My Yoga Journal – Letting go of my FOMO

Etsy cusion

fomo_definitionAt the beginning of the year I deactivated my personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts just to see what would happen. The universe tends to whisper things to me like “could you be feeling exposed, paranoid and anxious because of Facebook?” Or, “have you noticed how depressed you feel after spending hours on the computer – mostly on Facebook?”

It reminds me of the film “The Matrix”, when Morpheus gives Neo the choice of the red or blue pill: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill — the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill — you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

I chose the blue pill because, quite frankly, the rabbit-hole blows my tiny mind.

It’s not that I was on Facebook for hours, but as I run my business from home – which of course has a Facebook page (I’m happy to WORK in Wonderland, I just don’t want to LIVE there!) –  I would dip into my personal “feed” as a means of a mental break (having given up the fags last year – Facebook has to be healthier than that, right?). But the Facebook mini-break meant an hour at the computer became three.

If the kids were home while I was trying to “work” I would get snappy with them for “interrupting” me when I was trying to get a work project finished – when really it was me who was wasting my own precious time!  I think Annemaree calls that “projecting” (that which annoys me about me I find fault with in you).

So, I listened to the whispers of the universe and I dropped out. Like an addict having to throw the whiskey bottles in the bin I had to fully deactivate accounts, unsubscribe from lists and delete apps from all of my various devices – I had to go completely cold turkey.

Once I did this, the mutterings of the universe got louder and louder. I kept seeing articles about more and more people feeling the same way. I read once (probably on Pinterest – and I re-pinned it of course!) that “comparison is the thief of joy”. Facebook had become for me a yard stick against which to measure my life in comparison to others’. And it did steal my joy. It gave me feelings of anxiety, of inferiority, of missing out.

From a yogic perspective, one cannot possibly live “in the moment” when you are constantly thinking up your next status update or checking what else is happening; what else you could be doing; where else you could be. This friends, is FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out. There is no place for FOMO, or living fearfully, in a yogic life.

Oddly, in this desperation for connecting with one another, we are becoming so utterly disconnected from ourselves and one another. I absolutely cannot bear it when someone is checking their phone whilst I am having dinner with them. It is like meeting someone at a party who is looking over your shoulder to see if there is someone more interesting in the room. And please, keep it in your handbag and not on the table!

In the early days of “dropping out”, if I had a compulsion to share something (an outrageously witty, insightful, fleeting thought) I would send a text message to my husband, or my best girlfriend. Neither of whom are – nor have ever been – on Facebook! The irony is too delicious. So, two of the most important people in my life who know me better than anyone else and actually care what I think, have been excluded from an inner life I chose to share publicly with acquaintances.

Now, when I take a gorgeous photo of my children being funny, weird, angelic or outrageous – I email it to my husband. Their father. Probably the only person actually interested in seeing a photo of my kids. Previously, he missed out on this. By not being on Facebook, I am in more regular contact with my husband – just sharing nice things throughout the day. I am closer to him. I am not excluding him.

When my friends hear from me, via phone call, SMS or email, they can be assured that I have put real thought into who actually receives contact from me. This makes THEM feel special. More importantly the people who HAVE NOT heard from me don’t know! They can’t see who I am in contact with and can’t be hurt by assuming a non-existent, passive-aggressive snub.

I have to confess that Pinterest and Instagram have slipped back through the net. Although, in the absence of the true ego-fest that is Facebook I am questioning what the point is of Pinterest? Am I creating a persona for the world to see by pinning pictures of clothes I don’t own, interiors I don’t have, words I don’t live by and food I don’t cook onto boards so people I don’t know will think I’m terribly stylish and interesting?

I reinstated Instagram mainly to keep in touch with our extended families who are photo-mad Insta-fanatics. They all travel far and wide doing terribly interesting things so it is always lovely to see a photo of where they are and what they’re up to – and share our interesting exploits too. But, I think I need to cull the list of Instagrammers I am following – if I see one more damn photo of someone’s smoked salmon and poached eggs on sourdough I will bring up my own breakfast.

By “missing out” I have more time, better relationships, less anxiety and I receive a lot more phone calls from people who ACTUALLY want to talk to me!  So, let go of FOMO and embrace JOMO! The JOY of missing out.

Until next time we meet,

Om & Out

AQAxxx

This article has been contributed by Cool, Calm & Collected’s student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton

Image: http://www.etsy.com (Yes, you can buy FOMO cushions)

My Yoga Journal: Zen And The Art Of Christmas Holiday Navigation

And….BREATHE. Phew! That’s over for another year. It’s taken me a few years to work this out, having coped each subsequent year a little better than the previous, but I have learnt some things about myself over this last holiday period.

I need order.

I’m at the eleventh hour of the school holidays and its beginning to feel I imagine how a hostage situation might. My two captors have little or no regard for my health or well being nor the squalid conditions they prefer to keep me in with little or no contact with the outside world. Self preservation feels like Stockholm syndrome where I have taken quite a shine to my captors and insist on feeding, cleaning up after and entertaining them every day. Really, I just want someone to give them whatever it is they are asking for and get me THE HELL OUT OF HERE.

By order, I mean MY order.

Here’s how I like to roll on a “normal” day:

5:30 Get up and get into the shower
5:45 Put deodorant on, put hair up, brush teeth, moisturise face, get dressed – in that order
6:00 Turn the coffee machine on, fill the kettle, drink a glass of water, then meditate (for 5-10 minutes if I am driving to my friend’s house to walk; for 15 minutes if she is coming to me)
6:15 Put shoes on and go for a walk
7:15 have breakfast (always blueberries + sunflower, pumpkin & chia seeds + nuts + whole milk natural yoghurt + cinnamon + English Breakfast tea – white, no sugar), check my diary and write the day’s To Do list.

