What does perfection look like?

Last week I was expecting the delivery of an important package. I knew the delivery window began at 11am, and I also knew that I had time to get to the gym and back before then.

But just in case it comes early, I thought, I’ll leave a note on my door.

The next thing I knew, I looked down at the coffee table and saw this:

please leave package with doorman

Ohforchristssake.

It happened like lightning. In the blink of an eye, I had written a note for the delivery person not once, not twice, but three times, all to get it just right. The first one was spaced wrong, the second one was a disaster, and the third one — well, I wasn’t happy with that one either, but by that point I realized how weird this all was and acquiesced.

And why — why had I wasted all that ink and paper, all that time? Was it because I thought the random stranger delivering the package would like me better if my note was polite and well-spaced, so that they might send me goodwill and treat my package with the tiniest bit of extra care? Or because I was thinking about all the people who live on my apartment building floor and all of the conclusions they might draw about me based on the color and cadence of my post-it note?

Well, yes; actually, yes.

And oh man, doesn’t that speak volumes about all the time I’ve spent in my life, all the tiny moments I’ve wasted, worrying about what other people think of me? It makes me exhausted just thinking about it. I may have made some pretty beautiful progress so far, but it’s little post-it moments like these that reveal to me how much work there is to be done.

If you could call it perfection Leza LowitzWould I have even known what the perfect version of that post-it note looked like when I saw it? Probably not. And that’s the trap of perfectionism. As long as I’m striving for some standard of perfection that does not actually exist, then my writing will never be perfect, my body will never be perfect, my relationships will never be perfect…

But if I can learn to embrace things as they are, flaws and all, and just call that perfection, then I’m side-stepping a whole lot of suffering.

So in honor of the theme of this post, I’m just going to publish it without sleeping on it or spending multiple days editing it. It might not be my best post ever, but that’s okay. It’s more than enough.

What are you going to do this week to eschew the flawed ideal of perfection? In your yoga class are you going to resist the temptation to take a pose into its more advanced variation, even if it’s accessible to you? When you notice a typo you’ve made in a social media post, will you resist the urge to edit it? Will you look at yourself in the mirror and call what you see perfection, knowing that right now it is really enough?

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015

February is usually the most hectic month for me – more hectic than even the holiday season! Between my husband’s birthday, my birthday, AND our wedding anniversary, there’s plenty of celebration to be planned (and enjoyed), but it’s also the time of the year when perhaps the gusto with which I attack each January starts to catch up with me. Like, tell me again why I planned to start training for a half marathon while juggling a half dozen private clients, a brand new nutrition group, five public yoga classes a week, two non-profit jobs, and the mounting of a cabaret? In the dead of winter?!

No complaining here though. I feel invigorated, if a little frazzled, and I’m taking it one day at a time, one breath at a time, one break from the computer at a time — and always keeping an eye out for my MBP Daily Three.

NEDAwareness_2015_Shareable_IllusionsFebruary 22nd through the 28th is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, in which people across the country come together to “put the spotlight on the seriousness of eating disorders and to improve public understanding of their causes, triggers and treatments.”

One of my favorite offerings from NEDA so far this week is this Media Literacy Toolkit, which includes, among other awesome info, a quiz to help you determine your digital body image and examples of how to send your feedback to advertisers.

Also included in the toolkit is a pledge designed to “let people know where you stand on picture-perfect body images in the media.”

What do you think — would you take the pledge?

NEDA’s Body Positive Pledge:

  • I promise to move beyond society’s ideal body standards and embrace my own body.
  • I promise to tell myself one positive thing about my body every time I look in the mirror and appreciate that I am original and there’s only one me.
  • I pledge to respect my body and not try to fit media’s image of attractiveness.
  • I promise to keep a healthy and active lifestyle for myself and no one else.
  • I pledge not to judge people based on their body shape and size, especially if they do not fit the cultural body ideal.
  • I pledge to be proactive about negative body images and challenge unrealistic and demeaning body talk.
  • I pledge to advocate for positive body image messages—that includes not to buy from companies or support organizations that use unrealistic and unattainable body ideals to sell a product or promote a cause.
  • I pledge not to retouch my photos in order to enhance my appearance online.
  • I pledge to become more media literate and think critically about what I see, hear and read, especially on social media.
  • Finally, I pledge to love my body unconditionally.

If I’m totally honest with myself, holding to this pledge in its entirety would be a serious challenge. This is not easy stuff here, folks; we’re talking about reversing years of negative conditioning. But what a goal to work towards! Which of the above pledges will you work towards this Eating Disorder Awareness Week? Let me know in the comments below.

