All posts by sarah.maria

About sarah.maria

Sarah Maria is a body-image expert who helps people love their bodies no matter how they look. She shows people how to discover the beauty that is already inside of them, right now, in this moment.  Once they connect with this beauty, they will discover that anything is possible - that they can create a body and a life that they truly love.  Her mission is to create a world where every person sees the beauty in themselves and in others. 

 Her book, Love Your Body, Love Your Life, will be released in November of 2009.  Sarah Maria has studied and trained with well-known teachers and physicians, including Deepak Chopra, Dr. David Simon, Wayne Dyer, and Jack Canfield, among others.  Her work has been endorsed by Deepak Chopra, Dr. David Simon, and NY Times best-selling author Marci Shimoff, as well as many other notable physicians, psychologists, and educators. Before writing her first book, she received a law degree from Stanford and a Master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University.

Healthy Thinking: Using Your Mind To Help Heal Body, Heart & Soul

Healthy ThinkingYou probably know what it takes to live a healthy life, right?  Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, take vitamins – maybe add in some fish oil for cardiovascular health.  Make sure you get enough protein, carbohydrates, and lean fats.  Fortunately for many, healthy eating and exercise have become more and more a way of life.  You know the list of do’s and don’ts to keep your body strong and fit.

What is less well known is how your thoughts influence your physical, emotional, and even spiritual health.  Your mind is an extremely powerful instrument that can be either a friend or foe.  For most, left to its own devices, the mind is a foe, and can lead to pain, difficulty, and suffering.  With a little bit of effort and awareness, however, the mind can become a friend.  As a friend, your mind can be used as a powerful asset to help promote your health and well-being on all levels.

Understanding Your Mind – Friend or Foe

Is your mind your friend or your foe?  If you are like most, your mind bombards you with concerns, worry, anxiety, negative self-talk and a barrage of other nonsense.

Your mind may harass you about being good enough or healthy enough.  It might critique you for making “poor” decisions.  Are you being a good enough mother to your children?  Are you a loving enough partner?  Are you taking good enough care of your physical body?

And then let’s not forget gnawing concerns about physical appearance.  The mind may lament: “I have too many wrinkles.”  “How did my butt get so big?”  “What should I do about these sun spots?”

Does this list sound at all familiar?  You can probably write your own – your unique “flavor” of negative mental messages.  These messages range from annoying to downright tyrannical.  They are tyrannical because they control your life.

What kind of life can you live when your mind harasses you constantly with these types of concerns and worries?

It is my contention that true health is impossible when you live with a tyrannical mind.  And most people do.  You can eat all the right foods, do all the right exercises, take all the best supplements, and have a wonderful mix of alternative and conventional medical care.  Yet if you are a slave to your thoughts, believing every mental message that the mind produces, how can you be truly healthy?

The mind-body connection is by now well-known and documented throughout the scientific literature.  If your mind is producing stress, anxiety, and insecurity, whether that is through making you believe that you are not quite good enough the way you are, or that something is wrong with you, or making you worry and stress about situations over which you have no control, this mental turbulence has a very real impact on your physical health and well-being.

The tragedy is that most people live enslaved by their minds – their thoughts, beliefs, mental patterns and emotions.  The triumph is that with a little awareness and effort, you can begin to free yourself from the tyranny of your mind and move toward true health and well-being.

Freeing the Mind – Breaking Free from the Thoughts and Beliefs that Confine You

So, how do you break free from this ceaseless and controlling mind-chatter?

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take that will help you find freedom from a controlling, and even debilitating mind.

Step #1: Become aware of the thoughts that you think

Before you can break free from your negative thoughts, ideas, and beliefs about yourself, your body, and your life, you must first become aware of the thoughts that you think on a regular basis.

What thoughts and beliefs are being generated in your mind?  Everyone has thoughts, messages, “tapes” if you will, that run through the mind.  Without awareness, these thoughts control you and dictate your life.  Yet as you become aware of the thoughts you think on a regular basis, you can gradually begin to loosen the control they have over your life.

There is no practice more important or more impactful in breaking free from the thoughts that control you than the practice of meditation.  Over time, a regular meditation practice makes you more aware of the thoughts that are being generated by your mind.  With meditation, you discover that you are not the thoughts you think.  You are not the messages and voices inside your head.  Over time, meditation will gradually help lessen the grip and hold that your thoughts have over your life.  The amazing thing about meditation is that simply by practicing meditation, you will become more aware of the thoughts you think on a regular basis.

Step #2: Recognize that they are false

Before you become aware of your thoughts, they control you absolutely.  As you become aware of them, you can begin to notice that they control you.  You can begin to notice how they control you.  The next step in breaking free from them is recognizing that they are false.  You have to realize that they are simply messages, usually learned in early childhood, and they are false.  They are not about you and should not be allowed to control your life.

