Sitting in your Bullshit

I remember when I was in 9th grade I did a project on “The Little Prince” and I remember saying something about not knowing if I had a child’s mind or an adult’s mind. Being, what, 14, it’s hard to tell. I remember secretly bragging about how smart I was to consider it. And of course, the teacher loved my questioning, but I was truly still curious. I remember wondering.

I remember Zen being challenging and I liked that. Under the protection of beginners mind, whatever the hell that is, I liked the challenge. But, I wanted to call my own bullshit. It’s a valiant effort; worth bragging and being proud of. I remember, on my journey here to San Francisco, asking what am I lying to myself about, what am I purposely hiding from? It was valiant and courageous; sexy. I was proud to be so intelligent and self aware. I remember asking myself if I took a teacher, and I told him/her that, would they send me away. Part of me (a large part) was thinking yes. But I didn’t like that answer. My approach seemed genuine enough and God knows it is the truth. What more could they want of me? Why are these perceived Zen teachers in my head always so mean? Why did this feel a little like bragging though? Why is it not ok to think I’m smart?

I have been going to a Zen group and there is a teacher talking there. And it’s been good the first couple times, something I can only imagine what Church feels like. I sat, I listened, I learned, I shared. But then I went to one, and I didn’t learn. I didn’t understand. I judged the teacher, I judged my practice, I judged the concept. I tried to learn, and I just felt isolated. It was on identity, and it was Halloween, and we had to share our identity, and I didn’t share anything I didn’t want to be. We “let go” of our identity. But I couldn’t figure it out. I had plenty I wanted to let go of, but I guess I just didn’t know what I could be if I wasn’t what I was.

Isolating yourself in a new city and changing almost everything in your life is horrible. It seems valiant on paper but it’s not. I’m glad I’m doing it; don’t get me wrong, but it fucking sucks. I am alone a lot. And there is a lot of the same shit, different toilet. You can’t blame situations or people or places anymore. You are always the common denominator. Fuck. I’ve had a lot of breakdowns. They don’t feel as bad as they used to though. They feel almost necessary; par t of it…and so much less valiant, much less sexy. I cried because I couldn’t find a parking spot and was too embarrassed to walk into the Sangha during meditation. Full on breakdown, crying alone on the streets on San Francisco, on a curb I had to walk two blocks to find.

Another night, I can’t remember why now, but I just cried in the car. So I pulled over and stopped trying to fix it. I was doing all the things the Zen guy told me to do, and I’m not supposed to fix it. I just have to sit with it. This wasn’t sexy at all. It hurt. I didn’t want to feel it, I wanted to fix it. I wanted to run away from it. This was my bullshit, what I’m supposed to be calling myself out on. God damn, can I change my mind? This is horrible. What did I sign up for? Well, running away never helped so I tried it. I sat down. I cued myself, “shame, pain, nauseous, heat, throat is tight…”

So that’s where I am, I am having fun and learning a lot, but, I’m mostly crying and feeling my way through San Francisco. That’s kinda what I’m up to. It’s pretty horrible but also really, really all there is. Maybe try it sometime.

Your Manifesto and Mine

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I so strongly disliked this I felt compelled to make my own version.

Bite your nails, or don’t, it’s not that fucking serious. If you are sick stay in and sleep. You deserve it! Don’t get other people sick. Stand up straight when you want, and slouch when you want. Notice how you feel when you do both. Don’t carry a purse unless you want to, in which case, do whatever the fuck you want with it. You need as much sleep as your body asks for. Sleep when you’re tired and get up when you have energy. Wear your hair however the fuck makes you happy. Stay away from manifestos that make you feel shitty about yourself. It’s normal to be jealous, meet your jealousy with curiosity and self reflection. Fuck being ladylike, be whatever the fuck you wanna be. Embody gratitude, the universe will respond positively. Eat food you enjoy eating and share them with people you enjoy feeding. Enjoy food alone and with friends. Appreciate people and they will appreciate you. And if you don’t want to be somewhere, just fucking leave.

