Tag Archives: Sarah Maria

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.

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.
 

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. 

How to Listen to Your Heart

Year of the HeartFor me, 2010 will be the year of the heart.

In the West, most people think of the mind as being the source of insight, wisdom, knowledge and guidance. People think that the mind is where they will find the answers to life’s most important questions; it is where they think they will discover how to live. And yet for most people the mind is the seat of ignorance, confusion, and difficulty.

In other traditions, and in my own experience, the heart is the true seat of wisdom and knowledge. The mind get confused; the heart loves. The mind questions; the heart knows. The mind worries; the heart relaxes.

Now don’t get me wrong – the mind can be a very useful tool. When kept in its proper role, it is an incredible asset. But it should remain a servant, not a master. 

As you learn to focus on your heart instead of on your mind, you will discover a whole new way of being in the world. You will be able to tap into wisdom, insight, and guidance that you never before imagined.

So consider this as a start for 2010: turn your attention to your heart; connect with the feeling of love, and share your love and gratitude. Are there people in your life who evoke a feeling of love? Did you experience blessings in 2009 that evoke a feeling of gratitude? Focus on these people or these blessings. Let them evoke the feelings of love and gratitude, and let these feelings pour out from you and gently guide your life.

Now one thing about this practice, and about following the path of the heart more generally: I am not promising that it might not be messy. Hearts can be broken. You can share your love and gratitude and have it rejected, and that hurts. You can give everything you have, offer all the love you can, and still feel hurt, betrayed, abandoned, unloved. There might be bumps, bruises, cuts, and scratches as you offer your tender heart.

But in my experience these pains and these hurts are never the end – they aren’t the final say. They don’t have the final word. The more you love, the more you give, the purer your heart becomes. Now this does not mean deplete yourself, abandon yourself, or deny yourself. Quite the contrary: it means love yourself completely; give yourself everything, and let this love become your life.

GratitudeAlways start by offering yourself love first. When you truly love yourself, you love others. For when you know how to love yourself, your heart becomes full. And your love begins to flower – it begins to bloom.  You can begin to offer it, without regard for whether it gets returned or not. Your love might be returned; it might be reflected back to you. It might be rejected and denied because of someone else’s closed heart. But it does not matter. None of that matters. Because the love lives you; the love gives you. Your life becomes an expression of love and is complete in-and-of itself.

And the more this love flowers from within, the more beautiful the world becomes. Unexpected blessings flow into your life; grace finds you and begins to penetrate your being.

So in 2010, let your love flower. Love is not another item on your to-do list. Simply let it flower. Let it grow within your heart and radiate outward. And from this place of fullness, offer love to yourself, offer love to others, offer love to the Divine. Let your entire life become an expression of love and gratitude, for this life is truly an exquisite gift to be both given and received.

Wishing you a year filled with peace, love, and beauty always.

 

Author Interview: Sarah Maria on Love Your Body, Love Your Life

Part I:  Excerpts from an interview with Sarah Maria on her newly released book Love Your Body, Love Your Life: 5 Steps to End Negative Body Obsession and Start Living Happily and Confidently.

Question:  I’ve heard many people say that disliking your body is just a normal part of being a woman [or a man in today’s culture]. What do you think about such a statement?

I am glad you asked this question because I address it specifically in Love Your Body, Love Your Life.  Yes, many people, probably most people, say that disliking your body is a normal part of being a woman.  If by “normal” they mean that the majority of women, 80-90%, dislike their bodies, then yes, it is “normal”.  The vast majority of women in this culture at this time do dislike their bodies.

But to think that this is normal as in natural, as in necessary, as in a normal function of being alive, is ridiculous. This belief is part of the problem.  Since it is so ubiquitous, many women have come to accept that it is just part of being a woman.  This is ludicrous!  It is settling for what happens to be the situation for many, instead of envisioning the possibilities that are available for all.  It is accepting mediocrity instead of creating grandeur.  It is maintaining the status quo instead of envisioning the truth.
 
