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Coming Out: Eating Disorders, Veganism, Sobriety and Depression

2 Sep

Note: I did not realize that I hadn’t posted this entry from 2014! It expands upon some of the things I spoke about on my post from 9/2/16. 

“All addicts, regardless of the substance or their social status share a consistent and obvious symptom; they’re not quite present when you talk to them. They communicate to you through a barely discernible but unignorable veil. Whether a homeless smack head troubling you for 50p for a cup of tea or a coked-up, pinstriped exec foaming off about his speedboat, there is a toxic aura that prevents connection. They have about them the air of elsewhere, that they’re looking through you to somewhere else they’d rather be. And of course they are. The priority of any addict is to anaesthetise the pain of living to ease the passage of the day with some purchased relief.”–Russell Brand

I have not written in quite a long time on this blog. I took a hiatus and was *sort of* working on a few other blogs, but mostly? Honestly? I have been intensely wrestling with a lot of heavy shit and not practicing yoga. Although I speak a lot about recovery on this blog, I am not always super clear and honest about how much I have struggled with bulimia and  intense depression since I got sober in 2007. I don’t even think I could admit to myself how much I had been struggling, and things had gotten especially tough with the bulimia since I moved to Austin in 2012. I finally broke down and admitted that things had gotten really bad and that I needed professional help outside of 12 step recovery. This was so hard for me. I was in total denial about both the bulimia and the depression. I kept trying to work my 12 step prgrams “harder”. And I kept getting worse. So yes, I am outing myself right now: I am in treatment for both an eating disorder and major depressive disorder and I am getting the help I need. If this blog post can help anyone out there to seek help, I figure it is worth it.

I am also outing myself again: I am still vegan. Veganism is not a part of my eating disorder. I am not longing for animal products and forcing myself to not eat them. I am not secretly bingeing on animal products and then purging (my dietitian asked me about that point blank the other day). During one of my first meetings with my therapist, she expressed her concern about my veganism. I explained to her that I do not feel my eating disorder and veganism are at all connected.  Veganism is not a way to restrict or control my food. Veganism is about living in a way that reduces harm to animals and people. She listened to me and then asked me something that I think I will never forget: What about harm to you? That stopped me dead in my tracks. And I suddenly had an image of geese being forcibly fattened for fois gras. I am basically stuffing myself forcibly and then forcing myself to purge. How is bulimia consistent with my ahimsa, my living without harm? It’s not. This was both a horrible and an awesome moment for me, because that was the moment where I realized that I really do not want to do this to myself anymore. I felt simultaneous hope and despair—hope that I can get better, and despair about letting go of the eating disorder that has been with me since I was a teenager. I have no idea what recovery looks like. I didn’t know what being sober would look like when I stopped drinking, either. I had to take it on faith from my sponsor and other sober people that I could get and stay sober and that I would have a much better life. And what that life would look like would remain a mystery for awhile. I think my life without Cruella (that’s what I call my eating disorder these days) is a very mysterious proposition, but I just keep telling myself it’s going to be OK.

 

 

 

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Ooops I Did It Again: Prodigal Ashtangis and Brad Ramsey on Pain

23 Oct

Here’s an older post from May that I did not quite finish:

I rearranged all of my furniture and formed a mini-shala in one half of my bedroom. I now have a nice, albeit small, practice space for morning Ashtanga. And so I got up and did it, starting this past Monday. The difference in just a few days was unbelievable. A sense of peaceful calm after I get off of the mat. And on the mat? It’s a shitstorm, folks. Stiff body, stiff mind, craaaaazy thoughts. Even though I have been practicing several times a week in a class setting, it has not been Ashtanga and it has not been at 6:30 am.

Lately, I have been feeling like I will *never* get back to the way I was practicing in Las Vegas. I have been feeling hopeless, unmotivated and I’ve been in a lot of physical pain. Still, the desire is there. I’ve been reading a little bit of Guruji every night before I go to bed as motivation/inspiration. The chapter with Brad Ramsey was unexpected and incredibly moving. He was a strong and stiff practitioner (sound familiar?) and much of the interview was about pain. Here is his commentary on going to Mysore to study with Pattabhi Jois:

“I felt like I was being dismembered, My body was changed…when it hurts, put your mind on God instead of your pain, whatever your concept of God is–whether he is the great architect or the basic element of the universe, which everything is made out of…the series is just a mold toward a body that meets the requirements for spiritual advancement, I believe. I don’t think you can get there without pain. I never met anyone who did. For me, it hurt from the first day to the last, at least something. There’s always something…sometimes even to make the effort is painful…it’s the nature of the beast. It’s a birth process, really.” 

I don’t know whether I feel validated and comforted by that, or terrified and ready to run away.

