Be Light and Healthy

Stuck

Posted on: July 24, 2011

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering.  Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

Stuck.  Deep in the mud – not moving forward and not moving backward – standing still.  How often have you felt stuck in your life?  It’s easy to get in a rut these days.  Modern life constantly bombards us with an endless stream of information from a multitude of sources.  Without realizing it, we are going through life on autopilot mindlessly living the same routine day in and day out.  Sensing something doesn’t feel right and we’re drowning, we still fail to come up for air to explore the messages sent by our intuitions.  Unknowingly, an undercurrent of sadness or complacency has surreptitiously crept into our lives and taken root. 

The Internet, e-mail, texting, social networking, 24X7 newscasts, reality TV provide fodder for the distractions that rob us of our time.  Instead of pausing and exploring our own lives, we’ve become voyeurs craving the details of celebrities’, friends’ and acquaintances’ lives.  Feeling that every text message or e-mail has to be instantly responded to creates underlying stress in our lives.  We robotically go through each day until we suddenly realize that the days have turned into years.  Time stands still for no one.

Our daily lives are functional, but we feel unfulfilled.  We wonder where the joy went, and how we lost track of the dreams we had for our lives.  We don’t remember why we incorporated certain behaviors or circumstances into our routines.  Sometimes it seems easier to carry on existing in discontentment than to ponder what has transpired in our lives.  Instead of choosing to be around certain people or situations, we do it because it’s become a habit or others expect it.  We’ve become so disconnected from our innate natures that we’re not even aware of the negative affects of our choices.  We can instantly justify why we brush our teeth every day, but what about other behaviors that have been incorporated into our lives?  Is there something that you do that no longer provides the intended benefit and is just taking up your time and causing you anxiety? 

A moment of awareness can result in two vastly different outcomes.  We can use it to assess how we are living our lives and provide the impetus to move forward.  Or it can heighten our fears.  If in that moment of awareness we allow negative thoughts to overwhelm us, a state of panic ensues.  Instead of sitting with the uncomfortable feelings and letting them pass, we thrash against them like a trapped animal.  In our haste to resolve our discomfort, we go back to the familiarity of our mundane routines and habitual behaviors.  It’s important to realize that focusing on your breath to calm you and subdue the negative voices in your head while you sit with feelings of discomfort enables them to pass.  Calmness and a clear mind permit a fresh start and a new, positive attitude that will help propel you forward. 

Invest time in reflecting on what truly brings joy to your life and explore how you can incorporate more of it into your days.  If you’re struggling with some aspect of your life, take a deep breath to calm yourself before you go into panic mode.    Really explore why you have arrived at this place in your life and what you can learn from it.  Take solace in the fact that you do not have to change if you are not ready to.  Just being aware of the struggle is a small first step in moving forward.  If you do choose to move forward, do it at a speed that feels right for you.  It could be as simple as dancing to a song every day or as complex as going back to school to further your education.  If the undertaking seems overwhelming, start small.  If you’re unsure that a new interest truly is a passion, try volunteering.  Start out with a simple step with no strings attached to the outcome other than incorporating more joy into your life.  It’s good to try new things, and it’s okay to chalk them up to learning experiences and let go of them when they no longer serve you.  

It doesn’t matter how well you eat, how much you exercise, or how hard you work if there is no joy in your life.  Many people take huge leaps when they decide to become healthy.  They start intensely exercising and swear off all foods they perceive as bad.  They may be successful for a short-period of time, but find that they have also brought on some unanticipated misery.  By taking small steps, new behaviors gently and easily take root.  No step is too small, and each successful step propels you forward.  You will begin to feel like you are floating gently downstream instead of fighting against the current. 

I invite you to consider any aspects of your life that have become routine and may be detracting from your happiness.  Take time to breathe and investigate any feelings of discomfort that arise.  Instead of resisting the uneasiness, trust that it will pass if you allow it to surface.  Awareness and acceptance will bring you a sense of peace and calmness that will give you the confidence to move forward.  Taking small steps that you are comfortable with and bring you joy will move you forward in the direction of your dreams.  In addition, I invite you to sign up for e-mail updates at www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving updates.

