Sunday Night Check-In: Addictions, Hiking and Dewey Lake

 

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My friend Kathy invited me over to her house once again on Dewey Lake for a great dinner with her family and friends. Dinner at Dewey Lake with the Browns and assorted characters has become a ritual that Ashok and I both anticipate. Last night we even took the boat out for the first time after the winter. The Browns took it out once before this spring, but Ashok and I had our first round about the lake yesterday evening. Even though it had been several months since we last had a Dewey Lake boat ride, when I asked Ashok if she wanted to go on a boat ride, she looked at me and then ran down the hill to the boat dock.

After dinner, we watched political comedy on YouTube as most liberals do these days. Amid the laughter at the chaos in Washington, Bill Maher had a disturbing segment that was based on a recent 60 Minutes. I was shocked to hear a Silicon Valley veteran say that tech companies actually engineer the software and code for social media in order to addict us. He likened it to the way the food industry hires scientists who formulate the exact formula of salt, sugar and fat to addict us to their food.

If you read my blog, you know that for the past year or so, I’ve been on and off Facebook and on and off sugar. I’m now moderately trying to use both, but I’m finding that neither of these things are easy to moderate. In fact, I get so frustrated at times with the way I feel after eating sugar and the anxiety I get from using social media that I continue my yo-yo exercise of quitting and restarting over and over again.

When I saw that segment last night, the pieces of the puzzle fell together, and I realized that these are addictions as well. And I know how difficult it is to release an addiction. And it’s even more difficult to moderate the use of an addictive substance. That’s why I always think that recovering alcoholics have it easier than a food addict who still has to eat everyday. It’s easier to just quit (although it’s not very easy to do that either).

When I got off Facebook entirely, I felt so much better. I started reading again. I started texting old friends and communicating with them personally rather than stalking them on Facebook. My life was more full, and I didn’t feel like I was wasting so much time. In fact, I even got to experience boredom again. I used Instagram, but I realized pretty immediately that I didn’t feel the urgency to post or scroll the feed with Instagram that I had with Facebook. I rather liked it. Social media became more of a choice and, frankly, less interesting. I’ve never fully gotten back engaged with Facebook but when I am bored, I do tend to scroll the newsfeed. I curse myself every time I catch myself doing it!

I’ve noticed that when I eat a homemade dessert or something made with quality ingredients, I enjoy it but I don’t feel compelled to eat more an hour later. When I eat cake or cookies or junk that is store-bought or made with cheap ingredients, I feel a sugar high that is super intense, AND I have to have more almost immediately. The cravings are intense, and they literally go on for days.

The brain is complex, but it’s also very simple. Our brain seeks pleasure. Our dopamine receptors and other feel-good hormones give us immense pleasure, and when they crash, our brain literally NEEDS more. It’s not a matter of wanting it. It NEEDS to have more because its crashed below the level of normal. As I’ve been eating a lot better for the past year or more, I realize that in order to eat healthy without having to fight cravings all the time, I have to stay away from processed food. Even in moderation, it makes it so hard to stay on track. Besides, lately I’ve noticed that all of that stuff tastes like chemicals instead of food. Yuk! I can’t even eat artificial sweeteners anymore.

So, I watched the full segment about the software engineers, and then I watched one from 2013 about how the food companies secretly engineer food to addict us. No wonder I think processed food tastes like chemicals. In this segment, they explain why. They use chemicals to mess with our brain instead of real food. I also know why I get panicked if I can’t find my phone or if I get a text, and I can’t check it right away. They program your phone to work like a slot machine with intermittent rewards. He said Instagram or Facebook will withhold your “likes” so that they can blow your mind later. It makes you more interested in continuing to scroll… and advertisers have your attention longer.

Today I ate healthfully. I stayed away from sugary foods, and I went on a hike. I did post a few pics on Instagram, but I’m trying to post to Facebook through Instagram. I’m liking a reduced social media footprint. I’ve fallen in love with avocado toast with a fried egg on top. I like getting out in the woods,  putting my phone on Airplane mode and enjoying the sunshine. I’m going to experiment with disentangling myself from my phone this week.

