How do I live my passion for yoga, nutrition, and holistic wellness without isolating myself? A lot of people would answer, “easily.” I am not, however, a person to whom balance comes naturally. I know, I know, I speak constantly about balance. That’s because balance is a beautiful essence I’m ceaselessly cultivating in my life.
I’m going to make a confession right now that isn’t easy for me, but it’s one of my core truths and probably always will be:
It’s immensely difficult for me live in balance.
I can find balance moment to moment, easily. I am a very happy person and my energies are often balanced. But balance, as a nucleus of the life that I lead, fluctuates.
Confession number two:
It’s very difficult for me to admit this now, in conversation, in my own mind or even my journal, and not follow it with a bout of self-deprecating, worrisome thoughts.
Facts: My mom (who is the closest person to me in this world) doesn’t understand how I could choose to not eat the foods I grew up eating (meats, dairy, desserts) because they’re laden with ingredients I have grown up to avoid. I’m passionate about “health-ifying” childhood, household and popular dishes. It doesn’t occur to me that, in that passion, I am possibly offending my loved ones, namely my mom. That breaks my heart. Why is it that I’m part of such a huge wellness community of people who understand me, and who I look to as role models, and yet my own mom is saddened and feels a loss at the hand of this exact nature? How do I live my passion, create my future career around health, wellness and self-love, without hurting the person I’m closest to?
Flexibility is probably answer number one. Another “essence” I have difficulties with. I’m a creature of habit, and I have been since I was old enough to be cognizant that I’m a person in a body and can choose to do things the way I choose to do things.
I speak a lot about extremism and how turned off I am by it…and yet, am I inevitably drawn to this behavior, magnetically, because of my aversion? The theory of “The Secret” is that we draw to us what we focus on. Do I focus so much on not becoming an extremist that I exhibit extremist tendencies without even being aware of it? Yeah, it’s possible. Am I searching for someone else to tell me “the right way” and tell me what’s okay and what’s not, in terms of this lifestyle? A little bit. Do I want to be the person answering those questions? You bet your bum I do.
I can be that person. I am just so wary of my own decision-making process, given my track record. Isolation, restriction, inflexibility and imbalance are the shackles that have held me to the concrete before. I am a homebody, but I’m also fun-loving and adventurous. I will never have a problem following a set list of guidelines because restricting behaviors come (sickeningly) naturally to me. I may be a bendy yogi but I can become emotionally and behaviorally inflexible at the drop of a hat. Imbalance throws off my entire equilibrium, and it leaves me weepy, frustrated and nervous. I am happy, healthy and thriving at this point in my life, but are these shackles truly gone? They’re certainly not holding me to the cold concrete that was once my foundation. Now my foundation morphs between a smooth, glossy hardwood yoga studio-esque floor surface and the soft, grassy soil of Mother Earth, malleable and nurturing beneath my bare feet.
Life is about living YOUR own truth. Not the truth of your mom, your significant other, your old self. Living YOUR truth, as it evolves, as it grows, and as hard as it sometimes is to live, is what life is about. I’ll confess something else to you, while I’m doing this whole confession thing:
It’s really FUCKING hard for me to write so much about my eating disorder. I see people at work, at yoga, in my own home, not to mention the thousands of perfect strangers who’ve read my words and who’ve peered “behind the curtains,” if you will, of what it is to live my truth. I sometimes want to pretend like I’ve always been this self-assured, this healthy, this dedicated to living my truth. I’ve been happy about 90% of the time, I can tell you that much. But I’ve not always been the pillar of health, the balanced and loving entity that I consider myself to be (most of the time) nowadays. I grew up a happy, bubbling athlete who would happily eat seconds of anything my mom put in front of me, and was always lean as a bean. I’ve suffered anorexia. I tormented my body for a year in the depths of loneliness and isolation that are an eating disorder. I’ve labeled myself vegan because I was terrified of food. I’ve sought comfort in the food that I once dubbed “off limits” and felt sick and tired from that process. I’ve given no cares to food before, living in Europe, walking everywhere, feeling pretty damn balanced for once in my life. Shortly after I took up smoking cigarettes (insert gasping crowd of people). I know. This “health and wellness advocate” who, throughout her entire life was known to say, “I want to have virgin lungs,” smoked cigarettes. For three months I suffered a full-body allergic reaction to cigarettes, and my addictive personality fought through, before throwing them away awakening from a three month “common sense coma.” I’m convinced my body had been hijacked by some strange 21-year-old “wild child” alter-ego just to see what it was like. I’ve eaten fast food (which I’d not touch now, as you can well imagine). I’ve been through ups and downs. I loathe that, and loathe admitting it, and figuring out why I loathe it is part of my journey. It’s a perfectionist tendency to want to paint over the real story with a bright color and say, “Everything’s always been perfect,” with a cheerful smile. I’ve done that before. I’ve been doing that up until recently. Now everyone knows the truth. It’s hard. I’m still a complete, deep, fantastic person with the best of intentions. We all have our stories, have our struggles, learn our lessons.
My journey is why I’m so dedicated to my path of wellness now. But perhaps it’s something to consider that, while I’ve earned the right to care this much about what I put into my body and how I treat my body, balance is an essence of utmost importance to me. My yoga practice keeps me grounded. I’ve abused that too, though! I’ve practiced every single day, addictively, to the point of injury (my knee pain, that I sometimes reference, is in part due to overuse). I learn lessons the hard way, I always have. I live them, fall down and get big ‘ol bruises, and then stand up and go, “Well that was dumb. I shouldn’t have done it that way.” That’s how I am. Foresight comes along but doesn’t get a voice. I put on horse blinders a lot of the time.
So, what now? Some more facts: Yoga is core of my existence, and I’m not referring just to asana. The whole study of yoga, the whole practice of yoga, the mindful living and quieting of the mind, that is the yoga to which I’m referring. My nucleus. I am passionate about holistic wellness and integrative nutrition. The latter, however, is a dangerous game given my past. I must be careful to not box myself in, to not be extreme, to not limit myself past the point of enjoying life. The fun me loves to travel, the restrictive me things, “What will you eat?” The balanced me answers, well naturally I’ll pack healthy options and snacks for my travelling, and seek out the healthiest options out wherever I am. I am passionate about health. I am going to embark upon a certification in holistic nutrition this year. It’s what I want to do. It’s part of my path and my own lessons to keep this passion separate from the unhealthy tendencies I have in my past.
This is what I have to say to my mom, who supports me endlessly, “I love you mom, and I love the way you raised me and I respect every single thing about you. But this is my choice, my path, and I appreciate your voice of reason keeping me ever on the healthy side of life. Keeping me from the shadowy darkness that is restriction and isolation. I thank you for understanding my ways and my intention.”
Someday, when I’m a yoga teacher and I’m leading retreats of my own, I intend to spread a message of balance. I want to teach a practice of balance to myself and to others that is definable by no one other than the individual. I want fearlessness, adventure, nourishment and non-judgement to make up the mountain upon which I stand, far above those shackles.
The only way to make this my truth is to manifest it. I will manifest it by practicing fearlessness, adventure, nourishment and non-judgement. We learned the importance of using “as you” in the giving of instruction when it comes to yogic counteractions, in yoga teacher training. Well, I will have to stop caring quite so much what others think as I extract the reason, love and marrow of their message from their words.
Life is a balancing act. We are never who we were yesterday. We don’t know who we will be tomorrow. This can be scary, or it can be invigorating and overflowing with potential. Let us see it as the latter. Let us stumble wildly into tomorrow, ready to embody the perfect image of ourselves, ready to bathe in the warmth and stillness of our own truth.