Step#3: Refuse to believe them

The next step is refusing to believe them.  As you begin to see more clearly that these false messages run through your mind, you can make a decision to not believe them.  You can recognize that they are false – false messages running through your mind.  As such, they should not be listened to and should be ignored.

It is like music running in the background.  You can carry about your business, go about your life, and ignore the negative thoughts and beliefs.  Disregard them, don’t listen to them – completely ignore them.  As you practice this, gradually over time they will lessen and recede more and more.    

In this way, you can use your awareness to free yourself from the negative thoughts that you think.

As the mind becomes free from these negative messages and beliefs, it can be used as an ally to promote health.  When you are listening to the negative thoughts and beliefs that run through your mind, it promotes dis-ease.  As you become free from these voices, the energy of your mind is elevated to help you move toward true wellbeing.

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body.  Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing.  Visit BreakFreeBeauty.com to learn more.

What Your Body Tells You: Objective Feedback vs. Critical Condemnation

Can you tell the difference between the objective feedback your body offers versus the critical condemnation of your mind?

Your body’s objective feedback can help you make lifestyle choices that promote your health and well-being, whereas the critical condemnation of your mind creates nothing but suffering.

What is your body telling you?Our bodies are incredible messengers, powerful gifts on the journey through life.  We can use the constant feedback that our bodies give us to help us make changes and adaptations to promote our health.  If we listen to the criticism of our minds, however, it will sabotage us.  The negative mental messages can eclipse the body’s natural intelligence and feedback, which will prevent us from making the healthy choices we want to make.

The mind opines, while the body illuminates.  The mind makes you mistakenly believe that your body means something about who you are as a person, your self-worth and your value.  It levels judgment and criticism.  It makes you believe that you are somehow not good enough, that something is wrong with you and your body.

Here are some examples to elucidate the point:

Objective Feedback vs. Critical Condemnation

  • "I am holding weight in my abdomen – I can tell I have been under a lot of stress."
    versus "My stomach is flabby and disgusting – I am out of shape and need to do more sit-ups."

  • "I haven’t been able to exercise recently and can tell that my legs are weak."
    versus "My cellulite is disgusting and I cringe when I look in the mirror."

  • "I notice that when I eat sugar regularly it leads to weight gain and is addictive."
    versus "Why can’t I control myself?  I am so weak."

  • "I can tell that my arms are becoming weak – it would be good for me to increase my upper-body strength."
    versus "My arms are flabby, weak, and I don’t even want to look at them."

  • "It has been too long without a haircut."
    versus "My hair is flat, dull, and disgusting."

The key is to use your body for valuable, useful feedback, and to disregard the worthless messages of criticism that come from mental conditioning.

Critical condemnation is when you use your body and appearance to:

  • Determine your self-worth

  • Use it as a reflection of your “success” or “failure”

  • Use it as a reflection of your “strength” or “weakness”

  • Use it as a reflection of being “good” or “bad”

Here are three helpful steps to help you use your body’s messages for objective feedback, while dropping the mind’s critical condemnation:

  1. Become increasingly aware of the difference between the body’s messages and the mind’s messages

  2. Separate the “wheat” from the “chaff” – use the objective feedback and drop the self-judgment, criticism, and condemnation

  3. Make lifestyle choices based on the feedback, not the condemnation

A key tool to help you learn to differentiate between your body’s messages and your mind’s messages is meditation.

A regular meditation practice is essential to help you break free from the critical mind-chatter that can sabotage your best intentions.

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body.  Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing.  Visit BreakFreeBeauty.com to learn more.

Body-image and Our Relationships

Have you ever hid under the bed covers, not wanting your lover to see you?

Or have you cringed at the thought of seeing yourself in the bathroom mirror?

Were you competitive with your siblings or your parents about the size of your body?

Has anyone you love, has anyone close to you, been judgmental about your body?

Are you, or have you ever been, in a relationship where your lover didn’t like your body?

Body-image and Our RelationshipsThe fact of the matter is that our bodies and how we feel about our bodies and ourselves can dramatically impact our relationships, either for good or for bad. 

Here are some of the ways that Negative Body Obsession can adversely affect your relationships.

  • Your lover finds you attractive, but you can’t believe him or her.  You are too concerned about how you look, and unable to enjoy the love that is being given to you.  Without realizing it, you push the other person away and over time destroy the relationship.
     
  • Your beliefs about being unattractive unconsciously lead you to pick a partner who reinforces your low self-esteem and negative self talk.  You find yourself stuck in a negative relationships and are unsure of how to break free.
     
  • You are alone and long for love, intimacy, and connection.  You have been listening to the lies of Negative Body Obsession, which has kept you isolated and alone.

