Tag 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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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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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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Noticing my negative thoughts

One of my recovery students asked me recently what do I do with my negative thoughts?

I define these negative thoughts as any thoughts based in fear, doubt, or judgment.

Thoughts like:

“I’m bad for eating too much dessert” 

“I better burn this off”

“I’ll never look the way I should”

“I’m not worthy/deserving of love or respect.”

Even this one… “I’ve gotta lose weight.”

It’s fine to have a healthy awareness of the benefits of certain food and exercise, but ask yourself this: what is my intention? Are you choosing to eliminate dessert from a place of self-love or is it more punitive like you’re keeping yourself in line?

Shifting our negative thoughts is not an overnight process. It’s a multi-layer, multi-step, non-linear process that beings with one simple step: NOTICE.

Here’s what i told my student:

I first have to notice and acknowledge I’m having negative thoughts.

And then I kind of stop myself in my tracks. I pause long enough to not only notice the thoughts but to feel them – how are they feeling in my body and where? Well, usually tense. And how are they feeling emotionally? Usually they are accompanied by immense anxiety, nervousness, frustration, and sometimes depression.

I pause, I get quiet, I notice.

I’ve trained myself NOT to rush and immediately “fix” the thoughts. I must allow the thoughts and the subsequent feelings they trigger to move through my body. Or else they’ll build up in the basement and years later I’ll uncover them in dusty boxes and guess what… by that time they’ve grown tenfold! By that time the negative thoughts have become the most nasty, diminishing stories about myself I could possibly come up with. So believe me, if you try to quickly stuff the negative thoughts away, they are only going to grow bigger.

The next time you find yourself in the cycle of self-loathing thoughts, all I want you to do is really make space to notice. Notice what you are feeling. Acknowledge the feelings, physical and emotional, and then make space for these feelings to flow through you.

Loosen your grip on the thoughts, soften a little, and notice what happens.

Stay tuned for next steps in the process in Part 2!

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Bidding farewell to the days of fear-driven exercise

I’m bidding farewell to the days of fear-driven exercise. I’ve spent far too long afraid that if I don’t exercise enough, consistently, or at least 3 times a week I’ll put on a few pounds.

It just doesn’t matter anymore. I noticed this last week when I was getting over a cold and migraine. It had been over a week since I’d taken a yoga class or gone for a hike or a vigorous walk. And I noticed something exquisite: there was not an ounce of guilt or anxiety in my body.

I used to feel intense anxiety and stress over fitting a run or a rigorous yoga practice into my schedule. I felt like a lazy bum if I missed two days in a row, or god forbid, more than that.

This is not me hating on exercise. This is me noticing how my relationship to exercise has changed. Exponentially.

There was a year when my hip (torn labrum and then some) was constantly in pain and I developed IT Band syndrome on top of that. Even though I was wincing in pain during a slow jog, I convinced myself I needed to push through it. I knew what was best for me — rest, take it easy, be gentle — but I willfully ignored my intuition. Not just once, but for months.

Too often I would sacrifice the health and well-being of my body and end up icing my knee, rolling out my hip, in the hopes that I’d undo the longer term damage and be up and running again in just a couple days. This somehow settled my nerves.

Exercise was not only punitive, but a vehicle to avoid feeling deep, dark, difficult emotions. I was afraid of the potential changes in my body if I didn’t exercise but I was more afraid of the feelings I’d have to confront if I sat still for too long.

That’s not to say I never had a run that brought me to tears (I did) or a yoga practice that left me weeping (I still do). But along my road to recovery from my eating disorder and severely negative body image, my relationship with exercise was deeply in need of transformation.  

Today, I feel thankful that I’m no longer exercising in excess and that I’m saying goodbye to the days of fear-driven exercise.

Today when I exercise, when I move, it’s a body prayer. It’s a connection and a call to the divine. Staying aligned and checked in to the energy flowing through me. Saying hello, how are you?, I cherish you. Saying thank you, I see you, I hear you and … I love you.

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Why I’m Grateful 2017 Started With a Migraine

After 2 days in bed with a migraine I had a really long meditation this morning. And something occurred to me: I avoid planning the big stuff that my heart desires and I avoid taking steps toward being more successful because I sometimes have a “what’s the point?” mindset. I am afraid I’ll to live like this for the rest of my life. Getting migraines, checking out of life for a few days. And so I commit to just enough… because why would anybody trust me? Why would I commit to workshops? To helping others heal? When I am so screwed.

