Advice on how to find more happiness in my life, from my 110-year-old self, who is colorfully dressed, quirky, lives in an adorable house, has traveled the world and created joy and beauty and has a wonderfully smile-creased face. She also still does yoga and is quite limber.

31*-year-old Michelle, here is my advice to you:

Don’t worry so much. Don’t be so scared. Everything works out perfectly.

Live your own truth – protect your body and your mind – they’re the only things that will stay with you your whole life. Well, your mind might go, but you’re stuck in this body. Nothing else stays – not your spouse, children, clothing or friends, not your house or your money or your pets. Don’t drink. Don’t eat toxic crap. Don’t burn your neurons up on drugs that aren’t even that much fun.

Listen to yourself. You already know all the answers. You don’t even have to ask anyone else.

Stop sleeping with guys. It won’t give you the connection you’re looking for. Only you can give that to yourself. Save your emotional, sexual, and mental energy for someone who will reflect it back to you evenly and is committed to co-creating more of it with you. Otherwise it’s a slow leak. You’re never gonna fill your hot air balloon enough to lift you to your highest heights unless you conserve all of that precious, lovely energy you create. Look at all that emotional energy that’s been drained out of you by boys. Not their fault, they were (mostly) sweethearts, but you know you don’t need it.

Feel your feelings, mourn your sadness, and don’t be afraid of pain. You’re strong. You can take any amount of pain, and you are so wonderful and creative that you know how to catalyze that pain into growth and learning and ultimately, more happiness. So rejoice in pain. When you feel pain you know you’ve got a golden opportunity for heart and soul growth. You’re one lucky bitch.

You ARE one lucky bitch. Everything always works out in your favor. And I mean everything. The universe truly smiles on us. You are sooo lucky that you got this beautiful charmed life. Enjoy it, trust it. You are loved and supported always.

Live beyond your fears. Squeeze every last bit of love and joy out of this sucker. What’s there to be afraid of? You’re immortal. Your fears are just psychological constructs, remnants of the lizard brain that thinks that if you make a wrong move, you’re caput. Well guess what – #1. You won’t die of ANY of the things you’re afraid of, like honesty and karaoke and vulnerability and having messy feelings and looking like an idiot fool, and #2. There are no wrong choices. So go ahead and follow your impulses – do whatever the hell it is that you want to do. It’s your life, there are no wrong choices, and NONE of the choices you make are gonna kill you.

Love more. Love more. Love more. ESPECIALLY yourself. You are gorgeous, sweet, talented, kind, intelligent, caring, trustworthy, dependable, strong, loyal. ANY person is lucky to have you in their lives, and you are lucky to have a great travelling partner like yourself. So love yourself more, every day, as much as your huge heart can.

Create. Creation is your intellect combined with attention combined with love combined with divine spirit. The things you create are as beautiful as you are, because you have a beautiful soul. So you are creating beauty and sharing it with the world – what better gift could you possibly give? Your creation is your love made manifest. And you’ve got a lot of it. The only thing that stops creation is fear. Don’t let fear win. Don’t listen to it. NONE of it is real.

Prioritize. This life is long and it is short. Spend it doing what makes you happy. Figure out what those things are and build a map for your life based on that. Otherwise you’ll end up living someone else’s version of happiness (or fear). That’s a waste of your beautiful life.

Accept the now. Be grateful for the good (and there’s a lot). Release your fears. And trust that everything will work out perfectly. It always did.

*I am now 33; I wrote this back in 2010 or 2011 while while on retreat at the Metta Forest Monastery near San Diego, CA. Apparently I meant to post it to my other blog, www.amicamore.com, but never did. I’m so glad I found it, and I’m glad to report I have taken my own advice – I stopped sleeping around and drinking since this writing.

30-Day No Sugar Challenge

February 13, 2012

Photo by Lauri Andler from Wiki

 

I am addicted to sugar. I never felt truly addicted to smoking or alcohol or drugs – none of which I put in my body anymore – but sugar still kicks my ass. Anyone who’s followed my blog these last few years has read about my trails and tribulations with sugar many, many times.

I am also allergic to sugar. It makes my system acidic, causing inflammation, which makes me break out (little tiny pimples all over my face) and contributes to flare-ups of psoriasis. I’ve had psoriasis consistently for almost two years now.

