Friday, March 30, 2012

Perfect, Whole, and Complete

One of my yoga teachers says the following phrase to us toward the end of class when we are deep in Savasana:

"You are perfect, whole, and complete - just the way you are, and just the way you are not."

Image Credit

I hadn't been to her class in a while, so it was a refreshing reminder to hear these kind words.  So much so, that I printed it up in a pretty purple font with a purple sun and hung it in the lady's room at work (after consulting with my only other female colleague, of course).

We both talked for a moment about how important it is to see, read, and speak these truths to ourselves.  Most of the time, we are talking to ourselves in such a way that we would never tolerate if anyone else spoke to us that way.  We are quick to notice and judge ourselves for our shortcomings and mistakes, but are we as quick to acknowledge all of the things that we do right and what a blessing we are to others each day?

Perhaps there are some words that lift, encourage, and remind you of the amazing being that you are underneath all of the "stuff" and labels that we live with every day.  Consider taping up a sign somewhere where you'll see it frequently, and consider talking more kindly to yourself.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Every 7 Years, We are "Made New"

I'm not suggesting that you need to wait until you are 35 to experience something like this, nor that if you are later in life that it's too late. It's not. We can, at any moment, begin to change our thoughts, make different choices, and begin honoring ourselves. We can begin to truly acknowledge how fortunate we really are, despite any past or present pains....despite the fact that life is not perfect, and while we'd like to be happy "all the time," this world is truly a mix of magic and tragic, and we are blessed to be alive and to experience all of it.

Yesterday I celebrated 35 years on the planet. For more than one reason, I truly feel like a "new" person. To begin with, let's say I'm fortunate enough to live at least until the ripe old age of 70.  You could say I am on the cusp of my official mid-life reflection (I don't need a crisis, thank you!).  I've realized that the first 35 years of my life are now the past. I release that time of my life. It's a powerful experience, to say the least.

I release childhood traumas and the crazy relationships and decisions of my twenties. I finally feel as if I am coming into my own as a woman, focusing on my writing, and making choices (such as returning to vegetarianism, eliminating aspartame and artificial ingredients from my diet, and honoring myself when it comes to boundaries) that are in alignment with the core of my being. I am honoring myself.

In addition to the emotional and spiritual shifts that occur at 35, there is something pretty amazing going on for all of us on a physical level at age 35 (and 7, 14, 21, 28, 42, 49...).  I once heard that at these intervals, human beings get entirely new cells -- we are made physically new every 7 years for our entire lives. I did some research, and science seems to support this information.

According to Nicolas Wade, a science writer for The New York Times, Dr. Jonas Frisen, a stem cell biologist at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden developed a method of determining the actual age of human cells.  In his research, he discovered that the reason that most people act/behave in accordance with their actual birth age - their years on the plant - is because some cells remain the same from birth and throughout life; however, the rest of our cells are renewed about every 7 years. So, it's no wonder that we may feel a physical "newness" at those intervals.

What age are you at now?  How many 7 year cell renewal cycles have you experienced so far? Was there a certain age when you began to really evaluate your life and make new, conscious decisions about how to live it?


PS Be sure to enter the 10k celebration - it's easy to win some great prizes! Click here to enter.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ask Someone's Story | Caring for Each Other in Mindfulness

I had an interesting experience at the post office this morning. I was stopping in on my way to work to mail a package and some cards.  There were two people ahead of me and another woman off to the side filling out a form.  As I was about to be the next person in line, I keep looking over at the woman filling out the form, hoping she wouldn't be done before it was my turn.  I wanted to be next.

Well, she did finish filling out her form, and then she looked to me, and said, "You go ahead. Please." I asked if she was sure. I told her I was on my way to work and that I thought she must be too. In my first impression, the initial scan that we all subconsciously do when we meet someone, I summed her up: late 50s or early 60s, dressed up nicely and probably well-to-do (I was at a post office in an affluent neighborhood on my way to work, so I assumed she was affluent -- even though I'm not and I was also conducting business there.)

Oh, no," she said, looking a bit downcast, "I haven't worked in a long time.  I've been looking, but I haven't been able to find anything."

Something shifted within me, instantly, I was aware of all of the judgments I'd made about this woman in literally a few seconds. I was all ready to feel inferior and to have an awkward moment with her about who would go next in line (so trivial, I know, but think about how many minutes in our day are taken up by these kinds of circumstances and thinking)...My heart softened instead.

I could feel my face and posture changing to that of a more compassionate, receptive person.  In my heart, I felt urged to make that moment matter and to let her know that SHE matters.

