Yoga taught me how to love my body

Growing up, I struggled with feelings of low self-esteem and body confidence. I didn’t like my 5ft tall stature, weak underdeveloped arms, tiny hands, or belly fat which I nicknamed “Pasta pouch.” Having low endurance, low strength, and an extremely high cholesterol, I was often criticized for my image and eating habits in subtle ways by those closest to me. Living with high stress levels and depression didn’t help either. As time progressed, I knew I needed to make a change for my mind and body, so I began to attend group strength training , TRX , Pilates and Aerobics classes.

During my group class days, I did experience some benefit. My cholesterol levels reduced slightly and I got a distraction from my self-depreciative feelings. However, something was missing.

I didn’t love going to these classes. 

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It was a chore for me. The end results weren’t great either. Instead of coming home feeling refreshed and joyous, I’d arrive home tired, severely sore, and starving for fries.

I kept going because “that was what I was supposed to feel”… Right?

Not to mention, I still didn’t feel confident. I still wished I were stronger and taller.


One day I spontaneously decided to take a yoga class. I thought it’d be the same as all the others. In the beginning of my Vinyasa Yoga class, we closed our eyes and focused on our breathing. Then, we slowly eased into the movements, given instructions such as “take your time getting through this pose,” “listen to your body,” and “thank your body for coming here today.”

Listen to my body? Take my time? Thank you? I was used to hearing “Go! Push! 30 seconds more!” I was used to telling myself, “Come on, body. Just push so that you can look better and be stronger!”

As time passed, my perspective during group exercise shifted. I started noticing things.

  • “This part of my shoulder is pretty sore today.”
  • “The stretching period during group exercise was short. My calf needs a longer stretch. Why can’t we stretch more?”
  • “I wonder how it would feel to do a downward dog right now… Wow, this feels amazing.”
  • “Maybe I should back off here… My thighs are not burning in a good way.”

During group exercise classes, I thought I was gaining confidence. Instead, I was pushing myself over the edge and burning myself out.

The word “Yoga” in Sanskrit means “union” or “connection.” Most refer this union to be of the Mind, Body, and Spirit. Before yoga, I was exercising mindlessly . I was following along with the movements and doing the exercises without thinking anything except “Push! 30 seconds more!”

  • My mind was still depressed and stressed, and I was reinforcing this during exercise.
  • My body was experiencing intense soreness every day, for the sake of desperately wanting to change my body.
  • My spirit was non-existent.

After Yoga, I realized that I needed to begin paying attention to my body and speaking to it kindly. I began telling myself, “How does this feel right now? Okay, it’s getting harder. Let’s try to push just a bit more and see how that feels” instead of “Push! Push!” Yoga taught me how to identify my limits and push through them in a loving, kind way.

Although I am still short with thin arms, tiny hands, and a bit of belly fat, I feel perfectly imperfect.

I can officially say I LOVE my body. I feel emotionally, mentally, and physically stronger. I can do more than I ever did before when I was just trying to push myself aggressively past my edge

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Start noticing how you feel about your body before, during, and after you exercise. Are you treating it well? Are you loving every moment of it? Are you saying, “Thank you” or “Push!”?

If you’re saying the latter, I recommend trying Yoga. Prepare for a mind, body, and spirit transformation.

“ Bringing systematic attention to our body can change out whole relationship to our physical life. We can notice more clearly the rhythms and needs of our bodies. Without mindfully attending to our bodies, we may become so busy in our daily lives that we lose touch with a sense of appropriate diet, movement, and physical enjoyment .” – Jack Kornfield, meditation master.

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My healing process: Why am I’m feeling so terrible, really? What is this trying to tell me?

I strongly believe that everything in life is here to teach you a lesson. Everything. Lately, I’ve been feeling highly anxious, sometimes scared, and angry as triggered by a situation. Here’s the situation:

I am getting ready to sign an addendum for a new lease term. The realty company my unit is tied to, however, has been consistently giving wrong information as related to payments and lease agreement. Every couple of days, I get a new demanding and passive aggressive email from 1 of the 5 people I’m in communication with, asking me to pay for something. When I was first moving here, for example, I was threatened to get evicted for not paying a late fee, when our payment was not late in reality. Now, there is confusion about whether last month’s rent will carry over for the new lease and I am being demanded to basically make an extra payment.

In this situation, the only thing I have control over is my reaction.  I can’t teach these people how to do their calculations correctly or communicate effectively. Truth is though, I have been ruminating over this issue every day. On the surface level, I am angry, especially when I think about them and their lack of responsibility.But that’s not all.

Let’s examine what’s going on with me, because I’m having trouble figuring it out myself.

