Weighty Matters

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Better Quality Sleep

In recent months, I’ve seen numerous references and articles addressing the need for enough hours of quality sleep every night.  Every article/reference included information that we lower the quality of our sleep when we have electronic devices in the bedroom.

*insert sly wink, hehehe chuckle, snorty giggle and merry-eyed look here*

I’ll see you your entendre and double it.  I don’t mean those electronic devices, naughty-minded people.  The articles are talking about cell phones, tablets, even, televisions.  The gist of the info suggests that when these electronic gadgets are present and turned on (Okay, enough with the sexual innuendos! :-) ), they are distracting us from the full quality sleep that we need.  Even if we aren’t actually using them, they affect us.

Hmmmph, I thought the first few times I saw this mentioned.  Could this really be the case?  I mean, it’s not like I wake up every time my phone chimes because of a new email received, or that I come awake to play my turn in Words with Friends.  After all, even though my phone is plugged in and sitting on the bed-side table in close proximity to my brain, I have it switched to vibrate.  Isn’t that enough, I wondered.

Apparently not, according to all of the stuff I read.  From what I understand, if my phone is on, my subconscious is not completely resting.  It’s still, on some level, listening and registering the buzz of the vibration or, if the phone is still set to full sound, the little chimes and beeps.  Ordinarily, I would cite the articles, but I don’t have that info handy, so I’m proceeding with the less scientific, “Hey, I read about it in lots of stuff”.   Finally, after about half a dozen different references came my way, I thought, “What if?”

What if there’s something to these claims?  What if someone actually published a peer-reviewed study, obtained solid, verifiable data, and can fully support this theory?  What if, instead of logging the full throttle Zzzzzzzzzzs, I’m short changing myself.  Maybe I’m only getting Wwwwwwwwws, or, even worse, only Uuuuuuuuuus?

Above all, why am I depending on the iPhone for the time and the wake-up alarm when right there on the table next to the iPhone is a perfectly good, working clock radio?

So, last week, just for the sake of checking it out for myself, when I went to bed, I turned off my phone.  Total black screen.  Much to my surprise, when I woke up the next morning, I noticed a difference.  I felt better-rested with that lovely, content, oh-I-really-slept-well feeling.

Afraid that it was a lucky coincidence or a fluke, I tried again the following night.  Same great affects the next morning.  I’ve now done this for at least a week of sleeps and my own personal little data set says the articles and references might be right.  I’m enjoying a better, deeper, quality of sleep than I do when I sleep with the phone on next to my bed.

There are other studies that suggest good quality sleep is also important for successful weight loss.  I’m still collecting personal data on that idea, but for now the phone remains off when the lights go off at Casa Stella!

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On Not Doing What We Know Works

We humans are odd.  We want what we want when we want it.  We’re impatient and when we make an effort, we’d like the instant gratification of immediate results.

Yet, there are many times when we absolutely know what we should be doing, or at least what helps us when we do it but . . . we don’t do it.

I was reminded of this at that Tai Chi workshop.  A practitioner in his early 20s shared that he has had Type 1 diabetes since he was a child.  He needs insulin injections about eight times a day and suffers from neuropathy pain in his hands and feet.  He has balance and strength issues.  During a time when we were sitting around talking about different health benefits we’ve experienced since practicing Tai Chi, he said that on the days he does a set, he notices that he can reduce the number of insulin injections.  That’s terrific!

The instructor then asked him, “If you know that this happens when you practice, why don’t you do it every day?”

The young man replied, “I’m young.  I’m lazy.”  Credit him for honesty.

Tai Chi works for him in a very obvious, concrete, immediately-realized way.  He should do it every day and knows this, but sometimes chooses not to out of laziness.

I thought about this a lot.  I have very basic tools in my toolkit that really help me.  Sometimes I use them and my life and recovery are easier to maintain.  Sometimes I just blow them off and that gets me into trouble.

