Pause: hitting the slo-mo button when self-care just doesn’t cut it.

A quiet morning surrounded by books, coffee, my journal and a podcast. I know it’s what I need, I know that after just a couple hours I feel more at ease, less restricted, more open. I can feel the stiffness slowly leaving my body.

And I have also had a very difficult time carving out this time. It’s not productive, I’m just sitting here listening to a podcast, I tell myself. I should be checking something off my to do list at the same time and making the most of my weekend time. I’ve wasted my morning doing nothing, my thoughts tell me. They, these thoughts, leave me feeling frustrated, torn and guilty and like I’m doing sometime wrong, something I shouldn’t be doing. That taking a moment to pause is not worthwhile. When in fact, pause is the complete opposite. Those thoughts may feel real (*thanks* ego), but they are not true.

 
It is okay to just be. To rest. To pause and be slow. To take a few moments or even hours to just be.

I have a list of activities and things I can do for self-care, and I find that sometimes they just feel like a chore. Just another thing I need to check off my to do list and schedule into my day (I’ve had ‘paint nails’ on my list for weeks now – they are still bare). I know (through many, many moments of practise) that when I feel like I don’t have time, when self care has become effort, it’s time for me to simply pause. Sometimes I’m successful at hitting pause, other times I’m not. And that is also okay. It is a practise after all.

Self-care is action. It is a tool. An act of kindness to towards yourself [Note: self care does not equal beautification. Self-care can mean taking time to focus on beauty rituals (a pedicure, hair cut, facial, personal grooming, etc)  but it is not limited to beauty]. Self care is a way to create that soft space within you that allows self-love to grow. And sometimes I get into a headspace where self care feels difficult.  This where I find pause can be helpful.

For me, pause doesn’t look like hitting the stop button on the world, simply pulling up the covers and hiding (and honestly some days you just need to add Netflix to the mix and call it a night). Instead, taking a moment to pause is more like a slo-mo button, where the world slows a little and I can tune into some smaller details. It’s about being present and aware of what’s around me. Pause is an interruption. It is a way to ground yourself. Every yoga class ends with savasana – corpse pose. You lie down on your back and take a few moments to allow all of the movement and poses settle to into your body. You rest, you relax, you feel. You are aware of your body; you are not asleep. You simply pause.

A ‘savasana pose’ for your day-to-day life could be taking a few deep breaths before getting out of bed, it could be watching the sunset, petting your dog, going for a walk around the office, making a cup of tea, sitting in a chair just looking out the window, or doing a short meditation. Or it could be taking a whole day off to do so called “nothing.” The key is the deliberate slowness and the awareness of your surroundings and/or your body (I say and/or because it can be difficult to do both). I can be petting my dog, but really I am planning what to eat for breakfast. Or I can be petting my dog, and noticing the way her fur feels between my fingers, how she smells, how I feel more calm, and that half of her whiskers are black, the other white.

I started to bring a deliberate pause into my daily life a few years ago by changing up my morning coffee routine. My budget had gotten pretty tight and I wasn’t able to grab coffee out anymore. But I couldn’t imagine giving up my daily coffee (let’s be real, coffees). Instead, I decided that I would buy the nicest bag of beans my budget would allow, prepare my coffee by the cup in a pour over (or my French press), sit at the kitchen table or in a comfy chair and slowly drink my one cup of coffee. I would savour it, like my lazy Sunday morning coffees I enjoy so much. Turns out my caffeine consumption dropped, my wallet thanked me and I now had this lovely morning ritual of preparing and enjoying my coffee. My slow coffee. My daily pause and morning rituals have certainly grown since then I think it started with my slow coffee.

The past few weeks I have been struggling with keeping up many of my practices, including self care and pause. Life caught me. And at the very moment my life requires pause, I seem to tell myself I don’t need it or it can be done later. Even though, I know that when I do slow down, when I take regular moments of pause and check in with myself, I am happier, more efficient and clear headed. The thought “I don’t have time” is becoming a warning flag to myself that I really do need to pause, even if its only for a moment. At first, pause feels counter intuitive; it may feel like giving up, it may even feel like wasted time. I promise it is not.

