discipline

Adventures In Yoga and Healthy Habits

Today’s adventure into the awkward and uncomfortable is yoga with my neighbor. My neighbor, sweet Anne. She invited me yesterday to one hour of chair yoga and one hour of mild yoga. Which is good, because I’m a beginner. Unlike my son Jordan, who can twist himself into a pretzel, I’ve never been flexible. (Yes, I know the cigarette is unhealthy, but LOOK AT THAT POSE).

jordan habits

I’m the girl who could NEVER do a backbend or the splits. Hours and hours of practice as a child only brought numerous bruises on my head from the basement floor, and shunning from my gymnast peers. My greatest athletic accomplishment as a child was the routine I did during a summer fitness class, skipping to “Up, up, and away in my beautiful, my beautiful balloooooon!” while frantically waving ribbons tied to the ends of long sticks. I guess maybe the awkward and uncomfortable aren’t so new to me after all.

Exercise was never that important to me when I was younger. I was thin and hyper and had a fast metabolism, and I ate like a horse but never gained weight. Until I was about 20. My metabolism stopped in its tracks and I grew out of the ultra-hyperness, and all I was left with were horrible eating habits and a now sedentary lifestyle.

So here I am – after years of gaining and losing more pounds than I can count – at age 51, over 100 pounds overweight, and still with poor eating habits. But once again, I’m starting over. The difference this time is that I have a leader who has been through the trenches (she’s lost 200lbs and is still losing) and a group of women to walk the path with. We’re learning together about meal prep and nutrition and activity.  I’m learning and enjoying and actually working out for the first time in my life. Not just walking or circuit fitness, but a variety of exercise and activites. Normally I would give up because, well, I didn’t want to work that hard. But keeping up with my fitness sisters – it keeps me going. Last night we did flights of stairs – FLIGHTS – then lunged up the stairs, then did push ups on each stair. This does not include the other arm and ab work that we did. I couldn’t keep up and I had to be careful not to reinjure my knee, but I did more than I’ve ever done before. My arms and legs are still noodles. I could barely lift my arms to wash my hair this morning. But it’s a good sore.

And my eating habits are changing. I didn’t notice how horrible my eating was until I started to change. I am an emotional eater. Baked good are my comfort food. But I’m establishing better eating habits – setting goals, planning ahead, implementing meal prep, trying new recipes, eating more fruits and vegetables. All of the things that I KNOW to do but have not consistently practiced. I am not a fan of green food, except pickles and M&Ms, but I am learning. And so far I have only gagged on the vegetables once. (But if I find peas in ANYTHING, it’s a deal breaker.)

So today I’m off to yoga with Anne. Two hours of yoga with strangers. I’m sure the stretching will be very good for me. And I’ve been wanting to try yoga for a while. I already know the importance of breathing for stress reduction.

Now I just need to figure out how to not talk for TWO HOURS. For me, this may be the biggest stretch of all.

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Hope For the Hopelessly Undisciplined: We Are Seasonal People

I sat across from my counselor and I took a deep breath. My throat tightened, like a hand was reaching around my windpipe and slowly squeezing.

“I don’t know how to do life.”

“I can see where I am, and in my mind’s eye, I can see where I want to be, but I have no idea who to get there. It seems like I try and I try and nothing ever changes. I never change. I’m so tired of trying. I can’t do it any more.”

He stared at me for a while. (He is one of those people to whom discipline comes more easily. I am pretty sure at this point I am beyond hope, especially from someone who doesn’t seem to struggle with daily disciplines.)

Counselor: Do you really think that you have never changed? Are you the same person you were in your 20’s?

Me: (I turned 50 this year.) Oh, heck, no! Thank God I’m not the person I was in my 20’s! I learn a little with each cycle, but it just seems like I’m struggling with the same things over and over and over again.

Counselor: What is it you think you need to do?