I asked her what kind of work she does or would like to do. She told me that she used to be an office manager and enjoys administrative assistant work, but that she's been a stay-at-home caretaker to her elderly mom for the past nine years, and her mother had just passed away. She also shared that she was at the post office because, not only could she no longer afford to pay the rental fee on her PO BOX, but she also needed the deposit back on the key.  Imagine how humbled I was in that moment.

We talked a bit more. She told me that she thinks that she isn't getting responses from jobs because her last job listed on her resume is from nine years ago. I encouraged her to go home and update her resume right away.  Being that I am sometimes hired by clients to revamp or create a resume, I felt in a position to give her some advice. I suggested that she list herself as a "Professional Caregiver" for that nine year period and to list all of the skills, abilities, and tasks that made up her days for the past nine years. I told her that all that effort and hard work counts. I told her that what she did matters, and that SHE matters. She thanked me. I told her not to give up hope. She responded, "I was about to. Thank you for your kindness. God Bless You."

She's been on my heart all day.

Remember, a stranger is only "strange" until you know her story. Then, she's just as human, vulnerable, and important as you.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sulilo 10k Views Celebration Giveaway!

Dear Readers,

I am so excited to share with you my joy in reaching 10,000 page views at  This blog is truly an extension of myself. I rarely hold anything back and wear my heart on my sleeve, all with the hope that one person, every now and then, gleams some hope, insight, motivation, or compassion from my writing. This makes it all worthwhile. 

From the comments I receive from time-to-time, I know that my intention is being honored by the Universe, and that for every person who chooses to comment, there are many others who have read and felt something but didn't necessarily feel like leaving a comment. I am thankful for all of you.

The journey continues...

To celebrate this milestone, I have reached out to several companies and individuals whose products, services, and talents I adore, and I've asked them to be a part of my 10K Giveaway.

I hold the following sponsors near and dear to my heart for reasons I will outline.  Please be sure to visit their websites and check out what they have to offer. I think you will be delighted and blessed by their offerings.

If you would like the opportunity to share in my joy by winning one of the items below, all you have to do is:

  • Subscribe to - In the upper right corner of this blog, you'll see a space for you to submit your email address. Just do so, and when the email comes to you confirming you subscription, please confirm.  Be sure to check your spam filters if you do not receive the confirmation with 24 hours.
  • If you have Facebook and/or Twitter, please kindly follow the sponsors whose prizes you hope to win. You can even let them know that sent you!
  • Lastly, please leave a brief comment under this post indicating which prizes you are interested in. You can also say why, if you'd like.

That's all there is to it. Good luck, and let's celebrate!

Prize # 1:  Living Your Yoga by Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., P.T.

Click HERE now to order a copy of
Living Your Yoga by Judith Hanson Lasater
from Rodmell Press

If you're curious about what it means to take your yoga practice to the next level and live a yogic life outside of class, this book is for you. My spirit began to feel compelled to take the lessons I learned on the yoga mat out into the world.  This book reveals powerful insights on how to go about this. It is life changing for the individual who makes this choice and all of the people she or he comes into contact with.  I am thankful to Judith Hanson Lasater and Rodmell Press for their generous donation of a copy of this book that will change your life.

For more information:

Order a copy of the book
Judith Hanson Lasater
Rodmell Press (website)  Facebook, Twitter

Prize #2: Subscription to Daily Word by Unity 

Click HERE to subscribe to
Unity's Daily Word
Daily Word offers inspiration and practical teachings to help people of all faiths live healthy, prosperous and meaningful lives. Daily Word magazine includes two months of daily affirmative messages, feature articles and spiritual poetry.

What I love about Daily Word from Unity is that the organization's intention is to love and celebrate life with all people, from all walks of life. There is no exclusion. Their metaphysical interpretation of biblical verses is also something that I find fascinating. When I read the Daily Word,  I feel inspired and encouraged - never judged or as if I must conform to a single belief system in order to gain wisdom, comfort, and insight from what they have to offer. One lucky Sulilo winner will win a YEAR's subscription to Daily Word!