After this the kids get up and everything becomes a variable…but sort of goes:

7:45 Get the kids under the shower and dressed
8:00 Give the kids breakfast and make their lunches
8:15 Aim to calmly oversee the kids pack their school bags, make their beds and tidy their rooms – but inevitably end up shrieking half sentences like “GET OUT OF -”, “COULD YOU JUST -”, “WHERE IS YOUR -”, “HOW LONG DOES IT -”,”HOW MANY TIMES DO I -”.
8:30 Drop the kids to school on time, but always 5-8 minutes later than planned.
8:45 Exhale…

This ritualistic start to the day – especially up to the breakfast and To Do list part is the foundation upon which my mind, body and spirit flourishes or shrivels throughout the remainder of the day. Come holiday season with an additional parent in the house, operating on an entirely different agenda, or staying with other people – all of whom operate on a different platform – my mind, body and spirit quickly goes to hell in a hand basket.

Apart from immediate family chaos there is also extended family overload. Like a lab rat that just refuses to learn to avoid the cheese hooked up to the electric charge, every year I walk into family holidays expecting to be loved and appreciated for the fabulous person I am. That, after almost 15 years I can relax amongst friends, drink wine, blather on laugh, cajole, be me. WRONG! Spending the holidays with your in-laws is like being on holiday with Greg Evans and Dexter. I am not being unconditionally LOVED here, I am being constantly ASSESSED as to my compatibility scoring with My Husband – The Eldest Son and Cherished Big Brother. Sometimes I feel like (and have on occasion actually done) hiding in the bathroom and crying…then calling my Mum.

I used to go out with an engineer in my early 20s whose need for order and routine used to drive me loco. He had an innate need for order, routine and ritual. I completely understand this NOW but the problem on holidays, is that living according to someone else’s order feels like being in a perpetual state of trampoline “double bounce”. Trying to do the right thing at the right time, but never quite sure where to stand. Like dancing with a more experienced partner, I constantly step on toes.

I once discussed this need for order, my daily “clean slate” from which I could create my day, with Annemaree. I assumed it was aligned with my perfectionist control freak streak, so was chuffed when Annemaree told me that keeping an orderly space is “totally Yogic”. Like meditation stills the ripples in the mind, living in an ordered space provides a platform for creativity.

My challenge is striking that balance between my need for order, letting go of my attachment to it amidst the seemingly eternal holiday state of flux, and accommodating others’ need for either their own order or a preference for utter chaos.

I recognise that i absolutely require my own world order – now, if only I could stop feeling the need to apologise for it…

Until next time we meet,

Om & Out

AQAxxx

My Yoga Journal – Welcome to 2013

Welcome to 2013…

I am lying on the floor in the lounge room waiting for peace. Tom has taken Sam and Gus out for the afternoon, which is a good start, but the silence coupled with the choices I have have rendered me inert.

My brain is doing that thing that it does. It’s kind of flipping through thoughts and ideas like a Rolodex, landing momentarily on one and then “flaaaaart” flicking through to the next. Sometimes – mostly in times like this – I seriously wonder if I am quite mad.
On the whole, I’m quite happy – which is a great place to start from – but occasionally, the beginning of a new year can feel like standing at the foot of an insurmountable cliff face…which is better than looking from the other end, I guess.

2012 was quite a year. I didn’t write in my personal journal for the whole year – I picked it up and read it this morning. The journal dates back to January 2010. Whilst I cringed when I read it from the beginning, I discovered I only pick it up when I feel overwhelmingly crap or pleased with myself. Which suggests that 2012 was a year of either flattening out the highs and the lows, or merely that I managed them better.

In 2012, for the first time ever, I stuck at something week in, week out for the entire year. Apart from one week in each month where I had a commitment clash, I attended a yoga class, followed by a deep relaxation and meditation session every single Tuesday evening without fail. Looking back now, I truly believe that this is the cornerstone for how everything else panned out during the year.

I gave up smoking in March, and I admit falling into a “party fag” hole in the latter part of the year, I have definitely kicked the habit. I am now a shameless bot at a party so you can guess what’s on the “2013 To Do List”. It wasn’t hard, I was more than ready, and I just stopped. My husband stopped too, which helped.

In 2012 I gave up sugar – completely – for eight weeks, which was surprisingly easy to do and I have adopted the principle as a general rule of thumb on an ongoing basis. Once you learn something new, it’s hard to unlearn it, but I have definitely weakened in the dessert department over the party season. Which has added a page to the mental Rolodex / To Do List entitled “Shed Christmas Kilos”.

This is doubly annoying as I also lost 8kg in 2012 on the HCG Diet over a total period of 6 weeks. I’ve plonked about 2.5 back on through sheer mindless eating and drinking over the past three months’ as opposed to any shortcoming in the diet. I will be undertaking the exercise again – this time, perhaps more sagely, on the way OUT OF rather than IN TO the party season!

Another impressive feat has been the introduction of a morning walk each day with a good friend. Partnering up filled me with a strong sense of obligation, meaning I actually turned up every morning. Over the past months we have managed to double our distance, halve our walk-time and shed pesky kilos as well. My husband stood in for my friend one morning when she couldn’t make it – the conversation wasn’t nearly as good, but his intent was equally as pure. My friend has taken the bull by the horns and swapped a couple of our morning walks for a Spin class – or something equally as horrendous – a pleasure I will continue to merely wonder about, and admire from afar. Sometimes you can just take things too far.

While Annemaree traverses India, I am on a yoga hiatus, which tends to allow a small crack through which pointless thought streams, negative self-talk and catastrophic scenarios can creep. I have downloaded a “Mindfulness” app on my iPhone which allows me to do a simple morning meditation for a length of my choosing – it’s like Selleys No More Gaps for my mind.

