How one woman found yoga, eased her inner hunger, and started loving herself. Follow Kimber as she shares her journey to loving her body, the joys and sorrows of yoga teaching, and venturing into the wilderness of writing and publishing.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Right Tool

Last week, the garden showed up first on my to-do list, so I braved our messy basement to look for the rake. The rake was AWOL.

My partner had lent it out. What to do? My first tool of choice, gone, and an hour get my gardening chores done. I love the rake. When you turn it upside down, it does a fairly good job of getting those pesky little weeds out of the garden path. Thanks to the early fall rains, tons of weeds had made their beds in the gravel.

Frustrated, I started pulling out tools; no, the pickaxe won’t work. Nix the shovels, the posthole digger, the flat hoe, the… what the heck is this? I extracted an unrecognizable piece of rusty metal stuck on the end of a long handle. This tool did not belong to me, or my partner. This tool had obviously been in the basement since long before we moved in.

Given the state of the backyard when we moved in, it probably hadn’t been used since before I was born.

Rusty and dented… this tool was perfect. I scraped the metal stirrup along the gravel and it magically disrupted all the baby weeds, roots first. This tool was faster and better than the rake. Way better. Thanks to the magic of Google, I discovered the name of my new favorite tool was---surprise!--- the stirrup hoe. I am in love with my stirrup hoe.

A certain irony was not lost on me: If I hadn’t experienced the frustration of not having my preferred tool at hand, I never would have discovered the beautiful stirrup hoe. If my other tool hadn't gone missing, I never would have found the one that made my life easier and better.

Lately in the Love Your Body workshop, I’ve been talking about all the practices we learn as tools in our toolbox that we can use to love our bodies in various situations and under different stresses. We can get dependant on a couple of these tools, our go-to devices that help us everyday, until one day they go AWOL.

When that happens, dig a little deeper to find the tools you’ve forgotten about, that you had no idea were laying down there with the odd screws and nails.

You might find that suddenly the lovingkindness practice you haven’t thought of in years arises as deeply relevant and compelling. That dialoguing with your demon instantly brings relief. That pausing and asking your body what it needs is just what you need. That not only do these revived tools suddenly work, but that they are perfect for your life and your body right now.

Your Love Your Body toolbox has dependability and depth, and can set the unexpectedly perfect tool in your hand just when it’s needed.

Stay tuned for my lineup of Love Your Body Workshops for 2012, one starting Feb 1 at Namaste Grandlake, one at Yogakula SF in April, and more to come. Drop me a line if you know someplace you'd like me to bring the workshop.

Plus, I have some exciting news… I am taking a hiatus from the blog for a couple of months to finish revising my first book, Full: How one woman found yoga, eased her inner hunger and started loving herself, so that I can self-publish it in the new year. No more waiting! Are you ready to have the book in your hands? So am I. I might drop in a blog here or there to update you on my progress, we’ll see.

Also, in February, I’ll be starting a Love Your Body six-month mentorship group, where we have weekly check-ins and get together once a month for love your body classes and activities. Only a small group of women will be able to join me for this special program and the price range will be about $600. So consider if you’d like to make this commitment to your relationship with your body. I’ll send out more information via this blog, email, and facebook, as more details are confirmed.

Blessings to you on all your Love Your Body journeys! Kimber

Love Your Body Blog Part 67

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fat Doesn’t Equal Failure

There’s a woman I know. You know her. In fact, she might be you. She might be my mom, or my sister, or even me. She’s smart. She’s accomplished. She’s compassionate and loving. She’s changing the world in her own way. And she thinks she’s a failure. Why? Because she’s fat. Or at least she thinks she’s fat. Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter, because she believes it. She believes that she is fatter than she “should” be. No accomplishment in her life competes with her less-than-ideal body. She will always think of herself as having failed.

Or will she?

Here’s the question I want to ask her… who has the right to tell you you’re not beautiful just the way you are? Who?

Possible answers include:

1. Everyone

2. Madison Avenue

3. Hollywood

4. Simon Cowell

5. the clerk at Macy’s

6. your dad/mom/uncle/grandmother/sister/step-brother

7. your husband/boyfriend/partner

8. your boss/ex-boss/coworker

9. the girls in your sixth grade gym class

10. ______________________ [fill in the blank]

11. No one.

The only correct answer to this question is 11. No one has been given the official seal of the universe to infallibly dispense the label of beauty upon those few who meet some absurd, arbitrary ideal. Your beauty is not up for public approval, national referendum, or The Galaxy’s Next Top Model.

