Monday, September 22, 2014

I Believe You Can Fly

    It's been a while since I posted here. Months actually. Here's what happened. When I posted the last couple of pieces, a friend of mine criticized it. She said that I was wasting my time, and, that I was never going to help anyone this way. I was angry with her, and I put some distance between us after that. You see, I write this blog because it is something that I feel called to do. I write what comes out. And although I knew she was wrong. I know that it doesn't matter if my messages reach one soul or a thousand, for some reason, I still stopped writing. It's not like me to allow anyone to stop me from doing something that I know is important, but this person was someone I really respected, and her words affected me in a way that I didn't even realize. I didn't intentionally stop writing, I was just sort of blocked.
    So here I am. Sitting at the computer on my lunch break thinking about what I want to tell you about and that's the first thing that came out. How dare I let someone else's opinion decide what I am capable of? How dare I let my own insecurities get in the way of my potential. I know I'm not alone here. How many things in your life have you wanted to do, dreamed of doing, but gave up on because of one voice of poison telling you that you will never achieve it? Well no more! You have an unlimited potential. If there is something you want to accomplish, the only thing standing in your way of doing it is your willingness to get started. Let me tell you what I have been doing for the past year.
     In July of 2013, I was sitting at a BBQ feeling insecure about my body (as usual in the heat of the summer), when one of  my best friends came over to me with her phone in her hand and said, " Meliss will do it. Do you want to do this with me?" and she showed me the website for the Long Island Adventure Race. It had pictures of people covered in mud, climbing over stuff and having a great time. My first response was, "I would love to. That looks awesome, but I can't do that." Sure I practiced yoga regularly, but I wasn't a runner, and though I always had a natural physical strength, I certainly wasn't strong enough to do those monkey bars or anything like that. But, then she said to me, "Why not?" And  then I said, "I don't know why not." And she encouraged me. A LOT (which she always does!) So I said I would do it. And I started running. Slowly. At first in short increments, and then for longer periods of time. And when the day came, I was really nervous. I slowed her down. She had to wait for me to catch my breath more than a couple of times. There were some obstacles I could only do part of, but I knew I had to accept my current limitations lest I  should get injured. Step by step, I finished it, and that felt amazing. (I wrote about it last year.)
The beginning at the Finish

 During this time, no one ever told me I couldn't do it. The voice of doubt was always my own.
     That was the beginning. Prior to the race, I had said some prayers to Archangel Raphael, (the angel of healing) to guide me to optimal health. It didn't occur to me at the time, but that this first race was actually an answer to my prayer. I say first race because I knew immediately that when I was done, I wanted to do more. But I wanted to do more better. I wanted to be stronger. I wanted to be one of those fit people I saw climbing and jumping and running. Suddenly I had a goal. I began researching OCRs (obstacle course races) and I ran 3 more that season. Then I came across the Spartan Sprint Race. It's a 5K on steroids with crazy hard looking obstacles. I understood at that moment that I was no where near ready for something like that, but maybe I could be.... in a year or so? Maybe if I really start training, I'll be able to do it. It seemed crazy at first. I showed it to Mr. Jones who had since became my race partner. (And my 9 year old too. It became a family event. How could it get any better?) I showed him the Spartan website, and at first he though I was crazy. I said, "There is a race upstate in June. That's 9 months away. If I really train for it, do you think I could be ready." He said, "I think so. I would do it with you." And we had a goal. We didn't tell anybody about it  because we didn't want any negativity, but eventually, I was feeling so good about the changes I was seeing in my body as I got stronger, that I started saying it out loud. "I am going to run the Spartan Race in June."
     Winter was tough. It was really cold (for Long Island), and I was training mostly in my kitchen while my daughter did homework. 2 days a week at the hot yoga studio, 2 days of strength workouts in my kitchen, and a 5th day of running or abs or something different. I counted down the weeks. I read the Spartan blogs.
Almost there!
 I worked my way up to the Spartan workouts. I joined the Spartan Chicked page on facebook (which has changed names twice since, but is still Rad), and began to find inspiration in the stories of some amazing other women. That's where I met Tammy. Tammy was also doing her first Spartan on June 7, and she was just as nervous as I was. Tammy had lost 100lbs, and completed an iron man the year before. She has plantar facitis, and her feet were giving her some real problems. Tammy and I became FB friends and began to write supportive encouraging things to each other. She is a daily inspiration to me.
Tammy and me at our first Spartan

     In the mean time, I was gradually changing my diet. I was thinking constantly about how to get stronger, and so I started to see food as fuel.  I began to realize that much of the food that I was eating was loaded with toxins: sugars, preservatives, carcinogenic chemicals. I began to research clean eating. I started eating healthier because I wanted to perform, and when I ate crappy, I felt crappy. It was that simple.
     Before I knew it, it was June 6. We loaded everyone up into the car and made our way upstate. The morning of the race, the butterflies were raging! The energy at Spartan was electric! The course was difficult; 4.5 miles up and down the side of a mountain with over 15 obstacles.

