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Every culture has a form of it. Every period in history has made a different contribution to it. It’s older than the first book. It can be slow or fast. It is simple yet simultaneously intricate and complex. It can have layers, dimension, or even be linear. It makes us cry and it makes us laugh. It helps us release our anger. It can have words. It has texture and color. There is even one theatrical shenanigans based simply on “it” with 30 brooms, 8 lids, bins of all sizes, poles, 15 pounds of sand, 4 blocks of athlete’s chalk, 12 pairs of drumsticks, 200 litters of water, 8 bananas, and 12 boxes of matches.

What has had such an impact on history? On life? On us as people? What is it?

It is simply music. Sounds, melodies, harmonics, rhythms, noise, poetry or whatever you use to describe this phenomena know this; it is heard differently by each person yet it is felt by all and has the power to unite whole groups of people together with one common thread.

Yes, music. There’s just something about it that gets up under your skin and pulsates. It makes your feet start to twitch. It makes you close your eyes and sway. It wakes up your soul. Of course, only if you allow it to. But, if you do there is nothing sweeter than turning up your favorite tunes and just simply dancing.

All this movement begs the question: just what is it about music?

Why is it so salient throughout history? Why can we find it throughout all cultures and in so many various forms?

Primarily, it’s been used to communicate. It’s even been used to record history before it was written down. But, there is something that goes deeper than that.

There is something that moves us beyond words. Beyond all forms of communication.

Music moves us to a place where we can just be. We just exist in the present moment of the song. The past and future may ebb and flow through us but a song has movement and brings us with it back to the present. What is the key to this seemingly magical transcendence?

Freedom. That is what music truly gives us. Freedom of expression, freedom in movement, and freedom of letting go. Pure freedom to discover life.

By truly getting absorbed in music we release, we create, and we inspire. If we just let the music guide us (inhibitions aside) it will eventually lead to some form of dance.

Maybe you’re the type of person that holds on to inhibition just a little tighter. Maybe it takes more than music to loosen you up. Maybe you love dancing but never do it when you’re home alone. Maybe you don’t dance unless you have had a glass or two of wine. Maybe you just haven’t danced in so long you feel you’ve lost your rhythm. Which ever type of dancer you are do one thing right now…

Stop everything. Turn on your favorite song or discover a new tune from the list below. Kick off your shoes (yes this is mandatory) and turn up the volume.

If you need to, close the blinds. If you need to open all the windows, do it! By all means just turn it up, close your eyes, feel the music run through you and move your body.

Because we have one life to life and the raw sense of freedom we get from organically moving our bodies is priceless. Maybe it will take you practice to chisel away at that inhibition. That’s okay! Just keep doing it and you’ll find one day that your toes are singing and all your body wants to do is get up and move.

Here’s a video to get you started! It’s from JOnsi’s new Go album:

There’s plenty of great music out there and it’s totally subjective but it’s always nice to share music and discover new ones. Here is a list of the songs that are playing in my player most recently. Just a note there are so many good songs out there that soundtracks come and go as a weekly fare. For this week:

Jonsi Go (album) to listen to the album just click

The Killers   Human

Bruce Springsteen   Brilliant Disguise

Velvet The Big Pink

Empire of the Sun   Walking on a Dream

The Orb   Little Fluffy Clouds

Phoenix Girlfriend

Phantogram   When I’m Small

Passion Pit   Sleepyhead

Santigold   I’m A Lady

Vampire Weekend   Horatcha

The XX   Islands

The Temper Trap   Sweet Disposition

The Shins   Sleeping Lesson

If you have any suggestions on music that makes you dance, please share in the comment box!  Always lookin’ for new tunes!

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Have you ever found yourself pulled in so many different directions you realize you have forgotten to do the things you most love to do? Maybe it’s sitting down to read a good book, look at magazines in a bookstore, morning yoga sessions, a long run, a Sunday nap, or a nice long dinner shared with good friends.

If you’ve ever forgotten the things that truly make you feel most alive inside or maybe even right now these things are staying warm on the the back burner. Know this: you are not alone.

