Mental Health

To Those With Invisible Illnesses

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about invisibility. I’m not talking about the super power, I’m talking about things that can’t be seen. Like invisible illnesses. If you have followed me for some time or know me you are aware of my invisible illnesses: eating disorders, anxiety, un-diagnosed GI issues. But there are also more invisible illnesses: depression, other mental disorders, addiction, autoimmune diseases (fibro, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc…)With 1 in 5 adults experiencing or diagnosed with mental illness, and approx 50 million people living with an autoimmune disorder , chances are you have known someone who is suffering without you being aware of it it.

 

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Those of us who live with these various illnesses become masters of masking our pain with smile and concealing it better than the best make up concealer in the world. Sometimes we are too good at covering it up that people don’t believe us.  Invisible illnesses are also hard to explain when on the outside you look happy and healthy but internally your body is waging war. It seems that unless we bear our souls, post a billion IG videos documenting our lives, send up prayer requests in small groups, act sick all the time, become hermits; then do people only sorta begin to understand or have a bit of sympathy.

I can’t tell you how many times people don’t believe me when I say I have an illness. When I first began to seek help for my eating disorder I constantly heard, “you don’t look like you have one”, “you aren’t emaciated, just thin, only emaciated people have eating disorders”, “but you eat. how can you have anorexia when you I see you eat all the time?”,  “you can’t be addicted to exercise, exercise is healthy!”. Now with my mysterious GI issues I hear, “you are too young to have this problem”, “are you sure you have a problem?”, “it’s just IBS”. Do this sound familiar? “You’re just tired, “all you need is a nap”, “you’re being over dramatic”, “do more yoga”, “try this essential oil”…the list goes on and on.

 

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I have blogged about this before and keep discussing it in therapy, how difficult it is for me to work on cultivating a positive body image when my body hates me. Who else has been there? Between people not believing us, the doctors appointments, the episodes, bland diets, and tears we forget that we aren’t our illness.  It is so easy to get caught up in the physical that we wear ourselves down even more. The disconnect continues to grow and fester till it’s unbearable. But is it truly unbearable?

How can it be bearable? By coming together and lifting each other up. Reminding one another that we are beautiful beings who are capable of so much more; that there is more to life and even on our worst day it’s a miracle that we are even here. We can also see each other–and I don’t mean physically look. I mean really see. Recognize others who are like us and show support. Educate others on these invisible illnesses and teaching them how to show support for people like us. For my yogis out there, really practice Namaste.   Lastly, take time to remind yourself that you aren’t your body by reading this meditation. Then reach out to someone who needs to be seen, fully loved, and fully heard.

 

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So next time you are all alone in our bedroom wrapped up in our favorite blanket cuddling with our doggy waiting for our episode to be over, that we aren’t alone. There is someone else out there wrapped up in their favorite blanket, cuddling with their animal, waiting for their episode to be over.

 

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Words

As I am making a commitment to writing more I sit here wordless. Or maybe just distracted. I know I have things to say, because I always do, but for some reason I cannot access them.  Error 404.  While I may not have the right words, I know others do. You can “quote” me on that.

Who doesn’t love a good quote? Quotes are some of the best and simplest ways to find the right words when you can’t find any. They are also fun to memorize and use when you are in need of some encouragement or a little beauty. For years I have kept notebooks filled with quotes and song lyrics that resonate with me. They were inspirational, amusing, or acted as a guide through troubling times. Today I am going to share with you some of my favorite quotes. I hope you find some inspiration and beauty in these words as much as I do.

