I’m an epic FAIL at Meditation!

It’s time to address this issue: for years, I’ve shamefully felt I’m a failure at meditation.

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It seems like a great thing to be “good” at. Especially for someone who does what I do for a living—Practicing a holistic lifestyle.

Recently, I’ve turned a corner in my meditation. I want to share this with you because, as I’ve been quizzing folks lately, I’ve learned most of my friends think they “can’t” meditate, either. That they’re somehow broken or dysfunctional.

Lately, I’ve been studying Buddhism.

shutterstock_211880074My daughter, Emma, age 19, is in Thailand doing a humanitarian internship. I told her my goal is to read 3 books on Buddhism by the time she comes home in August. She has loved Buddhism since she was very young. We bought her Buddhas, small and large, to decorate her room with for many years. I’m going to Thailand, myself, this Fall.

I’m fascinated by Liz Gilbert’s struggle in Eat, Pray, Love, where she meditates for a month straight in an ashram in India. Fighting her easily-bored mind, obsessing about her just-failed marriage, her month of meditation was, at first, anything but peaceful and still.

I’m fascinated by Buddhist monks who spend thousands of hours of their lives quieting their mind and becoming totally emotionally disciplined.

I suck at meditating. I want to just admit this right up front. But this year, I’ve revisited the subject, started doing it again, and have learned enough to give myself—and hopefully, you—some hope. Enough hope to stick with it.

The health benefits of this age-old practice are starting to be borne out by actual research. The brain actually builds new connections when you meditate regularly and serotonin increases. (Who doesn’t want more serotonin?)

Many report achieving a more rested state from daily meditation rather than from napping. However, meditating once in a while is almost pointless: it’s like exercise, you simply must do it every day.

Buddhism says that the mind is like a wild monkey. Total Attention Deficit Disorder. Jumping off the walls and the ceiling. Even worse, Buddhism describes the mind as sometimes like a DRUNK wild monkey. A drunk, wild monkey who just got bitten by a scorpion. It’s not a pretty metaphor, but doesn’t it feel like the inside of your brain?

When I read this metaphor, I felt strangely better. My mind isn’t “defective.” Neither is yours. The fact that your brain is always tearing off in a “thought story” doesn’t make you crazy, and it certainly doesn’t mean you have a Ritalin deficit. It means you have a normal but undisciplined state of consciousness. It means you have been subjected to a lot of stress. It means you live in the world with the rest of us, bombarded by stimuli like no other people in the history of the planet.

It means you need meditation. What if you could change all that, control it?

And in Buddhism, “the mind” doesn’t mean that grey matter we call the brain. It’s more than that. It’s a state of consciousness that encompasses the brain, heart, feelings, thoughts—far more than your brain.shutterstock_243586615

In a minute, I’m going to demystify meditation. I’m going to gently take away your thought that you need to take classes in it, read a book on it, or practice it with expensive CD’s, religious texts, or chants in another language. I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing, in simple steps, that anyone can do, spending $0.00.

(You can do that stuff if you want to. Learning is good. There’s a Great Courses in Mindfulness on Audible, by a Harvard PhD, and I really loved listening to all 12 hours! My perspective isn’t the only one, of course. But keep in mind people meditated for thousands of years before a few people started making money MYSTIFYING it. If we’re trying to “clear the mental clutter,” let’s start with decluttering how we think of meditation.)

Like yoga, meditation is always “practice.” And  it’s worth something, even if you finish your meditation totally agitated and anxious. (It happens! To the best of us. Read up on it—it was a surprise to me to learn that others have this experience. A lot.)

Even if, in your 20 minutes of meditation, you achieve a clear mind, without mentally chasing off after “thought stories,” for only 15 seconds at a time, a few times, that’s progress. It’s worth doing. Meditation is HARD. Did you know that just a few minutes every few hours of CLOSED EYES is immensely helpful to your eye and brain health? Think on that. This will help you see even your “epic fail” meditations as “worth doing!”

Because the practice of meditation may be just as worth your time and effort as your GREEN JUICE / SMOOTHIE and your DAILY WORKOUT and your GETTING ENOUGH QUALITY SLEEP and your GETTING ENOUGH CLEAN WATER. Put meditation in there as the 5th super-important thing. That’s how big a deal it is!

I like some YouTube meditations. They’re free, and there are lots of them. Most are too long for me. For a long time, my resistance was, “I don’t have time to meditate.” I wanted to spend my time doing active things—I literally NEVER have as much time as I want for tennis, yoga, skiing, and socializing.