Recently, I have been buzzing around busy as a bee but have found myself starting to run dry of all that sweet stuff. I have forgotten that in order to produce honey you have to have a constant intake of a little sweet goodness yourself. It’s kind of like the saying, “What goes in must come out” but perhaps better stated, “What goes out must first come in.” Or else we run dry.

A few days ago, after much push and pull, I had finally dragged my tired self outside, pulled on my dusty running shoes, and started to run. Then it happened, my IPod ran out of batteries. Great. How was I supposed to have a rock out run without the rock?

I almost decided to take a nap instead but then I realized I was indeed tired. I had been going full speed a head juggling work, class, volunteering, and studying with short breaks to drive to and from each activity filled with NPR or music blaring in my ears. I’ve been so busy maintaining speed that I’d forgotten to appreciate the moment. I had forgotten what silence sounded like.

So, I took my IPod back to the house and instead of taking off, feet slapping the pavement, I simply just started walking. After a while my thoughts began to slow. I started to hear the green parrots talking to each other and the breeze gently whistle through the leaves. I began to see that some time since January spring had occurred.

There were purple daisies, pink lilacs and white lilies. There were red rose bushes growing up sides of peach stucco houses and like a heartbeat the blue-green ocean was roaring in the background.

I stopped to look at a vacant lot filled with cracked cement. Between all the cracks there was grass growing but the most curious part was the bright yellow and pink flowers that were also pushing themselves up through the cracks. Yes, the blooms were probably weeds but they were absolutely beautiful!

That’s when it occurred to me. We are the vacant lot.

Every day we put so much pressure on our selves with work, deadlines, and the economics of living.We build up the cement around us and on top of us.

We forget that underneath the cement we are just part of the earth. Our intrinsic nature is to grow and to reach up towards the sky.

So, lets take a moment, turn our faces up towards the sun, and break through the cracks in our cement. Let our true selves grow up and out from the weight of our daily commitments.

Let’s revamp! Do a little Spring cleaning.Let’s tear down our vacant cement lot and rebuild it into a beautiful garden filled with lemon trees, lavender, and lilacs. Or maybe your lot is filled with roses or a tropical version with palm trees!

But, whatever your lot looks like the only cement is the stepping stones that are scattered throughout. Instead of preventing growth they maintain a path that leads from one place to another and supports optimal existence.

It is this delicate balance between cement structure, colorful flowers, rich damp earth, roots of trees, vegetables, fruits, rain, air, and sunshine that provide us with the optimal potential. These are our food.

All things need food to grow. Not just food for your mouth but nutrients of life….good friends, long walks, love, and laughter.

Today break free from your cement. Do something you love to do but haven’t done in awhile. Start that garden. Fill it with whatever will nourish your soul. Remember it’s a delicate balance for optimal existence.

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. ~J.R.R. Tolkien

 

 

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Thank you to everyone that emailed me their stories, opinions, and examples of how we communicate ideas of health and body image to younger people or how, as a younger person, you feel we communicate these things to you. I deeply appreciate it and will be contacting you further as I would like to include this subject as a chapter in the book.

As you know, I have not posted in a while. Life has been kind of crazy but recently there has been a surge in survey responses and it has reminded me of the importance of maintaining a connection with you! So, thank you to those who have recently filled the survey out and shared your experiences with me.

Currently, I am taking several courses to prepare for nursing school (part of the reason life has been a bit busier than usual.) I have been reminded just how many conversations there are throughout the day where people are talking about health, food, hunger, exercise, beauty, sexiness, ugliness, fatness or the constant policing or chastising of others about these topics. However, the irony is that no one seems to realize the frequency or impact these fleeting conversations have.

Here’s an example:

Scene: Classroom filled with many genders, ages, and diversity.

Snippets of conversation in just a 5 minute period throughout the room of 40 people (each comment from a different person:)
– That was like a block of sugar
– But you know that burrito you skipped this morning…
– What? when i am not hungry food sounds disgusting.
– You want some pretzels?
– How many calories do you think this has?
– Are you going to yoga tonight?
– No, don’t feel like it… I guess maybe the gym.
– metabolism…
– I can’t eat the way I used to. I mean I used to sit down and eat whole pizzas and boxes of zebra cakes.
– Did you work out this morning?
– I am hungry.

We’re desensitized to how often we are talking or even indirectly hearing about health. The question to ask ourselves is how is this shaping our beliefs, actions, and desires about health?

