Chopra Center Meditation E-Book

I just wanted to share this free e-book that I've been reading through. Inspirational nuggets of wisdom to apply to your growth....

Chopra Center Meditation E-Book

Living With Awareness

I have always been the queen of distraction. I recently went to a silent meditation weekend retreat. I learned so many things about myself and others but this is perhaps the biggest lesson I learned: mindfulness. It's something we talk about but seldom actually do. Since going, I've become a little obsessed with the idea of trying to be fully present in each moment of my life. I've even finally broken out an audio book that I bought forever ago but just didn't feel the motivation to listen to. I actually highly recommend not just this book but their whole series. They're called "The Great Courses" and they feature top experts in their respective fields giving approximately 30 minute lectures. Most of these collections are very long. The one I'm listening to now, "The Science of Mindfulness" is almost 14 hours long so I'm guessing there's about 28 bite size lectures in all.

This book, along with journaling and overall self-awareness is helping me learn how to consistently pull myself back to the present. One thing (of many things) this helps with is anxiety, which is something I've always really struggled with. The great thing about being mindful and being present in the moment is that very few anxiety inducing things happen right in front of your face. Most happened in the past or you fear them happening in the future. Most moments are beautiful and peaceful when you remove your projected ideas of meaning (past or future) from them.

A perfect example of this happened just last night. Yesterday morning I woke up to my son (once again) in my bed. He felt very warm to the touch and was tossing and turning so I was unsure whether he was feverish or overheated. He woke up and said he was hot and his head hurt. My head hurt too. My allergies have been flaring up. So I gave him a homeopathic medicine we have for sinus issues and told him to go lay down in his bed. I decided to let him sleep until he woke up naturally again. I contacted all my clients and told them I was pretty sure he was sick and I was going to have to cancel. I arranged someone to watch him long enough for me to go grab some work and come back. I was in full-on mommy in crisis mode and I was rocking it. Then he woke up and he felt completely cool to the touch! He acted slightly lethargic but begged and pleaded to go to school because they were going on a field trip. I eventually gave in and took him to school late.

I was able to recover a couple of my canceled clients and, while I was training the first one, I received a snide voicemail from my son's teacher in which she said "he needs to come home now, the Tylenol is wearing off and his fever is going back up." I felt rage boil up inside of me. She was very obviously implying that I dosed my son with Tylenol to lower a fever so I could take him to school. I called back and defended myself and she, in her syrupy sweet voice, said "Welllll, I'm just going by what he tolllld me. He told me you gave him medicine." ....He actually told her I gave him "two marshmallows", which is what we call the homeopathic medicine for allergies. But that's neither here nor there. The fact that she was not so subtly accusing me of deception and neglect, not just of my child but of all the children there, was loud and clear.

It took me a while to get past that one but I was soon distracted with a very sick child. That's when I actually did dose him to get his fever down after it crept up from 99.7 to 103.4 within less than an hour. Finally it was under control and he was comfortable. That's when thoughts of the teacher's accusations snuck back into my head. I felt my blood start to boil again. I looked over at my son in my bed, watching tv peacefully.

I surrendered. 

I let go of my fear that he would get worse in the night. I let go of the anger toward this woman who, in the grand scheme of things, is an insignificant blip on the radar that is our lives and I even let go of the fact that I had probably already caught whatever this was that he had (yes, I'm a mom with a dose of selfishness). Instead, I wrapped my arms around my slightly warm little boy, buried my nose in his hair and truly experienced that precious moment with my most precious child. The room suddenly felt still and quiet. Weird? It had been so loud just a moment before. All that turmoil and chaos and noise had been right between my ears. In that moment there was nothing anxiety inducing. Only peace.

I have never been as in touch with my feelings as I am right now. Which is especially hard because I'm going through yet another break-up with my chronic on-again-off-again relationship and it would be SO easy to just put my head in the sand and think about and do other things. I could do what I've been great at doing in the past, running headfirst into my next relationship. But I'm not. Instead, I am sitting smack dab in the middle of the pain. And, amazingly, it's healing me. And it's healing me in the most beautiful way because it's a deliberate, heartfelt process instead of just the fading of memories which never truly works because the intellectual brain may forget but the body and the soul does not. Likewise, the times of joy are much sweeter when you live in mindfulness as well.