My First Year as a Yogi

Some things aren’t very good at being described. Writing, in fact, ideas transcending time and space on paper (and now in digital pixels) is an art; a practice. But some things are just better felt.

My yoga practice started about the same time as my Zen practice, my radical acceptance practice. Embodied; It became me, all of it together. That feeling, the indescribable one, good or bad and everywhere else in between, that’s my practice.

ZaZen is not what happens to you when you are sitting. Self-acceptance is not lying to yourself about how Ok you are.  Yoga is not what happens to you when you are breathing. And lifting weights is not standing up with a barbell on your back.

It’s just a feeling.

My First Six Months as a Yogi

As a strength athlete, my body often demands NO and I do it anyway. During yoga when I don’t feel like doing anything, I don’t. But sometimes, I feel energized and I am curious to how discomfort feels in my body and how my heart beat feels. Sometimes I sit with the discomfort and feel the breath move in my body and feel comforted. Maybe the conversation in my head doesn’t have to be an argument. Maybe I can challenge and honor myself.

No one cares what you are doing. I am competitive, but also, I am insecure. Fitness comes easy to me, weight loss does not. I tend to need to justify my size with my abilities. If I can’t be small, I will at least be really good, and I used to try to be better than those around me. But not in yoga. I went to yoga but no one was impressed with my attempts to convey my fitness abilities. They weren’t even looking at me. I was mostly just looking at me.

Yoga is hot, and often sweaty. And my typical large, baggy t-shirt and long pants tends to flip up, get drenched, fall off, or just get way too hot. At yoga, bellies comes out of shirts, butt cracks show, rolls are visible, for everyone. So I wear what is comfortable, not what looks good, or what hides my flaws, because no one is looking at you, and dressing to appeal to them is dumb.

Letting go is hard. You think you have and then you let go a little more and you realize you haven’t. They say “What are you holding onto that doesn’t serve you?”
Letting go is a practice, just like everything else, and the more you do it, the better you get at it. Mentally and physically.

Setting your intention is just something they say until you do. I used to think my intention at yoga was to do yoga. Why am I here right now? My intention is to have fun and to relax. That’s truly why I come. I would love to be an ultra-awesome yogi and post cool Instagram videos of me doing spectacular shit, but that’s not why I’m here right now. And so when I fall, or need to take an extra breath or can’t do something, or start to compare myself to others, I remember my intention and relax and have fun.

I had thought Namaste meant class is over now. Namaste is gratitude; acknowledgment. Namaste is the difference between living room down dog and feeling your neighbors’ energy. Namaste is the teacher responding to the classes’ flow, the personality of the class as its own entity, the contribution the music’s artist makes to our practice, the sound of everyone’s mutual exhales, the beauty of a room full of Warrior II and the steam on the window that belongs to no one person. Namaste. Thank you.

Putting yourself in the shoes of your picky eater.

Two different scenarios:

Scenario 1:
You are starving and your boss is ordering lunch today. You sit down and your boss gives you a plate of food that you don’t recognize at all.
“What is this?” you ask.
“It’s Kecka*. It’s fish. Eat it!”
It doesn’t look like fish you’ve had before. It smells, not bad, but odd, just really unfamiliar.
“Eat it now! Why are you so difficult! You never listen to me! Eat it or you won’t get paid!”

Scenario 2:

Your boss asks you to lunch and wants to go to a new sushi restaurant. You would have preferred a burger joint but it will be nice to show your boss you are enjoyable company so you agree to go along. You don’t recognize much on the menu but the waiter explains in detail where the food came from, what it might taste like and it’s culture. Your boss decides on Kecka for an appetizer. The waiter explains:  “It’s an Asian fish, similar to salmon, but a little
blander flavor. It’s covered in capers which contrast with their bold smell and flavor and a special blend of herbs and soy dressing.”
That must be what the strong smell is. You realize. Your boss loves it.
“You gonna let me eat all this? It’s awesome! You have to try it!”

Which seems like a more fitting scenario to try a new and unfamiliar food?

