About six weeks ago in my posting Going Raw- Part One, I wrote about the process I am going through to change from eating cooked foods to eating raw foods. This is all part of a bigger process that I have embarked upon in order to get as healthy as I can. The food area of my life is probably the last major bastion that I am attempting to overcome and, because it has its roots in my childhood, it is proving to be the most difficult.
However, there is another area of my life that I am addressing right now that is having a major impact on my health. This is in the area of exercise. Yes, I know, that’s a four letter word in my vocabulary too!!! I have been struggling with exercise for many years. Which is really annoying to have to admit when I remember being the athletic person that I was in school.
I played on my High School’s netball team (UK equivalent of basketball) in each year of school. In several of those years I was the team captain. I was fanatical about netball and just remembering it, I can feel my adrenaline level soaring. We played netball during the winter season, September through March, which meant we played twice a week as part of our class PE program and then the team would also practice once or twice a week after school. Matches were played on Saturdays.
After graduating from school I went on to a teacher’s training college, and sports and gymnastics continued to be part of the regular curriculum. During my second year of college I “went off the rails” and left to get married. A baby came along quickly and my new lifestyle was very alien to anything I had known up until then. Physical activities disappeared from my life.
Many years and a divorce later I attempted to return to some form of exercise. But I only hiccupped along in fits and starts. I tried aerobics but felt very clumsy and because I am not good at multi-tasking I simply did not have the coordination necessary. I tried working with a personal trainer but it proved to be too expensive, so I just gave up.
By now I had remarried and had another baby at age forty and had not been able to rid my body of the baby weight as I had when I was in my twenties. I think this was when I pretty much gave up on myself for a while and simply indulged in eating what I wanted. The weight slowly crept up. I remember pledging with myself that I would never allow myself to go over two hundred pounds. I sat at two hundred for a few years.
About fifteen years ago, while living in Naples, Italy, I met a wonderful yoga instructor and started practicing yoga with her. I loved the asana’s and working with the breathe. Moving slowly into and maintaining the poses under Meredith’s compassionate instruction, I began to feel somewhat reconnected with my body. “Sun salutations” became my passion along with the “fish” pose. My weight diminished some and I felt healthy for the first time in a long time.
Then in 2004 I moved to Jacksonville, Florida and, in hindsight, I realize that it took me about two to three years to make the big transition from my European culture to the American culture. My exercise pattern got lost in the shuffle for quite a while. Every once in a while I would make a half-hearted effort to implement a walking regime. I love being outside and walking puts me close to God’s creation which allows me to exercise my body and my soul. I also found a good Yoga studio and began going regularly again.
Then I had a shoulder problem. Had to quit yoga while I dealt with that and exercise got away from me again. Once the shoulder healed I finally pushed myself back into yoga but shortly after that I had a knee problem. Six months later I tried to get back into yoga again but found that it re-awakened the knee issue so quit. I tried walking again but the knee was just too much of a problem and, again, I found myself at that quitting-on-me stage.
One day at the beginning of this year I got on the scales and realized that my weight had bloomed to two hundred and sixteen pounds. I felt defeated and at an all-time low with myself. I made the decision to try and go raw – again (I had been dabbling with raw for a few years), or at least vegetarian. But underneath I knew that if I didn’t start exercising I would get nowhere fast. However, I simply could not get myself motivated to do it.
I think God took pity on me – again. He has a habit of doing that from time to time and when I get to the end of my rope, he offers me the beginning of His! But, as usual, He has a funny way of doing it. My husband was hospitalized toward the end of February with chest pains. Long story short: no heart problems but he was finally forced to look at high blood pressure and cholesterol issues and the doctors were serious when they told him to make lifestyle changes. Our diet swung drastically to mainly salads, lots of veggies and fruit, and we cut out most of the carbs.
Within a month or two we both lost weight dramatically. Then I hit a plateau and stayed there and got depressed. Underneath I knew the answer was exercise but I just didn’t want to have to deal with it. Again God came to my rescue in His usual round about way, and in July I was introduced to Wendy, a personal Pilates instructor. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do Pilates because my only knowledge of this form of exercise was a memory of a friend who used to do it (a much fitter, younger woman!!!), and she would say things like “We were massacred at Pilates class tonight” or “I didn’t think I’d make it through the whole class today.”
I am grateful for the God-incidental way that I got to Wendy, for I’m sure I’d never have taken the leap otherwise. She is a compassionate but relentless instructor with a grand sense of humor. I told her where I was at and she said something like “I guess I’ll have to work you”. I have been doing Pilates twice a week with Wendy since about mid-July. I have pushed below my plateau, not a lot but enough. However what has happened to my body is nothing short of a miracle.