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You can look at the segments below on why that’s important if you want to know more. I don’t like being a puppet. It seems invasive for some company to be studying my brain and developing things that make me react the way they want – especially if it’s not in my own best interest.

Food Engineering Interview

Brain Hacking (Phones)

Here are some tips on how to eat good food without getting manipulated!

 

 

Artist’s Way: Paying Attention

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I started The Artist’s Way course again. I had such great success with it the last time, and spring just feels like a good time to begin again. So, last week I started with Week 1. Week 1 helps me identify the reasons why I don’t embrace my creativity. I had great success with my Morning Pages and even went on an Artist’s Date to get some stickers and fun things to decorate my journal.

Today, I started with Week 2. Right away, I was caught by the below sentence:

It is important to remember that at first flush going sane feels just like going crazy.

~~ Julia Cameron

This week’s lesson helped describe the crazymakers in our lives. They are the people who want to sabotage you in having your own life because they are either jealous or scared of living their own lives. Misery loves company, so they have all kinds of ways of distracting you from being your very best self and trying new things. I’ve had a few crazymakers in my life, and I’ve probably been a crazymaker at some point in someone else’s too. Life – and relationships – are just messy like that. But often we enjoy the sabotage that the crazymaking brings because it keeps us from getting out of our comfort zone and trying something new.

Three Oaks, MI – Loved the Rain Garden!

Her antidote to the crazymaker is to “pay attention” to your life. It sort of reminded me of my Alanon journey. After all, an alcoholic is a King Crazymaker. Drama abounds to get your off course. She had an Aunt with an alcoholic crazymaker, but her aunt minimized his effects on her life because she paid attention to everything little thing in her life. She wrote letters that outlined everything that was going on in her life and included the minute details about the weather, what was blooming and what was going on in her mind. By paying attention, she lived a full life and focused on what was in front of her rather than what was trying to pull her away.

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So, I headed out tonight to “pay attention” down at the beach. I left my cell phone at home and used a camera so I wouldn’t be distracted by social media. I’ll just leave you with the photos. I took one photo tonight that was an accident, but I kind of like the way it looks. I was trying to make a video of the waves and the beach, but I didn’t bring my glasses. I kept pressing buttons and couldn’t see what was happening. I had about 20 pictures of my feet from different angles. So, if you decide to head out to “pay attention” in some way, you can leave your phone but don’t forget to bring your glasses.

What got my attention in St. Joseph….

Have a great week, y’all! It’ll be Friday before you know it.

Learning to Trust the Lighthouse

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This morning’s meditation was a response to a Daily Calm user’s question about meditation. The new meditator was learning that her original assumption about meditation was wrong. She always thought the objective of meditation was to calm the mind. But she’s learning – like I am – that the goal of meditation is not to quiet the mind but to focus on the breath to provide an anchor for the mind.

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My “teacher” in this meditation journey says the mind is like the ocean. The mind’s nature is to think just like the nature of the ocean is to have waves. I think of Lake Michigan. Monday’s stormy harbor turns into a flat, calm wake on Tuesday. Every day is different when I walk down to the lighthouse. It amazes me that it’s the same body of water when it looks and feels so different from day-to-day. My focus on my breath is like the lighthouse. It is an anchor that stands steady in contrast to the ever-changing nature of this vast freshwater sea. Sometimes the waves are violently splashing over it. Other days ducks on the surface barely bob.

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A calm day on Lake Michigan

I’ve noticed during meditation that I begin to focus more on my inner life and my body instead of what is going on in my mind and my reaction to it. I suppose it’s sort of like being in a kayak on a stormy Lake Michigan. It could be really scary if I focused on the waves and my lack of control of what’s going on around me. But if I focus on what I’m doing and my paddling, I can react when I need to. I can rely on my confidence in my skills to make decisions and just notice the storm around me. I have to react at times, but I can choose which reactions make sense and which ones would make things worse. Meanwhile, I am my own anchor.

This morning I have a stormy mind. My focus on my breath dimmed the drama a little, but, honestly not by much. My brain is thinking. My body is a bit anxious. My mind wants to worry about work and jump around from thought to thought. I had a few peaceful minutes of anchoring myself to my breath that is always consistent and always there. My meditation did not calm the storm, but my breath was a lighthouse that sat resolutely with no reaction. I can focus on the stormy sea or the lighthouse to get my bearings. I imagine I’ll slither from one to the other a bit today. But I’m starting to learn which one makes me feel better. I always have the choice.