I’ve given up sugar a few times in the past, but never made it longer than a few weeks. I tried again at the beginning of 2012, but after 6 days (during which I felt amazing) I caved and went back to my cycle of sugar binging.

So this time, I’ve decided to place a wager. I’ve bet my friend China Brooks that I can go 30 days without eating refined sugar, starting today. She also is going sugar-free, and if either of us give into temptation during the 30 days, we have to Paypal the other $25. I don’t generally make bets but I’m pretty sure I’m too proud and stubborn to lose one. 😉

Many people are unaware of the truth about sugar – how addictive it is, how toxic it is, and how prevalent it is in processed foods. I’ve experienced the physical, emotional and spiritual gains that come with giving it up. I’ll be exploring these over the next 30 days as I share my experiences and struggles and, hopefully, win my bet.

 

 

When you wake up in the morning the first few days after someone has died, it takes a few minutes to remember that they’re gone. Other things snap into place first.

Where am I? Click. Who am I? Click. Your life story and the continuous timeline of your awareness of your life snap into place (unless you’ve had too much to drink the night before; then there may be holes). But the first few days after someone’s died, you might be awake for a few minutes before that segment of reality clicks into place. Oh yes – they’re gone. It’s a new part of your story that you have to unconsciously remind yourself of – that person is no longer breathing somewhere on this planet.

My father died a few days ago. To be honest, it was a relief. After I’d gotten the call I spent a few hours grieving, but I think it was more for myself than for him. Well, now that I write that, it seems obvious that grieving is never really for the other person. They’re dead. It’s for you, or it’s a show for those around you.

There was no one around. I made a playlist of the Motown, Soul and Pop music that he’d played throughout my life and was the soundtrack of the time we spent together, and like I did when I was young, I lied on the floor by the stereo, and I cried.

I grieved for the little girl who was subjected to her father’s drunkenness and manic rages, to his threats to kill her mother and threats to leave her an orphan who would live on Skid Row. I grieved for the girl who witnessed a man crippled by his fears and addictions and inability to express true feelings or be vulnerable; I grieved for the little girl who learned from his example, internalized it, and has lived the painful lesson:

Being invulnerable doesn’t protect you – it destroys your chance of having the thing that humans long for most deeply: real, true intimacy with others, and the ability to love and be loved.

And I did grieve a little for that baby boy who was born at an orphanage, bastard son of an unwed Catholic servant girl in Ireland in the 1940s – a time when sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by priests and nuns was an epidemic more insidious and incapacitating than any communicable disease. That little boy was adopted at age four by Americans who I’m sure had no idea how to manage the emotional scarring that a little Irish redheaded orphan had endured, regardless of whether he’d escaped the odds of abuse. Being abandoned by a mother, whether she had a choice or not, sets the stage for life-long and profoundly painful questions of self-worthiness and lack thereof.

I felt relieved when I got the news that death had freed him from his suffering; relieved for him, and relieved for me. Since the age of 13 or so I’d wished he would die so I wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore. Over the last three years, since he fled the state of California to avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a student, he lived in motels and steadily drank himself towards his grave, as have many of his Irish ancestors. So by the time he died physically, I’d already let him go, and let myself off the hook for being an ‘unworthy’ daughter.

He may have believed that his mother abandoned him because she didn’t love him enough; but his daughter abandoned him because she loved herself too much to continue to allow the choices he made for his life to affect her in negative ways.

I find it poetic that my alcoholic father passed away a few days after I’d made the decision to give up drinking for good. The synchronistic timing of his death will give me the impetus to stay sober, present, and conscious for the rest of my life. I don’t want to lose another moment of awareness to alcohol, and I don’t want to continue believing that having a drink somehow makes my life better.

I don’t want to live my life like my father did, tormented by fears, controlled by cravings and aversions. Unlike my father, I’m not going to wait for death to arrive to free me.

I choose to be free while I’m still alive. I choose to live.

 

You are beautiful, exactly as you are. Photograph: ER Productions/© ER Productions/CORBIS

Today I tweeted:

It REALLY bothers me when spiritual teachers have had a lot of plastic surgery. Shadow check: my own unaccepted vanity and insecurity.