So, why don’t I always use the tools?  Beats me.  Well, no, actually there are a number of reasons and, depending on the day, any one of them could be at the forefront.  Sometimes laziness.  Sometimes emotional turmoil or I’m running late and don’t make time to plan.  I admit that there are some day when I just don’t feel like it.

To be brutally honest, there are often times when I resent the hell out of the fact that the tools are necessary.  I really, really hate having an eating disorder.

Reasons — I have a variety.  However, none of them matter.  None of them are justifiable excuses.

Bottom line – even when I feel lazy or emotionally off, even when I’m running late or fail to pre-plan, I still need to use my tools and take care of myself.  Resenting the eating disorder doesn’t make it go away.  Not doing what I know works hands the power over to the eating disorder.

So, for me, the solution is that I need to ignore all of the reasons for not doing what I know works and do it anyway.

 

 

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The On Again Off Again Relationship

Ever hear someone talk about being in an on again/off again relationship?  When they’re on, they’re great.  The partners are in synch, nurturing each other, providing good support, a mutually beneficial give and take.  They have fun together.  Sunlight, roses, upbeat music surround them.  Joy ensues and they feel like, together, everything is better and they are invincible.

When relationships are off, whew boy.  The bloom comes off that rose.  Everything that used to be so simpatico dissolves into a morass of discontent.  The things that attracted two people to each other often become annoying.  Cute turns to cloying.  Give and take become keep and take more.  Sometimes you downright love and loathe each other at the same time and end up resenting what you most need.

This sounds a lot like my relationship with food and, by extension, with recovery.  When things are good, I’m in that sunlight and roses place.  Food is nourishment, it supports my body.  I enjoy what I eat and, when in strong recovery, I feel invincible.

When the relationship goes into “off again” mode, my viewpoint, attitude and emotions get completely skewed.  Take individual foods for example.  When in recovery, I absolutely love and savor healthy, delicious food.  I’ll get positively gleeful over a fresh salad with crisp vegetables and a melange of wonderful flavors.  Fruit is like ambrosia.  I taste and feel joy over fueling my body with yummy food and not overeating or compulsing.

When I go to the “off again” place, there’s no appeal in those same salad ingredients.  I lose my appetite for healthy food and start craving junk like sugary doughnuts and greasy french fries.

The food itself hasn’t changed.  I know that.  It’s all in my perception of it, depending on the state of my recovery.  When I’m in a good place, like I am tonight, I look at my whack perceptions and just sort of shake my head at the ridiculousness.  Living in a diseased state of binge eating or compulsive eating holds more than its share of crazy behavior, that’s for sure.

I’d like to keep my relationship with food on a more even keel, based on the simple fact that food is just food.  I don’t need to invest so much of my emotions and mental health in it.  Food can be a pleasure, when I eat it in reasonable, healthy, appropriate ways.

When I don’t, it can be the most stress-inducing, emotional turmoil producing matter in the world.

Currently, I’m in a good place.  I’m grateful and know that recovery can be fragile.  I need to shore it up, give it my proper time and attention.  Recovery needs to be tended and nurtured so that it grows healthy and strong.  That’s not all that different than an other relationship.

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Are You Balanced?

“Are you balanced?” Our instructors at last week’s Tai Chi workshops asked us that time and time again.  In the moment, it meant if we felt we were balanced in our bodies.  To properly balance requires a lot of different aspects to line up.  The first is the actual alignment, the stacking of my body over my feet.  Then there’s the notion of “equal and opposite force”.  When I stand up to kick, the intention in my hands and arms as I position them aids my balance.

Every time I practice my Tai Chai, I keep the question in mind and ask myself if I’m balanced.  It reminds me to strive for that feeling as I do the moves.  When I am balanced, I move with greater control and flow, as well as an absence of pain in my creakier joints.  I have to say that I feel wonderful in those moments.  They don’t always happen and, when necessary, it’s okay for me to use a prop foot, but I know how balanced feels and that’s the goal.