 

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On Eating Disorder Recovery

  • “To be beautiful is to be yourself. you don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”-Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.”-Sophia Bush
  • “Don’t be afraid to  move out of your comfort zone. Some of your best life experiences and opportunities will transpire only after you dare to lose.”-???
  • “It’s not your fault that you developed an eating disorder, or depression, or an addiction, or whatever else is trying to steal your life away. But it is your responsibility to save yourself. And you can.”-Josie Tuttle
  • “You can’ t change until you accept where you are and who you are. You find out who you are by being honest with yourself and others…Life is never static and neither are we.”-EDA Workbook, Step 1
  • ” Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves,  who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking  so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of u; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people to permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”-Marianne Williamson

 

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On Life

  • “If you add a little to a little, and then do it again, so that little shall be much”.-Hesoid
  • “Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself. If you make an agreement with yourself to  be impeccable with your word, just with that intention, the truth will manifest through you and clean all the emotional posion that exists within you.” The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz
  • “All of humanity is searching for truth, justice, and beauty. We are on an eternal search for the truth because we only believe in the lies we have stored in our mind. We are searching for justice because in the belief system we have, there is no justice. We search for beauty because it doesn’t matter how beautiful a person is, we don’t believe that person has beauty. We keep searching and searching, when everything is already within us.”-Don Miguel Ruiz
  • “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”-Confucius
  • “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me. No fear.”-Nina Simone
  • “I was halfway across America, at the dividing line  between the East of my youth and the West of my future.” Jack Kerouac, On the Road
  • “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is so on the road.” -Jack Kerouac, On the Road
  • “Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”-Hans Christian Anderson
  • “It doesn’t not matter how slowly you go; as long as you don’t stop.”-Confucius
  • “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”-Douglas Adams

 

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On Yoga

  • “If I’m losing balance in a pose, I stretch higher and God reaches down to steady me. It works every time, and no just in yoga.”-T. Guillemets
  • “Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for a worldly gain.”-K. Pattabhi Jois
  • “Do not stop trying just because perfection eludes you.”-BKS Iyengar
  • “Go from a human being doing yoga to a human being yoga.”-Baron Baptiste
  • “Yoga does not change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.”-BKS Iyengar
  • “The attitude of gratitude is the highest yoga.”- Yogi Bhajan
  • “Yoga is almost like music in a way; there’s no end to it.”-Sting
  • “Yoga is a powerful vehicle for change. As you build strength you start to believe in your own potential.”-Tiffany Cruikshank
  • “Anyone can breathe. Therefore anyone can practice yoga.”-TKV Desikachar

 

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What are some of your favorites quotes? Share below!

Happy One Month

I have been in Oklahoma City a little over a month. It is crazy how quickly time flies. It feels just like yesterday that we were living in hotel rooms and waiting for our furniture to arrive. It feels just like yesterday that I experienced my first hail storm. I am halfway through tornado season and I might just make it…maybe, that is if I don’t get bulldozed and blown away by OKC’s sixty mph winds.

Being here the past month I have learned so much. It is just like the quote we see on all those reclaimed wood pieces, you never know how strong you are until you have to be. While I have moved a lot during my life, it is one reason why I developed my eating disorder, I never did it as an adult. I was always with my family. With this move I only had my husband and my dog. Even the feel of the move is different when you are an adult. As an adult you actually comprehend what is happening and it is harder to say goodbye, especially when you have roots. While I enjoy being nomadic (growing up I wanted nothing more than to travel the world, not staying in one place for to long, experiencing new things–which I still do) it is different when you have roots. People you care about it. Emotional ties. Family. Being uprooted is almost death, but like vegetables that you can replant from roots-avocados, celery-you can be brought back to life, sometimes even stronger than before.

 

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One of My Favorite Bronze Sculptures in Downtown Edmond

 

As I mentioned in my previous post, this move has been triggering. With each passing day I am getting acclimated to this region (even though all this wind is aggravating my dosha! #vataproblems) and I’m working on managing my eating disorder/anxiety. I am becoming more grounded and setting up a routine that I desperately need to keep my ED and anxiety at bay ( I’m even starting therapy again-beginning today). While I am making a daily schedule I am learning to block time for fun and exploration. This move is teaching me to find balance and resiliency, a quality I don’t have that I hope I can learn.