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Yesterday’s practice taught me about using “pause”. The “pause” is a practice where you take three deep breaths whenever you need to feel a little more comfortable. I used it yesterday whenever I thought about it, and it really helped. Each time I did it, I felt a little more grounded and in my body. Maybe you could give it a try today whenever you feel hungry, angry, lonely, tired, anxious or even happy. Just see what happens. There is no goal. The goal is just to breathe.

 

Morning’s Promise

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This morning’s Daily Calm meditation was called Morning. The voice that lulls me into a meditative state every morning urged me to take note of the wonderful part of the day that we call morning. It is the time of day when everything about to happen is simply a possibility.

I don’t always pay attention to the possibility of morning. Sometimes I rush through its long list of “to do” items with very little mindfulness. Feed the dog and the cats… drink my kefir and make another batch… write my morning pages … brush my teeth … don’t forget my dry brushing … take a quick shower and style my hair … apply makeup … pay the bill I forgot to pay over the weekend. I rush through it without any attention to what it might bring.

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Last year there was a single day where I got laid off at my job. When I awoke that day, I had no idea what that day would bring. There was a single day where I got the call from Whirlpool. There was a single day when the floods came in Louisiana and almost all of my friend’s lives were changed forever. Moving day changed my base of operation forever. There was a first day on my new job. There was a day that brought the first snow … and recently there was the day that the first flower bloomed. Today could have similar promise.

I always say that I never know when a day will be the day I fall in love again, and my life will be forever changed. Could today be that day? Or might it be the day that I get an idea for a book that inspires me to finally write it? Could it be the day that I inspire someone else in a way that changes their life forever? Or could today be the day of my death? Or could it be a simple day that brings a moment of connection with a stranger that is meaningful only in the moment? Even simple days contribute to the tapestry of my life.

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I’m not sure how you approach the morning, but my meditation helped me look at this one a little differently. The pink dogwood tree in my front yard seems hopeful about the day today. Its days in bloom are numbered, so today has a special significance to it and those of us who are inspired by its beauty.

Let’s take an attitude of reverence for today …. even though it is a Monday. This may be the first morning of the week that changes your life forever. Make it count!

 

Sunday Night Check-In: A Mixed Bag

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I’m a little bit exhausted and a little bit full. I’m full emotionally from a weekend with good friends that I haven’t seen in awhile who were delightfully the same warm and loving friends that I’ve always known. One couple I hadn’t seen in 9 years. The other couple I’d seen briefly over the holidays but, before that, I hadn’t spent time with them in about 8 years or so. It was like old home week, and it felt really comforting.

Michael’s Custard in Madison…..

I love being in the presence (and in the homes) of my “no need to put on a show” friends. Joanne remembered my affinity for cards, and asked me if I was still doing them. I told her about my love of my Medicine Cards, and she and her family let me lead them in a meditation with their animal guides. Cheryl and Kenny brought me up to speed on their new hometown and how it compared to our mutual previous hometown of Memphis. It was good to see both of my friends’ imperfect homes and crash for a short amount of time in their space.

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Me and my friend Joanne

The drive home from Madison was brutal. What should have taken me about 4 hours took more like 6 with Chicago traffic and the rainy weather. I was beat when I got home not to mention craving a lot of bad food to comfort my traffic anxiety. Unfortunately, I gave in and ate a hamburger and fries that I regret eating, but I didn’t give in to having the shake that I also wanted to have. The weekend was a mixed bag of joy and stress for me.

In fact all of last week was a mixed bag:

Setbacks:

  • I haven’t been eating like I’d like to. I’ve been eating too much sugar again. It seems that I either have to eat none at all, or I eat way too much. I hate the way I feel when I’m eating too much of it.
  • I spent too much money. I forgot that there were about $20 worth of tolls each way to Madison. I had budgeted about $200 for the trip and probably spent more like $400. It wasn’t major, but I hate to spend money on stuff like tolls.
  • I tried to drink more water but I progressively got worse over the week. I have to do better at that. But it’s hard to do.

