Permission to be Thin - External to Internal Transformation
How much is each of us capable of change? It’s a question we ask in hardship, when we are in struggle, or contraction. I have felt the most joyous at the tip of a positive shift I’ve craved, alive and thriving in my own growth. Waking up my first morning in Egypt to the sounds of horse whips, strolling the pond at Kashi Ashram at late night during a COR retreat, teaching my first yoga class at 8 Limbs. But when I’m not there, I ask myself, what can I leave behind? How can I paint my dream into an uncertain future? What’s possible?
A song that’s been on high rotation in my Spotify is “Different” by Micah Tyler. The acoustic tune is one that I can listen to over and over. The lyrics resonate with a longing I know well. He sings “I don’t want to spend my life stuck in a pattern, I don’t want to gain this world, but lose what matters.” It’s both inspiring and melancholy. It asks us to look past the surface to what makes our hearts glow.
Last weekend at Genesis Spiritual Center, Rev. Gayle Dillon gave a talk on The Creative Law of Prosperity. She reminded me of a truth I’ve put in a box on the shelf: we all have our own glass ceilings. Despite the transformations we crave, we limit ourselves so much. In the past year I’ve changed pretty much everything about myself: where I live, who I spend time with, what I do for money, how I eat, what I do for fun. At times like this I wonder if I’m even the same person.
Because of these changes, it’s no surprise, I have felt totally out of control. Last year I followed a calling to the desert, and now I’m in the cool climate of the Pacific Northwest, pounding the pavement. How much am I allowed to manifest? Which of my many dreams is the one I need to walk towards? The peak feelings are harder to reach when you’re in the shaded valleys. I’ve been aiming to shift my career into wellness and purpose-work. But I had to move suddenly this month, and this means my cash flow has to double in a two month period. The yoga teaching, tour guiding, and marketing I’m doing now won’t be enough. I have to change directions, change my income, and in effect, my concept of self. Even though I have the tools to reconceive of these challenges as opportunities, the lack of control has felt like a slow and consistent wash of panic.
So I decided to control the one thing I can: what I eat. I have gone Ketogenic. My entire life I’ve had a stubborn gut – a belly ring like a life preserver that circles my torso. Ironically, it prevented a lot of “life” activities when I was young. I thought I’d try Keto for a week, maybe a month, and see how I feel. I’m two weeks in and so far, I feel awesome. True, I feel annoyed when my friends name a pizza place for our shared dinner. I feel selfish and singularly focused- it takes so much time to prepare these meals. But I like the willpower I’m growing to say no to things I want. A surprise I’ve noted though is that I have a voice in my head that screams at me not to eat differently, because if I lose weight I’ll only gain it all back – in duplicate. Maybe that’s true. Maybe not. But why curse a spell before it’s cast?
My cousin in LA has been eating Ketogenically for years, and I’ve made fun of him for it the whole time. Every meal we shared, it seemed like he was eating bacon. But he’s fit. Despite family obesity, he’s the kind of fit you pray for come swimsuit season. Why not give it a try? I’m two weeks in. I don’t have a scale, and the soft tape measure I use to measure my waist and hips is still packed in a moving box somewhere. But I do know this: my clothes are loose. Nothing fits. My belly feels different.
And this is what I thought of when Gayle mentioned that glass ceiling. I don’t know if I want to get thinner than I am. Sometimes I think we’d prefer a Netflix version of our life, one where we don’t actually change, but imagine it. When we get close to that change, we start to dilly dally, take our time. Or for me, I start to ask questions. It’s not that I lack the willpower, it’s that the soft ring around my middle has been part of my identity since adolescence. It is a visible reminder of what I’ve eaten – by our society’s standards – unfortunate baggage. In emotional parlance, wounds. Can I still be myself when my wounds are invisible? Can I walk through the doors this new version of my body creates? Can I still be seen as an imperfect person, and accepted as that? Maybe I’m afraid of being that small.
I am not sure if I’ll continue Keto, but I know I feel different. I know I want the shape of my life to change, to improve. I seek the kind of abundance that you only get if you forfeit the first marshmallow – and I’ve already eaten an entire package of marshmallows – metaphorically. So for me saying no is a good thing right now. Expansion is only possible when you see your own limitations and accept them as they are. Noticing your own glass ceiling helps you break it down.
Micah Tyler sings about giving up the world to see what matters. And whatever your faith, what matters most is something that’s intangible, something beyond our ability to name it. It is something much deeper than the soft parts of our body – but we can only reach into it because of these soft – and firm – bodies we have. It’s something like love, like peace, like the universe. I think though, to be different, to say yes to something we’ve not yet said yes to, we have to say no. A taught body, a loose grip, the kind of no that fills us up.