  1. How can people treat me like this?! This is unfair! How can this company’s poor performance be reflected on me? I didn’t do anything! (Anger. Rage. Feeling hopeless, unseen, unheard, un-trusted, gaslighted.)
  2. I feel taken advantage of. (Sadness. Hopelessness. Feeling victimized.)
  3. I am scared that this will not work out. I am scared of the future when I have to deal with them again as I make my monthly payments. (Worry and anxiety about possible bad consequences)

It’s a combination of things that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around. But here’s the thing we need to understand…

It’s usually not about the situation itself. 

This goes deeper than this. It is trying to tell you something. Here is me trying to process and figure it out on my own:

  1. The anger due to feeling gaslighted, unseen and unheard: I felt like this often throughout my childhood, and this situation is bringing that up again. Growing up, I was often accused of lying, even though I wasn’t. I was also a good child, but would get ignored or punished for things that were not bad. I was also often accused for doing drugs and other rebellious acts, even though I wasn’t. My family also accused me of not caring about them, even though I did. Essentially, I was not seen as the responsible, beautiful, honest, caring young child that I really was all along. I always had to prove myself, and even then, it was never enough.  Now, I’m having to deal with this again, with realtors this time. This means there is still a lesson to be learned here, and it’s not over.
  2. The feeling of victimization and being taken advantage of: It goes along the same path. Always being the good child, now the good tenant, who was lied to often. During some past toxic friendships, I was taken advantage of for being loyal and believing people. From being told sob stories to hitch a ride with me, to lying to me to get out of something.
  3. Finally, the worry and anxiety: The fear that I will be evicted for no reason and my life will fall apart. The fear that just being who I am, and doing nothing wrong, will have consequences.  This one hits home more than any of the others… I experienced early childhood trauma at 1-3 years old.

Being innocent, doing nothing wrong, and yet still heeding the terrifying consequences.

Feeling unseen and unheard, despite the beautiful, caring, responsible, amazing person I know I am on the inside. Somewhere in there, feeling like I deserve to be heard. Feeling like I deserve more than this, but feeling powerless. “Well maybe I don’t deserve more. Maybe I am flawed” Maybe I should get evicted because I didn’t try hard enough to prove myself. Maybe I do need to make this extra payment, because I am not worth fairness.

Not truly recognizing that I am worthy, and that I deserve more. 


It’s never about the realtors.

It’s never about the current situation.

I goes deeper than you could ever imagine. 

And this is why situations repeat themselves. Every toxic friendship and toxic relationship had has this same theme. Now, the fuckin’ realtors. Excuse my French.

This is therapy. This is healing work. This is what I have to do for a living in order to transform my life. 

I’m tired of these situations bringing me down all day. I’m tired of toxic relationships. I’m tired of the constant pain and suffering. And even though I know it’s not going to totally go away, it will stay persistently with me if I ignore it. It will repeat itself through the next realtors, and the next friendship, and the next relationship. 

When you ignore it, it comes back to bite you.

This realtor situation is the Universe, or God’s way of saying, “Pay attention to this. You still have some work to do and you need to move through it, Mon.”

“And don’t worry, I will help you.”


 

 

 

A Psychological Look at Star Wars: Projection and Facing Your Truth.

There is so much to be learned from watching Star Wars. I just finished watching Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. There is something about movies 1 -3 that strike me. For example, the way that Anakin was destined from the start to become Darth, and seeing that process unfold. Seeing the blind spots of the Jedi and how the Dark Side clouded their vision, even Yoda’s, is powerful. It’s a symbol of how even the great masters of the world are still human and have their moments. I’m sure even the Dalai Lama has his blind spots, which makes me feel a bit better about mine.

Yoda knew Anakin’s fate, in his gut, from the very beginning as did Obi-Wan. They knew, and yet they decided to still let him in without giving him the proper training and tools that he probably needed. In fact, they blindly perpetuated the problem by taking him in without fully trusting him. Although they were unconsciously aware of the truth, they did not want to accept it. They were repressing. In denial of what was to come. And in the end, exactly what they feared is what transpired.

In subtle ways, they put him down and treated him like a disobedient child. In subtle ways, they ignored the good and did not truly see the light inside of him. Only Qui-Gon saw Anakin’s true Jedi potential. If he had been his apprentice and still alive, maybe Anakin would have remained a Jedi. The Jedi were lacking faith and reason this entire time, thinking that simply disciplining the child would allow him to learn and grow. I believe this is why Qui-Gon eventually gained immortality. He’d be the one to teach Obi-Wan the correct way, allowing Obi-Wan a “second chance.”

This is the Law of Attraction at its finest. You view someone a certain way, and that’s what they become. You view someone like a child, and that is exactly what transpires. The Jedi became blind. Anakin was the chosen one to eventually bring balance to the force. The force was out of balance because the Jedi were too confident and not mindful enough of the presence of the dark side. The Force was not strong with them. 

