Thursday, 25 June 2015

Mono Fast

There are a ton of "lifestyle" diets out there, "cleanses" and extreme calorie restriction diets. I am of the opinion that most of them are eating disorders dressed up as something healthy. I don't think anyone should be so obsessed with food that it eclipses every other aspect of their life - whether that obsession results in anorexia, bulimia, or worshipping the false god of health. Don't get me wrong, being healthy is fantastic and we always miss health when it's gone, but the pursuit of it has turned into a religion for many and that isn't the right way to go about things.

When I was a gym member a few years ago, I noticed that almost every class and poster had really aggressive language - "body attack" "body combat" "body burn" "ab blaster" etc. The message was clear: your body is something outside of your true self that must be contained, restrained, and forcibly sculpted into an acceptable shape/size. I think this language is highly toxic and it is one of the reasons why I don't go there anymore!

I love the language used by teachers in Kundalini Yoga classes - "feel the energy flow through you" "lean into the motions" (ie, do the best you can), etc. The meditations and kriyas ground me into my body, teach me to feel at one with myself, and I soon begin to appreciate what I can do right here and now, rather than go insane with the desire to change my body and separate it from my mind.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe that my spirit and body are intricately connected and will remain so after my resurrection. I will be apart from my body for a time, but eventually we will be one again, and forever! It seems utterly nonsensical to spend my energy in this mortal life denigrating it, abusing it, and feeling separated from it. Satan would have me hate how I look, fret over what size clothing I wear, and constantly despair over how much force gravity exerts upon me. What a waste of time!

In the movie, the Addam's Family (I think it was the sequel, actually), Wednesday Addams attends a summer camp and one evening the girls are telling ghost stories. Wednesday's turn comes, and she ends her creepy tale with the phrase, "and they all had their old noses back!" The other girls were horrified. I often think of this scene when I consider how hard we as humans (especially female humans) try to change the way we look. Who am I to decide what is beauty in God's eyes?

Here is a run-down of what our resurrected bodies will look like:

A glorified celestial body will be:
  • Immortal. “This mortal body is raised to an immortal body, . . . that they can die no more” (Alma 11:45).
  • Perfect. “The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form” (Alma 11:43). President Joseph F. Smith explained, “Deformity will be removed; defects will be eliminated, and men and women shall attain to the perfection of their spirits, to the perfection that God designed in the beginning.”8
  • Beautiful. President Lorenzo Snow (1814–1901) said, “There is nothing more beautiful to look upon than a resurrected man or woman.”9
  • Glorious. President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has said: “Your spirit is young and vibrant and beautiful. Even if your body is old and diseased or crippled or disabled in any way, when the spirit and body are put together in the Resurrection, then you will be glorious; then you will be glorified.”10
  • Without sorrow or pain. “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Revelation 21:4).
Nowhere in scripture that I've read does it say we will look "hot" or "sexy" according to our culture's requirements. Nor does it say "thin" or "muscular" or with "perfect hair".
I have a mom body. I have borne and birthed five babies, all of them pretty big! I am also a large statured person, tall with big hands and feet. I am not thin, either. My belly is squishy, according to my children, who love to snuggle me. I sag in places, too! But what if this "mom body", which represents so much sacrifice and love, that shows what I've done and who I've done it for with every breath I take, is a "perfection that God designed in the beginning"? What if this is "glorious" in God's eyes? The horror of those girls getting their old noses back would be nothing compared to the despair I would feel after receiving my long-anticipated perfected body full of all of those "imperfections" that I hated during mortality.

That's not to say that I am at peace with how I look or feel in my skin. I have my own share of neuroses and addictions - don't we all! I've been battling sugar addiction for many years now with temporary success. I have struggled with overeating, and eating the wrong foods. My body has gone up and down in size during and after pregnancy, and I've often been too tired to attempt to change long-entrenched habits so I've carried on as I was even though I knew intellectually that I was hurting my body little by little.

Taking into consideration that I am not a fan of dieting (to put it mildly), that my bad eating habits were making me feel out of control, and that my attempts to change them have consistently failed, I felt at an impasse. I pretty much gave up for a long time.

My Kundalini Yoga teacher has a blog, and she wrote about a Yogi mono fast a few months ago. As soon as I read the first couple of sentences, I knew that I should do it, too. But our subconscious mind is often set in its ways and it took me several months of thinking about it before I decided to commit. 

Why am I doing this? Well, I feel like a lot of my so-called food issues are more inherited habits and emotional entrenchment. I am not an emotional eater, so in theory I should be able to cut out sugar and junk without any issue. But, because these issues were still attached to me so to speak, even though I wanted to change and tried to change, they kept drawing me back in and taking over.

In order to break these issues once and for all, I am meditating and eating highly nutritious foods on a daily basis. I am praying and reading my scriptures, so it is a multi-pronged approach. I am cleansing my body, my mind, and my soul every day. 