There are an endless number of scenarios and examples, but the simple fact is that if you are living in the trap of NBO, you are unable to connect with other people for real.  The beautiful, amazing fact, however, is that true intimacy and connection are available.  No matter what your size, shape, condition, or anything else, you can enjoy deep love and sharing.  But this is only possible if you learn how to ignore the lies that say you and your body are not quite good enough

If you have lived a life listening to Negative Body Obsession, you truly do not know the relating that is possible to enjoy with other people.  Negative Body Obsession acts as a true barrier.  Insecurity and negative self-talk truly make it impossible to enjoy the love that is available.  Even if you are involved in many relationships with different people, if you are listening to your negative thoughts and beliefs, they are preventing you from truly connecting.

It is imperative that you understand the cost of entertaining your negative beliefs.  The inability to truly connect with other human beings, the inability to truly relate, is a huge cost.  I recall a spiritual teacher once saying that love is food for the soul.  Just as our body needs fuel to survive, so our soul needs love to survive.  Now, you can live off of a meager diet, lacking in vitamins and minerals, devoid of nutritional content, and you will probably survive.  But will you thrive?  In order to thrive, you need a diet that is nourishing and health promoting.  So it is with your human relationships and interactions.  Are your relationships truly nourishing you?  Are they  supplying you with the deep love, connection, and intimacy that feeds your soul?

If you are living with Negative Body Obsession, or negative beliefs about yourself, the answer is no.  The answer has to be "no" because these negative beliefs are making you unavailable to enjoy what may be right in front of you.  They are acting as a shield, blocking out the love that is possible for a human life.

If you long for love in your life, for the true enjoyment that comes from sharing yourself with other people, make a commitment to yourself to finally break free from your negative beliefs about your body and yourself.  When you turn your back on Negative Body Obsession, with its never-ending lies and delusions, you open yourself up to a life that is richer than your wildest dreams.

If you are finally ready to end the negative self-talk and enjoy the relationships you long for, register for our September call on Body-image and Relationships.  Join me and well-known author and relationship expert Lissa Coffey for 60 minutes dedicated to helping you transform and discover the love that is always available when you allow it.

Exploring Compassion

This article is as the title suggests—an exploration.  It is an inquiry.  Last month’s article was about love.  This month — compassion.  According to great spiritual teachers, real love is actually much closer to compassion.  This begs the question, what is compassion?  What does it mean to be compassionate?  What is compassionate action? 

Exploring CompassionIf you are reading my newsletter and following my work, chances are you want to help or be helped in some way.  You may want to alleviate your own pain and suffering, and/or alleviate the pain and suffering of other people.  You may want to help heal the environment, or make a difference in the world.  Perhaps you consider yourself incredibly blessed and want to give back and share your good fortune.  If you are reading this article, chances are you are someone who lives from the heart, guided very often by your feelings of wanting to help, wanting to make a difference.  And these feelings can often seem like compassion.  Isn’t helping others, being nice, being giving and generous, taking away pain whenever possible, living compassionately? 

Consider the dictionary’s definition:

“A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”

This definition, in my opinion, is woefully inadequate.  It is based on an inherently limited view of reality.  It assumes that we, as human beings, are able to judge some else’s misfortune and act appropriately.  It also implies that our feelings of wanting to alleviate the sufferings of others are, in and of themselves, compassionate.  In my own experience, this is not always the case.

As you come to know your own heart more and more, you can begin to understand more deeply your own motivations.  And you may discover that what you thought was a simple desire to help, what you thought was compassion, what you thought was love-in-action, has way more to do with your own wants and needs than with anything else.  This is not to say that all feelings of so-called compassion are erroneous, but it does mean that exploring your own motivations, engaging in self-inquiry and exploration, can be useful.

Begin to ask yourself:

How much is my wanting to help an expression of my own wants, needs, and desires?
How much of my wanting to help is based on my own discomfort with other people’s pain?
How much do I identify myself as someone who wants to help make a difference in the world?

Now let me be clear.  I am not by any means saying you should not care about other people.  I am not in any way implying that it is best to be cold-hearted or indifferent.  I am actually assuming that if you are reading this article, you are someone who has a good heart, who is aware of other people, and wants to be kind and generous, spreading love throughout their families and communities.

Which is why I am suggesting that you take your beautiful heart, and begin to understand it more deeply.  Begin to explore yourself, your own motivations, more openly.

In order to know yourself, you must be open to the fact that what you think may always be wrong, or at least only a partial perspective.  Always be willing for another layer to fall away, so that you may see something that was previously hidden from view. 

It is only as you open yourself to this that you can begin to develop an understanding of true compassion, which, in my own exploration, is far from what most people think of when they think of compassion.  For the more willing you are to know yourself, to see whatever there is to be seen, the greater your chance of letting life live you, of letting love purify your heart, so that you can be used in whatever way the universe deems fit.

As I have personally engaged in this inquiry, I have made some startling discoveries.  Here are just a few of the things that have surprised me:

  • Sometimes compassion doesn’t feel good.

  • Sometimes being compassionate means doing nothing, even when someone else is in pain.  In fact, doing nothing may often be the most compassionate choice.

