Category Archives: Meditation

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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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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Just. Keep. Growing.

I corrected myself last week when I told my friend “I quit my job at the gym.” Because I didn’t quit. The position ran its course and I felt I had outgrown it. It was also a choice I had to make out of integrity and self-respect.

 

It was a difficult choice because the position was so easy, familiar, and comfortable. I was constantly surrounded by students who I had gotten to know over my 3 years teaching there. And when it came time to say goodbye … Hello feelings! I sobbed in front of a room full of students.

 

In this life we are given choice: what to eat for lunch, who we enter into relationship with, what career path we’d like to follow. But do we always make the choice that serves us best? How do we even KNOW what choice serves us?

 

When we make a choice out of fear, the answer (in my humble opinion) is no.

 

When we make a choice out of love, the answer is yes.

 

Even if the choice is painful and means we cry in front of a room full of students. Even if we are afraid we’ve made some terrible mistake because leaving something so comfortable is scary.

 

So I didn’t quit my job. I grew. I grew to become a person with more self-respect than I did, say, this time last year. I grew to trust that it’s OK to let go.

 

And it is my intention to just keep growing.

 

May you find opportunity for growth in every choice you make.

 

With Love,

Maggie

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If you find yourself on the precipice of punishment…

When we punish ourselves we stop the positive energy from flowing and squash our vibration.

When we punish ourselves, we are stopping a good thought, feeling, belief that wants to be set free and acknowledged and felt.

Do not beat yourself up for punishing yourself.
That’s like double damage.
Instead notice when and how you do it, with cat-like curiosity (because they are curious damnit!).

What does it look like? What does it feel like?
WHERE do you feel it in your body?

If you find yourself on the precipice of punishment, check in with us here.

If you find yourself on the verge of punishment, write shit down. Let it be messy and uncensored.

If you find you are on the verge of punishment, breathe.

I learned this week I’ve been punishing myself by telling myself I am undeserving of my dreams being fulfilled. Well, I manifested one today – BECAUSE I COULD – and I broke through a huge block and my mindset is starting to shift… FAST.

My loves – to remind you – if you feel you are punishing yourself FOR ANY REASON (too much cake, not enough exercise, not enough money, not enough work, etc. etc. etc.) pause and check in.

 

Join my High Vibe Body Image Tribe on Facebook or email me at maggie@maggieconverse.com

XOXO

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embracing my softness

i am embracing my softness.
my body goes through changes. I keep growing. When I’m running regularly my body looks different / maybe more toned? In my head I feel like a ripped badass. I felt this way during my 5 consecutive years of triathlons…
those days are long gone now.

but why not feel like a badass in my softness too? it’s usually the colder months when my body goes into softening mode. i notice it in my arms since i’m still wearing tanks when i’m teaching. i’ll catch a glimpse of myself in the studio mirror and notice it around my belly since my pants don’t fit quite the same and i have a little belly puff over the elastic waistband.

every year i’m getting more and more used to the softness. and feeling equally badass, if not more so, as a soft maggie, than a more firm/toned maggie.

i’m getting more accustomed to it, embracing it even, because of this: i am not defined by what my body looks like. i am not better for being toned. i am not bad for being softer. i also am not better for being soft! and i am not worse for being toned! ha! See how that works there? I know – I’m still wrapping my brain around it.

It’s all good though. All of it. All the shapes and sizes and stages our bodies go through. because the real maggie, the real you, is within. it’s untouchable and it’s felt through connection, through exchange, and through energy. Amen.

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I share my story because: HOPE

Wednesday night I arrived at the eating disorder recovery center 10 minutes early. I set up my electric candles, lit palo santo, and turned on soft music. We practice in one of the therapist’s office and it helps to have some items to spark the senses and shift the energy.

The house was full that night – 6 women, ages 19 to 58, and they were all in attendance for class. There was a buzzing energy. They seemed in good spirits. They seemed excited.

As they set up their mats and props the more outspoken women announced they were all on the same exercise level and informed me they could MOVE more. I nodded, said OK.

We talked about the day as we all settled in and took our seats. I had them take a deep breath, close their eyes, and asked for a one word check-in from each.

I heard:

Insecure…

Frustrated…

Numb…

Sick…

Excited…

And then I heard:
Maggie, last time you were here, you said you went through something [eating disorder]… it helped me a lot to hear that. Can you tell us more?

I felt like the librarian at story time. I opened my eyes and looked at her. I said of course.

