Archives for June 2016

Body image and acceptance

Body image has nothing to do with size or shape; whether we think we are fat, thin, good looking or not, or anything in between.

It is the product of peer, media, social, cultural and familial values. These values can have a very strong influence on our self-perception, self worth and self-esteem: leading us to believe we are ‘less than’ if we do not fit into the mould that is expected of us.

We are surrounded with images of ‘perfect’ bodies, diets that promise we’ll get there if only we starve ourselves, or over exercising in the vain hope we will achieve the body of our dreams and then… happy!By+working+on+our+inner+world+–+we+can+make+profound+shifts+in+our+metabolic+world

But time and time again both research and individual experiences show that getting the perfect body does not in anyway guarantee you happiness or anything else for that matter.

Instead of thinking you have to be someone else, be somewhere else, lose the weight to achieve what you want, what about looking at it through the lens of everything you want is right here, right now.
Looking at the possibility that by concentrating on not being happy with your body, and obsessing over diet and punishing exercise, you are missing out on so much else in life that is right here for the taking but you might not be able to see it clearly…. yet.

When we are stressing out about weight/looks/what the number on the scales is saying, and we are holding onto old messages about not being good enough, it puts the body into a stress response and that means the body is in fight or flight mode.
This means the metabolism slows down and hey presto the body holds onto fat because it thinks it might need to keep fat supplies on board in this stressful time in case of scarcity.

We all have a choice: feel bad about your body or love and accept it fully. It is all about acceptance.
The moment of acceptance liberates people from the underlying belief that achieving perfection would somehow make them a more lovable and worthy person in this world. Which of course is not true.

Once you get to a point of acceptance that you are a beautiful and wonderful person just the way you are, it is a liberation.
It is a freedom from the shackles of yesterday and the body image/weight struggle you have been holding on to for a long time.
A ‘weight’ will literally have been lifted off your shoulders and you are free to be the best person you can be in the world.

Shutting down the voices, looks and criticisms of others is hard, but when you really think about it, they are only other people’s perceptions and it actually says more about their own insecurities than it does about you.
Being courageous enough to shut it all out and know you are better than the number on the scales or the size of your thighs is the only path to self-love and self acceptance.

Looking inwards instead of out and feeling into your true needs and values, liberates you from the constant cycle of yo yo dieting, over exercising and so on, that can feel like such a burden.
Suddenly it doesn’t seem like something you want to continue to fight with in your life.

And with your focus on self awareness and how you feel inside, possibilities open up.
With the body no longer in a stressed state, you are in the best possible position for your weight to stabilise where it needs to be – providing of course, that you are eating a healthy diet and exercising moderately.

Here are a few basic tips for working towards that place of acceptance:How+to+be+an+amazingly+powerful+woman-+love+your+body

  1. Gratitude for what is, here and now and what is actually working in your life.

Even if you are in the most unhealthy place of your life right now and stressing over your body in some way, something IS working.
The fact that you can breath is proof. Look for other parts of your life that you are grateful for. Spend time every day focusing your awareness on what you love about your life and your body and how it serves you.

  1. Listen to the needs of your body.

Your body wants to be loved and taken care of. It wants to be stretched, exercised, nourished and touched.
It wants to feel good. Moderate exercise, meditation, breath work and healthy eating are all part of the package, slow everything down!
Pay attention, listen to what your body really needs.

  1. Rewire your brain.

Information and thoughts move through your brain via neural pathways. The more your thoughts follow a specific pathway, the stronger that pathway becomes.
If you are thinking “I’m fat, I’m ugly” every day, those pathways become very strong indeed and become your default thoughts.

Neuroplasticity, which essentially means that the brain is capable of changing it’s neural pathways, means you can create new pathways with messages of self-love and kindness instead of self rejection and body hate.
One way to interrupt your negative thinking is to say “that’s not true” when your inner critic pops up with a derogatory comment on your body. Then gently reply with what you know is true, find simple words to counteract the negative ones.

  1. Re-evaluate your self-worth.

How we nourish our bodies has a lot to do with self-worth. Until you feel worthy of feeling your best, you will constantly undermine your own efforts to achieving that end. And nourishing our bodies is not just about what we eat.

Find a way of telling yourself you are worthy and why, look inward for the answers. Telling yourself could be through journalling or meditation or chanting for example.
Making this a daily practice and not trying to force anything, but simply staying patient with this, you will be likely to see your attitude becomes more loving to yourself and it is then easier for acceptance to naturally follow.

