Monthly Archives: December 2013

Pain vs. Suffering: The Work of Byron Katie

So – I get that neither pain nor suffering are actually very much fun to talk about, but this is real life and pain happens.  It happens to everyone, regardless of age, race, gender, wealth, beauty, fame or anything else.  The most outwardly blessed people experience pain and the most outwardly wretched experience pain, and there’s no way to tell which pain is greater (nor any reason to really). This can be physical, mental or emotional pain because really it all boils down to the same thing. There is a caveat though. Is pain the same as suffering? Do we have to suffer? Let’s look at the question of pain vs. suffering:

Pain is a Part of Life, But Suffering is Optional.

Commonly people don’t really make a distinction between pain and suffering, but I would like to propose that they’re very different things – that while pain in life is inevitable and there will always be losses, deaths, illness, and injury – we don’t actually have to suffer about it. Let me explain:

Pain vs. Suffering: What’s the Difference?

Pain is the event – the death of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, the illness that you have or the injury that happens. This is what happens.  Suffering is the thought about the pain – the feeling that something isn’t right.  The loved one shouldn’t have died or left, the relationship should be something other than what it is, the illness shouldn’t exist.  It’s the idea that something about right now isn’t the way it should be.  The feeling like something *wrong* happened.  Does that make sense?  So Pain = what happened in reality.  Suffering = the difference between reality and what you wanted.

What would happen if you made a choice about that? If you choose to accept what happens as what is supposed to happen?  After all, all the angst in the world about someone dying doesn’t bring them back.  Say the worst case scenario happens – someone you love with your whole heart dies.  Pain slams into you like a Mac truck.  You don’t really have a choice about that – the pain will happen.  What next?

I can say that in my clients the people who get through grief well are the ones who accept that even though it isn’t what they wanted there may be a larger plan at work.  Things happen – maybe for a reason or maybe not but wanting them to be different doesn’t make them different, it just makes you unhappy. I know this all sounds very zen – the trick is starting to practice this accepting on little things so that when the big things happen you have some tools to deal with them.  Even if the big losses have already happened to you, start to work on accepting the little ones until you can begin to accept the big ones.

Steps to Accepting What Is:

There are many tools out there to help you accept what is, but one of my favorites is called The Work and it was developed by Byron Katie. Her entire system is online here, but I’ll outline a quick version below. This is a process of asking yourself questions about your belief and really exploring the answers you find. The first part is called the “Judge your Neighbor Worksheet,” then you’ll ask four questions and turn it around.

  1. Write a statement about something that you’re angry or suffering about in the format “I am ___________ (angry/sad/whatever) with _______________ (person) because _________. ex. I’m angry with my neighbor because he doesn’t respect me.
  2. Write down how you want them to change or what you want them to do. ex.  I want him to stop letting his trash drift into my yard, I want him to stop his dogs from barking.
  3. In this situation what advice would you offer them? ex. My neighbor should train his dogs better, my neighbor should not let stray trash fly out of his truck.
  4. In order for you to be happy in this situation what do you need them to say, think ,feel or do? ex: I need my neighbor to apologize. I need my neighbor to watch out for stray trash…
  5. What is it about this situation you don’t ever want to experience again? ex. I don’t ever want to have trash in my yard again.

(I just have to put in a side note that my neighbors are actually kind of awesome and that the above example is entirely made up – but I couldn’t really think of anything else and it works.)

Now you have this list of grievances.  This list of things that has been bugging you or getting under your skin. Don’t be nice in the list – be mean and nasty and horrible because nobody else is ever going to see it – get all of that out so that you can look at it.

Now ask 4 questions.

  1. Is it true? (yes or no – if no jump to #3)
  2. Can you really know it’s true?
  3. How do you react? How do you feel when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought?

So let’s look at our example:

My neighbor doesn’t respect me:

Is it true? I think so – yes.

Can I really know it’s true? – no.  Maybe the trash is there because it flies out of the back of his truck when he isn’t there to see it. Maybe the trash comes from someone else. Maybe he can’t see through my bushes to even see the trash. Maybe respect has nothing to do with it.

How do I feel when I believe that thought? Angry! I feel like he’s not appreciating what a good neighbor I am and my stomach gets tight and my back starts to feel all tense.

Who would I be without that thought? Well – I’d probably be a lot happier, I wouldn’t get so mad when I walk out into my front yard or when I hear the dogs bark. I’d probably be able to enjoy my yard more.

Now turn it around – change the direction of the statement so that you’re turning it back on yourself (I don’t respect me), you’re turning it to the opposite (my neighbor does respect me) and you’re turning it to the other (I don’t respect my neighbor). For each turn-around find three examples where that has been true.

