Salix's Shiny Things

A magpie blog.

Loss and gain – coming to terms with where my body is taking me September 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 12:52 pm
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For the past couple of months, I’ve been pretty disciplined about keeping up an exercise routine, and my body is starting to look and feel different.  Additionally, I’m in the beginnings of a new relationship, and for me, that means lots of butterflies in the tummy, most of the time.  Personally, I can’t fit much food around those butterflies, so I’ve been eating much less in general, and more fresh fruit and vegetables than I had been eating. I feel better, lighter in my heart, more energetic.

And my body is starting to look a bit different too.

On the one hand, I’m so happy to look down and my hands and wrists and see more definition and less puffiness.  They look like my arms again.  Strong but graceful.

Does that mean I disliked they way I looked before?  I want to say I was ok with how I looked, I had come to accept it, and that’s true up to a point.  But then again, I feel more like I’m looking at myself, my arms, when I look down and see my less puffy wrists.  Perhaps that’s mostly an artifact of history, that I’d had stronger, more defined, arms for longer than not.

And I’m losing enough weight that my pants are all feeling looser.  That makes me happy.  But again – does this mean I was unhappy at a larger size?

I had come to accept my size for what it was.  It didn’t define me, my size 16-18 body was/is my body, and I love it for all the amazing things it can do – high kicks, long horse’s stance times, crazy dancing.

Now I have to keep that in mind, and not fall into the trap of feeling like I’m a better person now that I’ve dropped a size.  That’s a big trap in this culture, huge, deep trap.  Easy to fall into.  Very difficult to get out of.

I am building a bridge and a net with my meditation practice to keep me from falling into that trap, and into the well of depression and self-doubt that be found when I cling to external things like body size for a sense of self-worth. By cultivating acceptance and love, accepting impermanence, and cultivating my beginner’s mind, I think I can make a pretty strong bridge, and weave a good safety net for when I have a bad day and fall a bit.

This place in my life I’m in right now is full of flux, lots of changes of all sorts are happening right now and it’s difficult sometimes to feel grounded and safe.  But that, in itself, is ok.  Even hurricanes don’t last forever.  But this is one storm that, while intense, is washing out a lot of built up trash, helping it break down and become fertile mud to plant seeds of wisdom and happiness in.

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New and old – beginning and returning. September 10, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 10:02 am
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The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  So many things have happened, good things. 

I have been keeping up with my exercise routine.  I am now up to 60 crunches on the exercise ball, plus around 20 squirms and 20 flutter kicks.  For upper body, I’m doing about 15 push-ups on knees, and 5 full push-ups, plus around 10-15 reps each of bicep curls, tricep lifts, and lateral deltoid lifts with the exercise band (which is a lower resistance one, but not sure what its actual resistance is because I got it at the thrift store).  For legs, I’ve been walking about 1 – 2 miles a day at a brisk pace, practicing my blocking set in horse’s stance, and plie-releve sets (about 20 in first position).  I stretch carefully and thoroughly and practice leg swings and kicking – front and side kicks, mainly. But my left hip has been giving me trouble, joint-wise, so I’m working on building up the muscles around the hip and keeping limber with lots of deep hip stretches. 

I’ve lost a bit of weight, as evidenced by my waistbands getting looser, but I’m also seeing and feeling the muscle definition in my arms, especially my biceps and wrists.  They’re starting to look and feel like my arms again.  My own strong, capable, agile arms. 

So I’m slowly returning to my body after a long, long time away.  I’m loving my body again, good and proper.  I’m enjoying my body in ways that amaze and astound me.

And I’m cultivating my “beginner’s mind” as best I can.  Every moment is a new moment, every moment is a perfect moment of life. 

Practicing meditation, especially metta meditation, has been a critical component of this process.  It shores up my mind-body connection, and it gives my mind the space to allow emotions to come and accept them for what they are.  And I can see so much more clearly now how emotional states and body states are connected.  The experience of emotion is not just in the brain, of course, but now I’m so much more aware of how my heart and guts and muscles dance in tune with my emotions.  Meditation allows me to fine-tune that awareness so that I can cultivate the seeds of well-being.  

And what a beautiful garden I can cultivate with those seeds!

 

 

 

 

Beginner’s Mind and Renewal August 12, 2014

Filed under: Buddhism — LP @ 12:15 pm
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I really love the Buddhist concept of “Beginner’s Mind”.  This is one definition:

Beginner’s mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgements and prejudices. Beginner’s mind is just present to explore and observe and see “things as-it-is.”

(source)

Or, as Shunryu Suzuki Roshi wrote in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

(source)

It’s not easy to cultivate this mind state.  Habits of mind are deep things, knowledge is important.

But so is a sense of wonder and delight at the new.

I’ve been thinking about this a great deal this week because I’m at a new beginning for myself, or a renewed beginning, really.  I’ve started an exercise and stretching routine, and I have been diligent about keeping it up for the past several days.

It’s not that easy to get back into doing something you haven’t done in a very long time.

In fact, sometimes it downright sucks.  Trying to do even simple stretches and situps and pushups is difficult, but knowing that you used to be able to handle so many more reps with ease, remembering how this stuff used to be so much easier… really sucks.

But getting frustrated is very unhelpful.  It was the main reason why I haven’t been able to keep up any kind of exercise routine for very long for years.  I’d get started, all excited to get fit and feel healthy and slim down, and then… the awareness would grow that all of this was so much easier before… and if I had been a better person, then I would have never stopped training, god it’s so frustrating, I still can’t fit into those pants, why isn’t this working? God, what’s the point?  May as well give up now, I’ll never be able to regain what I’ve lost, I’ll never be that 105 pound kid, so lithe and strong.  That explosive, ever-moving ball of energy on the fencing piste.   I’ll never be able to kick above my head like I used to.

Who could persevere against such cruel judgment?

But this time, I’m meditating.  I’m learning how to let go of judgmental thoughts.  To treat myself with the kind of care and compassion I would show a friend, to treat myself as I would want a friend to treat me.

I’m learning to embrace impermanence, to learn to appreciate change.

I’m learning to see with fresh eyes, to delight in the ordinary.

I begin, again.

Now, I focus on the fact that every time I stretch, I can go a little further.  Every time I do sit-ups, I can do a few more.  Every time I do pushups, they get a little easier.  Every time I do leg swings, they get a little higher.

Now, when I get up in the morning, I feel stronger, lighter on my feet, my core muscles coiled and ready like a spring.  Every day I get a little more confident about my body’s abilities.

This time, I’m not doing it to fit into those pants, to be slimmer and more attractive, and therefore more worthy of love.

This time, I’m doing it for me.  I’m training, you see.  I want to do martial arts.  I want to learn how to fight with a staff.  I’m doing this for fun, for the delight in being able to launch my body through space with strength, grace, speed, and power to meet an attacker.  For the strength and grace to be able to take the blows and still keep going.

Yeah, for the sheer badassery of being able to dance with a staff.

Jennifer Garner, Elektra

Jennifer Garner, Elektra

pic credit:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/494059021592492814/