Much of my life has been as an addict. And many of us on some level are all addicts. But for others, their addiction becomes who they are: their identity, their only lifeline.
It may be slowly killing them, but it is also what is keeping them alive.
For me, there is no question that yoga saved my life. Yoga found me when I couldn’t pretend to save myself any longer. Ever been to a high-security prison? That is what a full-blown addiction feels like-24/7, except you are trying to live a normal life at the same time. You are usually trying to hide it or pretend it doesn’t exist. My life was much to this drum, a ten-year battle with a wide variety of eating disorders, depression, drugs, and anxiety. Ten years ago I would be asking for your pity, now I am hoping to help.
Yoga Showed Me Addiction is Not a Choice
Imagine having an evil twin that never leaves your side. Imagine that every move you make, every bite you take, every breath you take is being ripped apart constantly by someone else.
Addiction is not a choice, you don’t wake up one day and decide, “Hey I am going to start bingeing and purging all my food from now on,” or “Maybe today I will starve myself to get attention.” Addiction doesn’t work that way. As an addict forever in recovery, I get this.
I did not choose to starve myself, to drop 32 pounds in 60 days at the age of 15. I didn’t choose to relapse and binge and purge up to eight times a day, as I put stress on my heart, rot my gums and teeth, kill my stomach lining, messed with every system in my body. I, like many struggling with addiction, spent many hours, days and months in this horror. I was trying with all I had to be normal, to fit in, to hide the only thing at that time in my life I could control.
As an addict, you realize that the numbed feeling or “high” you get from your drug of choice (food, alcohol, medications, exercise, restriction of food, smoking) is what you have been searching for. Nearly half my life I spent in addiction, where I cycled anorexia and bulimia. I dabbled with drugs, found myself binge drinking (under age of course), made several attempts at suicide, experimental cutting, and was obsessed with calorie counting, exercise, my weight, my size, every pimple on my face, every imperfection possible… I was obsessed with it.
And at one of my lowest points, this craziness wound me up in the hospital with gastric obstruction surgery after I swallowed a toothbrush, desperate to purge just one more time. To many, you may not understand, but for some, this rundown seems like a horrible mirror.
Yoga Was My Path to Recovery
If you are struggling with addiction and are at a place that you know you want to move forward, you probably already know that it’s one tough uphill battle. Yoga was what kept me holding on to that tiny microscopic string. My Wednesday night yoga class kept me hoping and praying I could do this. I could survive. In my first few classes, while still struggling with an eating disorder, my mom and I attended yoga together. That one class each week was a new chance. I remember many nights walking out praying to God, “Please help me to go home and not binge and purge, praying with all my might that tomorrow I’d wake up and be normal.” I probably wouldn’t have gone each week if my mom wasn’t going. Not knowing, she kept me accountable and kept giving me my string of hope each week.
You can’t think straight as an addict. The Yoga Sutra talks about eliminating the dualistic mind – you ask any addict, and they totally understand the double mind. You have your “eating disorder mind” saying one thing and your “sane mind” saying the other. For many years, I couldn’t even hear my sane mind.
Yoga has saved my life. Yoga has given me a second chance, and has taught me to live in the most in-touch, real way possible. Yoga has taught me how to breathe again, feel again, and somehow someway it has helped me loosen the grips on life a little and trust a little more.
For a long time I didn’t believe that there was anything from my past that could have triggered this experience in my life, but yoga has helped me to realize that some of this was learned behavior. Some of this was the reaction to cruel kids in school, and some was simply fear of not being enough in my life. At some level, we have all been there. We have all cried tears of fear, control, sadness, imperfection. And to all of you out there still walking up hill – it’s way easier with a yoga practice.
Yoga teaches you to want to live again. It teaches you what it really means to be in the moment. Those struggling with addiction know better than anyone what a moment is. Because on the same note, you are trying to stay alive or sober for just a moment.
Yoga lets you know it’s not your fault; even when you feel alone you are feeling, and that is a start. Don’t stop feeling, let the feeling pass, and they will.
Yoga gives you a second chance a million and one times. It reminds you that your life is just as valuable as everyone else’s, in your own unique way.
Today is a call to action.
If you struggle with addiction, I beg you to try yoga.
