Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: Energy Regulation

My senses rejoice in the sights and sounds of this dark, wet morning. Raindrops dripping from naked tree branches, birds chirping as they hop through glistening bushes, white ceiling of clouds softening the rumble and clanking of trash trucks rolling up and down the street.

Christmas at our house

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, ‘Stay awhile.’ The light flows from their branches.”

Mary Oliver’s images in “When I am Among the Trees” sank deep into me years ago. Her words resurface frequently–reminding me of the unhurried rhythm of God’s grace I long to embody.

“I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world…”

Trees, bushes and birds instinctively follow their own rhythm. Unlike me, they live in alignment with their natural  pace and entrust their blossoming to their Creator.

Long a significant symbol for me, I’m surprised to notice we have four trees gracing our living space.

Guests at our annual open house a few weeks ago dressed our ThanksLiving tree with gratitude lists.

ThanksLiving Tree 2014

A living Christmas tree and a rosemary “tree” arrived as gifts from guests. And we carried our baby Christmas tree home from our local nursery on Saturday.

As I move through the busyness of the next ten days I don’t want to forget the message of the trees:

“…You too have come into the world to do this, to easy, be filled with light, and to shine.”

May the unhurried rhythm that comes without effort to the trees, bushes and birds grow in those of us who aspire to entrust our lives to the care of the Light of the world who came to enlighten everyone and empower us to go easy, be filled with light and shine.

For the full text of Mary Oliver’s poem, see her anthology Thirst.

Go easy, be filled with light and shine!

This morning at my conditioning class one of the other students commented that for him exercise was a “necessary evil.” I immediately jumped into my cheerleader mode: “Just imagine how good you’ll feel afterwards.” He was friendly enough but clearly wasn’t buying into my attempt to re-frame of his view of reality.

It got me thinking about the destructive power of habituation and conditioning. We get stuck doing things the way we’ve always done them and  let our limited view of reality and ourselves create attitudes that undermine our efforts before we’ve even begun. We’ve all said things like: “That’s just the way I am…” or “I’m just not a person who…” or “I’ve never liked…” or “I’ve always…”  While there may be valid reasons for viewing exercise as a necessary evil, but it certainly isn’t contributing in a positive way to anyone’s life.

It also got me thinking about what emerging research reveals about identity. Historically Western philosophy, theology and psychology have tended toward a static view of the self: there is an “I” that I am becoming/finding/developing. Freud dubbed this the ego. But post-modern thinking and neuroscience studies on the brain and mind indicate that the “I” that I think I am is not as set in cement as many of us believe.

Circumstances change.

People change.

Change happens.

For many years I’ve struggle with getting things done in an orderly, systematic fashion. I tend to be random, intuitive, spontaneous, sometimes impulsive, and on a bad day tending toward chaotic movement in so many directions that I fall into an emotional tailspin which can end in an meltdown. And that is not a pretty sight. Just ask my poor husband!

Thanks be to God that the scenario has changed over the years. I’ve changed. Through mindful awareness, centering prayer, yoga and other mind-body practices I’m better able to regulate my energy and attention.  I rarely go into tailspins anymore and it’s been a very long time since I had a meltdown. I still tend toward randomness and spontaneity in accomplishing non-appointment related work. In fact this morning my calendar tells me I’m supposed to be clearing out my email in-boxes. But I had an inspiration to write and made an executive decision, spontaneous as seems to be part of my creative capacity, but not impulsive. I evaluated the decision in a mindful manner, aware that the in-box project remains to be tackled.

Consistently exercising the capacity to focus my attention and stay present through these practices has strengthened the connections between the executive brain (at the front of the head behind the forehead) and the emotional and survival centers in the middle and back of the brain. Neuroplasticity is the technical name for the brain’s capacity to develop these new neural pathways that are integral to our capacity for change.