Subscribe to Daily Word Magazine
Facebook, Twitter

Prize #3:  A Coupon for a free 6-pack of Zevia Soda

Get some Zevia
I was a soda addict. Even though it often tasted bitter to me, I couldn't get enough of the leading diet sodas.   At one point, I realized I was drinking several cans a day of a beverage that contained ingredients that I wasn't totally clear on. When I began to do some research on aspartame, I realized that I could no longer subject my body and mind to the chemical. I began a quest for an all natural, calorie-free soda.  I wasn't sure that one existed. I tweeted out my mission to find such a drink, and a friend wrote back, "Check out Zevia."  I'm glad she did. Zevia is sweetened with a natural plant extract called stevia and is all natural.  I feel so good about having made this switch and am a true cheerleader for the product anytime I see someone drinking a chemical laden soda!

Another fun fact...I came across this Zevia  blog post, which claimed that you could take any box of cake mix, add one can of soda and then mix together and bake as directed.  The results: absolutely delicious. Click here to read my blog that covers my test of this recipe.

Visit Zevia's Website
Facebook, Twitter

From Zevia: 

Zevia is very active with our social media, always doing contests, giveaways, and just chatting with our fans!

When sampling Zevia keep it cold! We always say cool is not cold enough!  We recommend that you drink it out of the can. It gets warm and flat in a cup!

Prize #4: A Custom Made Greeting Card by Cards By Haley

One of a kind greeting cards by
Cards By Haley
I met Haley on twitter (@CardsbyHaley). When I found out that she made custom, one-of-a-kind greeting cards, I was intrigued. Send her an email and let her know what kind of card you'd like to have made...who it's for...something special about them, and she will whip up a masterpiece that is a beautiful gift in and of itself.

Haley is generously donating her time and materials to create one custom greeting card for a lucky Sulilo winner. 

Here are some of the beautiful cards I recently ordered from her:

Cards By Haley

Cards By Haley

Prize #5: A Beautiful Print from Artist Jeremiah Ketner

From the moment I saw artist Jeremiah Ketner's work, I was mesmerized. His paintings transport me to a beautiful place where colorful, fairy-like creatures express their divinity in countless ways. You may have seen his mural work featured at Nordstroms, or you may have read my blog post about some of my favorite paintings by this very talented artist.  

One of my favorite paintings by Jeremiah Ketner: "Hiding Place"

Jeremiah is generously donating a small print of one of his beautiful paintings (his choice) to a lucky winner. You can view his online store by clicking HERE.

Facebook, Twitter

Prize #6: A Gorgeous Print from Miami Photographer AJ

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Southern Florida. I fell in love with Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Though I have not yet physically returned to that area, I have, on a number of occasions, revisited it in my dreams. Florida is written on my heart in a sacred way.  I'm sure this is why I was drawn to the photography of Miami-based freelance photographer, Anthony Jordon, Jr.

This is one of my favorite images of Miami, taken by
Anthony Jordon, Jr.
Antony Jordon (AJ) is generously donating one print (of his choice) to a lucky Sulilo reader. See more of his work here.

Facebook, Twitter

Prize #7: A Subscription to Your Beauty Industry Magazine (YBI)
Sponsor added this prize on 3/5/2012

I absolutely love celebrity makeup artist Debra Macki. She is beyond talented, passionate, and genuinely loves to get up in the morning to do her work. She inspires me. This magazine, Your Beauty Industry (YBI) features her work, along with that of other talented artists, stylists, photographers, and more. If you love makeup, want to be a makeup artist, or want to draw inspiration from tips and tutorials, go for this prize.

Facebook, Twitter

Debra MackiFacebook, Twitter

And there you have it.  Thank you for sharing in this joy with me.  Winners will be contacted via email (which I will have once you subscribe).  

There is much more to come at  Thank you so very much for sharing in this journey with me.


Debbie aka Sulilo

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Children Understand More Than You Think

Last night, I was watching my TiVo'd episode of "The Voice" on NBC. I was moved to tears when I saw the very young brother of a contestant rooting for his sister. He must have been about 9 or 10, and she around 30. When his sister was selected for the show, the boy became so excited and happy for her that he clung to his mother as his eyes welled up with tears of joy.  It was so moving to see.

"Tears of Joy" image courtesy of MoLifa

I flashed back to when I was about 5 years old. I was in kindergarten. Because the relationship between my parents was tumultuous, this was one of those years where I wasn't sure if my Dad would show up on Christmas...but he did.  I was so excited to see that, by the big, lit up Christmas tree, my father, who I loved dearly at that age, was sitting there holding a present for me. I opened it up, and it was the "It's a Small World" book and tape. I remember feeling so touched. I somehow knew that my parents didn't have much money for gifts, and they knew how desperately I loved this Disney song and story.