Successes:

  • I didn’t eat the shake tonight, and I really wanted to. I talked myself down by thinking about how much I’d regret it afterwards. I’ve promised myself I can have a smoothie later if I still want something creamy. Right now I’m having some yummy herbal tea.
  • I stuck with my meditation practice. I even meditated as soon as I got in tonight to try to soothe my traffic anxiety. It really has helped.
  • I did well on my exercise this week. I started doing some strength-training circuits this week and kept up with my walking. I didn’t do much over the weekend, but this week was pretty good for exercise.
  • Buster has been throwing up a lot, and I finally got his food straightened out so that he seems to be better. His vomiting was causing me a lot of stress and worry, but I think I may have figured out he just needed a new food.

This week I want to continue my meditation, get back on track with my eating, drink adequate water and start a virtual boot camp program with Jessica. Tonight I watched Oprah’s video on the Weight Watchers site about failure not being an option. She says we will always have setbacks, but we have to remember self-care is a marathon. It was just what I needed to hear.

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If I let myself be aware of my feelings, I’m sad. My former boss died last week, and he really meant a lot to me. He helped me last year at this time when I got laid off, and he was a good boss who encouraged me when I was having a hard time. He even offered me great suggestions when I was struggling personally and seemed to have a genuine concern about my well-being. I have a lot of sadness about that, so it’s probably no wonder I’m distracting myself with food and shopping. It also reminds me of the brevity of this life and creates this sense of urgency that I need to make something of my time here.

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Maybe I need to be a little gentle with myself right now. I have a lot going on at work, and I’m taking on a rather innovative risk that brings up my fear of failure (and oddly enough a fear of success). I’m experiencing loss and grief. I’m continuing to adapt to my new environment and make new friends – and face rejection. Just like my week of setbacks and successes, my life is a mixed bag of good and bad at the moment. I need to hug my little curly-haired girl and assure her we will get through this just fine.

Y’all have a good week. If anybody wants to join in on the boot camp, ping me for the info. Anybody anywhere can join in. And if you are a feeling a little out of sorts, then be gentle with yourself, too. Act like you are your own best friend. We all need one.

 

 

 

 

30 Days of Meditation: Negativity

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I didn’t meditate this weekend, and I could feel the difference. I felt a subtle lift in anxiousness that caused my mind to shuttle back and forth in ways that made me a little unstable. My thoughts and feelings were a tiny bit harder to manage which can mean a big difference when small things go wrong throughout the day. After 2 days of resuming my meditation practice, I’m more grounded and my mind has stopped jumping from subject to subject like an out of control slide projector.

So, in my usual manner, I think I’ll experiment with 30 days of meditation. My goal is to meditate at least 3 times per day and hopefully to do it 5 times. We’ll see what happens.

This would be the schedule I want to take:

First meditation: Focus on my breath in bed between the first alarm sound and the snooze alarm. (I think that’s about 10 minutes)

Second meditation: Do the Daily Calm (from the Calm App) – 10 minutes with a focus and mini-lesson

Third meditation: At lunch take 5-10 minutes to focus on my breath.

Fourth meditation: 10-15 minutes when I get home

Fifth meditation: 10-15 minutes (or longer) an hour or more before bed

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Today’s focus for the Daily Calm was negativity. My guide says that we are naturally adept at obsessing on the worst that will happen because our ancestors needed to do that to stay safe. She reminded me that when I obsess over not being perfect, not being loved, growing old alone or losing my job and becoming destitute, I need to question that thought to see if it’s really valid.

She also said it’s best not to fight negative thoughts. When they cross my mind, I should acknowledge them and just register the feelings they cause. I can name each one “negative thought”. I’ve found through this practice already that naming them seems to take their power away. If I feel fear, and I say to myself without judging “fear”, the fear seems to disappear like a dream upon waking. It’s really weird.

Negative thinking – and fighting negative thoughts – causes stress. My emotions are usually a reaction to my thoughts. So, if I choose not to react – negatively or positively – to my own negativity, I can evaluate later – or not – whether I should waste my time stressing about it.

