Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Mind, body and spirit
I don't know why this concept is so challenging for me to hold onto, grasp and really swallow down into my soul. When I want to feel my best, I need to focus on my mind, my body and my spirit. It is never enough to focus on just one, I never feel "happy" when just one is in check. Yet, again and again, I am amazed and surprised when I suddenly feel balanced and able to be present in each and every moment when I find myself nurturing each of these and putting the energy into each, as I so should.
So, while I prefer the phrase "Mind, body and spirit," I am going to focus in on the aspect that seems to have the most pull over me, my body. I think for many of us, we focus mostly on our bodies. My body has been an ongoing, very conscious and out there battle. Since I can remember, I have been concerned about issues of weight and appearance. It is the issue that on the onset, appears to be the easiest to address. But, as I have mentioned before, it can be part of the initiative, but it cannot be the only initiative. I think it is safe to say that many of us that struggle with weight also have other stressors, concerns, or deeper lying challenges that will not simply go away with weight loss.
How much we weigh, what we look like in those pants or that bathing suit. It may fester as a diet, an exercise routine, etc. Normally when I find myself in a body focused state; I am depressed, un-fulfilled, angry and superficial. I find that when I focus solely on my body, it brings me the most stress and the most internal chaos. I think perhaps because at some deeper level I do realize that my physical body is only a small part of the story. There is so much within that body and behind that body that in theory should matter so much more than its outer appearance. So, when I find myself focusing on my "body" and my body alone, somehow I know it is not what really matters and that makes me feel unbalanced.
I think this is why, again and again, I lose weight and it doesn't make a difference. It makes me laugh sometimes that I really thought it would. It doesn't make a difference? What can I possibly mean? Well, forever, I thought that somehow losing weight would make me happy, make me feel better, make all of my issues, and problems and things I used to pay someone to have to hear me speak about suddenly go up in a puff of smoke. I would wake up 30 pounds lighter and magically fixed. I was so very wrong. The real challenge with this mentality was after the weight would come off and I wouldn't feel better, or a stressful life event would occur and suddenly, I would go back to my binging ways and all of the weight would creep back on.
I would turn to the Cheetos and the Entenmann's Donut Holes. I would look forward to walking home from work to pick up the most inappropriate snacks possible. It would most often consist of a cheesy, sweet and chocolate combination. I would run up to my apartment, sit in front of the TV and eat away all of the stress, all of the pain, all of my feelings. The feeling I got from the food I was eating, I can only imagine it being somewhat similar to the feeling a smoker gets when they have a cigarette. It made me feel warm, it made me feel safe and it made me feel better. Even though I knew the good feeling wouldn't last forever, it was great for "right now." I would normally eat a little bit of each type of snack, and then once I finally got disgusted with myself, I would throw them all away. Another successful binge of Patty Landry.
Even when I get to that pre-weight loss point. The point where I know I should really lose weight, but that I just am not ready yet, it is hard to say goodbye. It is hard to give up the anything I want lifestyle. The lifestyle where the food numbs me and makes me feel better, even if only for a few minutes. My extra weight feels like a nice, comfy, protective blanket sometimes. When it isn't making me sad, or depressed. It makes me feel safe, it makes me feel invisible. It is hard to let go of the comfy blanket, especially when you don't feel better and you may even feel worse.
I have somehow really found a way to compartmentalize many aspects of myself. So, even while all of this is going on, in regards to how I feel about my "body" I continue to be a generally "happy" person. Not totally happy, not happy in my soul, but happy. Feeling grateful about my life, my career, and the possibilities. This compartmentalization has allowed me to not always need to focus on my mind, my body or my spirit.
However, I know deep down that all three need to be in balance to feel happy in my gut, happy in my soul.
Even after sharing this, I do know that it is important when I am healthy. When my body is healthy. When I eat better, I feel better. When I take care of myself, I feel better. When I exercise, I feel better. I like to think I am finally coming along on all of this and finally realizing that while it brings me the most pain, it can also bring me a huge reward if I continue to focus on it more and more, as much as I don't enjoy it.
For me, my spirit is what makes me angry about injustices, appreciative of nature and the cosmos, inspired by H.H. the Dalai Lama, happy when I dance and contemplative during my Sunday services at All Souls. I don't know that one's spirit can be pinpointed, but for me, it can certainly be felt. I think the words spirit and soul can also be interchanged here a bit. I do see soul as having a bit of a deeper and long-standing meaning.
When I find myself in a good place, I will call that my spirit. I feel like my spirit is what gets me through the toughest times. It is what allows me to depend on myself, rebound and get back up again when I get knocked down. I think my spirit has the strongest power over me, even though my body may have that pull. It is with me when I am my most quiet, yet sometimes I feel like I do everything to NOT be present with it. I find it to be the most challenging, the scariest and the most demanding. It is what pushes me to want to find my passion, makes me feel like there is more I should be doing and giving. It never lets me settle and always wants me to learn and grow. It makes life exhausting in some ways, but I cannot imagine my life without it.
For a long time, too long, I had totally shut down my spirit and my efforts to work on it. For some reason, I didn't see it as important. The older I get, the more I realize there is a lot I cannot do on my own. I need my spirit right there with me. I do not consider myself a religious person by the traditional meaning of the word. I do consider myself to be a very spiritual person and I look towards my respect of many world religions, scientists, physicists, philosophers, authors and poets to meld it all into my own to utilize it in a way that helps my spirit find peace.
