Saturday, January 11, 2020

Dedication Health Part II -- Journeying Ever Onward

[Aug 8, 2019]

The first gathering we had two months ago, we were asked the question of what brought us to the table, to the program. I don’t remember what I said, but I was aware I wasn’t very articulate about it. Later that night, I sat with a journal and wrote my intentions for the Dedication Health journey I was undertaking. Here's what arose for me...

1)  I seek food-freedom in my own mental life. Cravings, thinking about food, emotionally-driven eating (and drinking)… I desire freedom from the psychological dynamics surrounding food and drink in my life. Especially fear—of not having enough, lack, or of eating too much(shamed in this way in my early years, suffering hypoglycemic symptoms from high-fat/high-carb/high salt processed foods). I want to know what my body feelswhen I am at my most mindful and supported-healthy. What does it feel like to be mindful yet free, active as much as I desire?

2)  A secondary aim is to reconcile myself with my abdomen. May sound strange or even overdramatic, but most of my own self-loathing lives there. My mother’s body shape—which I inherited—is one I heard condemned and belittled, shamed and refused all my young and early adulthood years. My mother hates her own body. She has never truly embodied herself in a way I could observe except in critical judgment…so I have had to work overtime to simply enter in and the be in my own body with compassion and hope for my own shy beauty. If these ten weeks could move me toward acceptance of my abdomen, no matter how it looks, that would be fantastic.

3)  At the end of these ten weeks, I want to have practices and habits I can carry into my busy seasons of many work hours. I am glad for the summer’s spaciousness to try new recipes and tend my body’s needs with focus and time. Carrying what I learn into a busy autumn schedule? I want to learn with that in mind, shortcuts via preparations on weekends, etc. 

I was not overly interested in losing weight, which is a roller-coaster mountain I've learned simply to not climb.  I had not stepped on a scale for the last 2.5 years, including the doctor's office. "I don't do that anymore," I told the nurse who was startled. "It will take me four days to recover my sense of equanimity and quiet the voices screaming in my head from our culture that despises and objectifies my woman's body." The nurse never asked me again. :) But by the time this DH journey opened, I was willing to step on the scale and enter into the measurements bit. And they do tell a story of this journey for me, but not the most salient details of the story. They are fruits I had not desired, nor really seeded, but grew anyway.

Here, on this end of the journey, I’m smiling with those fruits  and a sense of movement in the intentions I named above. I have felt more food-free these last ten weeks than I can remember. [Well, except for the time I keep a kosher home for 4 weeks, learning about Jewish observance and the wisdom of that practice for my sabbatical-work.] You’d think that tracking our food and the refusal of processed food would be restrictive and isolating, right? Christians often think Jews are legalistic and obsessed with silly things like food-kashrut observance. Here’s another plug for body-teachings: try it for yourself with an open heart and a curiosity of spiritSoften your resistance inside and truly receive, allow…wisdom from other traditions than what you know. I would put big money on your learning, because humans have shown this for thousands of years: a communal structure gives a human being freedom to be connected to other things, deeper matters, things that connect him/her to his/her best self. Counter-intuitive and Christians especially often resist this wisdom lineage, relying on Christian-centric tropes from authorities invested in differentiating their own tradition. Try it. Stay in your own body and learn what your body has to say when it’s not silenced or numbed.

These ten weeks, I have felt such incredible food freedom. I don’t have cravings much at all, though of course some arise. Then I choose with more consciousness than I once had. But I don’t even really see the billboards of food or fast-food restaurants to seed the craving. I frequent those establishments less, if at all.  I don’t feel fear about whether my body will make it home for her next meal, shaky-hungry and riding the carbs roller-coaster. Startling to me, I don’t much desire the foods I am supposedly ‘giving up’ for this summer journey. The sensation of desire has changed, softened, opened up into an invitation not driven by fear or social pressure. Which opens up spaces for me to feel and be connected to other things I value…I feel freedom.

I am reconciling with my abdomen, bit by bit. Here the numbers of body-measurements have helped, though these were not what I was intending or aiming for in the end. Yes, I’m down 12 pounds in DH journey, 20 lbs since starting CrossFit, and I have lost 5% bodyfat. Those who know and love me mirror the difference they can see in my physical body. More important to me, those who know and love me mirror the light in my eyes they notice, more free than I’ve been. I can more easily see my body when I step out of the shower. Used to be I’d avert my eyes, a sense of shame arising. That lessens and lessens, the more of this kind of integrative inner work I do. So I’m reconciling with my abdomen, more and more. Do negative voices still arise here? Yes. [Interestingly, they arise more if I’ve had a glass of wine or a martini. Doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy those pleasures from time to time, but it’s interesting to me to notice aloud that they come with a possibility of negative self-talk and whiffs of self-loathing]. Do these voices have the last word? No. My body continues to lead me and I practice with a community becoming more and more conscious. Both are louder and more effective than my negative voices.

Finally, I have learned information I can trust because I can feel it and see it in my own body. Did I simply supplant reigning authorities with the authority of the CrossFit coach, Melissa? No, though we have a smiling and laughing refrain that Melissa is always right. (We laugh about it and enjoy it...AND I suspect that can get heavy from time to time! It does for me, always being right in my worlds... :):):) Though my husband would disagree, of course). Regardless, I appreciate deeply her tenacity and her wisdom. She has found her calling and her passion in life, bringing it to the world alongside her husband and her family. But I learned to trust this information about the sugar overwhelm and Type-2 Diabetes epidemic unfolding, the cholesterol myth and statins business-bottom-line, the difference processed food makes in a human body’s sense/reality of well-being because I learned it in my own body

The pictures here and the numbers tell a journey that can be quantified, yes--ten week ago, then four weeks into the journey, then this morning, at the conclusion (really) of the ten weeks (though actually nine weeks so far). It’s a nice happy-ending journey that pleases me at this time in my life. My body is happy and I feel better than I can ever remember feeling inside--energy, steadiness, freedom, curiosity--all after a fabulous weekend in Santa Fe and Albuquerque with my husband. I enjoyed homemade sangria, some of the best Carne Adovada I have ever tasted and more New Mexican fare in moderation. Yet the work for me was learning to love my body when I was 208 pounds and trapped in habits of self-loathing and shame. I did all that before I got to CrossFit, by learning to honor and listen to my own body and its innate wisdom, leading me slowly but surely out of life-denying habits into life-affirming ones. So if circumstances were to change and my body were to return to a heavier weight and a previous appearance, I would still and do love this journey of being human.

That said, CrossFit Dedication and Dedication Health have provided me precisely the ‘container’ and the community I was seeking at a time when my body was trying to teach me things my mind and my worldview, my family’s habits and information-gorge resistance, would never have given me. My husband’s body-journey is different and he need not join me in all these things to be present with me in our life together. Do I want the fruits of my journey for him, for his freedom and body-love and more? Of course I do. I love him. AND he has to learn from his own body, not me. I am not an authority or expert for anyone, nor should anyone be. 

Return to the body. Learn to listen curiously and openly for what nature is saying through your body…for a better you, a better day, a better world.

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