I didn't completely rock it. It took us over 2 hours and there were some obstacles that I needed help with, and some that I just couldn't complete (which meant I had to do 30 burpees as a penalty.) So I did my burpees, and Jason and I trudged up and down the mountain until we saw the fire that you have to jump over to get to the finish line. I never felt so strong as the moment I
sailed through the air through the smoke, feeling the warmth under my feet.
That medal they gave me was the most precious metal I ever put around my neck.  I was so elated that I wanted to buy everything with the Spartan logo on it. At the merch stand, the man working looked at us and said, "So, are you guys going to do the NJ Super race in September? It's like this one, only longer: 8.5 miles." "No," I said, "I don't think we're ready for that."
... Guess what the Jones did in September?

(He literally supports me no matter what I do.)

So what's next? You guessed it. There's a longer race called the beast. And I still have yet to ring the Spartan rope climb bell. I did it a local race last week, but not at Spartan. Not yet. And then there's the monkey bars.... I have plenty more goals. Don't worry about that!
     So why did I tell you this story? 2 years ago, if you had told me that I would become an athlete at 36 years old, I would have laughed in your face. I never in a million years thought I would be capable of doing some of the things I can do today (flip over a 350lb tire?! What?!). I didn't see my own potential.
     What potential do you have that you can't see? What is the little voice in your head telling you that you will never do? Shut that son of a bitch up! Don't let ANYONE EVER tell you what you can or can't do. Especially not the demons of insecurity. You make all the choices in your life. No one else. So make the choice to do something wonderful. It doesn't matter if anyone else thinks it's wonderful. (Most of my friends have no desire to crawl under barbed wire through the mud or carry a bucket of rocks up the side of a mountain,)  Whatever it is. Maybe it's not a physical goal. Maybe you want to accomplish something in your education or career. Do it. Don't worry about where you're starting. Just start. Make the choice. Take the steps. One step at a time make your way there, You can do it. You owe it to yourself to see your unlimited potential. I believe that you can. Now you just have to.

Wishing you light and love as always! >3!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fixing The Hole Where The Pain Gets In: Part Deux

This picture always makes me smile. Granted, it's a few years old, but it was such a great day with my family, and as usual, I am surrounded by my kids. (My kids refers to my 2, all of my nieces and nephews and most of my friends kids.) I smile because when I look at my kids, I can see the pure joy of being a child that still resides within them. I can hear my elder daughter's infectious laugh that resonates filling any room she is in. (Seriously, you can feel her laugh in your skin!) I can see the adorable eyelash batting that my younger one does when she wants to get her way. She says, "Pleeeaaase,"and looks up at you while dramatically batting her eyelashes and then laughs because somehow at 5, she understands why it's funny. I can hear my niece's sassy little voice saying, "I love you, Aunt Melissa," my middle nephew goofing around making up some crazy song that includes the word "butt" into it sending my girls into an hysteria of giggles. I can even feel the tight squeeze my eldest nephew gives me when he hugs me collapsing into my arms still even though he is now almost 14. I could go on, but the point is these girls don't have any holes. Not because of anything I have done as a mother or an aunt. They don't have any holes simply because they are still children. They are not carrying the weight of the world around with them. They are not harboring anger, resentment, mistrust, self doubt, self loathing, or unforgiveness. They are just kids being kids.
     I was recently reading a book about teaching children meditation techniques. How to teach them to connect to "the hum of the universe." The author pointed out how easy it is for kids because they are always connected. They still live in their bodies. They are always in motion, and they tend to just go with the flow of life. They trust that the adults in their lives are taking care of everything, so they spend most of their days just carefree and connected. Have you ever talked to children about God? Sure they have lots of questions, but they rarely have any doubts. There is no hole in their being. They don't need to find God or self like I described in "Fixing the Hole... Step 1." Why is this? Kids understand something that we have forgotten. Playing is fun. When we play, really play, like a child, we let go of all of the lies we tell ourselves. We let go of the illusion of separation from God. We are just being true to ourselves and when we do that, we connect to the divine. God fills up our holes with divine joy and love. When we play, we are happy. It's as simple as that.
    So what's the answer to your angst? Playtime. Now, adults often have a distorted view of what fun is. We are so out of touch with what is really fun, that we have accepted things that are not really all that much fun as being acceptable. These are things that we may call fun, but are no where near as fun as the fun you had when you were 8: Drinking at a bar and standing around watching people dance, dancing at a bar continually thinking about how good you look while dancing, watching other people play a game you used to love playing yourself, most video games (addicting doesn't necessarily mean fun), trolling Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media, eating dinner in a restaurant, watching most movies, most workouts.

Who needs a gym, right? I call this "Playground Workout,"
and it IS fun.
 That's not to say that these things cannot be fun. They can, but they are usually no where near the amount of fun you used to have. Why? Because you probably spend most of these activities thinking about how you appear to others while doing them. It's not about really experiencing joy. It has become about you looking hot, seeming funny, sounding smart, fitting in, posting a picture that makes you look like you are having the best time ever. Ask yourself, "Am I really having fun?" "Do I feel full of joy?" Probably not. Cue Paramore sarcastically singing, "Ain't it fun? Living in the real world..." Most of the time it's not.