My Graffiti Mantra

When traveling from Brooklyn into Manhattan on the B train, there are a few minutes during which the subway cars emerge from the dark underground into the sunlight. It happens as the train crosses over the East River by way of the Manhattan Bridge, and the views can be pretty spectacular.

First you see the rooftops and water towers of Brooklyn; then the view looking north up the river, with Manhattan to the left, Brooklyn to the right, Queens and the Bronx beyond; and finally the train submerges once more, dipping into the crammed and colorful tenements of Chinatown and the Lower East Side. And this is only the view to the north – the view to the south is unbeatable:

Beautiful it may be, but whenever the train comes up for air on its journey over the East River, you can count on one thing: every single passenger will whip out their smart phone.

It is, after all, the only moment for many of us to get cellular service during our commute. And though it speaks to our collective dependency on techno gadgets, not to mention a certain jaded disposition toward the splendor of NYC, ultimately it’s kind of fun to see everyone – even the little old ladies – refreshing their Facebook feeds so they’ll have something to peruse for the remainder of their underground trip.

A few weeks ago, I happened to look up from my iPhone just as the train was coming up on the Brooklyn side, and I spied a bit of graffiti that hit me like a ton of bricks.

Jim Joe my heart is proud of its painOn the side of a building near the rooftop, clear as day, were the following words: My heart is proud of its pain. It was followed by a smiley face. I too was smiling. I spent the rest of my ride thinking about the pain we all endure just by virtue of being alive, but also of how we overcome, how we grow, and how we can build upon old patterns of suffering to create something better.

My heart is proud of its pain.

As far as I can tell, that piece of work is from an elusive street artist called Jim Joe, who’s been on the scene in NYC since 2010. Not all of his work is so straightforward, but it is typically clever, and often makes you think. Consider me a fan.

Now whenever I cross the bridge, I take a moment to find that scrawl before checking my phone. It reminds me to pause and check in with myself, to breathe a bit. It reminds me that suffering comes up for all of us, but that we have some control in how we respond to that suffering.

no mud no lotus thich nhat hanh

Can you think back on a time of real suffering and cultivate a sense of warm, loving pride that you were able to endure it? Imagine the beautiful lotus blossoms that bloom out of the mud and the muck; we are all capable of creating beauty and cultivating love, even in response to the most painful circumstances.

The Shadows of This Life

Here’s some Emerson for you this evening all about the getting out of your own way and getting out of your own head. If you’ve got nasty little gremlins in your consciousness talking trash and making a mess, let them know in no uncertain terms that it’s time for them to take a hike.

This design is totally inspired by a stunning piece of art I found on this equally stunning blog, Pony Gold. Pay PG a visit for some new inspiration.

Ralph Waldo Emerson quote standing in ones own sunshine

Happy New Year from MBP

When the sun sets on December 31st and the hours tick away into the night, nothing really happens. I mean, nothing cosmic happens.

new-years-roosterIt’s not like the planets align, or like it’s the longest night of the year. Father Time will not stop by to count your wrinkles, and Baby New Year is certainly not going to ignite a champagne bottle canon while a rooster crows in approval (if I’m wrong, I want to be at that party).

December 31st is just an arbitrary date; a natural conclusion to the Gregorian calendar.

Yet it means something to us. And since the collective consciousness accepts New Year’s Eve as a global reset button, perhaps it does hold a bit of magic.

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, but a few years ago I wrote some things I wanted to let go of on little slips of paper and then watched them burn up and turn to ash in a cooking pot on a New York City fire escape. I liked that ritual. I still do.

Letting go is healthy. It’s important. The question of “What is no longer serving me?” is helpful to ask on December 31st and every other night of the year, for that matter.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that when it comes to this New Year’s Eve, you do you. If you feel inspired to set new goals and make sweeping changes, that’s great. But remember that there’s nothing stopping you from doing that right now, or on January 2nd, or on August 13th.

Every single moment is a new gift, a new opportunity to make choices in self-love and self-care, to let go of what is no longer serving you. Every breath is a chance to start over. You don’t need a calendar for that.

Thank you so much for being a part of the MindBodPlate community. Here’s to a New Year filled with love, joy… and consistent blog posts!

How do you feel about New Year’s Resolutions? Do you have any meaningful NYE rituals? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Without Judgement

Do you consider yourself to be a “spiritual” person? If this quote by Swami Kripalu is to be believed, then I hope we can all someday consider ourselves to be “spiritual” people:

without judgment

Do you remember the last time you looked in the mirror and took in your own radiant awesomeness without judgement?

Why not make a pilgrimage today?