Balance infuses all of Tai Chi.  There’s a natural balance to be sought between body, mind and spirit.  Expanding out from the martial art, I seek balance in all areas of my life.  In OA, we sometimes talk about the three legged stool.  The “legs” are physical, mental, and emotional.  If those are not in balance, our foundation is uneven and doesn’t provide proper support.  We tilt and rock, spending more time adjusting or compensating for the part of our life that’s out of whack.

When I’m out of balance I am more vulnerable to my compulsive eating disease.  In those times, I most need to be aware of the which “leg” of the stool is shaky and do what I need to in order to secure it and bring myself back into balance.

Today I felt balanced all day.   I was able to sleep in a little this morning.  When I woke up, after I took care of the dogs, I went out on my porch to enjoy a beautiful day.  I did my Tai Chi foundation exercises, followed by a set.  Then I practiced a couple of moves that challenge me balance-wise.  I worked on finding my balance point in those moves so that I can remember how it feels when I do them right.  That muscle memory will help the next time.

I’d made plans to go to breakfast with a friend to celebrate her new job.  I knew that I would have the treat of a mimosa and some breakfast treats.  To compensate, instead of driving, we road our bikes.  After the meal, which was delicious, I opted to extend my bike ride a few more miles.  This balanced out the caloric intake a little, I think.  (Don’t worry, I only had one mimosa and we lingered over the meal so my cycling was not impaired.)

After an enjoyable ride, which benefited me emotionally as well as physically, I came home and addressed a variety of tasks inside and out of the house.  It’s a great feeling when I get things done instead of procrastinating.  I feel sharper mentally when I complete things and cross them off of my list.

In between, of course, there was also time for some dog cuddling and simply breathing in the fresh air while relaxing on the porch and watching boats cruise by.  These things warm and settle me emotionally.

Sunday afternoons, some of us get together at the beach to do more Tai Chi and this provided another opportunity not only for physical activity, but also relaxation and a connection to spirit.

When I got home, I prepared a nutritious and yummy dinner.  I think the act of cooking healthy food nourishes all three aspects of my balance.  I’ve discussed before that the evening hours are often challenging for me to remain with my food plan.  That’s when I most often want to eat or overeat on junk food.   Being in a balanced state freed me of the compulsion tonight.  I stuck with my plan to eat half an apple for a snack.

A few paragraphs ago I talked about paying attention so that I can feel my balance points in different moves.  Tonight, I’m looking back over the day and paying attention to how spending it in balance feels.  Hopefully, this self-awareness will make it easier for me to find this balance point again.

So, how are you doing?  Are you balanced?

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Transformation

Transformation is a big word that relates to big change.  I feel like I’ve experienced it over the last few days.  I’m not talking about my three years of post-surgery with the weight loss and regeneration of physical fitness. Here’s what took place.

After the great Taoist Tai Chi International Workshop I attended in Miami in February, I decided I wanted to do even more work toward improving my tai chi.  So, I signed up for a weekend workshop on Women and the Taoist Tai Chi Arts, followed by part of a five day workshop.  These workshops took place up on the west coast of Florida, led by top level people in the Taoist Tai Chi Society.  Top level as in they studied with Master Moy, the man who created this style of Tai Chi and the other arts connected with it.  Learning from the knowledge they shared, receiving corrections personally or observing them work with others was simply an amazing educational experience.  I am internalizing what I learned, applying it to my practice and feeling myself improve.

But why do I think the experience was transformational?  Was it really so  remarkable that I feel like I was transformed?  Yes, but not in one big, hit-by-a-lightning-bolt-from-the-blue.  I can compare it to Tai Chi itself.  We talk of doing a set which is a sequence of 108 moves arranged in a specific flowing order.  When we first start taking classes, we learn the set move by move by move.  Commencement of Tai Chi followed by left grasp bird’s tail, followed by grasp bird’s tail, followed by single whip and so forth.