I told them they could open their eyes if they liked. I told them I had an eating disorder. I told them it was serious 10 years ago. That was my bottom. I told them I never received formal or clinical help beyond a few visits to a therapist. I felt misunderstood. I only told my boyfriend at the time and best friend. I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone. I felt so much shame.

But, I said, I felt safe in one space. All the time. And that was in my yoga practice.

I told them recovery is not linear. That I had several setbacks. Not necessarily becoming bulimic again but severe anxiety, bouts with mild depression, and then most recently I started using excessive exercise to curtail my weight and had to put the brakes on endurance training and racing for a while until I could create homeostasis with that.

You see, I told them, recovery is not a one and done deal as I’m sure you know.

It’s a daily commitment to yourself. Letting go of the shame about my eating disorder was a huge part of recovery too. Being able to write about it and talk about it openly is part of recovery.

They nodded in agreement.

Another woman chimed in:

It’s so helpful to hear you say that and then to see you standing here in front of us. Like you’re using your story to help other people. You made it.

It gives us hope, she said.

I realized in that moment that for these women before me, hearing my story was as empowering if not more than learning any yoga pose. But what spending 10 minutes at the beginning of this class did for our asana practice was powerful. I saw more smiles, felt more energy, and gained more of their trust than ever before.

By being vulnerable, I instantly felt a deeper connection with these women. They knew I understood what it feels like to be in their shoes. They knew I understood shame. About my body and about my story. And they knew it was possible to move through it and beyond.

Leaving class Wednesday night I felt an exchange between myself and the 6 women. We gave each other incredible gifts. I gave them hope, and in return they listened, they lit up, and they reminded me to keep sharing my story. That I am on the right path. And I choose every day to keep on going.

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What I’ve learned so far from giving up endurance races this year…

If I were to recall my new year’s resolution for 2016, it would be this: “Do not sign up for any major race.” And by god, I’m doing it!

I’m writing this now (and not waiting for January 1) because it’s been over a year since my last race: Chicago Marathon on 10.11.15.

Not doing a big race this year seemed like such a weird goal for me, especially after 6 straight years of non-stop triathlons and half-marathons/marathons. I’ve honored my promise with myself though and here’s what I’ve noticed since setting this intention:

  1. Running is fun again. Running pretty much stopped being fun. My body felt like poop when I ran and it was all about the time/pace or how running balanced out/burned off the food I was eating.
  1. I’m moving my body in ways that truly fill me up. Like hiking or walking Daisy. Instead of moving/exercising out of obligation.
  1. I feel way less pressure to fit in exercise. And what’s the point of exercising if it doesn’t totally light me up?
  1. More time!!!! I noticed in the past year how much I would prioritize training over a hang out. Or over taking time to sit down and read a book. Or write. Or focus on my business. Or take a long bath. Or nap. Or meditate. Or do NOTHING.
  1. It’s gotten easier. At first friends asked me to sign up for this half-marathon or that Ironman… the endurance athlete bug in me lit up at the thought of it. I even tempted myself with an ultra [still am tempted…] But when I kept coming back to my WHY and was the WHY strong enough to compel me to ditch my intention and sign up for a race… the answer always came back to no. And after several months, turning down races started to feel like a YES. It felt like a yes to honoring my body in a new way.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with training for a race. In fact 95% of the races I’ve done have been some of the greatest days ever. Like Ironman Lake Placid, my first year doing NYC Triathlon, and Chicago Marathon. Whew. Amazing days!!! But for me I know that I need to be careful. Or … mindful. Last year, I recognized I needed to create a new pattern and redefine my relationship to running and races.

And so I took a year to pause and notice. Even as I write this, I notice that in the process of letting go of my attachment to being “an endurance athlete” I also let go of a few other attachments (things/beliefs/people/relationships) that just simply did not serve me.

I’m still toying with the idea of one day jumping back on the endurance bandwagon [my heart is still set on an ultra-marathon] … but my approach is slower and much more intentional than ever before.

