Tag Archives: Hope

My Life With Binge Eating – And the Path to Recovery

338/365 - 9/11/2011To an outsider it might appear that my day was just like any other college student. I got up, went to my morning class, grabbed lunch with a friend, went to my afternoon class, worked out at the gym, did some home work, ate dinner, chatted with friends, got a late night snack then went to bed.

But that façade was far from reality. In fact, I was struggling all day to keep my composure, and desperately trying to hide the fact that I hated myself. I had fallen into a nasty cycle. I would go to bed with my stomach filled to the brim with over 5,000 calories worth of desserts and fried foods. I would wake up ravished and hating myself for needing to eat after the type of dinner I had. So I would try to go as long as possible without eating, and aim to eat only 500 calories a day. My thought process was – if I ate over 5,000 calories yesterday, I should have enough fuel in my body to last me three days. My starvation definitely slowed my weight gain but I still inevitably gained 15 pounds in as little as three months.

The worst part was, I had absolutely no control. NONE. People would look at me like I was crazy when I told them I couldn’t stop myself from eating. Why can’t you just stop when you’re full? They didn’t understand that stuffing my face wasn’t a choice for me. It was a necessity. My hands were not attached to my mind, and I could only stop when I felt so full I wanted to puke. During a binge attack, half of my mind would try to reason why it was okay to eat a whole box of Oreos. The other half of my mind would hate myself and hate the fact that I had no control. There was not an ounce of compassion in my bones. I found myself devouring a whole large pizza, or three whole entrees, or an entire large bag of potato chips. It’s rather astounding how much food my stomach could fit. And the greasier, cheesier or chocolaty the food was – the better.

I do not remember the exact day but I do remember the period of my life when I started having these binge attacks. I was in my second semester in college, and my first real boyfriend and I broke up. I was heartbroken beyond belief, and the sense of abandonment I felt was equal to when I thought my father had abandoned me so many years ago. In reality, my mom divorced my father and moved us to the United States. But to a 7-year-old, all I knew was that my dad was no longer there.

My binges occurred in waves and was never severe enough that I could be officially diagnosed with a binge eating disorder. But that doesn’t take away from the gravity of my situation. My self-loathing only escalated as time after time I would find myself pigging out in front of the fridge. Friends and family tried to help but I knew how to keep my eating a secret. I constantly felt judged and shame ran deep in my veins. WHY ME?!? So many other people in this world have it worse than me, so why do I punish myself? I worried that people would think I was incapable of handing life, and in fact, I did not feel capable at all! No one understood what I  was going through. I was more alone than ever. And so I ate.

I decided to start counseling a month after my first binge and 5 years later I am just starting to understand the triggers behind my binge. The difficulty with this type of disorder, at least for me, is that there is not one cause. A variety of different factors play into my disorder, and its difficult to understand it myself, let alone describe it to others.

What I can tell you is that my binges come more often when I am insecure. When I am lonely. When I feel scared. I was forced to grow up quickly, and to protect myself I was never attuned to what I was feeling. When my boyfriend and I broke up, my heart was ripped oven and all the emotions I repressed since I was a little girl came out. And I couldn’t handle it. So I searched for something to make me feel okay again, and I found food. The feeling of fullness and heaviness was the grounding I so desperately needed.

Food is a tough drug of choice because unlike alcohol, you need food to survive. I cannot abstain from food. The battle happens everyday I sit down with a plate in front of me.

In my sessions, I learned that the most important first step was to find compassion for myself. For the little girl inside me who was terrified of the world. In my seemingly endless binge cycle, it was hard to do. But I started to read books about other people with this problem, and it brought comfort to know I was not alone. Slowly but surely compassion came, and a few times I was even grateful for my disorder. My binges were my body’s way of telling me that I was feeling lonely, overwhelmed, powerless and abandoned. How lucky I am to have such an aware body! Now I just have to get my mind there BEFORE my body finds the need to be comforted through food.

It has been quite some time now since I’ve had a huge binge. In the five years since I first started binging, I have learned to be a little less judgmental. A little nicer to myself. And being nicer to myself includes working on the inner critic as well as letting go of what my diet “should” look like. Allowing myself to eat whatever I want has given me the freedom to eat healthier foods as well as enjoy chocolate here and there. The key is to let go of the guilt.

It’s been a long journey of self-hatred, self-love, suffering and compassion. And I know the journey is far from over. I am still learning how to have a normal relationship with food. I am still learning to treat my disorder as a gift from God. I am still learning that no one is perfect, no one is put together, and all we can do is the best we can at every moment. And I am still learning that self-forgiveness is the most powerful key you can hold in life.

But I also know that because of this disorder, I am stronger than ever. I have faith in life. And if the binge comes again, then so be it. I cannot be scared about the future. Life is a roller coaster and that’s what makes it exciting and livable. And as long as I open myself up to my feelings, and do not allow fear to consume me, then I know I have grown.