I’ve been reading a lot of Jung’s writing about the Shadow lately. Ie: “Whatever is wrong in the world is in yourself, and if you only learn to deal with your own shadow you have done something real for the world.”

As I started pondering how much plastic surgery bothers me and feeling into it, my eyes filled with tears. I felt the pain and fear of people aging and feeling like they needed to have SURGERY, to be CUT with KNIVES and stuck with NEEDLES to look younger and more attractive. For what? Because they think people will love them more. How tragic is that? Can you feel the fear of loss, of rejection, of loneliness that drives people to have plastic surgery? The sad belief that causes them to choose to perpetuate violence on themselves, and PAY for it, because they think if they have a few wrinkles, people will love them less, or not love them at all? I can feel those fears and that pain, because I have them too, though I have never acted on them. I too have that pain and fear of aging, the fear of not being enough, of not being loved.

I have always harshly judged women who’ve gotten breast implants, and both men and women who have gone under the knife to adjust their faces and bodies to fit the mold we are sold in advertisements and television and film. But then, part of me has never completely accepted my own nose. Part of me has always wanted to scrape a bit of it away so that I would be more “traditionally” beautiful. As I age, I see my eyelids begin to get crepey and droopy; I see lines etching into my forehead and lips.* I see my skin changing. I realize that I’m only 32, and though I hope to never get plastic surgery, who knows how I’ll feel when I’m 50? I hope to never be tempted to inject botulism into my face, millimeters from my brain, but how can I be sure of the decisions I’ll make in 20 years?

And then I look at the people I love. I think they’re beautiful, every one of them. I don’t care if they have lines around their mouths. I don’t care if they have acne scars. I don’t care if their teeth aren’t blindingly white. I don’t care if they have grey hairs. I could give a fuck about any of those things. There is nothing any of those people could do to their bodies that would make me love them a fraction more than I do.

I wish that everyone who’s ever gotten plastic surgery would realize that they’re loved, and are worthy of love, regardless of their physical appearance. And I wish that for myself too.

*Through experimentation, I’ve found that when I’m doing things that make my body happy, my skin looks noticeably happier. Things that do not make my body happy and make lines/wrinkles much more visible: eating sugar and acidic foods, smoking, drinking and stress.

I Confess!!!

February 17, 2011

I’ve fallen off the wagon.

Or rather, I’ve swan dived off the wagon, face first, mouth open, into a kiddie pool filled with liquid dark chocolate. And cashews. And caramel. And peanut butter. And cheesecake.

Allow me to ‘splain.

Since January 1st of 2011, I have been going through a cleansing process to break old habits of eating. Not the lemon-water-cayenne-pepper type of cleanse, but a whole/natural/unprocessed/organic foods type of cleanse. I’ve  been eating mostly fruits and veggies from Farmer’s Markets, supplemented by hemp milk and dried lentils from Trader Joe’s. Little to no refined sugar, processed foods, dairy, red meat, and absolutely no caffeine or alcohol (except for a cup of decaf coffee – it was gross, even though it was Intelligensia – and a splash of wine out of a a roommate’s 2-week-old bottle that I put in some soup I was making for dinner guests).

I could count on one hand the number of times over the past 40 days that I’d eaten refined sugar.

Until Friday.

It started with a free lunch. The VP at our company owed me lunch – I forget why – so I opted for Tender Greens in Culver City. Tender Greens is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. I’m not sure if it’s the mashed potatoes or the price point or the fact that the produce and meat is sourced from a farm in Oxnard, but I just love me some TGs.

They also have some of the best desserts in LA.

So that’s when the slide began.

I got a cookie. A delicious oatmeal cookie with chocolate chips and pistachios. Pistachios!!! The cookie was huge, round, perfectly crispy on the outside. Amazing.

That’s it! I thought. Not another grain of refined sugar for at LEAST a week!

But then… then the next afternoon I found myself in front of a table of Nicobello chocolates on a sidewalk on Abbot Kinney. Free samples – FREE SAMPLES – of some of the most – ok, THE most – delicious, vegan, organic, fair trade, locally-made, antioxidant-packed, all-the-right-marketing-words “HEALTHY” truffles I’ve ever tasted. PUMPKIN CHAI truffles, Blueberry Almond truffles, Ginger Green Tea truffles, Walnut Flaxseed truffles, Sunflower Banana Butter truffles, Pure Cocoa Bliss truffles…

Fuck me.