The first scenario happens daily in some homes, to children with picky eating habits. They are being forced to eat extremely unfamiliar food, under pressure and judgment and expected to like it. Often threatened or punished for not eating enough of it, done by parents with the best of intentions.

How can I make my child’s eating experience more like scenario 2?

1) Involve children in meals and give them a clue what they are eating. Ask them what they want. Take them to the grocery store to help pick new things out. Go to the farmers market. Have the farmer tell your child about the food. They will be happy to, trust me. Look online with them for recipes they might want to try. Let them make something up. Play a game. Try to eat a new color or reenact a meal from a cartoon. Make it a positive experience and make the child have some ownership and pride in the process. Give them as much information as possible in a positive way about what the food is and what you could expect it to taste like.

2) Keep trying. Outside of a new type of ice cream, no one is really crazy about anything they try the first time. Taste preferences typically come from previous experiences of what food tastes like. If you bite into a cracker and it tasted like piece of juicy steak, you would probably think you didn’t like the taste. Kids have no idea what broccoli tastes like until they eat it regularly. A child who doesn’t like broccoli has probably had broccoli truly less than 10 times in their life as compared to an adult with much more exposure. That’s why some kids will like chicken nuggets but refuse baked chicken. When they try baked chicken, it doesn’t taste like chicken nuggets so they don’t like it. The food companies know this. They spend lots of time and money ensuring that every bite of their products taste exactly as you expected it to taste. Kids have to try something multiple times to like it. The first 50 times will be experimental.

3) No one likes anything they are being forced to eat. I can’t stress this enough. “One more bite!”, “Finish your plate.”, “Just try it!”, “You’re not leaving this table until you eat three bites!” or “eat your broccoli or you won’t get your dessert.” These are some of the worst methods possible to make kids eat healthy food. The short term benefit of physically ingesting the small amount of nutrients in this process is nothing in comparison to the long term negative effects of this behavior including but not limited to a fear of eating, negative association with the forced food, anxiety toward meals/food, losing the inability to listen to your body’s hunger/full signals, loss of confidence toward a child’s ability to please their parents, a tendency to sneak forbidden foods when able, and even further pickiness.

4) Sit down for family meals together. Let the child please you with their eating habits. Children want to please their parents, I promise. Everyone should eat the same things. Avoid ‘kid friendly foods’ or special meals. If someone decides to not eat something that is their choice. Don’t force it, just don’t offer anything else. If you start this from a young age, they will not fight for something else. Kids will only fight for things when they know it might work. Don’t cave, which teaches them you just have to throw a really big fit. Your child will not suffer negative health consequences from not eating a few meals,  especially with healthy food in front of them. Don’t make it stressful! Hungry people WILL eat food!

4) Focus on variety over nutrients. Kids who eat a variety of foods and are willing to try new foods will have a much healthier relationship with food and will typically get more nutrients. Don’t worry too much about eliminating or adding specific types of foods to their diet. Just feed kids real, unprocessed food, most of the time.

5) DO NOT MANIPULATE INTAKE! Do not worry they don’t eat enough, do not worry they eat too much. Do not (of course, outside of medical conditions that should be discussed with your doctor) give supplements. There is a special place in hell for people who market nutritional supplements using scare tactics to parents. Hungry kids will eat food. Supplements are usually bad for long term health and do much less to deliver short term nutrition than they often claim. We are born intuitive eaters. Let hungry kids eat and let not hungry kids not eat.

6) One more thing about drinks. Give your child water like you would your dog. If you gave a dog a bowl of milk, he would drink it all, if you gave him another bowl of milk, he would drink it all again. If you give your child water, he will drink it when he is thirsty and will not when he is not thirsty. Give them access to water and let them drink it when they want it. Don’t manipulate intake. Give them anything else to drink besides water on occasions only.  Children don’t dislike water, you are just allowing them to prefer flavor. They will endlessly chug flavor, but they will only drink water when thirsty. Excessive drink consumption is one of the leading causes of childhood nutritional issues.

*I made Kecka up completely.