Since recently discovering its importance, I also need to continue to find ways to stop silencing it. As much as I talk about mind, body and soul here, I do love guilty pleasures. I do love vegging in front of the TV. after a long day at work. I love Greg and my weekend routine of sheer and utter laziness. I do find that these guilty pleasures are what silence my spirit, muzzle it if you will. It is amazing how when a TV. is on, regardless of what else is going on around me, it has captured my attention. Whether at a restaurant or bar with friends, or at home on the couch, if the TV. is on. that is where my mind is. When my mind is busy with TV. my spirit rarely surfaces.
As I continue to work on embracing this part of myself and not fearing it so much, I continue to learn more about myself and what, in addition to food, can make me feel safe and present. Now, this isn't to say that Cheetos still don't give me that amazing feeling after the first few bites (after all this Cheetos talk, I will be shocked if I don't have some this weekend), what it is to say, is I am trying to find other ways to get that same feeling.
Now, for many of us, dealing with the everyday stressors of life, I am not always present enough to say, no, Patty, don't eat those Cheetos, take a second to find where your spirit is and what will bring you relief and peace. That doesn't always happen. I have to be in a certain place, (mindful) in a way that allows me to pause long enough to think that through. Think about how I will feel after eating a bag of Cheetos, am I ok with that. If I am, then go for it. Most often, though, I don't feel so great after doing so. It is in those moments that I can only hope that I can continue to find pause and quiet to give me time to think about what will really bring me peace. Whether it be coloring in a coloring book, eating a bowl of spaghetti'os, listening to my favorite music, a podcast or sitting by the ocean.
For me, my "mind" has always been the easiest to satisfy, especially since moving to New York City. Whether it be going to a lecture at The Museum of Natural History, The 92nd Street Y, getting into deep conversations with Greg, co-workers and friends, or even finding something interesting on Nova or The History Channel, I try hard to keep my mind stimulated and challenged.
I have always been a bit of a geek. Not necessarily SAT smart and not the best at taking tests, but rather intuitive and a huge science and political geek. I can watch shows about Space and ancient ruins until my eyes fall out. There is nothing I enjoy more than using the weekends as a chance to learn. Whether it be reading an article on-line, watching a TV. show or learning from those around me.
I love to watch shows about conspiracy theories, ghosts and the paranormal. I love anything that tests the boundaries of what I know and understand, heck, this is the reason I love physics and astronomy. To know there is so much we don't know, we don't understand makes me smile. I think I would be very bored to know that everything has been figured out. It inspires me to know there is more to learn and more to discover. It isn't even necessarily that I believe in everything, it is just that I am open to the possibility of pretty much anything. Who am I to know?
I am grateful that I know exactly where my love an appreciation for astronomy came from. In 4th grade we were asked to read a biography. Up until that point, I had only read fiction. I wasn't even sure how to go about finding a biography. I ended up coming across "Maria Mitchell Girl Astronomer" while I was at the library. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to read it. I was so impressed by Maria. I don't remember every nook and cranny of the book, but I know she went to Vassar and I knew from the moment I read that book that I wanted to study astronomy in college like she did http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Mitchell . She was really a trail blazer and I was inspired to see a woman go on in the sciences.
My love for astronomy and all things cosmos grew when I suddenly found myself with unlimited access to a small telescope. I will never forget the first time I saw Saturn and all of its rings. It was really quite amazing. From that moment on I began looking at my life a bit differently. That was the first moment I realized, not in a depressing way, but an inspiring one, how little and insignificant we all are. That being said, life is also a gift, and I truly believe it should our desire and conviction to leave the world just a little bit better than when we found it.
Going to Wheaton and minoring in astronomy allowed me to continue to test my mind and my ability to understand and grasp concepts, theories and heck even equations so much larger and more significant than I was. I was lucky to have an amazing Professor at Wheaton. I appreciated Professor Barker for so many reasons, but I felt like I could really learn from him, understand him and relate to him. He had a wonderful way of explaining complicated concepts in every-day more simple language. He often joked that he wasn't an "A" student in physics, yet, here he was an Astronomer. I appreciated that. I was always good at math and science, but things got a bit more complicated once we got into Astrophysics, for sure.
I am not sure if I would have ever found the appreciation for my mind that I did if I hadn't read about a strong and intelligent woman in the 4th grade and gone to a liberal arts college where I was treated as an equal to my male counter parts (gotta love that about former all women's schools). I wonder if I would have feared science and math, like you always hear about on the news, girls fearing math and science. I really like to think this is all a thing of the past, but I have no doubt there are stereotypes.
Even today, when I go to lectures, I am always looking to see how many woman are on any given panel, how many woman have been called in to give lectures, etc. I have no doubt there still remains, especially in math and science, an old boys club of sorts, that I can imagine is extremely hard for woman to bust through. The good ole' glass ceiling, if you will. Even as a woman who considers herself to be somewhat intelligent, I still always feel really anxious and nervous when I feel like my intellect is being challenged or called into question.
Regardless, even though I found myself on quite the tangent, in summary, my mind keeps me engaged, it keeps me wondering and it keeps me thinking about possibilities. My love for all things science, really help me appreciate the fact that anything is possible and motivates me to continue to try and find ways to pinpoint my passion.
Here's to hoping, we all continue to find ways to make ourselves feel at peace, content, appreciative and grateful, while never believing we know everything and always remembering we are here to make the world a little bit better.
Coming up next:
Math, science and sneakers
Pat, Patty, Patricia
And that's all she wrote....