I find that after a pause it can be a little easier to be kind to myself and those around me. To be compassionate. I am not as reactive to the people around me (like the slow driver in front of me on the way to work doesn’t immediately make me angry). We live in a world where we are told to go faster, to be stronger, to collect more shiny pennies, to wear all the hats and get it all done. We are never told the missing puzzle piece – that rest and pause actually makes you stronger and more resilient. There is a reason the tortoise won the race after all.

As always, sending lots of love + light,
~ Cassondra

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Things I have overheard …

I’ve been doing this little experiment the past couple weeks. I have a note in my phone solely for snippets of things I have overheard, usually from group convos around me and that generally make me cringe. These snippets have been overheard in the lunchroom or around the office, at group events and social gatherings… They have all been said by women. Women talking about each other, their own bodies, women in general, on social media, and in pictures. This is not a comprehensive list – it can be hard to remember to write them down! A few of these I heard often enough I stopped writing, then stopped counting.

You lost weight. Looking good!
I was a size smaller than usual and it felt so good! My whole day was good after that actually.
I want to look good for him.
I’ve had a bad eating weekend.
I’ve been so bad _____  / I am so bad.
If I had your body…
If I had a waist that small…
I fell off the wagon again.
I just need to do something [in regards to weight, body shape and/ or activity level]
…Getting my body back…
I want to fit in the dress. I mean I fit it. But I’d be more comfortable if I lost ten pounds.
But you’ve never struggled with your weight.
I’d never be able to wear that [meaning, I’m too fat / ____ to wear that]
And her boobs were practically spilling out of her top.
Her belly was all hanging out.
She is so thin, you can practically count her ribs.
She’d look younger if __ / thinner if __
Look at that self control – she hasn’t eaten in 3 days. Detoxing. And look, I’m sitting here eating another timbit.

I started really taking note of these comments in social gatherings after an interesting chat with my mom. We were at one of those ‘tupperware parties’… Anyways, one of the women around my mom’s age had visibly lost weight. Everyone was commenting on how great she looked, what she was doing, commenting on their own lack of weight loss, etc. I could tell she was getting uncomfortable (in the way that having all the attention on you in a social gathering can be). She downplayed her weight loss, shrugging it off and saying how much more she had to go, and generally deflected the ‘compliments.’ (which women seem to have a knack for). I have been on both sides of this conversation in the past – the giver and the receiver of weight loss related praise. This was the first time I had consciously observed it.

In the car on the way home I brought it up with my mom. “I just don’t think we should comment on weight loss,” I tell her. If we compliment a woman and shower praise when she loses weight, what does that say of her when she was/is a heavier weight? That she didn’t deserve praise? That she was ugly? We reinforce that thin is better. Or what happens if she gains the weight back? What if she has a medical concern? Or the change is stress related? What if, how her body looks if no one else’s business? We have both gone through the ups and downs, and know how shitty and shameful it is to face someone after your body has changed from putting weight back on. To know that this time their silence is judging you, not praising you. That you will be the topic of a hushed conversation in the near future. During this conversation my mom took the side of, “it was all well intentioned, all positive, all well meaning.” And she does look good. And while, yes, my mom is correct in saying that the comments were well intended, those women were trying to show their support, I do not think they have a positive effect. Why is commenting on weight loss a social nicety? If we take a step back and look a couple frames larger, what implications do those words and social custom have on us? On how we relate to ourselves and to the larger world?

Words are more than the surface level. Words are powerful. Unpacking social conditioning, figuring out what’s under it and how to change it, is messy and complicated, but if women are ever going to be at peace in our own bodies, we need to go there.

All of the snippets I wrote down are layered with moral judgements (good vs bad) and the resulting guilt, comparison of lifestyles and bodies, and the idea that slim (but not too thin) is beautiful. But it’s just social niceties, right? No, they are the result of years of socialization telling women we are lesser than and not as valuable as men, that we are solely objects of beauty, that our goal in life is to have the same number in our jeans at 12 years old as we do at 50 (even though the numbering systems differs across age groups, brands and country). A woman should be beautiful, thin, lean, and small.

Wrong.

