I Love Myself Exactly as I am

All too often, ‘beauty’ magazines do their best to make us feel ugly, fat, and completely undesirable. Probably because they are driven by advertising dollars for products that we don’t really need (22 shades of pink lipstick), don’t even work (wrinkle cream), or only look good if you look more like a skeleton than a woman. So, it is refreshing that Glamour magazine in the U.K. actually published a picture of a woman who actually looks like a woman.

Lizzie Miller’s Glamour magazine shoot: How one model’s picture shook the world (flabby tummy and all)

This is a step in the right direction, to be sure, but there is a giant chasm still to cross. The beauty industry has systematically undermined women’s confidence for decades. All in the name of pushing products that will somehow magically restore our confidence (that was shamelessly robbed from us in the first place). We now live in a world where even the models don’t look as good as their photos in magazines. We are chasing an impossible ‘ideal’ that not one person can achieve.

So, clearly the system is outdated and not working. Rather than push against it, we can do something far more powerful. We can repair our collective self-esteem as women. How do we do this? Well, we start small. You can start by finding something to admire in yourself and others every single day. When you start looking for what you like, you find more things to like. You can also start a program of radical self acceptance. Repeat this affirmation:

“I Love Myself Exactly as I am.”

How does that feel? A little odd? Crazy? Outrageous? Good! Start wherever you are and embrace it. Just keep saying this little gem of a phrase until you begin to feel a shift. Basically, fake it till you make it. Eventually you will begin to believe that you are a worthwhile person without needing to drop 20 pounds or have perfect boobs or have flawless skin. Soon, you will find that ‘beauty’ is on the inside.

Beauty lives in the twinkling eye and the easy smile. It lives in the genuine ‘Thank you’ and the generous ‘Please’. Beauty is found in the warm hug of love and the hand that helps you up. Beauty is found in the tear that is shed over a stranger’s sorrow and the grassroots campaign to help change lives. Beauty shows her fine self in the careful kick-in-the-butt a friend gives us when we have lost our way. She flexes her muscles when she protects all the children, and all the homeless, and all the lost ones. She stands over the gate between life and death, she brings  babies into the world and she midwifes us back into the eternal Love. Beauty is reflected in the eyes of our grandmothers as they hold our small children. Beauty is found when we look at our sisters and see all that she does, all that she gives, all that she lives. Beauty, you see, is already in you… and me… she is just waiting for us to see her.

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The flickering flame – our self-healing bodies

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Candace Pert has an intriguing quote “Our bodies are more like a flickering flame than a hunk of meat.” Dr. Pert is the scientist that co-discovered the body’s receptors to morphine, which led to the discovery of endorphin. In “Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind” she discusses that our bodies have hundreds of natural drugs we make with our own cells. So far, every drug that has been tested has a natural counterpart that is made within our bodies. Even more, many of these natural substances are neuropeptides, small protein molecules, that are generated as a result of an emotion or thought. Basically, the research that Dr. Pert and her colleagues have conducted demonstrate the mechanism behind mind-body medicine.

Back to the flickering flame. Research shows that the receptors for these small peptides are found on the surfaces of our cells. When a peptide interacts with a cell receptor it can cause huge changes in how that cell behaves and, by extension how an organ behaves within our bodies. What is really cool is that these receptors to our ‘thought-molecules’ are not just in the brain, but are found throughout our whole body, especially on our immune cells, the white blood cells. White blood cells are responsible for protecting us from germs, but also for getting rid of cells that are beginning to turn cancerous.

Lets think about that. Our thoughts -> create molecules -> that send messages -> to our immune system -> to protect us from the nastiest dis-ease out there. Cool.

What is more, the latest research suggests that having a wide spectrum of emotions are important to health. So it is the variability in our emotional states that can keep us healthy. Feeling emotions fully and completing them is a foundation of many holistic approaches. It seems that covering over our anger or convincing ourselves we are too spiritual to be angry is not a healthy way to approach life. Staying stuck artificially in any one emotion too long is not where we want to be, but instead to live a life of ’emotional integrity’, as Dr. Pert calls it, is the key to our health.

Think of how many thoughts and emotions you have in a day. What if you could let yourself feel them fully without pushing them back down? When you start exploring the layers of emotions, you find that below all of the so called ‘negative emotions’ is a state of pure bliss. We often fear the power of our emotions and think that we might get crushed by them, but the opposite is true. The longer we suppress our emotions the longer we suffer.

