Kids on the Yoga Mat

Kids are funny in the way that they become intrigued by just about everything that you do. While natural, it’s really very powerful. As adults and influencers in children’s lives, I believe that it’s crucial that we are careful about our actions, reactions, and daily activities that they see us take part in as it is inevitable that they are going to replicate the language and behaviors around them or at the very least - take note in what is acceptable and appropriate.

Being sans children myself, I was constantly reminded of this dynamic when I was visiting my brother, his wife and three children for a month this past April. Their ages are 6-months, 4-years and 6 -years-old. Obviously the 6-month-old wasn’t doing too much when it came to activities but he was watching – I assure you.

I love to do my yoga outside when the weather permits. There is something about being under the sun and practicing that makes me feel a bit more connected and free.

One afternoon while I was out practicing, the 4-year-old, Grant, came to see what I was doing out in the back yard.

“Aunt Ashley, what are you doing?”

“I am doing yoga.”

“Oh.”

He stood there looking down at his feet and then my mat and then back at his feet.

“Would you like to join me?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, there are some rules that I will explain but the first rule is that there is no shoes on the yoga mat. Or socks. Bare-feet only the yoga mat.”

He looked up at me and giggled and then proceeded to take his shoes and socks off and hopped on the mat.

“Great job Grant! Now you are ready for yoga!”

He seemed a bit surprised at how excited I was.

We started off with some breathing exercises. I talked a bit about some of the guiding principles that come into my yoga practice such as breath, calm, inner peace, manifestation, affirmations and reflection.

We went on to Half Moon and he seemed to really enjoy this pose. I talked to him about the importance of being able to find calm anywhere and to use yoga as a technique to releasing anything that causes anger or other feelings that are upsetting. This seemed to resonate with Grant. Grant is one of the sweetest boys I have ever known – but let’s just say, that he has inherited my brother’s temper.

To take the breathing to another level I introduced a ‘full body exhale.’ This was new to me and was a perfect way to add a light-hearted element into the practice. On the exhale we let out a shake through our whole body from head to our arms to our feet – accompanied by a loud release in our breath. He really liked this and while he giggled and I did to – he was right back to wanting to learn more. I explained that this breath can be used “when you REALLY need to just let something go that is bothering you.” He loved this. 

We went through a few more poses and then his older brother, Carter, became interested. Grant let him know what rule number one was (no shoes or socks) and he looked at me to confirm. Once Carter was on the mat, it was a full house. To let them feel the space of mat, I moved to the grass.

We discussed the importance of “centering thoughts” and affirmations such as “I am kind.” For this practice, I helped them choose their centering thought and it was “I am kind.”

I was impressed by Carter’s naturally ability to move into Warrior II with ease. And I was also impressed by the amount of time that they stayed on the mat with me. Some other 'rules' I put into place was no shouting at one another or pushing and respect everyone else's space. This worked out very well - as if the yoga mat was a special bubble. 

Virabhadrasana II | Warrior II 

Eventually, they decided that they wanted to put their shoes on and go play.

Throughout my stay, Grant really took hold of Half Moon and the concept of breath. When he would get upset and was given options on how to handle his emotions, a few of his first choices would be “breathe” or “do yoga” or “go outside.”

This made me a proud Aunt and Yogi <3

In another yoga session of just Grant and I, we talked about the concept of Zen. Zen is not an easy concept to articulate to anyone – but it was especially challenging for me to describe the concept to a 4-year-old. But, let me tell you, Grant is a special boy and he seems to really be able to understand the concept of peace (my inner hippie is very happy at this ;)). “Zen, is a state of being where you feel at peace and calm no matter what is going on around you. So, Carter could be doing something that would normally really upset you but because you are ‘zen,’ whatever he is doing isn’t disrupting you or making you angry. It’s kind of like you are in an imaginary bubble.”

“Like a Zen bubble?”

“Yes, exactly. A Zen bubble where you simply feel at peace and breathe easy.”

He smiled and seemed to really like that. 

We also discussed 'Namaste' at the end of our practice. I explained this to him as "the spirit in me honors the spirit in you. Meaning that we are all one. I respect and honor you." And to practice love and compassion to all things living. 

In this practice, I had Grant come up with his own centering thought. I shared mine with him which was "I am graceful as I transition in life." After a moment of pondering, he said "I help others." 

My heart melted. 

Later, when his Dad came home, he couldn’t wait to tell him about the new words. (He needed a bit of help recalling what them and their meanings but once he did – he was all excited about Zen and Namaste all over again!)

To keep things interesting and fun, I came up with a new pose for just Grant and I. It kind of happened on accident. As I was in Ardha Sarvangasana (Half-Shoulder Stand), he thought it would be fun to climb on and let me be his lever so I asked him to be careful of my knees and hold on. He did. I slowly lifted him up until he was vertical, holding gently on his shoulders so that he didn’t fall incase he let go – he laughed and so did I – a big belly laugh. He loved that! “I like when I make you laugh Aunt Ashley!” Haha… “So do I Grant!”

So this was pose was named, “The Laughing Grant.”

My brother and sister-in-law have done an amazing job at giving their children tools to handle their emotions and feelings. We talked in great detail about this and I am so very grateful that I had the opportunity to bring more tools and concepts like breathe, centering thoughts and yoga to the table.

I have found that yoga isn’t just for the 20's, 30's, 40s or 50 something’s. It’s not just for retired folks kicking around in the sand. Yoga is for all ages. Yoga is a grounding practice for all. Yoga is not just for the lean and thin or fit and muscular – yoga is for all shapes and sizes. Yoga, is for all. 

With Love,

-AEB

Stream of Consciousness: 41 Random Thoughts

I wrote this 'Stream of Consciousness' with no intention of ever sharing it with anyone - let alone publishing on the vast World Wide Web. I came across it again this morning, and thought, "Why not?"

So, here's not to the question of "Why?" but to "Why not?"

(Note - this list is in no particular order and has no specific rhyme ... or reason...)

You are now entering an unfiltered and uncensored part of my brain, read at your own risk.

  1. 'What a Girl Wants' by Christina Aguilera is just as much fun to belt out now as it was in ‘99
  2. I wish Ace of Base would have continued to make music.
  3. I also wish The Cranberries would have continued to make music. (Or, did they?)
  4. I wish that I could liquefy and bottle the feeling that some songs give me, then amplify that feeling by 100 and drink it as a cocktail. Like a spirited libation.
  5. And then give that liquified feeling as a gift to someone so that the recipient could experience that same feeling. Like the feeling I get when I hear the very beginning of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want,’ and floods of bittersweet memories come pouring in my brain and permeate my body.
  6. Few things compare to what my taste buds experience when fresh squeeze orange juice hits them. It’s like a sensational dance inside my mouth that extends to my brain and limbs and everything in between.
oranges.jpeg

 

7. Look how good this (above) looks. Seriously. Yum.
8. I don't indulge in fresh squeezed orange juice enough.
9. The times in my life when I have found myself in a difficult situation (sometimes wildly chaotic and dicey situations), was a direct result of me doing what I thought I should do - driven by external forces, versus what I wanted to do driven by my inner desires.
10. The single most significant piece of health advice I’ve ever had to truly accept and live - above all else- above nutrition, above fitness is to "manage your stress and release worry.” High stress and incessant worry has a PROFOUND negative impact on the body, mind and soul. Thus, when stress is managed and days aren’t spent worrying about what could or should have happened yesterday and what might happen tomorrow, the body, mind and soul can be at ease; allowing the space and time to take care of yourself. ‘Managing stress and releasing worrying,’ sounds somewhat detached and dispassionate though the WAYS that this is achieved is highly involved. Through various ‘rituals’ (that are different for everyone), managing stress and releasing what does not serve you can be achieved. For me it is is a continuous and evolving practice (including but not limited to walking, meditation, yoga, music, connecting with nature, writing, reading, dance, spiritual awareness, embracing nutritional health, connecting with family and friends, mantras). All of the practices I exercise help to bring balance to my body, mind and spirit.
10. I don't usually trust men who have brown eyes. 
11. Once I accepted that I really do not like eating celery (celery juice is a different story - go ahead, laugh), regardless of its wildly amazing health benefits, my life got a little bit easier.
12. I have seen the movie Vanilla Sky more times than I can count, and I am still not 100% sure that I fully understand it.
13.I’m on the wheatgrass bandwagon. I love it. I crave it. I want some right now. 
14. My favorite quotes from Vanilla Sky: "Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around,” and “I’ll tell you in another life, when we are both cats,” by Sofia Serrano (played by Penelope Cruz). 
15. Sunshine really does have the ability to heal (physically, emotionally and spiritually).