So, in no particular order, my 2013 To Do List looks like this:


Meditate each day
Exercise more days than I don’t
Drink less days than I do
Have a weekly sit-down Saturday or Sunday family lunch
Increase Yoga to twice a week
Deep relaxation twice a week
No party smoking!
Live in the moment; don’t be a slave to old habits

I wish you a truly wondrous 2013, I am really looking forward to learning, trying, falling, succeeding and sharing in this space for another year if you’ll have me.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out,

AQAxxx

Losing My Way

I have been struggling recently to stay the course.  Overall, I have managed to keep myself Cool, Calm & Collected. Apart from a school holiday disruption I have maintained my yoga and meditation practise and managed to emotionally negotiate a sudden job change for my husband. I have picked up a couple of new clients myself and everything is swimming along nicely.  My children are fed, healthy and on time for all of their various appointments. Our family schedule is brimming, but we make time for quality time with our expanding extended family. We would like more time to spend with our friends – but everyone’s in the same boat.

The struggle I am having right now is with handling judgement and OPOs.  OPOs?  Other People’s Opinions. I have been on the receiving end of OPOs recently and I have not handled them well. The Yogi in me knows that opinions are like belly buttons – everyone has them. The Zen part of me understands that opinions are a reflection of the holder of the opinion rather than the recipient of it. My Buddha nature knows to smile, be tolerant and accepting of all opinions and recognise the Buddha nature in everyone else. But when I am facing OPOs “in the moment”, my Yogi, Zen and Buddha nature leave the building.

I take full responsibility for my role in losing my banana. Both of the recent, most painful occasions were over the dinner table after sharing much wine – but when Person A told me that staying home with the kids full time and not contributing financially to the household was copping out, well I nearly leapt over the table and pulled his throat out. In this moment I discovered that I, in fact, had not fully come to terms with my domestic situation and he had clearly hit a very raw nerve. Buddha was nowhere to be seen, but Ego was right on my shoulder screaming “ATTACK!” I was deeply humiliated and offended by the comment and deeply embarrassed and ashamed of the way in which I responded.

I talked it through with Annemaree Rowley when I returned from holidays. She reminded me that when we are angry with others it is always a reflection of what we do not like about ourselves. This is a phenomenon known as “projection”. After more talking I came to realize that it wasn’t the CONTENT of what he said, it was the JUDGEMENT. If I look back to all of the major conflicts and arguments I have been involved in – those ones that still make me wince when I recall them – it is when I have felt judged. Judged, or offered mostly unhelpful, unproductive OPOs about parenting, my children, my intelligence, my family, my financial status and on and on. When OPOs don’t match my version of reality, conflict arises. This is where it starts to get interesting.

This is the playground of the ego. This is where being right becomes more important than being happy (kudos to Dr. Phil for that one). In “biting back” to an uninvited, unhelpful OPO is in itself an expression of judgement thereby perpetuating the violence of judgement. This is the sort of stuff that the Dalai Lama has internalized completely so if he had been at the dinner table he would have giggled – which would have made me want to rip his throat out too. But I think you know what I’m getting at here.

It is mind-bending stuff really. My intolerance of intolerance is itself intolerant, so I am what I loathe. I told you.  Mind-bending. Whilst I may not always have the ability to take on this concept in a cool and calm manner, being aware of it means I can recognize it arising. This is mindfulness. So my second encounter with another unhelpful, uninvited OPO last week – whilst not handled perfectly, was recognized as it arose and handled…. better. Mindfully.

I came across a quote by Alain de Botton quote recently  which helped me identify the conflict:

“A snob is anybody who takes a small part of you and uses that to come to a complete vision of who you are.”

This defines the turmoil I have found myself in because not only is this what hurts me the most, it is the way in which I have both knowingly and unknowingly inflicted the most harm. I have raised snobbery to a high art form at times! I can be extremely judgmental – it’s an acquired skill as a marketer! You have to make broad assumptions about sweeping chunks of the population based on piecemeal evidence in order to generate profits. This concept, whether in the personal or professional realm, panders to our egos by creating a feeling of inclusion or exclusion. If you’re in you’re in, if you’re out you’re out – like those horrible days in the playground.

As if by magic, I was lying on the floor of Annemaree’s deep relaxation class and she read the following from a meditation she had written herself:

Judgment of yourself holds hands with unrelenting fear you know.

Judgment of others stops you from attending to yourself!

 Of course, when we succumb to this form of behaviour, we then project onto others.  We seek fault in others and criticize so that we don’t have to look at ourselves.  We fill in the gap in our hearts with judgment, often being so totally self-absorbed that we don’t understand just how detrimental unkindness can be to another.

 Often it comes in the form of ‘ribbing’ or ‘teasing’ with an insidious camouflage of mate ship or friendship.  Often it is recited in little quips across a dinner table which although delivered under the guise of humour often humiliates and undermines the receiver. 

 Or judgment may be delivered in the form of a compliment with a ‘but’ beginning the next sentence!

 We become critical of everyone and everything, never realising for one moment that everyone around us need kindness and compassion too.

Having felt that I have lost my Yogic way recently, that I disappoint other people, that I do not live up to their expectations, that I disappointed myself, I gave myself an hour this morning to sit down and eat some worms about it all. Then I gave myself permission to just drop it and move on.

So I return to my breath, I live in this moment and – without taking it all too seriously – I will TRY to be the best version of myself within each moment and speak only with kindness – and not rip the throats out of ignorant sods.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out

AQAxxx

This article has been contributed by Cool, Calm & Collected’s student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.

My Yoga Journal: The “C” Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A friend of ours at Cool, Calm & Collected teaches meditation to children. Part of her teaching asks children to name all the words they can think of, starting with “C”, that make them feel better when they are sad, or lonely, or feeling unloved or bad about themselves. So they reel off “C”hips, “C”hocolate, “C”olouring in…. which got me thinking – because we love the letter “C” at Cool, Calm and Collected – what are our adult equivalents?