I bought a sampler, with one of each flavor. I systematically destroyed the six truffles over a 30 minute time span – as I strolled down the street, as I perused an art gallery, as I drove home with the top down in the sunshine.

Oh yeah – I also polished off a (small) bag of their Maple Nut Munch, with 72% dark chocolate, Maple Pecans & a touch of sea salt.

That’s it! I thought. SERIOUSLY this time, not another grain of refined sugar for at least another week!!!

The next day I ate super healthy – fruit, veggies, leek & sweet potato soup.

But then… then my roommate’s friends came over to have a Grammys party.

With pizza.

And a huge glossy fruit tart from Whole Foods.

I hadn’t had pizza in about 50 days at this point, and I hadn’t had more than a few tastes of cheese on the occasional salad.  I caved.

I don’t feel like I ate THAT many slices of pizza, but I was in pain for about an hour and a half afterwards. I’m guessing it was my stomach trying to figure out how to digest the huge globes of low-quality (and probably hormone-laden) cheese I was gulping down. Then there was the fruit tart with the sandy buttery crust that I love so much.

I may have had two slices of the fruit tart.

Monday I think I actually made it through the day without sugar. Tuesday, however, I had another slice of the leftover fruit tart (it was a friend’s birthday!), and then I actually dug into giant box of Lemon & Raspberry Cheesecake Factory Cheesecake that’s been in our freezer for a few weeks (I did not eat the whole thing. Thank god).

Today was the doozy – I went to Trader Joe’s, and my willpower buckled completely and I bought myself two kinds of chocolate – Soft Peanut Brittle, which is rather like a less dense Butterfinger, and Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels, which are actually a bit too chewy for me. That didn’t stop me from eating a few handfuls of each before dinner tonight (I did also give away 1/2 of the Peanut Brittle to the parking attendant as I left the garage – I like to brighten the attendant’s day).

So, that’s where I am. I am utterly failing at the No Refined Sugar part of my challenge.

But you know what? That’s ok. Along with my discipline challenges, I am also practicing self-acceptance and self-kindness. I could beat up on myself, be mad at myself, be disappointed, but instead, I’m going to let myself eat chocolate for a bit. When I’m ready to stop again, I trust that I’ll stop.

I also realized today the main reason behind why I have been binging like this – my period is a week late. No baby scares here, unless it’s the immaculate conception of the second coming of Christ. Actually, I’m certain it’s because I had some female friends spend the weekend at my place the week before last, and at least one was on the rag. My body syncs up with pretty much any woman’s cycle if I spend more than a few hours with her – I once didn’t get my period for two months when my closest female friend (and neighbor) got pregnant.

So, I’m fighting against the power of biology and whacked-out hormones. Additionally, I’ve noticed that my body tends to go into binge mode anyways if I lose any weight, which I have what with all the fruits and veggies I’ve been eating. It’s a bit annoying, but I can’t blame my body for trying to protect me from what it apparently interprets as risk of imminent death.

I’ll take these chocolates I bought from Trader Joe’s with me to work tomorrow to divvy up amongst coworkers. Hopefully I’ll be able to go hiking this weekend. Maybe I’ll try doing some eating meditations when I’m tempted to bing again.

And most importantly, I hope my hormones even out soon. If they don’t, I may need to invest in a larger pair of jeans.

 

How to Create Energy

February 5, 2011

A friend asked me the other day what I do to get so much energy.

There are probably 100 factors but here are a few I feel I have control over right now:

1. Eating Clean

I’m 36 days into my Clean Eating Challenge. I’ve dropped intoxicants (alcohol, caffeine) and severely limited refined sugars, processed foods (including bread), dairy, and meat (when I do eat meat, it’s chicken). I really feel like my body needs less sleep now – I’m guessing less recovery time from the stress you create in your body by eating foods your body isn’t made to process. My skin is so much softer and clearer. My memory is better – I realized recently that I now remember people’s names after hearing them one time (that one’s pretty strange), and I find I can remember everything without having to write it down (I’ve started shopping without grocery lists). My sense of smell is sharper. I have fewer emotional lows. My psoriasis is fading. The pea-sized subcutaneous cyst that I’ve had on my neck for a few years is almost entirely gone (when I put the paste my Ayurvedic doctor gave me on it it shrinks, but I have to keep that up or it returns).