It has been really interesting. Previously, my sugar addiction only broke after tremendous effort and some wicked side-effects like banging headaches and the shakes. I would feel awful for several days until the sugar purge was complete and I could function again. This time? Nothing. I am eating a lot of fruit, which is sugary as well of course, but I was eating fruit as a sugar replacement before, as well. I don't feel shaky when I've gone too long between meals (which was starting to happen mid-morning and mid-afternoon several times a week before, and made me nervous for my health) and I'm not missing other foods, most of the time.

It isn't super easy to eat the same mung bean soup every day and load up on fruits and veggies in between, but it isn't horrendously hard, either. I feel amazing in the morning instead of fuzzy-headed and groggy, and I'm not as tired in the afternoons, either. Every bite of food is full of nutrients and goodness, instead of empty calories and refined carbs. 

I am on day 8 of this mono fast, and I intend to go 80 days for this fast. It takes 40 days to break a habit, and 40 to create one, so 80 days seems about right!

I am feeling the binding habits of my inherited food issues loosening. I am thinking clearly and feel lighter on my feet. I am learning to love my body as it is, instead of forcing it into a new shape. If my body changes shape or size during my mono fast, so be it. I will accept what happens. But it is a wonderful experience to feel a blossoming love for my body as I am in this moment, instead of the hateful whispers in my ear from the destroyer himself. 

I am beautiful, I am bountiful, I am blissful.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Releasing Fear

About 20 months ago, I had a baby. She was born in peaceful circumstances; a very easy birth as these things go, and I was very happy with everything. Unfortunately, my sweet baby had a tongue tie which meant that she struggled to feed effectively and couldn't get enough milk into her tummy. Her weight kept going down and down, and it wasn't until she was over a month old that we got a diagnosis and pursued a frenulotomy. I had hoped that her feeding would get better straight away, but that wasn't the case; she still struggled to drink milk for another six weeks.

The thing about me is, I can be very stubborn when I want to be. I am normally easy going and quick to make compromises, but with certain issues I won't back down. Breastfeeding is one of those issues. Nursing my babies has become just the normal, necessary way I mother them, and I really couldn't imagine doing things another way. 

As a result of my stubborn streak, the stress I put myself under was enormous. I was adamant I was going to feed her myself, but because she wasn't effectively drawing out milk on her own, I had a low supply (not enough demand) and had to express milk 8 times a day. I was up in the night pumping, while my sweet newborn was sleeping! Talk about backwards. I became obsessive over the amounts of milk I managed to express and how much she ate via bottle. 

Watching your baby's weight drop down and down at every weigh-in is a hell I wouldn't wish on anyone. I literally worked around the clock to get her weight up and it was, hands down, the most stressful time of my entire life. (and I've been through some doozies)

Thankfully, through the help of an amazing support system and the grace of God, she grew exponentially and her little mouth and tongue got big enough to feed on her own. I actually don't think the frenulotomy did much, but I had to feel like I was doing everything I could to help her. 

I experienced many of God's mercies during this trial, and I count the experience as a huge blessing since I have been able to support and uplift other mothers in similar circumstances since then. I dug down deep inside myself and found a ton of grit and nerve that I didn't really need to rely on before. I am exceedingly proud of what I accomplished, but my gratitude is boundless for the way my eyes have been opened to other women's struggles with breastfeeding and the compassion I have earned during my experiences. 

A few months later, I started noticing an occasional occurrence, that started becoming more frequent - while eating, my esophagus would suddenly clamp down and not allow food to pass into my stomach. At first, it was very temporary and only felt like I hadn't chewed enough, but after a while, it got so bad that I couldn't even swallow my saliva. I got really concerned and went to the doctor, who sent me to the hospital for a barium swallow. I essentially swallowed this thick concoction that would allow the x-ray to watch the movements of my esophagus as I swallowed. I was given the all-clear.

So that was a relief, but the swallowing issues still would happen from time to time. The last experience was another bad episode that happened at a moment that made me reconsider why this was happening. I was at the hospital again, with my happy, healthy toddler (who is still breastfeeding, yay!) who needed her foot tended to - she had stepped in some hot ashes at a campsite a few days prior and burned the bottom of one foot pretty badly. We were in the waiting room, eating a packed lunch, and as soon as the doctor called her name, my throat seemed to stop working. I couldn't talk, I couldn't swallow, it was exceedingly uncomfortable! The doctor left me to compose myself and it took at least 10 minutes before my throat relaxed and I felt normal again.

This is what I think has happened. I was under so much stress and fear nearly two years ago, and those emotions were so powerful, that they decided to hang around a while. My body, in not being able to feed itself, was telling me in a very drastic way that I was still suffering from those fears I had of not being able to feed my child. The fear became trapped inside me, manifesting itself in a physical way (think about stress and stomach ulcers - not as uncommon as you might think!).