Each move is important.  Each has many elements.  Even the simplest looking move incorporates complexities.  When someone watches Tai Chi, it might look simple, but it isn’t.  Trust me.  After we learn the full sequence and practice awhile, eventually we stop thinking of the whole by listing the individual parts and, hopefully, finishing each and automatically flowing into the next and the next and the next after.

In the workshop we worked on key things that are important to the overall ways in which we do Tai Chi.  We look for balance, alignment, stacking our bones, dropping down and rising up.  Those are a few.   Often, the instructor picks foundation exercises and has us work on them.  Sometimes it seems like the practice is endless on one or two exercises done over and over and over again.   They might follow that by selecting a move from the set that includes that exercise or exercises and then we do them over and over and over.  While we do so, the instructors move around, offering corrections to individual students and sometimes stopping the entire class while something is demonstrated as an example that all of us can see.

I received some individual corrections over the four and a half days that might seem simple if described, but which created great improvement in all of my Tai Chi.  The corrections might appear to be small, but oh the changes to which they can lead.   I won’t describe the corrections.  To do so would involve a lot of explanation that would easily be confusing to someone who doesn’t practice Tai Chi.    So hopefully you’ll just trust me on this.  Instead, I’d like to describe the experience of the results.

Monday night, after a 12 hour day of strenuous, repetitive practice, I returned to my hotel room and needed a warm bath, a couple of Ibuprofen and some Arnical gel on my joints.  Even with that trio of treatments, I ached.  My knees were tired, sore and, quite probably, inflammed.  I had great difficulty even falling asleep!

When I woke up, I didn’t know how on earth I’d make it through another day of Tai Chi, but I soldiered on.  That morning, we started out day by doing two complete sets from start to finish.  I focused on all the adjustments I’d learned in the previous days and did my best to include them in the way that I did the moves.

I should point out that the instructors frequently remind us to smile when doing Tai Chi.  Honestly, I think most of the time, we then rearrange our faces into grimace-like expressions meant to look like we’re smiling.  We’re uncomfortable and think that we’re faking.  Honestly, it’s not that we’re unhappy or suffering.  Our tendency is to concentrate and focus, determined to “do it perfectly”.  Conversely, the instructors want us to smile because smiling relaxes us.

During the second set that morning, the instructor again encouraged us to “let it go”, to “enjoy”, and, of course, “to smile”.  Something in the way that she said “let it go”, translated itself to my body and how I was  doing the set.  I was using all that I’d learned in my set that morning.  I was relaxed, moving with grace, finding my balance in difficult moves that I’d struggled with.  It was amazing and all of a sudden, I felt better than I ever have when doing the set.  I couldn’t contain my inner happiness, so it bubbled out of me into a broad smile.

No fake, grimace, but a true blue, genuine smile.   I continued through to the end of the set with a big grin on my face and pure joy glowing inside.  When we finished the set with a bow, I breathed my thanks to the instructors, to the man who developed this form, to all who practiced it in Florida and around the world.  I thought to myself that I always wanted my Tai Chi to feel the way that it did in that moment.  I felt forever changed.  Transformed.

Suffice it to say, my Tai Chi probably won’t always go that great.  I’ll fumble or need to check my balance with a prop foot,  but it won’t matter.  I know how it is supposed to feel, how great it can feel, and will be able to tap into that whenever I need to.

It’s a fine life-lesson, this.  Transformation doesn’t need the magic, all-at-once event.  It can be created by putting a series of small changes into place, refining the individual moments, and then opening ourselves up to the joy.

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Fear Is Not Good Motivation

I’ve come to understand that I cannot scare myself into losing weight or sticking to a food plan.  Being afraid of failing, of getting sick, of gaining back all of my weight, of losing the joyful life I have, heck, of dying, does not serve as great motivation.

I wish it did. If fear alone could keep me on track, I’d never veer.  Not even a millimeter off track would I step.  Unfortunately, my eating disorder doesn’t differentiate between a fear that could motivate me to stay in recovery and any other emotion-based fear.  For an emotional eater, any fear can be a trigger.

