The seductive pull of the plan

Last week I wrote about Tools for Recovery, here: http://susantelford.com/2017/01/07/tool-for-recovery-part-1-yoga/ and here: http://susantelford.com/2017/01/11/tools-for-recovery-part-2-juicing/

I tried to follow these plans to the letter and managed 10 days on juice and 17 days of daily yoga, until the inevitable resistance set in.

I missed day 18 of #yogarevolution. I woke feeling tired and sore, in addition to the daily yoga I have also been walking for half an hour a day. In my enthusiasm for improving my health I have forgotten I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and have overdone things.

This is the point at which I usually give up. My mind is awash with reasons: it is too hard, I am too unfit, I have blown it now so what is the point. It is the diet mentality, the all or nothing mentality that I have had my whole life.
I am realising I don’t know what my body needs a lot of the time.
How do you know if it is best to practice even when tired. Will the activity create energy in the body or is the unwillingness to practice a sign that the body needs rest?
I did not consume juice yesterday either. Is this just a rebellion against a too rigid plan or did my body actually need something else?
In my post Love after Love: http://susantelford.com/2016/09/16/love-after-love/ I wrote that “I no longer want to follow anyone else’s plan”, yet here I am, at the start of a New Year, doing just that.  I used to be really good at plans, especially diets, the more prescriptive the better.

Maybe that was because I was brought up to be good at things, to get As, to excel. I even became a teacher who encouraged kids to do the same. And yet, somehow, now, that ship has sailed. Even though I temporarily forgot and jumped into the seductive promises of the “plan”: LOSE WEIGHT FAST! INCREASE ENERGY! GET GLOWING SKIN!, my heart will not let me forget the quiet promise I made to myself, to explore a new way of being, an unforced, graceful way of living that listens to what my body and soul need every day, rather than what has been prescribed on the “plan”.

When I get still and turn my attention inward, when I ask myself “What do you want?”, the answer comes:

“I just want space to breathe, I just want to be”.

My mind objects to this and retorts “yes, but what do you want to eat?, how are you going to lose weight?” and my heart says “Stop bullying me.”

Shunrya Suzuki said

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few”

It takes humility to admit that at the age of 54 I have no intuitive sense of how to eat. I watch my husband and my son who eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.

It seems so obvious. Eat when you are hungry. That is the purpose of eating, isn’t it? To satisfy hunger. But hungry for what?

I want to examine why I eat. Often it is because I am bored, or the clock says it is time, or because the “plan” says it is time. Or I am premenstrual, tired, emotional, bored.  Or I am happy, in celebratory mood. Or because it is the weekend.

It seems I eat for every reason except to satisfy real bodily hunger.

When did I last feel actual hunger? The kind that makes your tummy rumble?

So, this is my first step in a life without plans.

Can I apply beginner’s mind to food and exercise? Can I tune into the signals my body is sending me? Can I let go of my need to control everything, to let go of the constant striving that led to burnout, that is still manifesting in ever more subtle ways?

There is a call here to discern the difference between pushing and striving and acceptance and allowing. There is something here about self-trust: doing what I say I am going to do.

I feel lost without my plan, scared that I will not get off the couch. This is simply my need to be in control.

So, just for this moment, I let go of the need to know all outcomes in advance and instead just breathe.

 

 

Tools for Recovery Part 2 – Juicing

As part of the investigations into the cause of the mini-strokes I had in December, it was discovered that my cholesterol level is high. This has been the case before, but at that time I was told that my ratio of HDL ( so called “good” cholesterol) to my total cholesterol was fine and so no treatment was necessary. Interestingly my level this time is only 0.1 higher but I have not been told the exact numbers yet. I will get these from my GP later this week.

The standard treatment to lower cholesterol levels is statins. I was prescribed these at the hospital and agreed to take them as they lessen the risk of stroke after a TIA.

Anyone who knows me, however, knows my reluctance to take prescription drugs. I prefer to do my own research and find out if there is a more natural way to address health issues that I can try first before I agree to medication.

This is particulary true when it comes to lowering my cholesterol level. The side effects associated with statins means I am reluctant to take them long term.

Statins can cause :

muscle pain

nausea and diarrhoea

liver and kidney damage

increased blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes

lower the body’s levels of coenzyme Q10.