On a spiritual note, this move helped me get back to praying. From the moment Jere told me the good news fear and anxiety set in. I knew this was a big shift and needed support. So I began to pray. I prayed that we would be safe, find a place where we would fit in/community. I also began to pray that He would open doors for me that weren’t available where I was. I began to grow weary of the freelance life and longed for something more stable. I prayed that He would help bring the right yoga studio and opportunities my way. He moved a lot sooner than I expected and within two weeks I was working in a studio that reminded me of my home studio. I began to volunteer with Yoga in the Park and meet people. I’m still praying and jumping on opportunities that present themselves. some workout, some don’t, and that’s OK. At the end of the day I’m thankful for His guidance and the discernment He has given me.

 

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This Fun Mural is in Downtown Edmond Outside the Shoppe, Summit, a Wilderness Store.

 

Each day I wake up in OKC, look at the beautiful sunrise as I take Winston out for a walk and I can’t believe I am here. Each Wednesday when I drive into the city (Midtown) with the skyline and skyscrapers in my eyesight, I get excited. I can’t believe that I’m finally living the Metro life. Everything I have ever wanted is ten to twenty minutes away. Any experience I have missed out on is here. The people that I meet daily and/or work with are unlike anyone I’ve met. Opportunities abound and I can’t help but dance in my heart.

If this first month in OKC has been this eventful I can’t imagine what will happen next month, the third month, or the month after that. Where will I be by Christmas? How about this time next year? I can’t wait.

 

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An Oklahoma Sunrise

 

 

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Life has been a whirlwind since I last blogged. Lots of life has happened. Since my last post, my husband and I go had three weeks to move from TN to OK. I have been in OK a little over a month and I have been busy! My goal to work in a yoga studio has happened. I am slowly meeting people and still trying to find a way to dance. I have been to the ballet, sipped coffee in new coffee shops, and tried some new things. While life has been good-I am thriving professionally and loving the city life-I have also been relapsing.

This relapse has been slightly different than previous ones throughout my years of recovery. As one continues in recovery, relapses take different shapes and forms (see my other post Rabbit Hole Relapse). This little set back has been triggered by the move. Which makes sense because I am not in control, I am new to a foreign place (even though OK isn’t too different from TN, the parallels are quite spot on), trying to get my ducks in a row, and my workout schedule has changed quite a bit–more on this next week. On top of all of this my GI Phantom has reappeared and we all know how that goes…

 

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Obviously one must restrict calories and find the control through food manipulation when one is going through an uprising. However, I cannot restrict food because it makes me even crankier, so I just obsess about every piece of food that goes into my mouth. I secretly count calories, have marathon worry sessions (to bad these marathons don’t burn calories!!!!), eat lots of fruit,  and the worst part of all: I become selfish.

Those of us who suffer from ED’s have one thing in common-we are selfish. When we are in the depths of ED despair all we can think about is ourselves: what we look like, what the number on the scale says, if our food choices are healthy, asking our safe person five hundred times a day if we look fat/have our thighs turned dimply/do we look any different, all we can talk about is food-exercise-body image. We aren’t aware of those around us and how they feel, we can’t see how we are bringing them down, we aren’t content, we see the worst in everything, and most importantly we forget to look around and see the beauty in life.

 

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For the past month, everyday I have been negative about my body. Asking Jeremy every hour on the hour that he is home “how do I look?”, “are my thighs turning into cottage cheese?”, “I haven’t exercised today because my schedule is crazy, is that ok?”, “can you tell that I haven’t worked out?”, “am I still pretty?”. Everything is revolved around me, me, me. Even though he is stressed and could use some comfort I cannot see it or give it because all I care about is what I look like. These thoughts not only cloud our head and thought processes, they cloud our vision. We cannot see things for how they really are. We cannot see who we really are. It isn’t until someone calls you out on your selfishness that you can begin to make a change.