My husband was the first one to point this out, a few months ago, but I kind of brushed it off. It wasn't until the hospital visit that I realised that this was a serious issue that I needed to take care of! 

Through prayer and meditation, I recently have been able to release that fear. My daughter is perfectly fine now, and there is no reason for my mind, body or spirit to dwell on those emotions. As I meditated over this issue, I felt a sensation in my chest, right where the pain would come when my esophagus would stop working. The sensation was very healing, and I knew that the emotion was released. 

We don't talk this way in church, about trapped emotions and energy and such, but I believe this is a true aspect of our existence. Just as we were formed as spirits before we gained a body, and just as this earth was formed as spirit before it received its Telestial form. We are spirits, gaining an earthly experience. What we think, feel and know doesn't always have to be quantifiable. (although, there are plenty of studies to show how amazing the unseen world is - quantum physics blows my mind!)

I am so grateful for meditation - this technology has released me from anger, fear and has elevated me to feel God's love. I have a stronger testimony of God's love for me and the entire world because I have experienced it personally. Wahe Guru, or in other words, How Great Thou Art!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Eleven months

I have recently made a commitment to renew my daily meditation practice, after nearly a year of sort of losing focus, and walking down a path that wasn't right for me.

Last year I developed and cultivated a fear of money (or lack of it) and as a result I lost sight of my faith that God would provide. I am a stay at home mother and felt like I should be "contributing financially", never mind that my husband didn't feel it was necessary!

I started a little sewing business from home and it quickly became more successful than I could have imagined. I was consumed with it - I would wake in the night with ideas, my brain feverishly going over every detail. I actually got sick because my mind was whirring so fast that I couldn't maintain equilibrium. I look back on that time and recognise that it was not a healthy way to live. I needed to stop, but I carried on working late nights and during the day (many, many hours I could have spent elsewhere) fulfilling orders.

Before I even began, I knew a sewing business wasn't what God wanted me to do. And it negatively impacted my predisposition for addiction as I spent more and more time trying to drum up business or keeping an eye on the so-called competition. They say that the Spirit speaks in a still, small voice, but that wasn't working so by February He was shouting at me to stop. Unfortunately I had a list of pre-paid custom orders that wasn't going to be completed until April at the earliest.

I finally committed to quitting the business and was able to put it completely to rest by May. I felt so relieved and happy! It was like the fog lifted at last and I could think clearly again.

As I thought on the past six months, I felt ashamed of my choices. Okay, so I wasn't doing anything horrific, but I also wasn't where I needed to be and I wasted so much time. Hours in the day, days in the week, weeks and months. If I had focussed on where God was sending me, rather than where I thought I should be, I would probably be an official Kundalini Yoga Teacher right now.

That's what I should be doing - focussing on training to be a teacher. Yes, perhaps this could lead to an income for my family like I had originally intended with my sewing business, but more importantly, it will lead me closer to God the Father and His son, Jesus Christ.

At the end of my life, what do I want to reflect back upon? The hours spent worrying and focussing on earthly things, while important in many ways, aren't nearly as important as hours spent in worship through prayer, fasting, meditation, and service to my fellow beings. I want to be purified through Christ, and I will get there faster and more thoroughly through meditation. I know it.

So now that I acknowledge that I need to readjust my course, I am now on day 15 of my renewed meditation journey and day 6 of a Yogic mono fast. I have so much to say about my experiences so far! I have been meditating daily, reading and studying scriptures and other good books, and I am also de-toxing from Facebook. It has been a great start.

I have felt the power of God's love and felt it flow through me towards others. I have received my Yogic name, and the meaning dovetails so nicely with my patriarchal blessing. It's wonderful! I feel like I'm bursting with joy, peace and love for everyone and I really want to share my experiences to spark interest and a daily practice in everyone else's lives. I will be posting more information about my recent experiences and my thoughts and testimony of meditation on this blog. I will be sharing about how I am overcoming my scepticism through experience.

I will also be sharing my experiences with my Level 1 Teacher training! I will begin that journey in September of this year, and I am so very excited.

There have been very few opportunities for me to meditate with others since I began learning about Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. Most of my learning has been online with a teacher who lives half a world away. I went to a KY festival last year, which was a beautiful experience, so I am confident that I will enjoy my teacher training. I look forward to meeting and befriending other people who live and love meditating and hope to get to the point where I can feel confident teaching others. I have such a strong desire inside me to teach, but I don't have the words yet.

In fact, I have been prompted to prepare an introductory lesson for my church's Relief Society (women's group), although I haven't been asked yet. I have also been prompted to write an article for the Ensign, a magazine published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It seems I have a lot of work to do. Sat Nam.