The Skin You’re In

The relationship I developed with my body as a young girl was confusing and tumultuous at best; appalling and shameful at worst. It all started out well enough. I didn’t even consider gender or body image or definitions of ‘good or bad’ when it came to my own form until I was about eight years old, and then one day, I looked down at my bare thighs spread wide against the seat of the car and gasped at how…big they looked. I vowed never to allow my thighs to rest against the seat like that again; instead, I would delicately sit with my thighs elevated above the seat just enough so the flesh could hang off my bones, and maintain the slim appearance that I considered acceptable. I have no idea why I considered slim to be more acceptable. Maybe I had fallen victim to the media that surrounded me; maybe I had overheard negative remarks at school; maybe it’s because I didn’t want to take up so much space….who knows how it started. It just did.

This skin I’m living in has been through a lot, and it’s likely that the skin you’re living in has been through a lot, too.

It has likely been stretched, pulled, belittled, reprimanded, ridiculed, covered, shamed, ashamed, disregarded, used, abused…sometimes perhaps by others, sometimes perhaps by you.

And yet…it survives, thrives, rejoices, celebrates, dances, moves, holds, beholds, and most importantly, loves.

And I don’t know why we, as a society don’t talk about the beautiful parts of ourselves, as if it is shameful to even admit that you’re okay with how you look and okay with who you are, but I hope that the conversation might change—that we might not only talk about being okay with who we are as individuals, but to celebrate acceptance, innate beauty and the unique differences that make you, you.

Even as I write, I find a bit of hesitation to admit it—but I can finally say that I love the skin I’m in.

I love the bumps, lumps, lines and wrinkles.
I love the parts that change and the parts that stay the same.
I love that my hands look like my Grandmother’s and my nose looks like my Dad’s.
I love that there is an old photo of my Mother that could be me.
I love that there is herstory and history in my bones; and that I carry the stardust of my ancestors beneath my skin.

I love that I can finally look in the mirror and smile instead of scowl at what I see.

This love did not come through external influences;
There have been no dramatic changes to the shape of my body;
or outside sources declaring my worth and beauty;
I didn’t suddenly get prettier or thinner or stronger….
No, this love did not come through outside influences;

This love came from within.

It came because I was tired of wasting energy on not liking the skin I’m in.

It came through quiet moments of early meditation; sitting in the dark; squaring off with my demons; and discovering that inner truth and peace were never lost; they’ve been here all along, just waiting to be seen.

It came through hours upon hours of focused movement: updog, downdog, forward bend, repeat….movement that would peel away the layers of armor that held me from myself. This movement—sometimes slow and sweet, and sometimes difficult and strong—shook it off, bit by bit, breath by breath. It made me soft enough to feel and strong enough to grow.

It came through constant introspection; policing my own mind; noticing the cruel words; the loud voice; the demeaning demands; sorting out the truth from lies; questioning their validation, and ultimately finding the discipline to drop the things that kept me small and weak…

It came through looking in the mirror, and instead of focusing on my flaws; I declared my own beauty to myself, even when it felt awkward, strange and uncomfortable. I said it anyway; I spoke kind words until it felt real; until it felt true; until it became real and became true.

It came through miles and miles of running that helped to flush out stuck emotions; to process; to breathe deep enough to pull it from the darkest depths, and free it out to dissolve with the heat of my breath as it mingled with the crisp morning air.

It came through writing—sloppy, incoherent, rambling—a dumping ground of words and ideas that had to be released; cleaning out the wounds so they could heal.

It came through cleansing tears.
It came through clearing the air.
It came through forgiveness.
It came through trust.
It came through faith.
It came through each and every moment of my life that begged me to stop resisting and start loving.

It came.

And just because I’ve made peace with myself, doesn’t mean I can stop working at it; the work for acceptance is ongoing—up and down, in and out, with constant reminders and practice, practice, practice.

But the return for my dedication toward acceptance is that I can love and celebrate my body for the beautiful instrument that it is.

I live free.
I share.
I give.
I create.
I love.

Finally, finally,

I am no longer weighed down.
I am no longer ashamed;
I’m not ashamed of my body, and I’m not ashamed to love it, either.
I am no longer holding my thighs above the seat so that my flesh can hang from my bones to maintain a slim appearance.

Finally, finally,

I am in love with the skin I’m in.

And my hope is that you will be, too. That you’ll start with wherever you are by accepting this moment with all of its flaws and all of its imperfections and unknown mysteries and realize that all of that is perfect, too.

That you are perfect.

And that realizing the truth about yourself isn’t about searching somewhere else. It’s about releasing the barriers that hold you back from recognizing your own beautiful image in the mirror.

I hope you’ll fall in love with the skin you’re in;

as it is, right now.

Because, it’s time.

Finally, finally.

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How to Meditate Without Driving Yourself Crazy

There is no doubt that a regular meditation practice can change your life. It teaches you to tune in and understand yourself in ways you never thought possible. It strengthens your inner resolve to become a conscious observer of whatever comes up—both internally and externally—and opens up an unlimited source of inner space and peace.