It’s difficult to explain a migraine. I believe Joan Didion describes it best in her essay “In Bed:”

Once an attack is under way, however, no drug touches it. Migraine gives some people mild hallucinations, temporarily blinds others, shows up not only as a headache but as a gastrointestinal disturbance, a painful sensitivity to all sensory stimuli, an abrupt overpowering fatigue, a stroke-like aphasia, and a crippling inability to make even the most routine connections. When I am in a migraine aura (for some people the aura lasts fifteen minutes, for others several hours), I will drive through red lights, lose the house keys, spill whatever I am holding, lose the ability to focus my eyes or frame coherent sentences, and generally give the appearance of being on drugs, or drunk. The actual headache, when it comes, brings with it chills, sweating, nausea, a debility that seems to stretch the very limits of endurance. That no one dies of migraine seems, to someone deep into an attack, an ambiguous blessing.

Suffice it to say I feel depressed while in the throes of a migraine. I am completely disconnected from the rest of the world. I am in survival mode. It is a huge undertaking sometimes just to get comfortable. And there is that period of 1-3 hours at the apex of the migraine where I am at a total loss. I question going to the ER. I question how the heck am I going to make it. I cry because I don’t understand the returning question: Why me?

Something shifted in the first migraine of 2017. It wasn’t any less intense. I was debilitated. Barely capable of answering texts and had to ask my neighbor to walk my dog Daisy. What shifted is I was able to allow myself to go through it. I still had the panic of the apex but I allowed it to happen instead of fighting, resisting, or willing it to just end.

And when I sat in meditation this morning I felt it: I’ve been allowing migraines to run my life. Not just when I have them, but when I don’t have them: I am afraid of making plans and having to break them. I am afraid of being judged by others when I cancel on them for the 6th time in 2 months. In my professional life I am afraid of hosting a retreat by myself because what if, god forbid, I get a migraine and cannot fulfill my commitment to a few dozen people?

I’ve been teaching yoga for 10 years now, health coaching for nearly 5, and now I’m practicing Reiki. And what I realize is I’ve been afraid of becoming more successful for fear I’ll be found out by more people that I suffer from migraines and am a canceler. Or that I am untrustworthy and I’ll lose students and clients.

I relaxed into this last migraine as much as possible. Turning off email, NOT checking social media, and texting or calling people only when absolutely necessary. It took a lot of the pressure off and I treated this migraine like an extended meditation. I kept telling myself “You don’t have to be anything other than YOU. In whatever way that shows up. Right now. It’s OK.”

I reminded myself what these migraines teach me: to have the utmost empathy for other people’s pain. In all the various ways pain can show up.

I’m not feeling disheartened or down by my realization. Instead it’s something to work through. 

It’s actually a relief to be able to see and articulate. I see it as momentum forward in understanding myself better. And I see that I have a choice: I can stick with the “what’s the point” mindset OR I can create a new mindset through new thoughts and new beliefs.

I’m choosing the latter.

 

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My ME-ness Is More Powerful Than a Wrinkle On My Forehead

There were three of us in the room Monday night at the eating disorder recovery center. Two students, plus me. Something about all our energies combined made for a very sweet vibration in the room that night. The electronic candles were scattered around the makeshift altar and I had soothing spa-like music playing on my Beats Pill.

The woman with the flowing grey hair wore a shirt with a radish on it. We started off the class in lighthearted banter talking about “trigger clothing” and how her radish (or turnip depending on how you looked at it) shirt managed to escape the search when she was first admitted to the center a couple months ago.

It escapes me what theme I gravitated to for this particular practice because what stands out so much is what it felt like to be in that room with them, and what happened after our class…

I taught them but I received so much. It felt effortless to guide the two women through a series of seated poses, to all fours, back to a seat, and finally to a restorative pose where they were able to luxuriate for over 10 minutes.

I closed the practice by giving them some reiki and felt extremely moved by both women’s willingness to be so open and vulnerable with me.

