Up and down.
Up and down.
Legs rotating up and down on the grey, plastic foot pedals as the fan whirs.
I close my eyes for a moment. Without the distraction of the visual world around me,
I can hear all the sounds my body makes on the inside, magnified.
The dull thump of my strong & loyal heart beating in elation,
my lungs expanding with life and contracting with surrender as they keep the pace.
Don’t count calories, miles run or time.
Just measure sensations.
When I was 7 years old, I used to run around the beach in my bathing suit, belly out, right after eating. I remember being very satisfied with the way my stomach protruded from my skinny, athletic frame as I ran in and out of the ocean that crashed around my ankles. It meant I had eaten well and eating well made me feel strong. I used to stick it out as far as I could, so that I could beat everyone in the biggest belly contest. I had a distinct pride for it.
And then one day, running around in the sand after lunch and having the time of my life, my mother pulled me aside.
Stick your tummy in, honey!
She was probably just trying to be helpful. Protect her daughter from the harm of people’s gazes, long ago tainted by the expectations of a society that believes in the illusion of its brokenness.
And then her hands were on my stomach, pushing it in.
Teaching me the way a woman should hold herself in.
In that moment, my tummy went from a thing of personal pride to an embarrassing part of my body that must be adjusted for other people’s comfort. One more aspect of me that needed to be measured, calculated and compared to a chart of “acceptables”.
Not long after that my first diet started. Eating disorders. Starvation and bingeing.
For 22 years.
Exercise was no longer running around on the beach for hours on end, screaming in laughter and making sand castles. Or getting up at 6am to walk on the beach as the sun whispered secrets to me, the only one there.
It was now a game of what I deserved based on the numbers on the screen in front of me.
It became a measurement of my worthiness, just like the size of my body.
I burned 500 calories today. That means I am a good person. A woman who is attractive.
I can now eat without feeling guilty because I pre-burned the calories to avoid gaining weight.
When I began to heal my relationship with my body and food, a still ongoing process that I have been in for over 10 years now, I eventually realized I had to stop measuring myself with the metrics I had learned from society.
I had to throw away the scale. I had to stop following the paleo diet, the vegan diet or the insert-here way of eating. I had to stop counting calories burned and miles run, because for me those were triggers of measuring my worthiness.
For some, those metrics may be casual things, but for me, they became measurements of external validation that pulled me away from my own truth and inner knowing.
I stopped all of those things because what I was craving was the original, authentic relationship with my body and my soul. The one I had before that moment when I felt my mother’s well-meaning hand pushing my stomach in.
I had to shut out the external noise (even if it’s often well-meaning or it may be ‘true’ for many) and listen to myself as the supreme commander of all things me.
A few weeks ago, my body craving, of all things, a good run on the elliptical machine in my hotel gym, I made sure to check in with myself.
What is my motivation here? I asked myself, making sure it wasn’t to “lose weight” or “look better” so that I could meet other people’s standards of beauty and feel better about myself.
Because every time I get on an elliptical to live up to the pressures of the external world, I am betraying my original connection with the divine wisdom within me. And my work here, with myself and with you, is to remind you that your soul is the leader of you and no one else.
You have all the answers you already need to live as the most fulfilled, clear & powerful version of you, already within. If you quiet your ego’s need for vanity metrics, you can hear that wisdom loud and clear.
I just want to move. It’s been a stressful few days and I need to work through this stress by sweating, my body said.
Then let’s do it, I say to her.
And now here I am, eyes closed on the elliptical.
The man lifting weights next to me looks at me, puzzled.
It’s not every day you see someone running on the elliptical with her eyes closed, instead of watching the screen in front of her or checking her email.
My eyes are closed because I am measuring sensation.
Not calories, miles or minutes.
How does my body feel?
I notice some subtle nuances I would never, ever notice if I was focused on hitting a certain amount of calories burned or miles run.
My breasts hurt. They are not supported well by this bra I am wearing.
Take care of us better, they say to me.
My toes are a little tingly and numb.
We need to be in a different position, they tell me.
I adjust my feet and instantly I feel a sense of alignment and gratitude flood my heart.
You are running too fast, says my heart.
Slow down a little.
All throughout my run on this machine, I am calibrating, listening for what my own body truth is telling me. I am not thinking about time, calories or miles.
I am not thinking at all.
I am feeling.
I am being.
With my Self, my body, my Soul.
Allowing the truth within to guide me and create the workout that is perfect for me, not the one some expert outside of me told me I should be doing for which I would need to override my own body wisdom.
I am giving my body and my self a type of love that is so profound, my eyes moisten.
It’s the same type of love we feel when we watch a lover sleep, scanning the lines on their face with a swooning heart. The way a mother holds her child for the first time and traces her eyes over her infant’s tiny fingernails and hairs, cracked open to such a pure form of love.
I feel a part of me heal and fill up under the gaze of this powerful form of self-love.
I get off the elliptical after 41 minutes and 32 seconds.
Not only do I feel wonderful, but I have five new blog post ideas.
If I was being led by my ego and it’s need to live up to external metrics exercise gurus had told me I needed, I would have pushed for 60 minutes. I wouldn’t have heard my body telling me it needed a better sports bra, or to adjust my foot position for a better workout.
All that important information would have been lost.
If I had been obsessed with going until I burned a certain amount of calories the “experts” told me I need to burn, I would have been thinking about that instead of letting my mind go quiet so I could hear my soul whispering creative ideas to me.
How often do we do this?
Set a goal that actually never came from the wisdom of our souls to begin with.
A goal that wasn’t born from the authentic and pure desire in our heart, which is sacred, divine truth, but rather from the need to feel accepted because of an external metric we think we need to fulfill?
What are you missing out on when you do this?
What gentle whispers from your soul are you not hearing because your ego is speaking so loudly over them?
What answers from your higher self are you not getting because your “shoulds” block them?
Is it really that your soul isn’t speaking to you?
Or is that you’re still denying the original relationship you had with your inner wisdom from the moment you were born, by still hanging on to what the external world thinks is right for you?
And what would happen if from this moment on, you dedicated to finding out what is right for you, even if it looks different than what the outside world is telling you is “good”?
What would happen with a love that you turn upon yourself like that?
I want to know your answers to these questions in the comments below.