I recently re-listened to a Brene Brown TedTalk. The thing she says that echos through my head when I'm tempted to run is this: "you can not selectively dull emotions. If you dull one, you dull them all."

That's really profound if you think about it. And, on some level, we all already know it's true. The more I allow myself to collapse on my bed in gut wrenching sobs in those sad, dark moments, the more I find myself belly laughing with the people I love or feeling giddy feelings of awe at sunrises. It's all connected. There can be no light without darkness. 

My Social Media Detox and Subsequent Evolution

I recently had things happen in my life that helped me decide to take a break from social media. It hasn't been a 100% hardcore detox but, other than a sneak peak here or a blog link posted on Twitter, I've been pretty darn serious about it. In fact, I even deleted all my social media apps off my phone. 

And, I have to tell you, it feels damn good! Now, the first couple days, it did not! It felt weird. I would pull up my phone and scroll through, quickly realizing I had nothing to distract myself with. I'd maybe check the weather and make a list on my notepad but that was about it! Now, just a few days later, I've come to embrace it so much that I've taken it a few steps further and stayed almost completely off the internet other than work related things and concrete research here and there. 

As a result, I find myself not looking at my phone for hours at a time! I actually keep losing my phone. 

Anyone who knows me, knows this has become out of character for me over the last few years. I've even had a few people text me and then text me an hour later and ask "Are you okay? Are you getting my texts?" Realizing that my loved ones are concerned that I may, in fact, be injured or dead by my lack of prompt response has made me acutely aware of what a phone zombie I had become. And I never used to be.....and I never will again. 

How did I get that way? Where I had to constantly feel connected. I didn't realize how much time I wasted doing it either. I didn't realize how tuned out I was to what was going on around because of this self-imposed obligation to promptly respond to everyone whether it be via text or social media. I've went ahead and told my friends and family, "If you don't hear from me for a few days, I promise I'm alive, you'll understand and appreciate this new development when you see me face-to-face again and receive my undivided attention."

I am officially no longer a member of the "tuned out" society and now I want to encourage everyone around me to tune in to your beautiful, rich lives right in front of you. I can't believe the peace and happiness and clarity that life offers when you truly tune in to the moment. And it goes so far past just not starting at a screen. It's also not dwelling on events that already happened or may happen in the future. It's not dwelling on people that aren't present. It's allowing yourself to be fully engaged and present in the moment. 

And the ripple effect of this is amazing. I recently had a very deep and enlightening conversation with my father that prompted him, at 71 years old, to try to fundamentally change something about himself that will enhance his own life. I would've never had this conversation prior to my social media detox because it was late one evening and I was getting sleepy and I would've been scrolling through my phone having a light-hearted, half engaged conversation with him because that's what I tend to do when I get tired, I space out on my phone. My son is suddenly better behaved and connecting more fully with me. I am getting TONS more done with my life. 

I am almost ashamed to admit that these things are just now happening and were ever hindered by my phone zombification but if no one admits it, then no one learns, and I'm all about always learning and growing!

Today's topic at my UU church was about love. He spoke of how the opposite of love is not's indifference. Let that sink in. Really sink in. I know it did for me. And the opposite to action is also....indifference. Apathy. It's where we sometimes go when our emotions get too hard to deal with...into apathy. We space out. And it detracts from our humanity. 

A couple years ago, someone special in my life introduced me to Pema Chodran, who's writings I've been devouring again lately. She talks about the importance of sitting with your feelings and truly drinking in the full spectrum of them. THIS will add to our humanity. This is adding to MY humanity. I am feeling more pain but, as a result, I am also feeling more joy, wonder and love. I am feeling at peace within myself and that is an amazing step for me. It's something that I don't think I've ever felt. I've always ran. When I sit back and think about it, I've ran through every type of distraction in my life. All seemingly different, but all serving the same purpose. Daydreaming, various screens (tv, computer, phone), food, alcohol, men, cleaning, organizing, SLEEPING....whatever! Just don't feel the pain! Don't sit with the uncomfortable feelings at any cost.

No more. I am learning to sit with all the uncomfortable feelings more and more as time goes in. And the more I don't run, the more humanity I feel. The more love I feel. The less hate I feel and, here's the most amazing part...the more I am okay with just sitting with myself and not needing anyone or anything to "feel okay".