Personally, my favourite “C”rutches to keep me hanging in there had always been “C”igarettes, “C”hardonnay and “C”redit “C”ards. Back then, whilst filling the gaping hole in my soul with these “C”orks, I felt like a “C”elebrity! But when the hangovers and bills arrived, it just felt “C”rap.

If you’ve been following this blog you will know that through yoga and meditation I have eliminated many of my “C”rutches, having sated my inner “C”rater with “C”alming thoughts and actions. Last time we met I had just given up sugar – which doesn’t start with “C” but makes up a lot of the filling things that do! – and, this time, I am in the middle of another fandangled “self as guinea pig” project. I am doing the HCG diet.

I know, I know!  I said I could never subscribe to a strict diet whilst catering for my family. Turns out, that was a “C”op out and I “C”an! Having lain down my “C”rutches and with growing self-“C”onfidence, I can now put myself at the top of my “To Do” list; and with a bit of planning, preparation and organization, I have been able to stick to my strict diet and still feed my family.

This exercise has thrown down a whole new set of challenges though, having forced me to face up to some of my biggest fears (one of which is starving to death).  I thought giving up sugar was going to be tough.  This diet eliminates EVERYTHING.  I was truly nervous about starting.  I mean, THERE IS NO BOOZE FOR THREE WEEKS PEOPLE!

In her book, “I Quit Sugar”, on page 18, Sarah Wilson warns that by around Week 4 “…other people will try to sabotage you.  Even get angry with you.  It’s funny.  Everyone I know who’s quit sugar has commented on the rough time they get from others. Their efforts are criticized as being misguided.” Look, I don’t know who Sarah hangs out with, but no-one really took issue with my decision to cut out cake and cookies – but walking into a room and telling my people I’m not drinking?  Welcome to Siberia, baby.

That’s what I feared, anyway.  I was actually really, really scared of not being able to have a drink.  How would I relax?  What would I be like?  What would I do?  How will my husband react?  How will my friends react?  Who will I be?  Yes, okay – some mild “C”atastrophising went on.  For someone who has come so far, this undertaking made me realize just how far I still have to go.  DOUBLY scary is that not only couldn’t I drink and living on 500 calories a day, I couldn’t replace it with anything either!  This is how jumping out of a plane without a parachute must feel.

So, last Monday, I jumped.

The first week took a bit of adjustment and I had a couple of “emotionally challenging” moments to test my resolve (my mother can still rattle my chakras); but I was able to ease my tension with a quick double-shot….of ESPRESSO and deep breathing.

I am not all alone in this thank goodness; I still have some “C”rutches, just positive ones.  Fortunately my diet program comes with a “C”oach.  Her name is “C”indy and she is “C”onstantly “C”heering me on from the sidelines which has prevented me from “C”hucking it in!

“C”indy and I had a tense moment early on. I had excitedly discovered that as well as being a tension breaker, a quick shot of espresso killed hunger pangs. “C”indy warned me, in her eternally upbeat manner “Be careful mate. Doc says no more than 2-3 coffees a day” to which I replied, “LISTEN TOOTS! I GOT NO “C”IGARETTES, I GOT NO “C”HARDONNAY, I GOT NO “C”HOCOLATE, “C”HIPS, “C”USTARD OR “C”ARBS – I BARELY GOT ANY “C”ALORIES AT ALL!  DON’T BE TAKIN’ MY “C”AFFEINE!”  At least I think that’s what I said.  It sounds a lot like a Blues number by Muddy Waters.

So here I am, 13 days into my 21 day program, completely alcohol free, six kilos lighter and 11cm smaller around the waist, feeling spectacular, and as ever, seeking the lesson in my learning. Here’s what I’ve found:

  • I can put myself first with no impact on my family; in fact, nurturing myself makes me more willing and able to nurture my family.
  • Life is calmer, gentler, more organised, more whole and happier – yes, it’s Cool, Calm & Collected.
  • My yoga practise has improved and feels infinitely better minus the muffin-top.
  • My skin is as smooth as a baby’s bum.
  • How much mindless eating I used to do!
  • I can live without drinking – I’m so distracted “C”ounting “C”alories I can’t even think about “C”hardonnay!
  • I am unshakably resilient without the undermining effects of alcohol.
  • I am present, aware, involved and engaged in each interaction and situation.
  • I like who I am with no “C”rutches, I can face up to, and cope with, anything without them.
  • Turns out, my “C”rutches were false all along – they actually made things worse in the end.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out.

AQA xxx

This article has been contributed by Cool, Calm & Collected’s student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.

My Yoga Journal: Out With the Old and In With the New

Six weeks ago I quit sugar.  I didn’t think it would be too difficult as I didn’t think I had much in my diet anyway.  How wrong I was.

Whilst not a sweet-tooth I have been staggered to learn just how much “incidental” sugar was in EVERYTHING I ATE.  I’ve learned how to read those pesky nutrition labels and what an eye-opener that has been. Forgetting the obvious – chocolate, sweets and sugary drinks – the sweet little white granule has infiltrated almost everything in my pantry.

The premise of giving up sugar is eliminating “fructose”; I won’t go into the science-y details of it all, there is plenty of excellent information out there. I have been following Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar programme’.  Apparently fructose is a nasty little sugar that our bodies cannot metabolise and it is stored directly as fat.  Not healthy “feed your vital organs” fat, but unhealthy “is that a Christmas ham or me in a bikini?” fat.

Now, fructose is in fruit, so initially I had to cut out all fruit too.  I know I know fruit is natural blah blah blah, but it contains high levels of fructose and while you wean yourself off the white poison, the fruit – temporarily – has to go too.