When I was a kid, occasionally out of their concern for me, my parents would try to impress on me the risk of being overweight and the potential dangerous health concerns that I faced if I didn’t diet and lose weight.  I know they hoped that being afraid of developing juvenile diabetes would get me to stop overeating, but those talks only made me want to eat more.

Right now, I’m experiencing a lot of fear and, for once, I’m trying to be rational, calm and objective about it so that I don’t overeat.  Instead, I try to spin my emotions into a more positive mindset.  It doesn’t do me any good to castigate myself and say things like, “If you mess up your food plan, you’ll gain back all of your weight; be fat and miserable.  You’ll put yourself right back on a fast track to early death or disability.”  That approach multiplies the fear and creates a mess of other negative emotions.

So, I’m really trying to focus on how I approach everything and look for the positives.  For example,when I think about preparing meals or if I’m faced with the choice whether to dive into some poor choices, it’s much healthier for me to think and say things like, “Follow your food plan and you’ll not only enjoy a delicious dinner, but you’ll be happy knowing you stuck with your program.  You’ll not only feel healthier, but you’ll be healthier.”

That’s a very simple example, but I think you get the gist.  The more I reinforce positive choices, the better.

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Identifying Trouble Times

I’m so sorry to have gone AWOL.  I dislike whining, but the last week has just been insanely busy with plenty of stress.  On the nights that I didn’t bring work home, I came home so tired that I couldn’t form coherent enough thoughts to write.

Hopefully, I can keep my thoughts gathered well enough, and long enough tonight.

I’m doing sort of so-so with my eating right now.  I am definitely a stress eater.  Stress is not an excuse, or at least not a justifiable excuse.  It just always challenges me to find ways other than eating to cope with the emotion.

What’s really interesting is that I do much better when I’m under the gun.  During the day when I am super busy — head down, powering through the projects that need to be done — I don’t obsess about the food.  I don’t have time!  Therefore, I have little issues with sticking to the planned-for food items for my mid-morning snack, lunch and mid-afternoon snack.  I can even mostly do well through dinner.

It’s after dinner that presents the biggest challenge.  I’ve had perfect days until around 7 p.m. and then morph into constantly fighting the compulsion to eat this, that or the other thing that isn’t on the plan… and then maybe eat the other thing, that, or this afterwards.  I end up feeling miserable emotionally and mentally — and sometime even physically, depending on what I ate.

I wonder why this pattern repeats.  Why is evening such a trouble time?  It’s almost as if when I’m busy and stressed, I don’t have time to act out on the stress by eating.  Then night rolls around, some of the busy-ness eases off but I’m left with the residual tension.  So I have all of that emotion, not enough to distract me from it, and I end up eating over it.

Having identified the time and the issue, I now need to devise a strategy.  Even if I’m brain weary and physically tired at night, I can find a positive action to engage me instead of reaching for food.

PACE = Positive Action Changes Everything

It will take some extra effort, particularly if I’m worn out.  Maybe I need to think of it in terms of balance and equality.  After all, if I have enough energy to boost myself off of the couch and walk to the kitchen for food, I should be able to muster enough to do something more healthy and constructive.

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Eat This Not That

Eat This Not That is the title of book(s) published awhile ago.  Yesterday was the first time I’d seen it as a magazine.  There it was at the supermarket checkout line, nestled in among several cooking magazines, a few fashion mags with impossibly slender actresses and models on the covers, and various other reading material choices.  Of course I bought it, despite the hefty $12.99 price.

Quick realization: When I wasn’t actively working on my health and weight, “diet” books always made me feel guilty and uncomfortable.  I’d buy them sometimes, determined that this would be the one.  More often, I’d ignore them, or try to, viewing them as finger-pointing, blame-casting scolds.  Amazing how much power we can give inanimate objects.