     So how do we get to that place of pure joy? Naturally, it will be different for everyone. It depends on your own interests, of course, but I find that I feel the most joy when I really engage with children, and when I find myself totally immersed in play with them. When I stop thinking about what needs to get done before I can crash into my pillow, or what other parents might think of me acting silly and I totally let go. Examples of moments of joy with my kids: jumping in waves at the beach, doing handstands and cartwheels in the yard, jumping on a pogo-stick,
That's right! I asked my sister to buy my daughter a pogo-stick for Christmas.
What?! She really wanted one! ;-)
 finger painting, dancing around our living room, singing loudly in the car to "Let It Go," riding a roller coaster, climbing to the top of the playground and going down the really fast big slide, hanging upside down from the monkey bars, building a sand castle at the beach, hiking through the woods and climbing across every felled tree we can find, swinging from a rope like Tarzan... the list goes on and on.
Wait, did you get that shot? Let me do it a couple more times just to make sure...
Before I had my own kids, I would do these things with my nephew. Before I had my nephew I would play with my husband's younger sisters. If there was a kid in my life, I would play with him. Not watch them play. Really play WITH them mostly because I missed playing that way with my sister and childhood friends. Time would fly by and I would feel great. Just happy to be.
     That's what you want. You want/need to just be happy to be. When you play this way, you connect to your inner child, your true self. When you exist as your true self without the ego telling you to"be" anything, you connect to God, and you feel full and happy. You may not have recognized THIS feeling as being God before, but it is. If God is the energy that connects all things, then God is love. When we love ourselves enough to do the things that bring us real joy, when we forget about how we look to others and really experience uninhibited joy of being, we are full of love for all things including ourselves. How is that not divine?
This is me in 1980 something. This is how I always feel inside.
If this kid is happy. Then I am happy.
     Try it. Please. Just try really playing. Don't worry that you look silly or stupid. (Seriously, I look ridiculous in all of these pictures... but I also look happy, don't I?) Your kids will see you as a superstar. (Imagine me pulling my hands dramatically out of my armpits like Molly Shannon on SNL while saying that, SUPERSTAR!) If you don't have your own kids, I am sure there are children in your life who are just dying for your attention. WARNING: You WILL become the favorite aunt, or cousin, or family friend, I guarantee  it! And you will feel great. I promise. Is playing in the dirt going to solve all your deep seeded dark issues?  No. But it will bring you joy. It will be therapeutic without trying. And as I said before, the first step to healing is to reconnect to self. And this will help you do that. And the more often you let down the walls of your ego and engage in unbridled fun, the more often you will feel happy. And as the happy moments string together in your life more frequently, you will find that you are happy more often than not. So, as I say nearly every sunny day of the year to both my girls and my students, "Go outside and play!"

Be well. Be happy. Love yourself! Sending you light and love!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fixing The Hole Where The Pain Gets In: Step 1

     Have you ever taken a step back and taken a good look at us as a society? We are a mess. We are overweight, over medicated, over stimulated, over worked, over tired, sick, distraught and generally unhappy. When I meet someone, I can immediately feel the hole inside of them. Sadly, most people are walking around with a gaping hole in their spiritual bodies. Very few people are whole and well balanced and happy. There are a few. A joyful refreshing few people who are not angry or sad or desperately trying to convince the world that they are something other than their truth. I can't even believe how many people I know who are self medicating: Xanex, valium, pain killers... to name a few. And let's not forget those who medicate with food, alcohol, nicotine, sex, codependency, obsessive exercise, work-a-holism, everyone has their "thing." The thing that you try to stuff into that hole to try to make you feel whole. The thing that gives you a few fleeting moments of relief from the truth.

     What's the truth? The painful reality that there is nothing in the material world, no person, no thing, no substance that can fill that hole. That you will always feel that something is missing in your life as long as you unwilling to accept that the problem is not the rest of the world. The problem is you. Whatever you are stuffing into that hole is the thing that you have decided is easier to deal with than the thing you fear more than anything. Facing the truth about who you are. Because when you face who you really are, when you allow yourself to just be, you connect to God. That can be terrifying. You are suddenly aware that God is a part of you. God is watching you. And you secretly fear that He is disappointed with you. The truth is that you are disappointed with yourself. You are believing that you are unworthy because you are so imperfect. You are believing a lie.
     When was the last time you spent time alone? Really alone. No cell phone. No Internet. No book. No game. No music. No drugs. Just you, sitting there, awake, quietly breathing, with nothing to distract you. Most people rarely experience this. For many people this is just crazy talk.

  NO ELECTRONICS?! But my Clan just got invaded. Candy crush is calling. My friend might text. I have to Instagram my coffe cup. I just got an email. I must update my status!

But why do we need to be so attached to electronics anyway? What are we seeking with all these games and networks? Connection. Connection to someone else. Connection to the vast universe. Connection to the energy that pervades all living things. It's a type of connection that in a tiny way fills the hole. What are you really in need of? What will really fill that hole? The answer is still connection. But not connection to a tiny avatar on a screen or a couple of hundred voyeurs you call friends. Connection to the devine. That is what will make you feel whole. That is what you are missing. Deep down the thing that you desire most, more than anything in the whole world, is to love and be loved. But by whom? You are probably surrounded by people who love you, but somehow you still have a hole. The love that you really desire to feel is God's love. But here's the tricky part. You are an extension of God. Your soul is just a piece of a greater divine energy. The love that you are missing in your life does not come from some external entity you call God. It comes from the internal piece of God that is you. You're higher self. Your truth. The only way to fill the whole is from the inside out. The only way to fill fill the hole is with self love. That is the secret to happiness. To key to becoming whole. Self acceptance first, self care second, and ultimately, the result of self acceptance and self care is divine love. Self love.