There are many techniques to release trapped emotions from the body-mind. One of the simplest and the most powerful is just to breathe. Breathing at at regular pace, or counting the breaths you take, can clear deeply held emotions. Exercise is also amazing for resetting our emotional clocks, particularly if you get a bit breathless when you do it.

I am always in awe of how powerful we are, and I am amazed at how the emerging science is demonstrating how it all works.

The power of praise

Sometimes, it is all too easy to criticize. We offer our opinion on any number of subjects with the misguided idea that we may somehow be helping the person to be better or correct their presumed deficiencies. But when the critical arrow is pointed at us, we suddenly see the injustice. In subjective fields, like writing or art, it becomes increasingly apparent that criticism is not truth, just opinion. In this world there is something for everyone.

à chacun son goût

Watch this video to see what I mean.

The people in this video are one, important thing. Brave. Think of the courage it takes to dance at all, let alone in public.

Looking for the things to praise in another can train your inner critic to take it easy on you. The less our inner critic runs the show, the more creative and free we are. So sing, dance, be!

The benefits of water – Two weeks in

Fun With Water Drops - 6

Image by Cayusa via Flickr

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the benefits of drinking enough water spaced throughout the day. I am amazed at the results so far so I wanted to share an update of what I have experienced. Firstly, it has just been a bit over three weeks of drinking water whenever my alarm rings on my phone. The transition to this new habit was pretty easy, though I definitely needed by phone to remind me. I noticed I was pretty good about drinking water when I was at home, but when I went out I realized that I would usually go for long stretches of the day with no water at all.

The first week was interesting since I felt like I was a sponge; I just couldn’t get enough water. It was interesting to me that the more water I drank, the more water I wanted. Somehow I thought it would be the opposite. I noticed my weight go up a bit on the scale and I felt like my tissues were swelling. Not in an unpleasant way, more like a dried up bean soaking up the water it needs to sprout new life.

I have more energy since drinking water regularly. Mornings have never been my thing, but I feel an ease getting out of bed that reminds me of when I was a little kid. There are some mornings where I wake up groggy or anxious about the day, but I’m finding that after a good glass or two of water my tiredness and hesitation fades away. I also notice that my slow mornings usually are after days of not drinking water often enough. Who knew? Water could make me a morning person! 🙂

I notice that my skin is radiant, soft and less wrinkly. My  lips, usually screaming for chapstick by this point in the winter, are fine. They are moistened from the inside. It seems to me that dry lips is an indicator of my need for more water. I also have lost a few pounds and feel an increased energy overall. I don’t dread working out or drag myself in front of the Kinect. I just show up.

Overall, I feel … softer, more relaxed, but also more energy too. The hectic edge of city life seems to have softened to the ebb and flow of a more natural existence. I notice the corners of my lips are different. When I look in the mirror, they curve up. I notice my patience growing, especially when dealing with tantrums from my three year old. I seem to be having fewer of my own internal tantrums when I bump up against an obstacle.

And lastly, what I notice, which is nothing short of a miracle, is the disappearance of cold symptoms with water alone. I was starting to get a runny nose and I drank a litre or two of water and went to bed early. By morning, I was fine. Then tonight again, I felt my nose going again, and again, it went away after a few glasses of water. Astounding!

All this from regular water intake, just drinking to my comfort level about 6 or 7 times a day. Sold!

Music Heals

Music is a powerful thing. Not only is it an expression of art, it communicates deep feelings in a way that can immediately reach people from all walks of life. Personal tastes can vary hugely, but there are some forms of music that have measurable effects on our physiology. The links as to why music has such a huge effect on us are still being studied, but one possible explanation is the entrainment of our heart rate to an external beat. When we listen to a rhythmic sound, our heart rate adjusts, up or down, to match the rhythm. Why this happens is still a mystery, but it could have its roots in the connection between the infant and mother’s heart rates. A baby’s heart rate matches the rhythm of the mother’s heart rate, not in frequency, but in pattern. Perhaps we are immersed in a beat from our earliest days and music that echos this comforting rhythm triggers the part of us that is still that tiny babe.

A piece of music that seems to instantly wrap me in a blanket of peace is the Vajrasattva Matra by Dechen Shak-Dagsay. Enjoy!