The general rule of thumb when reading your food label is that you cannot consume anything containing more than about 4g of “Sugars” (a subset of Carbohydrates on the nutrition panel) per 100gm/mL.  My pantry has been completely overhauled over the past six weeks, but here’s the idea from a random assortment I pulled from my current store:

  • BBQ Shapes                                       0.9g/100g
  • Weet-Bix                                             3.3g/100g
  • Peanut butter                                      7.8g/100g
  • Corn Flakes                                           9g/100g
  • Diced pears in fruit juice                   11.2g/100g
  • Vanilla yoghurt                                   12.8g/100g
  • Tomato sauce                                   20.8g/100g
  • Tiny Teddies                                      27.7g/100g
  • Yoghurt topped Muesli bar                31.5g/100g
  • Honey                                                82.1g/100g

The “Lite” or “Lo Fat” version of any of these have even more sugar added to replace the taste lost in removing the fat content.

The first two weeks were quite difficult for myriad reasons.  I was extremely unwell with flu so I didn’t really eat anything at all for one week, just inhaled cups of tea and penicillin. The following week I was recuperating, school holidays began and I was pre-menstrual – it was a perfect (s*#!) storm and I struggled. I had a close girlfriend staying with me for a week of this so – sure!  I stayed off the sugar; I simply replaced it with wine and cheese.  The fructose in wine is eliminated in the fermentation process to create alcohol…. Do not follow my logic on this one. Sarah Wilson will be slapping her forehead right about now.

You can see from the list that a logical temptation is to replace Tiny Teddies with BBQ Shapes – which I did for a week or so – which is fine – but only for a week or so.  More than six weeks on I find all white foods (bread, pasta etc) have become quite unpalatable.  White bread tastes to me like cake. Strange but true.

My reason for this undertaking was to lose weight and I may have lost a kilo or two.  Annemaree did it with me and hasn’t lost a cracker, although has lost almost two centimetres from her waist, bum, tum, arms and thighs.  Compared to me, Annemaree has the virtues of a saint, but chocolate has been her biggest bug bear.  This exercise has cost her a small fortune as she has replaced her afternoon tea and choccie fix with a walk….to the shops.

I’m not unhappy about not losing a lot of weight because I have learnt so much through this process. I will not be taking up sugar again anytime soon. I have realized that since jumping on the yoga, meditation, health and wellness bandwagon (Annemaree and I have banned the word “journey” because it makes us want to ralph)  that this too is an exercise in mindfulness.  It has made us both far more aware of what we are actually putting in our bodies and it is knowledge that can’t be unlearnt. But be warned – Annemaree will trample your granny if she comes within coo-ee of a Haigh’s Chocolate Peppermint Frog;  her mantra at our weekly check-ins with one another is “There is no way I am giving chocolate up in this lifetime”.  Meh, maybe in the next.

Despite not losing any weight, I feel absolutely fantastic. I cannot isolate it completely to giving up sugar because so much has changed, gradually and gently and with no real noticeable effort on my part. Since October of last year, like peeling the layers of an onion, I have removed:

  • Anti-anxiety pills and anti-depressants
  • Smoking
  • Drinking (at least four days out of seven, I’m no Mother Theresa here)
  • Sugar – from my diet and drastically reduced it in my children’s
  • Negative self-talk, fear and catastrophising (this only returns after drinking which is telling me something quite loudly and clearly, but I am not ready to listen…yet)
  • Saying sorry all the time and people-pleasing

Since giving up sugar I have noticed:

  • I am less bloated in the body and less puffy in the face
  • I have clearer skin and brighter eyes
  • I get up early easily in the morning and have more energy
  • I sleep better – one glass of wine and I experience nightmares and a broken, fitful sleep
  • My tolerance for alcohol has evaporated
  • I am more even-tempered, calm. Reducing it in my children’s diets has resulted in a much calmer household all around. Far fewer tears and temper tantrums – not just mine
  • How much sugar is crammed into children’s lunchbox foods! Seriously, take a look next time you’re in a supermarket
  • I feel in control of each day rather than at the mercy of it
  • I sailed through a full menstrual cycle (sorry boys) without a single brain-snap – not one ruffled feather
  • My (sorry everyone) pee has become clear and odourless – apparently a sign that my inner workings are less acidic

After all that I have taken out, I have also added in:

  • Yoga once a week (ideally I’d like to add another class and some home practise)
  • Meditation and deep relaxation once a week (hoping to build to daily practise)
  • A 45 minute walk each morning with a good friend – the sense of obligation means I don’t hit the snooze button and roll over
  • Whole foods have replaced processed foods
  • Cheese has replaced chocolate… I told you I was a work-in-progress.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out.

AQA xxx

Cartoon Source:  toothpastefordinner.com

My Yoga Journal: Downsizing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right, here goes.  I’m just going to say it.

I want to lose weight.

There.  I’ve said it.  It’s out there.  There is no going back.

Here’s the deal.  This is not so much an exercise in vanity (there’s a bit of that, I’m only human), but more to do with the fact that some of my “lovely lady lumps” are quite literally getting in the way of me improving my yoga practise.

This, however, is for vanity’s sake; I do not want the coroner’s report on my demise to read “Cause of death: UNPRECEDENTED – appears to have suffocated in own bosom while in Plough Pose” (refer to picture above).

I do not like “diets” and I don’t “do” deprivation or starvation.  I also have practical limitations in this endeavour in that I am head grocery buyer and chef in a house with three men. Three men who are immediately suspicious of any meal (apart from breakfast and even then only on weekdays ), that does not contain meat.