Guruji has been a great read so far. I have been reading it very, very slowly. Usually I gobble up books like I gobble up food. The discipline of reading something slowly is good for me. It also mirrors my practice–very, very slooooow. As they say in the rooms, “sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”

Forget

25 Apr

I am still here in the land of wildflowers and way too much good vegan food and *distractions*. Home Ashtanga practice totally derailed. Having lots of struggles in many areas of my life, and some progress in others. Life on life’s terms?  Sometimes I just forget all about that sh*t. I was doing some reading this morning during my AM quiet/meditation time that had nothing to do with yoga. It was a twelve step recovery book, and I came across this sentence: “the yoga principle of non-attachment to the fruits of labors”. What? How could I have just thrown that proverbial baby out with my bath water?

I was in Half Priced books the day before yesterday and I looked up at the Hindu section and there it was, shining like a beacon: a half-priced, used copy of Guruji! Let me tell you, that is not an easy find.

Thanks for the nudge, Universe.

Ghost Body

9 Nov

“In ancient times, bears were considered equal with men…”

Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai  is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I stumbled across the clip on youtube. As I watched it I realized, “wow, I used to way more than a bear!”. No wonder they are my totem animal! I’ve had the phrase “Ghost Body” pop into my head frequently during practice for the last two weeks. At first I was like, “WTF?”. Then i realized that sometimes I still think I am carrying around my former 320 pound body. I will think that I can’t fold forward in certain positions when I actually can. It’s as if there is a “Ghost Body” surrounding me and I can still “feel” her, like people who can feel an amputated limb. Interestingly, I never stayed in my starved, thinner body long enough to develop a skinny “ghost body”.  She’s more like a whispering voice, a feeling, than a physical thing I lug around with me. When I am truly present in my current body and not divorced from it, I spend a lot of time trying to find the “edges”—how big am I, actually? Where do I stop and start? How far can I bend or reach? Where does my arm or leg go, really? Somewhat like moving to a new city and learning how to navigate the streets…you get lost a lot at first.

I also have begun to notice how much I “guard” certain areas of my body during practice. I clocked this after a conversation with my sponsor about how emotionally guarded I still am with certain people and at certain times. I find in Ashtanga that I seriously guard my left elbow (broken when I was skateboarding and drunk and 25), my right hip (could write a novel about this), my knees, my left ankle (surgery), my right hand (two surgeries). There’s a geographic area of my body that I feel like I need to protect, to keep it from further pain and trauma. But my guarding and vigilance is actually preventing the healing from happening! I realized this today during Ardha Baddha and burst into tears on my mat, which is happening again frequently. I felt a bizarre wash of warmth down my injured right side…so strange. And now my hip is feeling much better, go figure. Maybe my inner Samurai needs to find a new occupation instead of guarding my injuries. I have been throwing around the idea of learning Kendo lately…

I am trying notice my Ghost Body and just acknowledge her without fighting her. I carry her with me, and I don’t have to hate her. I am still a “fat” Ashtangi, and I will probably never be a skinny, bendy yoga chick–I  honestly don’t give a sh$t anymore. My weight is no longer my business, and I have no idea where this practice will take me physically.  I’ve spent so many years trying to artificially manipulate my body and my consciousness that I have no idea who I am or what the f*ck a “healthy me” looks or feels like physically. I have a sneaking suspicion that through dedication to this practice (practicing these principles in all my affairs for you 12 steppers out there), I will eventually regard my current body as yet another “Ghost Body”—with kindness and compassion. Everything changes. Bring it, Universe! I am f*cking stoked for transformation.

Taking Back Sunday: Eckhart Tolle Video, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

4 Nov

I have a love/hate relationship with Sundays. Growing up Catholic, this day will be forever linked with church whether I like it or not. I have not been to mass since somewhere around 1992. I used to always just feel ooky and weird on Sundays in the decades after I escaped Catholic Church. The entire day felt like a miserable black hole– like a psychic funeral where there was no corpse, but there should have been. I was usually hideously hung over and remorseful and desperately seeking not Susan, but Smirnoff and Advil. My roommate and I used to refer to the “metaphysical hangover” (thank you, Kingsley and Martin Amis)–the feeling of utterly hopeless sucking dark doom that would come over us some mornings after a particularly insane drinking rampage.

These days I’ve realized that I can take back Sunday. I can explore new, spiritual ideas and practices—no one is going to force me to go to Church ever again. On Sundays, I engage in other spiritual activities. I read spiritual books, I go to my afternoon meditation 12 step group, I practice yoga and sometimes I watch spiritual videos or attend a virtual satsang with Mooji (more on another Sunday about that).

I love Eckhart Tolle—he’s like a magical library gnome. There’s something so lovely, spiritual and impish about him—almost mischievous while simultaneously kind. These are qualities I always look for in spiritual teachers. I did not want to love The Power of Now or A New Earth (ewww, Oprah!), but I did. Many people in my 12 step programs of recovery highly recommended The Power of Now, and I’ve read it several times. I always find something new upon re-reading it. Today’s little gem that I received when I just randomly opened the book is:

“Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet…if you cannot feel your emotions, if you are cut off from them, you will eventually experience them on a purely physical level as a physical problem or symptom…a strong unconsious emotional pattern may manifest as an external event that appears to just happen to you…if you have difficulty feeling your emotions, start by focusing attention on the inner energy field of your body. Feel the body from within. This will also put you in touch with your emotions.”  (pages 25-26, The Power of Now).