Why do The Work?

What you’re doing here is starting to see your thoughts as NOT REAL. Because they aren’t. The world is real. The things that happen are real. Your thoughts about them are literally all in your head. The thoughts we have about things are the reasons we suffer and letting go of those thoughts helps you to let go of suffering.  In the pain vs. suffering debate pain is mandatory but suffering is entirely optional.

I would highly recommend Byron Katie’s books – especially Loving what is.

Loving What Is by Byron Katie

Loving What Is by Byron Katie

Paleo Diet For Your Body Type

Nobody talks about customizing paleo diet for your body type but it’s kind of a big deal.  Paleo can be a great option for everyone, but it’s a little bit intuitive that people who are having a hard time keeping weight on might have to do things differently than people who can’t seem to take weight off. We are all individuals and we all have different body types, different health tendencies and different genetic makeups. This is precisely why there is no one-size-fits-all diet even if there are diets that are generally good for most people – you still have to remember who you are and what your particular body likes.

Paleo for thin, wiry, “vata” types:

If you fall into this category you’re probably really thin, lean, or wiry and tend to be quick or high energy. You may be prone to anxiety or rapid thoughts when things get stressful. People with this body type do incredibly well with fats and oils and may need a higher dietary intake of good fats and good oils than other types. For this type plenty of veggies – cooked more than raw and lots of good fat sources.  This could be avocados, coconuts, grass fed butter, grass fed beef, fatty fish or nuts and seeds.  This type can cope with a larger amount of meats too, but you should listen to your particular body on that front.  Lots of oils topically too – your skin is probably more prone to dryness than others.

Paleo for medium build “pitta” types:

PItta types tend to be average to muscular build with lots of strength and energy. You  may be a little more prone to anger or irritability when stressed or if it’s been too long since you’ve eaten. This type is very dependent on regular meals and each meal should have a good protein source like grass fed grass finished beef, naturally raised poultry, nuts and seeds, eggs, or beans and rice.  Good fats are always important, but should be less of a part of your diet in this type than for vatas. For this type lots of veggies and reliable, regular protein intake is most important.

Paleo for heavier build “kapha” types:

If you’re a kapha type you might be more prone to holding weight than others seem to be. You’re probably also pretty laid back, easy going and have better energy than a lot of the people around you. This doesn’t mean you’re carrying extra weight, just that your body would if you’d let it. Kaphas do best with most of their intake being vegetable source with animal sources as the smallest part.  This type doesn’t need as much fat or protein as the other types, but does incredibly well with lots of veggie intake – especially when it’s spiced well.

Paleo diet for your body type

Paleo diet for your body type could lean more towards veggie heavy, or could be a higher fat diet – that just depends on you.

The examples above are basic constitutional types from ayurvedic medicine – but the types are universal and the names don’t really matter. It’s just about honoring your body and it’s differences from other people’s bodies.  Most people don’t fit into just one catagory – we’re generally a good mix of two predominant types but we all have aspects of each. The most important thing to remember with paleo diet (or really any diet) is that you are still in your own body and your own body has it’s own unique needs.

Just because the classic paleo diet says you need lots and lots of meat doesn’t actually mean that you particularly will feel best when you eat that way.  Low grain diets like paleo are overwhelmingly a great idea because culturally we’ve become too shifted in a grain direction – we’ve had too much grain intake for too long.  Still, that doesn’t mean that hard-core NO grains is the best thing for you in particular – it’s really important to listen to your body. When you’re eating the diet that is right for you your body will feel great after meals, you’ll have stable energy and not a lot of energy fluctuations and it will be easier to maintain a normal weight (not always easy, but easier). Your body is always your best teacher – you just have to listen.

The Women’s Circle Project

This is a bit of an experiment so thanks for being here! Please give as much feedback as you can and hopefully together we can turn this into something that works for you and me and for women all over the place. Here’s how it goes:

I am a woman and I notice that when I get caught up in the daily grind, the every-day little details and drudgery that life seems so full of these days I start to lose touch with myself, my joy and most importantly with the part of me that is growing and seeking and becoming more evolved, more complex and more me.  I’m guessing this might be an experience that more women than just myself have encountered and that possibly, by working together, we can start to find ways collectively to carry ourselves through.

The goal of the women's circle is a good life. A free life. Life that feels like this.

The goal of a women’s circle is a good life, a more free life. A life with space for a little wildness, more freedom, more joy and more growth and evolution.

