live it active


Are you guilty of fat shaming? Probably…

When you hear the term “fat shaming” what comes to mind?

I imagine that the majority of you envisioned a fat kid or teenager being either verbally or physically harassed at school, likely being subjected to unfortunate, but familiar taunts – “fatty” “fat bastard” “chubster” – yes?

That’s definitely fat shaming.

But what about clothing stores stocking up to size 14, only? What about individuals of “normal” body weight saying “Good job” or “Way to go” to individuals classified as overweight or obese at the gym (yes, it’s happened)? What about the silent judgements you (yes, you) make when you see a fat person eating an ice cream cone or burrito? What about when people say “You look great; have you lost weight?”

That’s fat shaming, too.

It has been suggested that fat shaming is the last culturally accepted form of discrimination. Many will disagree with this sentiment, as many other populations are still subject to various forms of discrimination (racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, etc.). However, it is important to point out that while such discrimination unfortunately exists, it is, for the most part considered unacceptable by the majority of Canadians (perhaps not the majority, but that is my naive hope).

“Fatphobia” as it has been colloquially coined, appears to be more acceptable than racial slurs or gay-bashing, but is it? What’s society’s reasoning for this acceptance? Is it because the individual has the power to make the change in terms of their weight, but not when it comes to their gender, ethnicity or orientation? Does that really make fat shaming more acceptable? And if, for some mind boggling reason that it does, does it work? Does fat shaming an already marginalized population work?

Alright, enough ranting.

If you’re interested in learning more about this subject, check out my blog this Monday. I will be posting my interview with Jenna Brady, a PhD Candidate at Queen’s University and former dietitian, who will discuss the etiology of her interest in fatness, what fat shaming is, why it’s still happening, and how we can get away from it.

Happy pondering.

M


Wednesday Meditation Tip: The 3-Minute Breathing Space

Good morning, good morning.

Yesterday, my ability to remain mindful (and thus, relatively stress free) was put to the test when my car went into “fail safe” mode on the 401 Expressway. Fortunately, I made it safely and soundly to my destination, however, the journey was far from stress free. At one point, I heard my internal voice going into woe-is-me-mode – “I have so much on my plate” and “Why is this happening now” and “I can’t deal with one more stressful thing”. Perhaps I was the one that needed the “fail safe” mode option.

Yet, after 1-2 minutes spent in woe-is-me-mode I heard another internal voice (and no, I am not suffering from a mental health condition). This voice was powerful. This voice was different, new, and very convincing. This voice siad a number of wonderful things including, “This is not a big deal – money can be found and this can be dealt with” and “I can successfully manage all the stressors in my life if I choose to do so” and lastly, “I am not going to be ruled by stress/emotion/fear”. As you can imagine, I much preferred the second voice to the first.

This second voice, I believe, is the result of focused meditation practice over the past 6 months (amongst a few other things). My reason for sharing this rather personal story is to demonstrate that meditation practice can and does have very positive results. Yet, practice is crucial for success. With more practice, I hope to one day completely obliterate the first voice and remove any and all internal dialogue that is defeating, unproductive, and negative.

OK enough blathering. Here is a 3-minute breathing space technique that you can use anywhere and everywhere to help better manage stressful situations, events, and interactions.

1. Awareness (1 minute)- Sit in a dignified posture, and if you are comfortable close your eyes (you don’t necessarily need to be sitting or have your eyes closed, but it will help you to better focus). Ask yourself, “What is my experience right now…in thoughts…in feelings…and in bodily sensations?” Acknowledge and register your experience, even if it is unwanted.

2. Gathering (1 minute) – Once you have a sense of what is going on with you, redirect your attention to your breath. Feel each inbreath and each outbreath. Your breath can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness. If your mind wanders (which it will), come back to your breath.

3. Expanding (1 minute) – Expand your field of awareness around your breathing, so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole. What is your facial expression? Are you shoulders relaxed? Has your breathing changed?

It’s important to remember that your 3-minute breathing space may vary in length. Don’t worry about hitting the 3-minute mark, the important part is to experience each stage of the brief meditation.

And believe me, this technique has proven itself invaluable to me over the past 6 months. I actually performed this meditation with a group of physicians and staff at a local hospital and it was incredible to experience, as the facilitator, the change in the energy of the room. The energy in the room became more calm, relaxed, and peaceful. Audience members adopted a new posture, and seemed to become more attentive and interested (in my biased opinion). My point? This 3-minute meditation is powerful.