Disliking your body is only normal in that most women experience it.  It is in no way natural, and in no way necessary. You have the ability in each and every moment to love your body and love your life. Negative Body Obsession is a modern cultural epidemic. It has not always existed, and it need not always exist. It is in no way a natural part of being alive and can therefore be completely eradicated from your psyche and experience.    

Question:  What led you to write Love Your Body, Love Your Life?

I decided to write this book because I experienced first-hand the intense pain, suffering, and agony that can accompany Negative Body Obsession, eating disorders, and low se lf-esteem. I also know that freedom from this hell is completely possible. I want this book to reach people who are struggling with any and all of the above.

I also wrote this book to help people think critically about concepts such as beauty, as well as the beliefs, thoughts, and ideas that so many people take for granted. Beauty is a socially-constructed phenomenon. Different body types, different looks, different sizes are considered beautiful at different times in history. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, curvy and voluptuous was considered stunning. In this culture in this century, thin and muscularly toned is considered sexy. When people recognize that there is no inherent truth in these concepts of beauty, that it is in fact a cultural preference that changes overtime, it helps to dissolve this illusion that how they look is somehow tied to their value and self-worth as an individual.

For many people struggling with a negative body image, they believe that how they look is somehow indicative of, or related to, their self-worth as individuals. Nothing could be further from the truth. When people realize that it is a cultural phenomenon, they can begin to free themselves from the whims and preferences of other people and the world around them, and instead discover and experience their own inherent and unique beauty.  

Question:  In Love Your Body, Love Your Life, you teach readers how to break free from Negative Body Obsession or NBO. What exactly is NBO?

Negative Body Obsession, or NBO, is the negative rumination about one’s physical appearance. It is the entire delusional thought-construct that causes people to believe that something is wrong with their bodies and themselves. It encompasses thoughts such as "I am too fat"; "I would be more attractive if I lost weight"; "I looked so much better when I was younger"; "I need to purchase anti-wrinkle cream – I look so old!"; "No woman will find me attractive without my hair"; "The cellulite on the back of my thighs is hideous".

These are just examples – only you know your particular negative body thoughts. Negative Body Obsession is essentially the condition of having negative thoughts and beliefs about your body and yourself.

It is important to know that NBO exists on a spectrum. You might have an occasional negative body thought that affects your mood and well-being, or you might live with a near-constant barrage of negative body thoughts on a daily basis. No matter whether your condition is mild or severe, complete freedom is possible. Many people think that it is a “normal” part of everyday life, and therefore it is considered acceptable on some level. In reality, there is nothing normal about it, and if it affects you, if even just a little bit, you are not living with all the freedom that is possible.

Question:  The media plays a role in fostering body dissatisfaction. In your book, you write “when you master the art of talking back, you can reclaim your control and become an influencer of the media, instead of being a victim influenced by the media.” What are the ways we can talk back?

There are many ways to talk back. In fact, you can probably think of many powerful ways to talk back to the media. I outline a specific exercise in Love Your Body, Love Your Life but the key theme underlying any talking back to the media, or any other “influencer of your thought life”, is by refusing to participate in the process of internalization.

The problem with the media occurs when you allow it to influence you, when you allow the messages to be internalized. The problem occurs when you look at a picture in a magazine, or on the television screen, and then take that image to have something to do with you, to be some reflection on you and your body. The fact is that the image has nothing to do with you at all. The problem occurs when you look at the picture and then look at yourself in the mirror and conclude that your life would be better if you looked like that image, or that you would be more attractive if you looked like that image, or that the person in the image is somehow better than you, whatever your particular story is. The fact of the matter is that the photo is in no way a commentary on you.

So the best thing to do with talking back is to tell the media, the magazine, the movie, whatever, that you are not going to allow it to influence you. Remind yourself that it has nothing to do with you, that it is in no way a reflection of you. Tell this to whatever you sense is influencing you. Tell the media that it has no power over you at all. You can choose what you allow to influence you.

Sarah Maria is the author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life. The book outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body and yourself. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, so that true and lasting healing can occur.  Click here to purchase your copy and begin to love your body today. To learn more about Sarah Maria and her work, you can visit her website at www.sarahmaria.com and www.breakfreebeauty.com.