Getting my sunshine on - cliffs of Mt. Desert Island, Bar Harbor, ME

Getting my sunshine on - cliffs of Mt. Desert Island, Bar Harbor, ME

16. I've recently realized that for the past 7 years, I've been trying to create a life rather than simply living my life. Since I had that epiphany, the way I live my life has fundamentally changed. 
17. I am one of those people that feels better about eating carrot cake because it has carrots, raisins and walnuts in it. So it's healthy… 
18. People tell you about the overwhelming love that you will have for your own child, but they do not tell you about the love you'll feel for a nephew (or niece). I have five nephews (update for 2015, I now have 6 nephews!) and my heart aches each day I am not with them. They are the most precious creatures I have ever known. I loved them instantly.

Hanging with my nephew, Carter (2012) #adore

Hanging with my nephew, Carter (2012) #adore

19. I am incredibly proud to be part of my family. 

Yup - this one right here.&nbsp;

Yup - this one right here. 

20. I love coffee. The smell, the taste, the feel of the mug in my hand, the steam that lifts off when you walk outside with a cup on a brisk morning, the way people gently blow across the top of their mug with their lips parted and kind of squint their eyes and scrunch their face up slightly when they take the first sip. 
21. Even though I have a deeply rooted love and appreciation for coffee, sometimes, I wish I loved tea. Tea drinkers have a unique air about them. 
22. I think great songs, the ones that you can listen to over and over, the ones that give you that "oh my I LOVE this song," each and every time, have that effect because it's a combination of feeling the nostalgia of the song, yet simultaneously still feeling like you're hearing it for the first time. Every time. Like when I hear ‘Crash into Me,’ by Dave Matthews or ‘Live and Let Die,’ by Guns and Roses.
23. I simply cannot imagine my life without music. And there is rarely a time when there isn’t a soundtrack to my life. But sometimes… sometimes… complete silence is invigorating.
24. Sometimes that invigorating silence is interrupted by sounds of nature. Like a bird singing, leaves rustling together, waves crashing - and suddenly - nature’s soundtrack plays. 

The stillness and solitude just outside of Telluride, CO

The stillness and solitude just outside of Telluride, CO

25. There are bits of my childhood that I remember that bring me so much joy and peace that I wish just once, I could revisit those memories. If only for a moment. Like sitting in the garage, warm next to the Kerosene heater with my Dad while he worked (on what I’m not sure, there were sounds of hammers and nails and smells of cedar and plywood) with Willie Nelson or Moody Blues playing in the background.
26. Somewhere along the line, in living alone, I grew accustomed to living in a house and not a home. There is a difference. That is changing now.
27. I use to not like the look of magnets on refrigerators. I thought it looked cluttered and messy. That has changed. Now, I want magnets. Meaningful, frivolous and bold magnets. Lots of them.

magnets.jpeg

I've started a collection.
28. I think sometimes (not always), people confuse not liking something with not understanding it. Example: I use to say that I did not like math in school. The truth is, I found it fascinating. But, I didn't understand  it. With the frustration of not understanding, I convinced myself that I didn't like it. I believe that this happens with topics like homosexuality.
29. I don't have a favorite color. I've never really understood the question. When asked the question, "What's your favorite color?" I find myself wanting to ask "my favorite color for what?" I love the deep red color of fresh strawberries, I love the luminous dark shade of grey mixed with blue and green during a storm; I love the faded teal, green and brown spotted with rust that happens over time on an old can. I love the rich colors of black and on horses. Life is full of colors, why limit it?
30. I don't believe that there is good in everyone. I believe we are born good. Some people, lose that good, and are able to restore it. While others are drained of all their good and are not able to restore it.
31. Sometimes all I need to do to positively shift my mood is to ease the tension in my face by relaxing the muscles in my face, especially my jaw. My sister taught me this.
32. I don’t trust people who don’t have a junk drawer in their kitchen.
33. There are kitty-corner angle people, and straight-line forward-facing people. I am a kitty-corner angle person.
34. RAW, Vegan, Paleo, Primal, Vegetarian, Pescetarian,  (fill in the blank here), whatever is chosen - the bottom line is that ANY of these diets are getting rid of processed SHIT - THAT is the main reason why people are feeling better on ANY of these diets and why there is such wild success with all of them if they are shifting from eating processed junk to whole natural foods (in case you were perplexed as to how they can ALL work). Oh, and, it’s also likely that if one is reinventing their diet drastically, they are also started to adopt other health lifestyle habits such as working out, quitting smoking, taking up yoga, meditation and drinking less… ding ding ding.
35. I can only wink with one eye. My left.
36. I can only parallel park one side of the road. The right.
37. I love organ music, although I am not religious in the traditional sense. It brings me a sense of calm unlike any other.
38. Listening to Buddha Bar and other chill-out lounge music has changed my life.
39. Some things are exponentially harder when you are alone. Like going grocery shopping when you have a long list of items, live in the city and have a ‘walk’ to your front door. Or putting together a platform bed. Or a weekend ‘to-do’ list.
40. Stress really does make your hair fall out. I know this from first-hand experience.
41. The truth is, I do have regrets. And I find that it’s quite impractical to suggest we shouldn’t have any. I believe the key to ‘regrets,’ is to do your best to make peace with things you wish played out differently, be responsible for them, own them and continue to learn from them and not dwell on what you cannot change - and, by wisdom of the Serenity Prayer, change the things you can.

-AEB

My Battle with Orthorexia:Tricking Myself with Bananas

I keep saying "I'm going to write a blog about this." "This" being, the past year, my struggles with living in a new city, living alone, charges in my career, developing and pursuing my passions, battling my eating disorder, the ups, the downs, the in-betweens ...  I've just been bouncing words around in my head that barely form sentences. There is so much to say, so much I have learned, so much that has changed, so much that I want to share, so many feelings I want my readers to understand and so many messages that I wish convey. 

The year 2014 was by far the most challenging year thus far - in my life. Wait, didn't I feel that way about 2013? Certainly in 2012? Maybe even 2011? Perhaps the years do continue to get more challenging. Wouldn't one expect for life to get a little easier as you learn a little more each day on how to navigate through it? You're all LOL'ing right now I'm sure. Because yes, isn't there a popular saying "No one ever said life would be easy" or something like that?

Ah, yes.

life is hard.png

Is what we strive for in life ease? Does ease equate happiness? I'm sure you're all shaking your head 'no,' because of course ease does not equate happiness. Happiness is a state of mind - or a state of being - happiness can be embraced in the midst of struggle and when life is difficult. Or, not easy. In fact, there is another popular saying suggesting that easy is quite boring and that we should continuously challenge ourselves.

So you know what I mean when I say that it (2014) was a challenge? That it was a massive struggle? That it was difficult beyond comprehension? That is was hard?

What the !*$# happened?!? You may be wondering. Well, I'll tell you what happened. There were shifts in my life that I hadn't expected. In fact, just about everything in my life changed dramatically. My move from sunny Boulder, CO to the enlightened Bar Harbor, ME was a beautiful and transformative journey with many ups and downs. I met some of the most incredible people and embraced the sacred land of Mt. Desert Island. From there, I went to West Palm Beach, FL after falling deeply and madly in love (or so I thought)- and when that came to end, I started anew in not so sunny (but shockingly authentic and charming) Philadelphia, PA to take on a new career endeavor and start my 'new life.'

That is where my 2014 began. So, not only did I have a heart wrenching break-up from a man that I thought I would spend the rest of my life with, I was working in a new career and living in a new city. And, I was lonely (not be confused with being alone as I have come to find that we are never truly alone). Needless to say, there were times that I not only felt uneasy, but I felt unsafe, unloved and unworthy. That's a lot of un's. And un's weigh us down. Un's trigger all sorts of physical, spiritual and emotional responses.

What happens, when we are not at ease? Let's say, we are not at ease for an extended period of time. What happens? Disease.

When we simply examine the word, we can see how very true this concept is:

Dis• ease = disease.

Louise Hay, the great Metaphysical Teacher and motivational author, explains this concept at length.

There were moments through the changes in my life that I started to feel at ease -  comfortable, safe, confident, loved, and deserving. And it was during those times that I naturally took care of myself in all areas of my health. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially and so on. It was during the times that I felt uneasy or was at dis-ease, that I neglected each area of my health - some more than others and it was during those times that I began to feel particularly unwell (aka malaise) and unbalanced.