  1. When we label foods as either good or bad, in our minds we become either good or bad for eating them. The more ‘good’ food, the better we are, the more bad foods, the worse we feel. You are not better for eating a kale salad and you are not worse for eating a slice of cake. Food can bring you nourishment, for your body or mind, or it doesn’t. Yep, it is that simple. Noticing the good vs bad comments (in our heads and out loud) and then trying to change that behaviour, now that is the difficult bit. Practice, acceptance of the behaviour (yes, this is a thought I have), non-judgement (read: no punishment for having a good vs bad food thought) and self compassion go a long way.
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  2. Your body also did not go anywhere. You did not lose it nor did it fall off a wagon (unless of course, you literally did fall off a wagon). Your body has been with you the entire time. Waiting patiently for your to remember it, listen to it, nurture and love it.
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  3. Not eating, or juicing, or starving yourself  for a few days, on a regular basis, as method of weight loss (usually without reducing your exertion levels and without doctor supervision) is not proof of your self control. Nor is it something to aspire to. It is however the face of another diet fad that has become socially acceptable. A lot like eating clean can be a euphemism for calorie and diet restriction, where foods are labelled clean and bad (read: “ dirty,” processed, and/ or generally unhealthy) instead of good and bad. Note: there are times when fasting (with or without liquids) could be beneficial to your health (physical, spiritual  or mental), please talk to a health care professional first.
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  4. Just don’t tell a woman how to look. Ever. Period, Full stop. Her body, her rules.
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  5. Comparing someones outer life, to your inner life is race no one wins. And you have no idea what that other person is living on the inside. Comparing women and their bodies, their clothes, their choices – whether you are measuring up, down or taking sides – separates us and fuels the system that keeps women feeling small in the first place. When we compare in this way, we ultimately dishonour ourselves.
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  6. You will never be happier / more comfortable /  ____ whatever when you’ve reached your goal weight, size, or shape. How you live today is how you live your life, and if you keeping pushing your happiness to the future you will never actually reach that day of happiness. Why the hell are you waiting for some arbitrary date in the future?  Life is too short. You don’t deserve to spend your one wild and precious life wishing and waiting for the day you can be happy. Remember, the diet industry is a business. If you see your body as lacking, they have a potential customer. It is not about your health; it never was about them looking out for your wellbeing.
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artist unknown

And what have I learned from this little experiment? That diet culture and gender norms are everywhere, even disguised as social niceties and small talk. They are seeped into how we relate to our bodies and each other, every single day. The diet and beauty industry thrive on women feeling like they need to be better / thinner / younger. When women feel unsatisfied, unhappy, and less than we are more inclined to buy their products. Which is why the average woman spends something like $40,000 in her lifetime on dieting (I wonder what we spend on beauty products?), the majority of women (something like 90%) are dissatisfied with their bodies, and ten year old girls are more afraid of being fat than dying.

So next time you feel like commenting on a woman’s weight change, just pause for a second, and thank her for being your friend. Or for hosting you. Or her incredible patience. Her creativity. Her style. Her courage. Next time you catch yourself labeling a food as bad so you shouldn’t eat it, just pause and remember it is just food. Ask yourself, do I want this? Am I hungry? Will it nourish me? If you say yes, eat it. Slowly savour and enjoy it. Next time you catch yourself comparing your body or punishing it in someway, just pause for a second and thank it. For climbing those stairs. For waking up. For getting you through the day. For continuing to breathe.  Imagine if we all interrupted those habitual small talk habits with individual, small acts of change ✊. 

As always, send you lots of love,
~ Cassondra
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those thoughts are not me.

A lot of my new years boards or health lifestyle boards on Pinterest look like this ^.  And while a couple of them are not healthy (‘how skinny feels’ or ‘love myself enough to’ for example), most of them are not inherently bad either (think positively, worry less, you are enough). I often read one of these Pinterest on Instagram quotes, repin it, tell myself how great it is, how I will do better and make these changes – look at all these things I agree with and like after all. I want to believe them. I’ll go to bed early. I’ll write in my journal. I’ll post inspirational quotes on my mirror and lock screen. I’ll clear out my cupboards and eat clean. I’ll make plans to work out an hour each day. And cook all my food. And I’ll make time for being creative and seeing my friends. I’ll live like the woman that believes those sayings. I can plan it all out, see, I can make all of these changes. It will work. I’ll have the life and body I want.