We are all imperfect beings trying to live a perfect life. Let me be the first to say – I do not wish to live the perfect life. I just wish to accept my life exactly as it is. That is the true gift of God.

Elephant in the Room: Inspiring You to Seize the Day

7f62488974a669b22b50c25272727cccDear Lovelies,

We don’t have a letter this week and I thought I’d try something a little different. Something sort of extraordinary has happened that has inspired me and I’d like to share it with all of you.

I’ve been a writer all my life. Not always professionally, but a good pen (preferably blue) with college ruled notebook paper has been where I’ve felt home since I was a child. I’ve gone through several evolutions with how writing would fit into my life – taking turns as a journalist, wannabe novelist, “hobby”-est – you name it and I tried it/thought about it/didn’t make it through. It was in a dark movie theater in Queens that it all sort of clicked into place – screenwriting. After all that time it was strange how easy it was to see that’s what I needed, that’s where home truly was. It just made sense.

So I packed up my bags and I moved west. It took a year to get my feet on the ground and off of generous family members and friends’ couches, but I finally found a job that would allow me to have my own place, afford to live and give me time to keep chasing the dream. I started taking classes and soon the dream started evolving. I developed a new-found confidence on stage and performing started edging its way in to my frequent success fantasies. I found the story I wanted to write, knew the part I wanted to play, all I had to do was get out my pen, put it to paper and write my way to where I truly felt I belonged.

Of course, especially in this town, self-doubt creeped in with the new desires. Do you know how many aspiring screenwriters there are in Los Angeles? More than you can count, and those are just the ones that managed to make it into city limits. And acting? I had no experience outside of high school drama. I sure as hell didn’t look like someone meant to be in front of a camera. The doubt made me bitter and negative. Even though I had a great job that afforded me so much I felt miserable because it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I hated myself for being so ungrateful, for not being more motivated, for not working harder. Maybe I didn’t want it as badly as I thought, and just that idea made me sick to my stomach.

I began bargaining with the ordering forces of the universe, begging for a sign that I was doing the right thing. I wanted it so badly but the obstacles seemed insurmountable. I just needed some help. I was already on the trail, I just needed a magic dose of courage to put on my shoes and really chase what I wanted.

Then I heard from a friend that she was leaving her steady job to pursue her passion project full-time (you’ll actually be hearing about it quite soon!). I was in awe of her courage – the journey she is about to embark on will be challenging and daunting and beautiful and will save lives. She said she knew it was what she wanted for a while but it took a few other things to push her into taking the plunge, and now that it was here she was terrified but invigorated. She hadn’t worked so hard on anything in a long time. The passion was evident – it radiated off of her. And while being so happy for her, I found myself feeling jealous. I wanted to feel that passion again, as I had when I was sitting in that movie theater, when I first moved to Los Angeles, so sure and so excited.

That’s when I remembered a scene from the Steve Carrell movie, “Evan Almighty.” It is mostly a physical comedy about a man who is tasked with building an ark by God himself. In the midst of the madness, Evan’s wife, played by Lauren Graham, gets some unsolicited advice from a kind stranger that has always stuck with me.

We are not just handed the answers, but given the opportunity to find them for ourselves. My friend was creating her own opportunity, and my envious feelings stemmed purely from me waiting around for someone to hand me my dreams with a bow wrapped around them. She stopped floundering or wondering and decided to just do it.

So this week I say let’s all take a page from her book. Let’s stop waiting for answers in signs or feeling sorry for ourselves when our lives don’t take the immediate direction we want them to. See each turn as an opportunity and take it. Find your passion and follow it.

Tell me how it goes lovelies. I’ll see you again in two weeks, but as for now I have to head out to get a box of red hair dye, a gym membership and new box of blue pens.

Best wishes,
Cora

How to Get Over a Breakup…with a Friend

2848824545_0f15cd9f83_bHow many of you have ever lost a friendship?

The way I think of it, there are really only two ways this happens:

  1. The friendship fades naturally.
  2. You actually come up with a concrete reason why the relationship needs to end in order to preserve your sanity, and do everything you can within your resources to get out cleanly.

Two really sucks.

In a recent case of option 2, I found myself completely dumbfounded that there’s no handbook for this cluster of a situation. Just as I began feeling like I’d lost a family member, I questioned why we give so little thought to the gut-wrenching reality of a lost friendship.

As I stood in my feeling-really-empty apartment, I asked myself, is there really no legal contract here? Do I not get to write something off or give you back some of your stuff that’s at my place? Are there really no airline fees I need to reimburse you for? Do we really just go on living?

How is it that in the world of business, where there are so few emotional exchanges, we have mile-long legal contracts that outline exactly how things will be distributed and dealt with if the relationship doesn’t go as planned, yet in friendship, there is no such thing? How is it that after romantic relationships, we go on yoga retreats and take trips to India, yet in friendship there really is no Eat-Pray-Love breakup protocol to go by? How is it that in the case of a lost partner-in-crime, we merely take ourselves out of the picture without so much getting into down-dog?