Are you like me? I’m changing my thinking on this.

Bob Proctor’s Abundance Meditation on YouTube is nice, in the morning. I think the long term goal would be to not have to listen to anything at all…..to be completely still, completely serene, empty my mind, and be a non-judgmental observer of my thoughts, learning to be completely present.

The long term goal is to find peace in a tumultuous world, anywhere you are, in any circumstance. Many say it takes 10 years, or 30 years, to achieve that. I’m going to choose to be at peace with how long it takes and my imperfection.

Because I’m not there just yet. And I won’t likely be there anytime soon. Peace to you if you haven’t arrived at the ultimate state of transcendentalism, either. Namaste. Be on the path and work towards more “flow.”

Meditation is “work,” like all good things. I’ve arrived at the decision that it’s work worth doing. I’m committed. I’m far more Zen now than I was 15 years ago, despite more stress, more disappointment and more responsibilities than I ever had back then. That’s progress, right? Very slight progress every day means massive progress in a year or a decade.

Here are the basics of meditation, that anyone can do:

  1. Sit somewhere. Doesn’t have to be on the floor or in any kind of lotus position. A chair or couch is fine. Sit with your spine straight. Don’t be lying in your bed. You are trying to associate good, aligned posture with the aligned Zen state you are aiming for in your meditation. This also helps you not doze off.
  2. Set a time. Start at 20 minutes. Maybe one day you work up to 60 minutes, but commit to at least 20 minutes a day. And do it Every. Single. Day.
  1. shutterstock_178645091Do deep breathing, if you wish. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Count, if you wish. Progressively relax different areas of the body, scalp to toes, if you wish. Place your hands facing up with your thumb and middle finger attached in a circle and slowly chant, “oooohhhmmmm” if you want. (It gives you a focal point. Repeating a mantra is another focal point you could choose.)

Nothing wrong with those techniques, but the most common principle is to keep opting out of the “thought stories” you find entering your mind. Focus on the breath. (The thought stories are normal—be patient with yourself, but just keep letting thoughts go and re-focusing on the breath.)

Notice the sensation of breathing in ways you’ve never actually been conscious of before. Choose specific things about your breath to focus on every time your mind strays and you must come back. If you stay completely focused on your breathing for 30 seconds at a time, you’re doing great! It’s not easy. It’s a discipline in controlling your mind that can have very positive effects on your life.

Above all, once you go through these focusing rituals (or not), strive to be fully present in the moment, attempt to sit with no judgment, observe thoughts like clouds that pass through without attaching to them. If you feel pain or discomfort, or you’re bored, just observe it.

Be an observer of what is happening in the moment you are in. Try to stay fully present—it’s a good practice, because most of us do 99% of our thinking about what happened in the past, or what may happen in the future.

Opt out of judgment—shutterstock_264891191of yourself, of others, of situations. You are increasing mindfulness, which is part of the gain in the practice of meditation. In the rest of your day, you might judge too often, feel anger or impatience, but try to release that during your state of meditation. Towards an eventual peace and acceptance in the whole scope of living. The more you practice meditation, the more likely you come to leverage what you learn to a state of more peace and acceptance and even love throughout your day.

This is all meditation has to be. You can do it with peaceful music, or silence. On a mat, or not.

I’m going to meditate for 30 days straight, 20 minutes each day, no matter what. No matter how chaotic my day is or my consciousness is. If for nothing else, I’ll do it, even if I keep feeling like a “fail,” just for the discipline of DOING IT and what I may gain in the long term from it. Do it with me?

I’m back from Switzerland, and I hope you come, next time

Robyn and peopleIf you’ve been following GreenSmoothieGirl for a while, you might know that every 6 to 12 months, I go to my “home away from home,” the lovely Paracelsus al Ronc in the southern Swiss Alps.

I discovered them on a research tour I did, for 3 ½ years, looking for where to send people who want to opt out of “traditional” (chemo/radiation) cancer treatments in favor of something that detoxifies and rebuilds immunity.

It’s the most all-inclusive, beautiful, skilled, diet-focused, medically supervised place I found, on several continents. But imagine when I discovered that they do 7-day liver detox program, or a 7-day heavy-metal detox program. (All of us, and I mean ALL of us, need both of those.)

goatsI’ve led quite a few trips to Al Ronc, and I just got back from having a blast with the folks in these photos. And the goats in the photo. (Above the clinic, a short hike takes you to goat herds above the hamlet of Santa Maria. We also went to an amazing symphony at the gorgeous 600-year old church in Santa Maria.)