  • Any real compassion is impossible as long as your ego is dictating your behavior.

  • True compassion is not about individual wants, desires, or needs in any way.

This month, let your life be an exploration into yourself, into your own heart.  Be open to being surprised, and maybe even dismayed for a moment or two.  Discover what motivates you, and be open to whatever is revealed.    

Love and Freedom

One of the defining themes of my adult life has been this something that I refer to as Love.  When the universe forced me into personal crisis a few years ago, it slowly became apparent that a key issue was love.  Ever since then, my life has become, in one form or another, a meditation on love:  

Love and Freedom What is love?
How do I love myself?
Why does my heart feel broken?
Will I ever feel loved?
How do I love and be loved?
Does love exist?
Is it just an idea, or is it something real?

So far, I have learned much through this meditation; I have learned much on this journey.  This article is designed to help you explore the contours of love in your life, so that you can enjoy the gift that is everyone’s birthright, the gift that the universe wants to give you.

In my experience, learning to love yourself is an essential step on this path of love.  It is the first step because if you hate yourself, you can’t go anywhere.  But how do we love ourselves?  When I was first told to love myself, I had no idea what that meant, nor how to go about it.  Love myself?  You might as well have been speaking a foreign language.  Loving yourself does not mean that you indulge every desire, whim, or impulse.  Nor does it mean that you become infatuated with yourself, per se. 

Loving yourself means that you take good care of yourself.  It means you get rid of all those false voices that say you are defective, incompetent, unattractive, unlovable—whatever it may be.  You begin to see more clearly negative voices of conditioning, and you discover that they are nothing other than conditioning.  You slowly learn to break free from them, affirming your inherent self-worth, not because you have done anything or are any particularly way.  You are inherently loveable simply because you exist.  It is your birthright; it is the gift of being a human being.  You accept yourself as you are, and allow yourself to grow and change in the direction of greater peace and harmony.

Self-hatred creates destruction and discontent.  As you learn to love yourself, you break free from these negative tendencies and learn to treat yourself with the dignity and respect that is due to every human being.

As you learn to love yourself, as your own heart heals, the natural impulse is for love to flow outward.  Your relationships begin to change.  You begin to share love with other people.  You begin to discover that love does most certainly exist.  Yet this love is not a commodity.  It is not something that can be earned through merit.  Love just shows up.  It shows up sometimes on this path of life.  You might experience it with your best friend or your lover, maybe a child, or even a parent.  As you explore it, you will discover that the love is there first.  The love just shows up, and then you find out why it is there.

If you have ever had a particularly close love relationship, maybe with a dear friend, you will see how this is the case.  Chances are you felt an attraction, a pull, a love toward that particular person.  As you get to know them more and more, you discover that the love is there for a reason.  Maybe it is there to teach you something, to help you grow, to help you change.  Now the fact is that love is always there, has always been there and will always be there.  It is simply easier to experience in relation to other people with whom you have a heart connection.  

The biggest challenge with love for most people is the desire to cling, the desire to keep this something that we call love.  Yet continual change is the nature of everything.  So you must learn to relax on this path of love.  You must learn to relax and allow love to come and go, to ebb and flow as it may.  In this way, love can lead you to greater and greater freedom.  You enjoy being with your friends, your family, your lover, but you also know how to be alone.  When you are together, there is love.  When you are alone, there is also love.  You let everyone be free to do as they may.  You are free to be as you are; to do as you do.  They are free to be as they are; to do as they do.  When you come together, it is a beautiful sharing.  When you are apart, it is also lovely.  You learn to float with the tide of love, coming and going, enjoying and relaxing.  

You slowly learn to love the love.  You learn to follow the love.  If love leads you into yourself for a while, go there.  If love leads you to particular people for some time, go there.  If it then leads you elsewhere, just follow the love.  For ultimately, you are love itself, only most of us do not know it.  As you learn to follow love, you discover that it always guides you, teaches you, and informs you.  

In speaking of love in relationships, one of my beloved spiritual teachers, Sri Nisargaddatta Maharaj said the following:

“You are neither the husband nor the wife.  You are the love between the two.”

Allow your life to be a journey, an exploration.  Inquire into this something called love; this force that permeates everything.  Explore it within yourself; explore it outside of yourself.  Follow it where it leads you, and you are guaranteed to learn something that you don’t already know.  You are guaranteed to learn something about life, about love, about yourself, and about everyone else.

May love fill your heart always.  

Letting Life Live You

Allow Life to Live You!If you are like most people, you think you are doing life.  If you are like most people, you live by your to-do list.  You get up early—maybe you work out.  You go to work, take care of the kids, eat food, deal with your boss, figure out how to sell your house… For many, life itself is one big TO-DO

In reality, however, life is much more about being and less about doing.  The exquisite blessings of life are not delivered based on how much you do.  No, life’s greatest treasures, life’s pleasures, life’s bliss, life’s ecstasy, are based on being.  Just learning how to be yourself, how to be free, how to be love, how to just be.  The true tragedy is that most of us have no idea how to be free, how to just be.  We only know how to do.  We have lost the art of human being; we have traded it for human doing.