The Jedi needed this lesson. They needed to see their blind spot, which essentially exploded in their faces. Years and years later, when Luke comes along, the Jedi would then train Luke the right way and remain mindful of the presence of the dark side.

Why am I sharing all of this? Well, I believe that there is great symbolism in this about our internal psychological struggles as mankind.

When we are blind to our own dark side, things implode in the same way.

Think about all of the times you’ve felt an explosion of emotion. All of the emotional breakdowns or moments of pure anger or fear. These emotional breakdowns are often due to a buildup of emotions that were already rising within you, but you were repressing, or ignoring perhaps consciously or unconsciously.

-Maybe it’s in the context of a job for example. Internally, you know that you’re unhappy in this job and that at the rate you’re going, you’re most probably not going to last. You know you need a career change, and a life change. You’re just not happy where you are in your life. You can’t bear this idea though, so you hold on. You hold on and go to work every day feeling miserable. Your bosses see you miserable and then all of a sudden, in your perspective, they’re excluding you and ignoring you. It’s them now. “My bosses are so mean. They can’t stand me.” Meanwhile, you’re going to work in an awful mood, shoving desk drawers with your feet and giving all of your coworkers the stink eye. The energy you give off is now the reality. Your perception of them is reality. You are seeing the very image you are projecting. Can you look at yourself and realize the truth that you are unhappy?  You only realize this once everything implodes and you get fired.

-Internally, the Jedi council do know that the Sith is still around, and they know that Anakin is going to be tempted to go down that path. They know the Jedi order is about to go into near-extinction and they know that danger is coming. But that idea is too much to handle so they hold on to the idea that Anakin is the chosen one. They hold on to this hope, letting Anakin be a Jedi and feeling terrible about it the whole time. They start treating Anakin like a mischievous child and soon enough, he does become this mischievous child. Their perception of Anakin becomes reality. They see the very image they project. Can they look at themselves and realize that the Dark side was always in existence and they were just too blind to see it?  They only realize this after the Jedi become nearly extinct.

-Internally, Anakin knows that he is going to be tempted to face suffering in the form of his mother and Padme dying. He knows that he is immature still and that he is suffering too much for being a Jedi. He knows this, but it’s too much to handle so he holds on to this idea that he is better than anyone else and that “he will save everyone.” He doesn’t want to face the truth that we are all bound to at least some form of suffering. He ignores this and says, “This can’t happen. I won’t let this happen!” When Yoda tells Anakin that death is a natural part of life, Anakin isn’t listening because he doesn’t want to believe it. So what happens? He starts to become a bit narcissistic, thinking that the Jedi are the problem because they “are not powerful enough to save lives”. They’re the bad guys now. They’re the problem now. The struggle is no longer internal. He is pretending to be a Jedi, unable to see that he is still a young Padawan.   Soon enough after being swayed by Sidious, Anakin is gone. He begins to see the very image that he was projecting. He genuinely begins to believe that the Jedi are evil and that he himself will bring order. Can he look at himself and realize the truth that he is really the evil one? The one who was suffering all along and who brought all of this upon himself?   He only realizes this upon his death…

04The truth is sometimes hard to face, and that’s life! We can walk around pretending we are enlightened all the time, but truly it is still a practice, even for Master Yoda. We are constantly repressing and projecting, and sometimes our lessons are learned after things implode.

Sounds a bit depressing, but here’s the good news:

Out of every “bad” experience, there is an incredible lesson to be learned that eventually brings happiness, joy and compassion. This is the ultimate truth. 

After most of the Jedi Knights are killed off, Padme dies, Anakin becomes Darth Vader, and the Empire is built, Luke Skywalker is born. He is the one to eventually bring peace back to the galaxy for some time.

After Darth Vader lives a life of suffering, darkness, and hate, he finally sees the light moments before his death. He sees his son as a reflection of what he wanted to be and that makes him happier than he would ever be, had he kept on living.

After you get fired from this job and wind up with no money, that’s when the career change and the road to happiness begins. The true light inside of you is illuminated after you get past this state of self-loathing. You eventually run into someone when you’re in the pits of despair, and they know someone who knows someone who owns a business in what you’ve been passionate about. A project car business, let’s say. You become friends and all of a sudden fast forward a couple of years and you’re running an international project car business in Germany. You are finally living out your dreams. 

After I have gone through many periods of self-loathing, depression, and anxiety, there has always been a light at the end of the tunnel. I start loving myself again. I learn more tools and techniques. I recognize my projections and repressions, and each new experience I have is done more mindfully than before. Each relationship is better. Each job or school experience is better.

