How Spiritual Practice Guided Me Into Eating Disorder Recovery

This was originally posted 9/28/17 on Nonpoliticalnews.com as “How Yoga Saved Me From Myself.”

I grew up going to Catholic Church every Sunday and CCD until I asked my mother in 8th grade if I could quit. I told her there were aspects of it that didn’t feel aligned with my beliefs and she agreed under the condition that my sister and I accompany her to the hippie church in the barn in the woods every Sunday. We complied.

I hold nothing against the church, or any organized religion. I am aware that many people derive deep healing and goodness from religion. My religion, however, wasn’t serving me. Little did I know I was already on a spiritual path in 8th grade and I recognized that the Catholic Church didn’t support that path.

I have had issues with my body since I was a child. My earliest memory was that my little puffy tummy was a problem. I prayed it would go away by the time I was a grown-up.

Fast forward to high school. I was tall and had body dysmorphia. I believed my body was unsightly.

By my first semester of college I developed bulimia nervosa. It felt like a completely normal thing to do as a means to having a sense of control. On the surface, I saw nothing wrong with the behaviors I was committing to.

My best friend and boyfriend at the time were the only ones who knew and they did everything they could to help but overall I isolated myself.

I lived in my mind: constantly calculating calories. I sought control over food and my body. But mostly I wanted control over every aspect of my life. Food and my body were the most attainable way to feel any semblance of control.

There is a lot from this dark period that I don’t remember. I’ve blocked it out for self-preservation. I was also so distracted by my obsessive mindset and behavior that I detached and disassociated from my body and college experience.

In college I found a yoga studio. I had been practicing yoga since age 16 but there was something about going to this no-frills studio that resembled the rituals of going to church but this time it felt right; it felt like a spiritual match.

No one said: a spiritual practice will heal you! But this is exactly what happened. As I practiced yoga regularly, I also grew my spirituality. I integrated yoga teachings into daily life.

When I learned the yogic practice of non-violence I saw my eating disorder as being brutally violent toward myself. I had to stop.

My primary concern for years was controlling my body/appearance since I couldn’t control the world around me. I was operating on a very small-minded level.

As soon as I decided I was going to heal from my eating disorder, I felt at ease. I surrendered and loosened my grip on control. My world-view expanded. I valued my intelligence, my passions, and my relationships. I felt like I was part of something greater than myself and my appearance.

This was over 12 years ago. Today yoga is still part of my spiritual practice. Today I walk in nature and connect to something greater than myself. I meditate and remember we transcend our bodies. I spend time with my dog and cats, friends and family, and revel in the relationships I cultivated. My spirituality is all around me and is in my daily life.

I’m not saying you need a spiritual practice to live a good life. I’m saying it worked for me. And it keeps me in recovery from my eating disorder, every day.

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How letting go of the desire to control everything slowly granted me emotional freedom

I am investigating the importance of speaking my truth. And acknowledging, allowing, and accepting my emotions.

We hear that a lot. At least I do. From teachers and coaches and writers and influencers. And sometimes it makes sense to me but sometimes I’m like “I know I’m saying this thing that is GOOD but I don’t fully understand why.”

And last night something came together.

Last night I started to further understand – in my body and soul – the importance of not only speaking my own truth, but acknowledging, accepting, and allowing my feelings instead of shaming myself for having certain feelings {i.e. sadness, guilt, despair, etc.}

Sometimes I am afraid to say how I feel because I am scared to let people down. I am scared of messing something up. I am scared of causing someone pain. I am scared of upsetting something.

And so what does all of the  above really mean?

It means that I sometimes find myself terrified of speaking my truth and my feelings because I don’t want to lose control over a situation.

For a long time this was my default. And so, I would remain silent. For fear I would cause an upset, to myself or another person. I was afraid I’d lose control.

And so, I remained silent.

Silence is still sometimes my jam. But it doesn’t always serve me.

And I’ve spent a huge portion of the last decade learning about my own emotions. Primarily, what exactly to do (or not do) with them.

What I realized in that instant I uttered those words [I am afraid to say how I feel because…] is that I internalized the feelings, the hurt, the discomfort , and the pain.