I like to cook, but not two separate meals at every mealtime.  I am not Oprah; I do not have a personal chef to indulge a fad-diet.  I don’t want tricky recipes or ingredients you can only order on-line from overseas.  This needs to be a “Woolworths supermarket-friendly” diet.  I don’t want my groceries arriving in bubble-wrap from Guatemala via airmail.

This cannot be an intensive Yogic “no meat, no wheat, no dairy, no eggs” thing.  I like to eat out occasionally.  I don’t want to be THAT person in the restaurant who trims down their à la carte dish to porcelain and cracked pepper (on the side).

I cannot join the “Raw Food Movement”.  Firstly because – BLEUCH; and secondly because I laugh out loud thinking what my husband would say if I suggested it.  I like the idea of “whole foods”.  I think I could manage “unprocessed”.

So, I’ve done a little bit of research and am going to give Sarah Wilson’s “I Quit Sugar” program a crack.  I am not a sweet tooth anyhow so I think it might work.  It ticks all of the boxes in terms of no deprivation – want chocolate after dinner?  Eat cheese!  It embraces whole foods – fat fills you up!  I can shop at Woolworths, eat out, and cook for my family without them even noticing.  My darling men, whose collective idea of heaven would be main-lining cordial through an IV drip, can inhale chocolate to their heart’s content uninterrupted.  My biggest challenge is going to be sticking to one glass of wine (pfffft) – but it doesn’t cut it out completely!  I’m in.

And YOU, my dear reader are here to keep me honest.

I have been reading over my past articles and marvelled at just how far I have come since my first post.  I have mentioned my body previously, and through yoga it has come to be my friend.  I am not obese by any stretch, nor even “overweight” – I may be pushing the upper limit of weight for height ratios – but whatever.

As I have stated before, this fabulous piece of machinery has delivered two beautiful boys and continues to surprise me in yoga classes at what it’s capable of.  Since beginning yoga I have off-loaded some serious mental baggage; I think I just may be in the right headspace to spruce up the exterior a smidge.  So, wish me luck and watch this space.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out.

AQA xxx

This article has been contributed by Cool, Calm & Collected’s student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.

Photo Source:  YogaDork.com

My Yoga Journal: Relationship Re-boot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is it just me, or does this happen to everyone?

You’re cruising along with life – practising yoga; living in the moment; letting stuff go; keeping calm; meditating not medicating; being grateful for what you have; not worrying about what you haven’t; dropping the kids to school / parties / swimming lessons; paying bills; preparing meals; working; doing the washing; taking the dog to the vet; doing the shopping; picking up the dry-cleaning; reading books; putting the bins out; baking biscuits; watching TV; making  play dough; doing kinder duty; attending committee meetings; sorting out sibling squabbles; trying to get the kids to eat more vegies and watch less TV; and catching up with friends and family – when suddenly – KERBLAMMO!

From way out of left field you realize that apart from “What time will you be home tonight?”; “Have a great day”; “How was your day?”; “Dinner’s ready” and / or “I’m off to bed” – you haven’t spoken to your partner for days or weeks …or even, months?

It just happened to me.  Unfortunately, this realization didn’t come as a gentle whisper; it slapped me in the back of the head and poked me in the eyeballs on the way down. It was painful stuff and without getting into the various ridiculous topics that peppered our weekend-long argument I’ll share with you the issue it all boiled down to.

Disconnection.

Three months ago, on his 40th birthday, my husband and I gave up smoking.  We have been going mind-bogglingly well. Not one craving, nor a single moment of weakness under normally tempting scenarios – I could be so bold as to say we have kicked the habit. When I first started yoga, Annemaree told me not to worry about the smoking – one day it would just go.  And poof!  It has just gone.  No stress, no fuss.

What we hadn’t realized is that we were also giving up what connected us.  We had smoked together our entire relationship.  After the kids came along, our favourite way to come together was to sit down at the table outside, have a few drinks, a few smokes, a cosy chat and a jolly good laugh.  It was us against the world, we had something so special and a bond no-one could put asunder.

Intellectually, we knew we had to give up smoking for the sake of our respective health and for the kids – but for now it was a little bit naughty, lots of fun and ours, ALL OURS [insert evil genius laugh here] – and then we gave it away.  And poof!  What connected us had just gone.  They don’t tell you that on the QUIT commercials.  Where is the “GIVING UP SMOKING WILL KILL YOUR RELATIONSHIP” warning on the packets?

We gradually became like Ralph E. Wolf and Sam Sheepdog from the Looney Tunes cartoons.  We clocked in and clocked out with one another and went about our respective days with little interaction and virtually no conversation at all.  Early in our quit campaign we avoided talking about “quitting” by watching TV to take our minds off, well, ANYTHING. This gradually became our new routine and we basically stopped communicating altogether.

Whilst this past weekend has been painful for both of us, this I can share with you.  Since practicing yoga and meditation on a regular basis I was able to argue much “cleaner”, to fight “the good fight”, to take a noble path – the high road.  Apart from a few (alcohol-induced) outlandish and dramatic accusations I never once lost sight of how deeply I love my husband.  I knew that we were both hurting.  I understood that no-one was at fault.  I felt deep sadness throughout the weekend and I allowed myself to feel it fully – all the while a deep inner voice assured me “feel this fully, it will pass.  Everything will be alright”.

In the depths of my sorrow, I was able to practise compassion and empathy towards my partner.  I sat with my feelings and was mindful not to speak without thinking – which led to lots of thinking and almost comical stretches of wordless silence.  I simply refused to let things escalate.  I was also gentle on myself in the hours of darkness (why oh why did it have to be a long weekend?).  Not once did I feel guilty or drag the cat-o-nine tails out and flagellate myself Da Vinci Code-style for what a dreadful wife / mother / human being I am. No tightness in the chest, not a single twinge of anxiety.