“Many of us are frightened to look within ourselves, and fear has us put up walls so thick we no longer remember who we really are.” Debbie Ford

Walls.  They enclose our living spaces and serve as barriers to shelter us from nature’s elements.  They insulate us from the cold and shield us from the burning sun.  They provide comfort and security.  Their solidity protects us, but if the walls are too thick or too many, they shut out life’s beauty.  The walls we maintain can be uplifting and nurturing.  Or, they can be restraining and limiting.  Attaining the right thickness and number of walls to protect us while nourishing us can be tricky. 

Walls manifest themselves in different ways in our lives.  There are mental, psychic/energetic walls, emotional walls, and physical walls.  The voices in our heads reinforce the mental and emotional walls.  If we speak to ourselves with kindness, we feel secure and happy within our walls. However, if we constantly speak with malice, it can be difficult to stop perpetuating a negative self-image and break out of the cycle.  Once you’re down, it can be difficult to get up.  You start to view everything that happens to you negatively and further provide the destructive voices in your head with additional building materials to reinforce your walls.  Eventually, you end up walking around like “Pigpen” enveloped in an energetic cloud of  darkness.   

Changing the voices in your mind can be difficult.  When we start to speak to ourselves with kindness, it may initially be hard to believe the uplifting messages.  You may even end up arguing with the voices in your head further fueling the pessimism.  Quieting the voices can also be scary because we find it disconcerting to be alone with ourselves in silence. Focusing on your breathing can help you quell the voices and lull you into a sense of calmness.  Once you enter a state of peacefulness, it is easier to introduce and believe the gentle voices in your head.  Spending time in silence can refresh your spirit and your mind thus helping to make you receptive to the caring voices of compassion waiting to dwell in your thoughts.   

For the most part, people know how to lose weight; however, there are a multitude of factors associated with weight. Yes, most people can consume fewer calories than they expend for a period of time.  There are, however, so many other factors involved that losing weight and sustaining the weight loss cannot be oversimplified and is different for everyone.  Many people use their excess weight to fortify their physical walls.  Hidden behind the wall of weight may be a life lesson that can only be unearthed by moving out of our comfort zones.  It may seem easier to settle or succumb to the drudgery of our lives than expose our vulnerabilities by looking at the problem from a different or deeper perspective.    

Carrying around extra weight may be a defense mechanism, a fortress subconsciously erected as protection.  Perhaps it was constructed in childhood when we weren’t equipped with the maturity necessary to understand situations where we didn’t fit in or didn’t know how to process our feelings.  When we encountered circumstances and felt fear, we reinforced the walls.  Instead of facing our fears, we stuffed ourselves full of food in an attempt to avoid them.  At the time it seemed easier than feeling hurt, alone, or vulnerable.  Instead of sitting and allowing the uncomfortable feelings to arise and be released, we attempted to avoid them.  Ultimately, we punished ourselves and reinforced the walls by adding more weight and perpetuating feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.  Sometimes it may seem easier to believe we are not capable of changing than to actually put forth the effort.   

Why are we so afraid to see who we really are?  The key to our natural essence lays buried under the excess weight.  If you began piling on extra weight as a child, think back to that time and consider if you were feeling out of place or vulnerable in the environment you grew up in.  Were well-meaning adults who believed they had your best interests at heart trying to shepherd you in a different direction?  Were some of your inherent traits viewed negatively by your family or inadvertently squashed?  Was food used to reward, comfort, or distract you from problems?  Recognizing how and why different aspects of your life originated will help you move forward in a new direction.    

Many of us have great difficulty seeing our own positive characteristics.  We tend to focus on what we perceive as negative traits.  If we reframe our perception of our negative traits, we may realize that they are actually positive traits that when accepted and integrated into our personalities help us solve the puzzle of our authentic selves.  As we grow older and succumb to difficulties we encounter as we journey through life, it’s easy to become weary and bury our innate natures.  Sometimes a positive trait, such as kindness, unknowingly gets hidden behind a wall that was built to protect us from the hurts we’ve encountered.  Without awareness we may not recognize that the trait has been repressed and may even be annoyed by other’s kindness because subconsciously we realize that we’ve inadvertently buried this trait.   

When it comes to disassembling your walls, different approaches work for different people at different times in their lives.   The first step is awareness that the walls you’ve constructed have become too thick or you’ve constructed extra walls that you no longer need.  Feeling enlightened by this awareness may be exhilarating, and you may feel compelled to crash through some of your walls.  For others, getting used to the idea of tearing down part of a wall may be the better approach.  You may choose to gingerly remove the wall brick by brick.  If you try one way and it doesn’t work, consider it a learning experience and try a different approach.  Celebrate the fact that you’ve become aware of your walls, chosen to make a change, and are taking steps towards accomplishing a new goal. 