Me: (sigh) Stop eating sugar. Eat healthy. Exercise. Drink water. Be organized. Manage my time.  The list is endless. I’ve been like this as long as I can remember, even as a little girl. I make lists, I make plans, I start out great – for a while. Then I slowly lose steam, and finally everything comes crashing down around me, only to remind me that I’ve failed at life once again. (and now my throat has a lump the size of a tennis ball and the tears are stinging my eyes).

photo credit: Kristin Meador

photo credit: Kristin Meador

It doesn’t help that I am married to a man who is the perfect example of discipline. He exercises and has his morning quiet time regularly – he rarely misses a day of either. He is the kind of person who exercises when they are sick. What is wrong with this guy? He exercises faithfully every day, while I will make a check list for myself with exercise and weight loss goals, and give myself gold stars when I make the smallest step towards those goals. He picks up his socks and puts his clothes away, while mine find themselves in piles at the end of the bed, and I am smelling them to see if I can wear them for one more day.

What kind of life is this? And why can’t I be more disciplined? I try, I really do. And I do well for days, weeks, sometimes even months. But then I get sidetracked, or bored, or something more shiny comes along . . .

Counselor: No – what is it that you REALLY NEED TO DO? None of the things you mentioned are moral issues.

When it comes down to the very core of your life, what is important? What do you need to do?

Me: Love God, and love people.

Counselor: And are you doing those things?

Me: Yes. I am. (I really am. Not perfectly, but I am loving God and people.)

But I feel like I should be doing all of these other things . . .

And therein lies the problem. That pressure of the ‘shoulds’. Those things we feel like we ‘should’ be doing. Who told us we should be doing those things? And why do we feel pressure, guilt, even shame if we don’t?

Counselor: What if you look at it another way? What if you set aside the should’s that are imposed on you, and look at how God made you unique.

You are like Old Faithful – you start with a dream or a goal, and you build up and up and then have this beautiful, creative explosion – for a while. Then the water subsides, and there is a time of quiet until it begins to build up again.

photo credit: Old Faithful by Greg Willis flickr

photo credit: Old Faithful by Greg Willis flickr

Me: Hmmmmm. That’s true. But I like the explosion part. It’s beautiful and wonderous, and people are watching and cheering. I don’t like the part when the water subsides, though. The ground is broken and cracked and the air smells like sulfur. And the people walk away.

photo credit: wikimedia commons, Chromatic Pool Matthew Kaibel

photo credit: wikimedia commons, Chromatic Pool Matthew Kaibel

Counselor: What if you reframe it?

What if you are a seasonal person? You have Spring when the buds begin to blossom, and Summer when you grow and thrive, then Autumn when the growth slows and you prepare for Winter,  your season of rest, so you can grow and blossom again.

Old Faithful would run out of steam (literally!) if it were going 100% of the time.”

I thought about that for a long time. It didn’t set well with me, not at first. I didn’t like it. I would much rather be slow and steady.

Or would I?

Actually, I think that might be rather boring. But then that internal argument started. I am so tired of starting strong and usually not finishing well. I have always been that way, and I have learned my limits. After a big project, I need down time. After a busy week at work, I need at least half a day just lounging around, recharging.

I told my counselor I thought he was right, but I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.

The next day I had lunch with my friend who is wired very much like me. I told her what my counselor said about being a seasonal person. She said, “That is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard! Doesn’t that just give you a release, a sense of freedom, that it’s okay to just be who you are?”

I had to agree, and as I let it sink in that I am who I am, I began to appreciate that I am uniquely made. I am not saying that I should not strive to be more disciplined, more organized, more structured. But I am not going to beat myself up for not meeting a standard of performance that does just not fit me.

When I am focused, I am very focused, and can accomplish more in a week than many people will in one month. And that is why I need to time to rest and recharge, to get ready for the next burst. The next season. The next eruption. And I am learning to appreciate the winters. I am learning that they are not dark and barren, but they are peaceful and regenerating, and that without those times of rest I would not survive. It’s also very freeing to know that those down times are a necessary part of how I’m wired, and I don’t have to feel guilty, as long as I don’t wallow in them. And I’m going to treasure my seasons of focus and not waste a moment.