That is the first time that my eyes welled up and I cried tears of joy. My Dad asked if I was ok. I just said, "Thank you Daddy," and wrapped my arms around him. I carried that plastic resealable pouch with the book and tape EVERYWHERE with me. I even brought it to "show and tell."

One time, after class, the teacher told my mother how the morning kindergartners really enjoyed the story and tape. My mother offered it out to her to borrow for her afternoon class. She didn't ask me. I cried and remember going into hysterics. My teacher, Mrs. DiFiori, kept asking my mom, "Are you sure?" They had no idea why this gift held so much significance for me, and how I felt like a precious part of me was being taken away, and neither of them really seemed to care much. I never forgot it. 

Thirty years later, and I remember, clear as this monitor is before me, both the event where I was filled with joy at the thoughtful gift I received and the devastation I felt when I was ignored, invalidated, and not consulted when something so precious to me was involved.

Please be gentle, kind, careful, and loving with and around your and others' children. Do not assume that because a child is very young that he or she doesn't really "get" or understand what is happening -- that the child won't remember.  Some things get written on our hearts and souls and remembered for decades after.

When you have the enormous responsibility and honor of spending time with a child, behave as if everything you say and do matters...because it does.

I couldn't believe it, but I found something
very similar to what I had on ebay just now.


Friday, February 17, 2012

When we dim our Light for others...

I found myself awake yet another night...tossing and turning and staring at the clock. It was past midnight. I know that I should stop consuming so much television coverage on Whitney Houston - especially before bed.  I looked within to find a reason why I may be engrossing in the subject and in this tragic loss so much.

As noted in a previous post, I loved Whitney Houston as a music artist. I posted this about her on Twitter today after watching her 2009 interview with Oprah Winfrey last night:

" Holly, after I watched 's interview with #Whitney last night, I realized something. Her light shined SO brightly...she channeled her voice from the highest heavenly place. Any time God calls someone forward like that, darkness/the enemy/the devil/dark forces -- whatever you want to call them...will try any and everything to take that person down and destroy them. My heart broke when she talked about even when she was lacing her joints with cocaine, she was still reading her bible and praying hard...Even though she was succumbing to the temptation of the temporary relief of drugs and alcohol, she always, as she said, had that fight in her. I believe it was a spiritual battle up until the very end."

Whitney Houston Shining Her Light

Whitney Houston revealed in her interview with Oprah that she was a victim of domestic violence and emotional abuse in her own home. This powerful, amazing singer with a gift straight from God was trying to "dim her light," as Oprah put it, in order to please her husband and tend to his jealousy of her power and success.

I thought of someone in my life...someone I care about very much. She, too, is someone who could be a powerful force, yet she is choosing to be in relationship with someone who hurts her verbally, emotionally, physically, and dare I say, beyond that.

Other family members and I recently helped her to leave this abusive person. She was getting stronger. She found another place to live and sounded in good spirits, though she frequently mentioned being afraid of him finding her.  That's why we were all shocked when she agreed to meet up with him to "exchange some belongings." He wooed her right back into his web of deception, and the cycle of domestic violence begins again with the honeymoon stage. They are together again. I asked her if she is with him against her will. She denies this.

I have been feeling sad and helpless from the sidelines. I have lost sleep and peace. I had to decide that I must not let this situation and this person's choice continue to rob me of my joy and to affect my health. I must not believe that I can be her savior. I was thinking about all that she had been through in her life, from the time she was a child. I discussed it with my boyfriend, who responded,

"You can't go back in time and change all that..." and "she's not ready."  I will continue to love her, but I am implementing boundaries that protect my heart and my life as well.  I have taken a hiatus from speaking with her. She doesn't seem to mind. I guess she's too busy listening to his promises again.

Hearing Whitney's story reminded me of this person. She could also be such a light for good. She has the desire and the ability...God, please give her the strength.


Domestic Violence Resources:

National Domestic Violence Hotline:   1−800−799−SAFE(7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

National Coalition Against Dometsic Violence

Addiction and Substance Abuse Help:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 
"Confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing substance abuse and mental health issues:" 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Suicide Prevention Help:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273- TALK (8255)         

Monday, February 13, 2012

I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston

Last Saturday night, I was a passenger in my boyfriend's car. We were heading back home from a day of (mostly) window shopping.  We got some exercise, had some good food, and enjoyed the sun. As usual, while in the car, I checked my Twitter feed. 

When I saw a tweet that included "RIP Whitney Houston," I hoped that it was just some sicko's idea of a joke. But, as I scrolled through my timeline and saw trusted tweeters, both commoners like me and big celebs like Mariah Carey, all sending out distraught tweets about Whitney, my heart sunk. 