Good luck. I encourage you to try it out at work, home, the grocery store, mall, doctor’s office, etc. As my mindfulness teacher told me, bathrooms are always a good place to go to perform a brief meditation…

M

 

References:

Segal, Williams, and Teasdale (2002).


My Week of Mindfulness

Last Monday, I made a vow to my readers that I would perform some form of mindfulness meditation every night for one week. And, to your shock and awe, I successfully completed the challenge.

Successful completion of the challenge, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that every mindfulness meditation session was a success. There were many moments of distraction, frustration, fatigue, and the inevitable wandering of my “monkey” mind.

Yet, I began to look forward to my 10- or 20-minute session. Each session was different, however, each ended on a similar note: me feeling very relaxed, rested, and ready for bed.

Unfortunately, but perhaps not surprisingly, I did not complete a full 45-minute body scan. However, I did manage to complete a Lake Meditation, three Guided Lying Meditations (two were of the 10-minute variety and one of the 20-minute variety), 1 self-guided body scan (approx. 5 minutes), one self-guided sitting meditation, and one yoga / mindfulness session.

Over the course of the next few weeks I plan to share a variety of the mindfulness CDs that I use in my practice in addition to some very simple and easy to employ breathing meditations. To clarify, there is nothing “easy” about mindfulness meditation. While a certain meditation (of the 3-minute variety) may be “easy” to integrate into your daily routine, it is imperative that you understand the following: mindfulness is a very difficult and challenging practice to practice. It takes time, focus, intention, commitment, patience and a lot of self-compassion.

Remember to always be kind to your “monkey” mind.

M

Coming Soon to Live It Active:

Breathing Meditations

Interview with Jenna Brady (former Dietitian/PhD Candidate) on Fat Shaming

 

Photo Attribution: NA.dir


The Park Bench Dip – A Bad Idea?

Following my Park Workout post yesterday, Mr. Epidemiology, emailed me a link to yet another post that discusses the risks of performing the Park Bench Dip.

The writer of the post is a personal trainer in Kingston, and a fairly well-known trainer at that. While there is risk in performing any exercise, he makes a very valid point about the risks associated with performing this particular movement. If you’re interested, please give his post a read to better understand your risk of injury when performing the Park Bench Dip.

Happy reading and weekending!

M

Coming Soon to Live It Active:

Breathing techniques for Mindfulness Meditation

Interview with Jenna Brady (PhD Candidate) on Fat Shaming

 


“Wednesday” Workout Tip: Exercises for the Outdoors Sans Equipment

Before you are inundated with images, I would like to preface that I am not a model. I have never posed for pictures such as this and thus, my facial expressions are not what you would expect to see in an exercise book. Come to think of it, I am not sure I have paid much attention to the faces of the exercise book people, but seeing as I’ve primed you to pay attention, you will. Now and forever. OK, enough rambling, let’s get to the point of this post.

As I mentioned yesterday, my friend Mr. Epidemiology (I know, what were his parents thinking?) inspired this blog post (and likely a few more to come) as he asked me and other Tweeps (a.k.a. friends on Twitter) about exercises that can be performed outside, in the park, without gym equipment (i.e. weights, bands, medicine balls).

So here’s what I came up with. I have many more ideas which I hope to post over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy!

The Park Bench Tricep Dip 

I am sure the majority of you are familiar with the Dip, but are you familiar with the Park Bench Tricep Dip? I didn’t think so…

Step 1:

Step 2: To move into this position, bend your elbows but keep elbows pointing back, away from your body (watch that your elbows don’t move into chicken wing formation). The movement of your body up and down should be performed solely by your arms, specifically your triceps. Your legs have no business here apart from helping you stay grounded:

Step 3: Exactly the same as the Step 1 position and thus, no picture needed!

Park Bench Step-ups 

I would encourage you to first, get comfortable with the following movement and upon surpassing your comfort threshold, increase the pace. You can do this movement on any raised object (bleachers, cement blocks, etc.).

Step 1: Yes, I know, this is fairly complex.

Step 2: Bring one leg up and onto the bench (please make sure that you have a stable park bench before starting the Park Bench Step-up).

Step 3: Bring the lonely ground leg up to join the happy park bench leg.

Step 4: Yes, you know what to do and thus, no picture required. Bring the starting leg back down to the ground followed by the other leg. You will now be (or should be) in the Step 1 position with both legs firmly planted on the ground.