Robyn and girlsYou’re confused by these ladies drinking Prosecco at a liver detox? GSG readers from Canada to New Jersey to Texas. Well, that’s a good point. We eat vegetarian meals, beautifully prepared, three times a day. But on Friday night, after the “liver flush” on Day 6, we enjoy a Gala Dinner with Dr. Petra Wiechel, M.D. and her husband, Ulf, my good friends who own the clinic. In this photo, Marianna bought a couple bottles of Prosecco and shared with everyone before dinner got started. All detox and no play……well, and we made a couple of sightseeing and shopping trips into the beautiful lakeside towns in Switzerland and Italy as well.

Robyn and Russ Openshaw (Robyn's brother from Dallas), May 2015 overlooking Lake Maggiori
Robyn and Russ Openshaw (Robyn’s brother from Dallas), May 2015 overlooking Lake Maggiori

All over North America, Central American, Europe, and Asia, I found nowhere with a value like this clinic offers. Diagnostics, treatments, and R&R. You can read more about the clinic and why a $25 million facility is able to give us incredible prices for the detox program that would be unsustainable anywhere else, even Mexico. I will release a short video with footage I just took at Al Ronc, in a few months. Stay tuned for that by watching my newsletter.

I already can’t wait to go back. You can go, without me, over Thanksgiving this year (for about $4,000 USD), or next April. I’ll be leading a trip in August 2016. You can check the dates out and let us know if you’re up for a trip of a lifetime.

 

How You Stay Healthy in a Life Crisis

sad face2A longtime GSG reader came to my 12 Steps to Whole Foods class recently. (Which I’m teaching again on June 6. In Orem, Utah.) She’s just been hit with a double whammy—literally the two biggest life stressors there are, all at once. An unfaithful spouse and consequent divorce…and loss of a full-term baby.

She’s depressed, devastated—and those around her have no idea what to say. Or how to support. Her children are reeling, too.

My background as a therapist (my advanced degree is in social work) merges with my nutrition background, which merge with my own similar challenges in life. That explains my next comments…..

She asked me how I survived my own crisis related to losses much like hers. I told her, “The main thing is, I never let go of my nutrition, and some basic self-care. Sure, take care of the kids, but put the oxygen mask on yourself first! Yoga is non-negotiable. Ditto running. So is a daily quart of green smoothie, and no free-fall into junk food hell. Show up at social events. Even if you’re not feeling it…just go anyway. You’ll get through it, and be happy again—and those things will help. Depression lies to you and tells you it’s permanent. There IS happiness on the other side of this, and I found it, and so will you. It’s just hard to visualize it right now.”

self careI checked out with her if she’s doing X, Y, and Z, to make sure she’s functional instead of spiraling downward, and I learned she’s let go of some important self-care that will get her through. I asked her if, before she went to bed that night, would she just text me that she made a list of the things she’d LIKE to be doing, if she weren’t so depressed.

She did so, that night. It’s a starter step.

I’ve been through those biggest life stressors—divorce, and loss of a child. (Though mine were just several miscarriages—not loss of a full term baby. It’s also important to note I wasn’t married to a cheater, and my divorce was my choice. Thus, both of her losses dwarf my own, not that anyone wants to compare. Hard to imagine hers as worse, since both were devastating for me. My heart is hurting, for this GreenSmoothieGirl friend.)

I hope you’ll take note of this, if you’re suffering, too. I’ve climbed out of some of the hardest things people go through, things I’ve talked about on this blog, and things I haven’t. The mighty little green smoothie has everything to do with HOW.

love yourselfI hope when life hits you hard—as it does, now and then—that you tend to these important things:

  1. Your self-care is more important now than ever.
  2. Always get your endorphins—break a sweat every day, however that looks for you.
  3. Do yoga. Period. I mean it. You’re literally wringing toxins out of your nervous system.
  4. Pray, or meditate, or both.
  5. Drink a quart of green smoothie a day—more greens, less fruit.
  6. Avoid sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and other things that exacerbate depression.
  7. Find things to be grateful for, and turn your thoughts to those, every day.

If you’re in a really tough place, right now, please make a list of this kind of coping, rebuilding, and self-love stuff you know you need to be doing. Tape it to your mirror and don’t take it down until you’re doing all of it.

LOVE to you. I’m praying for you.

Reflections on Life and Blogging….and my new lecture starting in September

energy (2) (Small)Nikki at GSG has been going through 7.5 years of my blog, deleting old stuff and cleaning it up. She’ll text me something I said years ago that strikes her as funny, considering where I “live” now. She sends commentary about how she’s getting to know a previous version of me.