But, this sounds so hard? This is just who I am. It's easy to say, "love yourself," but a lot harder to do. I've just been hurts so many times, that I am broken. I need to medicated, it's biological. I take care of everyone else, I'm just not that important. This is who I am.    

Is it? Is it who you really are? I have heard all of your excuses a thousand times. Some of them used to be mine. You don't have to listen to me. I'm not a psychologist, a life coach, or an expert in mental health issues. I'm just a person who has had the privilege and challenge of having to learn the lesson of self love. I was just a fat girl in codependent relationships, feeding my energy to everyone who would show me any level of love. I fixed my hole. I am not in pain. I am happy. I am whole. And no, it wasn't easy at first. I had to face my own ugliness. I had to face my own fears. I had to see my mistakes and flaws and accept the lies I had been telling myself. And yes, I am still a work in progress. But so are you. And you CAN be happy. The first step is simple. Take a good look at yourself. See yourself for who you really are. Here's an exercise.

Sit down comfortably on the ground outside alone (No electronics!)  If you want to, you can even down lay down.
Close your eyes, and breath slowly and gently letting your rib cage rise and fall with breath.
Let your hands rest gently on your knees or on the ground. Whatever is comfortable.
(You don't need to put your hands in any crazy position or chant anything, but Om feels amazing)
Feel the earth supporting you. Like hands underneath you holding you there. As you breath in, see your breath as white light moving down into your body. With each breath, you are filled from the top down with God's perfect energy. Let any negative feelings sink into the earth. Listen to your breath. It sounds like the ocean waves rising and falling. If another thought comes to your mind, that's okay. Put it into a bubble and watch it float away.  Maybe scan your body with your mind. Can you feel the ground underneath you? Can you feel the air touching your face? Your clothes laying on your skin? Can you smell the air? Relax your jaw. Let the skin on your face relax. Just stay like this. Breathing, feeling, listening. Not thinking about anything, but just indulging in this moment of peace.

This is mediation. Simple, easy meditation. There is no great secret to
it. This is the first step.

But I didn't do anything.

Yes you did. When you sit quietly and just BE, you are allowing yourself to connect. It may not seem like much, but this type of meditation is the simplest way to connect to the higher self and to God. It doesn't require thought, because it is your most natural state of being. It doesn't require and deep self analysis about your relationship to your mother, or the nightmares you had when you were 12. You already know yourself; you've just been out of touch. When you sit in nature and just allow yourself to be, you let the energy of the universe pervade your physical body. You become one with the hum of the divine. This is connection. This is bliss. This is the safest, most comforting, place you have ever been. This is you in your own skin.

This is the first step. Reconnection to self. Reconnection to God. Don't be afraid. Just try it. I promise, you will love it.  And soon, you will love yourself and you won't have a whole to fill.

Take a week or so to process this. Then we'll talk about the next step.

With love and light always, I wish you wellness, love and peace.

Friday, March 21, 2014

I've Fallen..... (But I Always Got Up)

     "Catch me I'm falling. Catch me now I'm falling..." remember that song? Circa 1987, by Pretty Poison. We were all bopping around to bubble gum love songs with our neon yellow Madonna gloves and hot pink Cyndi Lauper lace. I know it's a love song, but like most things I read too deeply into, for me, it begs the question, why? Why do you need to be caught?  Why are we so afraid of falling? Not just in love? In general. What's at the bottom of the fall? Pain, I guess? Embarrassment? Shame? I remember one of my evolutionary biology teachers discussing once why humans have the impulse to laugh at someone else when he falls. (Cue 95 jokes about the old lady in the "I've fallen and I can't get up," Life Alert commercials, from the same year.)
"I've fallen, and I can't get up!"
From The Life Call commercials, 1990
He said that it was an instinct because we are social animals and depend on one another. The instinct is to shame the other person for falling because his fall was due to a mistake of some sort. That mistake could have made the group vulnerable, and by shaming the person, he is less likely to make that mistake again. When you look at it from that perspective, falling can be seen as a tool for learning. Of course we don't want to be embarrassed, shamed or hurt physically or mentally, but the fall is a result of a lesson of some sort that was not previously learned, is it not? Is that person likely to make that mistake again? Not if he can help it!
     Maybe it makes me seem like an insensitive mom to some, but I let my kids fall. It was hard at first to let this happen, but once they fell a couple of times and bounced back, I realized that it's not always a bad thing to let your kid hit the ground once in a while. I'll never forget, my Angel-baby at 2 1/2 climbing a playground at a friend's house. I watched in slow motion as she fell from the top and hit the ground. At first I panicked slightly. Did she break something? Does she have a concussion? Within minutes, she was up again, climbing to the top, but this time, she was way more careful.
Young children aren't afraid to fall. It's a natural part of their learning to move. Think about a baby taking her first steps. She falls all the time. And if no one notices, she gets back up and tries again. And again. And again. Until she gets it.
My munchkin toddling through the Bronx Zoo. 2010