If you've been reading my blog over the years, you know that I have struggled with an eating disorder known as Orthorexia for quite some time. After my initial breakthrough in recovery, I was able to stay true to myself, listen to my intuition and my body and stay in recovery for many months. However, when certain things in life started to feel 'out of control,' I relapsed quite heavily. An eating disorder, like an addiction, does not simply go away. It is always with you and you have to learn how to overcome the antagonist (for lack of a better word) day-in and day-out. Some days, weeks, months and years may be better or easier  than others

In 2014, I relapsed a few different times throughout the year, with the latter part of the year being the most devastating. It was difficult for me to recognize when I fell back into old behaviors because I went about it differently than I had in the past. The obsessive compulsive and destructive behaviors and patterns were present but the methods were different. In other words, the what and why where the same, but the how was different.  I thought because I wasn't 94 lbs and starving myself that I didn't have a problem. 

In essence - I very strategically yet subconsciously tricked myself.

In fact, I actually gained weight and lost muscle with my new way of restricting. Instead of restricting carbohydrates and sugar, I restricted my intake of other foods like protein and fat and increased my carbohydrates and sugar (fruit) but the underlying pull was the same - a desire to be clean, pure and healthy. At a glance, these don't seem like bad things to desire. Doesn't everyone want to feel healthy? So, looking at it the other way, it is an obsession and feeling that you are dirty, impure and unhealthy and unwell. Now that...that feeling will not only bring you down but disturb any shred of peace and confidence you may have.

So when does this obsession fire a trigger in my brain? Well folks, as I have said in previous posts, it doesn't have anything to do with food. These thoughts and behaviors rear up on their hind legs when things in my life feel out of control and I am frightened or uncertain (aka fear of the unknown). Food is something I can control - of course this is a false sense of control because it actually ends up controlling me. I touched on this in my previous posts on Orthorexia.

Mind you, restricting is never a good idea, but restricting protein and fat is especially detrimental and the crux of it is that I would NEVER coach anyone to do what I was doing.

Red flag number one. I had gotten so wrapped up in this new style of eating (remember, desire to be pure and clean) that I had transitioned to Vegan then onto Raw Vegan and then nearly Fruitarian following an 80/10/10 lifestyle spear headed by Dr. Douglas Graham and his practices. In fact, I did actually try 'The Banana Diet.' What happened? Well, I truly felt like I had gone...bananas. All the while, I had this nagging thought in my head that I needed to heal my body. That there was something wrong with my body.

I'm not going to say that those styles of eating don't work for some people - I'm not them. But the simple fact of the matter is that these styles of eating were extremely detrimental to my health. In fact, I function very poorly on them and become very sick. I actually lost strength and energy and literally felt down-right loopy. Some people DO thrive on beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and very little or no animal protein. I on the other hand, do not. I actually have a true sensitivity to nuts and seeds especially sesame and flax and have a very difficult time digesting beans and legumes. But I ate them anyway.

I ate them because I wanted to be able to, I ate them because I was rebelling against my body and angry at my body for all of the food intolerances that I have (like gluten, dairy, sulfites). Let's back up a moment though, I wasn't only angry at my body for these food intolerances and allergies... I was angry at my body for much more than that. And this is deeply rooted to my past of sexual assaults, abusive relationships, body shaming, and low self-esteem. I was trying to design a diet for myself that screamed health to me - that let me know that I was OK - and in my mind, that was strictly plant-based.

After a just a few months on a strict vegan diet, along with the loss of muscle and disruptive cognitive function, I also developed cystic acne, my eyes become very bloodshot surrounded by dark circles, extreme fatigue, headaches, my hair dry, I become more depressed and increasingly irritable. And, because I was consuming foods that didn't agree with with me and perpetuated inflammation while depriving myself of the foods that I thrive on (like properly sourced animal protein), I started a cycle of binging; which I had never experienced before. I would be floating along 'just fine' and then I would find myself out and about or invited to a dinner and my hunger and cravings would be so extreme and out of control that I felt like I could eat through the night. And then I would leave feeling bloated, with heartburn and full of guilt and shame for eating so much and being that out of control. 

I had this picture perfect image in my head on what health would look like in my life. 

Smoothies every morning! Wheatgrass shots! Green juice and salad for lunch and dinner! Plant-based! Cleanse, cleanse, cleanse! Detox! Alkalize! Doesn't paint a picture of health in your mind?

healthy greens.png

Now, some advocates from those types of food lifestyles (aka diets) may argue that I wasn't doing it right or that I didn't give myself enough to heal. That I still had toxins in my body or that the feelings I was having and physical difficulties like fatigue and trouble concentrating were just the side-effects of detox and that I needed to push through.

Some "Food" for thought: This Will Change Your Mind About Hunting

This 21st century notion that we are walking toxins and need to constantly detox is part of what is wrong with the world (I'd say mostly in America). If we go about thinking everything that we eat is going to have a negative impact on our health - well it probably will just by detrimental emotional impact of fearing the food that you are putting into your body. Don't get me wrong, I will always lean toward buying organic and I will do my best to always by properly sourced animal meat and fish but that apple at the airport that surely had pesticides at one point is NOT going to kill me - in the scheme of things, I am better off eating the apple than: a) Starving or b) Eating some gluten-free vegan processed junk. This constant 'oh, I need to detox' or 'oh, I need to cleanse,' is a vicious cycle in our society.

We need to eat a diverse selection of real whole foods as close to their natural state as possible. And we need to be grateful for our food while honoring our body and our hunger. That's it. It's really not that much more complicated. The human body is well equip to take care of any toxins that we encounter and if we are eating real whole foods that are nutrient dense, then we are giving our body's what they need to naturally and continuously cleanse and detox.  

I was not honoring my body and I certainly wasn't honoring my hunger. I lost all sense of when I was hungry and when I was full. I had to get real honest with myself. Smoothies generally make me feel sick, I'm not sure if it's the concentration of fruit and vegetables all once or what but smoothies off all kinds will usually hurt my stomach no matter how slowly I drink them. I seem to be able to tolerate them better during the hot summer days and in the morning. And juice (you know the Cold-Pressed, Fresh-Pressed, High-Pressured, Organic, Non-GMO, Enzyme-rich, Juice Frenzy of the decade) unless it's mostly vegetables spikes my blood sugar - even green juice I need to be careful and drink sparingly. And most nuts and seeds cause digestive distress if I have a lot them.

So, what is this desire to be clean and pure really about it?

Well, I already told you that it really doesn't have anything to do with food and is more about control. Yes, this true but that only grazes the surface. The desire to be clean and pure doesn't even have anything to do with the physical body at all. This desire is deeply rooted on a spiritual and emotional level. This past relapse has shown me that while I made great progress uncovering old wounds that need to be healed and made strides in my recovery, I still have a lot of work and healing to do. This type of emotional healing is a continuous process - though sometimes... we need to go back further to points and times in our lives that may have been too difficult or painful for us to deal with it when it happened.

There comes a time when your soul has to let your mind know that you the issue can no longer be pushed aside - the memories can no longer be suppressed. And that in order to fully heal on a physical level, you need to heal on the emotional and spiritual level first.

Those of you that know me on a personal level, know that I have a tendency to build walls. OK - THICK HEAVY walls. And I tend to keep things inside - only opening up to a few if that - and have a very difficult time reaching out to others for help. I don't even like writing that word. Help. Ah, yes, "I Am a Rock," by Simon & Garfunkel comes to mind.

A winter's day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
I've built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
Don't talk of love,
But I've heard the words before;
It's sleeping in my memory.
I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

Transformation is a funny thing. A year goes by and at first I think, "Wow, that went fast." And then, I really think about... and I'm like "Wow... I feel like I've changed so much in last 12 months. Certainly 24 months. And 36 months? I feel like I was a completely different person. Actually, I take that back. I was not completely different but my life was different, the way I lived my life was different, my thoughts were different and my surroundings were different. But the core of me has remained the same - my roots - my values  - my morals. Yet there were moments... moments where I lost grasp of that core. I fell away from my Authentic Self and lived my life according to how I thought I should rather than how I wanted. Out of FEAR, I separated myself - from myself. 