“Yo, body, I’m really feeling you, I’mma let you finish, but…”

(I’m too busy / there are more important things / I’ve just got to get to these other things first / etc.)

Sound familiar?

As the winter closes in, be sure you’re really taking the time to listen to your body. What does it need from you? An extra rest? Some quiet time reading a book? A good laugh with friends? More dark leafy greens? A brisk walk around the block?

It’s telling you in its own way. Be sure to pay attention.

Go within.

within my own body

My Lips are Sealed

my lips are sealed | MindBodyPlateI’ve been running in the mornings with my husband, and I’m trying something new. I’m trying not to breathe through my mouth.

Come again?

I’m trying not to breathe through my mouth. In fact, I’m attempting to sustain my morning runs breathing in and out through my nose and my nose alone.

Specifically, I’m utilizing a style of nasal breathing called ujjayi pranayama or ‘victorious breathing’, a slow and controlled style of yogic breathing which produces oceanic (or Darth Vader-like) sounds due to a slight constriction of the throat. Why? Well, it’s an experiment.

It’s based on some research I heard about, research conducted by Ayurvedic physician Dr. John Douillard in his book Body, Mind & Sport: the Mind Body Guide to Lifelong Fitness and Your Personal Best.

Basically, when you participate in strenuous exercise and start huffing and puffing through your mouth, your brain recognizes it as the same kind of breathing you do when you get surprised, or stressed… or scared. And it registers that you might just have a reason to be stressed or scared.

running huffing and puffing | MindBodyPlateNasal breathing, on the other hand, allows for deeper diaphragmatic breathing, which stimulates the vagus nerve, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system — in other words, breathing through your nose makes you feel less stressed. It lowers cortisol levels. It sets you up for ‘rest and digest’.

And I want the very act of running to feel relaxing to me. I never want running to feel any more strenuous than a few sun salutations. I don’t want any small part of my subconscious to think that there’s something wrong when I hit the pavement at 6:45 AM every morning, that I’m running from something, that there’s an emergency. Because ultimately I think that will sabotage my goals. In some small way, I think it will set my mind against doing it.

When I was a kid, and let’s face it, pretty much up until the age of 25 or so, I hated running. And it wasn’t just because my cheeks turned a particularly Irish shade of beet red when I exerted myself. It was because it felt awful.

And I think it felt awful because it was something I just didn’t do on a regular basis. I rarely ran for fun, let alone for relaxation, and then all of a sudden, my PE teacher would bark out orders to run a mile, and my body was like, exsqueeze me? So infrequently was I asked to run, that whenever I did it felt like torture. My body wasn’t prepared for it, so it felt like death.

And the more I came to associate running with, you know, feeling like death, the more my distaste for it grew.

I’m trying to rewire that distaste. I won’t settle for just feeling proud because I pushed myself to run and I did — I want to want to run, because it feels good. I want every cell of my body to feel joyous when I run, so for now I’m breathing through my nose.

Now I can’t run as far or as fast when I keep my lips sealed, but I know that’s not permanent. My endurance will get stronger and stronger. Two years ago I ran a 10k, achieving something I never thought I would or could do, and it was a very proud moment for me. My next goal is to run a 10k while breathing through my nose.

breathe deeply kitty | MindBodyPlate

So if you’re not a runner, or even an aspiring runner (which is okay, by the way), how does this all apply to you?

Start paying attention to the way you’re breathing when you engage in any kind of activity. Even just walking to the car or the subway. If you find that you’re taking shallow, non-diaphragmatic breaths, or even holding your breath, you’re not alone; it’s pretty common. Spend some time thinking about the subconscious messages that kind of breath could be sending to your brain.

Imagine the deep, slow, relaxed and luxurious breaths you take when you’re, I dunno… getting a massage. What would it be like to breathe like that throughout the day? Or while you were exercising?

I’m interested to hear from my more experienced runner friends. Do you have a pattern of breathing or an approach to breathing that makes your experience more enjoyable or otherwise fruitful? Can’t wait to hear about what works for you!

6 Years Recovered

Practice self-care, loves; this post may be triggering to some.

six candles recovery anniversary | MindBodyPlate

Today is a special day for me – one of my favorite days of the year. September 3rd is my recovery anniversary, and today marks 6 years since the last time I binged and purged.

I blogged about my recovery anniversary last year, but a lot has changed since then. Last year I started the day by taking my favorite yoga class; this year I woke up at 5:30 AM to teach a yoga class.

Last year I thought that self-care was something extra you made time for every day; this year I’ve learned that every facet of life and every choice you make is an opportunity for self-care (self-care isn’t the frosting on the cake, it’s the cake itself).