And a few weeks or months later. I am back looking at inspirational quotes on Pinterest. Feeling a little low because it obviously it didn’t work last time, but knowing that this time I’ll do better. My resolve to do better, my knowing that it will work this time, steadily rises again and I’m back to making plans about my life and weekly schedule, making sure I get in all the healthy living I should be doing. There are so many shortcomings, so many things that are wrong with my body and my life, but my resolve to be thinner / lose this much weight by this time / run 5km / eat healthier / etc is strong enough; I get this rush of energy to fix them all. Go big or go home, right? I have over 1000 quotes pinned on my ‘quotation marks’ board (not to mention the 2k13, 2k16, and health, happiness and hope boards). Oh, the cycle of diet culture.

I still can find myself wanting to control my diet, labeling my meals, food and days good or bad, shoulding myself into exercise, planning cheat days, wishing my body to be thinner, and all the things that I could be doing better in my life. Except now there is a difference.

When we call attention to our ‘flaws’ – by wishing them away or saying that it should be different or that I’ll be happier when / I was happier when __ – we are creating an image or story that doesn’t match with reality. My own thoughts about my body are what cause me the most pain. My body has stretch marks and cellulite. Rolls , moles, freckles and pimples. And dry spots. I have big feet. I get awful chub rub in the summer months. I blush at the drop of a hat. One breast is larger than the other. I always forget to shave. That is reality. My thoughts and internal stories tell me what number should be on the scale and in my jeans, that it’s not healthy for legs to have cellulite, that I am too old for my skin to be breaking out like this, that I would be happier with a flat stomach and defined arm muscles, that I can’t wear certain shoes (like berks or docs) because of how big and masculine my feet will be. And the list goes on (as I am sure you all know well enough).

When I take a step back and notice all of the social conditioning that surrounds women and their bodies – how women should cover up their bodies and dress for their body type, dye their hair to cover up greys, use makeup to achieve flawless skin and plump lips, always choose the salad and be finding a way to make their bodies smaller – I notice how many of my assumptions about my body are not actually mine. I’ve learned it. I have absorbed these thoughts and ideas through the media, through books and magazines, through friends and family. You can’t not be exposed to culture and our society. When I remind myself that the women in my mom’s or grandma’s generation were not able to question the messaging they received and / or know that they could get to a place of loving themselves – the tools and awareness just were not available in the same way. As a friend said “there was nothing telling them they could fight [this craziness of society].” It becomes a littler easier to meet my own thoughts about my body and my stories about it with compassion. It is okay. Those thoughts are not me. I am doing the best I can.

Reading, watching, or listening to positive ideas is a very important practise (and can literally change my mood, my thoughts and my actions). It is the energy that I used to catapult myself into healthy living and ‘doing better this time’. And it is the energy I use to get myself into alignment, a higher vibration, the flow (whatever name you want to call it) now. My mind is what I expose myself to. Words are powerful. I am not saying to get rid of all of the inspirational quotes and messaging from your feeds (actually the reverse! sometimes the more you hear something, the more true and possible it seems. Just question it a little before you repost). What I do want, is to point out a slight (and critical) difference that has helped me in breaking this diet culture cycle. I meet these cycles and the surrounding thoughts with understanding, accepting and compassion. I don’t try to let go of my shoulds, rather when I accept them they seem to let go of me. Before, with my cycles of ‘I’m eating healthy’ or ‘I’m actually going to do it this time,’ I was trying to completely get rid of those ‘bad’ thoughts. I was trying to completely change the way I thought about my body by getting rid of my shortcomings. I was trying not to think or do the ‘bad’ things. I was trying to control my thinking by controlling my life and my body. I was trying to treat a symptom (not liking my wobbly thighs) and not the cause (my thinking about my thighs). I was trying to fix the projected image and didn’t even notice that there is a projector. And it never worked. No matter how many times I went on a diet or exercise plan, bought a new agenda and made all the lists. No matter how many inspirational quotes on Pinterest. Or how many times I thought this time would be different. It didn’t work.

