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This Friday-Sunday I felt super stressed. I’m talking teeth chattering, stomach churning, throwing shade to complete strangers – stressed. I was anxious, super irritable, and may or may not have fallen into the bad habit of self-medicating with a very large bag of chips. For the ladies who are reading, it legit felt like PMS to the full max. But it wasn’t.
You might be asking why. And when I finally got the chance to sit down and reflect on my week, I asked myself the same question. Life is very good for me at the moment, so what was going on?
I started to go through my week. And while there were a few minor sticky situations at work and home, they weren’t of the sort that should cause me to feel like a dragon-lady ready to bite off the heads of every commuter on the PATH train. And then I realized…I forgot to meditate.
The benefits of meditation are numerous. When done on a daily basis, many have found that it can help with high blood pressure, depression, stress, serotonin levels, hyperactivity, and focus. Personally, I’ve found that meditation helps me cope with high-stress situations and helps me to stay focused. And when I don’t meditate, well, I turn into an angry dragon. :-P. I encourage everyone to try meditating for a month. I’m sure that you too will notice a difference. Here are two of my favorite exercises.I’m still a beginner, so if I can do these, so can you!
This is a form of mindfulness meditation (which I will describe more fully in another post) derived from the teachings of Dr. John Kabat-Zinn. During law school, I used this exercise before exams. Now, I use it when I feel scatterbrained or right before driving. It’s called the “5 senses drill.” Here’s an exert from the “mindfulness for students” website:
“1. Pause what you are doing for a moment and take one or two deep breaths to help bring you into the present moment.
2. Look around you, and silently name/focus on three things that you see in your immediate vicinity
3. Now, close your eyes, opening to the sounds around you, silently note and name three things that you can hear right now
4. Bringing your attention to your body, silently name three sensations that you can feel in this moment ( maybe warmth, tingling, contraction, coolness….. .)
5. Take one or two breaths to finish this mindfulness exercise.
Repeat this exercise every now and then to deliberately bring your awareness to what is happening in the present moment and to build your resilience to deal with exam anxiety and general pressures around this time of the academic year by cultivating mindfulness in this way.”
I find this yoga nidra to be extremely helpful for stress, lack of sleep, and particularly for – believe it or not – jet lag! After doing yoga nidra, I often find myself re-energized and ready to go about my day. It feels like I’ve slept for at least an extra 2 hours. It involves lying in shivasana (laying down, palms facing up, legs slightly apart) and concentrating on every inch of your body, from toes to eyelids. I specifically listen to an audio (free on spotify!) by Swami Janakananda. It’s also great if I’m exhausted and don’t have the mental energy to focus.
What types of meditation do you use?
It’s been quite some time since I’ve written here. And during that time, I have gone through quite a few changes. To boot, they include:
Graduating law school and taking the NY Bar Exam
Relaxing my food rules
Resurfacing vitiligo on my neck
Starting a new career path
My vitiligo began to return around this time last year. At that point in time, my diet was as “clean” as could be. Completely vegan, very little (if any) grains or nuts, and nothing that couldn’t be made in my own kitchen. Nevertheless, my skin was getting worse. As a result, I began to cut more and more out of my diet. Meanwhile, I hadn’t gotten a period for about 6 months, I was getting colds for the first time in years, and I generally felt very low in energy.
The solution to getting my period back was simple – I needed to eat what I felt like eating. This didn’t necessarily mean I had to stop being vegan, but it meant that I needed to get rid of rigid rules. I learned that eating cleanly was a way for me to feel in control of one aspect of my life. Even though I was unsure about my career and my personal life, I knew how to eat properly, and that gave me a sense of false security. As a result, the thought of eating something that wasn’t on my list of approved foods would cause mental havoc. Now, if there is nothing around for me to eat other than French fries and I’m starving, I will eat the French fries and I won’t kill myself over it. Instead, I will meditate afterwards, take a deep breath, and trust that my body will be able to balance itself out when I feed it nourishing greens the next day.
I’ve slowly learned that emotional well-being is as important, if not more important, than food. For me, this meant taking a step back from writing in legallyvegan (because writing about food only fueled my rigid food rules). It also meant I needed to stop trying to force myself to fit into the world of big law and pursue my real dream of working as a public interest lawyer (I will begin a new job as a public defender in the fall!) I began meditating daily. I traveled to Austria, Ireland, Morocco, and Costa Rica, and learned to let go of the various expectations I had set for myself in health, love, and my career.
If I’m being truly honest with my readers, I have not entirely stayed true to being vegan. I have eaten eggs three times within the past 5 months. I hate to admit this because I still advocate veganism. It is the moral choice. If we can avoid causing suffering to animals, we should. Even if we are “meant” to eat meat, we are also “meant” to live in caves, to walk around naked, etc., yet we don’t do any of these things. If we can practice compassion, we should. So in making this confession, I do not do so to say that you should stop being vegan. If you can be vegan, you should be. I admit weakness here, and I am still attempting to resolve the cognitive dissonance between my actions and beliefs.
For those of you who have emailed, I apologize for not being more responsive. The truth is I didn’t feel right giving advice about food when I was still figuring things out on my own. I debated canceling my blog altogether, and also debated turning it into a “mostly vegan” blog, and have decided against both. Ultimately, my blog has been about using food to enhance health. However, I’ve since learned that health is about so much more than food – it’s about being in touch with all our physical, mental, and- if you’re into it- spiritual selves. So I plan to write about health in all its aspects – not just food – and I invite my readers to focus on health in this holistic manner as well. I will be writing on meditation, food, sleep, and everything else that plays a role in health.
Thank you to those who have continued to follow and read, despite my inactivity I truly appreciate your comments!.<3