It isn’t as much about my efforts to change as it is about opening to the Spirit of Grace that does for me what I can’t do for myself. It isn’t trying harder, but softening each time I fall short of my ideals and asking for help. Change happens when I am willing to be changed and engage in practices that make myself available to be changed.

Jesus asked a man who’d been an invalid for 38 years if he wanted to get well. The man responded with his static view of himself and his reality, reciting his scenario as to why change wasn’t possible. We all have our versions of this story: “It’s always been this way…”

In another story Jesus met a man whose son had suffered convulsions since childhood. His response to Jesus’ statement that everything is possible for one who believes is one of my favorite prayers: “I do believe, help my unbelief.”

Unbelief is the crack that opens us up to grace. God does for us what we can’t do for ourselves, not because we have 100% belief, but in the midst of our unbelief.

The first question to ask ourselves isn’t “Can I change?” but “Am I willing to be changed?”

Holding onto a static view of ourselves or reality not only is ineffective, it isn’t true! If you’re a person who “hates exercise…” or “doesn’t like to eat…” or “has always eaten…” or “never could imagine yourself….” then you’re in good company. Many of the people Jesus healed were in exactly the same position.

Will you choose to believe, in the midst of your unbelief?

Today I choose to move at a mindful pace in the unhurried rhythm of God’s grace. After posting this blog I’ll get back on schedule with gratitude that degree by degree I am being changed. And while one hoped for change is that I’ll continue to grow in getting things done in a systematic, orderly fashion, I trust that today’s version of that is good enough for today.

What version of who you think you are might you need to let go of in order to have the life your really want?

Are you willing to be changed?

The extra fat living on my belly these days reminds me that in my sphere of reality over consumption is a way of life. While a large percentage of people on planet earth struggle for access to enough, I have too much.

I want to give thanks for the abundance.

I want to be grateful that my refrigerator and pantry are full, that I can drive my car a few miles and purchase mass amounts of consumables or dine on gourmet food at a restaurant where the portions are so large I take some home for the dog.

But this Thanksgiving morning I’m aware that the abundance of my Thanksgiving table, along with the month of consumption ahead, has come to reflect the too muchness of life in the USA. We have so much available that unless we are highly conscious about our choices we will end up consuming too much and storing that excess in our bodies’ remarkably efficient energy storage systems.

I want to be grateful for my body’s amazing capacity to survive potential famine by storing energy as fat.

I want to be grateful that I am so aware of my body that I notice even subtle shifts in my body mass composition.

I want to be grateful that I can take a rigorous walk this morning, get a little sweat going and seek to come into alignment with my body.

I want to be grateful that I no longer regulate my energy intake and output based on external guidelines or fears of weight gain.

I want to be grateful that when I eat our Thanksgiving feast this evening I will savor the love of family and friends around the table as I take in the delicious meal set before us.

But my mind is on those who don’t have enough. On the hungry and the homeless. And, on how ironic it is that many of the homeless and needy I’ve met when volunteering in local soup kitchens are also carrying extra fat on their bellies!

Current research on nutrition and fat storage indicate that the number of calories we eat as well as the quality and types of food we consume contribute to how our bodies metabolize and store energy. Much of the food served to those showing up at soup kitchens are high glycemic carbohydrates (breads, pastas, rice, potatoes, sugar) that increase the likelihood of weight gain in many of us.

I’m not sure what I can do about that today. But expanding my view of reality to consider those who don’t have a home to gather in, a table of their own around which to dine, or loved ones to share it with, gives me perspective that helps me love and enjoy living in my body, just as I am. Because ultimately my life is not measured by my level of fitness or my body mass composition, but by the degree to which I live in loving relationship with myself, my family and friends, my colleagues and acquaintances, my neighbors, as well as the “strangers” around the world who are my brothers and sisters here on planet earth.

For me it comes back to gratitude and living in the tension of celebrating the goodness of life that has come to me as I remember that while all is well in my world, much of the rest of the world suffers.