I can’t drop (or get rid of) a thought I didn’t create. Society created it. But I can meet my thoughts about my body with understanding and compassion. And then the whole world kinda shifts. I mean, how can it not? When I am the projector of my entire world and I called bs on my fantasy body and on my shoulding about it. Being present in my body and working on accepting my body just the way it is, has me making choices naturally and easily that actually help foster its health – both mentally and physically. By no means have I worked out all the kinks, but that is way body acceptance and self love is a practise.

Just as no one looks at a leaf and thinks, this leaf should be different. No one argues with a leaf that its shape isn’t right and it needs to do something about it. Or states that all leaves should be slender and green. A leaf is simply a leaf, giving life to a tree. Your body is simply a body, giving life to you. No more, no less. You are doing the best you can.

As always, sending you lots of love + light,
~ Cassondra

I am [never] alone.

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artist unknown

I am alone,
as I lie beside you,
curled up along your back.
Listening to the howling wind and rain.
Tracing your body with my fingers.
I am weaving a spell.
Trying to sooth,
trying to explore,
trying to soften your heart while you sleep.
Praying for love in return.
Maybe you’ll let me in;
to your dreams,
to your heart,
to your world.
Instead,
I am alone in the darkness,
with only touch to guide my sight.
I am alone.

 

I wrote this poem pretty recently and I am kind of surprised at how dark it is. So, I’ve been sitting on it, trying to play with it and explore.

This week when I reread the poem, I changed the “you” to “me.” I have been slowly working my way through The Work by Byron Katie, and one of her steps to deepen inquiry is to turn a statement around: to change the other in a sentence or thought to yourself. When I do this, I learn that the poem has never really been about another person, the ‘you’; the poem has always been about myself. My actions, my thoughts, my feelings, my aloneness, say more about me than another person. I can’t blame another for what goes on inside me (even if it may feel like the other person deserves blame).

The “you” you’re identified with doesn’t want to be discovered, because that is its death. ~ Byron Katie, Loving What Is

I often feel as if I’ve spent the past few years introducing myself to all my various selves – all of my various ‘yous’ and ‘others’ that live within me (or, in other words, think of the side of you at work, the side you show in the bedroom, the side you show to your family. They are all you, but they are not exact copies of one another. And that is okay. They can all be you. We can remove the ‘but’ and replace it with an ‘and’, with friend). I am slowly becoming friends with each one, including the me with body issues, the lonely me, the angry me, all of the me’s I have wished were not inside of me. When I change the ‘you’ to ‘me’ in this poem, I am confronted with my own loneliness.

I have learned that if I am friends with myself first, when I meet the loneliness and not push it away, the loneliness isn’t as sharp (and it is still present).  It’s not quite as dark. The loneliness of being alone has changed almost to a solitude; a place I can gather strength and find wisdom. If I can find this place of vulnerability within my inner world (meaning, opening and confronting – meeting – how I feel right now, in both the dark + the light), it makes it a bit easier to be vulnerable in my outer world (through showing those feelings, sharing with a friend, or moving through the uncomfortableness). Vulnerability is one of those skills, like courage or learning a new language, that gets less scary with practise (but not exactly easy). Writing and then sharing this poem is entering mega vulnerability land for me.

I am alone,
as I lie beside me,
curled up along my back.
Listening to the howling wind and rain.
Tracing my body with my fingers.
I am weaving a spell.
Trying to sooth,
trying to explore,
trying to soften my heart while I sleep.
Praying for love in return.
Maybe I‘ll let me in;
to my dreams,
to my heart,
to my world.
Instead,
I am alone in the darkness,
with only touch to guide my sight.
I am alone.

 

I find this version to be softer. I am looking out for myself. My body. My dreams. My heart. My world. I am soothing myself. Trying to break through my own walls. Feeling my way through. My inner goodness is guiding me; I am never alone.  I am not searching inside someone else for love, I am searching for love inside myself.

I sat inside a room with nothing in it and realized it was full. That’s when I knew I was enough ~ Rudy Francisco

I know all of this may come across to some as selfish. But isn’t it more selfish of me to want my partner to let me in, when they do not want to (or are not ready?) like in the first version? I am expecting them to let me in, when they are not. The reality is, I am not letting myself in. I think when it comes to self care and self love, selfishness gets a bad rap. It is okay to choose you. It is okay to be soft. It is okay to make regular visits to yourself.