What I AM eating is foods from Farmer’s Markets. I no longer shop at Whole Foods due to their policies on Genetically Modified Organisms and Monsanto, and I’ve been to Trader Joe’s about 3 times this year. I’ve started to get to know my Farmer’s Market vendors in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills and Culver City, and they’ve started cutting me deals! Last weekend I made my Leek, Sweet Potato and Pear soup, with Ginger Asparagus Quinoa with a Carrot Ginger sauce on top of that.  I’m also eating a lot of Bolani (available at both the CC and BH markets). Bolani is my new favorite thing – it’s like a quesadilla made with super-thin naan-like tortillas, and instead of cheese it’s stuffed with lentils or pumpkin or spinach or potato (the first two are my favorites). When I need a sugar fix, I eat fresh melt-in-your-mouth dates. If you have a sweet tooth and you’ve never had fresh dates, you need to try them.

2. Meditating

Last year I meditated about 6 days a week; on the 1st of 2011 I made a 100% commitment to daily meditation, and intend to keep that for the rest of my life. Some days it’s 15 minutes, and some days it’s an hour. Some days it’s in my room, some days it’s on my porch, some days it’s on the beach. Like eating clean is clearing out my body, I feel like meditating is clearing out my mind.  Science is proving that meditating is exactly like working out. Your brain is a muscle, but instead of physical strength you’re building focus and clarity. Ideas flowing to me.

3. Exercising

I do yoga two days a week; I run a few days a week as training for a 1/2 marathon I intend to complete in May; I try to talk a walk every day either during lunch or after dinner, and I try to hike on the weekends. We all know that, paradoxically, exercise energizes you.

4. Saying No

In 2011 I’ve been practicing saying No to energy drains. Energy drains like intoxicants  and refined sugar and sub-optimal foods, but also energy drains like people, or like doing things I don’t REALLY want to do. I’m simply being honest with people – everyone – including my boss. If I don’t want to do something, I tell them. If I’m not available to talk to them on the phone about their problems, I tell them. I make it clear that it’s not personal and my saying no is not a reflection of how much I do or don’t value them as a person or as a friend; but I’m just getting more real. It’s so refreshing, and I’m finding out that it works better for everyone.

5. Doing what I love

I wake up crazy early because I’m EXCITED to get up!!! I want to meditate and write and create! I want to read empowering and inspirational quotes on Twitter! I want to come up with ideas and work on co-creative projects with people I love working with! That could be #6: co-creative projects. I am working on awesome, fun, inspiring projects, (outside of my day job) with about 6 different partners right now. These are projects I’m doing just because I WANT TO, but working with another person keeps me moving forward when, if I were trying to do it by myself, I might give up. I’m hoping that eventually I will be able to support myself I know that soon I will be able to support myself doing things I love with people I love. That’s my #1 goal. Create my perfect day, every day. And with these small steps, create my ideal life.

So,  this is where I think I’m getting all this energy. Join me?

 

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

– Alexander Graham Bell

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power.”

– Tony Robbins

[quotes shared by the awesome Mastin Kipp at TheDailyLove.com ]

Oi…how do the days end up flying by so quickly?? Seems like I need to do another 30-day Blog-A-Day Challenge after this… my intention to blog every other day hasn’t panned out.

So, Day 13 update of my No Caffeine/Alcohol/Refined Sugar/Processed Food/Red Meat/Dairy Challenge = I am feeling fabulous. I’ve been eating apples and almonds and spinach and asparagus and pears and swiss chard and cucumbers and carrots and summer squashes and chicken and dates (hmm a chicken and date dish…sounds nommy!).

I was walking around my office the other day & realized that I felt totally rested and relaxed. Not tired, not groggy, not tense, not anxious. I’m gonna guess the healthy eating is to blame – I don’t have the ups & downs of caffeine & alcohol & sugar, my body isn’t taxed digesting processed foods & red meat. Also, going out is less appealing when you’re not drinking, so I’ve been getting plenty of rest, and getting up early to walk or jog or do yoga. The other morning around 7am an old man yelled at me – “I SAW YOU SPRINT – INSPIRATIONAL!” A good way to start the day.