What Makes a Gift is the Act of Giving and Receiving!

The holiday season is officially upon us.  The history of this special time of the year is one of gratitude and giving. ‘Tis the season to be Jolly, right? 

For many, the modern holiday season is often marked by stress and anxiety, strain and worry, apprehension and insecurity. Dreaming of the season rarely conjures up the overflowing peace, joy, and love that come from true thanks and true giving.

Here are a few common stressors that might be draining your joy this season:

  • Not enough money to buy the things you want for your friends and family. With the economy still reeling from the recent setback, are you concerned about not having enough cash this season?
  • Family dynamics that would cause even the most saintly to cringe – will Uncle Fred ever quit asking you why you are still single???
  • Concern about weight gain – how can you ever say “no” to Aunt Betty’s pumpkin pie?
  • Travel, snow storms, work deadlines – for many it is a busy and overwhelming time of year.

No matter the particular situation you find yourself in this season, you can effortlessly glide through the holidays with peace, joy, and love. There is just one secret to unwrap, one small shift in awareness that will transform your time from one of worry to one of peace, from one of constriction to one of freedom:

Realize that everything in your life is a gift. Recognize that every single experience that shows up in your life is a gift.

What makes a gift a gift is the act of giving, as well as the act of receiving. Gifts are freely given just as they can be effortlessly received. You can accept the gift, whatever it may be, beautiful or ugly, painful or pleasurable. Investigate it, admire it, cherish it, inquire into it, and when it has served its purpose you can let it go. Just as it freely came, it can freely go. And as you let one gift go, as you let it return from whence it came, another gift will come flowing into your life with astonishing speed. This is true gratitude – to experience everyone and everything as a gift to be cherished, loved, and ultimately let go.

Use this season as an opportunity to practice seeing and experiencing everything in your life as a gift. Are you wanting to experience joy and love? Give joy and love to everyone you meet. Are you longing to experience happiness?  Create happiness in the world around you. You will come to discover that giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. Freely give; freely receive.

Ask yourself – what in your life is a blessing? Literally, count your blessings and make a list. Say them out loud with family and friends. This activates gratitude and releases those feel good feelings in the body.  Then counter it with introspection on current life challenges. Write or talk about ways to improve these challenges and find the positive aspects.  Focusing on what you have learned from the challenge will help. Discover the opportunity inherent in any setback. Recognize both blessings and challenges as gifts. Both bring their own insight; their own magic.

As you discover the answers to these questions, you will experience the peace, the joy, and the love that is the hallmark of the holiday season, and, in fact, the potential of every day of your life.

Remember that everything you experience is calling you home – calling you home to the reality of your true nature, the reality of your perfection, your beauty, and your grace. When you see this, life will no longer be a struggle.

So this holiday season, if you notice yourself feeling stressed, worried, or anxious, take a few moments to close your eyes and breathe.  Become mindful of your blessings whatever form they may take. Say thank you and move forward giving others gifts of love, affection, and appreciation, for as you give, so shall you receive. 

Sarah Maria is the author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life. The book outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body and yourself. Her work embraces the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, so that true and lasting healing can occur. Click here  to purchase your copy and begin to love your body today. To learn more about Sarah Maria and her work, you can visit her website at www.sarahmaria.com and www.breakfreebeauty.com.

 

Book Review: “Love Your Body, Love Your Life” by Sarah Maria

I almost always take cover blurbs with a grain of salt, don’t you? But this endorsement from Ira M. Sacker, M.D. caused me to come to a full stop as I began to read Sarah Maria’s book Love Your Body, Love Your Life.
“Powerful, honest, and elegantly written. An amazing concept that goes beyond the idea of self-love and taps into the notion that one’s love equals one’s peace.”

Dr. Sacker is one of the world’s foremost authorities on eating disorders. Add that to his appealing words about peace and I was seriously hooked. Isn’t that the bottom line for just about everything? I think it is. What we can all agree upon—planet-wide—is that we all want to live in peace, and that no matter what seems to be standing in its way, it’s an aim worth the effort, whatever that effort may be. Furthermore, what I know for sure is that peace has to start at home—within each one of us.