It seems simple enough—just sit and breathe—but there’s this unruly, free-spirited influence called the mind—and it loves attention. When we try to ignore it, it just seems to get louder. Sometimes it helps to have a bit of direction, so here are a few tips to help make it more do-able:

  • You can practice anywhere, anytime, for any duration. And you don’t have to sit still. The important thing is that you’re comfortable, so if sitting in a pretzel position on the floor isn’t your thing, try a different position. And if sitting still makes you feel crazy, try a moving meditation instead. There are no rules, so be creative in your approach.
  • It’s important to recognize who’s in charge. I know it might feel like your thoughts are running the show, but truly, it’s the other way around—you have the power to control your thoughts—and meditation is a great way to get them organized and under control. Take a moment to observe your thoughts; if you’re observing them, then you can see that they are separate from ‘you’ as an observer. When you recognize the distinction, you can determine which thoughts you choose to keep and which ones you want to release. Furthermore, when you separate yourself from your thoughts, you’ll see that you can meditate on the essence of you that contains your thoughts, rather than be swept away by them. You can still meditate while there is some thought activity still going on—you’re just not getting wrapped up in whatever story is playing out.
  • Your mind loves to be busy, so give it something to do. Select a mantra (a word, phrase, or sound repeated to aid in concentration), or you can simply count from 1-10 over and over again. Using the counting method, the idea is to start back at one again when you notice that your thoughts have started to drift. (When I first started to practice meditation, I never made it past four). You’ll notice that in the beginning it’s hard to get the mind to stick to one thing—it’s sort of a free spirit—but meditation is about disciplining the mind so that you can use it as a tool, rather than the other way around. It’s just like anything else; it takes time and practice to develop strength and discipline—so keep trying.
  • It might help to think of your thoughts as creative little sparks of imagination, (sort of like little kids). Without direction, they dance and bounce all over the place, but once they gain a bit of focus, the possibilities are endless. So be kind and patient as you work with your thoughts. Politely ask them to settle down; give them some direction, and keep working on it. You may have to redirect your focus 30 times in two minutes—that’s okay! That’s why it’s called a practice, and it does get easier.
  • Another thing to keep in mind as you start a meditation practice is that you don’t have to try to figure anything out, or try to seek peace, because inner peace and wisdom is your natural state. All meditation does is help you slip into that natural state, which is sort of hiding beneath the static noise of the mind. As you practice, you’ll open up more and more space and you’ll realize that the peace you crave has truly, always been there.
  • One of my favorite methods is to just let it be. Rather than allow your mind to take center stage, simply allow it to remain, but turn the volume of it WAY down, so that it’s like a soft murmuring of noise far off in the distance somewhere. Then place your direct focus on your breath, your body, a mantra, or whatever you choose as an anchor point.
  • And, if in spite of all your efforts it still isn’t working out, simply try again later. Next time, maybe try a different time of day or a different approach. Whatever you do, try again.

The important thing to remember about meditation is that it is a practice and it does get easier. Let go of what type of experience you think you should be having or how it should feel—because if you get stuck on an idea of how it should be, the experience might make you feel even crazier than before you started.

And stick with it. Even if it feels like nothing is happening during the time that you actually spend meditating, it is having an influence on the rest of your life. Your intention to simply be present with yourself sends a powerful energetic vibration to the Universe, letting it know that you’re ready to expand your consciousness. Give yourself permission to experience whatever comes up and accept that your process is perfect in whatever way it manifests for you.

To help get you started, I’ve added an audio recording of a brief 3-minute guided meditation. I hope it helps. You can listen to that right here:

 

Also, I spoke about this topic on  KSL Studio 5 recently. You can watch the clip right here. I hope it helps.

I’m sending loads of love your way; happy meditating!

e.

Meditate

Discipline: The Good and the Bad of it

Meet the deadline. Check the box. Hit the mark.

Structure. Boundaries. Organization.

It’s all good when it helps you stay on course.

It’s not so good when it holds you back.

After I had my first baby, I had an epiphany that sort of went like this: ‘Oh, my body needs to be cared for; my mind needs to be cared for; my heart needs to be cared for…huh…I guess I can’t just sit back and wait for all of that to happen…’

And so it began: my love affair with discipline.

I fell deep.

Every day, no matter what: I did what I thought I had to do to take care of myself—my body, my heart, my mind, my work. Meditate.Yoga.Running.Writing. On task. On course. Disciplined. Dedicated. Devoted.

And it worked really, really great…until it didn’t.

It’s funny how something that is really good for you can shift into something that, well…isn’t anymore.

That’s what happened to me. I found that I had become so rigid in my structure that I was missing out on the spontaneity of life—the joy, the freedom, the expansion. Yet, I was so afraid that if I let things go…even just a tiny bit…everything would collapse.

It took my third child to snap me out of it. Babies have a very unsubtle way of shattering any and all structure. And this one really shook things up. No matter how hard I tried he would not conform to any type of structure, whatsoever. The only thing I could count on was that he would definitely not sleep, eat, or poop on a regular schedule.

So, I had to let go of it all: the yoga, the meditation, the reading, the writing, the running…I grabbed a moment here and there, but for the most part it all just dissolved for a while.

And you know what?

It was one of the very best things that could have happened to me.

You know why?

Because instead of falling apart, it all just fell into place.

Chaotic. Messy. Unstructured. It was a perfect storm.

Since my meditation practice was no longer a scheduled seated event, I practiced all day: while breastfeeding, changing diapers, rocking him to sleep. My writing became quicker, clearer and more focused. The precious moments I spent on the yoga mat were sublime, and despite my significant decline of exercise, I felt healthier and stronger than ever before.

Furthermore, letting it all go gave me something else to slip into:

Trust.
Surrender.
Faith.

And ultimately, a lot more freedom.

My suggestion?

Build a structure. Create something that will hold and sustain you; especially as you’re starting something new.

But, be flexible.

Don’t allow discipline to be so rigid that it boxes you in—use it as a springboard so you can soar even higher. Let things slide; let things slip; and take a break now and then, just for the hell of it.

You just might discover that you no longer need that worn-out map of discipline…

…because you’re flying now.

Flying

PHOTO: REUBEN WU