Alcohol & Caffeine: In the past 13 days I’ve had one non-alcoholic beer (which still has minute amounts of alc) and a decaf coffee (also has small). But aside from that, I’ve resisted offers for free drinks, bottles of booze lying around the house, and multiple urges to stop at Urth Cafe or Point Cafe or The Conservatory for Coffee or Vee’s Cafe for a tasty beverage. Can you tell this has been challenging for me?

Refined Sugar: I haven’t eaten any refined sugar in its most obvious forms – chocolate, desserts, ice cream, etc. I have had two “Cheat Meals,” out with friends, and one of them included TWO CUPCAKES…and I gave both of them away to co-workers!!! EVEN THOUGH it was a “cheat meal”!!! Imagine – two (basically free) cupcakes in my possession (one Red Velvet, and one Chocolate) that I carried all the way back to work and gave away without taking a bite. This is HUGE for me. (I actually didn’t get dessert at either of my cheat meals). So, I applaud myself on the sugar front.

Yesterday, I had to go to a work lunch (I got a salad), and for dessert they ordered Tiramisu and a beautiful-looking Strawberry Mousse. Again, I resisted temptation, though I’ll admit I felt a bit better when they started choking on the Tiramisu’s cocoa powder.

Processed Foods: Aside from my two Cheat Meals (involving sandwiches, and one involving fries), I haven’t had any fried, fast, frozen, or packaged foods. I have had whole-wheat pasta a few times (with non-dairy pesto and summer squash!), and though that’s technically packaged, it’s not considered “processed” since the flour hasn’t had its nutrients processed out of it. I had bread during my Cheat Meals, but aside from those 2 sandwiches I’ve only had a few bites here & there.

Dairy: I did break down and eat a few little cheese cubes at Whole Foods – they had samples of my FAVORITES, Campo de Montalban and Robusto. Ok, so maybe I have 15 or 20 FAVORITES, but those two are pretty high on the list. I have resisted ice cream on a few occasions, which is huge for me. Oh and I also resisted Garlic Cheesy Bread at Claim Jumpers. But I did have some Bocconcino cheese at the Point during my Cheat Meal. With little orange heirloom cherry tomatoes (do those even exist?). And it was delicious. My Cheat Meal sandwiches both had cheese.

Red meat: The only red meat I’ve had was bacon (bacon also falls into the Processed Food category) during my Cheat Meal. It was REALLY GOOD, perfectly crispy bacon. I have been wanting a hamburger. Or a steak. Or some ribs… Hopefully at Burning Man! (Am I gonna find any red meat at Burning Man, or are there too many hippies?).

So, I feel like I’m doing well. Out of 39 meals, I’ve only cheated on two, and aside from a few bites here and there, have pretty much stuck with my Challenge. Oh, one thing I forgot – in a moment of unconscious amnesia/habit, I accidentally took a bite of a Red Vine during Movie Night. I swallowed it but threw the rest away. It was stale anyways.

I have about 16 days to go. I’ll be doing just short of 30 days, cuz on Aug 30th I’ll be at Burning Man. Drinking booze and coffee and eating bacon and ribs and candy. And god knows what else.

Willpower & Change

August 6, 2010

“It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change, and others are not.” – James Gordon

Many people seem to get upset when I tell them I’m going to stop doing something for awhile. “But WHY?!” they say. WHY aren’t you drinking alcohol? WHY are you at a nightclub, drinking water? WHY are you ‘torturing’ yourself by ‘denying’ yourself dessert and chocolate and cheese?

I have two answers: Because I WANT to. And because I CAN.

I find when I’m ready to do these challenges – giving up booze/caffeine/dairy/refined sugar/processed foods – it’s not all that hard. It’s still challenging, of course, but it’s not so much of a struggle, and it doesn’t make me unhappy – because I WANT to do it, and I’m CHOOSING to make these decisions in my life.

A lot of people don’t feel like they have the power to affect change in their own lives – either they don’t have the willpower, or they don’t have other options. I think this is because most of us are taught as children that we don’t have choices or control, and we get conditioned out of trying – a milder form of  “Learned Helplessness.” We’re conditioned to conform and go along with what everyone else is doing, rather than listening to our own guiding voice and deciding what’s best for us personally. We’re taught to just do what we’re told and do what ‘normal’ people do.