Music is one of the elements that can bring me back to my Authentic Self - that core - and that bring ME back. In fact, sometimes, it is the only thing that will. I have a playlist that I have titled 'Authentic.' When I have that feeling that I have lost my roots and I don't feel like I can trust myself and have lost that connection with my intuition - I put on that playlist, sometimes for hours and slowly but surely, I come back around. I have quite a bit of Simon & Garfunkel on that list. I highly recommend creating our own Authentic playlist to tune into when you are feeling out of sorts - or otherwise 'not yourself.' 

"Just as one must not attempt to cure the eyes without the head or the head without the body, so neither the body without the soul. In fact, one must care 'first and foremost' for the soul if one intends the body to be healthy. If the soul is moderate and sensible, it will not be difficult to effect health in the body; if not, health be difficult to procure..." 

Ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates.

Most people think of health as one dimension: Physical. I tend to think of it as three dimensions: PhysicalEmotional, and Spiritual. Though, truly, it is more accurately six dimensions: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual, Social, and Environmental.

Where I get into trouble is when I focus too much on one of those dimensions and for me, that is typically too much focus on the physical. Then what happens and when I really get into trouble is that ALL six of my dimensions of health fall out of whack.

The first step for me in cure my 'dimensional upset' is to get grounded. Get back to my roots. I mentioned music as one way that I start that process. There are many others.

Things that I do to get ME back (aka Embracing my Authentic Self) and connect to my Higher Power:

1) Get out in nature
2) Do yoga
3) Listen to my Authentic Playlist
4) Talk to my family and/or close friends
5) Meditate
6) Get some perspective and read some books (books of all kinds!)
7) Write (non-fiction, fiction, free-form and all of the above!)
8) Play! Do something FUN like swinging on swings
9) Drive - anywhere
10) Indulge in something that I have deprived myself from (like a decadent piece of chocolate cake - yep gluten/dairy free chocolate cake does exist ;) )

Hiking may trump all others on my Authentic list

Hiking may trump all others on my Authentic list

Coming to the realization that I wasn't taking care of myself and that I had relapsed was somewhat devastating. How could I possibly help others if I was neglecting myself?  How could I, as a Health & Lifestyle Coach, create these beautifully healthy and balanced programs for other people and do the exact opposite and place extreme restrictions on myself? But then I had to remember something. I had to remember to love myself through it. To forgive myself and love myself. To honor my Eating Disorder Demon for serving a very important purpose of giving me a sense of comfort and protection in a time that I was uncomfortable and scared. 

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Once again, I am so very grateful for the people that I have in my life. Some of you are dear old friends, some of you teachers and mentors and some of you are wonderful new friends - I lovingly embrace all of you and thank you for being along side me as I go through the many adventures that life has to offer. 

I find great comfort in knowing that I have a strong support system and I have great knowledge and resources around me to help me through this and keep me strong on my road to recovery once again. Part of this recovery includes abstaining from alcohol as well. Alcohol has a very negative effect on my body and my find and consequently, the other dimensions of my health. It is one thing that will very quickly disrupt the connection and communication with myself and my higher power. 

My Book 'stash'&nbsp;

My Book 'stash' 

I will be spending time reading through amazing and inspiring books. Some I have read before like Eating in the Light of the Moon by Dr. Anita Johnston and some of them are new to my collection. I've also been spending time on my creating a new Vision Board and tapping into my creativity.  

What's the moral to my long story?

Always, always listen to your body. Trust your intuition. Trust yourself.

Always, listen to The Wind of Your Soul.

I listen to the wind
To the wind of my soul
Where I'll end up, well, I think
Only God really knows
I've sat upon the setting sun
But never, never, never, never
I never wanted water once
No, never, never, never
I listen to my words
But they fall far below
I let my music take me where
My heart wants to go
I swam upon the devil's lake
But never, never, never, never
I'll never make the same mistake
No, never, never, never

With Love,

-AEB 

I Am Here (and how to get There)

"I am here." 

I use this mantra when I find myself full of anxiety, worry, and unfinished thoughts. Those times when I can practically see my heart beating through my clothing and the pulse in my wrists begins to swell. Sometimes I can't even pinpoint exactly what I am obsessing over or worried about and other times I am completely fixated on something that I feel like is unresolved or something that scares me.

If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
— Lao Tzu

When this happens, I must step back and take a moment to ground myself. Bring myself back to a place where things are calm and remember that right here, right now, all is well in my world. And know, that in 24 hours from now, 1 week from now, 1 month, and 1 year... all well be well. 

How do I know this? Because it always is. I am always protected. I am always guided. I am always with myself and all of the answers to the questions that I seek lie within me. I know that whatever challenges may arise, I am capable and strong enough to tackle them and that I have love and resources all around me. 

Suddenly, I am able to focus on the task at hand, listen to others, and express myself more clearly - because I trust that I am right where I need to be and that if there is something in my life that is uncomfortable, that it's just a moment in time. We are constantly evolving, learning and adapting. Our situations are always shifting. 

This week, I want us to live in the present moment. To release fears and anxiety and fully embrace the here and now. This doesn't mean that we will be happy and cheery all of the time, but we will have a sense of calm. We will breathe in and out knowing and trusting that whatever we are experiencing is exactly what we need to be experiencing in that given moment. If we feel joy - FEEL it! If we feel sadness - FEEL it! But know that the sadness will pass - that it is just a moment in time and that even though there may be clouds and rain, the sun will rise. We know this is so, even in gloom with cloud, because there is still daylight.

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"I am here." 

Part of being present is being comfortable in our own skin. Being accepting of not only our current circumstances, but of our body, mind, and thoughts. This acceptance can only happen when we embrace all parts of ourselves. Our quirky behaviors, our habits we are working to improve, our genetic make-up, our voice, our past, and our present... all of these things make us... us. Make you - You and me - Me. 

"I Am." 

Here are some songs I love to listen to that bring me back to the peaceful present, embrace myself, and my life. 

I Am Who I Am by Guru Singh
Deep Believe by Arnos Elias
Guide Me  by Arnos Elias
New Day by Buddha Bar
Odessa I by Bodhi
Spirit Bird  by Xavier Rudd
Follow the Sun by Xavier Rudd
Solitude by Karnunesh
Heroes & Saints by Nikoloj Grandjean
Time Of Your Song  by Matisyahu

Incorporate these songs in your yoga and mediation practices or just play them (maybe in the evening to wind down), sway to the sounds, and allow yourself to be free.

Once a day, look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud: 

"I am. I am here. I love myself. I am."

Repeat this at least five times.

Me. Grand Marais, MI, 2014

Me. Grand Marais, MI, 2014

With Love,

-AEB

My Battle with Orthorexia: Living in Maine, Restoration

Sideways, upside down, inside out, whatever terminology you'd like to insert here, my life has had quite a shuffle over the past month. And to tell you the truth, it feels as though it has been a year. Not in time, no. In the way that feel.

I feel different. I feel calm. I feel at ease. I feel happy.

There has been a shift.

I won't delve into the details of what exactly went on over the past month, but I am now in a new home here in Maine. And, it is perfect for me right now. While a bit challenging at first, in the end, I am so very glad that this move happened. Not only because I'm in love with where I am now, but because there were some important lessons learned and growth had along the way.

My view

My view

Nestled in the lush woods, with views of rolling green hills, unique barns, sheep, and deer, I am resting easy and enjoying the sunrise and sunset like never before. My first night there, I stepped out onto the deck above the budding blueberry bushes to checkout the night sky. My roommate and I shut off all the lights so that we can see the stars more easily.

What we saw immediately went onto my informal list of the 'top most incredible things that I have seen.' The sky was clear, stars bright and appeared closer than I can ever recall seeing them. I was awestruck and then I shifted my gaze below and saw hundreds of fireflies sparkling beneath us. It was magical. Purely magical.

So here I am, going on my fourth month living in Maine. Wow, how very different my life is today than this time last year. Maine is serving a great purpose in my life. I believe wholeheartedly that this move was exactly what I needed. It has not all been beautiful, in the traditional sense of the word and it has not been all 'roses' and 'peaches,' nor has it been easy. There have been some struggles, some tears and some restless nights. Though through that, I have shown myself the strength that I embody, exercised the tools within me to carry me through some rough winds and came out stronger and more focused than I was before.

change.jpeg

While there were some struggles, there were also great breakthroughs. And where there were tears, there were also deep soul-baring laughs. And now I sleep, sometimes for nine hours at a time.

There were two paths laid before me:

One was rocky, dark, cold, damp and full of cobwebs.

The other...

Clear, a bit sandy, some turns, subtle hills and full of sunshine.