Now the beautiful thing is that when you learn the art of being, it does not mean that you have to stop doing, for you can “be” doing anything.  Or not doing anything.  Being is simply the art of allowing life to unfold, allowing life to live you and lead you where it may.  To the outside observer, everything might look the same.  It is simply your orientation that is different.        

One of the great master keys to learning the art of being is to discover that life is living you.  You think you are living life.  You think you are doing so much.  But in truth, in reality, life is doing you.  You are just here for the ride.  Learn to shift your awareness away from being the doer and instead allow life to do you.  This might sound esoteric, but in truth it is very practical.

One way to make it practical is to master the art of allowing.  Begin to approach life from the perspective of allowing.  Do you have many tasks to complete?  Allow them to get done.  Yes, you may still be doing them, but you will be allowing them to get done.  They will get done through you, not by you.  Are you feeling stressed?  Allow life to unfold.  Are you looking for answers?  Live the questions and allow the answers to come.  Are you struggling with illness?  Allow your body to heal.

Now you might think this sounds simplistic.  Your response may be: yes, very nice idea, but I have bills to pay, and a real health condition, and I need to do things in order to get through my day.  And yes, this is all very real, and very true.  But when you have an orientation of allowing life to unfold, and allowing things to get done, everything gets accomplished with much more ease and less strain. 

No need to do anything dramatic, no need to make any big change.  Just as you go throughout your day, remind yourself that you are allowing.  Whatever struggles you are confronting, allow whatever IS just to be.  Life is always much easier when you are not fighting with what is happening.  Life might be painful; it might be difficult; it might be stressful.  Or it might be fun, and light, and easy.  Whatever it is, just allow it to be.  Allow it to be.  Allow it to arise and subside.  Allow yourself to experience.  Just allow, allow, allow.  Allow life to unfold.   

It is an absolute illusion that you are doing life.  Life is truly doing you.  And the more willing you are to allow life to do you, the easier it becomes.  The more you allow life to live you, the more freedom, joy, and love, you can and will experience.  So as you go throughout your day, just remind yourself occasionally, remind yourself to allow.  Remind yourself to be.  In the midst of activity, just continue to be.  And watch to see if everything gets just a little bit easier, as you discover what it means to be a human being, an actual human BEING… 

Recognize the Beauty Within

Recently a woman contacted me who is studying journalism in her third year at university in England.  She is writing a paper on facial disfiguration and asked if I could answer some questions as a body-image expert.  Below are the answers to her questions.  These answers will be helpful for whatever struggles you might be encountering in your life.  Please enjoy.

Know this: whatever your physical appearance, you are beautiful.  You can consider this to be a nice idea, but I guarantee it is the absolute truth.  If you believe yourself to have imperfections, whatever form they take, please use the questions and answers below to help you let go of those false ideas and beliefs that prevent you from experiencing the beauty that you are.  Because the experience of that beauty is the only beauty worth having.

Question:  What exactly does your role as a Body-Image Coach mean? i.e. In general terms what is it that you do?

Being a body-image coach simply means that I facilitate people’s coming to love and accept their bodies and themselves.  In a very real sense, I do nothing.  I simply facilitate the natural process that is taking place within people.  Within each individual is an intrinsic knowing, an intrinsic wisdom, that can best be described as love.  This love longs to express itself, to our own selves, as well as to others.  Unfortunately, very few people know how to access this natural love and allow it to unfold.  As a body-image coach, I simply facilitate this unfolding.  I help people connect with this beauty, perfection, love, and wisdom that is already inside of themselves, seeking expression.  So perhaps the best word to describe my role is simply that of facilitator.

Question:  What are your views on our societies obsession with being ‘beautiful’? How would you classify being beautiful?

My view is that everything in life is a gift, including that which seems horrible, awful, and incomprehensible.  The only key factor is the individual – are you, meaning the individual, willing and able to view everything that you experience as a gift?  This certainly does not mean that everything is enjoyable, or that pain or suffering should be endorsed or allowed, but it does mean that in each moment, you have a choice.  A Course in Miracles states that every moment is a choice between a grievance and a miracle.  Another way to say this same thing is "in every moment, you can make a choice between seeing life as a gift or a curse." 

So how is this relevant to society’s obsession with being beautiful?  If you suffer from negative feelings about yourself and your appearance, it is easy to blame society.  And yes, societies views on beauty are unequivocally limited, deficient, and utterly misleading.  As an individual, however, you can use society’s limited perception of beauty to your advantage.  You can use it to help you discover and experience your own inherent beauty and perfection.

Here is an example of how this might work:

  1. Let’s say you have internalized the mainstream culture’s messages about beauty.  You believe that you do not fit this standard, and are thus deficient your lacking in some way.  Simply notice this.
     