Like Madonna, we reinvent ourselves every so often. We have to. You’ve heard the saying, “Change or die!” Change has defined my life, probably yours too? Just when I get to a “new normal,” it seems things change again—often radically. In my family, in my professional life, in my private world of emotions and thoughts.

When I put the GSG site up, I ran a huge, thriving garden and three composting boxes and 12 fruit trees, feeding my family of 6. I’m now struggling a bit to adjust to having just one child left at home. There’s almost nobody around to eat whatever I’d plant, and I’m on the road a lot. When I’m home, I find myself living on quarts of green smoothies and almond bars.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since my divorce 6.5 years ago, it’s to be flexible. To let go. To adapt without resistance.

flexibleI believe, and say often, “Flexible people are happy people.” This week I put my ambitious humanitarian daughter Emma on a plane for yet another humanitarian adventure. This time, for several months in Thailand she is paying for, entirely, herself. Goodbye again. Moving forward with grace and enthusiasm into new chapters in life has been key in maintaining my joie de vivre.

When I taught my son to ski, I told him, “If you lean backwards, you’ll fall, and more importantly, you’ll feel scared, which won’t help you get better. If you push yourself to lean forward, into the downhill, you’ll have far more control, especially making turns, and you’re going to enjoy skiing more.” Sometimes I kick and scream for a minute, until I remember my core value of “leaning into” change.

I believe we are happiest when we are keenly self-aware, but we also consciously let go of negative feelings, of terrible experiences that haunt us, of self-criticism and criticism of others. My observation, as I near 5 decades on the planet, is that happy relationships are ones where both people give each other wide latitude to “just be.” Be who we are—flaws and quirks, all of it. Not just “live and let live,” but enjoying the differences and quirks of others, and be forgiving of the small ways they may fail us.

I’m going to talk about far more than nutrition in my upcoming lecture tour titled,

Secrets for Achieving Radical Health At Any Age

(Right now we’re ticketing in Utah, California, and Texas, so grab your VIP or free tickets.) As always, I want to share only messages that I believe will bless your life.

I want to talk about what I’ve learned that has changed my life and my health for the better, in all areas. Not just physically.

Just when you think you have things figured out, Life reminds you how much more you have to learn. I had a year like that, last year, in 2014. The last 8 months of it were, very frankly, the worst experience of my life. Worse than my divorce.

I thought I had a grip on forgiving, letting go, and not letting negatives have my energy. It’s become a pretty strong talent of mine. But a few times in life, it’s just bigger than you can handle. In that moment, anyway. You process and release it in bits, in stages.

On my own, though, my process is to learn how to regain trust and faith, how to heal after difficult experiences, and how to thrive and be happy again.

measure waist (2) (Small)Thanks for being patient with me. I’M BACK. So glad to feel positive about the future and back out in love and light. Now I have more life experiences and “key learnings” to draw on. I feel my character deepened and I have more to offer. I’m making lots of YouTube videos about things I think will be helpful and relevant for you, on your nutrition journey and your life path.

My next blog will be about how, in the worst crisis of my life so far, I stayed upright, and never even got sick—amazingly, maintaining great physical health through it all.

(Don’t you love “tender mercies?” Compensatory blessings? Noticing them and feeling gratitude is part of how I turn the corner on major adversity. My friend Megan W., who is only 40 but has been through both divorce and stage 4 cancer, says she journals starting with this every day: “And the good news is…..”) But I want to share with you more about how I made sure that was the case, that my physical health was strong through a moral, emotional, and mental crisis.

Stay tuned for my next blog, on that. And hope to see my Utah, California, and Texas friends on my new lecture tour starting in September!

Sandra in Canada has a great story of health through plant-based eating!

Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Dr. Joel Furhman

Recently we got this story from Sandra P. in Canada I thought you would enjoy!

My family started our plant-based journey less than a year ago. My husband saw Dr. Joel Fuhrman on the Dr. Oz show, and cut out all animal products, as well as all processed foods and oils from his diet! I was stunned by his declaration and told him that if he thought I was going to cook two separate meals for our family, he was crazy! I mean how could he ask me, with my Italian descent, to cut olive oil from my diet!

