Eat. Live. Love…Play

It is spring break and I have a lighter work load than usual,  and since I am always heart deep in The Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita and Hafiz…I decided to pick up a little light reading, “Love Your Body.”  I didn’t pay attention to the author, just that it was white with pink cursive writing and a cartoon drawing of a cute brunette on it.


I found the book when I was spring-cleaning my book-case. Something I do at least once per year. In fact, I saw this memory on my facebook feed the same day ,but from 5 years ago.

… “I spent all day sorting, cleaning, and organizing all of my yoga papers, recipes, and finding order in my home, just to come to the realization that I am not the kind of girl that follows any sort of order, rules, or recipes. Peace in chaos.

Here I was, at it again.  The same day, only 5 years later…I guess I will never learn.

Holding my breath.. as I give up some of my dearest attachments, my books, and with my 10 year old daughter, closely watching my every move. Seeing just one book on the table to be taken to the lending library at our yoga shala, she says, “only one?”  I tell her to look at the stack on the dining room table, and she shouts, “Good Job Mommy!! her words fly like wings of relief ..straight from her heart”

It is no secret to my children, the passion I have for books and learning.  Nothing turns me on like a good book, except for being a witness to other people’s spark igniting through learning.

But this is Spring Break, and we all need to shake it off, knock our boots, flip our thinking, not take ourselves so seriously, let go, and,for me today, it was picking up a book that I wouldn’t have since I was 16.

I am a weirdo. I started craving health and wellness, and self help books as a teenager. When it came to my interest in reading I feel like I went from the Boxcar Children to Fit for Life by Harvey Diamond, a book on food combining and fruitarianism. Shortly after that, I picked up Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar. Not “light” reading for a teenager from Wisconsin.

As I sat in the sauna, ready for a break… I opened the pages and sank into the warmth. It has been a particularly cold spring day. I realize that the book’s author is Joel Fuhrman’s daughter. Fuhrman has been a hero of mine for over a decade.  Not long into the introduction, I became anxious about what it must have been like to be raised by super health conscious parents. I wondered if it would have a backlash on her from the perfectionism in health and nutrition that her “nutrition-guru” father portrays. Having read Eat to Live over a decade ago is one of the reasons I am living my dharma and doing the work of a yoga therapist today.

I don’t get far into the book, before I put it down to contemplate my own upbringing around food and my body-mind health journey. I was the outcast in my household with a passionate desire to better myself and eat healthy as a part of enjoying and playing in my life, but ended up with an eating disorder, because I also wanted to please those around me that didn’t understand my desire for spirituality and health. At least that was my perception as a teen, and people pleaser, with a lack of self-worth.

I also thought about how grateful I am now for all of the communities built around wellness.

Being the black sheep of my family, and much of my life in social situations, has caused me great anxiety. I didn’t want to be different but I also didn’t want to sacrifice my core values, what was valuable to me. I wanted to celebrate too, but I felt a need to rebel against the typical american diet and the types of food and beverages we make a core of our celebration. I was measuring myself against everyone else and feeling guilty that I had different beliefs and ideas around food. As Krishnamurti once said,

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

I like to party, but I believe, an extra glass of wine is never worth missing a half of day for, and when I do ignore that value, in any way, from dancing all night at a favorite concert, or that extra big stout,  I will still sit in meditation, practice yoga, or go for a jog the next morning. Not out of the feeling of guilt or “I have too” but because I love life and these are the self-care practices, I feel as a way of giving back. This giving back allows me to have the vitality I do to carry out my purpose and all the love I have to give.

Life is too short to not have an adequate self care routine and prayer/meditation. On the days I do miss meditation, yoga, or a walk around the park, it’s OK. Balance. Sometimes I even stay up late and eat brownies and pizza! Shhh. I just don’t LIVE for these time, or beat myself up when I do. I enjoy it.

Enjoyment is often overlooked in our busy lives, while stress or addictions are the vehicles most of us are using to get through the day. Being in the center of chaos is much different than being tossed around by it, feeling a lack of control.

The leading causes of death in America are Cancer, Heart Disease, and Diabetes. These are all illnesses caused by chronic stress. And trust me I know the type A person chopping veggies, juicing, and making sure they run 5 miles a day is more prone to suffer a heart attack than the person cheerfully eating a big mac. This is where I was wondering if Talia would go in her book(I will let you know-i got distracted and needed to write this down;). The other main causes of disease are alcohol, smoking, and over-eating.