I chose the latter, and it was just that simple.

change2.jpeg

Many of you know that I have been in recovery from an Orthorexia, a lesser known eating disorder, since March of this year; and near the end of April I made my move to Bar Harbor, ME from Boulder, CO.

The harvest of my pain was its own peace and remedy.

As low as I had sunk, I rose, faith restored from blasphemy.

Body, heart, and soul obscured the path, until

Body melted into heart, heart in soul, and soul in love itself.
— Rumi
Where I like to practice my yoga

Where I like to practice my yoga

I work daily in maintaining a healthy recovery from Orthorexia. Yesterday was the first time that I weighed myself since mid-March. I am up 13 pounds and at a 'healthy/normal' BMI of 18.7 (according to the Centers of Disease Control).

While emotional, this number ultimately makes me very proud. My yoga poses are becoming stronger, the muscles in my arms and legs are surprising the heck out of me and earlier this week I ran my longest run (non-stop running) of 5.7 miles. Think I could have been able to that a year ago? No.

The list of those that I am grateful for continues to grow. You all know who you are, and I thank you each day. Looking forward to seeing how this chapter unfolds.

With Love,

-AEB

10 Ways to Appreciate Yourself

Who better to appreciate you than yourself? Sure, it's nice to have others appreciate us whether it be with words, washing your car, or buying your oh-so-delicious iced chai on a Sunday afternoon but who are we with 24/7? Whose thoughts are we entertaining day-in-day-out? Whose body are we carrying through illness and wellness? Whose emotions are we embracing and battling each day?

Ours.

And, we deserve to appreciate ourselves. In fact, we ought to make it a priority. Men and women.

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Below are some of the ways that I appreciate ME.

10 Ways to Appreciate Yourself

1). Give yourself a "free" morning

A free morning. What is a free morning? A morning in which you can do whatever you please that is free of obligation, free of timelines and essentially, free of duties. Your only duty being to do whatever it is that you want to do. This can of course, last all day if you have that luxury.

There are no rules with this free morning. If you want to lay in bed for hours with your coffee, comfy throw, good book, and indulge in some homemade muffins- go for it. Or, perhaps you want to take this morning to go for a long walk and then enjoy a nice home-cooked breakfast with your tunes playing.

Whatever it is, whatever makes your morning- yours. Do it.

For as long as you can.

Seem impossible with your lifestyle? Create the change you need for that one day to make it happen. Call in a baby-sitter or whatever it is you need to allow for your free morning.

2). 15 Minutes of Daily Vitamin D (aka SUN)

Daily. Give yourself AT LEAST fifteen minutes of sunshine each day (providing it's available). Whether it's popping out of the office and taking a stroll, stepping outside and sitting on a bench or sitting in your own backyard, get yourself under the sun. 

Vitamin D not only lifts our mood, it's essential to a healthy immune system. Go ahead, worship that sun ;)

sunshing.jpeg

3). Buy yourself flowers

I love coming home from the market with fresh flowers that I picked out for myself. A a simple bouquet that catches my eye and gives off that heavenly aroma.

They are yours to look at (and smell) as reminder to yourself of just how much you matter.  And what a difference they can make in a room! Place them in the room that you spend the most time in and stop to smell them and appreciate their beauty each day.

4). Decompress with a walk

I could go on and on about how much I love to walk. I've said for years, if I have adequate shoes and enough food, water, and lip balm, I can walk all day. And it still holds true. The benefits I find in walking are simply endless and, priceless.

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Walking is brilliant because it can both help to collect your thoughts or clear your mind. I find it very meditative. I've had many clarifying moments during a walk. And although I love to be walking somewhere in nature, such as alongside the ocean or in the mountains, a walk can be healing anywhere. In fact, I also love to walk in the city as well.

Whether it's 10 minutes or 60, walking is a way to 'reset' your mind and undeniably one of the best exercises for your body.

5). Give yourself an hour to 'be'

Don't you ever just want to 'be' ? You know, that tranquil state when you aren't juggling multiple things between your activities and thoughts. When you can hear your own breath and your not worried about what time you need to leave your house tomorrow to beat the construction traffic, or what you will make for dinner or the bill you need to pay that keeps escaping your mind.

I'd love to say to do this daily, but I'll settle for an hour a week.

This, does not replace or cut into your free morning, decompression walk, or Time under the sun! This, my dear ones, is an hour all on its own. An hour for you to get away from your engaging life and racing mind.

The beauty of this  hour, is that it may take many different forms. It could be lying still in shavasana with a few stones, or under a tree in the woods. Or perhaps slowly walking or maybe some light stretching (I recommend if you are doing any movement for your hour, that is intentionally slow and gentle). Music can of course be part of your hour (it is your hour after-all). If I have music on during this time, I love to listen to artists like Dave Matthews, Xavier Rudd, Howie Day, India Arie, Bob Marley or soft classic rock like Simon & Garfunkel  &  The Moody Blues or classical such as Bach & Motzart, depending on my mood.

6). Indulge in a good skin cream (yes, you too Fella's!)

Skin is our largest organ. And it's the one that's exposed all of the time. And sometimes, out in that sun. Unfortunately, with those fabulous UV rays comes cause for concern. While your out getting your skin cream, pick up a quality SPF ;) I love Aloe Up, Resort Collection

Now, on to the skin cream. Our skin gets put through a heck of a lot throughout our lives . From scrapes, cuts, blemishes and sunburns, to sometimes more bothersome conditions such as eczema, bacterial infections, or fungal growth.

Having well hydrated and smooth skin is  one of the best feelings (IMO). And not just physically. When something is out of balance with our skin, it's not only annoying, it can also affect our mood and self-esteem.

While, I recommend something that is natural, this is YOUR indulgence. So, choose something that not only makes your skin feel good, but makes you feel good, with a scent that you love (or unscented if you prefer).

My indulgences?Artisana Extra Virgin Unrefined Coconut OilNubian Heritage Indian Hemp & Haitian Vetiver and, L'occtane Shea Butter (their soap is heavenly also).

Enjoy, indulge and celebrate YOU.

7). Smile at yourself (in the mirror)

Yep, this one is easy. Or is it?

Maybe you're standing in front of your mirror and staring intently, or maybe you are just passing by and glance over. Whichever the circumstances happen to be, give yourself a genuine smile. And not one of those fake "hi stranger walking by on the side-walk smile's," a real "hey there beloved friend of mine smile's."

If you feel silly, that's OK, do it anyway. But try, if I may suggest, to take a deep breath and really think about the love that you have for yourself. Think about something that you are proud of about yourself. Or something that you are really excited for that you did or are going to do such as buying your first car, training for a marathon etc.

Don't have anything to smile about? Do it anyway. Every single day. One of those days, you will cross a chasm, and have something to smile about.

Point being, YOU are the one that is getting yourself through the day. YOU are the one that crosses all of those checks off of your to-do list, accomplishes those goals (big and smile) and endures each hardship, each struggle, each obstacle. SMILE. You got this.

I love this version of the song, Smile.

8). Cook yourself a wholesome meal

It perplexes me that so many people go about life preparing wholesome, nourishing meals for their family and friends but when it comes to solo meals, it's cereal, take-out, or a blend of leftovers.

You've worked hard, and you've earned that awesome meal! If you feel like you are on constant overdrive, start planning this meal days in advance and make it count. Get fresh ingredients. Make your favorite. Or, if your like me, do some experimenting and play around in the kitchen for a while.

But most importantly, savor every single last bite. Appreciate each ingredient and the flavor it provides. And whatever it is, have zero guilt. This your meal. Your time. Your body, mind and soul.

9). Write yourself notes

No, not 'reminder' notes (at least not the kind your thinking of) or 'to-do' lists. I am talking about notes to assure yourself of how amazing you are. Notes that help you check-in with yourself throughout your busy and perhaps stressful day. Think of them as mantras or affirmations.

They can be brief, or long, the choice is yours. But use encouraging words and place them somewhere that you can see them easily like a post-it on your bathroom or bedroom mirror, on your dresser, your refrigerator, on your laptop or in your wallet.

you are lovely.jpeg

Do this weekly at a minimum, daily is even better. Start a collection. And when you feel it's time to move on, copy them down into a notebook so that you can go back and read them in the moments when life gets heavy. Those moments can come in as quickly as a storm, having that notebook can help to support you and bring you guidance.

Another way that I use my notebook is in my yoga practice. If I don't already have a mantra that I working with that day, I will open it up to a random page before my session and allow that mantra to guide me in my practice.