Below is an awesome video created by BLU a group that paints on public walls and creates incredible animated shorts. The video has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this blog however, the process or rather the evolution of the images within the animation do.

For instance, set aside the story that is told with the images in the video and just observe the evolution or progression of one image into the next. The is a process that happens every where in life: one thing occurs and evolves into something else which evolves into something else. Our actions in our life taken on this movement (think Run Lola, Run or Lola rennt. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it.) One action affects the next and so on until it becomes a series or sequence of events which produces an outcome. Our words and our conversations do this as well.

The snippets of conversation above spawned certain inner dialogues and external dialogues for these individuals. The scary thing is that most of us are not aware how our words and conversations are impacting our lives and shaping our perspectives or beliefs. So, my challenge, as usual, is to just be more aware today. Not only of the conversations you hear or have but the sequence of events that they produce inside your head or in the conversation.

Here’s the awesome video:

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The body is an instrument. We must tune it and listen to what it tells us. Listen to when it’s hungry, when it’s full, when it appreciates the food we put in it,  as well as the types of food that irritate it. We must pay attention to when it wants to stretch its legs and exercise or when it needs to rest. This awareness requires mindfulness throughout the day of how our internal selves are in constant interchange with our external selves and environment.

What are we eating? How are we feeling? How are those two related?

We have one body to carry us through until we eventually become part of the earth. Isn’t it time we learn to treat it with respect and be kind to it? The time is now. We only have the present moment, the now, in which to live, all other moments are unpredictable.

The First Lady Obama gave a speech a few days ago addressing health, gardening, and prevention by nutrition. She has planted a 1,100 square foot organic garden on the grounds of the White House with the help of kids from a local elementary school. The speech was to celebrate the fruits, if you will, of their labor and to encourage people to educate themselves on the food to plate process.

This gorgeous and bountiful garden that you saw over there has given us the chance to not just have some fun, which we’ve had a lot of it, but to shed some light on the important — on the important food and nutrition issues that we’re going to need to address as a nation.  We have to deal with these issues. My hope is that this garden — that this garden, through it, we can continue to make the connection between what we eat and how we feel, and how healthy we are.

According to the National Gardening Association’s Home and Community Gardening survey, 43 million U.S. households are expected to have edible gardens in 2009, which is a 19% jump over 2008. These numbers are fantastic but how can we continue the momentum?

The importance of understanding the relationship we have with our food goes beyond health and nutrition. The cycle of seedling to plant to the kitchen and eventually to our bodies also has an impact on our environment. Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one of many books that has brought this issue to our tables. She makes a colorful argument that small changes create enormous impacts. Just imagine all the small changes each individual can make within their own life multiplied on a global scale.

Here are a few stats among many. Others included agricultural effects on land use, the economics of imported foods versus exported foods, and the costs of eating locally, cultivating your own food, or buying the majority of food from super markets. Here are a few (please remember statistics can be influenced in numerous ways or seemingly dramatic. They also can be sound. Regardless, they are usually provoking and stimulate thought):

  • The typical distance from farm to plate in the U.S is 2,500-4,000 km.     –Brain Halwell, Worldwatch Institute.
  • 76 percent of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited or over exploited and many species have been severely depleted.
  • If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.     – Steven L. Hopp
  • Apparently if every American skipped just one meal of chiken a week and substituted vegetables and grains the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. If every American had one meat-free meal per week, it would be the same as taking more than 5 million cars off our roads. Having one meat-free day per week would be the same as taking 8 million cars off American roads.

We are what we eat. If we continue to eat blindly through our resources without an awareness of how what we eat impacts our health and the environment then we will find ourselves insatiably hungry staring down at an empty plate.

Here’s a few links that might be helpful when exploring where our food comes from, cultivating your own garden, urban garden communities, finding local farmers markets, and restaurants that support locally grown food:

American Community Gardening Associtaion

Local Harvest

National Gardening Association

Worldwatch Institute

An Interesting Article on Eating Meat

The Ins and Outs of the Meant Industry

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Ever find yourself four inches from the mirror investigating every square inch of your face? Sometimes this happens when I tweeze the pesky little whiskers that have a tendency to grow in the oddest places like out of moles and scars. Sometimes I even venture to my eyebrows when I start to feel “the Frida” coming on. 

