What I recently found both striking and interesting spawned from a question in an interview on WholeLiving.com, one of Martha Stewart's sister sites. The columnist brought up a great point: Yes, obesity and all the hellish illnesses and diseases that go with it are severely on the rise in our country, yet at the same time (although clearly not at the same rate) so is our interest in Eastern medicine, meditation, yoga and getting in touch with our spiritual sides.
A light bulb instantly went off in my head. I remembered hearing Deepak state on a recent Oprah's Lifeclass that the only solution to any problem is a spiritual solution — which admittedly can be difficult for anyone to swallow, especially if you've wandered away from the church or have never had any religious or spiritual inklings, habits or what have you, but in this case I am completely drawn to the option of tying together, as Geneen Roth did in her best-selling book, [women], food and God. But as you've probably come to expect, this time I'm not thinking about it in that needy weight-loss sort of way. Yes, we are talking obesity. But Deepak goes at it from a health perspective, obviously, not to look better or feel better when comparing yourself to others or to fit in a certain size. That is all ego.
So how can we, as he said in the article, "engage" in other areas of well-being in order to improve the economic well-being of our country as it relates to this healthcare crisis? We all struggle with this — myself included — but in an ideal world, this is how it would look:
- Get quiet daily. This is my new way of referring to meditation. Because I have this hang-up that I don't have a good spot in my house to meditate (and I gave my meditation cushion away because I felt it was too small), I've stopped calling what I do, or aim to do each day, meditation. I just need time to get quiet. To turn off the TV, maybe create some white noise somehow like with a fan or music without words, disconnect from the computer and the iTouch and shut my eyes. Now, as a pregnant woman, that usually results in falling asleep. But not always, and it shouldn't: This is a time for you to purposely, not passively, stop thinking. Let those worries roll off your back. Bring yourself back to your breath any time you get distracted by passing thoughts. Just relax. This will help connect your mind and body more closely together, creating a more calm environment for you to make healthy choices each day when it comes to food and fitness.
- Read, study, do whatever it is that feels right for you to connect more with your spiritual side — because getting quiet, I'd argue, isn't enough. I don't think today's spiritual teachers just sort of sit back and think that all of their learning will come through meditation, although I haven't asked Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra what's on their reading lists these days! But you get my point: There are thousands of books out there (I'm reading A Course In Miracles right now) to get you thinking on a more spiritual plane, which will again help you keep your head above water when it comes to making smart decisions for your body, your family, your SANITY. We all have days when it's easier to get take-out than it is to go to the store and then cook a meal, but those should be the exceptions to the rule. No one is getting healthy eating burgers, fries, pizza and milkshakes. Keep your head on straight and you'll see this more clearly.
- Connect with more individuals who are on your frequency. I know, that sounds a little woo-woo. But once you are in this mindset, of making choices from a place of calm and peace rather than chaos and habit, I guarantee you will start to notice who the people are in your life who will feel like they're butting heads with you on these issues, or rubbing you the wrong way, versus those who nod their heads vigorously when you engage in a conversation on the topic, family members who get just as heated and passionate about it, friends who want to know more. They may be at your church; they may be virtual buddies. Connect with them. A thousand miles will not come between two people who are on a high spiritual frequency, feeding off of one another's energy. Only good can come from that for both mind and body.
- Spend more time outside. The only thing that makes listening to Deepak more soothing is when he's sitting in a chair outside, and you see a beautiful landscape as the backdrop, a slight breeze blowing the plants, trees and flowers, the sun diffused only by whatever the production company has set up for filming purposes. I'm not sure where you are, but May in Chicago has always been a glorious time, and I like to soak up every minute of it I can. Once this baby is here we will be at the park every day, probably at least twice — not just to lose the pregnancy weight but because there is no better feeling to me than stepping outside on a summer morning. You connect with the earth around you, the sights, sounds, smells; people are more friendly when the weather is nice; they smile; you smile; there is a quiet peace especially when you journey out of doors before really "starting" your day. Try it. Another great mind-body sort of cleansing act. Move your arms and legs. Feel what they can do for you and how this can affect your overall health.
- Pay attention. This does tie into #1 to a certain extent, but once you're familiar with the idea you can bring "awareness" into all areas of your life. I am fascinated by Martha Beck's revelation that after she had a near-death experience she decided to tell the truth — the whole truth, no little white lies, nothing that felt wrong, uncomfortable, untrue or uneasy for her — to everyone in her life, including herself, no matter the reaction or outcome. (Yes, she lost some "friends" in the process, but to me that's beside the point.) The point is, start paying attention to how you feel when you are at work. When you are eating a cheese sandwich. When you are waiting in line at the grocery store. Do you feel annoyed? Why? Do you feel angry? Why? Where in your body do you feel tense, jittery, slow, tired? It is important sometimes to go past the simple "I'm angry" or "She shouldn't have said that." Once you start to notice what feels good and bad, you can make better choices AND deal with those feelings, positive or negative, in a more matter-of-fact way. It is what it is. No attachments.
I hope these tips help you. With a newborn on the way, I know the automatic for most women would be to just think about the late nights, the crying, the chaos of becoming a family of four, and I get that. But I'm going into it being overly optimistic and ambitious, because it feels better to me than going in thinking "I'll sleep when I'm 40." Who wants to look at it that way? (And why do we always end up going there anyways?) I will keep you posted as often as I can, of course, once the baby is here, but I'd like to think that knowing how haggard I was the first time around has helped me prepare a better support system and a healthier attitude this time. No card-carrying adult WANTS to feel crazed, neurotic and dopey on top of being sleep deprived. The solution is spiritual. The solution to everything.
Next up: My Perfect Mother's Day Menu