I invite you to consider any walls in your life that are no longer necessary or have become so thick that you cannot see through them.  Becoming aware of the situations and experiences that contributed to their creation will help you begin removing them.  If you are using food as a comfort, reward, or distraction, consider other options to replace this behavior.  Sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing will help you acknowledge and release uncomfortable feelings making you more receptive to positive thoughts and energy in your life.  The key to the innate beauty each of us is born with lies buried deep within our walls.  In addition, I invite you to sign up for weekly e-mail updates www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving updates.

Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

As we celebrate Independence Day in the United States, I am grateful for the freedoms we enjoy.  Though we face challenges in modern-day America, I choose to believe that the optimism and “can do” spirit of her citizens will ultimately prevail.  When I ponder what a small group of passionate patriots was able to accomplish 235 years ago to establish this country, I am filled with hope for our future.  

Americans are slowly awakening to the healthcare crisis that has been inflicted upon society by the food and drug industries.  The greed and hubris of these industries have contributed to the waning health of Americans.  I was a lemming following societal norms.  Eleven years ago I was 100 pounds overweight, surviving on a junk food diet, and never exercising.  I thought going on medication as I got older was inevitable and normal.  I had been overweight since I was a child and believed the media reports indicating it was impossible to lose weight and keep it off.  I was pushing 40 and becoming concerned about the future of my health.  Fortunately, I saw an interview with Dr. Andrew Weil on TV where he recounted his own journey.  He successfully lost weight and transformed his health by making small lifestyle changes and believed others could too.  I was ready to hear Dr. Weil’s gentle message and encouraged by his belief that others could make sustainable lifestyle changes.  One of his suggestions was to try eating produce in an attempt to incorporate it into your lifestyle.            

I am an example of the many Americans who are awakening and accepting responsibility for their own health.  There is encouraging evidence of it in the growth of stores like Whole Foods Market and the organic foods industry.  Individuals and grassroots organizations are attempting to educate society about the many benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. 

Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1993 with the intention of protecting public health and the environment by using the power of public information.  In June EWG’s 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides was updated.  The Guide includes the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists.  The “Dirty Dozen” are the most contaminated types of produce; whereas, the “Clean 15” are the least contaminated: 

The Dirty Dozen – Most Contaminated

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines – International
  7. Grapes – International
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries – Domestic
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens

The Clean 15 – Least Contaminated

  1. Onions
  2. Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Cantaloupe – Domestic
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

Though it isn’t always convenient or affordable to buy organic produce, being aware of the most contaminated produce allows you to make intelligent choices when spending your money.  Even small changes are beneficial and will help reduce the amount of contamination in your body due to consumption of toxins.  For convenience, a handy pocket guide of the lists can be downloaded here.   

I used to think twice about purchasing fresh produce due to the price until I realized that I never hesitated to spend money on processed foods and less healthy options.  Years ago I never considered the expense of a hot fudge sundae or the donut I automatically bought with my coffee.  Once I paused and thought about it, I realized that produce with all its antioxidants, fiber, and overall health benefits was a far wiser purchase.  The additional expense associated with organic produce, especially the most contaminated items, is well worth it.  Eating conventionally grown produce is still a better option than foregoing produce altogether because most processed foods are full of chemicals and pesticides.  I now view purchasing healthy, fresh foods as an investment in our health.  I’d rather spend the money on healthy food than on conventional medical costs.      

It’s also important to realize that many local farms cannot afford to obtain the necessary certifications that allow them to market their produce as organic.  However, it is worth inquiring to determine their processes because it is possible they are minimizing their use of pesticides and promoting natural controls.  Take the time to stop by local vegetable stands and farmers’ markets to determine if they are a good resource.  In addition, be sure to wash all produce.  The increasing awareness by consumers of the healthier options available to us is encouraging.  By choosing to spend our money on improved choices, we will facilitate the growth of healthier options and make this country and its citizens stronger.  The media constantly reports on the demise of Americans’ health, but I encounter more and more people who have started making small changes in their food and lifestyle choices in an attempt to get healthier.