Sarah Maria puts her fingers right on the pounding pulse of a truth in Western society. “Body hatred has become an epidemic of unfathomable proportions in this culture.” I believe that body hatred lies deep under a host of physical problems: infertility, cancer, diabetes, the lot. How can we possibly expect to be healthy if we reject our own primary residence?

With inerrant accuracy, Sarah Maria returns again and again to the simple, yet profound, truths that she’s learned. “The truth is that your sense of inadequacy is an illusion, or more a delusion. Yes, it’s true. Many Americans suffer from this grand delusion: If I am not thin/tall/toned/beautiful/ young enough, I can’t live my life fully or realize my dreams. Rather than truly loving our bodies, minds, and souls, we want to nip and tuck, slice and dice, starve and purge our way to being adequate. We think we need to change something about ourselves in order to be deserving of love, attention, and affection.”

Fearless, Ms. Maria calls it like it is. “This deluded sense of inadequacy has a name: Negative Body Obsession, or NBO. NBO is a condition marked by a near-constant critical rumination on one’s appearance.” Then she defines it more broadly, “NBO is any and every thought, feeling, and action that makes your sense of self-worth dependent on your physical appearance.”

I remember telling friends in my twenties that my body was perfect … from the knees down and from the breasts up. That left the entire core of me out of the equation. Hard to thrive without heart, tummy, womb and a whole host of other central operating systems, if you will. I’ve spent years working to recover a sense of the core within my own body. So has Sarah Maria. She knows whereof she writes, and that makes a huge difference to the quality of her book.

I thoroughly enjoyed the warning about change. “Let me address a potential point of confusion from the get-go. The problem with NBO is not that it makes you want to change, per se. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to get stronger; to become healthier; and to feel more radiant, beautiful, and alive. In fact, your desire for improvement can serve as an impetus for tremendous growth and development. NBO creeps in, however, when your desires for improvement are motivated by a gnawing sense of inadequacy, a subtle belief that you are not quite wonderful the way you are. When your desires come from this place of inadequacy, your attempts to fulfill them are often thwarted or require tremendous effort. When you learn to fully befriend, accept, and love yourself, on the other hand, improvement can happen with patience, ease, and grace.”

I cannot tell you the number of diets I went on in just the manner Ms. Maria describes. At core, the internal message was ‘there’s something very wrong with me.’ It took me till I was 25 to realize that I was letting a small metal box and three numbers tell me how to feel about myself every day. I threw my scale out my 11th story window in Manhattan—into an alley. Then I gave away every diet book I owned. In short, I embarked upon a journey of self-exploration, and I too discovered what Sarah Maria has. “At your essence you are beauty.” I was, but it took almost forever for me to figure it out.

She explains, “The root cause of NBO is not realizing that each and every one of us is intrinsically beautiful and inherently valuable exactly as we are, right now.” I began my own journey by noting how I could see beauty in others. Eventually, I noticed beauty residing in my own loo mirror as well.

Sarah Maria writes a delicious How-To in the rest of the book.

“1. NBO ties your self-worth to a specific outcome. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to detach from the results.

2. NBO causes you to reject or deny your inherent beauty, goodness, and strength.

3. NBO affects the quality of your intention because it comes from a place of desperation rather than a place of love.

4. NBO highlights your fears instead of your trust and self-love.

5. NBO makes it difficult to accept the present (and love yourself as you are right now).”

She brings to bear all of the self and its tool for curing NBO: body, heart, mind and spirit. NBO is a syndrome that affects every single part of a person. It requires all the tools possible to reverse it, but reversing it is not only possible, it’s necessary. “Clearly, you’ve got a war raging inside you. How do you end the war? Broker a peace agreement between the different parts of yourself—mind, body, and spirit.”

Which returns us to the delectable wisdom of Dr. Sacker: loving yourself brings you peace. When you are at peace, you can give peace to others, and wow, do we need it.

If you suffer from NBO a little or a lot, race to get a copy of Sarah Maria’s Love Your Body, Love Your Life. You will be so relieved you did.