Rather than buy a packet of Benson & Hedges to get our relationship back on track and see all of our good work go up in smoke, we’re going to try a relationship re-boot. Like the I.T. help desk cure-all, we are simply going to stop what we are currently doing, switch off and switch back on again.  The television is the first thing we have agreed to switch off.  A good connection does not necessarily lead to meaningful connection.

It might take a little while to re-start again, but we will make sure to save our changes so we don’t lose everything.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out.

AQA xxx

This article has been contributed by Cool, Calm & Collected’s student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.

Photo source: Wikipedia: Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf in the Looney Tunes short ”A Sheep in the Deep”. The short ”A Sheep in the Deep” is copyright 1961 Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

My Yoga Journal: Enlightenment might be nice – staying sane will suffice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My name is Anita Atherton [Hello Anita]. I have been doing yoga and meditation for about six months now [Oprah applause].  I just wanted to say that I wake up every day feeling happy and positive [Insert Oprah “Everyone in the Studio Audience is Getting a CAR!” applause].

But seriously, I am in a much better space than I was six months ago. I had no idea how bad it was until seeing how good it can be; but this is something I have to do on my own. I can tell people how great it is and what a change it makes – but most people don’t want to know.

At first I was terribly hurt and offended, but each day my wisdom, empathy and compassion grow and I appreciate that for me too, it wasn’t until I was ready to seriously make some changes, that I was ready to receive any help.

I remember a university teacher of mine telling me years ago to “take the Mickey out of yourself before anyone else can”. This was with respect to conducting a sales presentation, but it resonated with me for a long time. It became my “shtick” to overcome extreme shyness.

Growing up, I was shy and self-conscious – I am very tall, my ears stick out and I used to turn the colour of beetroot if anyone looked at me sideways; I felt silly.  In high school – I felt like that  pretty much all of the time. However, I was studious and conscientious and it paid off in terms of results.

I went straight into University after leaving school which is right about where the wheels fell off. The main thing I remember in the first year was hearing that Marketing graduates could earn up to $32k in their first year of employment.  I was 18, I had my driver’s license and my first car, and this was my ticket to financial emancipation!  So the subject matter was excruciatingly tedious and mind-numbingly boring (for me), THIRTY TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS?  Where do I sign?!

Truth is, the subjects WERE incredibly dry – economics, statistics, accounting – I hated them all in their own special way.  My work ethic went straight out the window, I failed subject after subject time and time again – but I made some firm friendships at the pub on campus!

Outside of school, I didn’t know that life could be enjoyed and not endured.  No-one said to me that maybe I was failing at these subjects and partying too hard because I was doing the wrong course. Rather I came to believe that I was failing this fine course because I was partying too hard and not working hard enough.  So, believing that I was not very intelligent or hard-working after all, I heeded the “Take the Mickey” sales advice and adopted a new persona to see me through the course and my subsequent career.

And everyone bought what I was selling.  My self-deprecating humour was framed as “ability to laugh at oneself” – really a shield to protect enormous self-doubt and insecurity.  Outwardly I was calm, confident, successful, funny, popular and easy-going.  But that wasn’t really me.

The “real me” was the voice in my head telling me what a fraud I was.  Every single day she reminded me that I don’t work hard enough, that I’m not intelligent enough, that I don’t really know what I’m doing.  She told me I drank too much, smoked too much, that I am pathetic, that I am fat, ugly and lazy. She told me that my friends didn’t really like me because they didn’t know the real me.  She told me my husband would leave me if he knew what I flake I really was. She told me I was a bad mother and my kids would probably end up alcoholics as well. She told me I was too weak to do anything about it, she told me it was too late to change.

She was a real bitch, actually. If she were an external friend I would have un-friended her on Facebook a long time ago!  Instead, I put her in charge and believed every word she said.

Living with this inner turmoil was a living hell. I suffered with chronic anxiety.  Medication and alcohol provided such sweet, sweet relief from that yakkety-yak that I turned to it more frequently and in larger quantities.

If my husband asked me to do even the smallest thing I could snap. That cow upstairs had such a long to-do list lined up for me, whilst telling me I was fat, ugly and lazy – and reminding me of every unkind thing anyone had ever said or done to me and devising knock-out blows for a revenge strike upon those unsuspecting persons… well!  If HE thought I had time to fit in what HE wanted…it got ugly.

Weirdly though, for a long time the pain was of great comfort.  A case of better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, I guess.

The pot of gold at the end of this bleak “rainbow” is that I took a small step in a different direction towards yoga and dabbled in meditation.  Look, I can’t explain how or why it has happened for me, but that bitch upstairs has now left the building.

It is my aim here to be a yoga enthusiast, not a bore. Whilst here I feel comfortable sharing my experience, I have learnt to keep it to myself as well.  I have found along the way that many people – often those closest to me – actually do not want to hear that I am happy and have actually lashed out in the unkindest of ways. While I’m looking up not down and smiling not frowning and all that – many people seem quite keen to throw me and my skipping rope under a lorry.

The cow who used to live upstairs would have told me that they were right. Who the hell did I think I was anyway?  Did I think I was better than them?  Why did I deserve to be happy?  Why me anymore than the next person?

But I don’t care what she thinks.

I am not addicted to smoking, medicating, spending, drinking or people-pleasing anymore.  I don’t desperately need people to like me. I like myself very much and I can say no. I don’t get on the scales anymore – this fabulous body delivered my two gorgeous children AND it can now do a pretty decent shoulder-stand.  *I don’t suck my tummy in anymore because according to yogic principles a soft belly equates to a warm heart– and besides, tight abs hinder digestion. Hello! Is there a downside to this ancient practise?!

I know how to live fully within each moment – or drag myself back there if my thoughts carry me away. If the old tart that used to live upstairs pops in, I give her my best Buddha smile and offer her a cup of tea – but she never stays.