I invite you to continue making small changes to improve your health and exercise your freedom of choice.  Re-frame your perception of the costs associated with buying fresh and organic produce by considering it an investment.  The costs will be recouped in a multitude of ways including good health, increased energy, and additional time.  Even small changes will provide health benefits and help propel you forward to further healthy lifestyle changes.  In addition, I invite you to sign up for weekly e-mail updates www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

“Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.  You’ll wish that summer could always be here.”  Charles Tobias

Ahhhh, summer.  Life just seems simpler in the summer.  Gone are the bulky layers of clothing and complicated schedules of the other seasons.  Early in the morn the birds sing their waking songs heralding the arrival of dawn.  The sun majestically shines nurturing the earth and her creatures with rays of light.  The energy of summer is expressed in many diverse ways.  There are days when her essence invigorates us.  On those days we feel vibrant and have endless energy as the expansive light propels us forward into the evening.  Conversely, there are days when her rhythm inspires idleness and simplicity as we dwell in her vibration.  Nature’s duality beautifully balances her opposing elements. 

As we advance deeper into the season and the temperatures climb, the earth bestows her nourishing bounty upon us.  Instead of avoiding the kitchen on hot days by dining at a restaurant, simplify eating and meal preparation.  Recognize that your appetite wanes on really hot days and plan to have fresh fruit and vegetables on hand.  If you have to heat up the stove or oven, doing it early in the morning while it is still cool with the windows open to let the heat out will make your day more enjoyable.  It’s also the season of cookouts, and trying to eat healthy can present a challenge.  Though it may not bother you to refrain from eating the traditional barbeque fare, other people may feel uncomfortable around you.  Even if it is ultimately their issue, you may feel awkward and out of place.  Bringing a healthy choice to share with others can help you avoid unwanted attention and meld into the background like everyone else.  I’m not a big fan of veggie burgers, but I like to eat them at a cookout because it makes me feel more a part of the gathering.

A platter of fresh fruit, such as blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, cantaloupe, grapes, bananas, and/or watermelon is always refreshing on a hot summer day.  Fresh vegetables and various flavors of hummus are tasty and a good substitute for chips and dip. 

Below are a couple of simple yet different summer salad ideas:

Cabbage Salad – Super Simple!  This salad is about 4 meal size servings.  It can easily be doubled to bring to a gathering.  When I initially started making this recipe years ago, I used white sugar as the sweetener but have evolved to try different options.   

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of cole slaw (or 4 cups shredded carrots, green cabbage, and red cabbage)
  • 1/3  cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

Dressing:

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp sweetener – honey, maple syrup, date sugar, or white sugar
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar

 Directions:

  • Roast seeds and nuts in a hot, dry skillet stirring constantly until a little browned. 
  • Mix seeds and nuts with cole slaw.
  • Whisk together soy sauce, sweetener, and vinegar.  Just before serving pour over cole slaw and mix well.

 

Wheat Berry Salad – Delicious & Colorful! A great option to bring to a gathering or keep in your refrigerator to eat for breakfast, add to a salad, or as a side dish.  Wheat berries can be found at Whole Foods Market or in the natural section of most grocery stores.  This recipe makes 4-6 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup wheat berries
  • 3 cups water
  • ¾ cup chopped or whole walnuts
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped, fresh pineapple (or 1 8-Ounce can crushed pineapple)
  • 4 tbsp raw sunflower seeds

 Directions:

  • Soak wheat berries in water for 8 Hours or overnight.  Rinse.
  • Bring water and wheat berries to a boil then simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Drain water.
  • Add walnuts, dried cranberries, pineapple, sunflower seeds, and mix together.
  • Refrigerate.

Be gentle with yourself as you transition to a healthier lifestyle.  If you’ve spent your life eating conventional food at summer barbeques or using the heat as an excuse to eat out, it may feel awkward to be eating healthier.  From my experiences I’ve learned that it gets easier each time you do it, and believe that it will for you too.  Compromise with yourself and allow some indulgences.  When you consciously choose to indulge, take smaller bites and chew slowly.  Intentionally savoring the experience will allow you to enjoy it and then release it without any guilt.  Focus on the positive choices you make, and congratulate yourself on your successes.  Forgive yourself for any choices that you wish you hadn’t made and consider them learning opportunities.  Trust that you will make better choices next time.  By slowly transitioning to healthier choices, you may eventually find that you lose your desire for much of the unhealthy stuff.    