I felt like I owed a debt, like for all of the phone conversations and pillow talk and crying and laughing and crying all over again that there had to be some kind of compensation I was either owed or required to distribute. How could this not be the case, I asked myself. How, when someone has seen my insides inside-out, can there be no lawyer involved, no damages collected, no ashram to speak of when the relationship falls apart?

We can find pre-written breakup speeches on Google but almost nothing to lead us through the loss of a friend. We hold these people’s hands through every boyfriend or girlfriend who walks in and out of our lives; we let them stand by while we Google how to let those people go for good. Then, when our Googling, champagne drinking, chocolate-eating partners in crime are no-more, we don’t so much as get the post break-up haircut.

I was mystified.

Friendships gone awry can be very much like relationships gone awry: everything is going great, you’re madly in love, until one day you realize you’re still telling people you’re in love but you haven’t actually felt that way in a while. In fact, as much as you were thriving with this person’s companionship at the beginning of your relationship, you’d probably be just as well off now, if not even better, if you were to abandon the relationship entirely. When you finally decide to pull the plug, memories of the good old days come rushing back, memories that can leave one thinking “hey, wait a second, it wasn’t really that bad…was it?”

This is where the mind plays tricks, and where the mind has tricked me many times during the end-of-relationship grief process. Since there’s not nearly enough written on the case of the lost friendship, here are my two cents:

  1. Trust your gut. This can be absolutely terrifying when you’re worried your gut is going to tell you what you don’t want to hear, so be gentle with yourself.
  2. Surround yourself with people who nurture you, inspire you and uplift you.
  3. Make the space around you safe enough so that you can acknowledge any feeling that might come up and let it be okay.
  4. Tell yourself that no matter what happens, you’re not going anywhere. Remember that the universe has your back.
  5. If something is telling you that friend might be pushing you down instead of up, find someone you feel safe enough to talk to and explore that feeling.
  6. And, if in the worst case, you do find yourself needing to make a clean break from the friendship, set up a support network of people around you that can remind you why you decided to call it quits when you’re stuck in a rut and can’t remember.

Then, once all is said and done, remember this:

Of all the people that may come and go in your life, you are the one who will always be there. Trust yourself enough to know what’s right for you, and don’t let anyone else tell you any differently.

Because of all the best friends you’ve ever had, you were the first.

‘Bullets to Butterflies’: Using Art to Promote Girls’ Education

Screen Shot 2013-05-29 at 11.16.21 AMOn October 9, 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani student and education activist, was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Like people around the world, I was stunned. My shock quickly turned to outrage at such horrific violence against a young girl courageously speaking out for girls’ right to education.

I thought about the significance of education in my life, and my very early recognition of its significance. When we migrated to Canada from Kenya, I missed my nursery school so much, I begged my mother to take me to school. I was below the cut-off age to start Junior Kindergarten, so my mother was unable to enroll me. That didn’t stop me. I kept pleading until my mother begged the principal to let me start. He did. I wouldn’t be the person I am without that opportunity; without my right to education being honoured.

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Gardiner Museum for a preview of “Bullets to Butterflies”, an interactive art exhibit by Canadian artists Unaiza Karim, Saba Syed, and Huma Durrani, inspired by Malala Yousafzai. I was deeply moved by the artists’ passion for the issues underlying Malala’s story, and their determination to transform violence into peace and positive change.

I felt strongly that the exhibit was an ideal fit with the mission of my agency, Farahway Global, that engages the global public in action for human rights and mental health. In the process of planning with the Centre for Social Innovation – Regent Park, where Farahway Global is based, Artscape requested that we host the exhibit in the Daniels Spectrum South Lobby for Asian Heritage Month. In anticipation of our Closing Reception on Thursday, May 30, 2013, I interviewed Huma Durrani about the show.

FNM: What inspired you to create this exhibit?

HD: After the shooting of Malala, there was a strong desire to do something more about the education problems in Pakistan. Saba and Unaiza have children who go to Sunday school together, and while their children were in class, they discussed putting together an art show about Malala’s courage, to raise awareness and funds for schools in Pakistan. When Unaiza told me about the project, I immediately asked to join forces with them.

FNM: Tell me about your professional backgrounds that enabled you to come together and create such a beautiful, powerful exhibit.

HD: All three of us are artists, and were referred to each other by other friends who insisted we needed to connect.

Saba Syed is a Canadian artist specializing silk screening based in Port Perry, Ontario. Saba completed her Fine Arts education at York University in Toronto, Canada. She runs her own silk-screen printing studio and teaches art to local children.

Unaiza Karim graduated with her Masters degree from The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, London. She has specialized in the Art of Illumination from the Islamic tradition and was professionally trained in Turkey.