I am a seasonal person, and that’s not just okay – it’s beautiful.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14 (NASB)

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

Palms Up

One of my favorite humans on this planet is a lawyer, speaker, author, and humanitarian named Bob Goff. To me, he is Jesus with skin on, a guy who really lives the philosophy of loving others, and doesn’t just talk about it. He wrote a book that has greatly influenced my life, Love Does. In this book he describes a practice he does with his clients. When they are meeting, he asks them to sit with their hands on their knees, their palms open and facing up. His theory is that it’s impossible to be defensive with your palms up. You have nothing to hide with palms up. You are strong enough to be vulnerable. A similar principle is present in the theory behind lamaze classes. The theory is if your hands are clenched, you’re not relaxed. If you are truly relaxed and better able to deal with the pain, your hands will also be relaxed and not clenched. Along that line, symbolically, if our palms are open, we are better able to release anger and stress.

So I’ve tried this a few times. I’ve tried this at work during difficult conversations. I’ve tried this on the phone with an aggravating sales person. And I’ve tried it during my journaling, when I’m getting worked up about something that I’m writing. There really is a release in the simple act of opening your palms, and physically releasing whatever it is you may be holding in a tight grasp.

Try it yourself. You can even try it right now, while you’re reading this. Sit quietly and place your hands on top of your legs, palms up. Be still for a bit. Do you notice anything? 

Learning to live with palms up, to relax instead of being stressed, and to breathe and get centered rather than living in internal chaos does not come easy for me. Like any new skill, it takes education or knowledge, practice, and repetition. I’m often surprised at couples or parents who have decided “I’m not going to make the same mistakes in my next marriage” or say “I’m not going to do things the same way my parents did” but fail to take the necessary steps to actively learn a new way of doing things. Just because we know what we don’t want to do, does not mean that we magically acquire the skills to do things differently. Unless we’ve had a role model to show you a different way of doing things, we only have what we know. We only have the pictures and taped messages of our past, and it takes effort to replace these with new, healthy behaviors.

For me, as of today, these steps include:
•counseling – to have someone guide me as I look at why I do the things I do, and to also help me make the healthy transition from survivor to WARRIOR
•learning relaxation techniques like breathing and ‘palms up’ to help quell the inner noise so I am better able to be still before God
•learning to be healthy physically as well as spiritually, which for today means cutting out sugar, caffeine, and beer (but that’s a story for another day).

There are many other steps I need to take in my search for balance, and we’ll look at those in future posts. That’s enough vulnerability for today.

But for now – one day at a time, one step at a time, one breath at a time, with palms up.

Me and Bob Goff at the Storyline Conference 2/14

Kristin and Bob Goff at the Storyline Conference 2/14

 

SQUIRREL! Are You Chasing Distractions?

On my search for balance in my life, I found that there are multiple areas out of balance, and it’s hard to know where to start. So I asked myself – WHAT IS ‘IN MY FACE’ THE MOST? What are those things in my life that are distracting me from the most important work I should be doing – finding balance?

image

Just like the distractable dog, Dug, in the Disney-Pixar movie ‘UP’, I  often end up chasing squirrels.  Squirrels are distractions, or for me, anything that is moving or shiny, or seemingly more fun or interesting than the task at hand. (Or just not as boring.)  Please notice that I am not saying that I am just distracted by these things, I am actually chasing these distractions.

Let me explain: When I am distracted by something, it might look like this: I’m in the middle of a conversation and I get a phone call. I’m reading a book and the dog wants to go outside. I become distracted by those things.

The issue I am talking about is much bigger that just being distracted by something. I can deal with that in a matter of a few minutes. The real problems are the distractions that I’m chasing – that I purposely CHOOSE to run after. The squirrels that I’m chasing may be different from the ones you choose to chase. Those things that keep me from my goal for hours at a time.

Here are some questions that help me to determine the distractions in my life:

  1. What do I choose to do during my unproductive time, or my down time?
  2. What interrupts or prohibits me from starting important projects?
  3. What do I do when I want to avoid a chore or project?
  4. What do I do when I want to ‘escape’?
  5. What activities in my life might sometimes be described as a waste of time?