     I remember teaching them each to ice skate, I'd say, "You are going to fall. It's okay. Everyone falls. That's how your body learns what not to do." And so each one fell. But she didn't cry over it. She picked herself up and tried again. And then she learned how to ice skate. Falling taught her balance. Falling taught her what NOT to do. We need to shift our perspective on falling. Falling is not failing. It's learning.
Angel Baby's first ice skating trip. 2009
     I think it's safe to say I have gotten over my own fear of falling.  One time that sticks out in my mind was when I was in my early 20's. Mr. Jones, my dad, and I went on pack trip in the Rocky Mountains. We had been riding our horses for several hours. The cold thin mountain air was getting to me. My skin was still stinging slightly from the hail that had recently fallen. My mind was wondering and I was just letting my horse follow the herd. we were both startled when I heard something suddenly jump out of the bushes. My horse jumped to the right, and because I was in "lala land," I went to the left. I felt my boot slip out of the stirrup, and then I felt the hard ground on my hip. I was in shock. What the heck just happened? Everyone in our group was now standing around me. We were still an hour or so away from camp. I had no choice but to mount back up, throbbing ass, throbbing ego and all, and ride back to camp. The next day, I was given the option to stay back at camp instead of ride. I couldn't see my bruises, but Mr. Jones had informed me that they spanned my hip and the back of my thigh. I'm not going to lie. I was nervous. I REALLY didn't want to fall again. I knew it wasn't the horse's fault. It was me. I wasn't paying attention. And the first rule of riding is to always maintain authority over your horse. Lesson learned. I was facing the not so proverbial moment of having to "get back on the horse." "Cowboy up, Melissa," my dad said. And I did. I literally got back on my horse, and never made that mistake again.
     Today, I spend a great deal of time working on my balance. You probably know by now, I devote several hours a week to my yoga practice. Yoga is really a way of life. It's way more than stretching. Actually, it's more about balance than stretching. In practicing asanas, you do indeed stretch your body. It's a continual process. You are never done. This helps a lot with ego. If you don't stay humble, you might get hurt. You have to realize that you are where you are today, and that you have to keep pushing yourself forward to get to the next level. During that process you will probably fall down, but just like with learning to walk or ice skate, this teaches your body what not to do.
    I have been working on my headstand practice for about 2 years now. I used to use the wall for support. So this way, I wouldn't fall. One day, one of my teachers suggested that we get off the wall. "If you fall, your matt will catch you. Your body is warm and relaxed, so don't worry about getting hurt." So I did. I began in the middle of my mat, and I put the crown of my head down, pushed my hips into the air and walked my feet in. Then I lifted up on leg, and then other, and then I fell. Oops! No one laughed at me. No one even noticed because they were focusing in their own practices. So I sat for a couple of breaths, and I got back into position. This time, I  got one leg up bent in the air. Then I started to feel the other go up. I started to fall forward, but suddenly I felt my core tighten and I wobbled back the other way. I was holding myself up with my legs sort of scissored out. Then I fell. Again. Couple of breaths, head down, hips up, leg up, other leg up, wobble, wobble one leg straight, other leg straight, keep those bundas tight, bellybutton to spine, holding it....holding it....down I go. I fall every time. But I also hold it a bit longer every time too. My body is learning balance. I am learning balance. And falling is a necessary part of it. I am not afraid of it anymore. I try not to fall, of course, but I don't get all worked up over it when I do. So I fell. I will try again tomorrow.

     I realize that these are quite literal examples of falling, but I think you can see how this applies in life metaphorically. In school, I would take a test. I would be so angry when I got a question wrong, that I would never forget that answer. When I have made mistakes in life, by saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, or even just making a poor choice, I would get so angry with myself. The reality of own imperfection would throb as much as that bruise on my hip. But how long do I punish myself by sitting back at camp nursing my bruised ego? You gotta get over it. You made a mistake. You fell down. Get your ass up and get back to work. You are not a failure. You are a work in progress. Remember that. See yourself as that toddler taking her first steps. If you live in fear of falling, you will never get anywhere. You will just spin the same circles again and again, and you will not grow. And when you do fall (and you will!), show yourself the same love and understanding that you would that toddler learning to walk. You never had any doubt that she will eventually learn to walk, and you would never punish her for falling when she tries. So why punish yourself? Be brave. Be compassionate. And love yourself enough to never stop getting back up.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Story Of My Lies

     A lot of you read my last posting, Always Live By The Silver Rule, and with all of the positive feedback, I was feeling really good about a message that apparently needed to be put out there. Then, a friend of mine told me she was slightly disappointed in it. When I asked her why, she said it was because I didn't address the deeper issue, The Why? Why don't people feel it's important to treat themselves well? Why do we fill our time and give out energy constantly to other people and avoid taking care of ourselves. She is right. I need to address the why.  The truth is, that it can be boiled down to a simple battle of good and evil. It's a battle that goes on inside of us all the time. And if you are not caring for your body, feeding your mind, and nurturing your soul, then you are letting the evil win.
     What?! Did I lose you? Are you thinking, how do you see this as a battle of good vs. evil? Well, it's simple. Your soul is a piece of God Energy. You are perfect inside. When you understand and believe this, you can balance what you give and what you receive. You can give infinite love and energy to others making the world a better place. You also love and nurture yourself with the same ferver, and accept love freely from others because you understand that in order to give more, you have to allow yourself to receive. You have to replenish the love you put out.
This Is The Good.
When we believe the lies we trap ourselves.
     But somewhere a long the story of your life, you were lied to. Someone, something, told you that you don't deserve to receive, that you should only give. Someone told you that you weren't good enough, important enough, powerful enough. Someone made you feel small or unimportant is some way, and you believed it. And so were born your inner demons.