Why I’m not doing any big races in 2016 – Original blog post from January

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Why I’m Glad I Stayed…

Yesterday I had one of those days…
I went to my friend’s magical island.
I didn’t have my phone because it crashed that morning.
What I did have was a swimsuit, a dog, and a willingness to receive the day.
I felt groggy and had a headache from too much wine the night before.
My heart knew though, I needed the island and the friends there.
I needed to say fuck it to getting my cell phone set up in time.
Of course the normal panic of “what if so-and-so tries to contact me?”
I even went through all the texts I would miss out on that day.
The missed opportunities to post on Instagram and Facebook.
Missed opportunities to check in on what my friends were doing.
I made an intention to surrender.
I surrendered to feeling naked without my phone.
I surrendered to cherishing time with my dog and the people around me.
I am an introvert so after paddling and hanging poolside with the group, a little panic started setting in…
I immediately wanted to jump off the island and swim to shore, to my car, and go home.
But I couldn’t. For one I had a dog. And two … all my stuff?
My body felt tired and creaky and in need of rest and space and alone.
Alone, alone, alone.
I just wanted some time alone. I felt it deeply.
I meandered up the path to the tea house on the hill.
Perfect: yoga mats were draped over the porch banister of the tea house.
I took one and set it down on the floor.
Daisy the dog circled around the porch, watching birds and passersby on sailboats.
I liked to think she was also keeping watch, for me.
Bikini-clad, I felt the breeze against my skin.
I began to move in a way that felt natural to my body in that moment.
I moved, I sat, I breathed, I moved, I sat some more.
Daisy came and went, licked my feet when I sat.
Finally, after who knows how much time had passed, I laid down.
I draped my sarong over my shoulders and torso, unfurled my arms and hands by my sides, and gently closed my eyes.
I slipped into sweet slumber while the sounds of Daisy’s pitter patter on the porch and the chirping of birds lulled me in and out of this state.
I heard the motor of a boat every so often.
It didn’t bother me.
I welcomed it.
Here I was – so free.
No one knew where I was. No one could reach me. No one could find me.
No one, except the two little girls on the island that day.
They were 3 and 5.
I started feeling the thump thump of their running feet coming up the stairs of the tea house.
One of them squealed with delight: “Oh it’s Daisyyyyy!”
And I was tickled with delight to be brought out of my slumber by such dreamy innocence.
So I stayed.
I stayed on the island when my introvert-self screamed to get out and hide and be alone.
It’s like what we learn in meditation: when we stay, the real work occurs.
When we stay, we allow the softening to happen.
When we stay, we are more able to receive each moment as a gift.
AND when I stayed I got to go for a sunset sail with friends and Daisy.
I’m so glad I stayed.

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Thank you yoga, Thank you teachers.

It’s International Day of Yoga. My friend reminded me last week with a little nudge, nudge and soft encouragement that maybe I should do something for it.

 

I don’t have any special class or event planned and I’m hoping I’ll make it to class tonight or even to my mat to move a little and meditate. But what I will do, what I will honor is what this practice has done for me. And what I have been able to do for myself by way of my yoga practice.

 

I used to squeeze my thighs so hard to try to get them to look more stick-like. I’d pinch my belly fat and imagine how much better my life would be if I could just cut it off. I calculated every calorie going into my body and how each calorie (and then some) would go out. My mind was consumed and I was completely obsessed. My obsession with food and how I could control my body took over my life.

 

Yoga sandwiched my eating disorder. My practice began when I was 16 and my eating disorder was full throttle around 19 – so I was practicing yoga all through my disorder. But what I know now is that during a lot of that time, I wasn’t really practicing. I was going through the motions of yoga. Showing up, rolling out my mat, bowing my head and saying namaste at the end of class. I nailed poses ease because I’m fairly strong and fairly flexible and have always had great proprioception. What I wasn’t doing though was connecting. I was completely disassociating from my body and for a while there, I was using yoga as just another form of exercise to burn off those calories.

 

This all shifted when I found a small studio in Bloomington, Indiana and a teacher by the name of Wendy. I didn’t even know what style of yoga we were practicing (turns out it was astanga) add to be honest I can’t tell you a whole lot of the asana that I learned – but what stays with me to this day is the feeling of entering into a safe space. It was always quiet when I walked into the building, up the stairs and turned the corner. Everyone spoke with a hushed tone as we set up our mats and gathered our props. The space and the time was sacred.

 

Wendy didn’t tell me how or what to feel. She instead created opportunity for me to feel. I kept returning to her classes, as often as I could fit them into my schedule and budget. It was in this space that I remember looking at thighs and bursting into tears because for the first time I saw them as something other than “too big.” My thighs, for the first time ever, were strong and beautiful and amazing.

 

I came home to my body for what felt like the first time. That was inner peace. That was my invitation to heal and no longer allow myself to stray and disassociate from my body and being.