Today I will seek to savor rather than consume

Today I will seek to listen to my body not just for me, but as a reminder that over consumption of resources doesn’t just impact me and my health, but contributes in a small way to the unequal distribution of resources that leaves many homeless and hungry on this day of Thanksgiving.

It isn’t about guilt for having more than enough. Rather it’s about loving myself and my neighbor enough to pay attention to my consumption so that I don’t carry around more than I really need either in fat stores on my body or otherwise.

This holiday season I am going to work on compassionate consumption. Compassion recognizes suffering with kindness and non-judgement and comes alongside with intention to alleviate that suffering to the degree that I can.

Eating just enough is one way to do that today. And if I choose to eat more than enough, not judging myself for breaking my intention but kindly stopping when I recognize I’ve passed the point of satiation.

As we head into the holiday consumption madness begins tomorrow, may we consider what compassionate consumption might look like in our lives. What presents, decorations and other stuff do we really need? What is enough? What is too much? And how can we take our excess and use it to alleviate suffering in ourselves and others?

How can we choose to let go of our possibility of having it all so that all may have?

I lead a workshop on working with same-sex attraction for counseling trainees and interns at Life Pacific College last weekend. The clinicians were hungry for information and tools to help their clients cope with not just same-sex attraction, but a long list of other sexual issues.

I presented the work of psychologist Mark Yarhouse on narrative sexual identity therapy, along with some provocative thoughts from anthropologist Jenell Paris’ new book The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are. Both teach at conservative Christian colleges where they are seeking more compassionate and helpful ways to think about and work with issues of sexuality among this very confused, ill-equipped and all-too-often guilt and shame ridden group of young adults.

Pastor Steve Smith of Malibu Presbyterian church says that from puberty to marriage students from conservative backgrounds are in sort of exile from their own sexuality — he calls it “Sex-ile.” The church tells them to “wait” until marriage, but then offers minimal resources to integrate and develop a healthy sense of their own sexuality while they wait.

A former student from Azusa Pacific University where I taught human sexuality and sex therapy for 8 years sent me a link to a story that illustrates how well intended but limited efforts to prescribe chastity as the answer for sex-ile can end up doing more harm than good. Samantha Pugsley says that she waited until her wedding night to lose her virginity and wishes she hadn’t. It’s a tragic example of the kind of outcome that I suspect will become even more common among these young people if we don’t develop alternatives.

Meanwhile, five days ago ethicist David Gushee, who’s wise counsel helped me with my decision to discontinue teaching at Azusa Pacific this past summer, stirred the pot in a big way with his speech “Ending the Teaching of Contempt against the Church’s Sexual Minorities” at the Reformation Project Conference. As expected in the heated conversation taking place about same-sex attraction in the church world, he was soon on the chopping block of those who disagreed with his presentation.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

I remain in the conversation, committed to staying open and being part of the solution. One day at a time.

Amen.

My mind-body mentor Joan Borysenko’s new book, The PlantPlus Diet Solution, is a compendium of relevant and accessible food science and health psychology. Full of practical tips and recipes it’s an exceptional resource in the self-help diet book genre. The personalized nutrition guidelines she presents aren’t for those who want a quick or easy solution to weight or health issues. But that is exactly what makes it a valuable resource for those seeking a sustainable, enjoyable and life-giving way to eat! Unlike most diet books, The PlantPlus Diet Solution doesn’t tell you what to eat, but gives you facts, guidelines and resources for listening to the wisdom of your own body and becoming your own expert as to what will best serve your overall health and well-being.

eat in alignment with your body

I’ve learned through twenty-five years of work with clients struggling with food and weight that, as Dr. Joan demonstrates through research and examples from her own personalized nutrition experiments, “there is no one-size-fits-all diet.” The key to finding the “right” combination of food for your body is through paying attention to the impact different foods have on your physical and mental health. Joan does an exquisite job providing simple tools that empower readers to become experts on their own unique biological blueprint for metabolism and optimal energy efficiency.

