What Will You Let Go Of?

LettingGo by Mr Littlehand

Many parts of life are a process of letting go (or, at least they are to get through them in a healthy way). Having children means letting go of the self you were before children, and letting go of your privacy and “me time.” Raising children means gradually letting go of what you expected/planned they would be like so that you can see and enjoy who they are. Looking for a new job means letting go of the understanding of self as being part of the company you are leaving, and the idea that they can’t function without you. And there are so many more examples.

Sometimes, this process of letting go, or aparigraha, involves things that you expect to let go of. For example, all parents understand that they need to let go of their children some when the children start school. But, sometimes, it turns out that what you thought was not about letting go really is, or the letting go is really about something different.

Recently, I’ve been experiencing two “letting gos” that I didn’t realize were happening until they were (there are actually four, but I am going to only discuss two here).

After an odd conversation with a medical practitioner who didn’t really know me, I decided to grow my hair. This is a big deal because I’ve been bald for 15 years. I don’t really know if my hair will grow (due to autoimmune disease, which is why I shaved it in the first place), but I’m giving it a try. I went into this not realizing how much letting go it would require. The understanding of myself as a bald woman has apparently become very deeply ingrained over the last decade and a half. It’s a big part of my identity and has come to symbolize, for me, things beyond hairstyle: buddhism, rejection of gender standards, individuality, etc. As I watch my hair grow (very very slowly), I’m struggling with how to let go of this part of who I have been for a long time. It’s interesting to me, because I expected it when I cut my hair, but didn’t realize it would happen when I started growing it.

In a second experience of unexpected letting go, I’ve had an ongoing increase in body struggles over the last year. This has resulted in a range of things including, but not limited to, decreased strength and range of motion, reduction of fresh fruits/veg in my diet, and increased fatigue and tremors. The combination has had an interesting impact (and I probably mean awful) on my understandings of self as yogi. A few years ago, when I completed yoga teacher training, I felt so strong. I had a 5-6 day a week practice and it was kickin’. Headstands, handstands, arm balances, I was developing new abilities all the time. My diet was very sound, with about 80% raw food. I was meditating regularly. There have been a lot of changes in all of that. I’m finding it challenging to adjust my understanding of self as a yoga practitioner with a very different practice – very challenging. I didn’t expect this to happen, yet is has.

Despite the struggles that I’m having right now on my physical yoga practice, I know that yoga is a good way to practice letting go, and finding out what you need to let go of. The act of taking a pose and scanning the body and mind to see where the resistance is to moving into the pose is helpful and instructive, and good practice for the letting go we have to do in so many other arenas.

So, I keep practicing, because that’s what it is, right?

Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. It’s like boats. You keep your motor on so you can steer with the current. And when you hear the sound of the waterfall coming nearer and nearer, tidy up the boat, put on your best tie and hat, and smoke a cigar right up till the moment you go over. That’s a triumph.
~ Ray Bradbury, Farewell Summer

B-12 and Veganism – Flashback Friday

IMG_0468There are many vitamins and minerals that we hear about in the media, from medical professionals, and from our parents/family growing up. We mostly understand that we require some calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, and iron. We understand that we need protein (though there are very interesting debates about how much). However, many of us have no clue about the B vitamins. Vitamin B12 can be a particular issue for those on a vegan diet who do not consume fortified food/drink (like soymilk). Thus, raw vegans may be more inclined to a B12 deficiency.

Why is this important? B12 is a vitamin that the body requires (like folic acid) to make red blood cells. The body cannot synthesize B12; it must be consumed in the diet. I’m sure that I don’t need to explain that red blood cells are pretty important to our oxygenation and thus our overall health and wellness.

In a typical Westernized diet, people generally absorb sufficient quantities of B12 by eating meat, eggs, and dairy products. Those who consume a vegan diet, or those who eat a very limited variety of foods (which can be more common in older adults), may find it very difficult to consume adequate B12. Additionally, some medical conditions (including Crohn’s disease) and medications (including popular stomach acid reducers) may make it hard for the body to absorb enough B12 through diet.

Often, people are unaware that they have a B12 deficiency unless/until it becomes severe.  Symptoms can include fatigue, bleeding gums, weight loss, dizziness. Persistent B12 deficiency can even lead to nerve damage and the associated physical and mental symptoms.

If you suspect that you have a B12 problem, your physician can test for anemia and B12 levels. However, even if you don’t think testing is needed, it’s probably a good idea to think about how much B12 you are consuming and whether you need to supplement your dietary levels. For those on a vegan, but not raw, diet, soy milk and other processed vegan foods may be fortified with B12. For individuals on a raw diet, B12 (or full spectrum B) vitamins are readily available in most pharmacies, GNC stores, or online.

If you would like more information about the role of B12 in the body and supplementation, check out:

American Family Physician article on B12 deficiency

The Vegetarian Society B12 information sheet

veganmofo_2

Would You Please Stop Interrupting?

A month or so ago, I had a bout of IBS.  After a few days of trying to just tough it out, eating the usual fruits and veggies – even though I wanted crackers and bananas more, I did some research about what I should be eating to calm the system down.  Interestingly, I found that the items I had felt like eating (crackers, bread, bananas, applesauce) were exactly what I needed to eat to get my system back on track.  Having been authorized by Google, I accepted that diet for a few weeks and now feel much better.

Last week, my body seemed to need a rest day from yoga, and I was not happy about it.  But, after arguing with myself, I took it.  And the next day my yoga practice went really well – I felt strong and good and the back pain I was having started to dissapate.

Toward the end of last week, a friend was worrying with me about why she wanted to eat so much (and mostly carbs) during the week before menstruation.  We did a little research and concluded that, between the drop in estrogen and the drop in serotonin that  seems to occur at that time, it makes utter sense to consume more complex carbs.

Then, yesterday (Sunday), I found myself totally exhausted at 10 a.m.  I was so tired my eyes were burning and I had to go lay down for an hour.  As usual, I was scolding myself about it, when it occurred to me that a similar thing had happened the previous Sunday, but I blamed it on going out Saturday night.  And, when I thought about it, the Sunday before had been the same way, and so on.  After pondering for a while, it finally struck me that I have been taking my weekly large dose of methotrexate on Saturday evening.  And what is a major side effect of MTX?  Fatigue.  Ohhh.

So, what’s the moral here?  I think it’s that sometimes, or often, our bodies know what they need and they try to tell us.  We just don’t always listen.  Toddlers get it.  They will sometimes go a day or three eating next to nothing.  And then suddenly eat 6 bananas in an afternoon.  And maybe the next day they only want green beans and chicken.  It drives parents insane.  We think our little dears are going to starve, but they don’t.  If we make healthy food available and let them make selections, they do pretty well.  They haven’t learned how to shut down that body voice yet.

Maybe we should take a page from the book of toddlers.  Eat when we are hungry (though we may have to think about what we are hungry for, because as adults we have hunger all mixed up with other things), nap when we are tired, smile when we are happy, cry when we are sad.  We probably shouldn’t bite anyone, but other than that it sounds not so bad.

What is your body trying to tell you?