be content. Um, flashback to 21 year-old Meghan…I wasn’t content! I thought I was fat! Hello! Trying to return to an old version of yourself is the most counter-productive thing on earth, and you will never, ever be satisfied. In yoga we talk about impermanence often, how life is like a river, always moving and changing  and not staying the same for long. If we cling to ideas of returning to an old weight or freak out if the scale hasn’t budged in a few weeks, we have to just face one of the most basic and fundamental truths of our existence: nothing lasts, everything changes and life keeps moving whether we want it to or not. So rather than giving up if you aren’t the weight you once were or things are happening fast enough, remember that change is inevitable and positive change is always in your hands.

6. Ayurveda. Ayurveda is the sister-science of yoga and has been around just as long (like, 3,000 years). I’m not going to wax expert on Ayurveda at all, but I will tell you that we are all made up of the same stuff the Universe is made of, and the Universe does a pretty darn good job at balancing itself out without us mucking it up. And when we do muck it up, we have an over-abundance of some stuff we don’t want (aka excessive natural disasters=excessive junk in the trunk). So in Ayurveda we each have a specific constitution or dosha, and the philosophy is that when our dosha is imbalanced, one of the results is weight gain. You can take a quiz here to discover your dosha and get suggestions on how to balance it out. I’m usually very Kapha dominant, and when I eat according to my dosha, I feel pretty darn good.

7. Increased Metabolism. Okay, exercise does help you lose weight and since the physical portion of yoga IS exercise, it can most definitely help you slim down. What I found for myself is that a yoga practice just challenging enough to make me sweat and push my edge is what I need to see results, especially when I combine yoga with other physical activities like running, cycling and hiking. Now, my edge may be different from your edge, and that is why yoga is so great–one size doesn’t have to fit all. But I do recommend sweating. You will stoke your internal fire (tapas) and in turn up the calorie burning potential of your metabolism. Add that to mindful eating, self inquiry, compassion and food and lifestyle changes tailored to your specific constitution, you will be on the road to long term weight loss success!