Next weekend I am taking it one big old giant step further. I am going to a silent meditation and yoga retreat. This is a really huge deal for me, someone who is always trying to run from the noise in my head. 

I'm done running. And the more I stop and listen to the's not noise at all. It's me. It's my emotions. It's my humanity, my soul. And I'm FINALLY ready to listen. 

Non-Scale Victories

Having recently dropped almost 20 pounds and closely circling around a weight/size where I once again feel light on my feet and attractive, I'm more inspired than ever to be doing all of this for the right reason. Last time around I didn't truly embrace that. Seeing that number tick down each week (sometimes day) gave me a high and sense of satisfaction that just can't be replicated by stepping on the scale once a week or once a month to confirm that I've just maintained. So this time I'm super focused on non-scale victories and just my overall quality of life. And this is making life that much sweeter! So here are a few...
Okay, these first two are somewhat superficial but non-scale nonetheless and something I'm excited to develop upon. 

First, I had almost forgotten since writing this post about loose skin that diet really REALLY matters in skin elasticity. Especially at my age and after being obese for so long and pregnant at 30. After almost two months of eating an almost perfect diet rich in vegetables and fruits, I am astounded at how firm my skin is compared to when I was this weight a couple years ago. Just like I talked about in my post, I won't claim that it's the perfect, taut skin of an 18 year old who's never been overweight but neither does my belly crinkle around my bellybutton or my cleavage have a little loose fold of skin when I bend certain ways. Everything looks mildly....firm!!

Second, I CAN SEE MY ABS AGAIN!!! Yes, I know, I warned you it was still superficial BUT seeing the definition of my abs is my tangible proof to myself that I have a strong, solid core that is FUNCTIONAL!! This goes far beyond looks and will serve me well for all my life.

Okay, on to not at all superficial stuff. I had gotten strong enough at 185 pounds to bang out three sets of eight to ten standard push ups when I was nice and fresh. The other night at the gym I was killing it. I mean I was really in the zone and had already done a couple of chest exercises with really heavy weight. I was in the middle of a back/chest super set and, without thinking, dropped to the floor to do push-ups immediately after some really heavy lat pull downs. For just a split second, once I was down there, I became suddenly aware that I was in public and possibly about to make a fool out of myself by collapsing to the ground, unable to do a single standard push-ups. My body felt shaky. I was already committed so I went for it. BAM!! THIRTEEN standard push-ups!! Toward the end I was miserable but at the beginning I was astounded at how light I felt and how easy it was!!! I hadn't realized until that moment that I was moving 20 less pounds of weight in each push-up and boy could I feel the difference!! My next two sets, I did 12 standards with not to much struggle. I felt so strong and liberated. I felt like I was "back". 

My other non-scale victories are just each time I effortlessly say "no" to poor food choices. My desire to drink alcohol is gone (for the moment anyway). I haven't had any processed sugar, almost no dairy and no wheat. These are things I no longer have to white knuckle my way through resisting. I just want to FEEL GOOD, and I do!!!

My mental clarity is also amazing. Despite going through some trying times in my life recently, I feel inspired and determined. I have no doubt that I can attribute this to healthy food choices that keep my brain operating optimally.

I've also become so emotionally invested in my clients' non-scale victories:

*My 74-year-old male client that, the first time I trained him, discovered that he literally could not sit up once he was laying on the weight bench. I had to help him up for the first few weeks. The first time he sat up on his own, I LITERALLY jumped up and down. THAT is a victory that will carry him through life with much more ease.

*My 48 year old female client who once told me "I don't have a lick of upper body strength" who just graduated to 12 lb dumbbells on her single arm rows (up from the 5 pounds she started with).

*My male client who once said "I am just not a vegetable person, who now turns most of his meals into salads.

*And possibly my favorite, my client who begrudgingly came to me at his wife's urging and sat there about a year ago telling me how he didn't want to change a thing. I just saw on myfitnesspal where he had logged in for the 277th straight day! He has lost 30 pounds and maintained it. He reads labels and now eats chicken and veggies instead of the infamous 4 inch thick pizza down the road from his workplace that he used to tell me about eating once a week.

THESE are real victories when the scale isn't giving me a high. I am in this for life and I am going to drag every person I can get my hands on with me!