At only 48 years old, the beautiful soul with a heavenly voice, Whitney Houston, was silenced. Although we will forever have her amazing recordings, she will never sing again on this plane.

Millions of us, when we heard the news, flashed back to memories from the 80s and 90s when Whitney's voice was one of the soundtracks of our lives. Many of us then rushed to watch coverage on CNN. We tweeted our sorrows and disbelief and congregated at YouTube to watch her videos, still in shock and numbed by what had happened. Whitney Houston was dead. 

I started to think about how she was only 48 and felt surprised, as I thought she was a bit older. I guess the anguish and pain of the last decade of her life showed itself upon her physical body, causing her temple to look a little bit older than it really was. 

I then thought back to when I was a young girl. I am old enough to remember her very first hits, including "Didn't We Almost Have It All?" and then her upbeat releases like "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and "How Will I Know?" 

I could see vividly in my mind's eye the cassette cover of a vibrant Whitney with long, curly extensions, a beautiful smile, and a playful pose. As the mind works, one thought leads to another in an amazing, interconnected way. 

Suddenly, I was channeling my 8 year old self, listening to Whitney for the first time. I thought about how life was back then. It was a very nostalgic experience.

I then remembered other Whitney milestones, like watching "The Bodyguard" with my sisters in the group home I lived at as a teen and how we would play the soundtrack over and over until we knew ever word, every nuance.

Perhaps you experienced something similar, recalling memories from your past that are tied in with Whitney's music or movie roles.

The album cover that came to mind...

Perhaps you also connect with and acknowledge the significance of a highly publicized passing.  Losing an icon from our childhood inevitably strikes a nerve: we are reminded that nothing lasts forever and that we are all mortal. We, too, shall die one day...and we don't know when or how.

I don't bring this up to create fear. I do it because I hope that we will all move through this experience noticing how precious and fleeting life is. I hope that we acknowledge those we love and that we begin pursuing our dreams, because as we've seen with so many others in our lives, and now Whitney, not one among us is promised another day. 

I sign off this post with one of my favorite Whitney songs. I posed it on my Facebook page the other day, and someone from the new generation was introduced to it for the first time and fell in love with it. It's called, "All The Man That I Need." Enjoy.

What was your reaction to Whitney's passing?  Has her sudden and untimely death spoken to you in your journey in any way? 


Article: Should New Jersey fly the flag at half-staff in honor or Whitney Houston?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Respecting What we Touch | Mindfulness Practice | 100th Sulilo Blog!

This week in yoga class, our teacher gave us a new assignment to add on to our "3 acts of kindness to the world and 3 acts of kindness to ourselves" daily practice.

We were invited to begin practicing respect, and we are doing it in an interesting and unexpected way.  The practice is to show respect (or bring respect) to EVERYTHING that we touch...another person, an object, the family pet...everything that we touch with any part of as we prepare and enjoy it...the rug or hardwood floors beneath our feet...

I just started the practice and have already begun to notice two immediate benefits: Respecting everything I touch keeps me in the present moment, and it makes me feel grateful.

Suddenly, twisting the cap off the milk at breakfast time was no longer a trivial, robotic act, but one of wonder, and a reminder of how fortunate I am to have milk in the fridge.

Walking down the stairs to my kitchen first thing in the morning to feed my cats wasn't done in a zombie-like, "Ughh, it's morning" fashion. I felt each step beneath my feet. I noticed the coolness of the wooden railing as my hand held it along the way. I felt more curious about "the ordinary," and everything felt alive and interesting.

My teacher suggested touching everything as if we were borrowing it from a dear friend. We tend to treat such things with much more care than our own belongings. We can bring that same care to everything in our lives.

We can bring it to showering...brushing our teeth...opening the car door and sitting on the car seat, holding our pets, significant others, and children. Moment to moment, we can stay more aware and grateful of every little thing. It's quite profound.

Last night, as I was counting some bills before putting them into my wallet, I respected the money. As I cleaned my house, I took my time, respecting every object and fully acknowledging how each is a blessing.

Even right now, my fingers feel like they are dancing on the keyboard. :-)

I challenge you to accept the invitation to practice respect in this way, starting right now. I truly look forward to your thoughts before you begin and as you begin to experience the benefits.


