Awake + Remember

The summer I turned 40, my father died. I was at a youth camp as a volunteer counselor for teenagers days before it happened.

I remember I was up in the mountains breathing the fresh pine scented air doing an activity with the teens that was contemplative in nature. I don’t remember everything about it other than that there were “stations” that we walked around to with activities for listening and other things.

What does stick out in my memory is the station where we took a rock and listened to what God was saying to us. Then we wrote something on the rock to remember. And actually, what I heard during this contemplative listening exercise were the words

“awake” +

“remember”.

I used a black sharpie and wrote one word on each side of the pebble.

Every time I move and unpack I come across this rock of remembrance.

I remember the sorrow + shock of my father’s death, and also, the joy of that touchstone. These two words are keys in my life that I constantly have to keep coming back to, because it seems no matter what, I slip into periods of

being asleep,

dull,

unaware,

unengaged with life–periods where I need to awaken again.

And once awoken, then I need to remember.

I need to remember all the things I had forgotten

about my purpose,

how to live life,

and how to be in this world.

I need to remember my passions and pleasures. I need to remember how to sit and breathe. How to restore the positive and not be stuck in

the sucky-ness of life,

the difficulties,

the trauma.

We have been in a new house for a year-and-a-half and we still are not unpacked. There are two main reasons for this: the first is that we were waiting on some remodeling work to be done and our contractor delayed the start of the work by a few months, and then took an extra few months to finish the work.

He finished it shortly before we learned I had a tumor in my spinal cord. So the second reason we didn’t finish unpacking was we went into the spiral of my neurosurgery and recovery.

Now it’s been over a year since that

life-saving,

but body disabling

surgery.

I haven’t found that stone yet.

I know I will come across it this summer when we finish moving in, painting the walls, putting up curtains, and hanging the pictures. I look forward to that moment. Today, it’s the memory of that stone that has helped awaken me once again.

But the memory of that stone is actually only the third thing that is helping in this process.

Recently, my therapist called me and mentioned that I might enjoy listening to a talk by Jack Kornfield. He’s a Buddhist speaker and teacher. So I listened to his latest podcast on healing and acceptance. It’s really good. You can listen to it here. That podcast reminded me of truths I know, practices I need to re-engage in which I just haven’t had the desire to do lately, and how much I need to apply what I know to myself.

The second thing that helped me reawaken this week was talking to a good friend of mine about spiritual matters and life growth. She reminded me of how healing yoga is. She’s a yoga teacher also.

I haven’t been doing much yoga. I can’t really do a lot of what I used to be able to do because my strength, coordination, and balance are severely compromised from the surgery. I usually do some yoga with my physical therapist and that always feels awesome. But this special friend of mine was just sharing her love of yoga and how much her practice has increased and it inspired me.

So I looked up the yoga schedule at my local gym that I belong to and asked a friend to go with me to yoga. I’m also mentally committing myself to go to classes in the mornings.

If I can actually get my butt out the door and onto the mat, this will be a huge triumph for me mentally. I haven’t had any motivation for months now. But, all this has me focused on the two words on that little stone.

The two words that will be needed in my life for the rest of my life.

Right now, once again I will focus on being awake and remembering the truth.

(Originally published on Patreon)

© Michelle Hess

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How to Avoid Meltdown

It’s one of those days: You’re sleep deprived, recovering from a cold, over-worked, having to deal with the most hated parts of your profession (What is it for you?), and you’re PMS-y (sorry men).

Sounds like melt-down,

shut down material to me.

How can you pull yourself out of the pit before

all out emotional catastrophe hits?

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1. BE AWARE – Without this there is no hope. You know you are in trouble when your co-workers ask “Why are you so irritable today?” Or “What’s wrong with you?” and you are SURPRISED by the question!

Take a few minutes and let yourself quiet before entering your work environment. Notice any feelings or sensations that are nipping at the edges of your consciousness. Take your noticing a step further and ask yourself questions, “Hmm, I’m feeling cranky, what’s up?” or “I’m not wanting to deal with ______ now. What is that telling me?”

Look for information, not judgment. Now’s not the time to whack yourself in the head.

2. Take a time-out — you need to stop what you are doing, get off the merry-go-round, and re-assess your options.

  • What activities can be put-off, rescheduled or deleted all together? Tone down to only the absolutely ESSENTIAL tasks while you are not at your optimal levels.
  • For example, one Monday I had something scheduled every hour for 10 hours straight. Then PMS hit hard. I dropped ¾ of the activities and only kept the most necessary, unavoidable ones. I took time out for a “rest” in the afternoon between appointments so I could focus on the next step.

