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A mind full of mindfulness—sorting out and lining up elements of change

Last Sunday I went to off to a five-day workshop on mindfulness and behavior change at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.  The actual title of the workshop is The Kripalu Approach to Diet: An Integrative Weight Loss Program, but it was really almost entirely about ways to incorporate mindfulness into our lives to promote our own health goals.

I am totally down with this.  For years I’ve been (trying to) incorporate mindfulness techniques for stress reduction around everything, including eating.  I took a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course that incorporated meditation and yoga, and off and on I’ve used meditation CDs by Jon Kabat-Zinn,the originator of the program.

Lately, though, my meditation practice has been way more off than on.  Which has not been good.  Since returning from my sabbatical in Australia, I’ve been struggling with anxiety and sadness.  My long-term relationship ended over the past year, a body blow that’s taking a very long time to recover from.  I have wonderful friends and colleagues and community for support, which is a blessing.  I restarted yoga in January, thanks to my friend Norah and the lovely and welcoming  Artemis Yoga studio near my house (thanks to you, too, Liz!)  I’ve been back on the bike, training for the PWA Friends for Life Bike Rally, too.  All of this has helped.

But still I’ve been eating and  in ways that make my body feel bad, and not moving enough in ways that make my body feel good.  Enter Kripalu program as vacation from my stuck habits, in hopes of getting myself unstuck.

It worked.

Really?  What does that mean?

This:  we did a bunch of practices at Kripalu, uninterrupted by phone or internet (access and use are severely restricted).  No laundry or bill paying or dog walking or meal preparation or grading (actually, I finished submitting my grades while there– what can you do?) or driving, or any of those things that take up our time and head space.

Let me say that I am excruciatingly aware of the position of extreme privilege I was (and am) in.  This program is expensive and time-consuming, both very scarce and precious resources that almost all of the planet doesn’t have.  And I am grateful that I have what I have (another blog post on this issue later on).

The practices we did included daily yoga, meditation, movement, discussion and sharing in our group (18 women and one man), some powerpoint lectures on weight and nutrition (more on those in later posts), guided writing exercises, and mindful eating at exquisitely delicious meals.

Seriously, the food here is so unbelievably good (and mostly vegan and vegetarian), that I recommend a trip here just to chow down.  And the chef, Jeremy Rock Smith, gives cooking demos that are as hilarious as they are useful.  You can find a zillion of his yummy recipes here.

There is also a 5-week online followup component of the course, with online discussion, weekly phone meetings, and lots of opportunities to interact, reflect and write about the processes we are going through.

My biggest revelation from the past week is twofold:  1) I get full very quickly when I eat mindfully (that is, while not distracted).  Seriously, what seems to me like a small amount of food fills me up in a comfortable satisfied way.  Huh– interesting.  2) I get hungry 1–2 hours before the next meal, but the hunger isn’t painful or unpleasant or compelling.  It is a feeling that comes and goes, and once I eat, it goes away again.  I’m hungry right now while typing this, but it’s not a bad feeling at all.  I will get around to eating as soon as I finish the blog.

Right now, what’s in line for changes are a few things.  As best I can, get rid of artificial sweeteners in my diet.  I got back on diet coke and also artificially sweetened ice tea mix.  There’s some evidence that they are correlated with increased risk of weight gain, type I diabetes, and some other conditions, but the jury is still out.  However, I’m getting rid of them.  The diet coke is very bad for my acid reflux, so out it goes (again).

I’m also eating at least one meal a day silently, and working on eating more meals undistracted by phone, internet, TV, radio, or even reading.  At Kripalu every breakast was silent for everyone at the center.  Eating breakfast silently is super-satisfying. It’s not boring at all. I know you don’t believe me even a little bit. But that’s okay. I didn’t believe it either. Until now.

I’m also focusing on meditating each day, right after coffee and before breakfast. I simply cannot even countenance meditating right after waking up. I must be caffeine-fueled in order to focus on anything other than “where’s the caffeine”.  Don’t judge me.

I’m planning one week at a time. Right now the focus is movement—continuing bike training, and planning on activity during a conference this week. I fly to Dallas Wednesday for a conference, and fly home Sunday.  Maintaining movement and eating that is healthy-for-me is always a challenge while traveling.  I’ve put together a plan, with backup options.

As always, this is a work in progress.  So many things came up at this workshop that it’s going to take a long time to sort them out, line them up, and either put them in place or say “no thank you” to them.  So stay tuned.

Before you go, though, check this out:  Kripalu will, for the low low price of $30, take a photograph of your aura.  They have a machine for this.  Who knew?  🙂 So here’s mine– I’m all green (love) and blue (communication).  This machine definitely has my number.

Namaste, y’all– have a great week.

 

 

 

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