10). Wear your 'special occasion' clothes

Only, this time, wear them when it's not a special occasion ;)

Have a little black dress that you bought last summer and STILL haven't had a place to wear it? Wear it tonight! Heck, wear it for yourself while you cook your wholesome meal! Or, wear it this afternoon while you cool down with a beverage (your honey may really appreciate it too ;)).

And you too fella's! Do you have a nice blazer your bought and still haven't had the chance to wear? Throw on some jeans, nice (mmm Italian..) shoes, a white-tee, and your blazer and head out! Or, stay in. I mean really, who cares?!? This is all for you.

YOU are the special occasion. Give yourself permission to boost your self-esteem no matter where you are going (or not going). Wear them at home, to the store, to a cafe, for a walk- wherever you are, wear those clothes. 

Be you. 

Appreciate you.

With Love,

-AEB

My Battle with Orthorexia: Recovery, Balance & Moderation

If you missed my two previous posts on my battle with orthorexia, you may view them here: My Battle with Orthorexia (first post), My Battle with Orthorexia: Epiphanies & Recovery, The move to Maine brought on a shift in gears for me. A healthy shift. Driving out here and now being here, I've been looking at food a bit differently. Nutritional therapy that I received before hand, helped with my new mindset. This has been a shift from thinking about food as a way to sustain me throughout the day, to food as FUEL.

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Just as I had to stop to put fuel in Europa (aka my Jetta), I have to continuously put fuel into my body as well. Seems quite simple doesn't it? It is. Instead of obsessing over the amount that I was eating or the specific ingredients, I just ate when I was hungry and  didn't worry about the exercise that I was not getting. In all reality, driving in and of itself sucked the energy out of me and my body NEEDED and DESERVED the time off from cardio and lifting. Not only that, but the day that I moved out of my apartment, in a hurry, I slipped and fell on black ice, pulling a ligament in the back of my right (driving) leg. Coincidence? "Slooooooooow down Ashley," says the Universe.

I had boxes of food with me for my cross-country drive as well as a cooler for berries, meat, hard boiled eggs etc. There was one that that I knew and that was that I didn't want to be caught without food. Looking back on it, it saddens me to know that in my restrictive food behaviors, I was not only restricting the intake of fuel for my body on a 'weight' level but on a holistic level. My nutritionist helped to bring this to light for me. When we are not giving our bodies the proper fuel (from ALL healthy food groups), we are not only effecting our physical appearance but our organs (including our brain), muscles, hormone levels, and a slew of other parts of anatomy that allow for us to properly FUNCTION. When that took hold in my brain, after I welled up with tears, I knew that my behaviors had to change for the safety and comfort of my LIFE.

I eat when I'm hungry, I listen to my body and I try very hard to not dwell on things like why I am hungry when I ate just an hour ago, or why I am hungry before bedtime. I just listen, and respond to my bodies signals. This requires both balance and moderation. 

Balance & Moderation

I  constantly check-in with myself on my eating behaviors to gauge whether I am being obsessive or restrictive and WHY.  Am I afraid of something? Is it a rational thought? Is it a replace in thinking? Is it 'My Eating Disorder Demon' talking? 

These check-ins are subtle. Keeping a food log, journal, counting calories or weighing oneself is generally NOT a good idea for a person struggling with or recovering from an eating disorder. This is true for me. I do not do any of those things.

Eating foods in all food groups is something that have come to embrace (aside from dairy). In my past I have been quite an extremist. Oh, grains aren't good for you? OK, I will eliminate every single grain for the rest of my life. Oh, cinnamon is good for you? Great, I will start taking cinnamon every day until it makes me sick (even though I was indeed taking the 'recommended' dose). Oh nuts and seeds are amazing for you? Awesome! I will chow down on nuts and seeds all day long until those too make me sick.

I did all of those things. And more. Not quite that casually, no, as I did do my research but that's just it. Instead of researching within myself, listening to what I needed; I acted upon outside research based on others experience whom may or may not have had any sort of credentials.

My diet has been consisting of some non-glutenious grains (mostly rice), starches (like squash and sweet potatoes), meats (mainly fish, poultry, eggs and some red meat), all sorts of fruits and vegetables, some legumes and a few nuts/seeds (significantly less that I was). My diet is still clean, yet it is a healthy clean. A balanced clean.

Aaaah yes... and coffee... in moderation...&nbsp;

Aaaah yes... and coffee... in moderation... 

While I sincerely thought that I was embodying health before, what I was doing was actually depriving myself of the fuel that it needed to truly be healthy. Healthy for my mind, body, and soul.

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And I've returned to my jogging ;) Food = FUEL = ENERGY

Where I once believed firmly that health began with nutrition, followed by physical exercise, I now believe that health in fact, begins with our state of mind.

With Love,

-AEB

Maine Life & More Epiphanies

You know when you hear a quote, phrase, saying or what-have-you, over and over and you nod, appreciate it and then go on your merry way? Or maybe you really ponder it and try to allow it to sink into your being. Or perhaps you even say it aloud to yourself or others. Yet it isn't until that moment, that opening in the air where it really and truly resonates. Where the air feels less heavy, appears less hazy and suddenly you have found yourself stopped in your tracks.

All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer, artist and politician

At least, that is how epiphanies usually feel for me. Especially these recent ones. And the timing of the following quote that my lovely brother-in-law sent couldn't have come to me at a more perfect time because it is exactly how I felt.

That quote gives my goosebumps, even now. We can hear something for years and think that we understand the meaning, and perhaps we do understand yet the words are not truly integrated in the way in which we lead our lives.

While hiking up to Cadillac Mountain and back last week, I had a few of these moments.

Epiphany #1

If you truly focus your energy  into something, you can and will achieve it.

Epiphany #2

You are the only person that owns you and the life you lead.

Epiphany #3

Your thoughts will dictate your life path.
Top of Cadillac

Top of Cadillac

When these 'epiphanies' came to me, it was as if I had never heard anything like it before in my life. I literally stopped mid-carriage road, looked out over the serene landscape around me, furrowed my brow and thought, "Wow..."If you (I) truly focus your energy into something, you can and will achieve it....huh.... so that 'saying' IS true."

I continued to repeat the words over and over as I ascended up to the top of Cadillac. And it made me smile.

Mid-Trek

Mid-Trek

It's like someone telling you your entire life that blueberries are a very tasty fruit. You understand what they are telling you, you may believe their words and you may even smell some blueberry jam and think "sure, yes, blueberries I think would be a tasty fruit," yet you never try them. And then one day, you taste them. You taste their subtle sweetness on your palate and feel a certain sense of refreshment that you hadn't felt with other fruits. Suddenly, you get it. You understand fully the essence of the blueberry.

The other two epiphanies came to me in a similar fashion, and all in that one day (oh yes, I'll be hiking as much as I can on the island this summer ;))

As part of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's quote entails: 

"...but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience."

"Till they take root in our personal experience."

That my  friends, is the key. And perhaps the only way to have that happen is to act upon them - either consciously or unconsciously.

Carrying them out in our lives Living them. Integrating them into our life. Rooting them.

Now that I have written a novel on my experience on epiphanies, I'll give you all a little update on how life in Maine is going thus far.

First of all, "the people" are genuinely nice. Everyone that I have come into contact with has been not only nice, but completely selfless. Not that "hey let me know if you need anything," but the "You be sure to let me know if you need anything at all whether you have questions about the Island, the town, a personal problem, you call me..." And this hasn't been from one person. This has been from just about every single personal that I have met here.

Many have that 'Mainer' accent that some perceive as cold or harsh. On the contrary, they are gentle and sincere people. How very comforting it is to be immersed in a community that cares so deeply for others and for their island.

I continue to be amazed by the expanse of scenery that can be seen on the island. Roads that I drive on almost daily, will still have me pulling over on the side of the road to run out and snap photos. 

Hadley Point

Hadley Point

The Inn that I am working with for the season officially opens tomorrow (May 17th). I've been in training the past few weeks, learning the 'ins-and-outs' of how they operate; which has been both humbling and fascinating. When I attempt to explain what I did as a 'Product Marketing Analyst' at my previous work, I have to laugh at the sheer vast difference in the work that I will be doing over the next several months compared to my previous work. There is no good or bad in that statement- it is simply wildly different. And it has been inspiring to learn and experience the change in my environment.

View on my jog

View on my jog

Oh how I love my morning jogs with views of the sunrise shining upon the ocean, afternoon strolls and the space and time to focus on ME

With Love,

-AEB

The Question & My Move to Maine

The question is always the same:

"Why Maine?" And specifically, "why Bar Harbor?"