More time for gratitude

Just got home from a lovely birthday party for a dear friend. I’m ready to snuggle into my covers. But wait! a post awaits! I am grateful for all my years done and all the ones soon to come. I’m grateful for the here and now. I’m grateful for poems shared around birthday cake. I’m grateful for the new and the old. I’m grateful for stories freely told. 🙂

Gratuitous Gratitude

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I am grateful for:
• my ten faithful toes
• my abundant health
• my beautiful family
• my warm and welcoming home
• my awesome friends
• my wonderful husband
• my super child
• my creative flow
• my flowering confidence
• my compassionate heart
• my powerful hands
• my free speech
• my written words
• my receptive ears
• my happy lips
• my sparkly eyes
• my clear sight
• my balanced brain
• my healthy hair
• my lustful learning
• my spiritual connection
• my human family
• my green earth
• my blue oceans
• my vast star collection
• my infinite nature
• my perfect paradox

Grade Five PS22 Chorus Sings my Favorite Song

I seem to be new here. This is the first I have heard of the PS22 Chorus. I’m loving how I have been learning things lately. I was searching for a version of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” which was my favorite song in about Grade 4 or 5, and I ‘discovered’ PS22 Chorus. 🙂 They have played for President Obama. Seriously. How did I not know this?

So inspired by a teacher who inspires.

Enlighten up!

Laughter is the Sun - Victor Hugo Quote

Image by Chiot's Run via Flickr

Enlightenment. This is serious business. No room for jokes. Or is it? I had the privilege of seeing the Dalai Lama speak, twice, once in Calgary and once in Vancouver. Both times I was delighted by his sense of humor. I found it surprising how effortlessly he wove lighthearted humor in with some very serious discussions. It was the perfect example of taking your work seriously, but not taking yourself seriously.

One of my favourite books that helped me out of a deep state of depression many years ago is “Lighten Up: Survival Skills for People Under Pressure” by C.W. Metcalf and Roma Felible. One of the best things I have read was their chapter ‘Escape from the Centre of the Universe”. In it the authors drew a rectangle, representing the known universe; then drew a dot in the centre, representing the centre of the universe; and then mark an X waaaay in the corner, and marked the X with the words “You are here”.

It cracked me up. In that laughter I broke through months of self-imposed loneliness and isolation and started truly living. I was no longer content to wait until I sorted out my problems before I could be happy. I decided to be happy. It was a completely radical thought that I could just choose my thoughts. It worked.

The more I study Buddhism, Taoism and many other wisdom traditions, the more I am convinced that enlightenment can be chosen, just like happiness. The key to both is the continual choice to remain in that state in each moment. The true challenge is not getting happy or having a moment of blissful union with the Divine oneness, but staying there. It takes consistent training and practice to live from a place of altered awareness, like happiness.

When we are new to this happiness thing, it can seem forced and silly. Just the same when we are new to any other spiritual discipline, like compassion or forgiveness, it feels odd and unnatural. But all these mental and emotional states can be trained by changing our behaviours. A small subtle shift in perception can be the first step.

Confident Steps – Finding the Foundation

Walden by Henry David Thoreau, influential ear...

Image via Wikipedia

In preparing to write this post, I wanted to get the proper quote and attribution for:

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”

It turns out it is from Henry David Thoreau, but that is not the original quote at all. That learns me! Thanks to Wikiquote, the original quote is not as easily inked on coffee mugs and journal covers, but it has lots of meaty philosophy to bite our canines into. Here it is:

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

I clearly need to read Walden, the source of this quote, for myself and not rely on pop culture to teach me these things. 😉

This is an interesting start to a post that was to be devoted to confidence. Stepping into a full life, unhampered by compulsive approval seeking is something that I thought I had mastered well enough to provide some advice. Gotta love a few reality checks along the way! So the absolute truth is that I will never stop learning and having new experiences, meaning I will never be perfect. But I also know that sitting on the sidelines waiting to measure up to some lofty, saint-like standard is not helpful either. How often do we put our dreams on pause until we have enough time, money or approval?

Thoreau wisely offers us the advice to not destroy our high hopes, our “castles in the air”, but to bring these dreams to life by building their foundations. We must live the life of our dreams, because it is the only one we have got. Our greatest dreams and great solutions to great problems need to be brought into the world. Sitting back and waiting for someone else to do it is not going to get us anywhere. Within each of us is a unique talent and ability, the world is waiting for those gifts to be shared.

So… Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to great places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So… Get on your way.

~ Dr. Suess

It is this simple: Live your juicy, delicious life; dream your beautiful, curly dreams; and watch your success unfold.

 

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