First let me say that just because you enjoy doing something on your ‘down time’, or as an escape, does not mean that it is necessarily a bad thing. But I know myself. In my first post about my search for balance, I wrote about my tendency for all-or-nothing. For instance, some people might enjoy reading a book to relax during their down time. However, my natural tendency is to read a book from cover to cover, and ignore anything else I should be doing. Sometimes the ‘good’ things we chase are distracting us from the BEST things.

So as I look at the questions above, it’s really not a mystery. I think each of us knows what distractions we chase that may be causing some imbalance in our lives. But I’m going to go ahead and answer each of these questions – maybe I’ll learn something new.

  1. What do I choose to do during my ‘unproductive’ time, or my ‘down time’?  Watch tv, binge watch something on Netflix, read or post to Facebook, eat, sleep, go to happy hour with friends, go on internet rabbit chases into the wee hours of the night (searching or researching something that lasts for hours but goes nowhere), go on a blog reading spree
  2. What interrupts or prohibits me from starting important projects? see above
  3. What do I do when I want to avoid a chore or project? see above
  4. What do I do when I want to ‘escape’? see above, plus plan a trip or go to Disneyland
  5. What activities in my life might sometimes be described as a waste of time? all of the above

Okay, so no surprises – I didn’t identify anything new. I know that each of these areas are distracting me from healthy balance in my life, and I also know that many of these are out of balance in and of themselves. All of these activities are acceptable, especially in moderation. I don’t do moderation. At least not yet.

In honor of my new search for balance, I’m stopping here. I would love to stay up for hours and dissect each distraction, looking at the positive and negative aspects of each, and what would balance look like in each of these areas. Black-and-white thinking: pros and cons, good and bad labels, all-or-nothing. I can’t tell you how difficult it is for me to go to bed without making a table and categorizing each distraction.

(And dammit. I just remembered that I wanted to write about coherent breathing first. I wrote about distractions, and now I’ll be accountable to do something about them.)  Ah well, each in it’s place. Good night for now.

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony. Thomas Merton

My Search For Balance

Including TTFN Facebook – by Kristin Meador

photo credit: Creative Commons - Ozan Hatipoglu

photo credit: Creative Commons – Ozan Hatipoglu

It’s time to step back and take a break again. It may be my ADD, or my history, or my dysfunction, or just my personality style (likely a bit of all of these), but as much as I hate to admit it, I am often and all-or-nothing, black-and-white type of girl. All my life, the concept of balance and the discipline that balance requires has eluded me.

When I really started exercising, I could not start slow. I started running and loved it so much that I would jog every single day, and ended up injuring my knee to the point that I can no longer run.

If I read a book, I can’t just read a chapter a day. I read the whole thing over a weekend. If I love a tv show, I don’t just watch an episode at a time – I binge watch a whole season in one weekend.

If I clean my house, I can’t just straighten it. I have to CLEAN each nook and cranny, every drawer, every corner. (And I usually will do it clockwise.)

I am the same with the issues in my life that plague me – my unhealthy eating habits, my lack of exercise, my disjointed time management, my broken relationships. I either need a strict plan of action, or I fail miserably. All or nothing, black and white.

Sometimes this serves me well, When I am passionate about an issue, a project, or a relationship, I am ALL IN. But it’s also exhausting, And it prohibits any semblence of normalcy in most areas. I would rather be going on a 6000 mile road trip – or sleeping all day. Everything in the middle seems too hard. Or stressful. Or boring.

I’m 50 now. I think it’s time to grow up a litte and get some of this figured out once and for all. So my search for balance is going to include another break from Facebook, for one thing, A few weeks ago I deactivated my Facebook, and although I missed everyone’s coming and goings, there was a sense of peace and freedom that was very surprising. I will probably write a few more posts this week, and then if you want to follow me in this process, you will have to find me here at This Beautiful Holy Mess. So where to start? Find out here.