Below is a guest post from a close and trusted friend and colleague, Alex Amorosi. He is a brilliant and thoughtful yoga teacher and trainer. I truly love his blog and found this post to resonate with the eating disorder work I do. While Alex writes from the perspective of a gay man, his words apply to any of you who do currently feel at home with yourself. Sit back and enjoy.
I love to be in my house and the home I've created. It feels like a sanctuary to me. When I come home, even from a stressful day, I can be at peace. There are many aspects of my home that I love, but maybe the most important is that my space feels good to me. When I am in it, it feels peaceful. Our outer homes, where we house our bodies, are the places where we let go from the outer world. Our inner homes, where we house our minds, bodies, and psyches, are where we all truly have to live 24/7. It is in this inner space where we often feel we are not at home, like we are strangers in our own lives. It's the space that when not tended can turn into a scary and unwelcoming place. One of the most important feelings we can work towards is a feeling of being at home in ourselves. It's an aspiration, and takes a long time to excavate the layers that clutter our internal space, but it is possible. When we do that work, we truly begin to relax and rediscover a sense of happiness.
Growing up as a closeted gay teen, and even after I came out into my twenties, I never felt like I was at home in who I was. There was too much conflict, especially in the years of bullying I endured where I would have given anything to not be myself. What made that time so hard were not only the ceaseless taunts, but also the feeling that there was nowhere to go and nowhere to rest. If I retreated inside, I saw the truth that I was gay, which I blamed for the painful life I lived each day and hated more than anything. If I went outside myself, there seemed to only be a world strewn with the landmines of "faggot" and "fairy" in my social life, which only reminded me of the inner world from which I had just tried to escape. The cycle set up a feedback loop of self-hatred and loathing. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be able to come out to my close friends and family when I was 17 and could not have received more support and love. I'm blessed beyond description to have the parents, relatives, and close friends that I have and give thanks for them every day. And it was ironic that after I came out, most all the bullying stopped. My outer world shifted dramatically in that sense.
But the internal conflict, the embers of self-hatred were still burning. My internal home was still a dusty and cluttered space strewn with the tattered papers of a severely battered inner self. It took a good 12 to 13 years, some relationships, some yoga, some dharma, some big mistakes, and a heaping dose of humility to slowly clear that clutter and restore my inner home to a place in which once again I truly desired to be.
I think when you love yourself and you never question it you are in a good solid groove but you can be shaken out of it because you don't know the alternative. I think when you have hated yourself and learn to love yourself again that sense of love is absolutely unshakable. You have fought through the brush with your machete and reclaimed every lost acre of your self-love. You know for sure now that you are beautiful, that you are sacred, and you are created exactly as you are supposed to be. You really know it because you have been to the other shore and survived, and returned to an unwavering and committed peace.
And that peace makes for a really lovely internal home in which to live life. It's not that we don't take a swing through self-hatredville ever again, or become agitated, angry, grief-stricken, or depressed, but we now have our cozy cabin by the ocean with a lighted candle in the window. No matter where we may wind up, we can always see that candle and it will always guide us home.
You clear the inner home by being aware of the inner home. Little by little, one old newspaper of suffering at a time, you clear it out. You let your body/mind system process, and release, and clear, and one day, you have a pretty cozy internal space. It feels good to be in your body, and you feel good about yourself and who you are. Take it from someone who, and I mean this, never thought he would feel that way. Buddhism and Yoga probably both saved my life in that respect. Both of these traditions really asked me to take stock of my internal home, get a dumpster, and start heaving the old clutter of conflict out the window.
Without the clearing of my internal home, I could not write the words "I am a proud openly gay man" and mean it. Without clearing my internal home, I could not love the people in my life in the way that I can love them now. Without clearing my internal home, I could not make real decisions about what is best for me and live a life that is truly authentic to my desires, morals, and values.