I invite you to continue making small changes in your lifestyle as the temperatures heat up.  Take advantage of your waning desire to eat when it’s hot out, and be prepared with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Bring a healthy dish to share with others at summer cookouts.  You may find other kindred spirits interested in trying new healthy options too.  If so, mention this blog and suggest they sign up for weekly e-mail updates at www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

“Then followed that beautiful season… Summer….Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The joyful nature of our souls shines as the summer solstice is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere. The daylight is finishing its cycle of expansion and will begin the process of slowly receding.  Summer is the season of growth and maturation and reminds us of time long gone.  It brings back memories of carefree childhood days playing outdoors.  Seemingly endless days spent chasing butterflies and building sandcastles as the sun bathed us in its warmth.  Hearing an old summer song can invoke feelings of nostalgia as we recall the hot summer days of our teenage years spent hanging out with friends free of life’s burdens with a lifetime of possibilities before us.  It was easy to live in the moment without giving a thought to the past or the future.  Just as we are truly beginning to enjoy the increasing light of warm days, we are reminded of the fleeting nature of the seasons as daylight begins to wane. Like nature’s seasons, the seasons of our lives are transient.  

Life just seems simpler and more invigorating in the summer.  We feel more alive, and our hearts are lighter.  The world shimmers brightly as the vitality of her life force infuses our consciousness.  The gentle awakening of the earth that began in the spring continues as the seeds that were sowed and sprouted through the darkness of the soil reach maturation.  The energy of our planet is at a high point as nature’s vital essence provides the natural resources necessary to produce the crops that sustain us.  We begin to reap the harvest of her nourishing bounty.  The vivid colors of freshly picked strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, eggplants are visual evidence of the vibrant life force of ripe fruits and vegetables.

If we are living in synchronicity with nature’s rhythms, lighter foods naturally appeal to us as we are entrained to summer’s tempo.  In today’s modern society we’ve lost our connections to our natural instincts.  Processed foods have become the primary sustenance of most people.  In these cases we may not recognize or may ignore our body’s intuitive hunger for the foods that nature provides during the summer season.  We’ve become habituated to eating the same foods year-round, but our bodies have different needs throughout nature’s cycles.  We feel healthier and more energized if our eating habits are seasonally adjusted and in harmony with nature.  Our ancestors had no choice but to eat what was locally grown and available seasonally.  They spent the long days of summer working the land and got their energy from the fruits and vegetables they harvested.

Eating fresh, unprocessed foods nourishes every cell in our bodies and fills us with positive energy.  Fresh, locally grown food is more nutrient dense due to the shorter time span between harvest and consumption.  In addition, supporting local agriculture helps to eliminate transportation pollution and makes us feel more connected to our local communities.   The Farmers’ Markets are opening and berry picking has started.  If you don’t typically eat fresh produce, visit a local Farmers’ Market to experience it. Take the time to engage all of your senses during your visit.  See the vivid colors of ripened berries and smell their enticing aromas.  Feel the texture of the radishes and asparagus.  Try something that has been freshly picked and listen as you take your first bite.  Pause to really savor and taste the lusciousness as you chew.  Take a weekly trip to a Farmers’ Market to investigate what newly ripened produce is available. Berry picking is a great way to get kids interested in healthy eating and cultivate an appreciation of the nourishment provided by the land.

On hot summer days, there is little desire to spend time cooking in a hot kitchen.  Many people lose their appetites and choose to eat lighter.  Raw foods in the form of fruits, salads, leafy greens, and sprouts become more attractive.  Raw fruits and vegetables are both cooling and energizing.  I find the lethargic feeling that sometimes comes with the heat and is exacerbated by consuming processed foods is counteracted by eating raw foods.  I feel lighter, happier, and withstand the heat better when I eat fresh fruits and vegetables.  Due to their high water content, fruits and vegetables are also a source of hydration.  It’s important to stay well-hydrated if you’re outside in the heat.  If you find yourself feeling sluggish, pause for a moment and consider if the feeling can be attributed to dehydration. 

During the warm weather, we also spend more time outdoors with family and friends.  We look forward to barbeques.  If you’re grilling, lightly grilled vegetables or fruits are a nice addition to a meal.  It’s as easy as brushing some olive oil and sprinkling some Italian spices on slices of zucchini and summer squash before grilling them.  Another simple option is wrapping some onions and/or garlic in tin foil with a drizzle of olive oil or dollop of butter on top and letting them slowly cook on the grill until they’re tender and caramelized.  Grilled pineapple is also a sweet and delicious treat.   