3. Use your “self-talk” arsenal. I’m an auditory learner so I take this advice very literally – I talk to myself out loud. If you don’t already use anti-catastrophizing tactics start now. These are borrowed from cognitive behavioral therapy and work wonders for changing your perspective and attitude.

a. Say the thought/feeling (i.e. “I can’t handle this! I hate this.”)

b. Question it (“Is this true?”)

c. Come up with proof for the doubt. (Well, I’ve handled this before and I can do it again.)

d. Turn the language around (I can handle this even if I do hate it!)

e. Find support to give yourself – find a lifeboat.. Ask “who or what can help me feel more capable (in control, aware, competent, etc.) in this situation?” ex: oh, so and so is an expert at this, I’ll call her and pick her brain before the meeting so I feel confident.

f. Identify the feeling behind the thought/lie (i.e. I’m scared of looking like a fool and this has me wanting to run and hide…)

g. Congratulate and reward yourself for being PRO-Active and not giving in to the mood gremlins that thrive on your stress.

girl walking on water

Some healthy ways to reward yourself:

  • Cancel a meeting and go for a 20 minute walk on the beach with your shoes off. Feel the sand shifting along with your stress.
  • Call a friend you miss and have a 15 minute catch-up girl chat. Laugh a lot.
  • Exchange funny tweets!
  • Go get a spa treatment
  • Walk to your favorite “juice” spot and have a yummy smoothie, while standing in the sun for a few minutes.
  • Run home and play with your cat or your dog on your lunch break.

You’ve got the idea. Recover your smile and realize you successfully avoided over-reaction melt-down mode.

To increase your arsenal of tools to draw upon next time try incorporating some of the following into your life on a regular basis:

• Reflective journaling • Work with a life coach • Exercise regularly • Take up yoga or meditation • Prayer • Surround yourself with funny friends • Start a nurturing hobby like gardening, knitting, marathon racing, or bird-house building! • Express joy and gratitude daily • Join a supportive group situation where you can be vulnerable and safe.

(This could be an actual support group, an affiliation group, a church small group. Explore your options.)

What do you choose as your escape pressure valve? How many ideas have you tried? Tell me what has worked for you in the comments.

p.s.  I wrote this little article 10 years ago and I hope it’s helpful even today.

Piles of Good Things: Body Love

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This idea is actually super powerful. With a little bit of intention and focus you can change your brain to support a positive healthy outlook about life. With my clients, I use simple techniques based on this concept and supported by neuroscience for lasting change in how we view our bodies and ourselves. Some people use these techniques naturally, and thus, “stumbled” upon healthier, happier lives. Obviously, there are other factors involved, but you really can teach your subconscious “new tricks”.

When I decided to work with body image in women, I had to figure out how I got to this place of loving and accepting my very imperfect body (by various standards). How come I was fat and still loved myself and others had “perfect” bodies and were filled with self-loathing? The answer wasn’t simple, but I was determined to figure out ways to work with women to open the door to this type of transformation. I found that my background in learning and the brain, spiritual mentoring, counseling and interests in health and fitness really gave me great tools to use.

No matter where you are in this body acceptance & positivity revolution, you have something important to share. What have you learned so far that has helped you the most? Have you been able to increase the “pile of good things” in your life? How so?

Please share with us!

Emotional Integration Methods, Part 2

BraveGirl™

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Part 1 of this article, we looked at how natural emotional reactions can be triggered by primitive reflexes, among other things…

In addition to neutralizing in real time the charge of the emotion, we can then release it for greater freedom and peace.

The method is as simple as the previous techniques and equally profound in effect.  Many people have come up with variations on releasing these emotional “stores” in our bodies.  You can use techniques from Brain Gym, The Sedona Method, Heartmath or others.

It is helpful to be led through the process with a coach or practitioner the first time, but not necessary.

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The Heartmath website has a free survey for you to take that relates to this topic. Just click on the link below.

Welcome to the Stress & Well-Being Survey™

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The main component in all…

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Emotional Integration Methods, part 1

BraveGirl™

Note: I originally wrote this in 2004/5. But, since we all have the tendency to forget what we have learned, I’m re-posting today. I need to read my older articles to remember what really works for me!

English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings English: Managing emotions – Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reframing your thinking in a positive light is not just for the affirmation spouting “feel good” types.  Research is finally catching up with what many have suspected all along: positive emotions can change your life.  Specifically, they can “broaden people’s habitual modes of thinking and build their physical, intellectual and social resources” according to BL Fredrickson.