And all of that discomfort materialized into more visible symptoms like anxiety, panic, and an eating disorder.

So what’s the point of even coming to this conclusion?

The point is that I see even greater value in being able to acknowledge and allow my feelings to process and to express them when a situation calls for it.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve bit my tongue and not said how I felt or what I thought because I feared judgment and I feared my world spinning out of control.

Freaking Control…

So now it’s about loosening the reigns on control. It’s about stepping into the emotions because when I do just that, they aren’t so scary or overwhelming and, usually, after giving them some of my attention (not ALL of it) they slowly fade away.

I don’t suppress them anymore. I don’t pretend that I don’t feel these uncomfortable icky feelings anymore. (And I used to because in my mind that meant I had no control over myself >>> which inevitably led to an eating disorder.)

I recognize that I too am human. I recognize that the emotions I deal with on a daily basis are part of the human experience.

While it may take me a little longer than some to move through emotions, I’m ok with that. I’m learning. I’m being patient with myself.

I’m also learning that emotions don’t have to take the lead! Which means… I’m stepping into my power.

I soften to what I feel. I surrender. I don’t give up on myself. But there’s something in THAT [the softening and surrender] that, for me, let’s the emotions feel less scary. I remember that they, like all things, will eventually pass.

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Running to celebrate; not punish.

It’s been two years since I’ve done any races. It’s been two years since Chicago Marathon.

Until today.

Initially I wanted to give myself one year. One year without any big races. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something just wasn’t sitting right with me.

Like I was starting to use the races as an excuse to exercise, excessively. Yes – each race taught me something invaluable about myself and how to approach life, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

But it was after Chicago that I felt something twinge. I felt like something needed shifting. I wasn’t totally sure what it was. But I knew I needed to take a step back.

I knew that – while I was nearly 10 years in recovery from my eating disorder – some old habits were coming back to haunt me.

My old habits were (not so) thinly disguised in my love affair with endurance races: anything from a 10K to an Ironman and everything in between.

Shortly after letting go of my desire to click “Register” on anything and everything my wallet could endure, it dawned on me what I wanted:

I wanted to run/bike/swim/move again with a different approach.

I wanted to be able to run a race not so I could eat an extra piece of pizza (or pizza all week).

I wanted to run a race to celebrate my body and celebrate life.

Last night just before bed I was walking Daisy and on the phone with my friend Emily who decided to join us and go up to New Haven to run the Half Marathon. I decided then that I’d run the 5k the next morning. Simple, short, and sweet.

I had no expectations. I had a pretty good feeling I’d finish. And – bonus – I got to spend the morning with some pretty swell people I love.

In my imagination I saw my “coming out” {of race retirement} race as a big to do. At the very least a half marathon or an Olympic distance triathlon that I’d spend months training for (and probably blogging about in anticipation).

I joked to Emily when I agreed to doing the 5k that it would be my coming out of retirement race.

But what I felt this morning, running the 3.1 miles, far exceeded my wildest dreams.

I realized that over these last two years I have finely curated or crafted (can I even say that?) a fresh, lovely, deep-hearted, spirited, compassionate relationship to movement. In this instance to movement of the more intense variety like running.

The 5k hurt at times. I listened to Daft Punk the entire time because a) I love them and b) I wanted to and c) figured I could use all the help I could get being that I haven’t been running much. At all.

It also felt wonderful. I let myself run at a challenging (but not too challenging!!) pace. I knew right there that I had done it.

It was in the time that had passed since Chicago Marathon 2015 that my relationship with exercise has gone through a massive overhaul. And I can say the same about my relationship to my body.

I didn’t want to return to a race until I felt really ready. Until I knew that it was for pure fun. Until I knew it was to remind myself of my strengths and all that I am capable of. Until I knew that it was to celebrate my body and the life I get to live.

Whether the choice was conscious or not, something in me knew it. Today was the day.

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One day I decided NO MORE

I know how to do the hard stuff. That doesn’t mean the hard stuff isn’t hard. Or that it doesn’t feel like work.

I know how to muck through shit.

Why?

Because I’ve mucked through shit before. I’ve had to completely re-haul my patterns, my habits, my behaviors and my beliefs around my body, food, exercise, and my self-worth.