I’m not sure what giant-font-size lines drew my attention to this magazing.  It might have been the white on red top banner that said The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution, the purple on yellow 148 Smart Food Swaps or something else.  I’m not sure, but I brought the magazine home and started reading.

The magazine has a lot of terrific tips and useful recipes for preparing delicious meals that are lower in calories, fat, etc.  It has an extensive section on better choices to make at a number of restaurant chains and announced their choices for the greatest supermarket foods in a variety of categories like best bread. best energy bar, best cereal, best condiments, etc.  I like that it shows the calories, fat grams, sodium and sugar content of every choice and, where appropriate, the carb and fiber counts too.

Overall, I learned a lot and got some great, useful ideas that I can introduce into my life.

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Mood and Food Connections

It’s been a crazy week.  Correction, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks — all work/industry related.  Lots of work, often unexpectedly, which took higher priority over the many projects already on my list of things that needed to be accomplished.  This all creates no small amount of related stress.  I’ve never been one who could just leave it all behind at the office when I leave.  Out of sight is definitely not out of mind.  I keep thinking about the circumstances, working on solutions or tactics, figuring on what needs to be done, what could be done better, what I can bring to the table in a positive way, how can I best serve.  All that kind of stuff goes on in my brain whether I’m at work actively devoting time to the situation or not.

Even some people who are not compulsive overeaters with eating disorders will stress-eat.  (Or stress drink, stress shop, stress whatever.)  Whether the behavior distracts from that which is creating the stress, or whether the food or other behavior is a form of self-medication, it is still not the healthiest coping mechanism in the world.  In my case, it can trigger repeated compulsive eating, even when I am no longer strongly in the throes of the stress incident/situation itself.  The long-term residual effects can be much more damaging than the temporary handful of chips or extra piece of chocolate.  Then the fact that I was compulsive creates further negative reactions because I get all kinds of pissed off at myself for not handling the situation without using food.

The mood-food connection is strong.  Sometimes I am stronger; sometimes I’m not.  In order to combat the increased stress and craziness of the last couple of weeks, I’ve tried to be good to myself whenever I can.  No, I’m not always eating right, but I’m trying to keep up with the two decent dog walks a day. (By the way, I finally ordered myself another Fitbit to replace the one I ruined by including it in the wash-dry cycle.  The replacement arrives by Tuesday so I’ll get back to logging my steps.  I find it’s very motivating to go for the minimum of 10K steps a day!)  I practice my Tai Chi which is not only good physical exercise, but good for easing stress.  I keep up with my daily readings and do my best to practice self-kindness and acceptance to replace beating myself up for imperfect actions.

This weekend, I’ve scheduled a facial which is so much more than taking care of my skin.  It’s very relaxing and good for my spirit.  I have a lot of chores around the house that need to be done, but I’m also going to take some time to go and paint pottery.  A little time in creative endeavors will also nourish my serenity and calmness.  I can focus on that and not on stressful things.  Keeping my fingers crossed for calm winds on Sunday so I can also take a boat ride.  It’s been too long since I splashed my boat and time on the water is one of the most relaxing things that I can do.

Food-wise, I have yummy fresh vegetables in the house from our organics delivery earlier this week.  I attempted to make a version of fried tomatoes last night.  The results weren’t great, but they weren’t totally inedible.  I also roasted some romanesco which is a very pretty cousin of broccoli and cauliflower.  I have fresh Brussels sprouts to cook in a favorite recipe too.  Eating nourishing, delicious food that aligns with my food plan reinforces good self-care.  The act of cooking said delicious food is relaxing.  I can connect mood and food in positive, not damaging ways.  Healthier all around.

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Update to the February 3rd Post about Facing a Fear:  I successfully faced my fear and climbed up the temporary tower.  My heart pounded the whole way and was still pounding when I stood up there the first time.  I was even more nervous about climbing down.  However, I did the return trip successfully as well.  So, I’m good to go and can participate in the activity.  I know that I’m not going to fall or break anything on the structure.  So, booyah to me!