I am a Canadian artist based in Mississauga. My work is inspired by Islamic art, geometrical patterns and a modern contemporary aesthetic. The majority of my work is done by hand cutting delicate Japanese papers into intricate and precise designs.

FNM: How does your exhibit address girls’ right to education?

HD: All of our pieces address different issues related to the story of Malala Yousafzai – her courage, her mission to speak out for all children to be educated – and also to the education crisis that currently exists in Pakistan. Many people, including Pakistanis who are living abroad, are not even aware of how serious the situation is. We wanted to bring attention to this emergency, and do something about it. The beauty of this exhibit, is that all three artists have different specializations that they are bringing to this show. With the combination of detailed illuminations, silk-screen prints, and delicate paper cuts, the show brings together different art forms and ideas addressing a single issue.

'See Me' by Saba Syed
‘See Me’ by Saba Syed

FNM: Can you tell me more about each of your unique pieces in the exhibit?

HD: In Saba Syed’s piece, ‘See Me’, the young veiled child provokes ideas of gender and religion. ‘See Me’ challenges our assumptions that this is an image of a veiled girl but is in fact of a veiled boy. Saba explains, “I wanted a piece that would remind us that we should always question our ‘truths’. Often understanding only comes when we are open to the realization that all may not be as it seems.”

In relation to the Taliban, the veiled boy represents their inability to see themselves within the feminine. Encumbered by this mindset, this creation of ‘The Other’ creates a separation that justifies the use of violence on those who are ‘different’. The butterflies symbolize metamorphosis; that although Malala’s was shot down for her views on the rights for girls to an education, she survived. Her message actually spread and has gathered many supporters.

'The Inivation 'Dawat'', by Unaiza Karim
‘The Inivation ‘Dawat”, by Unaiza Karim

Unaiza’s piece, ‘The Invitation “Dawat”‘ is based on traditional book arts. In this style, each page is carefully decorated to prepare the reader for what is written on the page they are looking at and what is to come. Many medieval Qurans begin with the ‘garden page’ – a visual feast of natural world themes, symbolism and geometry that sets the tone and serves as an invitation to continue.

Unaiza elaborates, “I offer a similar ‘dawat’ (invitation) in this traditionally ornamented page, inviting the onlooker to read, to learn and to grow – every child’s right.”

'The Butterfly Effect,' by Huma Durrani
‘The Butterfly Effect,’ by Huma Durrani

My piece, ‘The Butterfly Effect’, is made from hand cut Japanese paper. It speaks to the importance of education for all, regardless of gender. The first revelation of the Holy Quran is this verse: “Read, in the name of your Lord” – Qur’an (Chapter 96, Verse 1). Reading is an act of worship and has been encouraged in Islam for all people. The holy verse is hand cut into the wings of the butterfly. This piece presents that when the feminine power takes hold and implements the command to read, the power that she will hold and share with the world will have an impact on all that surround her. The extent of the effects of women having knowledge is boundless.

FNM: How have you made the exhibit interactive?

HD: We wanted to engage people coming to the exhibit, and make them a part of the art. Our bullet-ridden wall was designed by Saba Syed. In our first exhibit, we invited attendees to answer the question “If you could trade all the bullets in the world for something else, what would you trade them for?” and insert their responses in the bullet holes.

Interactive bullet-ridden wall
Interactive bullet-ridden wall, Photo: Angela Lattanzio Photography

One of the most thoughtful responses was from 7 year old Zain Rashid:

“I would trade for more schools. Because if there are more schools, people will learn more, and when people will learn more about peace. When there is more peace, there is less fighting.”

FNM: You say you wanted to “do something” about the education crisis in Pakistan. I am sure that your exhibit inspires the same desire in others. How are you integrating the potential for such action into your exhibit?

HD: At the show, we sell prints and other items of merchandise to support schools in Pakistan. For our first show we supported Developments in Literacy (DIL) Canada, and for our second show we are supporting the Hope Uplift Foundation. Both of these organizations are doing incredible things to address the education crisis in Pakistan. In December, we were able to raise $500 for DIL Canada. We have also set up an Etsy page where people can buy prints with partial proceeds going towards schools in Pakistan.

Schools, museums, libraries, and other organizations and spaces can host the exhibit to continue reflection, discussion and action on these critical issues.

FNM: Thank you so much for sharing your powerful work and thoughts. I hope this piece will encourage people to join us at the Bullets to Butterflies Closing Reception: May 30, 6-8pm, South Lobby, Daniels Spectrum, 585 Dundas St. E., Toronto, ON. I also hope people will participate in the exhibit on Facebook and Twitter.

UPDATE: The exhibition has been extended to June 10

 

Reposted from The Huffington Post

Saving Lives One Bead At A Time

DSC01242We just heard two inspiring, heart wrenching, gut churning, funny, amazing life stories, from two Ugandan women, Joan and Teddy, who lifted themselves out of dire poverty and suffering by making and selling paper beads.