When I was a junk food queen prior to my 100 pound weight loss, the hot weather was an excuse to eat ice cream.  Back then I rarely ate fresh produce and was conditioned to want ice cream when the temperatures climbed.  I was accustomed to eating processed foods and wasn’t conscious of healthier options.   As I slowly changed my eating habits by adding healthy foods into my routine, I learned to listen to my body.  Like many people, I feel congested when I eat dairy.  I still indulge in ice cream occasionally; however, fresh fruit or a healthy fruit smoothie is a better option for me.  Delicious and refreshing with lots of beneficial antioxidants, fruit smoothies are also a great way to get some healthy food into kids.    

I invite you to savor the days of summer by living in the moment.  Harness the energy of the season to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your life.  Take a trip to a Farmers’ Market and consider trying something new.  Create some joyful summer memories by taking your kids or yourself berry picking.  In addition, I invite you to forward this blog to your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates at www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

 “A person’s world is only as big as their heart.”  Tanya A. Moore

Modern society has conditioned many of us to follow our heads not our hearts.  The persuasive power of the voices in our heads is stronger than the gentle yearnings of our hearts.  Sometimes we cannot interpret the callings of our heart in the logical world we live in so we ignore them.  I believe we all came into this world with a unique set of gifts to share with others, and the key to unlocking those gifts lies in our hearts.  The soul and the essence of life are represented by the heart.  The heart is the major energy center of the body from which the life force flows to the entire body.  Our hearts connect our spirits to our physical bodies.  Its healing energy is powerful and encompasses profound wisdom disseminated to us via our intuitions.  Big hearts symbolize people overflowing with kindness and love for others. 

Did you know that 1 in 500 people in the general population is literally walking around with a big heart?  Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common genetic heart disease and affects the heart muscle resulting in an enlarged heart. HCM is more common than cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and ALS.  Individuals with HCM are at increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest, and it is the leading cause of sudden death in athletes.  During the last 50 years HCM has been known by 75 different names.  It is a disease that masquerades as various conditions encompassing a broad spectrum.  Commonly misdiagnosed as an innocent heart murmur, asthma, panic attacks, or depression, it can take years for someone to get correctly diagnosed and treated.  Symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, palpitations, lightheadedness, near-fainting, and fainting.  There are people with HCM who have no symptoms; whereas, extreme cases (less than 2%) require heart transplants.  The majority of patients are somewhere in between.  Possible treatments include medication and lifestyle modifications, ICDs (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators), or various heart surgeries.  With proper care and lifestyle modifications, the vast majority of people with HCM are able to live long, fulfilling lives. 

The Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association (HCMA) is an organization that provides support to patients, families, the medical community, and the public as they endeavor to increase awareness and promote research.  Lisa Salberg, the founder of the HCMA, was diagnosed with HCM at the age of 12.  Her effect on the world has truly become as big as her heart.  When Lisa shares the chart outlining her family’s medical history, it is evident that HCM proliferates every generation.  In 1995 her sister, Lori Flanagan, died from the disease at the age of 36.  Prior to Lori’s death, she and Lisa had discussed a need for HCM patients to network and share information.  Soon after Lori died, Lisa founded the HCMA. 

Lisa intimately knows HCM from multiple perspectives.  In addition to being diagnosed at a young age, she is also the daughter, mother, and sister of individuals with HCM.  Lisa has created an organization that provides information and support to people grappling with a diagnosis that is often misunderstood.   She has worked tirelessly to raise public awareness.  Because HCM is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, awareness of the symptoms and family history is critical in preventing sudden cardiac arrest.  In an effort to identify student athletes and others at risk, a Sudden Cardiac Arrest Risk Assessment Form is available on the HCMA’s website (www.4hcm.org).  Knowledge of HCM is sorely lacking even within the medical community.  Seeing a cardiologist who specializes in HCM increases the chances of obtaining a correct diagnosis, and the HCMA has worked with the medical community to establish HCM Centers of Excellence in the United States.  The HCMA advocates for patients when insurance appeals are necessary, and the message boards enable people around the world to connect with each other and share their experiences.  During the last year an average of 18 newly diagnosed patients a week contacted the HCMA for advice and guidance.  Often they are parents confronted with their worst fears, the health of their children.  The HCMA also works to promote legislation that impacts those with HCM or at risk for it.

