The Kapha Element

I could be in cozy Telluride right now.  I could be teaching lots of hot yoga to combat the cold outside, learning to skate ski on groomed trails through a silent sanctuary of snow-covered pines.  Having hot chocolate with friends, talking on the phone to my mom, playing with dogs.  I miss these things a lot.

I’m not living my comfortable, contented life because, as it turns out, I was not so contented.  I wanted to move from comfort into something more.  I asked to be blown wide open, to be changed.  Nothing less than transformed.

Why do I constantly ask for these things?

I would like to be cool.  An acquaintance from Telluride is spending the winter in Cambodia, stand-up paddle boarding to raise awareness about water pollution or something like that.  That is so cool.

Instead, I am wandering through the Far East watching my thoughts.  So much less cool.

Also, if I were stand-up paddle boarding for clean water, I would actually want the aforementioned cleaning of water to occur.

Inner change and transformation?  Sometimes, I want to wave my arms up at the universe, shoot off a few flares to get its attention, and shout, NEVER MIND!  I take it back.  Then I could slink quietly back to the States, start teaching yoga and walking dogs, and pretend to everyone I’d accomplished what I set out to do.

I’ve never been much good at pretending.

When I wrote yesterday’s blog about body image and beauty, and thought I could get away with leaning on the wise and rebellious words of Eve Ensler to resolve the issue, I was mistaken.

The issue of body image for me goes so deep.  No one else’s words or experience can transform my beliefs about myself.

Other people’s words go far to challenge you, and move you into the space in which you can confront those demons, though.  Which is why I am writing this now – in the hopes that a word or phrase will take you somewhere inside yourself, to exorcise some false beliefs that pervade your every day life.

I reached a slightly chubby stage somewhere during elementary school.  My father would tell me I didn’t need butter on my bread at the dinner, and punish me for eating cookies.  He made remarks about women based on how they looked, daily.  For years, this was the main message I got – Your worth is based on how you look.  To him, I knew I didn’t look good.  So I couldn’t be worth much.

The more I knew I shouldn’t eat, the more I wanted to eat.  In early high school, some boys at the ultra-fancy private school I attended for half a year in California, called me Miss Piggy. I knew I wasn’t worth much to them.

That summer, I realized something that changed my high school life.  I didn’t have to eat.  The hollowness I felt from denying my body food made me feel superior to all the people who…ATE.

The attention I got when I shed all those childhood pounds enforced the whole idea – that when I am thin, I am good, loved, admired, protected.  Even my father took notice.  As he sat down with me to discuss his concerns about how thin I was getting, I could see he was a little proud.  Denial of hunger = strength.  I was his daughter at last.

After college, I fell in love.  I thought if I could look perfect, I would always keep him.  (He represented security).  I ran 5 miles every morning before work, 10 miles at lunch every day from my advertising agency to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  After work, I would swim for hours or do spinning classes.  I ate no carbs.  I looked perfect.  I was miserable.  I was afraid to stop.

After running a half marathon up King’s Mountain in Woodside, California, I had trouble walking.  I went to the doctor, and he cut the IT band away from each patella.  (I had already broken two toes and torn a ligament in my shoulder, just from exercising).

After recovery, I could no longer run long distances.  I broke up with my boyfriend and decided to stop dieting.  Since then, I’ve struggled with how to view food, exercise and my body.

I used to ask my friend Emily about her perspective.  She has gone through eating disorder counseling and is now becoming a counselor herself.  She says, “I got to the point where I stopped looking in mirrors and exercising.  I had to say ‘I would rather be fat than crazy like this.’  I had to really be ok with gaining weight.”

I stopped asking Emily after that.

Today, Jancy, Dr. Subhash’s wife, massaged me with sacks of special herbs to reduce the Vata (air) element in my body.  She mentioned that this might bring the Kapha (earth and water) element back into balance as well.  As she said this, she pointed to my hips.  The Kapha element has to do with fat.

Normally, a woman (well, anyone) pointing at my naked hips and mentioning fat would send me into a total mental and emotional tailspin.

Instead, I find myself thinking about Elizabeth’s hospital visit, my new business, friends and family at home, blogging, yoga.  I am not thinking (as much) about my body.  Other things…seem…are…more important.

Today, I think it’s happened.  I am willing to let go of control over how I look.

That.  Is.  Transformation, People!


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