After I called them back to their bodies, the space, the breath, and the two sat up, one woman turned to the other woman and said:

“I have to say that you just looked so beautiful in that twisted pose,” as she emulated the flowing grey haired woman’s posture and demeanor.

She continued:

“You looked so confident and proud.”

“The next time I see you slouching around the house I’m going to remind you what you’re capable of,” she said with a laugh.

I refrained from any kind of commentary on this exchange I was fortunate to witness and just allowed it to happen, amazed for one by my student’s ability to see another woman with such high regard. To lift her up instead of compare.

The confident and proud woman RECEIVED the compliment with such grace and humility. She then in turn said how she’s going to sign up for yoga when she returns home. How it has changed her. How she now finds a new engagement and fascination with her own body and how it moves and works in a multitude of ways.

“Like if I move my right hip a little wider I feel stronger and then my shoulders can broaden,” she explained.

Oh my goddess I was in heaven just listening to this. I didn’t need to direct them. I didn’t need to insert my own feelings on the subject. These two women had learned so much, had grown leaps and bounds. I just watched them taking what they were learning and letting it rip!

Now I just have to keep believing that yoga has an incredible ability to support women in their path to recovery from eating disorders.

I’ve said this so many times before in earlier blog posts but … Yoga Healed Me.

Just a few weeks ago I found myself talking to a friend who is 4 years sober and found sobriety and recovery through the amount of time he spends outdoors: hiking, climbing, camping, you name it. I found myself thinking about how we all have such individual healing and recovery paths.

In those early years of recovery when I was at my worst I never went to treatment, barely spoke to a therapist (I can count – it was 3 sessions), and didn’t even tell a medical doctor about my bulimia until years after the worst was over.  

This isn’t to say these are not viable, successful options for recovery. It is my belief that they are.

For me though my path was, and still is, yoga. (It should be noted that in the 10 or so years since the worst of my eating disorder I have integrated therapy and life coaching among other healing modalities onto my path and I include this information in every health history I complete).

First yoga was about understanding my body better. Much like my dear student who found fascination with the movement of her hips, I started to love the way my body moved. I loved my thighs for how strong they were.

These days it keeps hitting me that my yoga practice has illuminated a path toward a deeper understanding of this:

I am not just my body or my cellulite or my round tummy. Nor am I just how well my clothes fit. I am not just my migraines. I am not just my relationship to food. I am not just my eating disorder. And, as much as my ego hates to admit it, I am not just my personality. My Maggie-ness, my ME-ness transcends AND encompasses all of that. My ME-ness is part of a universal energy that is so much larger and more powerful than a wrinkle on my forehead.

There is still an infinite amount of understanding and learning and knowing I have left to do. And because this is something that feels very big and infinite and scary and exciting, I’m going to pause. Let this marinade and … To be continued…

With Love,

Maggie

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It’s OK To Want These Things… {Just Please Be Kind}

It’s OK if you want to lose weight…

So long as you do it from a place of loving yourself. Where you are losing weight primarily for your health and to look great because you know you deserve it. You’ve gotta accept yourself as you are first for the real change and growing to occur. Otherwise you’ll always feel like you’re not enough.

It’s OK if you want to get in great shape…

Because you want to show your body how much you honor it instead of punish it. And because of you – no one else: no man, woman, or group in society can tell you how you are supposed to look. Get in great shape for YOU and you alone.

It’s OK if you want to lay off carbs, alcohol, or sugar for a while…

But be sure you are not depriving yourself of enjoying the things you love. Be sure this is not a way to torture yourself because you feel you’ve done something “bad.”

It’s OK if you want to exercise daily…

Just know that when you move mindfully, this can have a powerful impact on your body and your energetic vibration. And when we exercise out of obligation, we end up feeling worse – physically and spiritually. Please make exercise a practice about loving your body not hating it.

It’s OK if you feel crappy about how you look sometimes…

We all have our moments. But remember to source your inner power. Remember a time you were strong and made it through something. Re-live it. Feel it all over again. You’ll be amazed at how powerful and beautiful it makes you feel.

I share these thoughts with you because, I know we all need a little nudge sometimes. We all need reminders to lift ourselves up. And sometimes, often times, we do need accountability and support from one another. If you’d like to chat this week, click the link below to set up your free discovery call.

http://www.maggieconverse.com/apply

 

 

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