I especially appreciated her clear explanation about the role insulin efficiency plays in metabolism of carbohydrates–and some people’s remarkable capacity to store excess calories as fat. She identifies three types of bodies: 1.) insulin efficient people who can eat all the carbohydrates they want and never experience negative weight or health consequences; 2.) insulin resistant people whose bodies react negatively to diets high in carbohydrates; 3.) and the rest who fall somewhere in-between. Knowing where you fall on the continuum can be an important part of finding a way of eating that works best for your body.

Knowledge is power. Joan provides information to help readers make informed choices about nutrition as well as tools to increase self-knowledge. Best of all, she does so with authenticity and wisdom born from several years of “diet sleuthing” as she looked for solutions to her own nutrition related health challenges. Her personal examples, humor and lighthearted way of writing makes the science digestible for those of us who haven’t taken a hard science course since high school!

For Southern California locals, Joan will be in Pasadena presenting on her new book on October 25th at the I Can Do It! conference. I’ll be there and would love to see some of you there too.

I’ve been suffering from self-care and sleep deprivation since Miss Liberty Belle came into our life three weeks ago. Her arrival on a Saturday allowed my husband Dave and I to “tag team” caring for her so we were still able to get most of our own basic needs met. But that first Monday I was on my own, I didn’t brush my teeth until 3 p.m.

Miss Liberty Belle - 8 weeks old

There’s nothing exceptional about Liberty’s needs. But she’s a puppy. Waking several times during the night to take her out for potty breaks is normal. While the demands of a puppy are minimal compared to raising a child, it gives me renewed empathy for the sleep deprivation parents of young children endure for years, not just a few months.

I’m posting this video so I remember to take my own advice to get my 7-8 hours a night. How about you? How’s your sleep this week? A lack of it may be impacting your health more than you realize.

I smashed the tender pad of my pinkie finger between the dumbbell and it’s home on the the rack during a workout last week. It was only 5 pounds. But squished between two pieces of metal, my poor pinkie didn’t have chance. It hurt like crazy for a few moments. A blood blister quickly formed–my body’s way of saying “Hey! Watch out. Don’t be so mindless.”

Mindlessness, also described as “spacing out,” “daydreaming,” or being “absent minded,” is a default setting we fall into as a way to conserve energy, avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings, or soothe ourselves. Shut off from direct experience of our body and sensory capacities, we lose track of where we are and what is happening in the moment. Mindlessness can also result when attempting to multitask. How many times have burnt or cut yourself in the kitchen because you were trying to keep track of too many things at one time? Even something small, like the conversation I was having while putting the dumbbell back, can distract us enough to lead to injuries.

To further bring home the “pay attention to what you are doing” message, just the day before my friend Sally talked about how mindlessness contributed to falling and breaking her elbow: “I wasn’t paying attention as I walked down the stairs.”

Sally Evans - I want to be like her when I grow up!

A paragon of health in her 70’s, she spoke about how it drove home the importance of mindfulness, especially as we age and our bones become more fragile. Earlier in the week I’d learned about a former student who is bringing mindfulness to the Southern California Railroad company where he works. As we know from stories of railroad accidents, when a 200 ton locomotive is involved, one mindless move can be devastating.

Sally broke her elbow walking down stairs she’d traversed hundreds of time. I pinched my finger doing a task I’ve done hundreds, if not thousands of times over the past 30 years. Coincidentally, earlier in the workout my trainer pointed out that most gym injuries take place in the transition into and out of exercises, not during the actual working phase! The same is true in yoga. My shoulder injury 2 1/2 years ago came during a transition from one pose to another.

Mindfulness is being where you are, doing what you’re doing–mind and body together in time, space and activity. Research indicates immense mental and emotional benefits, including stress reduction, decreased emotional reactivity and increased ability to focus attention. Whether it’s in the gym, at work, in the kitchen or anywhere else, mindfulness is good medicine!

For more on mindfulness check out my past blog or visit the website of UCLA Mindsight Institute founder Dan Siegel who offers free MP3s of simple practices. It will be good for your health.