Image Courtesy of Women in Recovery

(As a fun side note, I'm excited to share that this is my 100th post on this Sulilo blog!)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Netflix Knows Me | Moving Movies

Over time, Neflix has determined that I especially enjoy "Midlife Crisis Comedies," and Dramas, Comedies, and Romantic Comedies "featuring a Strong Female Lead" and continues to suggest incredible films that fit these bills.

A while back, I watched a movie called "Under the Tuscan Sun." For any woman of any age, if you have ever had the urge or fantasy to just leave it all behind and start your life over somewhere else, this movie is a must-see. 

Trailer for "Under The Tuscan Sun":

This film evidently became a starting point for my intimate relationship with Netflix. I began to receive some interesting suggestions - movies that, according to my interest in "Under the Tuscan Sun," I might enjoy.  Since then, each choice to view a film and rate it has led to additional, very appropriate suggestions.

At times, I've stretched out of my comfort zone. For example, I no longer mind subtitles at all. Limiting my movie choices to English language films was limiting my world.

I now love movies about women in foreign countries (especially oppressed ones) who rise above and revel in their own personal victories. 

I love watching them take charge of their lives...finding their paths...finding true happiness. Isn't this, universally, what we all long for?

Here are some of my favorites:

"In Therapy" 


(give this one about 10 seconds to starts off all scrambled but then comes into focus...)


Netflix is now recommending this film to me:

"Bread and Tulips"

Based on the trailer, I am going to *love* this film. I'll keep you posted.

Have you seen any of these movies? What types of movies do you tend to gravitate toward? How do they make you feel?


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When we Judge Ourselves Harshly | The Yoga of Non-Judgment

I knew that this particular blog post would be difficult to write, so I have been putting it off for days. Only today, when I revealed a glimpse of it to my Twitter followers and received words of support and requests for this topic, did I feel fully prepared to share.

While sparing you the details, I have been under a good amount of stress lately. In response to that stress, I have done a number of things, from making sure I practice yoga to comforting myself with food. Both can be healthy, but with regards to food, I have been disregarding my body's signals when I am full, and I have been excessively consuming sweets. I have been using food to calm and soothe me, but the food choices haven't been the healthiest. For a number of reasons in the short and long term, this is not good for the body.

In fact, it's not good for homeostasis in general: mind-body-spirit. It's not to say that we should never curl up with a bowl of ice cream when we are feeling down or indulge a little bit more when at a buffet, but given that I have had a pattern of disordered eating throughout my life (ever since I can remember, really), I need to be kinder, more compassionate, and loving when I notice that my day to day food choices have swung in an unhealthy direction or when the messages I am telling myself become unkind or judgmental.

Image Courtesy of The Body Shop

Judgment from the Self:

A psychologist friend who implements a lot of Buddhist practices into her work mentioned the concept of judging the other day.  In this example, if we look at my reaction to my weight gain, judgment vs. non-judgment would look like this:

Judgement ("negative"):  I gained 18 pounds over the past 5 years because I've been eating a lot and not exercising as much as I should to keep up with it. I am repulsive, and because I'm not a size 2, I look horrible.

Judgement ("positive"):  I gained 18 pounds over the past 5 years because I eat a lot and I've enjoyed every second of it.  My curves look good.

Non-judgment:  I gained 18 pounds over the past years because I've been eating a lot and not exercising much. 18 pounds over 5 years amounts to an average of 3.6 lbs per year.

Do you see the differences between the 3 mindsets? Some would say that the "positive" judgment works for them, and that's fine. This illustration is just to show judgment vs. non-judgment. When we operate from non-judgment, we take away "good,""bad,""right,"and "wrong," and we just state the facts.

Judgement from Others (that we take on...or not):

Someone close to me recently commented that they were concerned for my health because they saw the spare tire I carry around on my belly area. I was laying on the floor, carefree, playing with my cats, unaware that I was "exposed." This person sees me all the time, but in this moment, my belly happened to show. I am usually a master at camouflaging my waist and belly - I layer Bali form-fitting tanks, wear looser tops, and things of this nature.

Yes, my jeans have gotten tighter. (That's usually my gauge). I had been walking around noticing and realizing this and it hadn't really bothered me all that much, but when I heard the comment, along with, "It's really hard to lose the weight when it gets out of control," I suddenly panicked. Given my history with eating disorders, I am not completely surprised that this reaction showed up. Fear took over, and this a dangerous emotional state to live in.

I had an almost instant judgment: "This person thinks I look fat and gross. I'd better lose this extra weight!"

In a more peaceful compassionate moment, we can take a look at moments where we judged ourselves (or others) like this and find a non-judgmental stance. I did this in this case.