I remember a yoga teacher saying “The mind that told you to go ahead and eat that piece of apple pie is the same mind that beats you up after you eat it.” Thoughts are really pretty fickle, aren’t they? And they are very often not very kind.

Have a great day!

 

Wake Up and Roar

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I’ve started a meditation practice, and I’ve been pretty consistent over the last six weeks. It is really helping me to tame the sharp edge of my anxiety. It helps me sleep. It allows me to read my own inner compass instead of reacting to the expectations and judgments of others.

I’m using the Calm app (calm.com), and every day they have a focused 10-minute meditation. This morning it was about individuality. So much of my life has been spent walking the line of accepting my unique life choices or beating myself up for not being “normal”. Acceptance wins out about 70% of the time, but the 30% spent in fear with my inner critic’s judgment is so uncomfortable. “Hush” I scream, wondering if somehow I missed the memo on what is the “right” way to live and knowing that I cannot live someone else’s dreams on any level.

In meditation, I strengthen the muscle of acceptance of myself, and I quietly hear the inner calling of my soul. The more I listen and experience who I really am inside, the easier it is to accept that I am on the right path. The easier it is to tell that inner critic to go silent. I’m not sure who he thinks he is anyway. He doesn’t even have a body.

Life is so fleeting. Yesterday my former boss at LCTCS had a heart attack while he was driving and hit a tree. He’s a couple of years younger than me. He’s kind and wise and was so instrumental in helping me to find a good role and purpose in my last few months there. He has a beautiful family. He has had a great career and has played many roles of great significance in supporting Louisiana’s economy. Louisiana needs him. In my opinion, he’s not done yet.

I am praying for his healing. At the same time, when these things happen, my own mortality flashes before me like a neon sign reading “Do Not Wait. We Are Not Promised Tomorrow.” I wonder on what day my chances to make my mark on the world will be over. The urgency to ‘wake up and roar’ is bearing down on me this morning. I pray for the fierceness to heed that call.

“If you are acting like a sheep, do not blame the shepherd. Wake up and roar….”

~~Papaji

Sunday Night Check-In: New Beginnings

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Winter is over. We had a day last week where the temps dove into the 30s, but I think we all know in our heart of hearts that those days are behind us. There’s nothing ahead of us but sunshine and warmer days for the next four to five months. And there’s nobody more excited about it than Mother Nature.

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Earth Day was Saturday, and I have to say that she’s quite a showoff in Southwest Michigan. Last Saturday’s 74-degree day seemed to flip the switch on spring, and every tree started blooming or bursting forth a new-green coat of leaves. It seemed to happen in one day, and it’s got just about everybody salivating at the thought of the sunny days ahead.

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St. Joseph is bustling with restaurants reopening for the season, Illinois tags populating the highways and locals flocking to the sidewalks and waterways. We still have a little time to enjoy the seasonal fare before the real crowd hits on Memorial Day weekend, but things are definitely starting to pick up.

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My friend Kathy from Chicago is coming over every weekend now, and we made plans to see a play at the Twin City Players theatre Friday night, and we had dinner at Silver Harbor beforehand. That is my favorite St. Joe restaurant at the moment. Healthy, beautiful local cuisine is featured on the menu, and it’s right downtown. A walk afterwards is always a treat, and since it’s daylight until almost 9 PM now, there’s almost always time. The play was hilarious, and, if you live in the area and need a laugh, I highly recommend their rendition of the slapstick Move Over Mrs. Markham.

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Saturday morning, I packed up Ashok and we headed to meet a new friend of mine at Indiana Dunes for a hike. I stopped in Michigan City for a quick bite at Panini Panini. This place was highly recommended by my friend Kathy, but I had some reservations as I’m not a huge panini fan. I was pleasantly surprised by a lovely little coffee shop/cafe/restaurant that serves just about anything you’d ever want including crawfish pasta.

The owners…

I spoke at length with Bonni. She and her husband, Aaki (sp.), own the place. He is a classically trained baker and chef, and the food is “to die for”. There is no way I can do this place justice. The staff was personable, the environment was lovely, and the food was absolutely incredible. They are open for breakfast and lunch and are open for dinner the first Friday of every month. The website proclaims they were just named the #7 best restaurant in Indiana. The honor is definitely well-deserved. I had a breakfast dish called Croque Madame which was a ham and Gruyere cheese grilled sandwich on homemade bread topped with a fried egg. Perfection!