Source: http://www.healthline.com/health/coq10-and-statins#CoQ101

The last of these causes me most concern, as someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a substance similar to a vitamin. It is found in every cell of the body. Your body makes CoQ10, and your cells use it to produce energy your body needs for cell growth and maintenance. It also functions as an antioxidant, which protects the body from damage caused by harmful molecules.

Source: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-failure/tc/coenzyme-q10-topic-overview#1

I am reluctant to take anything that will have a negative impact on my energy levels. This led me to research the best dietary advice for lowering cholesterol naturally.

I was astonished to find that it is not fat, but sugar that is the main cause of high cholesterol levels. (see http://drhyman.com/blog/2014/02/07/eggs-dont-cause-heart-attacks-sugar/)

Before Christmas I had signed up for Jason Vale’s Big January cleanup. I have found green juices over the years to be a quick way to lose weight and boost energy. When I came home from the hospital I wondered whether I would still be able to take part in this challenge (http://www.bigjanuarycleanup.com) which involves 14 days on freshly extracted vegetable and fruit juices from Jason’s book Super Juice Me!, followed by 7 days on food from his new book Super Fast Food.

I was encouraged to read in Super Juice Me! that a reduction in cholesterol was one of the results posted by those who had done the plan before.

So, I am giving it a go.

Here is the produce I bought for days 1-5 of the challenge!

 

 

Tools for Recovery Part 1 – Yoga

I have always enjoyed practising yoga and at one time used to attend several classes a week.

Now that my energy is limited, I find it preferable to practise at home and last year came across Yoga with Adriene on Youtube.

Adriene’s mantra is Find What Feels Good and her philosophy is to listen to your own body and practise in a way that honours how you feel today. She encourages us not to be “yoga robots” who try to copy the shapes we see on screen or in books. This has been very helpful to me both in terms of cultivating an awareness of how my body feels and what my energy level is on a given day. This helps me to feel that there is something I can do that will be beneficial to my body and cuts through my tendency to either push myself beyond what my body is able to do today or avoid my mat completely.

Every January, Adriene offers a free yoga programme on Youtube. This year it is called Revolution: 31 days of Yoga.

She writes on the programme website ( at http://revolution.yogawithadriene.com)

“What is REVOLUTION: 31 Days of Yoga?

31 Days of free yoga practice, an act of self love, a rigorous bootcamp and an act of personal storytelling all tied up in a feel good bow.

The goal: to be more present.

Further results: feel more smiley, enjoy body image, sit taller, walk lighter, move with more ease and have more energy for crushing it at life.”

and

“When we infuse the principles we explore on the mat off the yoga mat we pave the way for a life of balance and feeling lifted and good – regularly.”

As my recovery has its foundations in finding balance and increasing energy,  I decided to take part in this programme. My commitment to myself is to roll out my mat every day, play the video and listen to my body and do as much or as little of the practice as I have energy for each day.

So far I have done that every day.

On day 5 the theme was “Practise Rhythm”.

Adriene opened the class by encouraging us “to cultivate a sense of listening, so you can really be true to your own rhythm”.

My tendency has always been to decide in advance what I want to do, or what needs to be done and then push myself to complete the task at hand.

I had completely lost touch with my own natural rhythms as perhaps many of us have. We wake to the shrill tones of the alarm clock, eat because the clock says it is mealtime and work the hours that are determined by our workload or our employers. We have moved far away from the lifestyle of our ancestors who rose with the sun and went to bed when darkness fell.

So, a rich field of exploration for me this year will be reconnecting with my own rhythm. Cultivating an awareness of what my body needs without my mind deciding in advance what this will be.

I hope that developing this sensitivity will provide a strong foundation for lasting recovery.

[Edited : Read how it took me 117 days to complete this 31 day program and what I learned in the process] http://www.susantelford.com/2017/05/09/117-days-of-yoga-revolution/

Grace and the Beloved

Last Friday I was in the middle of preparations for a New Year birthday lunch and the compilation of a memory book for my daughter when I was interrupted by 2 mini strokes.[Edited: It turned out to be a hemiplegic migraine]. Instead of the plans I imagined I found myself in an ambulance with sirens blaring speeding to hospital.