Be careful – us addicts gravitate to that which can feed the need. So mix it up, most recovery programs that incorporate yoga use styles like Yin, Hatha, or Restorative. These styles are great to really help you learn how to be present, be still and be in the feeling. Don’t throw in the towel and don’t hate your first class because it asked you to step out of your comfort zone. Keep at it. If you want to live, if you want to come out on the other side… for me it wasn’t a choice anymore, it was a matter of life and death. And I chose life, and I continue to choose life each day.
If you are an outsider to a person with addiction, most likely they know there is a problem. Don’t shove food in their face, point out their appearance, or tell them they are killing themselves. Ask yourself this: “Am I helping or hurting?” Addiction hurts loved ones too, but be a forklift as a friend, bring your friends up with you. Take them to a yoga class and keep taking them. In Savasana, hold hands with them. Say “I love you” with no strings attached. Be there for them instead of telling them where to be. Most importantly, don’t give up.
This content was originally published in the June 2012 edition of MindBodyGreen.
When you live a more authentic life, the benefits are many! By putting time and effort into this endeavor, and learning to be yourself, you are rewarded with an opportunity for real happiness and an ability to achieve your true potential. To get started on this worthwhile journey, give these five practices a try:
5 Ways to Live a More Authentic Life NOW:
1. Be Honest with Yourself and Others.
We often think that the little white lies we tell ourselves and others will make things easier. We think we are doing a favor to others by saving them the time or emotion of the truth. But the reality is, it makes things much more complicated and incredibly dishonest. These lies snowball until you can’t remember who you’ve told the truth to. Find your authentic truth.
2. Stop Saying “I Can’t.”
We look out at life and say that we can’t do this or that, and what we say becomes our truth. What we tell the Universe is what we get back from the Universe.
Erase “I can’t” from your vocabulary and replace it with “I can, I have, I know, or I am.” Take life and start living in the moment.
3. Take Risks.
I’m not saying jump off a cliff, but rather, live boldly. I would rather fall a million times than never fall once and have never tried. We learn through hardships and risks, and the only bad risk is the one not taken. Sometimes you need a little clarity to feel more confident to take that risk…
So are you willing to take that risk if you know it will bring you clarity? What if there was something you could do to aid that clarity creation and feel more confident in that next step?
4. Speak up.
I often speak what is on my mind and what I desire. And yoga has taught me how to channel that in a positive, more helpful, loving way (better than I could years ago). I often hear people say: if only, or I didn’t know, or I wish someone would have told me, but the truth is, unless you speak up, why should anyone come running to your aide? Don’t blame others for your unspoken wish list. Don’t say, “I should have” when you know you could have. We all have a voice and the right to speak up. So when you don’t, it’s no one’s fault but your own.
5. Be a Leader.
We need not be trendsetters or inventors, but rather leaders in our own lives. You may not be famous, but when you live 100 percent each day with no regrets — truthfully and positively — and speak up in a kind manner, you become the authentic leader for others to follow in living their lives that way too.
Each and every day we must work to be more mindful and work to be the best version of ourselves in all that we do. When we step outside our comfort zones and work just a bit harder than the day before, things get easier and we start to enjoy life more. Seek to live an authentic life and reap the rewards.
No words can describe how I felt that day. It’s interesting because it’s over a decade later, but I still have that feeling of what it was like. I don’t think that ever goes away. For those of you who have lost a loved one—that numbness, that void, you don’t even know what to feel, or how to explain what you’re feeling. I remember walking out of the hospital thinking, “Every mom walks out with a baby. I’m a fraud. I’m not a mom.” And that process of grief, and learning how to live with loss, really settled in that moment.”
– Hope Zvara
In an episode of the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, I was interviewed by Heather Stang. Through my own experience, I have learned firsthand how yoga and mindfulness can help calm the mind and help us take a step or two away from self-defeating behaviors, such as addiction and eating disorders. I have also learned how to cope with the reality of loss by living my life in honor of my daughter, Faith, and helping other people live their best lives.
But all that didn’t come right away.
What my daughter Faith has shown me is the HOPE Process: Helping Others Purposefully Excel. This actually came to me at a point where I always say when we see a butterfly, it’s Faith saying hello. One afternoon I was thinking about her, and thinking about what a butterfly means. I Googled it and to my surprise, it means hope.
For those of you who lost someone, it’s not a textbook experience. It’s not, “you’re gonna go through this, and then you’re gonna go through this, and then you’re gonna go through this.” It is such raw emotion. What yoga has taught me through working through addiction and being in recovery now for 15 years, and losing my daughter, and finding life after the loss of my daughter is that you have two choices… You either choose to live, because they don’t get to anymore, or you choose to die with them.