And do you know that I did a lot of it {at first} on my own?

Of course I reached out to people when I FINALLY freakin’ realized “It’s OK to ask for help!” And then those people got me even further on my path of doing the work.

But it’s a powerful realization to sit down with: You can alter your patterns, habits, behaviors, and beliefs.

It’s a journey.

And I’m going to tell you, the most difficult part of the journey {for me anyway} is saying I want to make these shifts. Is saying I want help.

Not just from this person and that person and this other person over there. But accepting help… no wait … RECEIVING help in the myriad of ways it comes to you.

One day I decided NO MORE with my eating disorder. I was probably mid-forward fold in yoga class. Sweating through my tank top. And I made this decision on my own. For myself.

No one said to me: Maggie, you have to stop.

No one said to me: Maggie, no more.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.

Because I said it to me! I decided I was done. I decided I WANTED to change the way I treated myself. I decided I wanted to change my relationship with myself.

I decided I was ready to take my emotional journey one step further.

I decided it was time to turn down (way down) the volume on self-hate and self-loathing.

I didn’t decide because someone told me. Because hardly anybody knew in the first place!

This is not to say there’s no room for support from others. This is not to say there’s no room for interventions in this world.

But the person in the seat of “needing change” has GOT to be the one to ultimately flip the switch and choose the direction of their emotional, physical, and spiritual journey.

This is so powerful to me because when I am confronted with a new challenge, a new pattern in my life to shift {example: I did it with my romantic relationships!} I know that I can do it.

Does it mean it’s gonna be easy peasy? NOPE. It’s still gonna be damn hard.

Does it mean it’s gonna be so worth it? YES.

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I used to want to be anything other than myself.

I love listening to talk radio in the mornings. Like the early early mornings 7am and earlier – on my way to see clients.

It’s one of those “guilty pleasures” although I feel no guilt about it. So, it’s one of my pleasures.

Z100, 95.5 are two of my favorites. Though Z100 has a soft spot in my heart because I have been listening since I was a teenager. Wow!

And I do listen to news on occasion but when it’s this early (we are talking in the car by 5:45am some mornings) I need to keep it light. I want to hear my horoscope and how the Shaun Mendes concert was last night.

Something I notice is that when they take breaks on the radio they often segue into a segment about “I’m using this fabulous product for body contouring. This body contouring product gives me confidence and makes me happy!”

I don’t blame the DJs. They are simply doing their job. And usually I turn down the volume or flip to another channel because: listening to this does not serve me.

Also, in my head I am saying:

People: body contouring alone is not the quick fix that’s gonna make you happy people

What I want to do sometimes (in my little dream world in my head) is this:

Call into the station and start talking about how body contouring or going on a diet and losing weight might give you confidence … but it’s temporary.

The only way the confidence and joy and happiness will stick is if you do the inner work.

These qualities we want in life, they’re an inside job. They do not come from our external circumstances or conditions.

While we might feel extremely excited and happy when we get a dog – the excitement wears off if we aren’t truly committed to accepting and loving the whole dog experience unconditionally. We can’t sign up for a dog just to snuggle with us when we are feeling blue. We have to commit to it all: the daily walks, picking up poop, training the dog, taking it to the vet.

We have to commit to accepting and loving the whole human experience unconditionally. The highs and lows. The fuck-ups and the accomplishments. The stability and instability. The joy and the pain. The growth and the loss.

The way I see it, I have three ways I can respond to these radio ads:

  1. Be convinced that yes, I do need to change the way my body looks in order to feel good. Period.
  2. Get angry. Get angry that these ads perpetuate the judgment and hate that permeates so much of our society.
  3. See it as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to see the contrast: they are telling me one thing and I’m just like “Nope. Actually I like that my left thigh has that little dimple in it. I don’t even care about my thighs looking smooth and seamless anymore. Or the rest of my body. I want all the shapes and dents and dimples… all of them. I actually feel really good in my body.” And so forth. This is the new story. And i can go on with it. For a long, long time.

In total honesty, I sometimes do get angry. But if I stay angry, that’s choosing my old story and I’m already living the new one. So I don’t want to linger in the old anger story for too long.