This Is The Evil.
     When our self worth is low, we can still bring light to the world, but our light is diminished. We may still be serving God and doing "light work," but not with the same fortitude that we would if we were fully balanced and happy.  Sometimes we call them inner demons, the things that torture us inside, and prevent us from living to our fullest potential. It's an accurate term. Think about it, who would want to prevent you from being able to live your fullest expression of your gifts to the world bringing light and love to the universe? Not God, that's for sure.
Cue Dana Carvey dressed in drag as the Church Lady .
Could it be...? SNL circa 199?

Yes, call him whatever you want. Satan, the devil, the darkside... whatever... it's the opposite of good, it grabs a hold of us in the subtlest of ways. It lies to us. The demons are real, and you may have been letting them win.
     I have been. My whole life, I have believed a series of lies about who I am and what I am capable of. No more. The hardest part was seeing what lies I was believing and realizing they were lies. It's like I was sitting in a cage with an open door in the back of it. I never turned around to see the door. Once I realized the lie I was believing that was holding me back, I saw the door. So I made a choice. I walked out the door. Don't get me wrong, I am not naive enough to believe I have conquered all of my demons. But, one by one, I am knocking them out. I am looking them in the face, and saying, "NO!" and choosing to prove them wrong. And every time I do, my light gets a little brighter, and I feel a lot happier, and I can do His work just be being true to myself.

These are some of the lies I believed and then conquered. Yours will be different from mine. I can only speak of my own growth. So here goes, soul bared:

Lie 1. I am mildly attractive. Cute, maybe, but I will never be pretty like "her."
No, I did not wet my hair. That's sweat.

Now, you know I don't put much value on physical beauty, but none the less, this has been a stigma for me. At some point, I just grew up. I realized that appearance is just an illusion. Any woman can look pretty if she subjects herself to the rituals (tortures?) of what society considers beautiful. Make-up, hair dye, clothing labels,  surgery... True beauty comes from the light within. When the light within shines brightly, anyone, no matter how genetically shortchanged they may be, is beautiful. If we could only get Tony Robbins to hipnotize us like he did to Hal in the film, "Shallow Hal." We would see our true beauty and the beauty of others around us. Today I know I am beautiful. Even soaking wet and flushed after 90 minutes of hot yoga with raccoon eyes because I forgot to take off my eye make up.)

Win for the light!

Lie 2: I will never be as strong as a man, simply because I am a woman.

This lie runs deeper than physical strength. I really believed this. I believed that I needed a man around. I believed that there were things I just couldn't do. And when Mr. Jones got sick with cancer in 2011, I had to face this lie head on. What if I lost him? What would I do? How could I run my house and take care of 2 kids on my own? Then my neighbor, The Major, was deployed and I watched his wife, Michiko, manage for months with 3 kids without him. I was inspired. She is the one of the strongest women I know. In July of that same year, she asked me I wanted to run this adventure race with her. I thought, I would love to, but I am not strong or fit like she is. And then I heard a voice in my head say, "why not?" Thank God for those guardian angels who nudge us to the light! So I said, why not? And I started training. I ran that race last year, and 2 more like it. In August, I was stronger than I thought, both mentally and physically, but I could barely do "girl push ups." By the end of the summer I was doing "man push ups," and working towards the thing that in my mind, only men could do, a pull up. 6 months later, I could do chin ups. And today, I am jumping into a pull up. I don't have the physical strength yet to pull up from dead weight, but it's only a matter of time and perseverance. I will do it. and I now know that I have the strength to do anything I really want to. And while I thank God everyday for my husband who is my best friend, my team mate, and an incredible partner who always shares my burden, whatever it may be, I know that if I had to do it without him, I could. I would just prefer not to.
I'm sorry. Did you say you wanted a ticket to the gun show? (I totally crack myself up!)
Win for the angels!

Lie 3: I will never be skinny because I just love food too much, and I could just never work that hard.

I didn't "get skinny." I got healthy. Somewhere on my journey to be strong, I began to love my body. Not because of how it looked, because of how it worked. I marvel at the changes I have seen, and I have learned to listen to and respect this gift of the human body. I
realized that certain foods were like poison for me: soda, caffeine, lactose, excessive alcohol, refined and processed sugar, preservatives, food dyes, artificial anything. If you are my personal Facebook friend, you are probably tired of reading about "clean eating." And 2 weeks ago you read my post as I screamed in the dressing room when I realized I needed to try on a size 4. I guess I'm skinny now. But who cares about that? I am the healthiest I have ever been, and I feel great. I feel well!
Win for the force.

Lie 4: Doing things that make me happy is selfish because it takes away from my children.