This is precisely what happened with me and Jeremy. One day this past week I spent over the half the day not talking about anything but food and my horrible body. I guess (I guess, hah, I know!) that Jeremy had had enough and he said to me, “I know that what you look like is all you care about but….” I can’t really remember the rest but that statement “all you care about” was enough to knock me back to Earth because I DO care about other things. I care about my family, my dog, my husband, being a good yoga teacher, art, helping those around me, spreading smiles and happiness to those who seem a little sad. That statement helped me to back off a little bit, instead of 500 questions a day about my body I’ll ask 490, and focus on my relationship with Jeremy–because my relationship with him will always overcome and be priority over my relationship with Melvin (my ED).

While I’m still coping with my body and not very happy with it, I am trying my best to be less self obsessED and more content(ED).

 

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Great Expectations

“All expectation creates disappointment”-Steve Ross, Happy Yoga

 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a book review of the Dickens classic. Honestly, I’ve never read the book. I’ve just watched the glorious 90s movie version with Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke.But there are some similarities between the theme of that book and today’s blog topic. Each and everyone of us has expectations. There are expectations of ourselves and expectations of others. While there are merits to these expectations and they can be used as a guide to navigate relationships they can also ruin them. Both types of expectations can destroy relationships and can be set so high that they set us up for failure.

First lets talk about expectations of ourselves. From the time we are born expectations are placed on us. Who remembers what your parents expected of you? Were you expected to make all A’s, be in every extra curricular, play musical instruments, excel at a sport or two or three, be the best Christian in your youth group, never say a bad word, “act like a lady” (my favorite), be home by 10 pm, never let people see you struggle, be on top and in control of e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g…you were expected to be the best. Maybe you were expected to be just “OK”. Not quite the over achiever but make decent grades, play one sport, “act like you have class” (another great one!). How about being the brunt of low expectations. You were expected to just get by without getting in trouble or ending up in juvenile detention, or “not being like your dad/mom” (parents have brilliant moments don’t they?).

 

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Where did those expectations come from? Who is responsible for telling us what is expected of us before they understand who we are, what are circumstances are, and where we are in the moment? Unfortunately, most people cannot answer this. Growing up I would ask my parents all the time why they believed in something or why we did certain things (most of the time it pertained to a religious aspect but sometimes it was about why they believed what they did) and all I could get was “that’s just what we do” or “that’s just how it’s always been”. I  never liked that answer. These expectations of “what is becoming of a young woman” (I got that at least 2-3 x/month) , “what love is like”, “only good girls who make all A’s get into college” or whatever else pertained to you growing up shapes how you view the world, view others, and view yourself.

In addition to familial, cultural, and societal expectations placed upon us we begin to generate our own expectations. I’ll share with you one of my expectations. I treat everyone fairly and with kindness (As much as I can I am only human). I expect for people to do the same for me. I’m a firm believer in the golden rule and the whole concept of karma (law of action). We all have expectations and place them on others whether we want to admit it or not. When someone fails my expectations and doesn’t reciprocate kindness for kindness *insert your expectation* I am hurt, disappointed, and angry.  I constantly find myself saying to my husband, “I just don’t understand how people aren’t nice”, “I don’t understand why people can’t be kind”, “I’ve been nothing but nice, considerate, and giving. What do I get in return? Nothing! Not even a thank you note!”.  I recently experienced this first hand. I was very upset that all my  hard and free work, my life, my soul was given to an institution. When it was all said and done, I gave my thank you notes, kinds words and nothing was reciprocated. I immediately lost all control and wanted to drop all contact with the institution and individual. I expected them to see my hard work and give me what I was seeking for-kindness and appreciation.After some long venting sessions with the husband I realized that they didn’t know my expectations. That not everyone shares my same opinions on how to treat people. It isn’t their problem, but mine for projecting and expecting them to be how I want them to be.   These failed expectations also lead us to judgemental behavior, “if only they were raised better they would know that is how you do x-y-z etc…”. And judging gets you no where! No one likes to be judged…