Remember, how we love ourselves is how we teach others to love us (Rupi Kaur).

Which version resonates more with you? (or neither) Let me know what you think in the comments below!

As always, sending lots of love your way,
~ Cassondra

Oil & Mirrors

It’s not until we truly look at ourselves – in our wholeness, our nakedness, the soft bits and the wobbly bits – that we will truly see who we are.

I spent the majority of my life not looking. I can’t even remember when my body started to grow hair. I don’t remember being shocked or curious, just one day I thought I should shave – a girl on the bus was talking about it. I would simply change and not look at a mirror (until all my clothes were on that is, then I would stare, pose and critique). I would get out of the shower and ignore the mirror – just don’t look, don’t unfit the glass. However, I was very ‘aware’ of how I looked. Too aware. My long legs, my butt that never fit into jeans, the fold of flesh under my arm, how wide and red my upper arms were, my lopsided breasts, my frizzy hair, big feet and crooked teeth. Looking back I was hiding behind the personality of my clothes. I was the kind of girl that had a purse to match every outfit, changed my nail colour daily, had two overflowing closets of clothes and a dresser; magazines were my bibles. I poured over them until I had all the tips and tricks memorized. As I got older my clothes and accessories borrowed from costumes and vintage looks – 1950s swing dresses, petticoats, hot pink two piece suits, massive necklaces and earrings. I  made sure to always receive a compliment or remark on my outfit of the day.  I knew fashion. I knew how to dress. I knew how to hide.

Then one day I started to look. I made a small change in my routine. I got out of the shower, wiped the mirror a bit, and just looked.

In university I started becoming aware of my cosmetic usage and trying to lower how many products and chemicals I put onto my skin (and thus into my body). The first change: swapping my heavily scented lotion for sweet almond or coconut oil (highly recommend this btw). I would stand towel dried in the shower and apply it to my damp body. If I was feeling luxurious I would add some lavender or bergamot essential oil to my hand. It still look about the same amount of time as my lotion, but I would do it before the towel went on (when the towel goes on I would keep it on while applying lotion … sans towel = actually coming into contact with my whole body). At this point, I wasn’t looking in a mirror (there actually wasn’t a mirror in the bathroom at the time), but I was feeling the curves of my body. You have to rub oil in, it doesn’t just disappear the way lotion does. I was spending time with, actually getting to know, my physical, vulnerable, naked self. 

Fast forward a few years. I had gotten to the point where I could shower, put oil on, and walk to the sink to brush my teeth. Without wrapping the towel around me (just patting dry). This is when I decided I could look at whole body, with hiding behind bra and panties, towel, or a foggy reflection. I must have been having a good day (probably post yoga – that always makes my day better).

 

Around this time, I also started to be conscious of what I was saying to myself while I put my moisturizer on. I started to turn my oil routine into a mindfulness practice. At first, there was a lot of ‘woah I have a lot of bad thoughts, maybe I should just start noticing the part of my body my hands are on.’ (In the same way you notice your thoughts moving through your head during mediation). Surprisingly, this noting my body parts I was applying oil to quickly turned into, “I really like this little dip” or “My calves are strong” or  “I’ve never noticed this little hollow on my ankle before” or “I would love give this bit a more love by placing a tattoo here.”

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artist unknown

This progression took time. Years really (I started swapping my cosmetics in 2011). And I didn’t set out with this end in mind. I didn’t even start with a self-love or mindfulness goal; I started with the idea of switching up my cosmetics. This is one of my favourite stories about the impact of self love and mindfulness. Being patient. Not expecting. The power of touch positive thinking. Applying oil to my body is my most treasured daily self-care practice. So next time you hop out of the shower, drop the towel as you reach for the lotion (or oil). Take your time, notice the way you body looks and feels (not what you think it should look or feel like). Use a mirror, don’t use a mirror. Do it solo or maybe have a partner watch (but not touch! until you’re done at least ;). Take a few deep breaths too. I promise it helps. Give your body some tender, loving care.

As always, sending lots of love your way,
~Cassondra

Guilt, self control, and should’ing all over yourself: Part II

Part II (Read Part I here)

Should.
Shoulding.
Should have.
Should do.
Should feel.