During my last tweezing fix, I investigated my skin and found slight brown discoloration in spots I had never noticed before. Not Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Crawford “beauty marks.” Sun spots or solar lentigines, hyperpigmented brown spots on skin exposed to the sun. It made me question whether my mom’s brilliant suggestion of sunbathing with baby oil and iodine as a kid was a slight mistake. Oh, to grow up when cigarettes weren’t that bad for you, neon was rad, and the benefits of SPF were not yet taken seriously.

Even though suns spots can occur at any age they primarily appear in older adults. It made me think of all the apocalyptic before and after images you see: skin treatments, laser treatments, plastic surgeries, botox, or other anti-aging treatments.

What is so wrong and scary about aging?

Wrinkles, sagging skin, stretch marks, grey wiry hair, large noses, and giant ears. Must we not forget menopause. A time we all look forward to, where we have an excuse to be a complete nutter. I am surprised we all don’t just hit 50 and turn ourselves over to cryonics.

The other night I was in the movie The Hangover. There was a scene in a doctor’s office where an older man was getting his prostate checked. The camera zoomed in to show the man from the waist up then zoomed out as the old man turned to put on his pants. There it was: an 80 year old ass staring us right in the face. The audience burst out laughing.

But, what’s so comical about an older person’s body? There will be a day when we all get our chance to look in the mirror at an older reflection of ourselves. Do we laugh because of an unconscious fear of aging and the inevitable sound of the hammer in a coffin?

The fear is always right beneath the surface. Some of us proactively spend credulous amounts of money on serums, creams, injections and surgeries. Others of us like to pretend that we will embrace “it” when the time comes and try to suppress the image of our bodies at 70. Yet all of us think about it to some degree.

The fear has to come from somewhere but where? Our culture celebrates youth. Evidence of that is plastered ever where, on billboards, T.V, movies, magazines, the sidebars or Facebook or Google, and billions of websites.  We consume the message of youth so often that we do no longer taste it.

I ran across a beautiful article in The Sun written by a woman Patricia Brieschke. The author explores her aging body and the life struggle we all have at varying degrees of accepting our body as it is.

“I place a cup of green tea carefully on the floor of my walk-in closet and click the door shut behind me. Almost sixty-two, I’ve been trying to get myself to look in the mirror naked, to look without critique. (A gigantic ass! Doughy rolls! Thighs like the chunky Victorian legs of the behemoth table Aunt Helen bequeathed to us!) This morning I will approach the mirror in my closet in meditation. Today I will forgive the body I’ve inhabited all these years, and I will not come out of this closet until I find the well of tenderness hidden in these swollen fat cells.
The fluorescent lights glare. I move closer to the mirror and smell the raw me: urine and lavender. My naked body bulges. Not even my elbows have definition. A flabby roll on my abdomen dwarfs the patch of sparse gray hairs below, once lush with juice. Deep craters of cellulose run up and down my thighs like gristle on a pot roast.”

Here’s the lovely Sarah Haskins thoughts on skincare and wrinkles:

Today be aware of the messages that are communicated to you throughout the day about aging. Be aware of your response. Replace fear with the celebration of life and for body we have to live it in.

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“Hands are not about politics…” -Sarah Kay

Our bodies shouldn’t be either. But it seems every one has something to say about what a body should and should not look like, what foods are “good” and “bad”, how many calories do we should eat, how many times we should exercise, and whether or not we fulfill what it means to live “healthy” . How often have you heard the line, “They have really let themselves go?”

Of the 220 people that responded to the Body Awareness Survey that I have on this blog (located at the top of the right sidebar,) 93.10% of people said that they believed people evaluated them on their physical appearance.

Awesome.  With a number like that it seems we all feel people make deductions about who we are based on what we look like, our bodies, and not just who we actually are beneath all our skin. We become the totality of our shell. We become our wrinkles, cellulite, hips, and butts. How one-dimensional is that?