When you engage positive thoughts and emotions, not only are you leaving no room for negative emotions, you are also creating new neural pathways in your brain.  This means your brain changes, and thus, you change! 

You can become a healthier person on all levels, especially in relation to your emotional consistency…

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the HAES® files: Healthcare Providers Get Our Marching Orders for the War on Fat People

“It is infuriating that people who call themselves obesity experts are claiming the authority to act upon our lives and bodies when their source of information about our lives is research that is methodologically among the worst in our history. Obesity Experts are experts on a failed model of how to view and treat a problem that they have created out of the weight stigma we are all raised with. We should be humble about the vast amounts we do not know – not just in general from medical training that is steeped in weight bias, but also from medical research that rarely elucidates how to care for the actual medical issues of people who are stigmatized and face oppression. What we do know is that the most consequential factors in health by far – the social determinants of health – are almost never the target of intervention. And the sources of the information, communities of actual fat people, are almost never partners in research and as far as I know, have never directed the agenda.

This has to stop.

While you do not have to have the lived experience yourself to be knowledgeable, you do have to learn from the people who are living it, rather than the people who are stereotyping and oppressing them.”

Health At Every Size® Blog

by Deb Burgard, PhD

My brilliant friend Jessica Wilson has taught me so much. She is fond of asking, “What is the problem we are trying to solve?”

The question is burning in my mind after reading a recently released Washington DC think tank publication called “Provider Competencies for the Prevention and Management of Obesity”

Go take a look at this 8-page document that attempts to dictate how healthcare providers should carry out its vision, complete with a whopping 8 citations.

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Weight Watchers Works. For Two Out of a Thousand. (And They Probably Weren’t Fat to Begin With)

Showing how ridiculous it all is. #nothankyouOprah

fat fu

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One of the things you often hear – even among fat activists – is that 95% of weight loss attempts fail long-term. It sounds like an impressively discouraging number, but still, it leaves us with the idea that 5% of fat people are able to leave their corpulence behind and join the world of respectable, acceptable, normal-weight humanity. Or at least get somewhere in the vicinity.

We should be so lucky.  When weight loss failure numbers are presented (generally 80-95% failure) “success” doesn’t mean achieving “normal weight” – let alone permanently.  It means the ability to keep off some very modest amount that a given researcher (usually with a vested interest in the weight loss strategy) has arbitrarily defined as “weight loss success.” Typically 5-10% weight loss maintained anywhere from 1 to 5 years.

If that’s enough to make you thin, then I have news for you: you weren’t fat.

And studies that look…

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Diets Don’t Work, But…

In the spirit of stupid New Year’s Resolutions, here’s a reminder from the wonderful Kate Harding’s that just because you don’t use the word diet, doesn’t mean it isn’t one! Beware of diets in disguise. 💋

Shapely Prose

Brain: How are we going to get the earth to lose weight?
Pinky: I know! We can get everyone to go on a diet!
Brain: Diets don’t work, Pinky.
Pinky: Not even if you call them “a whole new way of eating”?
Brain: No.

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I Am Fat….And Yes, I Do Model a Healthy Lifestyle For My Kid

Power, Peace, and the Porch Gym

PREAMBLES AND DISCLAIMERS: If you read the title of this post and are thinking that I am  about to advocate judging others on the basis of their health status or whether they engage in healthy behaviors ….I want to make it clear that I am not. One’s health status and/or lifestyle does not make anyone morally superior or inferior to anyone else. To quote Ragen Chastain, “health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances.

Also, there are very few people who are role models in many areas of life at the same time. So even if someone is not modeling a healthy lifestyle by any one person’s definition, it is possible that they are kicking ass in another area of life. Maybe they work tirelessly to support their families or pursue their passions. Maybe they go above and…

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Because I Love My Body (aka In Defense of Corissa)

Amply Emmy

corissa_05-1080x720One of the fashion bloggers I enjoy following is Corissa of Fat Girl Flow. I love her style and “I’m fat and don’t give a fuck what anyone says about it” attitude.

Recently she posted a video where she stated “Do not look me in the eye, tell me you are on Weight Watchers and then, in the next breath, tell me that you are body positive”. This was addressed to bloggers and others who claim to be body positive yet have intentionally lost weight or are currently in the process.

What a brouhaha that started. People… mostly women… vehemently asserted that they indeed love their bodies and/or are body positive. Usually, though, those claims were followed by some version of “but I need to lose weight for my health”. Others praised Weight Watchers as a company that promotes a healthy lifestyle.

I consider myself body positive and completely…

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