Earlier this month the 14th Annual Meeting of the HCMA was held in New Jersey.  The annual meeting is a unique event where attendees include patients, their loved ones, and members of the medical community.   Attendees have the opportunity to listen to and meet world-renowned HCM cardiologists, surgeons, and other medical professionals including researchers and genetic counselors.  The most current information regarding treatment and research initiatives is available.  All of the medical professionals are approachable and answer questions.  In addition, it is a chance to share information and network with people in similar circumstances. 

When faced with an unforeseen situation, it is natural to wonder why.  A health challenge can be an unexpected reason to reflect on our mortality and assess our priorities and the direction our life has taken.  Each of us encounters challenges on our path as we journey through life.  We can choose to perceive these situations as misfortunes or opportunities.  Initially, the silver lining may not be obvious; however, the unanticipated bumps in the road may be hidden opportunities to detour from our current paths or adjust our priorities.  We may not understand why some things happen, but instead of fiercely resisting, we can choose to ponder the new path that lies before us and go with the flow.  If we choose to accept them as gifts with the potential to benefit us and others, we are more likely to discover our own unexplored potential.

Lisa has chosen to use the experiences gained from the adversities encountered by herself and her family to the benefit of thousands of patients and their families.  Her heart has truly provided an opportunity for her to share her unique gifts with the world, and her world continues to expand as the HCMA grows.  By choosing to pursue a path inspired by the untimely death of her sister and sharing her heart as well as her unique set of gifts with the world, Lisa has saved lives.  By harnessing the energy of the challenges on her path, she helps thousands of people navigate a complex disease, obtain appropriate care, and increase the quality of their lives.  She is the heart of the HCMA and her life force flows to every facet of the organization.  The ultimate goal of the HCMA is to eradicate the disease.  With the amount of heart healing energy and passion Lisa generates for her mission, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.     

I invite you to visit the HCMA’s website (4hcm.org).  If you or someone you know has any of the symptoms associated with HCM or a family history of sudden death, please review the Sudden Cardiac Risk Assessment Form.  It could save someone’s life.  In addition, I encourage you to consider the unforeseen situations encountered on your path and look for the deeper meaning.  Could they be guiding you to your unexplored potential?  In addition, I invite you to forward this blog to your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates at www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”  Anna Quindlen

Many people go through life aspiring to be perfect.  Intellectually, we know that constantly striving for perfection is an unreasonable expectation.  In our quests to please others or avoid being criticized or judged, we don a variety of masks when we deal with different people.  Eventually, our innate nature becomes clouded and we no longer remember the true essence of who we are.  Few people may truly know the real you.  In actuality, you may barely recognize the person you’ve become as you’ve strived for perfection and along the way began presenting different personas to the world.   Acting and speaking differently around different people causes underlying stress in your life.  It is natural to act somewhat differently in many situations, but when we are consistently trying to keep numerous aspects of ourselves hidden from others, we lose track of the masks we are wearing and gradually lose our connections to our intrinsic natures.

Often, well-meaning parents encourage their children to forego what they perceive to be outlandish dreams in favor of the safe path towards conformity and financial security.  Parents typically want their idea of a better life for their kids.  Unfortunately, sometimes they overlook the natural essence of their children and unintentionally pass their life fears onto them.  Even as adults many people are unaware of their subconscious desire to please their parents and unknowingly fail to even consider following their own hearts.  To pursue our own dreams we have to be willing to let go of other people’s dreams and any guilt that goes along with it. 

Hiding from the life that we were meant to live eventually catches up with us.  Some people will remain unaware or deny the flicker of their true essence that lives in their heart waiting to be sparked while they slowly wither away.  Physically and mentally, they may appear healthy but their spirit is languishing, and they are not living the life that could potentially result in their happiness and wellness.  Going through the motions of “living” each day without joy or happiness is more like slowly dying than living. 