I have a level of sustained energy that I did not have before. My body is so much more flexible and feels very alive. There has been a shift in shape; I cannot explain it any clearer than that. The first major change that I noticed was one day when I went to do up the strap on a pair of shoes and realized I did not have to get into a certain position to “accommodate my stomach” as I leaned down! My tummy has definitely toned and my legs are so much more flexible. I can climb a flight of stairs without feeling breathless.
This week Richard and I are enjoying our traditional week of Thanksgiving in our time share in Orlando. Yesterday afternoon we went to Universal to watch the new Harry Potter movie (which was great by the way!). We walked around for a while before the movie and I noticed that I had no problem keeping up with Richard (he’s over six foot and has a long stride). Nor did I find myself getting breathless keeping up with him and, in fact, I felt quite invigorated. Today we went to Sea World and the same thing happened.
As I sit here typing this post I have to make a confession. I have been wanting to walk on a regular basis for about a month now. The reason I have not is because I did not want to feel tired and breathless or realize that I couldn’t keep a decent pace for long. Yesterday and today have shown me that I can get out there, keep a good pace, and feel really good. I know that this is partly because of the diet changes I have made as well as the regular exercising with Pilates. It is a total change of lifestyle that is allowing me to feel good about myself and to feel so much more healthy. This is what self nurturing is truly about.
I don’t know whether I have shared the water story yet. After searching through my archives I have come to the conclusion that I have not and feel compelled to write it now.
It all began a couple of years ago as I was dealing with the latest “bombshell” from our daughter. I knew to the depths of my soul that I was in deep trouble internally, because I wanted to “shut down”, run away, not see or talk with anyone. Those are all danger signals for me.
I immediately alerted my support network and began what turned out to be two years of intense personal work. I firmly believe that God provides – always, even when we are not quite aware of it. In the month or so before the “bombshell”, I had heard about a couple of people who offered new-to-me alternative therapy, and I had put them in a file for future reference.
Well, now was the future, so I contacted them and made appointments. They have both helped me tremendously in my personal growth, but more importantly they gave me incredible support as I dealt with very difficult times. I also began working with an amazingly skilled and talented male massage therapist who was referred to me by a very trusted friend/female massage therapist. There’s nothing like male energy to “shake things up a bit”.
At the time, I was also involved in some special one-on-one work with one of my very dear friends. As I spent some time with her one morning she suddenly said, a propos of nothing that we were talking about in that particular moment, “Margo I read something this morning and I think you would like it.” She then proceeded to show me the 78th Verse of the Tao Te Ching written by Lao_tzu, as presented and commented on by Wayne Dyer in his book Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life, (which I then had to promptly go and buy!!).
I am going to write out the verse as it appears in the book:
Nothing in the world is softer
and weaker than water.
But for attacking the hard, the unyielding,
nothing can surpass it.
There is nothing like it.
The weak overcomes the strong;
the soft surpasses the hard.
In all the world, there is no one who does not know this,
but no one can master the practice
Therefore the master remains
serene in the midst of sorrow;
evil cannot enter his heart.
Because he has given up helping,
he is the people’s greatest help.
True words appear paradoxical.
The ensuing chapter was titled “Living Like Water” and Wayne Dyer comments on the verse in the following way. “Be like water seems to be repeated throughout the Tao Te Ching. ……..Water is elusive until you cease grasping and let your hand relax and be one with it – ……… Overcome the unyielding parts of your life by yielding! ……. Remember to stay flexible, willing to lower yourself in humility and appear weak, but knowing that you are in harmony with the Tao. …….. When you stay soft and surpass the hard, you too will be indestructible. There’s nothing softer than water under heaven, and yet there’s nothing that can surpass it for overcoming the hard.”
I knew in that moment that this was a huge lesson that I needed to take to heart. I needed to practice being soft and flexible rather than being tough. I needed, just like water, “to find my own level below all strong things”. I needed, just like water, to return to my own Source (which for me is God) and allow Him to use me over and over in ways that He sees fit.
After reading this passage and processing my thoughts, I came to a great place of peace. Even though I was in the midst of great spiritual, emotional, mental, and consequently physical, turmoil I could feel God’s love and grace surround me and sustain me.
My husband was in San Diego at the time. Later that day he called me and I was able to share my “water experience” with him. As I was telling him the story, he suddenly said, “Oh my God, Oh my God!”. In somewhat of a panic and with my heart beating wildly I shouted down the phone, “What’s the matter? What’s happening?”
His response sent chills up and down my spine, and I get goose bumps all over again as I recount these events. He replied, “It’s OK, everything is OK. It’s just that a girl is walking past and her T-shirt logo says ‘Water is Life’. Needless to say I felt the hand of God right there. I felt His presence and I knew that no matter what, He would always be there for me.