Each day is better. 

But each day is also harder, as I try to face these dark truths. 

This is the cycle of life though, and we’re always learning. At the moment, I feel that I am Yoda (without the 100+ years of wisdom) right after he goes into exile in Revenge of the Sith. Everything has imploded and I am seeking retreat and shelter. I’m noticing all of my projections and habitual patterns. I’m realizing that there’s a darkness in me I was completely ignoring.

Where are you right now? In which areas of your life are you projecting?

Are you aware of your dark side?

Are you aware of your truth?

~ Namaste everyone ~

Reflection on: the teachings of Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche

The more that I read about Buddhism, the more it makes intuitive sense to me.

According to Buddhism, we must all take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Buddha pertains to that Enlightened nature we all have within ourselves. Buddha was able to clear all elements of human suffering such as negative emotions, attachment and desire to reveal His true essence of compassion and wisdom. By taking refuge in the Buddha, I believe this means trusting and devoting ourselves to that Enlightened Buddha nature within us.

Dharma pertains to the Buddha’s teachings that are based upon removing all attachments and disarming the Ego. This is the actual process of attaining that Enlightenment. By taking refuge in the Dharma, this means keeping these teachings close to us. Remembering them always and practicing them.

Sangha, and this one I find particularly interesting, refers to our community from the most Enlightened individuals (e.g. monks) to the average laypeople who are said to be “beginners” in this process (e.g. me and you). By taking refuge in the Sangha, we are acknowledging our “brothers and sisters” and actively seeking out like-minded people that will surround us with this mindful, loving, compassionate energy.

Alright so all of this makes sense, right? But what should we do with it? What can I do with this information?

  1. Taking refuge in the Buddha: For me, this has been picking myself up from the depths of self-loathing, attachment, and negativity by channeling my Wise self. I do this at times through meditation, yoga, and journaling or blogging. I speak to myself from that third person point-of-view. Others will often maintain an image of the Buddha in their shrines or homes and look to it with devotion and respect as a reminder of what we have in us. I have yet to do this, only because when I see an image outside of myself, it is still difficult to remember that this is a representation of myself. It still triggers a perfectionist “look-at-this-Buddha-statue-and-how-perfect-He-is-and-I’ll-never-achieve-this” attitude. I feel that as I progress more, I’ll let this go. For now, speaking to myself it is! I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way for anyone. Do as you please to channel your Buddha nature! 🙂
  2. Taking refuge in the Dharma: Well, first I need to study His teachings. That would help, right? At the moment, I have a general moral compass related to to His teachings and I try my best to follow them in my daily situations. For instance, one teaching is regarding to non-violence. I have always practiced this, so what I try to do is practice thinking nonviolently. In addition, when I am making decisions or doing anything really, I do so mindfully. At times I’ll meditate or do breathing exercises in order to get myself into that Buddha-like state so that I then can make wise decisions.
  3. Taking refuge in the Sangha: I am doing this right now. Choosing to follow and create blogs that promote love, compassion, and wisdom. I have also limited my social environments and interactions. For instance, I no longer drink or go to bars or clubs. Will this change? Maybe at some point you’d find me in one, but probably not for a long time, and you probably won’t find me drunk. I’ve also partaken in the Yogi community by getting out there and doing yoga, as well as replacing my Netflix subscription with a Gaia subscription. I also joined an online community for like-minded individuals, and it probably won’t be the only one I join. I still have a lot to work on, but I’m taking the steps as we speak, and I am happy doing so 🙂

The three motivations for these refuges are avoiding pain, aspiring for peace, and aspiring to rid all others from human suffering.

As I mentioned, all of this makes intuitive sense to me. At this moment, I do not see myself immersing myself in this and becoming a Buddhist nun or a devoted 100% Buddhist. In fact, I don’t really know what it means to be labeled a “Buddhist.” In fact, I don’t even know what it means to label myself. Labels are a construct made in order to conform ourselves to a role or niche. They are for the comfort of ourselves and others, but not necessary. We all have this compassionate, loving Buddha nature, remember? …

Or is this simply my Ego speaking? My Ego that wants to avoid labels in fear of disappointing. My Ego that is thinking “If I label myself in this blog, right now, someone may read this with a narrow mind and choose to stop reading!”

My mind is an intricate place. I laugh at it sometimes.

In conclusion, I guess I would label myself as all of the following: A person who resonates with Buddhism, Yogi, Love enthusiast, and Believer of our Inner Wisdom. In mainstream surveys, I guess I’d probably label myself as “Spiritual, Not Religious.”

*Sources:

“All Teachings Are on Refuge” – Pema Mandala, the magazine of the Padmasambhava Buddhist Center.PemaMandala2015v2