 

The Park Mountain Climber

Step 1: Get into a plank position – similar to starting position of a push-up. Remember to have wrists below shoulders, bum down and in line with your back and core engaged. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of this position.

Step 2: Once settled in your plank position, bend your right leg and bring it forward, positioning it between your arms (almost). Move leg back into starting position.

Step 3: Once you’re right leg is back in starting position, move your left leg forward, once again positioning it between your arms.

Once you are comfortable with this movement you want to increase the speed, exponentially. You should aim to do 20-40 lifts per leg as fast as you possibly can. Yes, this is supposed to be a challenge. Remember to keep your bum in line with your back and to keep your core engaged.

Alright, that is enough for today.  More to come next week!

Thanks again Mr. Epidemiology for the inspiration. I hope your workout tomorrow benefits from these park workout ideas sans equipment.

M


Coming Soon – Wednesday Workout Tip

A friend of mine, Mr. Epidemiology asked, via Twitter, if Live It Active (a.k.a. me) had any ideas on how to perform a park or field based workout without equipment. Over the past few days I have been brainstorming, trying to come up with new ideas on how to use the park equipment (and the fruits of nature for that matter) like never before.

Tonight I am hoping to get pictures taken of the exercises to post for your viewing pleasure tomorrow. Hence, the “Coming Soon – Wednesday Workout Tip” title of this post.

If you have any park workout ideas that you would like to share, please send me an email at liveitactive@gmail.com.

M

P.S. I managed to squeeze in a “Lake Meditation” on Monday and a “10-minute Guided Lying Meditation” last night. Both meditations were performed later in the evening and yet, I felt very alert following their completion. This week has proven to be quite exciting/stressful already and I think, well I hope, that these mindful moments are helping me to better manage my feelings of stress.  Only time will tell…


On fitting meditation into your busy schedule

On Friday, I posted my interview with Barbara Wilkinson, a renowned mindfulness meditation practitioner and teacher. I asked a number of questions about the practice of mindfulness and Barbara’s personal journey with the practice. This experience allowed me to gain an even deeper understanding of mindfulness, which I will be forever grateful for.

Yet, even though I firmly believe in the practice, I still find it difficult to fit it in. Trying to meditate in the early morning is nice, but garnering the motivation to get out of bed or staying awake remain to be the greatest challenges.

Making time after work can also be difficult. If you have children, this time is likely impossible unless you leave work early and/or close your office door around 4 o’clock to squeeze in a 30 minute meditation. Neither the former or the latter will work if you have a prickly boss. You could sell it to the higher-ups as a necessary and useful break to help you regain focus and energy for work assignments. And you wouldn’t be lying – meditation truly does help to refocus and realign (I can send you the research, just ask). Or you could use your lunch break to squeeze in a 15 minute session. But, I totally understand how giving up your lunch or taking time away from work can be somewhat impossible. Maybe just give it a shot for a week and see what happens.

Nighttime seems to be the best time for most individuals, but again, there are some challenges (e.g. staying awake). While meditation will help you relax and thus, sleep better, this is not its purpose. In fact, it is quite the opposite; the main focus of the practice is to become more “awake” to the present moment. Not in the literal sense, as you are likely already awake, but in the metaphorical.

It seems that there is no perfect time of day to meditate. And there really isn’t. There is always going to be something that gets in the way and steers you away from taking 15 or 30 minutes for yourself. And I must be honest, I am guilty of finding another and “better” task to fill my time. Yes, another task. Like most others, I am always trying to get something accomplished – a blog post, a book, dinner, cleaning, grocery shopping, coffee drinking, showering, running, zumba-ing. I seem to always find the perfect excuse as to why I cannot meditate. And guess what, I’m getting more and more stressed out. My skin is acting up, my blood pressure is up, and I am not sleeping as well. Go figure.

So over the next week (small steps), I am going to meditate everyday. I am going to make a point of getting up early, or finding a quiet room at lunch, or finding an hour in the evening for myself. My goal is to do a body scan each day, but I will forgive myself (no judgement, remember) if I can only fit in a 20 minute Mountain meditation. I will record how I am feeling pre- and post-meditation and report back. Perhaps you could do the same?

M

 


Interview with Barbara Wilkinson – A Mindfulness Meditation Guru

A short while ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Barbara Wilkinson, a renowned counsellor, educator, and mindfulness meditation practitioner and teacher. I met Barbara last fall when I participated in her eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, a challenging, but exceptionally rewarding experience. My participation in this program has, as you may have noticed, inspired a number of blog posts and more importantly, altered my life significantly.