  2. Then realize that this is complete and utter nonsense.  Realize that you were born absolutely perfect, inherently beautiful, and you will remain that way forever.  Beauty is not something that you achieve because you look a certain way.  Beauty is an attribute of your existence.  You were born with it, and it always remains.
     
  3. Whenever you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself, feeling like you are not beautiful enough, remind yourself that this is an illusion.  This is simply the result of growing up in a society that cannot recognize beauty and is completely deluded regarding the whole topic.
     
  4. Every time you remind yourself of this truth, and let go of the thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that keep you from this truth, the closer you will come to seeing and experience the beauty that is always there.  True beauty is nothing that you achieve; it is simply something that you learn to see.

Being beautiful is simply being you.  It is being you in all your dimensions, in all your aspects, in the very rawness of your humanity.  Some days you might be well put-together; other days you might be falling apart.  Some days you might radiate health, other days you might be beset by illness.  Both are equally beautiful.  It is only the mind that divides, saying one is beautiful and the other is not.  In reality, there is only one beauty, and you are that.

Question:  Do you feel that it is unhealthy for young women to be growing up in an environment where such an emphasis is placed on image and looks?

This depends.  Would it be nice if we lived in a culture that honored everyone’s uniqueness and intrinsic beauty?  Absolutely.  The only way to create this society, however, is to start with each individual.  Learn to recognize beauty within yourself; learn to recognize beauty within everyone and everything else.  It is only by changing each individual, one-by-one, that a new society will be created that is simply an expression of these individuals steeped in beauty.

In the meantime, since we do live in a society that has a distorted view of beauty, take complete responsibility for transforming yourself.  If you are a parent, raise your children so that they know what true beauty is.  Teach them to see the beauty in everyone and everything.  As an individual, whatever your condition in life, commit unwaveringly to knowing and experiencing your inherent beauty.  As you come to know your own beauty, you will become a beacon of beauty that radiates beauty ceaselessly, slowly transforming the culture into one that is more supportive.

Question:  I have read on your website that you once struggled with body loathing. How did you get through this tough time? What advice would you offer to others in this situation?

My struggle with body loathing, and the healing process, was a process.  It did not happen overnight.  But it did happen.  And this is the most important thing for people to hear.  Freedom from body-loathing, freedom from self-hatred, freedom from suffering and un-lovability, is completely possible.  It only requires a willingness for it to end.  It might sound odd, but this willingness usually grows over time. 

The most important things is helping me to heal were professional help, yoga, and meditation.  I, myself, suffered for way too long without seeking professional help.  This is why I work as a body-image coach, to help people who are struggling.  There are also many competent therapists and healers.  The most important thing is to seek qualified professional help as soon as possible.

Equally important is learning to listen to your true self.  By the time people have reached adolescence, most people have forgotten how to listen to their own intuitive guidance.  Each person has a reservoir of wisdom inside of themselves.  It is simply a matter of learning to listen to and follow this guidance. 

Two great ways to learn how to access your inner-intelligence are through yoga and meditation.  Yoga can help you to become aware of and in tune with your body.  Your body has an incomprehensible amount of intelligence if you simply learn how to listen to it.  Yoga can help you create a collaborative relationship with your body.

Meditation is also a critical component of healing.  I cannot stress the benefits of meditation enough.  Simply practicing meditation on a regular basis helps to cleanse the mind of the negative delusions and beliefs that plague so many people.  If you are caught in a pattern of disliking your body and yourself, you are living with painful illusions.  Meditation will begin to uproot the lies you are living with and help you begin to see and experience your inherent beauty and perfection.

Question:  Obviously for people suffering from facial disfigurements and birthmarks it is not so easy to physically change their appearance. How would your five-step process to love your body and your life help them? 

Changing your physical appearance is not an essential part of accepting and making peace with your body and yourself.  As a matter of fact, changing your appearance can sometimes be a hindrance to this process of acceptance. This is not always the case, but it certainly can be. 

The five-step process outlined in Love Your Body, Love Your Life, is a process designed to help people move from disliking their bodies and themselves, whatever the reason may be, to acceptance, and then to love.  My work is not about helping people change their appearance per se.  For people who want to lose weight or improve their health, this may very well come about as a by-product of loving and accepting themselves, but it is not the point of the work.  The point of the work is to help people love and accept what is, and from that place of love and acceptance, anything is possible.

Question:  Do you think that young women suffering from facial disfigurations would be more accepting of themselves if there was more awareness of this issue, and people with the condition were being seen in the media, for example in ad campaigns?