This was the tip of the iceberg and there have been many more teachers since then who helped facilitate my healing – and still do to this day. So, I can’t stress this enough but  … Thank you teachers.

 

IMG_9114On this international day of yoga I also want to acknowledge the practice for what it has brought me – healing and inner peace. Eating disorder recovery is not a one and done deal. It takes time and it too is a part of my practice: staying the course, staying connected, noticing when I get triggered, and repatterning my responses.

 

Thank you yoga.

 

I would love to hear from you: How has yoga impacted your life? Whether you just recently got your feet wet or are a long-time practitioner – what have you noticed?

 

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An Education: Thoughts on Closing CT Bowspring.

As I write this I am in the midst of a transition. Although it could be argued: aren’t we always in transition at any moment of our lives?

 

I moved to CT in November 2013 and was eager to find my new yoga home and community in Fairfield County – a place that felt so familiar to my childhood and adolescent self but as an adult felt like new territory.

 

Through mutual friends I was introduced to the owner of a new studio in Westport. We clicked and I was hired on the spot.

 

And so began my teaching career in CT. I soon took on up to 6 weekly classes at the studio and found my way into my first yoga home here. As some of my students there liked to say, I found my church.

 

Eight months later, August 2014, I learned that the studio had less than a month left before it would shut its doors. My heart sank. I lost a job and would miss the students, the ritual and routine that helped me make the transition to my life in CT.

 

I felt stranded until I found myself at a beautiful barn-like studio in Wilton. October 2014 I took my first Bowspring class and haven’t looked back since. It resonated so deeply with all the shit I was working through with body image and healing the residue from my eating disorder. I dove deep into the practice, immersed myself in a new community, and adopted this practice in my teaching. I even had the fortunate opportunity to teach at this special space.

 

It was a short ride before I learned in May 2015 that they too would be shutting their doors. Bummed didn’t even begin to describe the way I felt about this loss. It felt sudden and I was afraid because not only were we losing the space but my two teachers announced they would be moving.

 

In September 2015 CT Bowspring made a brave attempt to resuscitate the community and provide a space to practice. We prayed we would retain students and somehow – it sometimes felt as if we’d need a bit of magic – attract new ones. We, perhaps naively, had the vision that we could show the world how innovative and effective Bowspring was. At least I did.

 

And now here we are just 2 days short of officially shutting our doors.

 

I feel sad, frustrated, angry, hopeless, and defeated. Admittedly I also feel relief because the path to this difficult decision was so murky and exhausting. I feel responsible for not being able to hold it together and for not being able to provide a house of belonging for our students.

 

Our student base is modest in number but deep in connection with each other and I wish I had a magic want to house that connection for them. (Someday though…)

 

My ego is also a bit bruised by the fact that in the three years I have lived here I have been involved with three studios that have shut their doors. And with each one I feel more and more vested – especially this last one. AND I trust that there is no better education than experience. I have learned so much working with the partners and teachers of CT Bowspring. Sometimes we all got along and sometimes we were at each other’s throats – often brought on by the frustrations of 8 people with 8 different visions, trying to run a business together. Live and Learn.

 

Ultimately we all shared the same passion to explore and SHARE how the body moves through space with each other and our dear students; even if it meant we looked like weirdos to the outside world. It is not uncommon to twerk in slow motion in a Bowspring class.

 

In keeping with the spirit of my love for all things cheesy, I want to share this with the teachers and students of CT Bowspring:

 

You held space for me to grow. You held space for me to stand up for myself. You held space for me to be angry and frustrated. You held space for me to experiment (and dance) in class. You held space for me to be more open to the way I was so hard on myself for years. You held space for me to soften when I saw YOUR hearts softening. You held space for me to see how strong I am when I saw YOUR strength. You held space for me to slow down and be gentle. You held space for me to feel like I belong.

 

I feel like we (where we = anyone who has taken a deep dive into Bowspring) are all in on this crazy secret. Bowspring. And it’s not just the alignment that we’ve been privy to, but the encouragement to be our own badass authentic selves – the dark AND the light – and to embrace who we are and what we’ve got rather than trying to fit a mold of what we should be.

 

You teachers and students of Bowspring WORLDWIDE remind me to do that every day. And even though we may not have a dedicated space (for the moment) here in CT we still hold each other accountable to keep up the good work.

 

Let’s keep up the good work, ok? 

With deepest love and admiration. MC

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