Your beauty is self-apparent to everyone who loves you.

In Brene Brown’s wonderful TED talk about love and connection (watch it here), she says the difference between people who feel a sense of worthiness and belonging and people who don’t is that… they feel a sense of worthiness and belonging. Yes I know, it’s a tautology. You see, the difference isn’t that they come from wealthy families or poor families, or that they had happy childhoods or unhappy ones.

The difference is their belief about themselves.

Brown’s research doesn’t cover this, but I suspect that the difference between people who believe that they are beautiful and people who don’t… is simply a belief in their own beauty. The difference is not between women who are 5’10”, weigh 120 lbs, and look like Kate Moss and women who are 5’5”, weigh 220 lbs, and look like Gertrude Stein. The difference is not that women who obsess about their weight and diet feel beautiful and women who don’t feel ugly. (Interestingly, the opposite may be more true!)

The difference is simple: whether or not you believe you are beautiful.

No one has the right to define beauty in a way that excludes you. Not even you. Beauty is not objective. Even normative ideas of beauty change enormously over history and between cultures.

Why do we allow ourselves to feel terrible about our bodies? Is it true that a woman can solve global poverty, cure cancer, invent cold fusion, plant a tree, or raise a happy child, and still look in the mirror and feel like a failure because her body doesn’t match some idea in her head about what it should look like?

You deserve better. You deserve to feel beautiful whatever your body looks like or feels like.

I think of Karen Carpenter, the singer who haunted my dreams as a child. Her voice was gorgeous and pure, she was an accomplished drummer, and a beautiful woman. Yet she always believed she was fat, and therefore ugly. All of her success musically meant nothing to her if she was fat, and she starved herself to death as a result. You can see clearly how ridiculous Karen Carpenter’s misplaced beliefs were. Can you see that in yourself?

Why is fat the be-all and end-all of beauty? So what if you’re fat, or if you think you’re fat? Let yourself be fat and beautiful. Let yourself be beautiful with these five extra pounds, with these fifty extra pounds, with whatever number of extra pounds you imagine you have. Let them be beautiful too. Screw anyone who doesn’t believe you’re beautiful. They aren’t the boss of your beauty or anyone else’s.

You’re smart. You know better.

Treat yourself better.

P.S. The last Love Your Body workshop of 2011 happens this Sun, Oct 23 in Livermore! Let me know if you want to join us!

Love Your Body Blog Part 66

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Body, the Beer-Swilling, TV-Watching Couch Surfer

Have you ever thought to yourself…?

“If I listen to my body, it will tell me to lie prone on the couch and eat chocolate-covered potato chips until I can’t move.”

“If I trust my body, I’ll never make myself go to the gym and I’ll devour pints of Ben and Jerry’s like they’re peanuts.”

“If I pay attention to my body’s needs, I’ll become a boneless sloth with nothing to live for.”

“If I love my body, the skies will rain blood, birds will explode for no reason, and the world will get sucked into a cosmic death spiral to the tune of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.”

Really? Is it true that your body has the personality of a lazy, ravenous, good-for-nothing wastrel who only wants to lie back and see if Wile. E. Coyote finally catches the Roadrunner?

I used to think that. I was pretty sure that if I listened to my body I would eat nothing but mint chocolate cookie ice cream and sleep all the time: I would get fat. Or fatter.

The first time you listen to your body feels like standing at the top of a ridge and trusting the air to catch you and cradle you safely to the earth below.

It’s an impossibly scary and exhilarating leap of faith in yourself: that your body’s wisdom exists and you can trust it wholly. Every fear will shape itself into a looming doubt to keep you from jumping and knowing the truth about yourself.

Here’s the truth:

1. Your body is an animal.

2. Your body knows what makes it feel good.

3. Your body loves to move.

4. Your body doesn’t want to overeat or undereat.

5. Your body doesn’t want to be injured by too much movement or too little movement.

Your body wants to feel good. Let it show you what it needs. Let your body catch you.

[Here’s another truth: your body needs fat. You can’t live without it. Don’t be at war with fat, on you, in you, or on anyone else. Fat is not the enemy.]

I used to think that I was the kind of person who couldn’t control herself around food. If I started a candy bar, I finished the whole thing. I figured that listening to my body meant I wouldn’t stop with just one candy bar; you’d find me in a heap of chocolate-smeared wrappers at the bottom of the box.

Imagine my surprise, when after listening to my body for a while, I learned that it doesn’t like candy bars. My body feels irritable and tired when I eat gobs of sugar. Nowadays my body says, “One bite of cake would be perfect. One small piece of that chocolate bar would be delicious. Half a truffle is just right.”