For spiritual nourishment, visit Dr. Susan Corso’s website and blog, Seeds for Sanctuary. Follow her on Twitter @PeaceCorso and Friend her on Facebook. Decipher the divinity of your everyday language using God’s Dictionary.

6 Steps to Feel Sexy in Your Skin

When you look in the mirror, are you amazed by what you see?
 
Are you smitten with your sexy body?
 
Are you stunned by your own magnificence?
 
Or do you look in the mirror and lament the size of your thighs?
 
Grimace at the wrinkles appearing around your eyes?
 
Agonize over that roll of belly fat that refuses to retreat, despite endless crunches and trips to the gym?
 
If you are like the vast majority of women, and a growing number of men, you answer “yes” to the latter questions far too often.
 
Statistics confirm that many people have a critical and harsh relationship with their bodies. They suffer from Negative Body Obsession, a condition marked by the near-constant and critical rumination about one’s physical appearance.
 
Whether you are a woman going through menopause, an adolescent in the midst of puberty, or a man slowly losing his once thick head of hair, it seems that no one is immune from these negative body thoughts. 
 
Look at these startling numbers:  
  • Between 1997 and 2007, cosmetic surgery increased by 457 percent.
  • By 2015, 17 percent of U.S. residents will receive cosmetic surgery, totaling 55 million procedures – almost one procedure for every five Americans.
  • Approximately eight million Americans have an eating disorder.
  • One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia.
  • Two to three in 100 American women suffer from bulimia.
  • An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males.
  • Binge eating disorder is thought to affect 2-5% of the general population.
One study found that one in ten teenage girls either binge eats or purges at least once a week. Binge eating among boys was 3%.
 
Fortunately, you can choose not to be a number. You can learn to feel great in and about your body, and you can begin without changing a single thing. You don’t have to invest in expensive plastic surgery, spend countless hours in the gym, or engage in extreme dieting.
 
You can actually use the power of your mind to change how you feel about your body so that you finally delight in your physical form. And you can do it right now.
 
Here are 6 simple steps to help you feel sexy in your skin:
 
1. Become aware of what you are thinking. The first step is to become aware of the stories you are telling yourself about your body. Notice when you critique your body for being too much of this and not enough of that. You will discover that many of these thoughts are habitual, patterned responses that are not true reflections of reality. Explore the idea that you can start feeling beautiful immediately, in this moment, without changing a single thing.
 
2.  Set an intention to change how you look at your body.
Here are some examples:
 
When you grimace at your wrinkles in the mirror, set an intention to find beauty in your reflection.
 
When you want to suck in your stomach in a vain attempt to make it disappear, set an intention to appreciate the body that you have right now.
 
When you long to fit into a smaller clothing size, set an intention to unconditionally accept your body.
Make a conscious commitment to change the way you look at your body and yourself.
 
3.  Take time to connect within.
Are you waiting at the bus stop on your way to work? Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, allowing yourself to focus on the present moment.
 
 Are you in the shower, getting ready to start your day? Turn your attention to the feeling of warm water cascading against you, gently caressing your body, and allow yourself to relax.
 
Practicing this present-moment awareness will help refine your ability to identify and detach from the negative dialogue about your body.
 
4.  Your Body is Your Best Friend
Your human body is your truest ally. Collaborate with it to create optimum health.
 
Make healthy eating a priority.
 
Remember to exercise, and make it enjoyable. If the gym makes you cringe, opt instead for yoga, Pilates, dance, or good old walking.
 
In our harried and hurried world, take time to relax and rejuvenate. 
 
Offer your body gratitude and appreciation for it unwavering support and devotion.
 
5.  Create Meaningful Moments
Every day is filled with countless tasks and errands.  Remember that you can imbue each moment with meaning. It can be as simple as smiling at everyone you meet, reacting with compassion and love instead of anger, or making sure to tell your friends and loved ones how much you care about them.
 
6.  You were born beautiful. So that is it – 6 Simple Steps to start feeling beautiful, right now, in this moment. You don’t have to go anywhere or do anything. There is nothing you can do, say, or buy that will make you any more perfect than you are in this very moment. Know this, and you will revel in your true beauty.
 