“One of my teachers says if we could find out why we eat m&ms when we feel like nobody loves us, we would solve the world’s obesity problem.”

Swami  Satchidananda said it best when he stated, “The only difference between illness and wellness, is the first letters”..

I and We.

The only thing I desire more than being healthy to enjoy this life I love, is to be loved and share it with the people I love.  Hafiz says, “Stay close to anything that makes you feel alive.” I take this into my relationship with food, people, and creativity.

Alcohol, Smoking, and Over-Eating, don’t really make us feel more alive. These things close us off from the innocence and unknown, keeping us in our patterns that are known. I call these the value split. We break the deal we made with ourselves because it was unobtainable so we feel guilty, make an even bigger deal that is even harder to obtain, rather than backing off and being a witness to what really is our value system. We block our ability to be authentic.

The unknown is where spontaneity and joy await us, but if we are too busy stuck in the daily cycle of guilt and negative behavior(any behavior that doesn’t align with OUR truth-do not confuse this with dogma created by others-even some yoga therapist preaching at you.) then we don’t have to be courageous to open the door to the unknown..the NOW.

Why do we have to have one or the other? Why are our community gatherings centered around things that bring us down, or make us fat and stupid. Why can’t we celebrate life by exploring nature together, eating healthy food, traveling, and playing.

This has been the fuel that has ignited my passion in the communities I am part of, the yoga school and non profit I founded, the yoga vacations, the juice company I have co-founded(Jai means to celebrate),  and why I will always support businesses that bring people together for good times around good food, expanding minds, learning about the environment, other cultures, and creating..together.

Together we link like prayer flags that lead us into the unknown, into healing.

For me it took the courage from a young girl wanting to open the door to a new way of looking at life, and wanting someone to open it with her. It took the light that showed me the way to finally end an eating disorder that kept closing me off from the world. And  books to excite me…. that still clog the corners of the cabinet making it impossible to close the door, but mostly it took relationship. Relationship to love, life, and people.

As I think of those that could still be stuck in the cycle that Talia Fuhrman describes in her book as

Negative Behavior–>Lack of Self Esteem—>Guilt—>Overeating—->Guilt—–>Back to Negative Behavior…(the one I know well from many years of eating disorders).

I ask one question.

Do you love life or someone in your life, enough to love your body?

It is the slow road, but it is a life worth living. A woman from our yoga studio just threw away her cane recently. It took her 4 years of coming to yoga 2-3 times per week. Her doctors want to know, “What have you been doing?” It is not that most of us are missing her drive, it is that most of us don’t have that level of concentration for that kind of stamina. We become board or distracted, or we try to do it alone or in virtual communities. This doesn’t work. We need each other.

No answer can exist in all or nothing, but a great tool we have in yoga, is the thing we fear most as Americans. Moderation. My addicted mind and ego hate this word.  I still fantasize about the daily 5 mile run, the 3 slices of pizza, extra glass of wine. Even 1 hour of meditation would surely be better than 30 minutes(this one I do believe!)  More is more! Because I am not enough. All or nothing. And I take this into my relationships as well. Americans are passionate! Except within this passion we are missing our life, we are not slowing down enough to truly taste the moment. We have a distorted belief that what we are passionate about comes from something outside of what we have and who we are.

What I thought would be a light read has brought me back to myself, self study that is yoga, happening all ways. Moderation also means consistency. Moderation brings us back to our innocence through balance and patience. As Americans we hear the word moderation, and we think abstinence.

Let us redefine moderation ….

instead of being a sugar addict..taste something sweet.

instead of being an alcoholic…smell the wine.

instead of being a sex addict…touch your lover.

Instead of eating a whole bag of m&ms because you feel lonely… Feel your Alone-ness.

Moderation wants us to feel and wants us to be..

Be authentic. Open yourself to the door of the unknown instead of the wheel of suffering between the split and guilt.

Be compassionate. Open yourself to the heart of others and see them as perfect and whole figuring it all out just as you are.

Be Spontaneous. Open yourself to the moment unfolding rather than the story. Enjoy all the love she is trying to give you.

Moderation doesn’t want us to close. The middle path is about staying open all ways so that we may.

Eat. Live. Love…Play..

“Stay close to anything(or anyone) that makes you feel alive.” –Hafiz.

If we stay close to that, we can thrive in the middle of our life, in the middle of our health catastrophe, and be the kind of people that put the wheee in wellness. We can find peace in chaos. The chaos of stress, the chaos of the unknown, the chaos that is spirt and life at play.