The poverty is huge. For example, Millie lives on $1 a day earned from crushing rocks in a quarry, and she has asthma. This is enough money for one meal every day for her whole family. She lives in a 4×7 hut with her six children, two of whom are AIDS orphans she has adopted. They have no water, no electricity, and no possessions. It is so small that one person is appointed to say when everyone should roll over at night.

At least, that was how Millie was living. Now she has a small house of her own, financed by a brick-making business she runs. And this was made possible because she learned how to roll beads out of strips of recycled paper.

How did this happen? Some years ago friends of ours went to Uganda, Africa. Dr. Charles Steinberg was there to teach the local doctors how to use AIDS medicines. Before the family left the US, he, his wife Torkin, daughter Devin, and friend Ginny sat together in prayer. “We said we were tired of talking about how hard the world is, and asked for something to do. This very clear intention was voiced within the context of prayer and sacred commitment,” Torkin told us. “We never dreamt it would manifest through paper beads!”

A few months later, the four of them were in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. On a chance encounter in a Kampala slum, on their way to visit an AIDS patient, the women met Millie who was rolling paper beads. She told them that she had no real market to sell them. They bought a few of her necklaces and, as they wore them, found that many people admired and wanted them. “So we went back to find this woman and discovered a group of her friends who also made beads. We bought about a 100 necklaces. We came back to the US for the summer and began to sell them to friends and at craft fairs.”

The beads began to generate interest, including a magazine article. They realized there was a market, but that most importantly it was about the story and the heartfelt desire to help those in need. One man, who loved the beads so much and wanted to give money to the beaders, offered $200 for a necklace that was on sale for $20.

The women who become beaders all live in slums in Kampala. Many of them are HIV positive, malaria is rampant, and nearly all are raising, alongside their own children, other children they have adopted from some of the 1.4 million AIDS orphans in Uganda. At least 95% of the beaders are women and 40% are refugees, living in huts as small as Millie did with just enough room for them to lie down. All have multiple life challenges. As Torkin says, “It was very humbling to work with these people who struggle so deeply yet also know how to lift themselves up, to laugh, sing and have joy. In a song they wrote there is one line that remains in my heart: ‘We dance while we are suffering.’”

A beader who joins the BeadForLife program gets paid twice a month for their beads and they have to open a savings account. The program is 27 months long and the beaders all receive health care, optional family planning, and business training. By month 20, BeadForLife tops up their savings to $800, enough so that each one can begin their own business to support themselves after the bead-making program has finished. One woman, who used to wash prostitutes’ clothes in a nightclub, now owns a nightclub; there are restaurants, chicken farms, dry good stores, and clothing stores, all begun this way.

Beads can be bought on line, but because of the power of the beader’s stories, most beads are sold through BeadParties hosted in people’s own homes. This is how EVERYONE can help. Many times 2-3 women do this together and it is really FUN. And most importantly, the beads are BEAUTIFUL—vibrant colors and different shapes.

This week and next, between April 9-23, Beadforlife is hosting The Opportunity Tour, with events in Washington D.C., Pittsburg, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Join Joan and Teddy, hear their stories, and buy beads. Get all the details at: www.BeadForLife.org

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Why Spontaneous Kindness Feels So Sexy

Screen Shot 2013-01-30 at 11.40.04 AMThe Dalai Lama says kindness is his religion. Wikipedia says that a random act of kindness is: “…a selfless act performed by a person or persons wishing to either assist or cheer up an individual… There will generally be no reason other than to make people smile or be happier.”

Being sexy means something is delicious, fun, delightful, it makes us feel good with a smile in our heart. Put that together with kindness, and we have the ultimate feel good action!

 We first heard the saying practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty, many years ago when we were at Findhorn, the renowned spiritual community in Scotland. But there can be some confusion about this: perhaps the receiver of the kindness might not appreciate it, it might make them apprehensive or distrustful in some way. Sadly, this seems to speak more about the suspicious world we live in than about the nature of kindness. If there is such wariness then what is needed are more acts of kindness done by more of us, not less.

Perhaps it is the use of the world random that is misleading, and that it would be easier if we used the word spontaneous instead. Spontaneity means we are acting on an impulse, in the moment, freely; we are moved to do something for someone without any thought of receiving something in return. Such behavior is surely the ground of a healthy and joyful society, where we happily give of ourselves to help another and such an act is happily received.

Be generous. Give to those you love; give to those who love you, give to the fortunate, give to the unfortunate — yes, give especially to those you don’t want to give to. You will receive abundance for your giving. The more you give, the more you will have! — W. Clement Stone

What stops us from acting this way? Invariably it is our own insecurities, lack of self-esteem and self-love, doubts and inadequacies. And the same qualities also stop us from being able to freely receive. If we feel unworthy then we believe we have nothing to give; if we don’t love ourselves then we don’t trust why someone would be kind to us. We fear that if someone gives without reason that they actually want something from us, or that they have an ulterior motive.