When you’ve spent years denying your true essence and burying it under mounds of expectations from others and yourself, it takes time to unearth.  It can be confusing, and you may feel pulled in different directions unsure of what you truly desire.  Be gentle with yourself and allow your path to unfold before you as you learn to trust your intuition.  When you are on the path that is most right for you, opportunities will present themselves.  The key is to remain open to the possibilities and follow your heart.  Think back to your childhood – what did you love to do when you were a kid?  Did you abandon certain activities because someone told you that you weren’t good at them?  Or maybe your parents were not equipped to help you nurture an interest.  It’s never too late to try something new or re-visit an activity that you previously enjoyed.  Years ago I got an unmistakable sign that I should write.  I never considered writing in any form as I planned my life and never even attempted it because I didn’t think I could write well enough.  When I paused and thought back to my childhood, I realized that I always loved writing book reports and even loved writing thank you notes!  Though I never planned to write a blog, it makes sense that I enjoy writing one.  When my niece was growing up, I always encouraged her to try a bunch of different things with the hopes that she would find something that she loved to do.  I still encourage her to keep trying things and am amazed at some of the experiences she has had.  Trying new things prevents stagnation in our lives and keeps us moving forward on the path to re-discovering our true selves. 

Some people bury their true essence beneath their excess weight.  Though at the time I wasn’t consciously aware of it, I attempted to hide behind the extra 100 pounds I carried around.  Instead of cultivating the dreams in my heart, I denied them and kept them buried by stuffing myself with food.  I finally succeeded at losing weight and changing my life by trying something new and letting go of my desire for perfection.  Slowly making small improvements in the foods I ate and slowly incorporating movement into my life improved my health and helped me to begin unearthing the real me.  Embarking upon a plan to improve your health by striving for perfection will set you up for failure based on my unsuccessful experiences.  There is no perfect eating or exercise plan.  Everyone is different and what works for some people does not work for others.  Furthermore, requiring that you stick to a set of unreasonable rules or extreme behaviors will lead to discouragement when you are unable to sustain them.  Long-term weight loss is achieved and sustained by integrating new thinking and behaviors into your life.  I started treating myself with kindness by changing my thinking.  I abandoned the word should in favor of the world could.  Should implies rules; could implies choices.  In addition, I was able to slowly improve my choices by giving myself a range of options to consider by categorizing them as “good, better, or best.”  I was allowing myself to behave imperfectly, which dramatically increased my chances of success.  At the time I was living on junk food and requiring myself to survive on salads may have worked in the short-term, but the feelings of denial would have eventually sent me back to my old habits like it always did in the past.  Instead, I gave myself options.  For example, instead of eating a large hot fudge sundae for dinner, I could choose a salad (best), a bagel and cream cheese (better), or a small hot fudge sundae (good).  All of the selections were an improvement.  I was encouraging myself to make better choices.  This same technique helped me begin exercising.  Instead of minimizing all activity in my life, I could walk for fifteen minutes (best), walk for 10 minutes (better), or walk down to get the mail (good) instead of avoiding exercise at all costs.  Giving yourself permission to be imperfect allows you to slowly integrate new behaviors into your life and fuels your desire to continue making improvements.  The quality of your selections will naturally improve as you progress down the path towards good health.  I still effectively employ these techniques in my ongoing quest to become my imperfect self.   

Becoming disconnected from your true self was a gradual process.  Small changes in our thoughts and behaviors add up over a lifetime until we no longer recognize ourselves.  They may be the results of hurts we’ve encountered along the way and techniques we’ve employed to protect ourselves.  As you begin the process of re-discovering yourself, it may feel awkward.  Letting go of ideas, people, and behaviors that no longer serve your best interests may feel uncomfortable.  By being  gentle and patient with yourself as you make small changes, the awkwardness will subside.  Gradually, you will begin to feel more like the real you.  There is no one moment in time when you become the real you.  Once you re-connect, the process of growth and evolution continues throughout your life.  The energy invoked by continuing to move forward and explore different interests and activities will enhance your life and bring you joy.  In addition, your self-confidence will grow and you will begin to share the real you and your unique gifts with the world. 

I invite you to continue trying new things.  Explore activities that you loved or were drawn to as child.  Let go of your desires to be perfect and focus on making small changes that can be integrated into your life.  Accepting and cultivating imperfect behavior will help you become your imperfectly wonderful self.  In addition, I invite you to forward this blog to your friends and sign up for weekly e-mail updates at www.belightandhealthy.com to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.  When you sign up, you will receive an e-mail requesting you confirm your subscription.  After you confirm, you will begin receiving weekly updates.

Be Light and Healthy

The intention of this blog is to share information and inspire people to Be Light and Healthy.

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