Until next time we meet,

Om & out.

AQA xxx

* Stephen Levine, an American meditation teacher who has written extensively on healing counsels that the state of your belly reflects the state of your heart.  By consciously softening your belly again and again, you can let go and open to the tender feelings in your heart.

 

My Yoga Journal: Catastrophising – (Just eat the cheese!)

The first time I heard this term I was sitting in my GP’s office having my anti-anxiety medication script re-filled. Cool as a cucumber, she looked at me and said “Anita, have you been catastrophising again?”  It’s a great word – applicable to myriad scenarios.

I decided to write about “catastrophising” a week or so ago and since then it has manifested itself in many conversations.

Let me start with a definition:

“When a person experiences an unhelpful emotion (e.g. depression and anxiety), it is usually preceded by a number of unhelpful self-statements and thoughts. Often there is a pattern to such thoughts and we call these “unhelpful thinking styles”.  One of the things we have noticed is that people use unhelpful thinking styles as an automatic habit.  It is something that happens outside of our awareness.  However, when a person consistently and constantly uses some of these styles of thinking, they can often cause themselves a great deal of emotional distress.”[1]

Some of the great catastrophisers of our time include Chicken “The Sky is Falling” Little and the child in Kindergarten Cop who suggests Arnold Schwarzenegger’s headache is most likely a brain tumor.  This may seem amusing, but this poor kid probably had a mother like me – I’ll explain later.

It’s a funny old world we live in, which facilitates, encourages and endorses a catastrophic way of thinking.  Just watch the news.  My 3yo once asked me why I watch the news; my 6yo answered – “it’s because you need to find out all the bad things that have happened in the world”.  My 6yo is a Master Catastrophiser (hence his nickname:  “Worst-Case-Scenario-Mario” or “The Master of Disaster”), but I think he is bang-on in this observation.

For a watered down (but doubly toxic) version of “monsters under the bed” reporting, catch a glimpse of  “A Current Affair” or “Today Tonight”! Helping you keep one step ahead of all of those trades-people and supermarkets that make it their life’s work to rip you off. Oh, puh-lease.

My husband comes home from work exhausted and beaten; dying a death of a thousand cuts – paper-cuts that is!  The industry in which he works is living proof of The Chaos Theorem. Instead of a butterfly flapping its wings in Santiago – if a man falls off a ladder in Broadmeadows, the rest of the building industry drowns in red tape and paperwork now – and ad infinitum.

When – exactly – did we stop taking responsibility for our own actions?

If I trip over raised concrete in the street – making me look and feel like a bit of a dill – should the council / the layer of the concrete / the tree’s roots that lifted the concrete / the planter of the tree / the creator of all things pay [me] for that?

Whilst catastrophising ensures I feel that EVERYTHING is my responsibility, I live in a litigious society which promotes the fact that it’s all someone else’s fault!

I choose to laugh at myself tripping over the tree root, bung a Band-Aid on my face and learn to watch where I’m walking. Accidents happen. Move on – more carefully. You can take this on good authority as a woman with a ripping scar and nine screws permanently in her left hand after a martini-induced dance-floor mishap. With friends…at home.

I previously worked in a sales role in which I lived and died by the monthly numbers.

Here, the world ended (for some people, quite literally) on the last day of the month. It began again on Day 1 of the following. It was constantly and oppressively stressful. It was an environment in which it was very hard to achieve just the sales targets, let alone navigate the vicious office politics.

A previous boss of mine, whom I hold in very high regard as a coach and mentor and who remains a good friend, offered me advice once on how to survive the environment. He told me to always prepare for – and expect – the worst, so whatever happens will always be better than what you imagined.

This person also unconsciously chews the hair off his arms under stress, suffered a minor stroke and has on-going heart concerns – so whilst I appreciate the sentiment, hindsight suggests I take these pearls of wisdom with a couple of handfuls of salt. He, on the other hand, should probably lay off it.

We are both out of that game now. Relaxed, happy and successful – able to enjoy a laugh about “those days” together with our families – over a few “too many” vinos!

Catastrophising is not purely a corporate phenomenon.  In fact, it was not until I became a mother that I truly unearthed my innate talent to catastrophise.

Becoming a mother raises the stakes immediately.  It begins in pregnancy.

The books. Oh! The books. I stopped reading the books.

I was convinced early in the gestational period that eating a single piece of soft cheese was going to result in my having a child with severe disabilities; one who would surely require round-the-clock specialist care; most probably within an institution – with a team of Swedish neurological experts (who would “tsk-tsk” (in Swedish) in my general direction, whispering to one another “this would never have happened if she hadn’t eaten the cheese”).

From this point, having children – I have heard described beautifully – is “like having your heart walking around outside your body”.

From a place of intense love and a primal instinct to protect, also comes a tsunami of catastrophising thoughts. You think your headache is an undiagnosed brain tumor (refer Arnie, earlier). You hear a cough from your child’s bedroom in the middle of the night and curse your GP for not picking up the resurgence of Bubonic Plague.

Why am I saying all this?

I think the more we pretend that everything is okay the more we damage one another.

Chicken Little may have been deemed a crackpot after the acorn incident, but at least the chick voiced its fears aloud!

By talking about our fears and anxieties THEY – not us – will break down. Sometimes giving your voice to the crazies – the monkeys – in your head can make them seem small and silly. Meditation gives me a small moment to look at them, sit with them, smile at them and put them aside.

Leaving them left un-checked inside can wreak havoc on you mentally, spiritually and physically. Believe me, I know.

Until we meet again,

Om & Out.

AQAxxx

This article has been contributed by Cool, Calm & Collected’s student, writer & eternal work-in-progress, Anita Quigley Atherton.

[1] http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au

[2] Walt Disney image – ‘Chicken Little’