Well, I don’t feel like being normal. See my blog on the Psychopathology of the Average for more on that – “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society,” said Jiddu Krishnamurti (love him!).

I don’t want to drink alcohol this month – it makes me tired and look dull. I don’t want to drink coffee or caffeinated tea – when I pay attention to my body, I can feel that caffeine makes me anxious, and it dehydrates me. I don’t want to eat sugar.* I DO want to eat a lot of vegetables, and maybe a pound of dates in a day if I feel like it. I don’t want to eat dairy** – it makes me break out, and I can get calcium from almonds and beans and kale (kale chips are really easy to make – put some olive oil on them & throw them in the oven!).

I still love wine and coffee and chocolate and cheese, but I’m just taking a break from them for awhile. I’d like for them to play a much rarer role in my life; I know I’ll feel better, and I’ll enjoy them more. Or, I end up enjoying them less, and not wanting them anymore. It’s a win either way.

*The average American consumes around 160lbs of sugar per year – and that’s not including sugar from fruit. That’s up from 115 lbs of sugar during the 60s. And that’s compared to only 25 lbs of dark lettuces consumed per year.

**The protein in dairy & other animal products may actually leach calcium from bones – animal protein is acidic, and you body alkalizes it by pulling calcium out of your bones. Interesting…

I’ve decided to do the multi-faceted cleanse/challenge/diet craziness that I did back in May again this month:

No alcohol

No caffeine

No refined sugar

No processed foods

No dairy

No red meat

Basically, I try to follow the diet my Ayurvedic doc prescribed me. I made it for the whole month of May with only a few cheat days – a vacation weekend and a couple meals out – but at the end of it I felt amazing, and (judging from the number of separate incidences in which people used the word “radiant” to describe me) I looked good too.  I started yesterday, and after walking 20 miles with my mom, I was proud of myself for resisting one of my favorite things in the world: Claim Jumper’s Cheesy Garlic Bread. Of course, the night before I’d pigged out on deep dish Chicago pizza and a literal mountain of banana caramel chocolate cream pie, but that’s for another blog.

It helps that I just watched that video (and am reading the book) by the neurologist who blames cancer on sugar. It also helps that I went to Vegas last month, not to mention Palm Springs and Santa Cruz, and had a Bacon Donut, and had Bloodcake and various other forms of Pork Fat at my favorite gastropub, Waterloo & City. Again, that’s for another blog. (W’NB!).

I do Challenges regularly but, aside from the Blog-A-Day-For-30-Days, I haven’t been the best at keeping the public updated on my Challenge experiences. So I’ll attempt to blog about my no alcohol-caffeine-refined sugar-processed foods-dairy-red meat experience at least every other day.

P.S. Serendipitously, DailyOM posted an article about Inner Spring Cleaning today! Though it’s summertime… Not that you can really tell in LA this year.

“One can have no greater or smaller mastery than mastery of oneself.”
The wise, kick-ass Leonardo Da Vinci

The month of May was about breaking old habits and forming new ones. Specifically, around my eating and drinking habits. I’ve started breaking old drinking patterns (coffee and alcohol) and eating patterns (sugar, processed food, dairy, red meat) and am now in the process of choosing how I want to approach these things. I like the idea of threes – three caffeinated drinks per week, three alcoholic drinks per week, three cheat meals/snacks per week. There’s a 90-10 concept that makes sense to me. 90% of the time I eat what’s healthy for me, and 10% I eat whatever I feel like eating. None of these challenges were about giving things up forever (though on certain things, I might some day…) but merely taking charge of my life and my decisions.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Aristotle

I’m also proud of blogging almost every day last month! I think I missed about five days of the thirty. And I think I ate more fruits and vegetables and a month than I did during the entire four years of high school. I had enough energy to stay out dancing til 4am only drinking water, and then get up at 7am the following day to do productive stuff like yoga or write. And I’ve cut down on a lot on Facebook and email – I even did an entire (week)day without either. I should try that with my cellphone sometime. Shut it off for a day. Or a weekend. In two weeks I’m going on another retreat at the Buddhist Monastery down near Escondido, so I’ll be unplugged that weekend.