My non-judgmental stance: "This person commented that they were concerned for my health because I have gained weight, and they also said it's really difficult to lose extra weight when it gets out of control."

Really, that's all that happened. Am I a mind reader? Do I know the other person's intentions? I know that this individual wouldn't want to hurt me with these words. I know that this person has had struggles with weight.  I had a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to what I thought  the comments must have meant. I could have asked if I had any unclarity, but I didn't.

Having ALL PARTS Show Up on The Yoga Mat

Yoga, for me, is about more than the physical practice on the yoga mat. It is also mentally soothing and balancing, and I feel very spiritually connected to it on and off of the mat.

This week, our teacher said that in order to grow in our yoga practice, we need to keep showing up to the mat. All of us. Rainy days. Sunny days. All parts of us. For me, at this time, this would be:

  • the young me who didn't always have food to eat
  • the teenage me who strove for perfection by extreme restriction of caloric intake
  • the adult me who has grown to love and appreciate food: cooking, going out to eat various cuisines, and baking
  • the adult me who sometimes becomes so stressed that she goes the other direction and completely loses her appetite
  • the part of me who fears judgment from others
  • the part of me that judges herself

ALL OF US will be showing up tomorrow to yoga class. All of us will be on the mat, mindfully engaging in purposeful movements and meditation.  All of us will release judgment.  I will feel safe to let my belly hang out in downward dog.  I will not look around and judge others' body shapes, "good," "bad," "thin," "chubby," "fat," "better than me/worse than me."

I will go within to what really matters. I will be in my body, loving every cell. It is here that I will remember that God loves us as we are and where we are at, and the issues we amplify and become consumed with must be considered on a grand, eternal scale. We are loved. We can love ourselves through anything.

Yogic Raisin to Consider: In what areas of your life have you noticed judging or non-judgment?  Who do you tend to judge more: others, yourself, or are you an equal opportunity judge?  How would you describe your relationship with food? Body image?

Please show yourself kindness, and I will do the same.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Don't Take Me for a Ride | The Auto Shop Experience

This story starts in frustration and ends in compassion and understanding. Sometimes, things work out that way. Perhaps you can relate.

I recently experienced some problems with my car. I don't usually drive at night, so it may have been an issue for a while, but I didn't find out until I was driving on a very dark road, on my way to pick up my significant other from the airport, when *BAM*: both of my headlights failed.

There were no street lights. I was in complete darkness.

Luckily, the faint glow of my hazard lights was enough to guide me to the shoulder of the road until I was able to get some help. The next day I went to the auto shop that I usually use. Their electrical person wouldn't be in for a couple of days, and I really wanted this safety issue resolved as quickly as possible.  

Being a chain, they have another location a few cities away. I went there, and they were able to perform the diagnostic tests. I was told that the needed parts would take two weeks to arrive from the east coast. What were they going to use? The Pony Express?

I asked if they could expedite the parts. I had to call the shop a number of times to follow up and "remind" them to call their vendor and find it about expediting the order. 

After a couple of days, I called to ask them the status of the parts. This morning, the man I spoke with said that he forgot to tell me that the parts arrived yesterday. I was a bit frustrated. I live about 45 minutes from the shop, and I could've been there and had my car repaired by now. Out loud, to myself, in the privacy of my home, I remember muttering things like, "those idiots....incompetent...geez, I had to do *everything*...jerks."

I fantasized about and even recited the scathing Yelp review that I couldn't wait to give them. When I arrived at the shop, the two staff members at the front desk looked embarrassed. While I didn't receive an apology, I could tell by the looks on their faces that they felt badly. They were extra courteous. I couldn't get angry. I just assertively asked, "Can you get me out of here in 2 hours?" I was assured that this would be possible.

I wanted to complain and ask why they has been so incompetent and why I had to do all of the legwork and pay for it, to boot. I wanted to tell them that it was rude of them to disregard my time. But when I looked at them, instead, my heart was filled with compassion. I've been a pushover in my life before, and I have no intention of playing that role again, but this morning, I felt that it was more important to be effective than to be "right."  (Besides, I would have my moment with Yelp!)

I realized that I didn't know the whole story.  Who knows why my issues were not a priority? Who knows what else has been happening at the shop with the staff and with the other customers? My emergency wasn't necessarily theirs.

I needed to take a time out.  I went to use the restroom. There, on the wall of the cement floored, typical dingy auto shop bathroom, hung this little painting.