Frenchman's Bay, Downtown Bar Harbo r

Frenchman's Bay, Downtown Bar Harbor

Why after 15 years living along the Front Range of sunny Colorado did I decide to go to a small town on and island off the coast of Maine over 2000 miles away?

In summer of 2011, I wanted to take a trip by myself. Somewhere that I could "reset" in the midst of my chaotic and confusing life. During this time I was writing a novel (one in which I may or may not still be writing...). In the novel, I have a couple of the characters from Maine. I decided then, that I would go there for my vacation. Not to research, no, it more or less just helped me decide where I would vacation.

So, I pulled up google maps and with the index finger of my right hand, I circled around the state of Maine, zoomed in and then stopped and said "There, that's it. Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island. That is where they (the characters in my novel) will be from and that is where I shall go."

The Shore Path

The Shore Path

I didn't research the island before I went though I knew that I wanted to stay at a Bed & Breakfast on the ocean. I chose the Shore Path Cottage. I booked my stay and then booked my flight (yes, in that order). And off I went for 7 days that July. Epiphanies came, clarity sparkled and I felt at peace. Perhaps those were the aspects that I couldn't shake.

When I left, there were no thoughts that I would ever move to Bar Harbor, but I knew one thing: I would be back.

February of this year, I found myself in a crossroads I had never experienced before. I knew that I needed a shift. A major, life altering, mind bending shift. Anyone that knows me, knows that I am generally a very happy, optimistic, lovin' life person. But, I was exhausted. Exhausted from pretending that I loved my life when I was struggling emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially. Every aspect of my 'healthy' was...Broken. And, I wasn't asking for help.

I had to not only admit this, but allow myself to feel it. And accept it. I then had to also acknowledge that happiness is a choice. Just as our thoughts are a choice.

Working at a software company in Boulder, Colorado is dream to many. And it in many aspects, it was for me too. My time there was well spent. I learned, I grew and I met some amazing people that I still hold very dear to me. But after three years, my soul was telling me that there was something I needed to feed. Something I needed to explore. Or as I like to say, "feed the rat," an expression I picked up in Australia years ago.

There were thoughts of going back to Los Angeles, exploring San Francisco, New York City, or Washington D.C. And even some job applications that went out. But nothing resonated with me and the thought of actually moving seemed so HARD. Daunting. It came to me one day that what I truly wanted, was to just be. I can't explain that element so I will leave it up to your interpretation. Once I let go of the fear of not having money and the pressure of making other people proud and doing what I thought I should be doing, the decision was simple. I needed a place where I could just be and I needed to stop searching.

So I did. I stopped searching, stopped stressing about where I was working, what I was doing, my résumé, jobs, and what the next year of my life would hold. Soon thereafter, in my yoga session, it came to me. In hot yoga (triangle pose), "Bar Harbor. That is where I need to go. That's it." It was more clear than anything that had ever come to me before. In fact I saw a golden yellow aura around myself. That may be to out there for some of you. Anyway, that night, I began to put things in motion. That was in February. I made my way here the end of April. It took me 4 days and a total of 38 hours of driving to get here.

Below you will find 12 YouTube links to video clips that I posted along the way.

Part 1(Intro)
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12 (Finale)

In the three months prior to my move, I found movers, secured a temporary place to live, secured a job, and the various other odds and ends that moving entails. And although the time of my life was stressful and painful due to other circumstances, the move itself came quite easily. About a week after my move-in, the movers arrived with the rest of my belongings. My oh my, how I adore my own bed.

The view just down the hill from where I'm staying

The view just down the hill from where I'm staying

So, here I am in Bar Harbor. From an apartment (living solo, sans pets), in South Boulder, to a house in the woods on the ocean with three other people, a dog, two goats, and chickens. Three weeks ago, I was sipping my coffee-house Americano whilst checking my countless emails at the office, surrounded by technology. And this morning I was sipping my homemade coffee, outside in the sun whilst a goat attempted to eat my hair and then proceeded to climb into my lap, and spill my coffee.

A typical morning

A typical morning

My how the times have changed. As they always will. But I am me. And in ME, I will be. 

Just me, blowin' in the wind...

Just me, blowin' in the wind...

My gratitude goes out to many for helping me along in this journey. They know who they are.

I have no idea what the next chapter will be.

I'll let you know.

With love,

-AEB

My Battle With Orthorexia: Epiphanies and Recovery

Since my initial post on My Battle With Orthorexia last month,  I've had quite a few epiphanies and breakthroughs that I would like to share with you. I will warn you now that this post will be a bit stream of conscious as I attempt to explain things. 
 

Thank you sweet sister of mine for sharing this one with me

Thank you sweet sister of mine for sharing this one with me

Allow me to first start off by saying, that this is not an easy battle. I've had highs, lows and everything in-between with a few 'relapses' in thoughts and behaviors along the way. What one must recognize about an eating disorder, whether they are personally struggling with one or know someone that is, is that it is NOT about food. 

I know, right?

Just as an alcoholic uses and abuses alcohol as a coping mechanism, a person with an eating disorder uses food whether it be overeating, under-eating/restricting, and/or obsessing as a coping mechanism for circumstances and emotions things that are occurring or have occurred in their lives. The actual reasons behind the need for a coping mechanism will naturally vary from person-to-person. 

This disorder is powerful and strong. And it can indeed, kill you. Recovery from an eating disorder has one of the highest chances for relapse (or lowest recovery rate depending on how you look it) out of many other disorders/diseases and the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. Why is this so?

I have a theory on one of the reasons why this may be true... 

We cannot live without food. We all know this. An eating disorder is a type of an addiction. And when you are in the thick of any addiction whether it be mental (obsessive/compulsive) or physical (substance abuse etc.), you are in fact, under the influence.  

Imagine if you will, that for an alcoholic to 'recover' they had to learn how to drink 'normally.' Not quit drinking entirelyThey had to stop their drinking in excess yet still frequent bars and only have a drink or two. And go to liquor stores on a regular basis but get a couple of beers instead of a bottle of whiskey and a case of beer. 

Now, I am NOT saying that recovering from alcoholism is not a feat. Wow, it is an enormous life-altering feat! Though it may explain why recovery rates for those with eating disorders are not as promising. Those of us that have found ourselves battling an eating disorder, are surrounded by food all of the time, from culture-to-culture, day-in-day-out, and we must learn how to eat 'normally' again. 

My Demon, my Friend

My Demon, my Friend

I've named my eating disorder, 'my eating disorder Demon.' But don't get me wrong. This Demon has actually protected me in many ways, has been there for me and provided me comfort throughout a very difficult time. So while I am actively battling this Demon, I am honoring it at the same time. And understand that it served a purpose.

I lovingly release and honor the past and joyously welcome the new.

The past is our past but that's just it, it's OUR past. We lived it. We made it through. We learned from it. And we should love it. Honor it. And be at peace with it. Whatever 'it' may be.

I spent a lot of time and energy pushing my past away. The "I've got this," "I'm fine," "Don't worry about me," "I'm tough," "I'm past that," "It could have been worse," "I don't need help, I don't need you, I don't need anyone..."

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The reality, is that with a BMI of about 16.5, I was not only classified as underweight, but severely underweight. Now, I am grateful that this had not gone on for years, but it did go on long enough to where the consequences of being at such a low BMI effected me. And the consequences are not only physical but mental as well. I won't delve deep into that topic but the mental implications can also be vast; such as the inability to focus and extreme obsessive compulsive behaviors. You are indeed, under the influence

So, I came upon some epiphanies over the past week.

Epiphany #1: Control

Life.

Life happens. And for the most part, the majority of things in our lives, are out of our control. And generally, that is OK. Expected. And accepted. But, there are those times that things go completely awry. And then there or those times when go not only awry, but devastated by trauma. 

When an event takes place that derails you life to the point where you feel out of control, you latch on to things that make you feel in control.

I am writing this using 'you,' but I am in fact, talking about myself.

Back in fall of 2010, I had series of life events that left me feeling dis-empowered, helpless and completely out of control. I latched onto three main things that enabled me to feel in control. Hence the word feel, in the end, these things controlled me. I didn't actually have control. 

Sources of 'False Control'

    1) Exercise

    For all of my adult life, I've found great joy in exercise. Whether it be walking, hiking, jogging, lifting, yoga etc., it is, and will remain to be one my favorite things in life.

