Loving and treating your body well (body) shapes thoughts of compassion and love of self (mind) and you behave with the innate desire to share love (spirit).
This is how I stopped my 5 years of bulimia (in the 80s.)
I suffered from bulimia. I felt completely out of control in my life and I felt so guilty over it that I ate and binged–a horrible cycle. I was married, in an affair and struggling with who I was in the world…did I want to be married which made me feel invisible or did I want to pursue a career so that I could feel I was important to the world. My sexuality was also confusing…a good catholic girl had sex only for procreation yet I liked it for the sensations and for the intimacy of it and the way it helped me feel calm, grounded and connected to a vital force within me.
At that time I started working in the fitness industry and started studying exercise science and cardiac rehabilitation. Upon reflection when all is said and done, I realize that what ultimately helped me stop my bulimia was exercise…was my body. As my body became stronger and more flexible, my posture improved and magically I began to feel more confident, more open-minded and gained a more healthy and balanced perspective about life. I realize through this how important exercise was to my quality of life. Yet as years went on I realized that there were more deeper issues to work with and again the powerful consciousness of my body is what got me through.
It was many years later having stopped the bulimia that I found myself divorced and at a 10-day silent meditation retreat. And it was here that I realized how much I loathed myself. This may sound so awful to admit and it was hard yet the magic was that at the very same moment I admitted how much I hated myself I was beginning to fall in love with myself…because I found the time to really pay attention to how miserable I felt and to awaken to my deep desire to change. Because I was so miserable in life I made the decision to sit in silence, nothing else seemed to be working and to my amazement an incredible feeling came over me…it overwhelmed my senses and my mind became empty…yummy, good-feeling vibes flowed through my body, they became stronger when I took deep, full breathes. The only way I can describe the experience is that my body was the vessel of my soulful self flowing powerfully through me And I began to remember something very important that I had forgotten most of my life…how precious and important and kind and smart I am, that I am lovable and capable of great love.
What I learned is that the challenges and stress of life are what disconnect me from my inner BEING, from my inner knowing…and these challenges are never going away. There are so many things that trigger disappointment and self-blame. This negative sense of self and lack of self-love have a significant impact on my life; my work, relationships, passionate pursuits, and spirituality…this mindset will never lead to happiness and success. I, like so many of us, grew up with difficult influences causing me to form certain beliefs and unfortunately I am discovering most of them are not positive (and not supportive of who I truly am, my own beliefs). Given our stressful world and the busyness of my life I keep defaulting to bad moods and bad attitudes and bad beliefs and bad behaviors…and bad postures. My bad posture generates sluggish energy in my body which reciprocates and influences me to think more negative thoughts…about myself and life in general. Bad posture brings me down. I believe in bad things…that I am bad, incompetent and thus make unhealthy choices. I behave with less integrity, less kindness, and less intelligence. I am in a negative body/mind cycle. Life feels unhappy. And I become the unhappy person I don’t want to be.
Yet now I know exactly what to do to help me through difficult times….sitting on the mat for 10 days in silence from 5:30am to10:30pm I felt something very powerful…a sacred, sensual, sovereign vibe in my body that reminded me I am queen. I could no longer deny that my body is a holy vessel of my soul…let my body be my guide.
A Great “Aha”: Happiness is All About How You Choose to Look at the Glass with Water In It!
What I learned at the retreat was how much we drive ourselves crazy believing in the importance of a glass half full with water. The huge “aha” was that happiness comes down to a choice. It is a feeling and perspective, rather than something that just happens to us. It comes from how we choose to look at life…how we choose to look at this glass with water in it: with gratitude or with disappointment. And from the perspective of The 6Bs of Transformation our happiness depends upon whether we choose good posture or bad.
What do I mean? Three of us can look at a glass half full of water and one thinks, “it’s half full” (the optimist), another thinks, “it’s half empty (the pessimist), and the third thinks, “it’s just a glass with water in it (the buddhist). Both the optimist and pessimist are equally stressed. It seems the Buddhist may be the one with the best attitude because she is not attached to the water: she is not feeling resentful that she does not have enough water, nor is she feeling anxiety about how to protect the water she has and get more. It seems she has the opportunity to simply feel grateful that she has some water, and even a glass :-). And this relaxed, positive perspective frees her to choose a number of different things she can do with the glass of water. Rather than being influenced by anger or disappointment and feeling stress and thus creating negative outcomes, she can instead drink it, pour the water on flowers or merely admire its beauty of clarity and appreciate the gift of water in her life and feel the innate good-vibes of genuine gratitude.
Your happiness and healing are your choice…and your body is your guide!…it helps you realize that “life is just a glass of water and it is up to you what you think about it.”