No words can describe what I felt that day. For those of you who have lost a loved one, that numbness, that void. You don’t even know what to feel or how to explain what you are feeling.
If you are going through grief, loss, or addiction, I have a special meditation of Hope for Grief & Loss. I also have a course in my online studio that I offer to you for free, so that you may find a way to transform… to see your butterfly. Here is a Practice in Mindfulness that will help you move beyond grief.
Yoga Found Me and Saved Me
First came yoga. For me, yoga has transformed my life. I remember walking out of my first yoga class… and thinking “Oh my gosh. I have no thoughts.” Once I befriended my breath and was able to get back into my body, I began the journey of rediscovering my life’s meaning. I had to choose life because my daughter didn’t get to. Every single day after she had passed away, I had to wake up and tell myself that. I had to look in the mirror and say,
I have to live because she didn’t get to. Please give me my purpose.”
I always say that my Wednesday night yoga class became my weekly ritual of second chances. Those second changes eventually lead me to a yoga teacher training. That training became a platform for me to really heal and feel. Not only that, it put me in a position to teach others what I had learned through the HOPE process.
When I first found yoga, I did not realize I was holding my breath all the time. I don’t think anyone ever told me that I was breathing. Until that point in that first yoga class, and then in my training, I didn’t realize that this whole breathing thing was really important.
Helping Others Purposefully Excel – The HOPE Process
My marriage not only survived the death of her child, but it thrives because of mindfulness and mutual respect. We can grieve differently, but we don’t have to grieve alone. Losing a child can strain a relationship, but in our case, it brought us together.
Through all of these struggles, through all of this challenge, through middle school and high school and through my early twenties, something always kept telling me to keep pushing forward and keep going. At the suggestion of a caring soul, I found yoga.
Breath, Body, and Belief
Breath, Body and Belief are the pillars of the HOPE process. These three things are the cornerstone of everything that I teach. Everything to do with yoga, with healing, and with finding your path and life beyond grief.
Get in tune with your breath every day. Practice meditation. Practice just noticing your breath for a minute a few times a day.
Use your body with purpose. Move it every day. If you need a place to start, my Mindful Movement Online Studio is only $9.99/month and has a variety of classes, tailored to your needs.
Finally, it comes down to your belief. Pray, meditate, and give thanks to the universe for the life that you have. Live your live in honor.
How to Ditch Your To Do’s and Start Thinking in Results!💥💥
I have struggled for years feeling like I would always get so close to what I wanted, and then, I don’t know how else to explain it, but I just couldn’t get there.
What the heck was going on?
I could start the engine, but boy oh boy, why was it not taking me across the finish line?
Maybe you can relate. You see the vision, you know what needs to happen (at least most of it), you get it started, then WAMO! Something happens and all this other stuff starts to get in the way.
I mean, sure, it’s kind of important stuff. But none of it ever seems to help you reach your goal. There is just always MORE stuff piling up.
Yesterday morning I was gently reminded this morning that it’s not about a to-do list it’s about a results list.
For most of my life, including most of my adult life so far, I’ve only looked at the tasks in front of me.
AKA the overwhelming mountain that is just about impossible to climb up.
I pondered for a quite some time about the idea of looking at what you want versus what needs to be done.
And was reminded again just yesterday morning, through a morning motivation, that looking at the tasks in front of you as to-do items- already frustrated, complicates things, and build an even bigger mountain.
It’s like: “Someone help me, I’m drowning!”
But here’s the kicker and it’s not fancy. Things don’t change because of external circumstances. Things change because of internal circumstances.
Where instead, if you think about the results that you want to happen in your life. And then ask yourself, what do I need to do to get there?
Your focus is no longer all on the items that you have not yet done.
But on the positive result of that what you want to achieve.
Not to mention how many of us always pick the easiest to do list items and avoid the big ones that are going to push us towards our Dream results anyways?
I know I do this.
Why work on a big project proposal when I can clean the kitchen?
Total transparency… My brain often wants to choose the easier tasks, because then if by chance I fail, I’ve already protected myself from it.
I’ve had to train my brain to just start looking at life this way. To stop sympathizing with the side of me that likes the overwhelm, that validates my frustration with a mounting to do list. And a poor me mentality.