The laundry will still need to get done, we’ll still need to pay bills and wash dishes and go to work and answer emails and chase children. Maybe we’ll also make a little more space for the sacred, the creative, the community of women and the times when we have our arms to the sky and our feet in the dirt and feel connected to this place we call earth.

I genuinely believe that we’re at an interesting time in the evolution of the world where women and men have more equality and where gender roles and expectations are shifting so rapidly that none of us can keep up. Add to that a chaotic world that is changing every second and it’s easy to feel lost and disconnected.  I also think one way to re-gain connection is for us women to hold each other to the process. To share our own tips and tricks and keep each other accountable for continuing the slow dance of evolution. I also feel that if women continue to move forward then our children, our partners and people around us will follow where we lead.

Join the Women's Circle and Dance with me!

Join in the conversation and dance with me! This is a place for us to talk about what it really means to be a woman in this time and where we want to go with that.

On a purely selfish level I think this will lead to a better life, greater happiness, and a deeper sense of love and connection with my world, with the community of women and with the idea that there are other people out there who are doing their damnedest every day to keep engaging with the dance. Those are the women I want on my team, on OUR team. Those women aren’t afraid to tell hard truths, to face their own fears and flaws and to help me to do the same (even when it’s horrible and scary and requires mountains of chocolate). They’re also the women I want to share my time and space with so lets just go ahead and create some community here ladies!

Dance with me!

If you have any interest in joining the conversation in a bigger way than with comments, by all means email me and we’ll see if it feels like a good fit for you to add posts of your own.  This is an experiment and we’re all in it together.

Infographic: Michael Pollan Says Home Cooking Might be the Single Best Way to Improve Your Health by Doug Pibel — YES! Magazine

Home cooking for health isn’t a new idea, but it seems to be an often-overlooked idea.  I was thrilled to come across this great infographic from YES! Magazine’s managing editor Doug Pibel.  After all, home cooking for health might actually be the most important factor to determining your quality of nutrition.  At home you can choose to use healthy oils, to limit the fats to good fats, to use quality ingredients and to make nutrient-dense foods rather than nutrient poor foods.

Home cooking for health infographic by Doug Pibel from YES! Magazine

YES! Magazine’s great infographic on home cooking for health – by Doug Pibel, originally published 12/5/2013

I recognize cooking at home is a time commitment – it takes energy and time and there’s clean-up involved. It’s also a great family activity (or can be), a way to teach your kiddos about food, where food comes from, nutrition and cooking and a way to connect with your family without the TV or computer being involved. In this way home cooking for health is healthy for your body but also for your soul and family.

Here’s a link to the original article and original posting of the infographic from one of my favorite publications: YES! Magazine.

Infographic: Michael Pollan Says Home Cooking Might be the Single Best Way to Improve Your Health by Doug Pibel — YES! Magazine.

Gratitude Is The Key To Happiness. And no this isn’t all woo-woo.

Gratitude is the key to happiness is NOT a new idea. In fact, if you frequent the same places I do you’ve probably had the idea stuffed down your throat so many times that you’re getting a little nauseated with all that gratitude. I know, I get it.  I don’t want to add to the overly-syrupy new-age-y message. And yet, as I watched this TED talk, I really just wanted this kindly older gentleman in a tunic and socks with sandals to come to my house and tell me more about the opportunity.  The opportunity for gratefulness, for which he uses stickers on his light switches to remind himself to continue being grateful.  Actually, I kind of want him to come to my house and put stickers on my light switches. He’s a little slow to start, but it warms up – keep watching.

I joke a lot, but he’s actually dead-on accurate.  We all have so much to be grateful for – even when there is a death, or a tragedy, or abuse or serious illness there is still so much wonder in every life and every day that there is always a moment to be grateful for. Just in case you don’t want to watch through, here are some of my favorite quotes:

We can not only have grateful experiences we can be people who live gratefully.

I didn’t say we can be grateful for everything but we can be grateful in every moment.

Most of the time what is given to us is the opportunity for joy but we miss it because we are rushing through life.

Those who avail themselves of opportunity are the ones we admire, they’re the ones who get somewhere in life.  The ones who fail, get another opportunity.

If you’re grateful, you’re not fearful. If you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. If you’re not fearful you act out of a sense of enough and not of a sense of scarcity.

A grateful world is a world of joyful people.

The method for  gratitude, the key to happiness is as simple as this:

  1. Stop. Get quiet for one second.
  2. Look. Appreciate the things around you to be grateful for – open your senses to the wonderful richness around you.
  3. Go. Move ahead and really do whatever that opportunity offered to you – the opportunity to enjoy, to learn, to grow.  You won’t see the opportunity if you don’t stop.