Admittedly, often it is so hard to choose the more relaxed “buddhist” attitude. Yet now that we know that how we choose to behave influences what we choose to think and feel we are motivated to stop the downward spiral of negativity and resistance and feel stronger and more solution-oriented. Helping our body feel good. Shifting into good posture and positive gestures, like standing/sitting tall (> confidence), smiling (> happiness), walking slowly (>present-mindedness), holding the door for someone (>kindness), we feel good, a sort of “organic happiness.” Using these behaviors we have instantly interrupted our negative thinking and feel more confident…gaining a better enthusiasm in this moment…for life and for ourselves. Staying with this positive sensation for a few minutes, our thoughts and actions in general become more positive…and I am happy and I like who I am. I believe I am more than “good enough”, I am lovable and important.
THE BODY/MIND CONNECTION–Posture of BODY is Posture of Mind: Good Posture of Body motivates Good Posture of Mind. Good Posture of Mind motivates Good Posture of Body.
Body Practices for Healing
Having been a fitness and behavioral specialist for over 25 years, it has become apparent to me that when you engage the body in the journey to change your habits to find well-being your transformation feels more experiential and thus can take hold. The more traditional “mental” practices of trying to figure out what went wrong in the past and then trying to feel better about it seems often to only get you stuck in a mental/emotional cycle of what went wrong. Within the psychological practices of healing we are often told to work on thinking and feeling more gratitude, hope and resilience…yet these seem short lived because they are only an idea. Yet if you engage your body in the practice, you might find your gratitude for example becomes more real, a genuine physical experience, and thus a real part of you. This seems to have more healing influence and lasts longer. What do I mean?
GRATITUDE…postures that release resentment and anger and raise gratitude
For example, making a list of things to be grateful for does not help you find lasting gratitude. Yet if while making that list I combine “posture practices©” while reflecting on things to be grateful for I am more successful at positively shifting what I am physically feeling and this significantly begins to shift my emotions and my thinking. For example, sitting tall and opening my chest, placing my hand over my heart or even on my thigh, smiling softly and inhaling deeply my body relaxes and this sense of ease calms my physiology (HR, BP, adrenalin). This positive, calm chemistry in my body seems to encourage more positive, hopeful, appreciative emotions and slows my thoughts. My thoughts begin to be much more positive. Feeling my body (the only part of me that exists in the present moment), my attention is in the present moment…regrets and worries have a hard time invading this peace. More mindful, more aware, of the good-feeling sensations that are flowing through me I begin to realize they are the innate vibrations of gratitude. And now gratitude is a “real” experience. It has become an authentic experience, a genuine feeling rather than just a thought and feeling that I am trying to convince myself of through meditation or psychotherapy. And what is even lovelier is that by having placed my hand on my thigh or over my heart and feeling the sensation of a gentle touch I feel this gratitude directed toward me personally, like someone else is showing me how much they care about me and how grateful they are that I am here. Now when I make this list of things to be grateful for it has more influence.
SELF-CONFIDENCE…postures that release self-doubt and insecurity and raise confidence
As a fitness professional, I realize the remarkable power my body has to shape my values, beliefs, behaviors and spiritual perspective. I exercise to become strong, flexible and balanced…my healthy posture helps me feel confident, open-minded, intelligent and kind. Improving my endurance with cardio-training helps me feel more emotionally resilient when things get tough and that I have what it takes to get through it, go the distance and feel completely capable. My energy and ability to do function well and do things in life that I might otherwise not be so fit to do like hike the Grand Canyon, or dance all evening long, or fix things around the house would make me feel very uncomfortable and insecure in life. And on a moment to moment basis, whenever I am going face something that might be a bit tense or concerning and throw me off my game like going into an important meeting (I am on an executive team of 6 men) or having an emotional conversation with my family or about to give a presentation to a large group or simply feeling uncertain about life and catch my resting bitchy face and schlumpy body in a mirror, I take a moment to stand tall, open my heart, breathe deeply and smile, big…and I know I will be my best self.
FAITH…postures that release fear and worry and raise faith
Also, I use these body/mind techniques on a sleepless night. Often in the middle of the night I will wake with worries. I know these are a sign of feeling disappointed in myself…self-doubt and self-blame makes me worry about the future. My mind replays situations over and over trying to figure out what went wrong, how can I fix it, why did I do that? If you think about it what is keeping me up are these thoughts, is my mind. And I have discovered that the only way I can interrupt this negative cycle is by relaxing my body and feeling the yummy, relaxing, soothing vibrations in my body am I able to regain perspective. For example, as my mind churns on the “what ifs” my body is tense and achy, even a slight headache often, and I can’t sleep. So I lie flat on my back and breathe deeply and focus on relaxing my body. I lengthen my spine, give a gentle Kegel squeeze* and press my shoulders to the mattress to feel my chest open. With a deep exhale I soften my face and feel my body release and become heavier. As I let this heavy sensation consume me I am becoming connected to my body, which is the “here and now.” Breathing and feeling the “yumminess of my body” my mind seems to have lost track of its focus and I fall back to sleep in peace. (*Kegel contractions awaken my feminine sensuality–the yumminess of me.)
“Life is good with good posture…even in bed!”
There are many ways you can use your body to help you feel good about yourself and your life. Create you own list of things to do when you feel “disconnected from your inner being.”