👉What do I want? 👉What are the results I’m trying to achieve? 👉If I keep my eyes focused there, I’m going to stay more positive, and probably make better choices.
Remember this, change is hard. But it’s not impossible. It’s only impossible if you’ve already told yourself it’s going to be…
So today make it a point to physically write out your “Results List”... What do you want!? Keep that list handy and in easy sight. And when you start to engage in tasks, ask yourself “are these tasks, activities moving me towards my end game? Towards what I want most?”
After you write out your Results List reflect on why you want these things in the first place.
I wanted to land a big partner for my Mother Trucker Yoga company. I had one in mind. I thought about that partner all the time. And knew that would be a home run for me. Everything I was doing I was working to gain the notice and respect of that company. Then I landed an opportunity to work with them on a trial basis. I could have felt defeated in that I had to do a lot more than I had thought initially. And it was frustrating at times. It could have been easier to just do the minimum required. And when I got frustrated, I a few times found myself doing things that had nothing to do with landing this partnership.
HOPE WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING! I got so overwhelmed in those moments with other things, that in the end didn’t really matter. And would actually go away, and get handled later if I could land this partnership. But I let myself get distracted by those small tasks. Because achieving those small tasks gave me temporary happiness. Where climbing that mountain towards my BIG WIN, required a bit more grit.
Nothing in this world is constant. Everything in this world is an opportunity to change, leap forward and grow. There may be people who don’t understand your journey, but there’s no reason to let them stop you. This story will teach you four lessons in dealing with unsupportive people.
Meet the Grasshopper
Once, I was driving with my mom and kids in the car with my moon roof open. Out of nowhere, a grasshopper leaped into the car and sat on my thigh as I was driving. All of us squealed in excitement for different reasons. My kids thought a grasshopper in our car was silly. My mom and I instantly thought about leaps forward in my life.
The grasshopper hung around for a while, then I cracked open my window and it sat on the edge for a few minutes. My mom commented,
Hope, you teach us in yoga to meet our edge, honor it and see what we can learn from that view.”
With the thought of sending it home, I gave it a small tap. Out of the window it flew, and back in it came. We all laughed, and my mom and I said at that moment,
Remember to trust. Big leaps forward in my life are necessary and present for me right now.”
I believe that life is constantly giving us signs and constantly telling us things helpful to our life. If we choose to listen. My little grasshopper friend was a confirmation to me that everything I am currently practicing and living is all part of my leap forward. Like a grasshopper, sometimes when you are about to leap forward, unexpected things come into play to try to throw you off.
How many times in your own life have you been confused for something you are not? Or have you been confronted with someone who won’t let go of your past persona and see you for as you are? How many times have you said one thing and because someone is unhappy with their own life, they turn it around to try to stop you from leaping forward?
Together, We Are Leaping Forward
Maybe you are a little like me: you go to the beat of your own drum, not like the norm, see purpose and learning opportunities in everything, and want to continue to change. You want to grow, and you notice when the growth is very prominent, on the cusp of leaping from well-cut grass to a tall, grassy hillside. There are unsupportive people and things in your life that come out of nowhere to try to steal that away from you.
You are the kind of person who tries to be honest. Sometimes, unsupportive people confuse that honesty with judgment. And usually, because those people don’t want to hear the truth. They try to stop your leap in mid-air because they don’t want anyone else around them leaping if they aren’t going to. Like a grasshopper, what works for others will not necessarily work for you. Even more so, what works for you will probably not work for anyone else.
So how do you be like that grasshopper and not get squashed in the process?
1. Like the grasshopper, it is important to understand that at times you may need to stay still.
Take it in. Don’t say a word and just let others do the talking. At other times or at a moment’s notice, you may need to take a huge leap into the air and land somewhat blindly. You must trust that it’s right.
2. Trust your inner voice.
Like a grasshopper’s inner ability to sense sound with their legs, sense the sound of your inner voice and trust that your navigation is on par.
3. A grasshopper has an inner sense of knowing when to make its leap.
Your progress is made in the form of mostly leaps, rather than steps. Likewise, your progress will most likely not be slow and steady, but a playful combination of leaps, hops, bounces, and strides. Like a grasshopper, those can sometimes be misunderstood. Know that your hop will only make sense to you, and it is not necessary for you to try to get others to understand.