If we feel uncomfortable with generosity we can get stuck in uncertainty, fear or unworthiness. When we doubt ourselves we fall into an endless pit of self -denigration. When we appreciate the beauty of kindness it takes us out of such self-centeredness; it enables us to let go of self-centeredness and to freely reach out to each other. We can both give and receive. Such egoless moments are exquisite!

Giving spontaneously can have a remarkable affect on all those who come in contact with it. For instance, HuffPost blogger Arthur Rosenfield was in the drive-thru line at Starbucks. The man in line behind him was getting impatient and angry, leaning on his horn and shouting insults at both Arthur and the Starbucks workers. Beginning to get angry himself, Arthur chose to keep his cool and change the negativity into something positive. He paid for the man’s coffee and drove away. By the time he got home at the end of the day, he discovered he had started a chain of giving that had not only continued all that day but had been highlighted on NBC News and within twenty-four hours had spread around the world on the Internet.

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. Scott Adams

Can you imagine a world where no one gave to each other? Where we all just looked after our own needs but ignored everyone else’s? This would surely be a miserable place to live, for ultimately, whether spontaneous or planned, we cannot be happy without being kind, by giving and caring for each other.

Spontaneous kindness is essential to our wellbeing, it liberates us from self-obsession, selfishness, and isolation. True generosity is giving without expectation, with no need to be repaid in any form. This is the most powerful, unconditional, and unattached act of generosity, free to land wherever it will.

Being kind can be as simple as smiling. As Mahatma Gandhi said, Almost anything we do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that we do it.

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Get in the Flow

questionsbefore

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor and former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, has been working with a concept he calls “flow.” The process of flow occurs when your consciousness matches your goals, allowing psychic energy to flow smoothly. For 40 years, Csikszentmihalyi has been studying what makes people happy, and has found that happiness comes from being in the flow in your life.

You can listen to a talk he gave about this idea of flow here. In it, he says, “There are seven conditions that seem to be there when a person is in flow. There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity, you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other, you get immediate feedback. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though it’s difficult. And a sense of time disappears, you forget yourself, you feel part of something larger. Once those conditions are present, what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake.”

When you are in the flow, your actions are natural, fluid, and graceful. Everything just feels “right.” So, of course, it’s not possible when you are behaving in a way that makes you feel guilt, shame, anxiety, or fearfulness. You can’t be caught up in addiction and be in the flow. And you can’t be caught up in blame or denial or frustration or anger.

When you’re in the flow, in tune with your creative energies and your purpose, you feel it’s worth spending your life doing things for which you don’t expect either fame or fortune—as long as those things make your life meaningful. He writes in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, “It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were.”

Flow comes about when you are challenged by something in an exciting way, and you feel your skills are up to the task. So it’s not about just sitting back and being comfortable; it’s about pushing yourself a little bit. He says being in a state of arousal is actually good,

“Because you are over-challenged there. Your skills are not quite as high as they should be, but you can move into flow fairly easily by just developing a little more skill. So arousal is the area where most people learn from, because that’s where they’re pushed beyond their comfort zone and … develop higher skills.”

*****

Sherry Gaba LCSW, Psychotherapist, Life & Recovery Coach is featured Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the law of attraction to recover from any addiction. Connect with her and download free E books at http://www.sherrygaba.com/

Celebrating the sweetness of life instead of the bitterness of loss

Mom and Daisy last xmas

Last year, I knew it was going to be my last Christmas holiday with my mom. I just knew it and as such, I made a point to be there with her. She was still in ok spirits at this point. She wasn’t able to breathe well or swallow or speak at all, but she was glad to be with her family. I had started to detect a bitterness in her. See, for a long time, we were all just focused on making sure she and my baby girl met. It was a tight race.

In January of 2011, Mom was diagnosed with the advanced stages of ALS and given 6-12 months to live. She was then registered for hospice care.
In March, she suffered her first bout of pneumonia. On the same day that a very crass doctor told her this virus was likely going to kill her, I announced that I was pregnant.

This is when the race began: me growing ever larger with baby in belly, mom growing ever sicker with a terminal diagnosis at hand.
I went to visit her nearly everyday. I read to her. I took her homemade juices. I held her hand for hours at a time. Sometimes we just held hands and cried.

In November of 2011, my daughter was born. I’ll never forget bringing her home from the hospital to meet mom. It was at once sweet, victorious and heart breaking.

At first, mom was elated. We all were. My routine transitioned from going over everyday to read, to going over everyday just to bring the baby. The caretaker would hold the baby on mom’s lap. Daisy (my baby girl, named after my son’s nickname for my mom) and mom would just smile at each other endlessly. Within a short period of time though, I could feel mom’s frustrations.