Painting on the Car Shop's Bathroom wall

Seeing it softened my heart further. It reminded me that there is a little bit of beauty in every place and situation.

Don't get me wrong: It's not ok for people to take advantage of us. It's not ok for us to be mistreated, especially when we are exchanging money for a service.

At the same time, we can keep ourselves from becoming consumed with anger and channel that energy in a constructive direction.  This day and age, we have Yelp, a website that allows us as consumers to share our experiences - the good, bad, and the ugly, with other consumers. Had I checked the rating for this particular car shop (an average of only 1 star out of 5), I could have avoided this whole mess to begin with.

When the front desk clerk called me to take a look at my car, and we discovered that the technician failed to replace several lights that were on the work order, he became angry. I told him, "It's not your fault." Truth be told, I didn't have to be anywhere at any certain time, so this was a major opportunity to practice patience and tolerance.

I sat in the waiting area for almost another hour, and I Yelped. I channeled the frustration in a constructive way and directed no negativity to these men at the shop.

I cannot control everything, but I can Yelp.

Think of a situation that recently frustrated you. What might have been going on with the other people involved? Does it reduce your frustration at all to consider this?


Monday, January 23, 2012

The Yoga of Mindful Baking | Grounding Exercise

“You know what I love about cooking? … I love that after a day when nothing is sure—and when I say ‘nothing’ I mean nothing!—you can come home and absolutely know that if you add eggs yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.” - Amy Adams as Julie in Julie & Julia 

This quote came to mind today as I was baking soda cupcakes (details later) as a mindfulness practice. Today has been quite an ordeal. I received a phone call at 5:30 am that a close family member had an emergency, and I was asked to help. I'm on the west coast. She's on the east cost. But luckily, in today's world, this didn't pose much of an obstacle. 

She's safe for now. I can sleep well knowing that. I won't get into all of the details, but she's decided to trust that she is more valuable, loved, and supported than she may have previously believed. She's taken a big step in her life, and I am so blessed and proud to be a part of it. At the same time, I'm really stressed. When I was little, she had gone through a similar crisis that lasted for years, and I was a helpless child. The resources that exist today were not in place back then. I still suffer from time to time with PTSD symptoms over the incidents of the past, and her present situation jolted me. But it's not about me. It's about her. 

I decided to not get carried away by the pain of the past by grounding myself in the present, which ultimately led me to be able to be more effective in supporting her while also taking care of myself. How did I do this? I baked. 

Not completely from scratch, though I did experiment with a fun and unusual variation on cupcakes. I recently read that you can take any box of cake mix, add to it a 12 oz. can of soda, mix, bake as direct,and voila, yummy cupcakes. I decided to give it a try. I loved that since the soda replaced all of the wet ingredients, including the eggs, the raw batter could be enjoyed without worry. (It was yummy by the way and is a vegan-friendly version for my vegan friends!) 

My only 2 Cupcake Ingredients: Pillsbury Cake Mix and Blue Sky Free Cola (made with Stevia)

I mixed the ingredients. I lined the muffin tins with paper liners. I scooped the batter into the liners, one by one. I placed the tray into the preheated oven and set the timer. As I waited, I mixed some reduced fat cream cheese with Splenda and vanilla extract with my mixer until fluffy and until it tasted a little bit sweet. Then, I sat on the stairs and waited. 

The batter, free of raw eggs, was incredibly yummy!

Frosting made with just low-fat cream cheese, Splenda, and Vanilla Extract

When they were finally done, I pulled them out to cool, and I stood on the stairs and waited. Once cooled, I frosted them, put them in the fridge, and waited. Step by step. Details by detail. 

Yes. These cupcakes taste as scrumptious and fudgy and dense as they look!

About an hour after I had begun the process, I was eating - and thoroughly enjoying - one of the best cupcakes I'd had in a while. It felt very satisfying. Though I didn't make them completely from scratch (though, let's face it- all the Pillsbury Dough Boy did was combine my dry ingredients for me) I didn't just pick them up from the bakery either.

My cupcakes. Not pretty, but delicious. If I want to make it to Cupcake Wars, I'd better buy a piping bag and get some skills. :)

I grounded myself in the experience, right in this present moment. The movie quote at the beginning of this post was in my mind. I knew that I could take comfort in the fact that if I baked, step by step, I could count on the results. Even in taking the risk by using the soda, all turned out well. I may not be able to control everything around me...but I can bake.

What kind of activities can you engage in to ground yourself during times of stress? What has worked in the past? What is something new that you may try?

A pretty chocolate cupcake