If by more awareness you mean that there was more awareness of what true beauty is then, yes, I do think that more awareness would result in people accepting themselves more.  The key is that people become aware of what beauty is.  Beauty is not something you achieve because you look a certain way, have certain facial features, appear blemish free, whatever ideas people have about beauty.  Beauty is not what you think it is.  Beauty is an attribute of existence itself.  You were born beautiful.  Whether you were born with facial disfigurations or born as a soon-to-be super model simply does not matter.  I know this runs contrary to everything people have been taught to believe.  This is what I mean about needing more awareness about what is truly beautiful.  Every single person is beautiful because it is an essential attribute of existence, and a rose is no more beautiful than a tulip, then a daisy.  All are unique; each one is beautiful. 

If our media, advertisements, etc. begin to reflect a more true definition of beauty I think this could have a positive effect on everyone’s ideas about beauty.  If ad campaigns show that beauty comes in all shapes, forms, and conditions, there will be more awareness and people will begin to cultivate eyes that can see true beauty.

Question:  If these girls were considering surgical cosmetic treatment to effectively change what they looked like what would you say to them? i.e. Do you feel that your methods of coaching would be more beneficial?

This completely depends.  I don’t have anything against cosmetic surgery per se.  If people have a disfiguration that they really want changed, there is nothing inherently wrong with this.  However, most of the time, changing the external appearance will not improve self-esteem and self-acceptance in and of itself.  So I would recommend that if someone has a history of struggling with negative feelings about their bodies and themselves that they engage in internal exploration and healing, regardless of whether or not they decide to get surgery.  Whether or not they have cosmetic treatment, the internal exploration will help them throughout their entire lives.  After you seek professional help with a qualified therapist or comparable professional, then you can decide whether or not you want to proceed with the treatment.  This will increase the chances that you feel good with whatever decision you make.

Question:  What advice would you offer to loved ones and friends who are trying to help someone who suffers from low self-esteem regarding their looks?

The very best thing you can do is to let someone know that they do not need to live with the low-self esteem and disliking their looks.  Let them know that it is possible to feel great in and about themselves.  You can let them know how much you love and care about them.  Then encourage them to find professional help.  There are many great resources available, and good professional help and guidance can make a huge difference in their life. 

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing. Purchase your copy and begin to love your body today.  Visit: www.sarahmaria.com, and for more information:  www.breakfreebeauty.com.
 

Life is a Love Affair

Life is a Love Affair

Life is meant to be a love affair, an actual love affair.  Life, as it truly is, is, in fact, a love affair.  Now you can choose whether or not to experience life as such, whether or not to join in the dance.  But no matter what, life itself always remains a true love affair, an intimate dance in each and every moment.

Every desire for love, every desire to love, is simply the longing within you to experience the reality of life, the truth of what you are.  Your longing for love is your longing to know and experience yourself as the love that you are in reality. 

Each and every human experience of love is designed for the sole purpose of showing you what you truly are; it is designed to illumine the nature of you true beauty.   

The mistake that people make is thinking that love comes from some particular experience and is dependent on a particular experience.  The human mind creates the illusion that love comes from an experience or an interaction with a particular object. 

In reality, love is inherent in every experience.  Love is what is actually happening in every experience.  Most people miss this because they think of love as a feeling; they think of love as something that comes and goes.  But true love is the very ground of existence.  It cannot come and go because it simply IS.  Love is what is in every experience.  Whether your experience is pleasurable or painful, good or bad, friendly or unfriendly, what is happening is still love.

This may sound like a tall claim, an extreme claim, even an impossible claim.  But if you think about it, even for a moment, you will discover that it can be no other way.

You do not exist as a separate individual but exist only in communion with the entire cosmos.  You are appearing as what you perceive of as “you”, as a particular body-mind.  But in essence, “you” has no independent existence at all.  You are the same as the flowers, as the dirt, as the air, as your friends, as your lover, as your cat, as your dog.  You are the same essence.

As you realize and experience this, every interaction becomes a kiss; every interaction becomes intimate.  When you are open, when you are available, every experience is a kiss from the divine in its myriad forms.

  1. When you walk through the park, notice the trees, the flowers, the ocean – they all stop to smile, wave, and embrace you, if given half the chance.
  2. Instead of judging your body for its perceived flaws and imperfections, practice dropping into it and fully experiencing it.  Your body is always alive with love.
  3. In every interaction, whether with pleasant or unpleasant, let yourself experience the love that is underneath the pleasure or the pain.

Love is what is happening all the time.  Simply let life love you.  That is what it is designed to do, if given half the chance.      

So instead of thinking that love comes from a particular experience, use every experience where you feel love to remind yourself of what is already and always the case.

When you experience a moment of love, a hug from a friend, an embrace with your lover, a smile on a child’s face, let that remind you of the love that is always there, always available, all the time.  Use that experience to remind you that life is love happening, and you are an intrinsic, indispensable, an exquisitely beautiful part of the cosmic love affair. 

 

Live the Mystery

How willing are you to live in the mystery?  How willing are you to live the mystery?  Or another way to ask this question is how willing are you to allow the mystery to live you?

You see, you live in mystery. Or, better said, you are a living mystery.