Last month I met filmmaker James Colquhoun at a screening of his film Hungry for Change. This month I’m excited to tell you about his recently launched FoodMatters.tv – a website devoted to bringing the best information about food and health together in one place. They are on a mission to educate and inspire us to remember the wisdom of Hippocrates: food is medicine. In their vernacular: You are what you eat!

James and his wife Laurentine share my vision of individual responsibility for good health. “We believe that your body is worthy of good care and that no one is more suitably qualified to care for it than yourself.”  Amen!

Inspired by the healing of his dad’s chronic disease through eliminating a boatload of medications and introducing a plant-based diet, James and Laurentine are the real thing. I’m delighted to benefit from and support their efforts to help each of us become our own best advocates for good health.

What’s your vision? And what are you willing to invest to get there?

How about 37 years and over one million dollars of your own money?

That’s what Dillion Griffith has invested to build his 64-foot fishing boat in the backyard of his home in Sun Valley. “The Mystic Rose” was just a vision back in the 1970’s when he began to dream his boat into being. But, like many of us (myself included) he didn’t stop with a vision. He hired a ship designer to draw up plans, moved his family, traveled to Montreal to purchase materials, tore out and rebuilt parts of the ship, and navigated many obstacles to fulfill his dream. He had a vision, but he also created a plan and invested resources in getting there.

This August or September he plans to launch his 40 ton boat in Oxnard – at a cost of another $50,000 just to haul it to the sea!

Perseverance, faithfulness and determination are hallmarks of those who dream great dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true.

Seven years ago I began investing my resources toward building a world where women love and enjoy being in our bodies, just the way we are on any given day. That doesn’t mean we don’t have goals, seek to change what we can, or work toward being healthier, more vibrant and radiant. But it does mean we stop criticizing ourselves and change our relationship to our bodies. Or, as a reader commented on a recent blog, at least “stop saying mean things about myself.”

I thought I’d be further along by now. Some days I get discouraged and think about giving up. But when I read Dillion’s story I imagined that 7 years into his boat plan he probably felt like quitting too.

What’s your vision of a healthier, more vibrant, energized you? What’s your plan for getting there? What are you ready to invest?

Health coaching is a resource to support you in fulfilling your dreams–for health of body, mind and spirit. You may want to focus on specific health behaviors like eating or exercise or you may want to reduce stress by changing your job or increase your contentment by creating more beauty in your home. The Wheel of Health provides an overview of the potential topics you might work on to support your vision of a life you love.

Visioning, planning, supporting you with Duke Integrative Medicine's Wheel of Health

I’d love to help you identify your vision and create a plan for getting there. Contact me to set up a no-fee phone consultation about how health coaching can help you build your ship!

This morning at the end of our strength training workout at Fitness Revolution Pasadena, we took several minutes to just lay and our backs and breath deeply into our diaphragms. Our trainer Joseph says it’s a great way to release the muscles of the spine and prevent back pain. Then we took 5 minutes to stretch. It felt so good to lengthen and soften into the stretches.

As we stretched, I flashed back to Tuesday’s workout when we didn’t have time to stretch. I missed those five minutes a lot. And, my stiff low back and hips later in the day reminded me of the importance of lengthening and softening my muscles at the end of a workout.

Last night at the Long Live LA video screening we viewed a series of health videos by Ann Kaneko. 

Qigong Series: STIFF by Ann Kaneko from Freewaves on Vimeo.

I love the simple message of “Stiff”. It validated my instinct to rub my tense muscles and frequently shift and move my body into new positions.

Sometimes it feels awkward in public situations to stretch or move around a lot, but when my body cries out for attention, I’ve learned it’s better to respond sooner than later. Delaying attention to seemingly small needs for a stretch, a deep breath, a drink of water or to use the restroom isn’t good for my body.

Love your body today. Take a few minutes to practice belly breathing or stretch. Your body will appreciate it.