This was the theme of last year for me too. I was supposed to be at school, teaching my classes, but my health interrupted all my plans. I met this initially with resistance and when it became obvious that I had to take ill-health retirement, with grief. Life is not the way I thought it would be. I am virtually housebound and have little energy. But I have learned so much through these so-called interruptions. I see how much of my experience came from my mind and this insistence on the way things and people ought to be. The one thing I did consistently was reject the way things actually are. This permeated every area of my life – my feelings, my relationships, my health, my body. I have developed curiosity about things now. Instead of saying “This should not be happening”, I am asking ” Why are you here? What lessons are you here to teach me?”. The most precious part for me though is the welcoming and acceptance of my own emotions. I allow myself to feel what I feel without labelling it wrong. All parts of me are welcome here, the healthy and the unhealthy, the scared, the alone, the joyful, the peaceful, the terrified, the bored, the grateful – all of it – because this IS my life. This is my one wild and precious life, as Mary Oliver says.

Watching everything I have worked for over the last 10 years slowly slip from my grasp has forced me to contemplate why I pushed myself so hard.

I think that my sense of self, my assessment of my own worthiness was tied up with achievement and success. Perhaps everything we do is, at its core, an attempt to feel that we are loved, that we have a place in this world. That what we do matters and is of value. For me, this translated into working hard and trying to make a difference.

But last Friday, in Accident and Emergency surrounded by my husband, my children and their partners, I realised that being beloved has nothing to do with achievement. In their worried faces, I saw love. I saw the family we have created together, that is expanding and will continue to expand as more grandchildren are born.

In the messages that were sent to me by friends, I was overwhelmed by the heartfelt expressions of love and support.

And I realised this is grace.

That somehow I had it all backwards. That to find yourself “beloved on the earth” is simply to accept the truth that we are loved because we exist. That it is nothing we earn or have to strive for.

The poet Hafiz writes:

“Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth, ‘You owe me.’ Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.”

 

Rhythms

It seems ironic that I have not done a blog post since September.

My intention was to allow my life to unfold in an unforced way as I made my way out of burnout.

My intention was to do at least one post a week and my next 2 posts were to be on the definitions of “rhythms” and “grace”.

My intention was to use the tools of yoga and writing to help me in my recovery.

The definition of “rhythm” above includes the words “strong regular repeated pattern of movement”.

That was my intention for my yoga practice, to show up every day on the mat and stretch myself out of exhaustion.

The Achiever-Perfectionist mentality wanted to work hard on her recovery! I wanted to earn it, to work for it, to deserve it even.

But letting go of that mentality is proving to be the single most important thing I can do for myself.

Rhythm is also defined as “the measured flow of words and phrases”.  I signed up for Jeff Goins’ Intentional Blogging course because my Achiever wanted to get really good at blogging! I wanted to build a platform, build an audience, maybe try to set up an online business to replace my income from my teaching career. So even though I intuitively knew that healing would come through letting go of all of that and allowing grace to find me, my old patterns, learned and practised over a lifetime kept kicking in. And so, although some yoga happened, and some journalling was done, I felt completely blocked when it came to writing blog posts. The reason for this is clear to see.

This morning I received an email from Jeff Goins inviting me to join his 500 words a day challenge. The idea is to write 500 words every day in January. Not to overthink or spend lots of time editing, just to write something and share it.

It feels like a gentle enough challenge and so I return to blogging today, without having to be any good at it, just showing up here every day and writing my 500 words about whatever I feel like writing about, or by writing something based on the prompt Jeff sends out every day.

I am not too sure now of my definition of “rhythm”. What I do know is that it can no longer be something that my mind imposes on my life. I can no longer have a plan for recovery or a plan for writing or a plan for anything.

John Lennon said “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans”.

The rhythms of life march on, with or without my consent.

There is so much to consider here : how do I live a life without plans? Who is it that wants to plan? Who am I without the Achiever? What is arising now? What is life trying to show me? What does letting go mean? What would living an unforced life look like?

Plenty to think and write about, but I’ll stop for now as my 500 words are done for today. The Achiever wants to edit and polish, but I’ll just press Publish.