Nonetheless, he ignored my drama and began eating only whole plant-based foods (vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds) and he started losing weight. That did it for me! There was no way he would lose weight effortlessly and leave me behind with the extra weight I couldn’t get rid of no matter what I tried!

veggiesDon’t get me wrong; this is a lifestyle change that doesn’t happen overnight! It took me a while to completely cut all animal products. My family thought I was insane and my mom tried to force feed me chicken! The hardest thing for me to give up completely was cheese! Now I notice that dairy products give me cramps, hives, and gas.

My children have been off dairy since September. One of my sons, Michael, was diagnosed with asthma as a baby and has been on puffers since then! This is the first season that he hasn’t had a chest infection!

Overall health benefits for all of us: weight-loss, anxiety and depression gone, sleeping better, more energy, and I’m always in a good mood, which is a bonus for the rest of the family, too!

Forks over KnivesYou already know about the amazing Robyn Openshaw, also known as Green Smoothie Girl! She is helping to spread the word about the benefits of plant-based nutrition and has already changed so many lives! Watch Forks Over Knives, and read Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and Dr. Campbell’s The China Study too!

The greatest gift that I gave my family was that of knowledge! They can now take their health into their own hands, and can make our world a better place, one person at a time!

God Bless,

Sandra Perri

 

 

Six Reasons I Hate Calorie Counting and Don’t Do It

shutterstock_81459505 (Small)When I changed my diet to eating whole, plant-based foods, I said goodbye to calorie counting forever. By eating 60-80% raw, 95% whole, plant-based foods, I don’t need to count calories. I don’t think it’s a complete waste, my years of obsession with calories when I was young. Because it’s helpful to know what the foods are, that are very high in food energy but low in nutrition.

In all fairness, I’ll say that to get obesity under control, you could do WORSE than counting and restricting calories, for a period of time. It’s certainly better than doing nothing.

However, counting calories as a long-term approach to health doesn’t work. Here’s why:

  1. It’s unsustainable. Nobody does it long-term. Because it’s boring, tedious, and restrictive. It also leads to an unhealthy way of looking at food, creating fear through measurement.
  1. It has a tendency to cause you to eat packaged foods, which are almost always processed. Those are the foods that have calories marked on them. It’s a head game, though. They’re packaging small portions, or using fake foods to lower calories or fat. In fact, this can be self-defeating. Because the lowest calorie, highest-nutrition foods don’t come in packages at all.
  1. You can’t nail down how many calories you actually need, and software predictions of how many you need are inaccurate. Some days it’s many hundreds of calories higher than other days, depending on how many hours you were awake, or how much physical activity you did. I believe assigning a rigid number to any given day leads calorie-counters to feel shame, which affects their natural enjoyment for food and some their decision-making freedom.

What if your calorie-counting software says you can have only 1600 calories, so you TRY for that number. But unbeknownst to your software, you actually had a high caloric-needs day and THAT’S why you were so hungry and thus you “screwed up” and ate “too much?”

  1. Calorie counts on charts are inaccurate. A variety of factors affect how many calories are in any given piece of food, and there’s much you don’t know about the supply chain and the ingredients. You don’t know how much your chicken breast weighs. And if you’re actually WEIGHING it, well, my Reason #1 applies, above.

(Sometimes we have to ask ourselves if the insanities of the modern age just breed more insanities. Can you imagine cavemen counting calories? The whole outrage is simply an outgrowth of the processed food diet. If we eliminate processed food, we don’t have to invent silly counting programs.)

  1. “A calorie is a calorie is a calorie” is a lie! The Oxford-Cornell China Project is the biggest nutrition study in history. Studying 6,500 people in 65 counties of China, the researchers learned that plant eaters can eat 200 calories a day more than meat eaters, and stay thin!

high fiber foodsIt turns out, the body doesn’t even absorb all of the calories in foods high in fiber. That’s your greens, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. (The ones I’ve been teaching you to eat more of!) If your friend ate 500 calories less than you, but it was Skittles and a white-bread ham sandwich, but you actually ate more calories in that meal, but it was whole, raw, plant foods, you’re still the winner. Not only in your overall health, aging, and energy—but very possibly in weight maintenance as well!

  1. Counting calories creates a bunny trail, potentially keeping you ironically further from good health. People do programs like Weight Watchers, where junk food is totally endorsed, and all food is equal, but is just assigned points. I’d rather have you focus on eliminating or minimizing refined sugars, and not eating foods containing neurotoxins, and absolutely minimizing refined salt in the diet. All of these have a dramatic, documented effect on weight.

My conclusion? Profit industries won’t support this way of thinking:

But I’d rather maximize nutrient dense foods. Greens, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. I’d rather avoiding processed and animal foods. This matters far more than counting calories.