Very few people are ready and willing to accept this mystery. The mind wants to figure the mystery out, seeking to grasp and hold onto the mystery.  The mind asks:

  • What about this?
  • How do I?
  • But what if?
  • How does it work?
  • What will happen when?

And there is nothing wrong with these questions.  Yet the deepest longing of your heart and soul, the deep yearning for truth, cannot be grasped and understood – it can only be experienced. 

I heard a story once that a great scientist (I think Einstein) said: “God doesn’t play dice with the universe”.  With the advent of quantum physics, another leading scientist reveled: “God not only plays dice, but he throws the dice where no one can find them.”

This is simply a way of saying that we are part of a mystery that cannot be explained, that cannot be understood, that cannot be grasped.  But it can be experienced. The mystery can be revealed; you can literally experience a revelation; you can experience the revelation of the mystery.  Live from the Heart

In my experience, the fastest way to experience this mystery, to live this mystery, is through the heart.  When you live from the heart, you transcend the mind.  For many people, the mind serves as a barrier to the experience of truth.  Not because the mind is bad, not because the mind is wrong, but simply because the mind has been conditioned, trained, away from truth.  The mind has been conditioned to have all sort of beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and assumptions.  And none of these beliefs can show you the mystery of reality, the mystery of life, because this mystery can only be experienced directly.  It can be experienced not through thinking, feeling, or doing, but rather through surrendering.

It is natural, almost inevitable, to be afraid of living the mystery because living the mystery means seeing that you are not in control.  For those of us who like to think we control life, or at the very least control ourselves, surrendering to the mystery can seem daunting, overwhelming, even unbearable.

Yet the truth of the matter remains – we are part and parcel of an incredible mystery.  And we do not control the mystery.  It is when you are willing to surrender to this mystery we call life that true beauty can begin to reveal itself. 

So take some time this week to reside in the heart.  Reside in your heart and see if you can let the mystery guide you to an experience of your exquisite nature.

Sarah Maria, author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life, outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, for true, lasting healing. Purchase your copy, begin to love your body today.  Visit: www.sarahmaria.com, www.breakfreebeauty.com.

 

Self-Confidence from the Self

Self Confidence Shows!In my experience, there is only one real way to increase your self-confidence, and that is through Self-confidence.

Self-confidence, with a capital “S”, comes from focusing on the Self, your true Self, your actual Self.  Self confidence with a small “s” comes from looking for stability, safety, and security, in that which is inherently unstable, transitory, and fleeting, which is is never ultimately effective.  Let me explain…

A lack of self-confidence, or low self-esteem, comes from the ideas, beliefs, attitudes, etc. that say you are not quite enough the way you are, that something is lacking.  Perhaps you think your body is not thin enough, strong, enough, or healthy enough.  Maybe you think you are not smart enough, not fast enough, not loving enough.  Maybe you think you are too selfish, or too giving.  No matter what your particular story line, no matter what your particular perspective, you think and believe that something is wrong with you, that you are somehow flawed and lacking in some way.  This belief-system, this set of assumptions, is the result of your conditioning and is simply not true. 

You can spend your whole life working to build your self-confidence by changing certain things about yourself.  And it can feel like it is working, like you have improved your self-confidence.  The problem is that anything, absolutely anything, that you perceive of as an object is transitory and fleeting.  So you can improve your health, increase your income, experience beautiful relationships, but all of this is subject to change, and when it does, it can undermine the sense of confidence that you worked so hard to achieve.  So consider instead shifting your focus entirely.  Shift your focus from the ever-changing person of your imagination, to the Self which is immutable and never-changing.  This is the Source of true Self-confidence.

The fact of the matter is that who you are, or rather what you are, is already, has always been, and will always be perfect.  Who you are is the eternal Self, the Source of all reality.  You cannot not be perfect.  Yet in order to see this, you need to continuously shift your reference point.  You need to fastidiously shift your focus away from the fleeting and temporary “person” that you think yourself to be and shift it toward that which is eternally perfect.

Instead of constantly looking for ways to improve yourself, give up the idea that you need improvement.  Instead of spending your whole life attempting to perfect your “person”, discover that you not a person in need of perfection.  Who you are is already perfect. 

Life then becomes a practice of letting go of all the false ideas and beliefs that you carry around with you.  Just like an overweight suitcase, these false assumptions drain you of your energy, vitality, and beauty.  They eclipse the experience of your perfection. 

So if you are interested in true Self-confidence, consider this as a practice:

  1. Accept the premise that who you are, exactly as you are, is already perfect.
     
  2. Become aware of every thought, idea, belief, behavior, feeling, and perception that runs contrary, that tells you somehow you are not quite good enough.
     
  3. Practice letting go of those perceptions.  Let them go, one-by-one, staying focused always on that which is eternal and unchanging.  When you realize that what you are is already perfect, all questions of self-confidence disappear of their own accord and you are left with the ultimate Self-confidence. 
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