Gratitude: The Key to Happiness There can never be too much happy, or too much grateful.

The idea is that we don’t ever stop – we rush from one thing to another like hamsters on a wheel without actually noticing what we’re doing or taking the time to appreciate anything at all. I know I can be guilty of this when I get going on a project or when things are hectic at work, but it is such a good reminder to stop, to look, and to allow what I’ve been able to see to help me move forward in a new way.  Remember – the sun shines on you whether you’ve done anything to deserve it or not.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that a Benedictine monk sounds pretty darn wise and hits home hard with a message that is deeply spiritual. As it turns out gratitude is the key to happiness. It’s as simple as that.

FDA Proposes Trans Fat Ban? FINALLY!

Actually the trans fat ban is in a 60 day public comment period, but the good news is that as the public, we all have the opportunity to comment and to have a say in what goes into our food supply. My feeling is that there should be a trans fat ban, but lets talk about it and you can tell me (or tell the FDA) what you think.  Here’s a little background:

Trans fats can occur naturally in small amounts in nature, but in processed foods they’re actually manufactured.  Liquid unsaturated fats are “catalytically hydrogenated” which means that they are forcibly bombarded by hydrogen, which turns them into a more saturated fat.  This makes the fats shelf stable and far easier to use in the food industry. These modified fats form in a different way than they typically would in nature (that’s the trans part) meaning that the hydrogens attach to opposite sides of the carbon chain in the fatty acid, which gives the trans fat a rigid, linear structure.  Fats in nature are usually in the cis configuration which is nice and loose and floppy and forms healthy, mobile cell membranes. Trans-fats not so much.

Research has shown that dietary intake of trans fats is strongly implicated in increasing coronary heart disease risk, and trans fats in your diet raise your LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol.  But don’t worry – there are plenty of other bad things trans fats do in your diet as well – just think of these as:

Great reasons for the trans fat ban:

  • Raise LDL cholesterol, contributing to heart disease
  • Lower HDL cholesterol, also contributing to heart disease
  • Increase obesity even while taking in the same number of calories
  • High dietary intake contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease
  • May contribute to liver dysfunction
  • Increases infertility rates in women
  • Contributes strongly to depression and may be implicated in irritability and aggression.
  • The jury is still out and studies are mixed on the effect of trans fats on both diabetes and cancer, but many studies have shown links.

Are you with me yet on the trans fat ban? Even if you’re not, there are several countries in the world that have already banned trans fats or limited it to less than 1 g total per day even if citizens eat mostly processed foods.  This includes countries like Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Iceland, Switzerland and the UK. Other countries, like Australia, have not yet banned it completely but it has been all but eliminated from the food source anyway.  The US took steps in 2006 to add trans fats to nutrition labels, which did cause trans fat use to drop (good thing), but it’s still prevalent in the American food supply and people who are eating fast foods and processed foods are most at risk for negative effects from trans fats. Some places in the US have either banned trans fats or limited their use including New York City, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston.

Crisco cookbook: trans fat ban

This is the original cover from the Crisco cookbook, published in 1912. Just FYI crisco is trans fats so they’re probably not in support of a trans fat ban, although they may have modified their product since then.

Currently the FDA is in a 60 day public comment period to see how consumers and the industry would feel if they revoked the GRAS certification in a trans fat ban. GRAS stands for “Generally Regarded as Safe” and quite obviously if trans fats are causing heart disease, obesity and Alzheimer’s they aren’t  safe at all. Here’s the FDA statement about it, and here’s the link where you can submit your own comments (docket number FDA 2013 -N 1317)  PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO COMMENT AND ASK THE FDA TO APPROVE THE TRANS FAT BAN. Just follow the submit your own comments link and click the Comment Now button in the upper right hand corner.

After submitting my own comment calling for a trans fat ban I was a little dismayed by this message:

Your Comment Tracking Number: 1jx-891g-7hs7  Your comment will be viewable on after the agency has reviewed it, which may be an indefinite amount of time. Use your tracking number to find out the status of your comment.

I added the bold in just for emphasis.  Really Really it may be an indefinite amount of time? The paranoid part of me wonders if the comments that take take an “indefinite” amount of time are the ones that they would rather the public not see, but I truly hope that the government is better than it often seems to be. So I will track the comment and keep you posted.  Please take the 30 seconds out of your day to add your comment to the proposed trans fat ban – after all, if you tell the government what you want and they don’t do it then you have every right to complain about the consequences, but if you never speak up then it’s all just a little bit on your shoulders too. Make sure the government knows what you actually want and what’s actually important to you. It matters.