Mindfulness is a practice, and a difficult one at that. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the MBSR program summarizes, quite succinctly, what mindfulness is – “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement”. For more information on Kabat-Zinn and the MBSR program, I encourage you to visit his site.

Barbara holds a number of degrees including a Master’s in International Relations and a Master’s in Education in Counselling. She is a certified Trauma Therapist and a certified member of the Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists and Psychotherapist. Impressive, I know.

During the eight week MBSR program, our group discussed a number of tough and thought-provoking topics. And while we answered a number of questions together, I still had more. Questions that I am still working on answering, but also questions for Barbara. I wanted to know about her journey with mindfulness. I wanted to know about her struggles – were they the same as mine? Did she too, struggle with letting go of judgements? Was she able to meditate daily?

And, as you can see, my questions for Barbara and her willingness to answer them have brought us to this moment, to this blog post. So let’s get to it.

Live It Active (LIA): How long have you been practicing mindfulness?

Barbara Wilkinson (BW): A really long time. Even as a child I experienced tension as an uncomfortable body sensation and this judgement led me to explore techniques for coping. Remember too, I was coming of age in the ’60s, a time of a great deal of research and mind exploration. By the late ’60s and early ’70s I was working with children with special needs and if anyone needed help with stress reduction, they did! And so did their teachers and their families. This led me to Hans Selye’s groundbreaking research on stress and the Relaxation Response. One thing led to another and eventually I found the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. His work resonated with me more than any other because it was so practical – such common sense. It was being researched by reliable sources. It was started in the hospital environment. It felt right and I have never looked back.

LIA: How often do you practice?

BW: Daily

LIA: How long have you been teaching the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program?

BW: I have been teaching the MBSR program in some form or other since the early ’90s where I used it in classrooms with children for whom it came quite naturally. I, and the kids could see the benefits immediately.

LIA: Do you have an estimate of how many students you have taught?

BW: Interesting question…I would have to say thousands of clients and/or students have been exposed to “Barbara’s mindfulness” in one form or another. This number may seem fairly high, but you must remember, I have presented a number of Lunch & Learn sessions to corporations, offices and hospitals. I have also been invited to conferences to introduce this work – the farthest one being in the Philippines in 2006.

LIA: What is the greatest challenge that you face when practicing mindfulness meditation?

BW: Ha!! My greatest challenge would be ME!! Being attached to my thoughts, my time, my life, my patterns, my discomfort, you name it! Ironically mindfulness teaches us to let go of ME and mine, yes? But we have to remember, we are all human and this is part of the human condition.

LIA: What do you believe is the greatest barrier that your students face when it comes to mindfulness? How can we work to get around this barrier?

BW: My answer is similar to the previous – perhaps there is no getting around the human condition. Perhaps there is only starting again in this moment…

LIA:  Are there downsides to becoming more mindful?

BW: Absolutely! It takes time and hard work – big downsides in a world that wants comfort and solutions handed to them in a ‘quick fix’ instantly. Plus, as we begin to see what is in front of our face or in ourselves (i.e. our patterns) then it becomes our responsibility to take control of ourselves, yes?

For example, I may not want to admit to anyone that I drink hot chocolate and snack on doughnuts every night before I go to bed. But even more, I may not want to look at it myself and admit I am doing it three times a week when I tell myself I do it only once a week. I may not want to take responsibility for my spending habits or my lack of exercise or my procrastination or my hoarding. For many, it is easier to analyse and seek out helpers, even medications, rather than to look our fears and patterns in the eye.

LIA: Is there a minimum time that one should practice mindfulness? Does one need to perform a body scan or the Mountain meditation (or some form of guided meditation) to experience benefit? What if 10 minutes is the maximum amount of time an individual can allocate to mindful meditation?

BW: If a person has 3 minutes a day to start paying attention in a formal, focused, on-purpose way, this is better than nothing. Obviously, the more we do it, the more we benefit. In the messiness of the lay life there is not the time to sit and meditate for hours, but when we look at our schedules (another item to take charge of ) most of us can find quite a bit of time in our days that we can use differently.

LIA: What has been your most powerful meditative or mindful moment?