  1. Don’t believe everything you tell yourself

Our minds are filled with the thoughts, beliefs and values of all the people who influence our lives and stuff from the past that no longer serves us.
Having a strong sense of self comes from tuning out the voices of everyone else and being curious about what’s going on inside you, listening to your own intuition, feelings, needs and desires. All your answers are in there somewhere.
It’s about doing what feels authentic to you and letting go of the need to get everyone else’s approval.
Letting go of the fear of judgement of others.
Letting go of your own self judgement.Every+unwanted+behavior+around+food,+body,+and+health+is+a+distorted+attempt+to+re-achieve+wholeness

The only thing you have to do is feel you are meeting your own needs and relax into the possibility that when you are no longer worrying about your body image or weight, that there is more freedom to live the life you really want as an empowered and happy person.

I hope you enjoy this post, feel free to contact me or send me a Facebook message if you would like more information about how my coaching with body image and other subjects works, or for general information about the coaching process.

Check out my half price offer for coaching sessions booked, paid for and taken in June/July 2016.

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The tyrant within us all

book coverI recently came across this interesting article by Philip Shepherd, a Canadian author and teacher who spreads the word so beautifully about connecting with ourselves, looking inward not outward to find our answers. It fits in with my current topic of self connection, self awareness and self love.

It is about the tyrant voice that’s in all of us telling us what to do and which is often in conflict with and unaligned to how we really, deep down, want to be.

The Tyrant’s Confusion – by Philip Shepherd

In his classic book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell presents not just the hero, but also the tyrant with a thousand faces – and shows him to be an equal force at work within the stories of world myth.  As those stories bring the tyrant to life for us, we witness his desperate self-centeredness, his need to acquire and hold fast to whatever he can, and his impulses to manipulate people and circumstances to suit his personal agenda.  What distinguishes the tyrant’s attitude above all else is his belief that he deserves his special status because, according to some private yardstick, he is better than others.

If the reader of Campbell’s book is astute, she will detect within the lineaments of the tyrant a mirror that shows up aspects of her own nature.  We all harbor tyrannical tendencies – first, because we are human, but even more so because we live in a culture that is committed to the tyrant’s goals of acquiring and controlling, and which sees those goals as normal and prudent.

The tyrant’s impulses generate such a hold on our culture that they impact our relationships with nature, food production, medicine, justice, education, spirituality and consumption.  The tyrant’s influence is seen in the value we place on “personal net worth,” and in our devotion to an economic model that has to grow without limit to remain stable – more, more, always more.  The tyrant’s worldview is seen in the fears that separate us from our neighbours and insist, “Just leave me alone.”  The tyrant’s assumptions are evident in the way we speak about nature as something we don’t really belong to – and even speak of great tracts of it as belonging to us.

Our culture identifies so deeply with the aspirations of the tyrant that when Campbell characterises him as, “the man of self-achieved independence,” we find in that phrase a

precise description of the American Dream – echoing as it does “the self-made millionaire.”

There is a strange cognitive dissonance in our relationship with tyranny.  Even as we denounce it in the political realm, we rely on it in the personal realm.  Multiple private, top-down decisions are what get us through each day.  We sit in our heads and tell ourselves what to do and how to do it.  We develop an image of how we should be and try to make ourselves conform to that idea.  This habitual mode is deeply familiar – but it is a divided state in which you can neither think nor act with the whole of your being.  One part of you presumes to know what’s best, and supervises the rest of you to achieve it.

The problem that prompts us into such division is how to move forward, what to do next?  The hero attunes to the world and finds guidance there – feels it calling to him, pointing him forward.  We contract from the world and move forward not as a summons to life, but the way a manager in his office overlooking the factory floor calls the shots and run the show.  Our habit of supervising from the head runs roughshod over the sensitivities of our being.

Doing is our imperative.  Its dictates divorce us from the present, and consequently lead to a deep confusion in our understanding of self and world – one that does damage to both.  This is particularly evident in our confusion between ‘me’ and ‘mine’.  We frequently mistake one for the other.  For instance, we may talk about ‘my body’ as we would talk about ‘my car’ – as something that gets us around, and maybe doesn’t look as great as we’d like it to; as something that requires maintenance, checkups, and the right fuels; and as something that occasionally fails and doesn’t run without supervision, even though it’s got impressive computing power.  As something, ultimately, that we have.