This is something I have directly experienced because of the powerful practice of Ashtanga yoga. All of my injuries and stiff, painful areas are linked to strong emotions that I was not consciously aware of. Many of the “accidents” that have “happened” to me took place during times of great unconscious emotional turmoil. My hips are an emotional battlefield—I am still clearing the debris of decades of repressed emotions. This has been brought up during practice over and over again, and I have begun to experience this in a completely new way as a result of Ashtanga practice. Drishti, bandhas and breath make so much sense—go within and focus on the inner energy field. That is where healing takes place.

Today’s Taking Back Sunday post is a lovely video courtesy of the miracle of youtube. I got so much out of it, especially the gem that takes place around 27:00:

“Love nothing but what comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more actually fit your needs?” —Marcus Aurelius

Eckhart Tolle on this: “The pattern of your destiny is the totality in which you move, and whatever you encounter…in this moment, the only moment that there is, must be part of this web of the pattern of your destiny where everything is connected with everything else…I speak of the inevitability of the form of the present moment…the entire history of the world has brought about the form of this moment obviously…it has produced the form that this moment takes and that is the web, that is the pattern, that is part…and to go against that is insane, to not accept it…so one theme that runs through it (the book) is to live in a state of non-resistance of what is.”

I immediately thought of my resistance to the difficult asanas, to the pain and stiffness and injuries, to the surrender of where I am today in the asana as opposed to where my ego thinks I should be, to the humbling nature of Asthanga practice itself.

Ashtanga Closing Chant

22 Oct

Julia has been teaching us chants in class lately. I know the opening chant now, but I am currently trying to learn the closing chant.  It’s very amusing to hear myself stumble constantly over the words in the early morning!

Sharath, with subtitles:

Guruji by himself, no subtitles:

Call and response with Guruji in Kauai, 2002. Very cute and funny:

I really like Kino’s chanting (surprise!):

Bruno Bartulitch–with subtitles:


Metta, Movement, Dedication

12 Oct

 

From the website, mrtwsg.com. “Metta Round the World”, subtitle is “The World Needs Your 15 Minutes.”

 

I’ve really been struggling to get up early to practice lately. I find my natural night owl tendencies to be extremely difficult to combat. The early morning cold stiffness can also be disconcerting, sometimes even scary. I get worried I am going to tear the crap out of something! I do like the peacefulness of the morning, and I enjoy the moment when I am on my mat in my little Slayer Shala all alone as the sun starts to just barely rise. But man, some days it is just brutal. I also have no social life since I go to bed at like 8:30 during the week! I even joined an online Ashtanga group for practitioners who need support for their early morning practice. I jokingly call it Ashtangi Fight Club since it’s closed to everyone but group members and we don’t talk about it except on the anonymous level. The first rule of Ashtanga Fight Club is…you don’t talk about Ashtanga Fight Club AND you have to get up at 4:45am.

I came up with an idea to motivate me in the morning. I’m dedicating each practice to a different friend or family member who is either struggling with a health problem or is having some sort of difficulty in their life. I make a special playlist for them and then post a song and a dedication to them on my Facebook page. I do some Metta meditation for them both before, during and after my practice. During the times I want to give up, I remind myself that this is for Albert or Cassandra or Denise or Chris–then I don’t want to give up because it’s for them! It’s been an interesting shift in my Ashtanga practice; I find the whole practice session is almost like moving Metta meditation. I also don’t get as angry with my body and its injuries; I’m more forgiving and peaceful.

Update: I realized the youtube video that I had linked to in this post was not working. I was digging around for something else to post and I came across this website, Metta Round the World: http://www.mrtwsg.com/about/what-is-mrtw/

MRTW does a global metta practice on Full and new Moon days—how convenient for Ashtangis! This Monday is a Moon Day, so I am going to contribute my metta meditation that day from afar, since I can’t teleport to Singapore. I love the idea of other people from all over the world meditating at the same time.

October is here, and I have been practicing Ashtanga since the end of March. Obviously, the Ashtanga experiment is no longer an experiment; I’m 100% hooked! I did drag myself to some yin yoga classes here and there, but otherwise I have been plugging away at learning the Primary series. It feels good to no longer be a yoga refugee; I don’t have to hop around from teacher to teacher or style to style anymore. I have a plan and an entire system to study. And it’s a loooooong haul plan—this business is going to take some time. Like the-rest-of-my-life kind of time…surprisingly, I feel just fine with that. Considering what a die-hard commitment-phobe I am, that’s shocking. I look forward to the day when I can study with Kino MacGregor or go to the Confluence. I look forward to the day when I can finish an entire led Primary series class without relying on an arsenal of props. I look forward to my next ass-kicking Ashtanga workshop with Jen Knox. I look forward to tomorrow morning’s practice. I look forward to being changed from the inside out.

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