A few months ago I started realizing just how often I use the word in my internal self talk. At first I just noticed it… oh my, did I use it a lot. Then I started to get curious about the should. I started poking around and asking a few questions. I kept it to small things, things that are in the scheme of life, small. But routine. important. Like washing the dishes.

Here is a little snippet of a regular convo I have (with myself):

[Me] I should do those dishes.
[Inner voice] Why?
[Me] Because I have to to.
[Inner voice] Why do you have to?
[Me] … well what would people think? And actually. I do like to have them done. My apartment looks cleaner.
[Inner voice] What people think about your dishes?
[Me] … well, My mom. Guests? Friends?
[Inner voice] Are they here right now? No. And even if they were, so what. What do you WANT to do in this moment?
[Me] I actually want to read. I’ll do the dishes after. They will be okay.

The result of this 30 seconds? The dishes still wait, but I don’t feel guilty about them waiting (I know. Even typing that I feel a little silly. And I have this convo a lot). I chose to read (or write or do work or do yoga or whatever other activity I want to do in that moment). I feel like reading. I want to do that. And I know it is small, but goodness does it feel liberating, releasing yourself from guilt.

My inner voice realizes that I am a grown ass woman – the dishes will still get done at some point. That isn’t really the problem. The problem is the ‘should’ and the resulting mental stress and energy around constantly feeling guilty, that I should be doing something else.  And hiding under that should is always an an imposed expectation, guilt (I did something bad),  shame (I am a bad person) or comparison. There is never anything good or helpful under that should.

As it turns out, I do often want to do the dishes, just not when I typically think I should do them (i.e. before going to bed, before working, directly after eating). Turns out, that is when I mom feels like the dishes should be done. I tend to do them as a break from working or studying, or before I start cooking again.

Yes, that is twice now that my mom came up. And  while I could investigate that one too, I feel like mom issues might need a professional 😉

nobody-knows-the-real-me-prints

Nobody knows the real me by Henn Kim

Okay, so a bit of self investigation and experiment time.

To start becoming more in tune to my internal should’ing, I told my bestie about the experiment and asked her to point out the word if she noticed it in our conversations. Literally, the next sentence I said the word should and did not even realize (Turns out, I was saying it to myself ALL the time, completely unaware of the implications). So you can ask someone you chat with regularly to help you out too. I helps you to get a head start on building awareness around the word should.

Next just notice the word in your self talk, but don’t really do anything about it. “Oh that’s interesting. There is that word again.”type of thing. And continue on. You want to start building awareness around the types of activities and situations you tend to use the word should the most.

When it feels comfortable (start small, see convo above^), notice the word should, and ask why. Keep asking why. Sometimes I need to ask up to 5 times before it clicks. You’ll be surprised as to what you find underneath. Give yourself so much epic empathy in the process here. Your mind is a scary place. Maybe you have a friend that is willing to walk through the should investigation with you (and ask the “why?” question), maybe you need to write it down. Be patient. And if it doesn’t ‘work’ (the way you think it ‘should’) the first time. That is okay. It’s something new. You wouldn’t expect to be fluent in a new language after the first lesson, would you?   

If you have had a bit of practice and want to go a bit deeper here are some more questions to help the inquiry. These are inspired by The Work by Byron Katie (incredible stuff, check it out!).

How do you react when you have that ‘should’ thought? What does it feel like in your body? Does your body the tense, does your heart speed up? Do you feel flushed, angered, overwhelmed, dread, tiredness, inability to do anything at all?

Does this ‘should’ bring stress or ease (or peace)? Do you operate more efficiently, loving, and clearly when you feel stress or when you feel ease?

Who would you be without this ‘should’ thought?

And there you have it. Let me know what you think and how your experimenting works out!

As always, lots of love,
~Cassondra

Guilt, self control and should’ing all over yourself: Part I

I have been thinking a lot about guilt and self control lately. We all know what we ‘should’ do to be healthy (eat more veg, drink H2O, movement, and sleep, etc), yet they can be some of the hardest things to work into our days.