Today celebrate you. Celebrate the inner qualities that make you unique. Celebrate the nose you hate or the parts of your body that you wish were more toned. Celebrate the people you see today. Instead of seeing people through a critic’s microscope,  see the whole person and celebrate their uniqueness. Today think of a part of your body that you don’t usually pay attention to or a part of yourself that you are always negative about. Observe its functional value or what it would be like if you didn’t have it. See the beauty in it.

We live in a multi-dimensional world that is diverse and constantly changing. Let’s not diminish ourselves or others to the shells they live in that will eventually turn to dust.  Let’s open our eyes and remember that its the diversity that makes us beautiful.

Here’s a fantastic video from Def Poetry, a show on HBO, of a Sarah Kay celebrating hands.

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I used to take more time to appreciate the silence around me but recently it seems I go from one thing to the next. My inner dialogue is a constant chatter. My “to-do” list scrolls through my head like a broken record. I go from a conversation with a friend, to talking at work, to catching up with my roommate when I get home. When I am exercising I am thinking about work. When I am at work I am thinking about exercising. Of course there are moments, mere snippets, where I absorb the stillness that exists somewhere around me but its fleeting then I am back in the grind again.

For two days last week I turned off my phone, computer, ipod, television, folded up my “to-do” list and put it away. At first the silence was slightly irritating and unsettling then I slowly began to unwind into the space and explore.

I tried hard to to simply exist in the stillness. However, the act of simply existing was not all that simple. I had to keep filtering my thoughts until I was able to hold one thought at a time. Eventually, there were moments of pure silence. I listened to how its sounds. I observed how I fit in it and how my body felt in it. I observed how my mind responded to it. I opened myself into the space and reconnected with the sheer beauty of just being.

When I prepared dinner I listened to the sounds of the knife chopping against the cutting board and the sizzle of the oil in the pan. I smelled the garlic, ginger, herbs, and the sweetness of the onions caramelizing.  I listened to the water as I washed my dishes and the sounds the rag made against the counter as I cleaned its surface. I listened to the wine gurgle when I poured it into a glass and sat down to eat. My world became a symphonious space.

I was alone, there was no TV buzzing in the background, no Goggle search bar taunting me from the computer, and no music to distract me from my meal. I found myself eating slower and chewing longer. I realized the majority of time I eat I do not actually think about the act of eating. It has become a routine task I could do in my sleep.  It made me wonder how many tasks we do throughout the day where we blindly go through the actions but never think about the act of doing.

The silence reminded me of the pearls of mindfulness. What is mindfulness? It’s a word that came into our language in the 14th century meaning to bear in mind or be aware. It’s the concept that fueled Dante’s Inferno and maintained Chaucer’s Canterbury chronicles.

But we’ve forgotten, or at least I had, what it’s like to truly absorb ourselves in the moment, a task, a thought, or an interaction. In our world of cars, cell phones, and ipods maybe it’s about time to reinvent this archaic wondrous concept of mindfulness.

We need to take more time during the day to listen to our thoughts. Slow them down and concentrate on each one. When we do a task we need to put all our energies into that one task. When we speak with people we need to really engage ourselves in the conversation by being an active listener. By making an active effort to be more aware we will discover a deeper part of ourselves, our world, others, and how we interact with others. What we can learn from observation without judgment will humble us.

Part of the purpose of this blog is to raise awareness on how our everyday talk affects our ideas of health, body image, and self-acceptance. Being more mindful throughout the day will help us to identify these relationships.

By becoming more aware of our thoughts we will become more aware of our inner critic. How do you talk to yourself? How many times a day do you hear yourself saying something negative about yourself? How many times a day do you speak positively about yourself?

We will become more aware of the way we speak with others. Are we listening to others? Do we tell the people in our lives we appreciate them? When we give compliments, what sort of compliments are they and do we say them with sincerity?

So, plan a day or a few days in the next few weeks where you take a day of silence. Put away all your gadgets, toys, work, and distraction. Listen to how your body responds. Listen and observe your thoughts. Be present in your interaction with others. Slow down, discover, and reconnect with your raw existence. What do you find?

**Update: I have changed the format of the sidebar to better represent a body positive message and also be a resource for those individuals with ED. Please remember this blog is for all individuals. I have added a blogroll, several new videos, and new locations of survey responses on the map. I will continually be adding new links as I come across other websites, videos, and resources. If you find any body positive sites send them along!

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