In fact, I stay there less and less and it gets easier to move from #2 to #3. Or jump right to #3.

It took me years to get over not being perfect. And I’m not just talking about my body. I’m talking my clothes, my writing, my vocabulary, my education, anything you can think of – I was severely judgmental toward myself. I was convinced that if I wasn’t happy all the time, I was failing. I believed that if I was angry or jealous or sad or did anything imperfectly, I was failing.

I used to feel so sad that I wasn’t something else. I used to feel disappointed that I wasn’t anything other than myself.

And now … now I wouldn’t want to be anything other than myself. Even on the dark days. Even where there is struggle.

I take myself. I love myself no matter what.

For anyone out there who hears these radio ads (or any other messages from media or society telling you that your body needs to be a different way in order to be accepted/happy/confident) and jumps to #1 … I encourage you to explore the inner work first.

There’s no rush. Just check in and see what happens.

If you’d like some guidance on getting to the inner work, please fill out my contact form and we can set up a call. 

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Those darn stilettos…

When I was 26(ish) my boyfriend gave me a beautiful pair of burgundy {can’t say it without thinking ‘ron burgundy’ ha – i digress} ferragamo stiletto heels. They were (are) fucking gorgeous. And I wanted them! In my head I was all like “these heels are gonna make the a real has-her-shit-together kinda woman.” They were perfect.
 
Only they weren’t.
 
Because they weren’t “me.”
 
They never felt comfortable. And I was always baffled by this because they were SO NICE!
 
Aside from the physical comfort thing – I just never felt comfortable in them because well… I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it’s RARE that I ever feel truly comfortable in sky high heels.
 
I’m already pretty tall as it is and to be honest I like to have the option to be able to flail around fancy free as I please. And not roll my ankle.
 
And, well, stiletto heels just don’t allow that part of me to shine. Most heels just don’t allow that part of me to shine.
{And I commend any woman who can be fancy free in heels – I really do!}
 
I share this because: It feels freaking amazing to be like “heels, don’t need ’em!” Heels are not a crucial part of BEING A WOMAN. Or being a human for that matter. Geez.
 
Somehow, 26 year old Maggie believed so. And part of me wishes she hadn’t spent so much time TRYING TO FIT IN but then… maybe I wouldn’t be where I am today.
 
I’ve learned many a lesson in my short time on this planet. One being: I will never (RARELY) spent my well-earned money on a pair of stilettos or any other article of clothing that I believe will “fix me” or make me “fit in” with a certain mold.
 
And that my friends feels incredible.
 
(PS. The stilettos are still in my closet and when I’m in a heel-wearing mode I will occasionally rock them. And usually take them off 20 minutes later to replace them with flats of some sort.)
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You’ll only hear me mention bikini body on these two occasions…

I was inspired to write this post after reading the article Enough Talk of Bikini Bodies by Renee Engeln Ph. D. 

You’ll only hear me mention bikini body on two occasions:

 

  1. When I’m telling you that you already have a bikini body
  2. The notion of a “bikini body” just doesn’t matter because it’s made up anyway

 

I don’t know about you but I immediately tune out when I’m in an exercise class and the instructor starts getting into “x will give you a six pack” or “y will get rid of your love handles so you’re ready for bikini season!”

 

I immediately notice the shame/fear-based motivation and I tune the instructor out and do my best to tune into my own resources that I am enough. That my body is already beach ready — and so are everyone else’s for that matter! There was even a time in one particular class where the instructor started talking about burning fat off our bellies… oh how I wanted to scream out:

 

“All of your bodies are wonderful – exactly as they are!”

 

I know it’s not the instructor’s fault and I always try to have compassion for them. And I know this is a particularly heightened issue for me because of my own history with an eating disorder and body image issues but as most of you know I’ve come along way to the point where I no longer feel the need to change the way I look or act or speak or think or feel in order for me to be worthy or deserving of this life or loved or accepted.

 

But when someone starts telling us you need to get a bikini body or you need to get a six pack or you need to get rid of your cellulite or you need to get rid of your tummy or love handles … that is saying that our bodies, as they are in this very moment, are wrong and need fixing. The message we get is that we are only acceptable with certain conditions when in fact this is absolutely not the case.