But most of all, without the internal clear-out, I couldn't say that I am happy. I couldn't say that for no particular reason, I feel happy. Not high, not manic, just calmly happy. And all of us are worth that. We are all worth a peaceful, happy internal space in which we can relax. We are all worth being able to revel in the fantastic differences in the manifestation of our current incarnations and love how wonderfully diverse we have all created ourselves. We are worth that. Tell yourself tonight, before you go to sleep, that you are worth that. Tell yourself that it's safe to be at home inside yourself, or set the intention that you want a good feeling internal home in which to live. The universe will furnish you with all the tools necessary to clear out. It is not a quick process, it's not easy, and it never really ends. You, I, we will all eternally be clearing our internal spaces as life continues to happen and bring us the situations that it brings. But one day, you will stretch out inside your internal landscape and take a deep exhale truly being glad to be, home.
1. If your closet is filled with clothes that don’t currently fit, this needs to change immediately. Take the clothes you know don’t fit you and do not try them on. Simply fold them up and place them in a bag, bin, or box. Ideally you would take them to Buffalo Exchange or Goodwill. But if you can’t part with them just yet, place them out of sight. Newsflash, looking at clothes that are too small for you on a daily basis will not make you skinnier. It will only make you feel more self-loathing and depressed. And it will make it harder for you to get dressed in the morning since you can’t clearly see your options.
2. You deserve clothes that fit your here and now body. So make a budget, prioritize items that you need, and make a shopping plan (more on that below). Did you know that practicing self-compassion leads to healthier practices like balanced eating and exercise? And you may have already guessed this, but treating yourself like crap (ie not buying yourself clothes that you feel cute in now) leads to depression and worse health habits.
3. After you’ve made your shopping list make your shopping plan. Be thoughtful about when you’re going shopping, who you’re going with, where you’re going to go, what you hope to buy, and how long you can tolerate going for. If you find shopping to be extremely stressful you might choose to look for 2 tops, keep it to 2 stores, and shop for no longer than 30 min with the most supportive buddy you can find. You know yourself best so only you can decide what makes most sense for you.
4. When trying on clothing, follow these simple rules. Bring a couple of sizes into the dressing room. Turn away from the mirror and try the first item on. With your eyes closed identify how the article of clothing fits. Does it feel comfortable, can you move easily in it,? If your answer is no, take the item of clothing off. Don’t look at it! Either select another size to try on or move on to something else all together. Once you find something that feels good, then face the mirror and look at THE WHOLE PICTURE OF YOU. Do not hone in on the body part you hate the worst. Step back and look at the big picture, scan from head to toe. If you hate it, take it off immediately. If you like it, then yay!!!
5. When you’re getting ready in the morning, place a limit on how long you’ll spend trying on clothes. If you are struggling with intense body image issues and find yourself spending more than 10 minutes choosing an outfit, this is a problem. Make a commitment to contain the issue. If you are trying on 15 outfits, then make a goal of no more than 10 this week. Perhaps talk with a friend and let him or her hold you accountable. Consider keeping a running list of outfits that you know you like. If it’s a tough body image morning use your go-to list. Even if those outfits don’t feel super cute you can remind yourself that your head isn’t in a great space and that the outfit is probably just fine. Put it on and move forward with your day.
Remember, you deserve to have clothes that fit well and allow you to feel comfortable and confident. No more shoving yourself into jeans that are too tight or refusing to buy yourself something new because you don’t believe you deserve it. Summer is here- let’s enjoy it!
Women are tired of feeling crappy about their bodies. I know you are. If you are like most women, you feel bad about your body and then guilty that you feel so bad about it. Taryn Brumfitt was in that exact place until she decided to make a change. Please please take 5 minutes to watch her video and share her story. And if you are inspired (like I was) donate to the Kickstarter program and join The Body Image Movement- or what I might call a revolution.
The following post is written by my dear friend and colleague Alex Amorosi. He is a registered yoga teacher and all around amazing human being. He maintains a phenomenal blog here. Enjoy this post he wrote about the art of listening to and responding to the core of your authentic self. And if you love this post as much as I do, definitely check out more of his writing. My most recent favorite is The Fitness Trap.
Each of us has a core of authenticity that we must honor. The authenticity guides us each day, it watches out for us, and makes sure that we never get too far off track.