Sarah Maria is the author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life. The book outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body and yourself.  Click here  to purchase your copy and begin to love your body today. To learn more about Sarah Maria and her work, you can visit her website at www.sarahmaria.com and www.breakfreebeauty.com
.  
Believing that you are unattractive is a learned habit. You can unlearn it and discover the Joy, Peace, and Love that are your natural sate and birthright.
 

 

Being Present

This week’s call for content on Intent.com is how to stay in the present moment. This is an important topic, and one that can create a great deal of unnecessary confusion. So let me begin by dispelling a myth or two.

You are always in the present moment. You cannot be anywhere other than the present moment. The present moment is all there ever is, so even the thought that you can somehow not be in the present moment is itself part of the problem. Let me explain:

What you are is presence. What you are is the presence that is always present, the timeless, boundless, changeless reality on which everything appears and disappears as in a dream. This presence has no beginning and no end. The concepts of space and time simply do not apply. Space and time are creations and projections of the mind, which is not you. 

Furthermore, there is no “you” to stay in the present moment. Who does the “you” refer to? Are you referring to the body? Or are you referring to the mind? As already explained above, you are neither the body, nor the mind, but the presence or space in which the mind and body occur. The body is always in the present moment. The mind only imagines that it is somehow not in the present moment. It imagines a past and it imagines a future, but all of this is happening in the present moment. The entire event or happening: the space or presence that you truly are, the body that is appearing and the mind that is imagining, all of this is always happening in the present moment. Always.

Okay – hopefully you now get the point that you are always and eternally in the now, whether you are aware of it or not.  

Now, if by staying in the present moment, you mean freeing yourself from the endless mental chatter that plagues you; if you want to live with greater peace, tranquility, and harmony, regardless of what happens in your life and circumstances, that is something that can be easily accomplished. Here are a few tips to help you navigate your life with ease and grace.

1. Observe – Become aware of what is happening

The greatest secret in mastering life is to become a keen observer; become a keen listener. The Buddha taught about mindfulness as the great tool to enlightenment. Consider this quote from Krishnamurti:

“In oneself lies the whole world, and if you know how to look and learn, the door is there and the key is in your hand.”

Simply become aware of what is happening in any given moment. Are you feeling frantic and compulsive? Notice it. Are you feeling overwhelmed and anxious? Gently observe it. Are you feeling excited and joyful? Just watch it. Whatever is happening, whether good, bad, or indifferent, practice observing it without judging it. And notice when you judge it too. Observe yourself labeling certain things as good and certain things as bad. Racing mind – bad. Quiet mind – good. Just notice the whole entire process.

2. Accept it – Surrender completely to the Now

The greatest secret to living at peace is to practice surrender in every moment. In each and every moment, life is exactly what it is. What is, is. The problem occurs when we don’t want what the present moment is presenting, and thus fight against it. We want something else; we want something different; we want more of this and less of that. Then we realize that we are wanting something different and that we should not be wanting something different. Instead, we should be accepting the present moment. And this creates more mental chatter. Just observe this entire process – the whole thing, and surrender. Let go. Accept it completely. Total acceptance and surrender is the key to total freedom.

3.Make it a Habit – Make it Constant

Make the above two steps a habit in your life. Most of us have a lifelong habit of not observing and not accepting. Many of us have a habit of fighting or resisting practically everything that shows up in our life. An encouraging and liberating fact of life, however, is that we can change our habits. We can learn and implement new behaviors, attitudes, and actions. Start to cultivate a habit of observing whatever is happening, and then surrender to that moment. You can intend to change the future, but you must always accept the present. Fighting against the present causes nothing other than additional mental turbulence. Your peace of mind is directly proportional to the amount you are able to surrender to what is.

Sarah Maria is the author of Love Your Body, Love Your Life. The book outlines her 5-step process for helping you feel great in and about your body and yourself.  Click here to purchase your copy and begin to love your body today. To learn more about Sarah Maria and her work, you can visit her website at www.sarahmaria.com and www.breakfreebeauty.com.  

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