Last year my ideas about what I should be doing with my life were getting in the way of the actual doing; this year I have a private practice which offers nutritional coaching, private yoga sessions, and peer coaching for those in recovery from eating disorders, and I’m in the early stages of planning the New York City debut of my one woman show about food and body image.

The long view almost always highlights growth — I think that’s why I like anniversaries. Because, individually, most of the last 365 days felt like nothing was happening, like I was getting nowhere. But the sum is greater than its parts, as they say.

peanut loves maple syrup | MindBodyPlate

I want you to know that ‘6 years recovered’ does not mean I have a perfect relationship with food. Just yesterday, for example, I was so frustrated with the logistics of setting up my new laptop that I ended up eating a ramekin full of peanut butter mixed with maple syrup… with a spoon.

…and then I went back for seconds.

Emotional eating at its finest, folks. Were there elements of a binge there, where I felt out of control? Sure. The difference is that after it was done I didn’t throw up my hands and say, “Well, now that I’ve totally blown it, I better eat everything else in the kitchen.” The difference is that I didn’t want to purge or punish myself at the gym. The difference is that I knew a little bit too much peanut butter would not send my weight or my body image spiraling out of control. The difference is that I didn’t beat myself up.

Sarah Kit Farrell laughing | MindBodyPlate

Squished on the subway and loving it!

Actually, I had a bit of a chuckle. I mean, we all get frustrated sometimes — let’s be real, especially when setting up new electronics. Of course I lost a bit of control as my brain became overwhelmed. Of course my body tried to comfort itself. And of course it chose the path of least resistance (dietary fat and sugar!!!).

That I can hold yesterday’s mini-binge with empathy, love, and a bit of humor is the real sign that I am recovered.

Just as all of the changes in one year may not be apparent until the year is over, the hundreds and thousands of mini-steps towards recovery may not be apparent day-to-day. That’s how it is with overcoming anything, I think. We relish when we can look back and feel pride in our accomplishment, now abundantly clear. But the good stuff is happening with every mini-step, every choice to incorporate self-care, every day, every moment, every bite.

MBP VIP: Renee Engeln on Beauty Sickness

Hey, are you feeling okay? Are you struggling to engage with the rest of the world? Feeling tired and defeated? Unable to direct your energy toward the things that really matter?

Do you have Beauty Sickness?

For most of my life, particularly when I was struggling with my eating disorder, I found social situations unbearable – though you may never have noticed. I liked people, and I knew that I was good at talking to them. I had a talent for engaging groups and entertaining crowds. By all accounts, I was the consummate extrovert.

But somehow, such activities always left me feeling drained, both physically and emotionally. Sometimes they made me feel downright miserable. I could never seem to let go and enjoy myself the way other people did. I knew objectively if I was “having fun”, but I didn’t necessarily feel it. Much of the time it felt forced, and all I really wanted was to be alone.

So when Renee Engeln started talking about Objectification Theory around the 9:30 minute mark, I felt like she was describing my experience exactly. Renee explained, “You cannot chronically monitor your body’s appearance and be engaged with the world. When you are Beauty Sick, you cannot engage with the world, because between you and the world is a mirror, and it’s a mirror that travels with you everywhere. You cannot seem to put it down.”

Yeah, that would pretty much explain why I was so exhausted after socializing. I was so preoccupied with how any person might be perceiving me at any moment that it was nearly impossible for me to do anything but go through the motions. I was on guard at each and every moment, hyper-aware of my body in space, constantly searching the reactions of those around me for signs that I was either succeeding or failing.

This also explains why it’s become more and more enjoyable for me to spend time with friends as I’ve gotten older. The more secure I feel in my own body, my own person, the more I’ve been able to fall in love with myself, the more I can relax into social situations. As that hyper-vigilance has faded away, I’ve found more energy to be present in the exciting and inspiring conversations of those around me. As I’ve let go of the fear that I’m being constantly judged, I’ve been able to taste the fruits of companionship and loyalty in a whole new way. And yes, I’ve felt what it’s like to have fun.

More of that, please.

Imagine the power we women could yield were we to be relieved of this ailment, this Beauty Sickness. Imagine all of that energy, all of that focus, being directed toward something more lasting, more loving. The thought gives me goosebumps.

What’s the simplest way to start? I for one will take Renee’s advice: I’m a new “Auntie” to a beautiful baby girl.  And yes, she is a thing of beauty. But whenever I get the impulse to tell her so, I’ll instead tell her she’s smart / strong / active / capable / friendly / happy / curious / courageous / persistant / generous / kind…

What do you think? Do you have the sickness? How will you work towards getting better?