This is my 9 year old. Example set!
This is the biggest lie I have ever fought! My yoga classes are 90 minutes long. The studio where I practice is 20 minutes from my house. Yes, there are closer ones, but I want to go to THIS one. That means that when I go to yoga, I am away from my family for almost 3 hours. I work full time as a middle school teacher, so I leave before my girls wake up and I usually get home in time for the bus drop off. On yoga days, I don't get home until 6 pm. My children adore me, and I adore them. I would be putting on my yoga clothes and my kids would whine, "You're going to yoga?" with sad faces. How could I be so selfish? I would think. I would go anyway, because somewhere amid the lies I was hearing that leaving my children for a couple of hours made me a bad mom, I heard another voice saying, "YOU NEED THIS!" And I went, because I did need it. Yoga makes me happy. It feeds my body, mind and spirit all at the same time. It teaches me to be present and enjoy the moment. And when I am happy, I don't resent the fact that I have to do the hardest job EVER everyday (being a mommy is way harder than being Mrs. Molfetto). At some point, I realized that by taking care of myself and doing things that make me feel good in a healthy way sets the example for my children that it is important to take care of yourself. Ultimately, what do I want for my girls? For them to be happy, healthy and well adjusted adults who live balanced lives and express their gifts ways that bring light into the darkness of this world. The example that I am setting is that my needs are important. One day, I hope that they will consider their own needs to be just as important.
Win for Mommy!

I don't live a charmed life. I am not without my flaws. There are plenty of things I am still working on. Life is a process, and I, like you, am just a work in progress. But I can honestly say that today, I am happy. I fight demons everyday. Make no mistake about that. But here's the thing, I am fighting. Every day, I fight to be a better person. I feed my body good, real food, even when it means I have to make it myself. I continue to seek new knowledge and stimulate my mind, and I work endlessly to continue to push my body and mind to new limits hoping that tomorrow, I will be a little stronger than I am today. I know I bring light into this world. And it is my tireless mission to keep fighting my own demons and inspire others to fight theirs so that the world can be filled with a little more light. Because after all, what is darkness anyway? It is nothing but the absence of light.

So what lies are you believing? Are you too weak? Too dumb? Too old? Too young? Too lazy? Too fat? Too ugly? Too small? Too powerless? Take up your sword. Make the choice to walk out of your cage. It's time to slay those demons so you can be happy too!

This photo just makes me smile every time I look at it.  I hope you are smiling too!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Always Live By The Silver Rule

 The Silver Rule? Don't you mean the Golden Rule? The one that says, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you? Nope. I mean The Silver Rule.  It's a rule that I now follow that took me a really long time to understand.
The Silver Rule: Do unto yourself as you would do unto others.
That's right. The Silver Rule is about you. How do you treat yourself? I know a lot of you, and if you are reading my blog, you are probably not the selfish type. You are probably the kind who follows the Golden Rule to the tee all the time. And you are probably the type who gives endlessly to the people who you love and are frequently disappointed by the lack of reciprocation on the part of others. Well, the Golden Rule is golden. It is a beautiful notion, and an ideology that leads to lovely self sacrifice and kind loving behavior towards others. The problem is, that may of us who live by the Golden Rule give ALL of our energy to the service of others and completely neglect our own needs. We overeat, over shop, over work, over drink, deny compliments,  and go without so others can have whatever they want. We give SO much that there is nothing left for ourselves. 
Do you feel like this? 
We have no energy left, and we feel empty because we are out of balance. So what do we do? We try to fill the void we have left behind with other things. We are taught that food is love and comfort, so we overeat. We are so drained of energy, we pump veins with stimulants (caffeine, nicotine, and sometimes other more dangerous drugs). We are so out of touch with our inner joy that we dull our senses with alcohol or marijuana, because as adults we are told the only way to have fun is to be inebriated. We have given so much to our friends and family that we have nothing left for ourselves. We labor under the delusion that to live be a "good" person means that we give everything we have to others and that in our humility we are SO unimportant that we don't deserve the same level of love we give to others. Do you say these things to people?
 I don't need anything, thanks.
Just your love is enough.
It's okay, you're happiness is more important to me.
I just want everyone I love to be happy.

   All of the above statements indicate that you love everyone BUT the one person who really matters. YOU. 

If I just described you, you are completely out of balance. You may suffer from anxiety. You may be overweight. You may be on the cusp of alcoholism. Maybe you suffer from constant illness or headaches. Maybe you are deeply in debt because you want to give everyone in your family everything they could possibly imagine might bring them happiness. You are working so hard to bring happiness to others, you are creating a void within yourself that needs to be filled. And what are you filling it with? Food? Things? 
Adventure racing is something I do for me.
     The Silver Rule says, what if you started to treat yourself as well as you treat others? What if you began to feed yourself healthy food, because you love yourself so much and you want to start feeling better? What if you gave yourself permission to do something you love to do, just for fun. Jump on a trampoline. Go for a walk in the woods. Swing or climb on a playground WITH your kids instead of just watching them have fun without you. Play in the sand at the beach. Build something. Paint something. Create something. Take a course in something you have always wanted to learn. Take yourself to a spa. DO SOMETHING FOR YOU! If someone gives you a compliment, receive it. JUST SAY THANK YOU, and smile. If someone offers you help, accept it. There is no rule that says you have to do it all yourself. AND START ASKING THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU FOR WHAT YOU NEED OR WANT.
Can you help me with the dishes? 
For Christmas, I really want a new tablet. 
Do you mind watching the kids, so I can go to yoga? 
I am really tired, so I am going to bed early. 
I really want to go out to the movies. 
       I need some time alone. 