 

This just isn’t true!

 

If we have the luxury of free time in our day to move our bodies why on earth would we ever choose to do so in a punitive or fear-based or shame-based manner?

 

We are all busy with families, careers, relationships, friendships, homes, fury friends, and so forth that what happens when we get that little sliver of time in the day for ourselves?

 

Why not chose to approach movement with a more neutral, if not positive, frame of mind?

 

Why not chose to move because it is beneficial for your physical/mental/emotional health?

 

So when we have that opening in our schedule where we can pop into a class, or maybe we can even get to the trail for a run or ride a bike or swim in the ocean…  Let’s instead remove the intention to punish ourselves. Let’s stop focusing on how bad we are for eating too much of whatever it is we love to eat. Because… doesn’t that just make for a shitty experience overall?

 

I know it does for me and I know it does for a lot of my clients and my students and that’s why I feel it’s extremely important to create a relationship to movement that is mindful, sometimes even joyful. Movement can empower us to feel more like ourselves instead of the person that we think we should be because society tells us were covered in flaws that we need to fix.

 

You don’t need to be fixed. And if you’re with me here on any of what I’ve just said, you’ve gotta check out THIS is Mindful Movement. Because it’s the antidote to the bikini body/6-pack/burn away your fat fab and craze. And you get lots of personal guidance attention from … yours truly! Via online yoga classes, meditation, coaching, and more.

It ALSO happens to be super affordable at $39 a month or $385 for the whole year. Yup. You heard me. You get a ton of 1-on-1 attention and guidance from me plus the support of the group.

Whether you sign up or not, I cannot stress this enough:

You do not need to be fixed. You are enough. You are whole exactly as you are right now, today.

With Love,
Maggie

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When someone offers to help you up a mountain … Let them!

For that first incredibly difficult rock to climb on the Pemi Loop in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Chris literally extended his hand to me as an offering of assistance.

 

To help me up because CLEARLY I was struggling.

 

But nope. I would NOT TAKE HIS HAND. I would not take his help. I had to do it myself.

 

I was pissed at myself. I was on the verge of tears (on the side on a fucking mountain.) I was pissed at Chris for trying to help me.

 

Didn’t he believe I could do it on my own??? (Nope. I clearly could not and needed help but had no idea how to ask… or receive for that matter.)

 

I stubbornly wrestled my way up the rock and in doing so, banged my right shin really hard (I now have a bruise covering half my shin.)

 

You can’t shut down like that. I’m offering you my hand and you are just shutting down.

 

Holy shit. He was so right.

 

As much as I hated to admit it, he hit the nail on the head.

 

My eyes welled with tears when he said this because it wasn’t just about climbing steep rocks and mountains.

 

All my life I don’t like the way it feels when someone helps me. At least when I’m not asking them for help.

 

It’s like they’re telling me I’m not doing a good enough job.

It feels like they’re bossing me around or trying to control me or tell me what to do.

 

And I DO NOT like being told what to do.

 

Where does this come from? {I ask myself…} Why do you so hate being told what to do? Why are you so resistant to help?

 

Is there a belief that needing help means I am not enough…

It means that I am not strong enough…

It means that I should already know. I should already have the answers.

 

But I don’t have the answers. I don’t always need to know everything. And I can’t do everything on my own.

 

And therefore there’s an old story in me where desperately needing help means I have failed.

 

So… needing help means I failed.

Needing help means I am a failure.

 

For the rest of the trip with Chris, I accepted his extended hand or trekking pole. Almost every single time he offered.

 

And I noticed this:

 

Not only did it become easier to accept assistance, but I started to trust him way way way more.

So … there is a correlation between receiving help and trusting others.

 

Receiving help = trusting others.

 

That they have my best interests in mind. Or that they (in this case Chris) just want to help because they straight up love you and want wonderful things for you.

 

They want to help because they straight up LOVE you.

 

Not because they expect anything in return.

 

Not because they secretly want to push you off the ledge (that only happens in action movies.)

 

Not because they have an ulterior motive.

 

No… the motive is love.