But the body isn’t something you have, nor is it a tool you use to interact with your environment.  The body is you – it is your mindful presence in the world.  If I were to pinch your arm, I’d be pinching you.  Thinking of the body as a possession – as ‘mine’ rather than as ‘me’ – radically biases your experience, objectifying and contracting it, so that you feel separate from your living context.

We similarly turn what is ‘mine’ into ‘me’.  In the same way that we might relate to the body as though it were a vehicle, we can relate to a vehicle as though it were an extension of the self.  The look and power and precise handling of a car can play a significant role in how we feel about ourselves.  We don’t just own a car, we identify with it.  Car manufacturers make hay from that, offering their new products as flattering opportunities for self-expression and affirmation – subtly assuring us that we deserve such an affirmation.  But the car does not express you.  It is an object that was assembled of metal, plastic and glass in a factory you’ve likely never seen.  What the car expresses are the specific qualities that the manufacturer believes will entice you to buy it – qualities you want to be identified with.

The way we identify with cars is just one example of how what we buy blurs into who we are.  And whether we confuse what is ‘mine’ with ‘me’ or the other way around, the effect is the same: it objectifies, contracts and divides our experiences of self and world.  The way we construe ownership precipitates that effect, igniting the fantasies of the tyrant – fantasies that all revolve around the idea of fortifying an existence so that it can achieve independence from the world.  In our culture we heap personal expectations on the promise of such independence – but it is a slippery fantasy.  No example of independence can be found anywhere in the world: everything leans on everything.  Everything depends on everything.  Independence doesn’t exist.

So when we call a thing ‘mine’, we can either acknowledge the transience of what that means, the limitations of it, or we can in our minds separate that thing from the world and relegate it to the exclusive and abstract realm of a possession.  If we do the latter, we objectify the possession, as though it stood independent of the world’s processes; wecontract the self by announcing our allegiance to that exclusive and abstract realm; and we divide the objects of the world into the categories of ‘mine’ and ‘not mine’.

Eventually the confusion between ‘me’ and ‘mine’ transfers the same qualities onto the self: it too becomes objectified, contracted and divided.  That experience of the self is pretty much accepted as normal in our culture.  We think it’s what being human feels like.  But having habituated to that ‘normal’ state,

we miss the transient reality of ‘ownership’, in which our true role can only be understood as that of a caretaker; and we also miss the reality of ‘me’ which, untethered from the constricting limits of ‘mine’, richly dilates and discovers that all the world lives in us, as we live in it.

All experience is shared experience.  The tree outside my window and I exchange breaths.  The pull of the moon draws my blood, just as it lifts oceans.  The pebble at my feet is more ancient than I by millions of years, but is created of the same star matter that is even now stitching together to create the cells that sustain my life.  Tree, moon, pebble, stars, and all else live through me, and I have no reality independent of them.

The tyrant’s insistence on independence, his acquisitiveness, and his need for control live in each of us – but so, too, do the hero’s capacity for feeling What Is, and his passions for inquisitiveness, harmony, and an unconfined, Give+the+world+what+it+needs+-+all+of+you+just+as+you+areuncontracted experience of life.  Those passions are dulled in us by our confusion about ‘me’ and ‘mine’; and frankly, rekindling them is dangerous – doing so would threaten the status quo we live by, and topple our devotion to the head as the rightful ruler of the self.

But reigniting the hero’s passions within you does not mean a rejection of doing – it rather initiates a journey on which you learn what it means to ‘do’ with the whole of your being sensationally present.  The fantasies of the tyrant make that impossible, rooted as they are in the contracted fiction of independence.  But if you can see those fantasies for what they are, and liberate your heart from them, you can come home to your true nature.  When that happens, your experience of ‘me’ becomes expansive rather than contracted – felt as an energetic field rather than as a material limit.  When your actions find guidance in being, they bring harmony rather than division.  Who you are becomes inclusive rather than exclusive.  ‘Mine’ inspires gratitude rather than entitlement or defensiveness.  And the field of your attention softens to become world-conscious rather than self-conscious.

The journey out of the tyrant’s frenzied fantasies brings many gifts, but perhaps the greatest is the way it returns our sense of self to the felt reality that holds us in its arms.

And I believe that such a transformation can only take place as we return to the full, mindful reality of our bodies.

Philip Shepherd

I hope you enjoyed this article by Philip Shepherd

If you would like further information on how to get in touch with your deepest needs and yearnings, if you feel stuck in your life right now and would like to find your way to what you truly want and need, please get in touch either by messaging me through my website contact page or via my  Facebook page

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