My mom was an incredible grandmother. In some ways, her illness provided a framework for her skills. When I had my son, who is now ten, she was just beginning to lose her mobility from a brain surgery gone awry. We didn’t know then that she had ALS. Because her mobility was compromised, she was able to sit for hours on end and just play with my son. They would use their imaginations and play Power Rangers and cops and robbers and on and on it would go. It was a breathtaking sight to behold. She was so much help to me in those days. She would come visit me in Austin and help care for my son by entertaining him. I would then be able to do all of the deeds that had built up — laundry, organizing, bill paying, grocery shopping, all of those things.

When I had Daisy, it was different. Her friends would come over and visit. They would be able to hold Daisy but mom could not. I started to feel her resentment grow. Who could blame her?

In February of 2012, mom passed. Now, as I approach my first Christmas holiday without her, I am definitely missing her presence. And yet I know, she is far better off where she is than here suffering. It helps me to close my eyes, feel into her presence and pray. I pray a simple prayer: one of gratitude for lessons shared and love for moments lost, then back to gratitude for the love still in my life — my daughter, my son, my husband, my community. Life is indeed sweet. My mom would want me to cherish every moment. This much I know. This is how I cope.

Mom's grave

3 Steps to Shift Out of Love Addiction

One of the most powerful techniques available to changing yourself from the inside out is the use of visualization. In my book The Law of Sobriety, I talk about how visualization can be used to treat all types of addictions, including love addictions. Love addictions are usually the result of feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Changing this is the first step on the path to recovery.

To use visualization techniques successfully, you need to have a quiet, disruption free space and time. Once you are able to give your full emotional and mental attention to making changes in the way you see yourself you will find your relationships will also change for the better.

Step 1: Picture Yourself As A Positive Individual

Before you can be a successful part of a couple you have to be successful on your own. Create a mental picture of you, on your own, as a happy, independent and vibrant person. Feel yourself as this person, standing alone and not depending on someone else to complete the image.

Step 2: See The End Result You Want

When people visualize it is critical to only focus and dwell on the thoughts and images that bring you to your desired goal. It is often tempting to see obstacles or possibilities of failure but this is counterproductive. Focusing on negatives will only send out negative energy, creating the very situation you want to avoid. See yourself as successful and independent and that is what the universe will provide.

Step 3: Mental Work Before Change

Unless you see yourself as being successful all your efforts in the material world will be futile. This is why people with love addiction find it so hard to create meaningful change. You have to understand at a spiritual and emotional level that you are able to be complete without another person before you can make a relationship change.

Breaking the need to feel completed by someone else is not easy. A coach, counselor or therapist can help you with visualization techniques and exercises that will be necessary to make the changes you want.

Sherry Gaba LCSW, Psychotherapist, Life & Recovery Coach is featured Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the law of attraction to recover from any addiction. Please download your  free E books at  www.sherrygaba.com  Contact Sherry for webinars, teleseminars, coaching packages and speaking engagements. Listen to Sherry on “A Moment of Change with Sherry Gaba”on CBS Radio. Are you a Love Addict? Take Sherry’s quiz for a free eBook Filling the Empty Heart:  5 Keys to Transforming Love Addiction. Stop Attracting Damaged Relationships – Get the Love You Truly Deserve! Free Coaching Session http://www.sherrygaba.com/offers/group

Chelsea Roff: How I Went From 58 Pounds & Nearly Dead to Healthy, Happy, & Loving Life

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” — Maya Angelou 

Fifteen-year-olds aren’t supposed to have strokes. At least that’s what I thought. I try not to think about it too much. Even now, I only have bits and pieces; shards of memories that somehow remained intact even through the trauma my brain endured that day…

*****

When I arrived at Children’s Medical Center, I weighed just 58 pounds. After a five-year battle with Anorexia Nervosa, my body had reached its breaking point. Nearly every system in my body was shutting down. All four valves in my heart were leaking. My skin was yellow from liver failure. I hadn’t taken a shit in over a month. I was dying.

The first emotion I remember is rage. It was a violent, fire-in-your-veins, so angry-you-could-kill-someone kind of rage. I wanted out. I wanted the pain to be over. I wanted to die. I was mad at myself for not having the courage to just do it quickly, angry at the hospital staff for thwarting my masked attempt. I was convinced that I was “meant to” endure this, that my long drawn-out starving to death would prove my willpower to God. In the days prior to my stroke, I’d had vivid hallucinations – of Jesus on a wooden cross outside my bedroom window and a satanic figure sneaking up under my bedroom covers to suffocate me at night. I thought I was meant to be a martyr.

I thought God wanted me to die.

As the fury subsided, delirium set in. I became confused, defiant, and completely irrational. I told the other patients that my Mom would be there to pick me up and take me home any day now. I argued with the doctors that they couldn’t possibly keep me overnight, because we didn’t have insurance or money to pay. When a cardiologist told me she wasn’t sure if I’d live another week, I told her she was full of shit. I hid the food they were trying to make me eat in my underwear, in flowerpots, even in my cheeks like a chipmunk – convinced no one would notice. I didn’t want to get better. I was convinced nothing was wrong.