    Though, I started to use exercise in such a way that it actually stressed my body in times where I truly needed emotional support and rest. I exercised/worked-out twice a day 6-7 days a week for over two years. Even when I was sick. When I was tired. Exhausted. Stressed. In pain. And even shortly after my surgeries. It wasn't a release anymore - it was an addiction. An obsession. But it made me feel in control. Little did I know, it was in fact, controlling me.

    This mind you, happened gradually over a long period of time. And I have since then, toned the exercising down to allow my body to heal during this process. Which in-and-of-itself, has been difficult to let go and give myself and my body permission to rest. 
      
    2) Food/restriction/elimination diets

    I latched onto the idea that there was a 'perfect' diet out there for me in order to feel my best. I've been writing several posts on this so I won't go into great detail but in essence, I used restriction around ingredients and specific food groups as a way to feel more in control over my life. It was something that I could research, tweak, see, and feel results.

    Over the past month, I have slowly introduced specific foods that I had eliminated back into my diet. Some worked (grains such as white rice and corn, added sugar, added starches). Some did not. Gluten, did not. For the same reasons that I initially stopped eating gluten (vertigo, exhaustion, stomach rashes etc). Dairy, did not. And for the same reasons that I had initially stopped eating dairy over four years ago now (heartburn/indigestion, diarrhea).

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    This is how I feel about the gluten and dairy. 

    Most importantly, I branched out. I gave myself permission to eat things that I had not eaten in a long time, even years. And it was scary, but I am also very proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone and I will continue to do so. It's a process. 

    3) Medicine/Doctors

      Similar to my diet, I felt that there was something in my body that needed 'fixed.' Something was wrong. What I failed to recognize, was that the something that was wrong was actually an internal cry for emotional help and support. The something that needed fixed, was on an emotional and spiritual level yet I stayed with the mindset for years that it was on a physical level. Yes, I did in fact have hernias. And I did in fact, have Endometriosis but those were not the sole source of my physical pain and symptoms. Not by a long shot.

      Countless visits to doctors, tests, procedures, herbs, medicines, supplements, and thousands of dollars. It's no wonder that my body was unable to recover and reset back to a state of 'normalcy' as it was constantly bombarded by things that it didn't need or couldn't absorb/breakdown as I was becoming malnourished due to lack of nourishment on both a diet and emotional level. As my nutritionist explains nourishment, there are two types: Nourishment with a capital (N) for food nourishment and nourishment with a lower case (n) for emotional/loving nourishment. 

      This fixation on 'fixing' something on a physical level also brought to me a false sense of control. 

      Epiphany #2: Fight or Flight

      Do you know what physically happens to animal (including humans) when they are in 'fight or flight' mode?

      Well, let me tell you, it's quite fascinating. Here is a website that explains the fight or flight response in more detail. Below are some highlights:

      • heart rate and blood pressure increase
      • pupils dilate to take in as much light as possible
      • veins in skin constrict to send more blood to major muscle groups (responsible for the "chill" sometimes associated with fear -- less blood in the skin to keep it warm)
      • blood-glucose level increases
      • muscles tense up, energized by adrenaline and glucose (responsible for goose bumps -- when tiny muscles attached to each hair on surface of skin tense up, the hairs are forced upright, pulling skin with them)
      • smooth muscle relaxes in order to allow more oxygen into the lungs
      • nonessential systems (like digestion and immune system) shut down to allow more energy for emergency functions
      • trouble focusing on small tasks (brain is directed to focus only on big picture in order to determine where threat is coming from)

      I can't even begin to tell you how much this resonates with with me. Bullet-by-bullet I nod my head. Yep, experienced that. Yep, experienced that. Dilated pupils, veins in the skin constricted, increased heart rate, low body temperature, trouble focusing... Though, I'd like to especially point the one on digestion and immune system shutting down to allow more energy for emergency functions. Wow, did it ever. Chronic diarrhea and various other immune related symptoms is the main thing that plagued me during this time.

      Bottom line, my body quit functioning properly. 

      To an outsider looking in, I had it pretty together. Living alone, working a full-time job, eating 'healthy' foods, exercising, and generally walking around with a smile on my face. But on the inside, I was full of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the relationships that I was in and those that I had left. Fear of what could happen. And most of all, fear of what had already happened that I continuously ran from facing. 

      You see, for years, I was in a chronic state of 'fight or flight.' Why?' you may ask. I didn't feel safe. Simple as that. My sense of safety and security had completely deteriorated. I began to think about this 'fight or flight' situation combined with my lack of feeling safe and secure and as it really soaked in, I reflected back on the times over the past few years that I did feel safe. 

      I can count them on one hand. And all but one of those times were when I was with my Dad. It didn't matter where I was with him. But when I was with him whether it be on vacation or one of his homes, I was generally symptom free irregardless of what I was eating or drinking. I felt safe. My systems relaxed. There was one other time that I can recall and this was when I went on vacation by myself to Bar Harbor, ME (where I am now moving BTW, post to follow). I stayed at a Bed & Breakfast for seven days, right on the ocean, took myself out for meals, ate things I normally wouldn't have and indulged in more wine than I normally would have and I felt great. And was again, generally symptom free. There it is again. My flight or fight response subsided and I felt safe. I allowed myself to relax. To be

      Now, this doesn't mean that I need my dad wherever I go (although that would be kind of cool because he's pretty amazing), but what it does mean, is that I need a balanced life on an emotional, spiritual, and physical level in order to establish a sense of safety, security and peace. 

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      I don't have a step-by-step guide on how I will do this, but I am getting there. By loving myself, by trusting myself, listening to my body, forgiving myself and forgiving others. I could go on and on, but those are some of the things that I am currently focusing on to help me in breaking free from 'fight or flight.' Here is another great site on fight or flight. 

      Epiphany #3: Deprivation

      Someone asked me not too long ago, not "What do you do for fun?" but rather, "When do you have fun?"

      I just looked at him blankly. There was really no answer that I had for him. I pondered this for a bit and came to the conclusion that the only time I really did have 'fun' was on the rare occasion that I was around my family or when I was alone hiking, writing or traveling. Alone. Mind you, I do rather enjoy being alone, but it had gotten to the point of isolation. Depriving myself.

      In learning more and more about restrictive eating disorders such as orthorexia, it's very common and almost always the case that the person also restricts (deprives) their lives in other ways.

      Why? To feel in control. Safe. Secure. 

      Like waves crashing in, there was a steady flow of realizations that hit me of other ways in my life that I deprived myself. Laughter, fun, socializing, love, indulgences such as alcohol, rest/relaxation, sleep... I started to write them all down and suddenly my life started to make a little more sense to me. Things became a bit more clear.

      Allowing myself to let go and release has been an invigorating experience. There has been fear, no doubt, but it's getting easier. And it makes me smile.

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      As I am writing this, Sting's 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot,' just came on. How very fitting. I think I'll be listening to this song often ;)

      Aids in my Recovery Process

      Professional Guidance

      I've been seeing both a nutritionist and therapist that work solely with those recovering from eating disorders. They have both helped me immensely in getting to the why behind my eating disorder,  learning how to be gentle with myself, forgive myself, putting things into perspective, understanding what it takes to truly fuel and nourish the human body and much, much more. 


      Recovery Stories

      I am especially fond of this one

      Affirmations

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      Books

      Eating In the Light of the Moon has been my favorite thus far. I recommend every female read this book whether they are struggling with an eating disorder or not. I also recommend that those supporting someone with an eating disorder read it to better understand their condition.

      Louise Hay and Crystal Alandrus' inspirational books (and audio recordings) have been a huge part of my recovery and although I have not met them in person- I feel like they are part of my life. You Can Heal Your Life, is another one of my favorites. 

      Others I am reading: The Passion TestThe Power of Myth and Healing From Trauma

      I adore books ;)

      Meditation, Yoga & Metaphysical Work

      Meditation, yoga and metaphysical work really could be an entire new post (as all of these could be). So rather than going in deep on this topic, I will simply let you know that all of these combined have not only helped me in my life path and recovery but have been part of a life transformation on a body, mind and spiritual level. 

      'Lifelines'
       

      When I am struggling with a relapse in behavior or struggling with my Demon in thoughts, I text, email or call one of my friends, my mom or my sister (if I am not actually with them). In other words, I TALK about it. I voice it. The support system that I have is truly a gift.

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      And with that, I will end this post and say thank you again to those that have helped me along the way and continue to support me. How very blessed I am to have you in my life.

      With Love, 

      -AEB