Susan

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About 7 years ago, I had a swim lessons student named Susan. Susan clearly was being forced to learn to swim by her parents, as she hated every second in the pool. She was about 7 in a class with 3-4 years olds, shy, terrified of water and a very, very poor swimmer. She came to class and hung her head, stood on the side of the pool and begged to not be called upon; usually relentlessly trying to fight off tears. Susan was determined to not let her head ever go under the water.

I wanted Susan to enjoy herself. But she knew she sucked, she knew she was older, more scared, more uncoordinated and having less fun than all the other kids.

I introduced the prone glide to the kids. It’s tricky for kids who aren’t comfortable with their head under water. I knew it would be bad. The toddlers did a lot better than Susan. They were at least underwater and kind of moving. Then I called on Susan. She obediently transitioned through the entire rehearsed protocol, in an attempt to prone glide, looked a lot like a pigeon actively drowning in open sea. She stood up, 2 feet from the wall that she was attempting to swim away from and looked up at me for a verdict.
“Susan!? That was awesome! Wow! Have you ever done that before? I know you don’t really like swimming, but you must have done the prone glide before. That was fantastic! Can you do it again?”
She cocked her wet head to the side, like a confused dog. “No, never. That was good?”
“That’s the best thing I’ve seen you do so far. Show me one more time!”
Again, the dying pigeon…. “That is definitely your strength. That’s awesome!”
She looked suspicious and surprised, but pleased and excited.

The next class Susan came in smiling; a huge contrast to whatever bribery from her parents got her to come to class previously. “Are we going to do the prone glide?” She must have asked five times before we did it.
“OK, ok…Let’s see is, Susan!”
It was bad. Very bad, she barely got off the wall, but her head went under for the first time ever. “I practiced in the bathtub!”

Three weeks later, Susan passed to level 2. She wasn’t a great swimmer, but she didn’t hate it anymore, and she wasn’t afraid, she knew she didn’t suck, and she was the best prone glider in the class.

I don’t believe in the ‘trophy for trying’ mentality, life is hard and you often have to suck at stuff. And I wouldn’t normally tell someone they are good at something they suck at. But Susan didn’t believe in herself at all. And I helped her with that, and that’s all she needed.

“We become what we think.” –Buddha

WHOLE 30 rd3

“This is new and shiny right now. No one struggles to play with their new shiny toys and abandon their old ones, not matter how much they love the old one. That’s why we are doing this for 12 weeks, not 30 days. After 8-9 weeks, there will come a time when it’s not so shiny, a time when someone tells you ‘just live a little’ and you will think they are right, a time when it’s just annoying and a time when you’re really going to just want fucking pancakes.”

I have an awesome, dedicated group of 12 CrossFit athletes I was assigned to coach through their 12 week Paleo challenge. Most of them have barely cheated at all, educating themselves, getting in the gym, taking initiative and are making all kinds of lifestyle changes. I was jealous.

 My shit’s not shiny. I was bored, hungry and pissed off that after 2ish years of 90%ish Paleo, I was struggling. I know the rules, I know the tricks. I’ve read the books. And I’m giving really good advice I’m not following. Again…

Time for a whole 30. No cheats, not treats, no food as a reward. No added anything to food if it’s not for nutritional value. No junk food with decent ingredients. Nothing I don’t nutritionally need. No emotional eating. Food is only fuel.

Well, I got my shiny back! I have no gray areas. I don’t waste time and energy on what I should or should not eat. I have recognized weaknesses I didn’t realize I have or have reestablished. I have addictions. Bad habits. And I, once again, feel stronger than I thought I was. This is my 3rd whole 30. The second time was a whole 90…funny how I didn’t really care too much to stop after the whole 90. I, actually, went about 97 days for no reason, before I ate ice cream and beer with my best friend one night.

I suggest everyone do a whole 30 at some point in their life. You are, statistically, going to live some 30,000 days of your life; you can go 30 without treating yourself. I guarantee you’ll learn things about yourself you never knew.

Biggest diet advice coming from the very “experienced” dieter:
No gray area. Make a plan and stick to it. It’s only hard to say no if yes is a consideration.