During the month of May I’ve noticed that when I start drinking again after taking time off, it’s always disappointing. I had a margarita on Memorial Day at the Standard Downtown. Not only did it not do anything to me (get me buzzed, make me happier or have more fun), but it made my stomach cramp up. I did get a buzz later from a few redbull & vodkas, but really, drinking again wasn’t as fun as I’d expected it to be.

And yesterday I went out with some girlfriends for a birthday dinner. I figured I’d get a nice (expensive) glass of wine. It wasn’t that great. Looking back on it I should’ve returned that glass (a Pinot) and tried another – I don’t know if it was the wine that was blah, or just that my palette’s not used to wine anymore. I remember after going without drinking during the month of February, the first beer and glass of wine I had both tasted disappointingly gross.

Not only was drinking again rather disappointing, I’m not sure I want to give up on the physical effects of all of this healthy eating and drinking. I’ve been getting compliments left and right, and have had the words “vibrant” and “radiant” applied liberally. And from the pictures I’ve been taking lately, I’d have to agree. 😉

Also, my psoriasis seems to be looking a little better. I’m not sure if the healthy diet/no drinking finally had an effect, or if it was the hot-as-hell mineral hot springs I soaked in on Sunday, or the hours I spent dancing and swimming in the sunshine, or the fish oil capsules I’ve been taking…that’s one problem with experimenting with your life, there are so many variables (and no controls) so it’s hard to keep track of specific cause/effects.

I also feel much more tired the day after drinking – both alcohol AND caffeine. These past two days at work have been the toughest I’ve had in awhile as far as keeping my eyes open and longing for a nap. Even the coffee I had yesterday didn’t seem to help me feel any more awake, now that I think about it…

Oh, I forgot another disappoinment – at work yesterday they were handing out giant oatmeal cookies. I haven’t had a cookie in a whole month. If you know me well enough, you know this is huge for me. I love cookies. In the past I’d rarely go for more than 3 days without having a cookie. I am not exaggerating. Anyways, I got this big lovely oatmeal cookie and…it was disappointing. But I ate it anyways. Which, like the wine, is the entirely wrong decision. IF I’m going to do something that’s not good for me, it better be good. REALLY good. If it doesn’t live up to my standards, instead of drinking the glass of mediocre wine or eating the mediocre cookie (or … doing anything else that’s mediocre – use your imagination 😉 ), I’d rather walk away from it and hold out for something excellent. Ok that’s gonna be my new motto.
Of course, to do this, you have to be aware of the mediocrity in the moment, despite the compulsion to continue doing or eating or drinking whatever it is out of habit or boredom or social pressure.

I think some people are better than this at others. Take movies, for example. I’ve never walked out of a movie. Some people make the decision that the movie’s not living up to their standards, and they’d rather do something better with an hour and a half of their lives than waste it on a mediocre movie. It takes an active decision. I want to live from that authentic, connected place. Do people in our generation even walk out on movies anymore? Or have we been conditioned to accept more and more crap in our lives and just sit there?

Sadly, this morning, I heard that while it only takes 21 days to form a new habit, it actually takes 6-7 months to completely break an old habit. So, as I’m already noticing, it’s gonna take more than a one-month challenge to change some of this stuff.

Anyways, for the month of June, I’m doing the Consumer Fast again! I did it back in January and it was awesome. It really makes you aware of how you spend your money, how much of it is on things that aren’t important, and where you can cut back. I feel like I’m doing really well in most sectors of my life (work, friendships, creative pursuits, health, etc), EXCEPT for finances. I’ve still got some mindless spending habits I need to work on. AND I’m saving money for Burning Man in August and a trip to Australia in November(ish). Thus, Consumer Fast!

Another reason to do the consumer fast and save money for travel instead of buying stuff: experiences are scientifically proven to make you happier than buying and owning things.
Here’s an article on the research paper:
http://unclutterer.com/2010/04/05/stuff-wont-make-you-happy-experiences-will/

When buying consumer goods, people will almost always have at least some doubts afterwards – by selecting one thing, you miss out on something else. It relates to the Paradox of Choice – more choices actually make us LESS happy. Check out this TED talk for more: http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html

Another thing that the study found was that while our satisfaction with experiences we’ve had go up over time, satisfaction with material goods goes down. All good things to keep in mind for me when I’m faced with a choice between spending money on something or saving it for one of my trips!