*I work on a job app but I feel like I should be outside moving my body.*

*I eat a another brownie but I already had something sweet today. I should not be indulging myself. *

*I am watching another episode on Netflix but I really should go to sleep.*

*I told myself I would exercise 3 times this week, I should go to the gym. Instead I hit snooze for the 3rd time and berate myself later in the day for not going*

No amount of self control, willpower or discipline is going to change these things. You can not force yourself into these changes (I know, what you’re thinking. “I can. That’s not me. I’ve done it before.” But, did it last? Did you make the change with ease? Were you happy?).

Controlling every bite or move your body does will not work either. You can not guilt or should your way to movement. No amount of miracle face cream, body slimming underwear, or pretty dresses will manipulate your appearance enough so you can stop hating yourself. You can’t label food (or entire food groups) ‘bad’ and expect yourself to suddenly not want them.
The more I go into my own body acceptance journey, talk more openly about these issues and learn from other women, the more I realize it is about a mindset change. It’s about letting go of the ‘shoulds’ and embracing who you are. It’s about giving yourself permission to be exactly the way you are, right here, right now. This moment. Not when you’re healthy, this weight or size or shape, or when you get a new job. Now.

ef093b7a2591a54cf653f864d56f118e

artist unknown

I got on the scale this week for the first time in 6 months to realize that my weight was the exact same (part of my body acceptance was getting rid of the scale for my daily or weekly weigh in nearly 4 years ago. I had given these numbers meaning, they dictated my happiness. I realized how arbitrary they are, that they don’t actually measure my health – of my body or mind – and how much they were controlling me. This was my experience, it may not be the same for you). I was in disbelief. I had never stayed the same weight over a 6 month period before. It was another shift, another bit of proof that my mindset change is working. That all of the work is actually inner work rooted in a compassionate mindset change; nothing external would ever get rid of my shoulds. By changing my mindset I have been able to enjoy movement, loose some weight then maintain it (by finding my happy body), look at and touch my body with love, eat for nourishment and listen to my body about what food it needs and that make it feel good. I have dropped some bad relationships and deepened existing ones. This mindset change is even spilling over to my finances and career choices. It takes time and a lot of practise, but the change in how I experience my day to day life is SO worth it.

I think the first step to a mindset change is simply noticing when we use the word should in our self talk. Noticing when we are talking down to our bodies or wishing it away. To notice the thoughts that run through our minds constantly. It’s not about shutting them off, just noticing that they are there. In the same way that you can notice the clouds moving through the sky. You can notice a thought moving through your mind. Remember, you are not your thoughts, you’re the one that can see them: “What a liberation to realize that ‘the voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The who one who sees that” (Eckhart Tolle).

I have two little experiments to try (if you feel called to do so). The first one is a way we can become more aware of our thoughts, the second is a way to become more aware of our body.

The first is just the noticing your own thoughts. Maybe when you use the word should, this is bad, I need to change, or when you feel guilt, tell yourself you have no willpower, or maybe the thought starts with I hate _. I’m sure you probably have an inkling of the thought that runs into your mind a lot. Do not try to change the thought or get them out of your mind (just like you can’t will a cloud to move faster or disappear) or do something about the thought. It’s more like ‘hm, that is thought’ (hm, there is a cloud’) and move on. Maybe take a deep breath and if you feel ready, do experiment two? But seriously. Just becoming aware of the thought is a HUGE first step.

The second is when you are doing something a little mundane but you do it many times a day (like getting a glass of water or washing your hands), take 30 secs and feel your feet on the floor. Yep that’s it. Feel your feet. Maybe take a deep breath in and let it out at the same time. I am known to put a sticky on my desk with either a picture or a word, and every time I see it I try to take a mindful breath. Same with a ring I wear. Every time I feel it on my finger, I try to feel my toes and take a deep breath. Maybe it’s when your text message sound goes off, or when you get out of bed in the morning. If you do the activity 10 times a day and remember just once, that is great. Or if you forget, but remembered after. Try again next time. It is okay. It is easier to remember to feel your feet and inhale when you pair it with something you already do, and it does take some practise. The goal here is to get out of your head and into your body.

Let me know how your experiments go! And if you have some other practices to catch yourself thinking and to become aware of your thoughts, I would love to hear about them.

As always, lots of love,
~Cassondra