 

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So where do these expectations truly come from? Everything we know and believe is a construct of society.  For example, if you grow up in upper middle class America you are per-dispositioned to one kind of expectations–need I say more? If you are like me and grow up in the South there are plenty of expectations set upon both sexes–that’s a whole different post.  When we dive deep into finding where the construct was originated you again find a muddled mess.I never thought much about constructs and where we get our mindset till I read the book Happy Yoga by Steve Ross. Ross defines social concepts as, “a mental construct unverifiable in the moment by experience. It is a framework of thoughts and beliefs in the mind as opposed to an actual experience in awareness” (17). He goes on to say, “Concepts are in the mind. They are inferred and often useless and illusory. Experience is the real thing; it occurs in the present moment. Concepts are labels that keep us thinking about the world”(18).

It is up to us to challenge our expectations and constructs. Explore where they come from and what good do they do us. Upon examining them maybe you will find that they keep you from seeing the best in people and developing relationships with others. That they do more harm than good. They actually don’t guide you but destroy you. Maybe your expectations don’t do that this going within leads you somewhere else. I’d love to know what you find.

 

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Rabbit Hole Relapse

I’ve written about relapse before but this topic is always worth coming back to. Especially when you write about your experiences, need something to write about, and just had your first relapse in quite some time. Relapse isn’t scary for me anymore. When you first start recovery you are scared of relapsing. You are scared that you will loose the progress you made or that you are…what your ED tells you…”a failure”,”worthless” or my favorite, “you really are fat”.  I have been in recovery for almost six years and I will say relapses doesn’t happen that often. After you’ve been around the block a few times you  begin to notice when a relapse is happening or when you approach food or exercise the wrong way. I pull the yoga approach and just acknowledge it. Recognize that it’s there but go on my merry way. I do not sit down with it and have a cappuccino, or better yet a binge induced vegan affogato with the new Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream.

When I relapsed recently I actually found it intriguing. Why? Because I went through a dance concert a few months ago, where I was in multiple numbers and didn’t restrict food. I for once ate a lot, kept myself healthy and sane. I use to do the opposite. So obviously you would see why I was confused with this relapse. I didn’t do my yoga techniques or recovery techniques, I instead sat down and had 2 TBSP pistachios, 1 cup of soymilk, blueberries, and fiber pills. Or I would have measured out cereal, measured out oven fries, measured out everything. I was angry, I was hungry (I think it’s called hangry), I was checking for cellulite, I was hating my body (more so than usual), everything sucked. I think I said “I hate everything” with a few expletives more than once.

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That’s what a relapse does. It makes you angry because 1) you gave in 2) you fall back into old habits that were coping mechanisms for your insecurities/control that exacerbated the problem. Relapse is also a “rabbit hole”, just like Alice in Wonderland. You go follow the white rabbit, usually it is a thought put in your head like “I’m not the skinniest girl in the room anymore, I’m fat”, “My muscles are different”, “Why doesn’t my top quad stick out as much anymore?”. You take the bait, or should I say pill to stay with the Alice theme, and BAM! you are in a hole that you can’t get out of-only if you want to.

If you want to…If you want to…If you want to. Relapse is a peculiar thing, it’s comfy and constricting. You can easily get out of it-work your steps, call a sponsor, do some yoga-but it is comfy, like your favorite hoodie. The hoodie that is worn in, holds special memories, the perfect fit and smell. It keeps your warm and protects you from the rain. However, you still get wet from the rain. The hoodie has holes. The hoodie has its fair share of bad memories. Just like a relapse. Relapse has it’s good memories (remember when you ate only 1,000 calories and worked out for 5 hours) but it also has it’s bad (remember when you ate only 1,000 calories and worked out for 5 hours BUT couldn’t sleep because you were starving?). Relapse constricts you because you haven’t been in for awhile, so you’re a little bigger and it has to work harder to tighten you up, makes you pull the hood over your head and pull the string…tighter, tighter, tighter, tighter, tighter.