BW: Oh my goodness this is a hard question. There have been many, but I see it more as a process of growth and becoming as opposed to specific moments. I could site my time at Spirit Rock Meditation Center where I was doing a 10 day retreat with Jon Kabat-Zinn, John Teasdale and Christina Feldman. After struggling through the first several days, believing perhaps I should have been someplace else, like home in my bed, I became aware of pure bliss. This is the only way I can describe the feelings of joy and peace which filled me up.  It was so seductive that I was ready to join a monastery! I felt all of life more vividly, whether the taste of food or the colour of a leaf. I felt truly awakened and alive. However, I know life in the monastery gets real too and there are everyday problems to solve. I also know that my own individual work is in Guelph right now.

LIA: In Buddhism, the ultimate goal is to achieve enlightenment and thus, to end suffering. Does mindfulness have an ultimate goal? Is it too, enlightenment?

I believe that the first Buddha was looking to end suffering.  This would be what most of us strive for, yes? It sure keeps my counselling business booming.

Mindfulness is a way of life that I have found can help. I don’t see it as a tool or a strategy with an end goal as much as “a way of being”, though there are strategies involved.

What is your definition of enlightenment? Just like so many folks see meditation as the stereotypical yogi person on the cushion saying “om”, I think we have many ideas about enlightenment. Perhaps I am enlightened when I am awake to one moment – and then it goes… but isn’t everything changing constantly so how could my awakening moments not change too?  I think walking around waiting to be “enlightened” could set anyone up for failure – instantly.

LIA: Has mindfulness brought you peace in certain areas of your life? Or is the journey towards finding peace ongoing? Is finding peace the point of mindfulness?

BW: Peace is good. Many practitioners report feeling more peace in their lives. Sometimes I find it when I am practicing, sometimes for longer periods, sometimes for moments. Again the human condition comes with challenges and mine are pretty big like everyone else’s. Sometimes my challenges feel too big for me. This is life.

Mindfulness isn’t like winning the lottery. The research shows the positive side effects include memory improvement, focus, concentration in addition to many health benefits such as reduced risk of cancer, heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, and psoriasis. The list is endless. Connecting with the peace inside of us is one of the many side effects and benefits.

LIA: One of the main tenets of mindfulness is to view your thoughts without judgement. While reducing the amount of time spent judging others and the self is beneficial, can’t judgement be a good thing? Can it not motivate us to do better, contribute more, challenge ourselves and push past our fears? Is judgement all bad? 

BW: I guess I would prefer to use the word discernment in general day to day life. This to me implies a gentle and wise sort of judgement as opposed to a good /bad separation.

I find it remarkable to just play with taking the judgements out of decisions on occasion. It is so powerful. If I am judging my son’s behaviour as bad, I will never get to know who this young man is. If I set that same judgement aside and look for the needs under the behaviour, if I am open and curious, everything becomes flooded with compassion, understanding and clarity. We could do with more of this in our world today.

~

This marks the end of my interview with Barbara. I would like to thank Barbara for participating in this interview – your wisdom and constant questioning is so very appreciated. To learn more about Barbara please visit her website.

To my readers, I hope this answered some of your questions regarding the discipline of mindfulness, but it is my hope that it provoked more than it answered. To remind, mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement. At first, the practice of mindfulness may seem daunting (I’ve been there), but with time and practice it becomes easier. It becomes more natural; it becomes a way of being.

A large number of us seem to spend a lot of time searching for the”solution” or the “answer” to our individual challenges. Yet, there will never be one perfect answer or solution as we are all unique in thought, pattern and problem. That is the beauty and the crux of the human condition. But the more we practice and the more aware (i.e. mindful) we become of our mind and its meanderings, the more control we gain over our thoughts, patterns and problems; the more options we have. And the more options we have, the greater our opportunity for freedom.

Happy pondering.

M

 


“Those who are always ‘on the run’ never meet anyone anymore, not even…”

Some food for thought…

“Those who are caught up in the busy life have neither the time nor quiet to come to understand themselves and their goals. Since the opportunity for inward attention hardly ever comes, many people have not heard from themselves for a long, long time. Those who are always ‘on the run’ never meet anyone any more, not even themselves”.

~ Robert Banks

 

M


When it comes to health, what do you want to know?

If you can spare a minute or two, I would be grateful if you could participate in the poll below. The better my understanding of your interests, the more tailored my posts can become. Furthermore, your answers and additional comments will help in the development of my presentation(s) for an upcoming Health & Wealth seminar series that I am doing in partnership with TD Waterhouse.

Please email me at liveitactive@gmail.com if a topic of interest is not listed.   

Thank you for participating!

M


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