 

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Realizations

I went to a two day International Workshop for Taoist Tai Chi this weekend.  The instructor trained with the master that originated the set that we do in this form and has practiced it for more than 30 years.  He says he’s close to 60.  If that’s the case, then he is a walking advertisement for the health benefits of practicing this soft martial art.  Not only does he not appear to have any of the aches, pains or normal things that affect us when we get older, but he also doesn’t look older than 35.

I derived a number of benefits from this weekend.  We had three sessions on Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. and ending around 10 p.m. with lengthy breaks for lunch and dinner.  On Sunday we returned for another 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. session.  It’s a lot of Tai Chi for sure, but if you were there watching you could be excused for being bored watching 100 people do the same few things over and over and over and over and over and . . . you get the idea.

This was my first time attending an International Workshop and it wasn’t quite what I expected.  On Saturday, it seemed like the instructor did more talking than showing – which isn’t what we’re used to in our regular classes where there is comparatively little chatter and explanation but repeated demonstration of the moves.

Honestly, I started to get really impatient by lunch time.  Internally, I felt myself getting out of sorts and borderline annoyed.  It was ironic to me that we were spending so much time talking about the importance of being balanced in our movements when the program appeared to be so out of balance between actually doing Tai Chi and yacking about it.

Just the fact that I characterized it in my head as “yacking” shows that I was feeling sort of pissy and diminished what was being said.  Had I kept on with that attitude, I would have been in for a miserable weekend.

At some point, I moved from annoyance to acceptance.  The workshop would be what it would be, I decided, and told myself to get what I could from it when I could.  I turned off my internal bitching and opened myself up to whatever teaching was offered.

I’m so glad that I did.  When I got out of my own head and stayed in the moment, I found wisdom and insight all around.  As Saturday progressed, I saw that while we weren’t overall as actively engaged in doing moves from the set, we did plenty and what we did advanced our understanding and improved how we physically performed the moves.  Maybe we focused mostly on two foundation moves but the instructor showed us again how those two moves are part of almost every move in the entire set.  If we didn’t see it for ourselves right off, we sure did when we did an entire set with the instructor constantly pointing it out to us as we did our moves.

One thing we talked a lot about was expansion and contraction.  While the instructor wanted us to remember to expand and contract physically, I realized that my understanding had also expanded.  The awareness was so strong that it infused every movement.  When we did the set for a second time, with the focus on expanding and contracting and finishing each move before flowing into the next, time wise we slowed down, but the benefits were ever present.  I felt the good cardio effects as if I’d been taking a very brisk walk.  My entire body felt oxygenated in a way that I’d not experienced before with Tai Chi.  This was simply amazing.

From that point on, after experiencing that and the realization, all of my annoyance and impatience evaporated.  I truly was open to whatever happened.  I stopped gnawing on things mentally and just opened myself to it all.

In so doing, I kept learning.  We must have done a few hundred Wave Hands Like Clouds, but I was never bored.  I remained intently focused on the elliptical up and down, the weight shifts, and the timing of the steps.  It was great, just working it all into that one move.

At the end of the first long day when I got back to my hotel room, I was mentally and physically exhausted, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what I learned.  I took so much away from the process, realizing that I need to be willing to give up the upset when something isn’t what I expected or plans don’t unfold the way that I wanted.  There are whole other ways that life events can occur, ways over which I have no control, but they aren’t bad.  They just are — and when I open to them, great personal growth can occur.  Living in that kind of acceptance doesn’t mean lying down while someone flattens you with a heaving roller.  It means expanding from within to make room for whatever experience life offers.

It also reduces stress, discontent, annoyance, impatience and, did I mention, s-t-r-e-s-s?

I know that acceptance is often the answer, but knowing and putting it into practice are often at two equal and opposite ends.  It’s really good when the knowing and praticing come together.

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