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After a few more rabbit hole trips and not being able to  breath due to the hood over your head there are two options. 1) stay in and go back to your old ways or 2) make the decision to stop the relapse. Option one is definitely easier but it sucks because your anger is making life difficult. Option two is more difficult but makes life easier. Which one do you think I chose?

Two. I definitely like to be comfy and cozy, but my ED doesn’t make me comfy and cozy anymore. My dog and husband make me comfy and cozy. I do like rabbit holes, but only when I watch Alice and Wonderland or am on a Parks and Recreation Netflix binge. I am trying to choose two every day. I haven’t been perfect, but as yoga teaches us, there is no such thing as perfection and just be OK with the process.

 

Ms. Magenta

So each month I have a newsletter and I write an intention. My intentions are similar to a meditation, just a little nugget of wisdom and something to think about for the month. It is such a joy and pleasure to write these intentions. While I hope people are inspired by them, it is not the reason I write them. I write them from my own experience and from the heart. I feel as if I need to write and share a part of me with them, it is like a way I blog when I am not blogging. My blog is the same way. I don’t do this for the praise and comments (though it is nice), I do it because it is a way for me to heal and show others that a new life is possible. I like to view intention/meditation writing and blogging as another aspect of my yoga practice (asana/posture is only one of 8 limbs). I wrote this for my October  newsletter and it is a favorite of mine. Why? Because it involves a quote from The Golden Girls and I have always wanted to write something based on the quote. So here we go…thank you Blanche Deveroux.

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Do you ever have days that you are so overwhelmed that it is a miracle that you were able to just take a shower or even eat? How about days that are so chaotic that all you can do is breathe and not know what to do? What about days where you aren’t sad/blue, or angry/red, or scared…you don’t know how you feel. You just have something over you. Maybe it is a cloud. Maybe it is something else. Who knows? Blanche Devereaux does, she calls it Magenta. In one episode she says, “Magenta, that’s what I call it when I get that way – all kinds of feelings tumbling all over themselves. Well, you know you are not quite blue, because you’re not really sad. And although you are a little bit jealous, you wouldn’t say you are green with envy. Every now and then you realize you are kinda scared, but you’d hardly call yourself yellow. I hate that feeling. I just hate it. And I hate the color magenta. That’s why I named it that.”

I have lots of magenta days (but I happen to love the color magenta actually). There are days where just getting out of bed and eating is great. Then there are days where I am having a great day but something lingers, I can’t get fully happy. Hello, there Ms. Magenta. When Ms. Magenta appears in my life, I know I have two options: 1) Let Ms. Magenta in for tea and cakes, have a party or 2) Acknowledge her, and keep pushing on with a positive attitude. These two choices can have the following results 1) Ms. Magenta takes over, and suddenly I am blue and black or 2) She eventually goes away and I can see all that today has to offer.

Our yoga practice can help us keep Ms. Magenta away or politely tell her we are not home/busy/not taking appointments. How? by continually practicing two elements of yoga:  santosa (contentment) and svadhyaya (self study). By practicing contentment, we are always telling ourselves that what we have is enough. We are enough. Our life is enough. Everything we have is enough and that there is joy and peace within that. When we practice self study, we go within. I like to compare it to taking inventory. We are always in touch with our faults and how to make them better. We continually learn more about ourselves and the world around us. When we are more content with our life and learn about others, or things that will make us better, our days are brighter. Maybe even white. Seeing life as a gift. Joy, peace and love gives us a rainbow of colors that can give us hope. It may give someone else hope who sees you from afar.
So can you tell Ms. Magenta that you aren’t taking appointments this month?

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My other favorite quote…Us Southern Belles do know a thing or two about battin’ eyelashes and making men drool.

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