I remember having nurses turn me over in the middle of the night to tend to the bed sores on my behind, places where the skin was so thin that my tail bone was starting to protrude through the flesh. I remember waking up to discover I’d wet the bed nearly every morning for the first three months I was there. I was ashamed, disgusted. I’d lost control of the muscles in my bladder; I was like an infant all over again. I remember shooting a nurse the bird when she told me I couldn’t walk, only to fall to pieces on the floor when I angrily pushed the wheelchair away to give it a try.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, my arrival at the hospital had launched an investigation by Child Protective Services back at my home in Austin. The caseworkers deemed my mother an “unfit parent,” and my sister and I were placed under custodianship of the State. My care was left to the doctors and nurses at Children’s, while my sister was officially placed in foster care and sent to live with our godparents. My mother, herself an alcoholic and anorexic, had literally drank herself into oblivion.

I spent the next sixteen months of my life in that hospital. I completed my junior and senior years of high school through a distance education program, talked my way through hundreds of hours of individual and group therapy, and slowly, painfully worked to bring my body and mind back to life.

Over the next few months, as my body grew accustomed to having nourishment again, my temperament and personality began to change. I became quieter, more submissive, more trusting of the staff in charge of my care. One night, one of my nurses, Miss Connie, pulled me gingerly from my wheelchair and into her lap in a chair next to the window. Her curly blonde locks brushed my sunken cheekbones as we gazed out at the distant sunset together. “Just keep your eyes on that horizon, honey.” she said.

“You’re going to survive this.”

When Medicaid finally pulled the plug on funding for my treatment almost a year and a half later, I was unrecognizable from the day I’d walked in. I’d gained nearly forty pounds, and the feisty, fiercely independent spirit I’d been known for as a child was on her way back in (close to) full force. Although I was still significantly underweight and terrified to leave the security of the hospital, my medical team still managed to convince the caseworkers to grant me emancipation. At seventeen, I re-entered the “real world” as a legally recognized adult.

My doctor at Children’s helped me make arrangements to move into a garage apartment with a close family friend who lived close to the hospital. I also managed to get a job at a local Starbucks earning just above minimum wage. By the grace of who-knows-what, the psychologist who had been the one to squeeze my hand that first day at Children’s offered me nearly-free weekly therapy. I was lucky. I was blessed. I had enough resources to begin to put the fragments of my broken life back together.

*****

Several months after my discharge, I took my first yoga class. Looking back on it now, I still find it hard to believe that I managed to find my way into that studio, with that teacher, at that moment in my life.  I mean, really, what was I thinking – a recovering anorexic, barely able to feed herself – trying out a yoga class marketed to women wanting to lose weight?

I wish I could say I went to yoga because I had some inkling that it would offer me something deeper, because there was an inexplicable spiritual tug, because I was looking to reconnect with my body and begin the real process of healing. Quite the contrary. My motivations for trying yoga were almost entirely pathological. I was looking for a quick fix, a sneaky way to burn calories without arousing the suspicions of my treatment team. So it should be no surprise that I went straight to a “power yoga” class.

It seems almost laughable now, but my first teacher was this big, voluptuous black woman . . .  one fucking powerhouse of a human being. She emanated strength, beauty, and grace like no one I’d ever met before. On the evening of my first class, I timidly walked into the studio and heard this loud and bellowing voice sing out “Well, hello there!” from inside the practice room. Her feet thumped with confidence as she trotted toward me on the hardwood floor. I was completely mesmerized by the way she carried herself, how she softly but powerfully filled the space.

For years, I’d been starving myself in order to take up LESS space in the world. I’d been taught by my own mother that strength came from mastering the wild whims of the body, controlling your instinctual urges, from proving you were stronger than others through stubborn will. And here was Diana . . .  a woman who could hold all two-hundred pounds of her sweet self up in handstand with ease. A woman who inhabited her life-given figure with confidence, compassion, and fierce femininity.

Diana not only stood counter to the traditional image of yoga I’d seen plastered on fitness magazines, but looking back I realize that she was hilariously non-traditional in the way she led class…

 

 To read the rest of this essay, purchase the book HERE.

This article is an excerpt of my chapter in the newly published anthology, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, and Practice, edited by Carol Horton and Roseanne Harvey. In the remainder of the essay, I chronicle my personal journey, focusing on yoga’s central and at times challenging role in healing from an eating disorder. I invite you to read the rest my chapter, as well as the eleven other phenomenal essays in this book, which discuss contemporary North American yoga and its relationship to issues including recovery, body image, and spirituality. You can learn more about 21st Century Yoga by visiting the website, and purchase a copy either in print or Kindle edition.

Photo Credit: WebMD

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