4. Finally, a grasshopper can leap up to twenty times its height.
Our grassy friend can only leap up or forward, never back. So sure, glance back and see how far you have come. But for you my friend, the only way is up and forward by leaps and bounds. Not everyone will understand it, but other grasshoppers will. When you need it most, you will know to leap to a sunny mound and meet your fellow grasshoppers there. Then you can glance back again and see what you were able to overcome.
This post was originally published September 2012 on MindBodyGreen.
Ever October we Remember because it’s Infant Loss Awareness Month…
Every October we Remember.
You don’t often realize how quickly time goes by until it’s…by.🍃
You think it will be next to impossible to make it through, over, or past something when you’re in the thick of it. But then one day it becomes apparent that you in fact have (for the most part) made it through.
12 years. 12 walks. 12 days. 12 times I’ve been faced to look out at other parents and see myself in various stages of grief.
🍃I told Brian 2 years ago driving home that I could tell which mom’s recently lost their baby. I could tell in their faces. The way they clung to their husbands. The look in their eyes.
That empty feeling. Looking at them was like a flashback to that same empty feeling. That same look. That same moment in time where it all seems too much. 12 years. This year I found myself yet again at a point of saddened happiness. Because there IS joy in my life.
❤️I have the most amazing husband. Three beautiful, healthy children, and growing life’s work that I love and has REAL purpose to me. ❤️
But there are still moments when I am reminded that she’s not here. It’s bitter sweet. Because she gifted me my own life which is both simple and complicated to explain. And without her short life, we wouldn’t have Harper, Meredith and Ivan.
Every Year We All Gather…
Year 12 and there were well over 120 people at the walk this year. Where 12 years ago there were maybe 50. And after we say a prayer and a song is sung. We speak out loud the names of our baby.
And every year my throat swells, and I feel hesitant to speak her name. With tears dripping into the corners of my mouth I waited for Brian to maybe say her name. But I know he knows to wait for me.
💜“Faith Lynn”. 💜
And in that quiet moment I’m reconnected to the first moment 12 years ago, like it was the first. I can’t explain it. But it was a relief. I feel relieved when I speak her name each year. I speak her name out loud to others.
You would think sharing my story countless times over the years would make it less emotional. But I am reminded of it doesn’t work that way. But this year. Year 12, I am also reminded of how I’ve grown. How my family has grown because of her.
The Never Ending Gifts from Faith…
My kids are now old enough to truly understand service to others. And they carried the quilt squares for others babies that weren’t there to be carried.
I know it might not seem like much. But to an 11,9 and 4 year old. Who wants to carry a blanket for a mile? But it opened up a conversation with them about support, respect, loss and being there for others. Another blessing yet again my tiny 2 pound daughter gave me and my family.
Whispering in my daughter’s ear to look out at all the families. And that one one thing we all have in common is a baby like Faith. That on any given day you wouldn’t know the loss and wounded heart we all carry and slowly are learning and have somewhat learned how to mend. But we are all connected.
I looked at her face as she looked out. And for the first time I could see it. Compassion. ❤️A true and real understanding of compassion. All thanks to her sister Faith.❤️
It’s one day. One day out of the entire year that my family remembers together. That we honor her life and the thousands of real blessings that she has given us.
And selfishly my greatest blessing is my own life.
Truthfully I don’t know where I would be today without her life as it was.
Words cannot and will never express the deep sadness I feel for her loss. But the deep undying gratitude and love I feel for what she gave me.
An opportunity to have a life worth living.
I keep sharing, every single day…I keep sharing.
Most of the stuff I write is usually for me. Maybe a form of therapy or expression I guess. And in hopes to help or inspire another…
If you have lost a baby. If you understand that deep sense of emptiness I’m talking about. If you wonder what good could ever come of something like this.
There can and will be blessings, good and healing.
❤️But do not be afraid to be in pain.
❤️Do not be afraid to cry your tears dry.
❤️And do not be afraid to feel that hole in your heart.
💜Because that pain will lessen.
💜The tears will soften.
💜And the hole will one day sprout a new flower all because of what had once grown there.
Never replacing. But rather adding to the space that was once empty.
October is Infant Loss Awareness Month and I urge you to take even just a moment to connect with the notion that an innocent child’s life no matter how small is a life. I am grateful for the time I had with my daughter and now, 12 years later, am grateful for her sacrifice.
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