For years I rolled my eyes at people who said crap like that. Really? You can stop at half a truffle? Bullshit. Not me.

Yeah, me.

You, too.

Here’s a good place to start. Below is Linda Bacon’s “Live Well Pledge,” a list of aspirations that invite you to listen to and trust your body:

Today, I will try to feed myself when I am hungry.

Today, I will try to be attentive to how foods taste and make me feel.

Today, I will try to choose foods that I like and that make me feel good.

Today, I will try to honor my body’s signals of fullness.

Today, I will try to find an enjoyable way to move my body.

Today, I will try to look kindly at my body and to treat it with love and respect.

Seriously, does this look like a recipe for bedsores? No way. This is the recipe for being able to eat what you what, when you want, as much as you want, and no more than you want, for moving your body in ways that it loves, and for treating yourself like a goddess, not like a caged tiger.

For me, loving my body is the recipe for feeling the best I’ve ever felt in my life, for enjoying food more, for being in better shape than I’ve ever been… and not by forcing myself to do things I hate, but by letting my body do what it loves.

In the words of Mary Oliver:

You don’t have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

from “Wild Geese”

Your body is the fount of tremendous wisdom. Are you ready to listen?

Thanks to Tammi Baliszewski of Empower Radio, whose interview with me today inspired this blogpost, and follow up with Linda Bacon's Live Well Pledge by reading her book, Heath At Every Size.

Love Your Body Blog Part 65

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Please stare at me.

Go ahead. It’s your special assignment. You will need: about five dollars, your reusable mug, and at least 45 minutes.

Your Assignment:

1. Go to a café and order your favorite drink. You know, the Americano, the frappaccino (my son fondly calls them “crappacinos”), or the machiatto. Whatever. Just make sure the café has people in it. Lots of them. Deserted cafes are not appropriate for this exercise, unless you don’t mind making the baristas uncomfortable.

2. Now sit down at a table and… stare at people. Actually, look at them out of the corners of your eyes while wearing dark sunglasses. Better? Find some position where you can discretely watch the folks around you.

3. Notice how the woman in front of you is standing. What do you like about her? Maybe you covet her jacket, or admire how she wears her hair. Look for something good about her. Maybe you like the way she’s patient with her child, or how she’s moving her head to the music of her ipod.

4. Look more closely. Does she look like she feels comfortable in her body? Does she inhabit the space around her on shrink into herself? Does she seem unselfconscious or the opposite? Does she seem caring? Harried? Bored? Content? Did she notice you looking at her? Did she smile or scowl?

5. Go on to the man behind you and notice the same things. Notice the outer appearance first, notice something you like, then go on and look for the more subtle clues about how they carry themselves, how they feel about themselves in the world.

6. Find someone whose energy you find appealing. After looking at a few people, feel free to come back to someone you already looked at.. Maybe they reflect something you don’t normally experience, a quiet serenity or a buoyant sassiness. Maybe it’s someone who looks at home in her (or his) body and happy to be alive, or someone who inhabits the space around her easily, confidently. Whoever it is, whatever the feeling is, close your eyes and imagine what it feels like to embody that in the world. Breathe in the energy of that feeling: confidence, enjoyment, and well-being. Sit in a way that reflects those feelings in your body and heart. Invite that feeling into yourself.

Perhaps you’re wondering, why should I sit in a café and stare at people? Thanks for asking.

1. You learn to look beyond the surface.

2. You learn to see the good in people, both at and below the surface.

3. You notice how the energy of other people affects you. Some people, you want to imitate how they are in their bodies. Other people, you definitely don’t.

4. You see how often a person’s appearance doesn’t translate into feeling good about themselves. A person who has what you consider the ideal body type might seem very unhappy. Another person whose body type you don’t appreciate much, might seem very confident and at ease within themselves.

5. Many of the people we “see” in our lives are actors and models on screens and billboards. When we look at real people we learn to see and appreciate the diversity of bodies all around us.

Expand your ability to appreciate and learn from the folks around you just by pausing and noticing their bodies and energy. Offer a blessing out to those who seem to need one and invite in the energy of those who look like they have some to spare. You may be the one who shifts someone else’s energy!

[As a side note, you might want to try this exercise in the Actual Café in Oakland on San Pablo at Alcatraz. I hear they have some spontaneous Love Your Body artwork in progress. Check it out on the way to the bathroom. Thanks for the tip, Laura L.!]

Love Your Body Blog Part 64