My breakfast and my server, Tony!

Nancy and I hiked trail #9 at the State Park. It’s my favorite trail in that park. When I lived here before, I ran it all the time. It’s challenging, wooded in places and climbs into the dunes lining the shoreline for about a mile. You get a little of everything. It was so clear yesterday that the Chicago skyline was perfectly visible across the lake.

Today, Kathy and I drove up to Holland MI. The Tulip Time festival is the first week of May, but with this mild winter we had, our tulips in St. Joe are in full bloom. Holland is a tad north of us so the tulips were not in full bloom yet. But I have to say I was impressed even with the first flush. The sunny day was a perfect backdrop for a walking tour of the quaint little town that has a large Dutch population and an affinity for the same spring blooms.

I didn’t rest much this weekend. I spent the time at home redecorating and repairing some things. I’m getting a new sofa and chair this week, so Kathy and I unassembled and moved my futon out of the way. I’ll be so glad to get some real furniture. Thanks to my tax returns I have a little breathing room this month. I even got new curtains for my living room! My neighbors won’t be able to keep an eye on me any more unless they make a concerted effort.

I’m working on a great project at work, and I’m pretty excited about it. I don’t even feel any Sunday night blues. I’m rather excited to get started tomorrow. Next week is the one-year anniversary of my layoff from my Baton Rouge job. Even though I was able to get back on eventually, that was a huge jolt for me, and I’m glad that is all behind me now. A new job with a great new project, a new season, new friends and new furniture are all developing rather nicely. I love new beginnings!

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A Thru-Hiking Fantasy

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I’m becoming obsessed. I hiked a part of the North Country Trail (NCT) yesterday with the Chief Noonday Chapter of the North Country Trail Association. The NCT is a 4600-mile long National Scenic Trail that runs from Lake Champlain in New York to North Dakota. Only 8 people have thru-hiked the whole thing, but this trail is a great place to get people active in their own communities along the route. The chapter I hiked with yesterday is one of the many chapters that adopt sections of the trail for trail work and maintenance and that encourage locals to get out and hike. Each of the numbers on the below map denote a local trail association. You can go to this web page to find out more.

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I love having one of these National Scenic Trails in my back yard. This one is still under construction, and I hear that there are still many sections of road walking. We had breakfast together yesterday before the hike and there was much chatter about how difficult it is to create new off-road sections to replace road walk sections. But these organizations are working very hard to get ‘er done.

On the way to the hike (1 1/2-hour drive) I caught up on the thru-hiking podcasts that I’d missed over the last few months. I find it so interesting to listen to these tales and updates from the hikers who live the thru-hiking lifestyle. It is its own culture, and these folks have a unique approach to life. The rest of us structure life by the “college, work and retire” plan, but they opt for a 6 months-on working, 6-months hiking schedule year over year. Work is a means to save money for a non-working span of time. Most don’t own homes or nice cars nor do they care to.

I listened to a podcast yesterday about spirituality and the trail. Thru-hikers can achieve the Triple Crown which consists of completing the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific-Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. Scarecrow, a Triple Crown winner, was one of the guests who talked about their spiritual experiences on the trail.  In the loneliness of a long-term outdoor adventure, they have time and the open heart to experience the “Sublime”. In the middle of the wilderness with only a tiny bit of their possessions on their backs, they face the elements, the splendor, the rawness and an unimaginable connection with our creator.

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One hiker said, “after about 1800 miles on the trail, you become a part of the earth.” That resonated with me, and I have to say I began to obsess about it a bit. What would it be like to shuck all that is – the worry about retirement, the day-to-day rat race, the mortgage and all that is inherent in this lifestyle – for something different? Or what if I could find a way to actually retire a bit and work this same 6 months on – 6 months off schedule? Then again, what if I tried a thru-hike and hated it? What would it be like to be alone in the woods on my own Hero’s Journey at this point in my life? What if … this fantasy could become a reality?