In the movie "The Matrix" the character Trinity tells the character Neo, "The Matrix cannot tell you who you are", a way of saying, "The world cannot define you." I remember back into days when I really had no clue who I was on the inside and I looked to the world to define me. I wanted my job, or my things, or my relationships to give me a sense of self. It's like having chameleon skin on the inside, never being able to access what is right for myself, always looking to have that defined by the outside. When the outside defines us, we are never secure because the outside is constantly in a state of flux. Our sense of self is never secure because we are not guiding ourselves by a steady and reliable compass.
Underneath this sort of inner chameleon stuff is usually a powerful sense of guilt and fear. I was always afraid that if I were true to myself, I would hurt people. In fact, in being true to myself, I have hurt people. There is nothing that causes me a greater sense of guilt than feeling that someone is in pain because of something I have done. However, when we are truthful in the name of authenticity to who we are, we are actually acting in the most compassionate way possible. Why would we allow ourselves to continue on a road that we clearly know will not serve us? And why would we drag someone else down that road with us? Authenticity demands that we step up to the plate and do what is right. And, as we all know from the cliché, what's right is almost never easy.
We have become so used to listening to outside sources in our culture that we have lost touch with who we are. We are more accustomed to listening to advertising than listening to ourselves. We want someone else or the world to tell us what's right and what we should want. In the yoga world this translates to what I call the "guru trap". We look to our teachers to define the parameters of what is right and wrong, good and bad. We want the teacher to have all the responsibility. And, there are many teachers all too eager to step right into that role. It's a very seductive place for yoga teachers because it makes the teachers feel needed and valuable. But newsflash teachers, it's not about you so get over it, get your validation from yourself not from your classes. The most effective teacher is one who guides you to your own guidance, not one who proclaims they have an answer that you need.
Who we are is who we are. We must be who we are. We must accept who we are, and when we do, then we can let everyone else be who they are. We don't need to, as Marianne Williamson puts it, "police the universe" anymore. We can relax and know that when we are true to who we are, and others are true to who they are, we are all much happier. It doesn't mean we all have to join hands and sing Kumbaya, but it does mean that we can let ourselves and everyone else be. It means that we might finally know that we are ok exactly as we are, and that nothing is more important than to simply be who we are. Trust your own core of authenticity and you will never get far off course, it is always your true and steady compass.
New Year's is often a time of self-reflection and goal setting. So I thought I'd share a couple of tips for you to consider in anticipation of the new year that is upon us.
Consider accepting yourself as you are right now. I can hear all of your objections as you read that first sentence. I can't accept myself as I am- I'm too fat, I'm too ugly, I'm too lazy, I'm too... People often mistake acceptance with stagnation. If I accept myself I'll never change. But that's the crazy thing- acceptance is what actually creates the most effective change. Acceptance allows us to take stock of reality as it is in the here and now and make the best possible decisions based on that reality. If you're interested, you can read more about self-acceptance here.
From my perspective one of the most difficult areas people have trouble accepting is their body or physical appearance. I have pre-ordered a book "Living with Your Body and Other Things You Hate" by Emily Sandoz and Troy DuFrene. It utilizes ACT- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. As the name indicates, acceptance of what is, is at the core of living a more fulfilled life. I hope you'll check it out too.
If you need some more inspiration for body acceptance, check out this incredibly powerful interview with Ellen DeGeneres and model Robyn Lawley. As Ellen points out- as women we aren't supposed to say, I'm comfortable with my body. And THAT is hugely problematic. They take acceptance one step further and talk about body love, which I realize is a hard message to swallow for many of you. At the end of the clip, Robyn also mentions the fact that we shouldn't comment so freely on other people's bodies. I agree whole-heartedly, which takes me to...
Stop gossiping and commenting on other people's appearance, especially those near and dear to you. A client sent me this Q&A from The Boston Globe. A reader wanted to get advice on how to handle her family's gossip and criticism about her weight. Your body is your business and nobody's else's. Unnecessary body talk creates discomfort and hurt feelings that creates walls of defense and avoidance to be erected. Instead, why not discuss the things we are doing and thinking about instead.
I hope 2014 holds the promise of health and healing for each of you. What tips would you share with me and the other readers of this blog?