 

The motivation is LOVE. Giving love. Receiving love. Exchanging love.

 

THAT my friend is unconditional love.

 

And it’s unconditional love to accept a loving hand. To receive it with your full body, heart, and soul.

 

THIS is uncovering an old belief. And setting it free to make room for a new belief. We are going to do tons of this kind of stuff in my Fall Mentorship. There are very few spots available so as to keep it an intimate group. So I highly recommend taking a look and signing up if this sounds like you!!!

Fall mentorship link>>> http://www.maggieconversemethod.com/events/2017/9/15/fall-mentorship

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But… What if I mess up?

Sometimes I hide behind the veil of:

 

I’m afraid of being wrong / What if I’m wrong?

 

Or it might sound something like this:

 

What if they judge me? (Which really is “what if I slay the judgement on myself?)

 

OR…

What if I mess up? WHAT IF I MESS UP?

 

Because GOD FORBID I mess up!!! Then what?!??! (<<<the internal dialogue.)

 

THIS is the {very old} drum I catch myself beating when something feels scary. When I was climbing down waterfalls and up steep ledges last weekend in New Hampshire, I found myself physically STUCK at times. And do you know why that is? Because I was so fucking scared of messing up.

 

Because even after many years of working on myself, there are still the occasional moments where these mindsets feel like dear old friends. They feel familiar. They feel comfortable. They feel, in a funny way, safe.

 

When I know damn well these mindsets hold me back. These mindsets prohibit me from:

 

Asking for what I need.

Speaking my truth.

Taking a chance on something I believe in.

Feeling fucking amazing.

Embracing my successes and building them.

 

There is a perfectionist within me that has definitely gotten smaller and less prevalent over the years. But sometimes, she likes to rear her little head and say things like:

 

But … what if you fuck this up? Better to keep quiet. Better to shut down than be your big bold self.

 

So where do we go when we feel stuck in old patterns?

 

The good news: the only way to go is up.

 

Make a shift. Ask for what you need. Give less fucks about being judged or being wrong or MESSING UP.

 

And in fact, GET CURIOUS about what happens when you mess up. Because is it really so bad? Usually… nope.

 

And… you can never really mess up because … even if it feels like you mess up … you always have the opportunity to learn something.

 

Thank you for tuning in and reading (if you’ve made it this far.)

 

Tell me: what are your old patterns/beliefs and how do you bust through them?

I provide loads of this kind of work and guidance in my fall mentorship. To help you bust through old beliefs, patterns, and thoughts. Trust me, it’s good stuff. Click this link>>> http://www.maggieconversemethod.com/events/2017/9/15/fall-mentorship

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Thoughts on self-care practices. (My Bottom line: Do it!)

After returning from 2 days in the wilderness of New Hampshire, my body needed a rest.
I made it my intention to make self-care a priority this week.
And then today I found myself deep in conversation about … self-care.
And here’s what I want to say to you:
Self-care is not bad!!!
Self-care is selfish. And sometimes we NEED to be selfish. We need to put some attention and affection and love toward ourselves because if we don’t… guess what happens….
We have no attention or affection or love to give to others.
Or we TRY our absolute hardest to dole out that attention/affection/love and we squeeze a little bit out but are left feeling depleted or resentful or ambivalent.
And then we find ourselves sick, cranky, irritable, anxious, depressed…
Do you get my drift?
So I know the whole self-care phrase gets thrown around a lot in the wellness world today. But what if you thought of it as filling up a tank of gas? A car (at least a non-electric car) cannot run on empty. Just as a human cannot run (well) on empty.
So fill yourself up my love. Fill yourself up. Please, make time, find it however you need to, to take care of yourself.
It doesn’t have to be an hour. It can be 3 minutes. It doesn’t have to be a full blown yoga class. It can be 2 poses with deep breathing.
Listen, I provide loads of tips on this in my private coaching and my fall mentorship but I want to give this to you NOW.
Because I trust SOMEONE out there needs to hear what I’m saying.
How are you practicing self-care?
Start small.
Love.
PS. If you’re wanting to know more about my fall mentorship, click this link >>> http://www.maggieconversemethod.com/events/2017/9/15/fall-mentorship
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