As inspiration for my quest this morning, I looked up some hiking blogs. I found this article about an 81-year-old Memphian who hopes to hike the Appalachian Trail this year. Last year, he became the oldest person to canoe the Mississippi River from the source to the sea. His story made me hope that I can stay in shape like that and have lots of time left to try out my dreams. I just need to keep dreaming. The opportunities may manifest in ways I can’t even imagine.

 

 

 

Seeking Calm … and Finding It

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It’s been three weeks since I started my “no sugar” journey, and I’m happy to say that I’ve stayed away from the sweet stuff with the exception of that one little accident I had before my trip home. I even went to Magpie twice and didn’t touch anything sweet. With the way I felt after I had that sloppy joe, I was convinced that I wasn’t interested. I was so convinced that Michael made me a delicious sourdough waffle, and I ate it with pure, sweet strawberries on top.

We had a dessert bar on St. Patrick’s Day, and I wasn’t even tempted. After the first week and a half, I really haven’t wanted anything sweet except fresh fruit. I take that back, I did have one instance at work where I got really stressed, and I immediately had this intense craving for something sweet. It was so intense that it shocked me. The desire to soothe my emotions was so obvious to me that I was able to make a better choice and eat something satisfying but without sugar. That was a sublime success! And the more I do it, the easier it becomes.

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I have been experiencing issues with sleep, though. The last time I came off sugar my sleep was amazing. But, I think the lack of my artificial energy source (that also drains me when I come down) and my typical anxiety has produced insomnia. My friend Gigi’s daughter has been having insomnia, and she has had some success with an app called Calm. When I told her I was having trouble sleeping, she told me about it, and I immediately downloaded it.

Calm is an app that belongs to the Calm.com website. Their mission is to help people naturally reduce anxiety and sleep better. I have fallen in love with this app. After reviewing what they offer, I signed up for a year’s membership which is about $5 per month. I get a “Daily Calm” session each day which helps me work on a different “calming” technique. I’ve listened to meditations on patience, calming anxiety and gratitude. They are about 10 minutes long, so they fit easily into my morning spiritual practice, and they really do restore me.

I’m doing a 7 day program on sleep. Each ten minute session includes a relaxation practice and tips for better sleep. The folks at Calm believe that we will sleep better if we work to relax ourselves in short sessions throughout the day instead of just trying to ramp down right before bed. And they offer specific meditations of varying lengths to help me get to sleep when the time comes. So far, it is working beautifully, and I’m feeling much more grounded and calm during the day, too.

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Remember as a kid when your parents would read you stories before going to bed? That was a time for everyone to connect and transition to bedtime. Well, Calm.com offers adult sleep stories. I listened to one the first night but fell asleep before it was over. I guess it worked!

In addition to these guided meditations and lessons, they also have meditation timers for unguided meditation, a tool for guiding a breathing practice and many other kinds of meditations designed to give you immediate relief during stressful situations. If you can’t tell, I’m loving this thing.  Yoga nidra has always been a lifesaver at keeping me sane and helping me sleep but they take 30-45 minutes to do. This app provides me some shorter solutions that I can practice during the day.

gentle

So, here’s the update on my sugar journey:

Mood: I’ve been down. Some of that is situational, but I think the lack of my sugar high has produced a low-grade depression and has probably contributed to my anxiety.

Energy: My energy is lower than I like. Again, sugar has been a continual artificial energy source for my muscles and my cells for so long, my body has to adapt to its own internal fuel. I’ve been reading about it, and this is normal. But at least I don’t have the big drops in energy like I used to have. I don’t need a big hit after lunch to keep me awake, and even when I don’t sleep, I’m not super tired the next day. And when I get home from work, I’m not drained.

Cravings: I don’t really have sugar cravings anymore. When I’m hungry, I’m hungry ….NOT hangry. Emotionally I get cravings every now and then, but it’s much easier to make a better choice because the intensity of the cravings is lower. I’m starting to crave fruit. And I’ve lost weight!

Sleep: See above. I’m struggling with it a bit, but I’m working it out.

Have a great Sunday. It’s rainy here, so there will probably be no hiking unless the sun surprises us.