And receiving from others doesn't mean you have to stop giving. It just means you give to yourself the love and respect you need to be happy and healthy. 
     There are people in this world who are the opposite of us. They are takers, energy vampires, life energy suckers. They are narcissistic and selfish. They too, are out of balance. Following The Silver Rule does not make you that person. And btw, living by The Silver Rule might mean that you stop giving your energy to that person. It's okay to let people who disrespect you, ignore your needs, abuse you, belittle you, or generally suck the life out of you, fade out of your life. You have no obligation to suffer someone else's ignorance, ego or narcissism. You deserve love, not martyrdom. You can pray for them. You can forgive them. You can wish them well, but you do not have to let them abuse you. EVER.
Are you dusty and tarnished inside?
     I call it The Silver Rule because when silver is well cared for, it's shiny and reflective. When you look into a piece of well shined silver, you see yourself. 

One last thought about the damage that we do when we do not allow ourselves to receive and we give give give. We teach our children to be out of balance. They either follow your example and become martyrs to someone else's abuse, or they become narcissistic because they are so used to receiving, that they don't ever learn how to give. Teach them balance by learning to balance your own needs. You create the example upon which they build their lives whether you want to or not. What kind of example are you setting?  If you really love your family, you need to love yourself.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I Am What I Am Not

Quick, finish this sentence:

I am ________________.

     What'd you put? It's important. What was the first thing that came to your mind? This is an exercise I do with my students. The first day of school, I give them a questionnaire, and I have them fill in that sentence. It tells me a lot about them. Middle schoolers are all about identity. They crave belonging, so they like to label themselves and everyone around them. The first thing that came to your mind is how you identify yourself. It's either the most important thing to you (for example, how many of you said, "I am a mother?"), or it's something that you are super proud of ("I am a really good cook."), or maybe its something that you despise about yourself, (I am a couch potato.) Whatever words we follow the phrase, I am with indicates how we see ourselves from the inside out. 
    While this is all very interesting from the perspective of self knowledge, it can also be extremely limiting. You are whatever you say you are. If you look in the mirror and say, I am strong, then you are strong. If you say, I am beautiful, then indeed you are beautiful. However, if you look in the mirror and say, "I am so fat," or "I am so weak," then you are, or will become those things. It's a self-fulfilling prophesy. I wrote about this in my posting, Goodbye Fat Girl. Think about the words you choose when you speak about yourself. Negative words and thoughts manifest a negative reality.
     Now I have a pretty good self esteem. I stare into my own eyes during yoga and say, "I am strong, I am powerful, I am blessed, I am healthy....etc." I might finish the I am with, I am a mother, or I am a teacher, or I am a writer, or I am a medium, as all of these are adequate descriptions of who I am. And that's all well and good, but even the most confident of us use the I am to limit ourselves without even realizing it. My girlfriend, Carey might complete that sentence, "I am a runner." And she is. She runs every single day. She does 5Ks in her sleep. I on the other hand would always say, "I am NOT a runner. I just can't run," and guess what? I never ran anything. Until last week.
     On the 4th of July, my best neighbor, Michiko, said when I walked into the room, "Melissa will do it with me." Huh? "Yes, of course I will," I said (I am always up for a good dare), "what am I doing?" "The Long Island Adventure Race," she said, and she showed me a website with pictures of people covered in mud climbing walls and walking on logs in the woods. "Hell yeah!" I said, "that looks awesome, but its a 5K and I am not a runner.""You can walk it," she said, "and if the obstacles are too hard, you can go around." Okay, but what's the point of doing a race if I can't actually do the race? Mr. Jones looked at me and said, "I don't think you can do it." As convincing as he was, I knew he didn't mean it. He figured out long ago that the easiest way to get me to commit to doing something is to tell me you don't think I can. And I get all, "Who the hell are you to tell me what I can't do?!" and then I go and show you that I can. Okay, so Mr. Jones thought I could do it, and Michiko, who is easily the most motivating encouraging friend I have, thought I could do it, so why didn't I think I could do it? Why was I not a runner? My I am was limiting me. 

 So the race was 5 weeks away. I had 5 weeks to learn to run a 5K. So I did some research. Talked to runners for advice, read some runner blogs, and I hit the track. I am not going to lie. Running is boring. It's not my choice workout. At first, I would break up the laps with yoga (because I AM a yogi.) Then, as the race got closer, I worked towards running straight through (still working on that, btw, but I get better every time). When the day came, I was ready... for anything. I had no idea what the obstacles would be, but I was ready to go out with my friend and have fun. She wasn't worried about time and she understood that I might have to walk a bit to catch my breath, and so we went.

We ran. We jogged. We walked a bit. We climbed. We crawled through the mud. We slid into the mud on on bellies like penguins.We even waded through chest deep ice water!

And there were bubbles! Did I mention the bubbles?
We had a ball. I loved every second of it. So much so, that I have another "all level" mud run in 22 days. I can't say I am not a runner anymore.  As soon as I stopped saying I am NOT, I became what I never thought I could be. I am an adventure racer (in training). 
     So my question to you is not what do you finish the I am with. It's what do you finish I am NOT with that you secretly wish you could say you are? Why are you limiting yourself?! What excuses are you making? If you want to do something, get started. It may be a long road. You will have to step out of your comfort zone. You will have to educate yourself. You will have to be patient as you learn a new skill. But there is no reason why can't do it. The only thing holding you back is what my girlfriend Ally calls, "The itty bitty sh*tty committee" in your head (your ego). Put them in a box and let your true self out of it. 

You are strong.

You are powerful.

You are unlimited. 

                                    Now get to work!