Wednesday, January 29, 2014

No itch is enternal

On January 19th, I returned from a ten day Vipassana retreat.

I would like to use this post to explain what the trip was about. However, let me take this moment to say that I have not done serious study on the topic of Vipassana meditation. I did no research prior to my trip and have yet to do any research upon my return. Everything I write in this post will be based on my understanding after completing the course. So if I'm wrong about anything, I apologize.

There are times in life when you are convinced that you are headed down a path for a specific reason, then once you get there you realize that God had an entirely different purpose for sending you.

That is how this trip felt to me. I was convinced I was only going to see if I could survive not talking for 10 days. I just wanted to know if I could do it, that was all. But it wasn't until I got there that I realized that God had sent me on this trip as part of my efforts to better understand my depression and how best to manage it in the future.

In this context Vipassana is a form of meditation where the ultimate goal is liberation from misery and to purify the soul.

I know that may seem like a pretty lofty promise, but actually there is a pretty interesting theory behind this. But I'll explain more about that in a moment.

The technique can be taught by attending a course at any of the Vipassana retreat centers all across the world, including 16 centers in the United States alone.

During the course you are asked to take certain measures to achieve mental silence. This is done by adhering to the Noble Silence rule (no talking, no eye contact, no body language, no communication of any kind with the fellow students) and by not keeping a journal or having any reading materials.

Why no reading materials? Because they want you to base your opinion on Vipassana solely on what you experience. They don't want you to agree just because they said so or because you read it in a book somewhere.

Why no journaling? This was never actually addressed in the course but my guess is that sometimes when you write something down that idea can become fixed in your brain. But the whole idea behind this study is that sensations change and things pass away. You should base your opinion on what you experience in that moment, and shouldn't carry over any bias you had from the day before.

Why Noble Silence? Mainly for all the reasons I've listed in answer to the other two rules, but also because you don't want to compare what you are learning or feeling to what someone else is experiencing. You may think you had a really good sitting until you hear that your friend had an amazing one and now all of a sudden your experience wasn't good enough. Plus, you can also use the experiences of others to distract you from working on your own issues.

During the course you spend the first two days focused on the respiration passing through the nose. You spend all that time meditating only focusing on being aware of the breath passing in and out at the softest most natural level.

On the third day you start to become aware of the sensations that occur anywhere from the bridge of the nose down to the sensations on the upper lip.

You know how sometimes you can think of your nose or your ear or any other body part, and all of a sudden it heats up or starts buzzing? Well, those are the types of sensations we are talking about. Buzzing, heat, coldness, perspiration, or pressure. Those sensations are occurring all the time but our minds are usually too distracted to notice.

On the fourth day we actually started the Vipassana part of the meditation, where you aim to become aware of those same sensations all over the body. And you don't move...for an hour!

When you come in and sit down you can sit in as comfortable position as you can find, but no matter how comfortable a position you start with after about 20 minutes...not so comfortable anymore.

This is probably the most important part to the whole teaching. The goal during this part of the meditation is to get to the point where you can observe the sensations, even the painful ones like numbing, as neither pain or pleasure.

Which brings me back to that theory I mentioned earlier. 

One of the biggest theories behind this teaching is that all unhappiness stems from cravings or aversions. Something bad happens, you don't like it, you don't want it to happen again, you create an aversion to it. Something good happens, you love it, you want to feel that way always, and you create a craving to have that feeling all the time. The more cravings and aversions you build up the harder it is to find contentment.

All these years that we have been living we have been training our bodies to react to those feelings of cravings and aversions.

Vipassana teaches us at the most basic level how to not react. 

You spend all this time concentrating on the sensations of your body. Suddenly, you have an itch. You must learn to observe the itch and not react to it. It is believed that each time you do this, you are changing the habit patterns of your mind and breaking loose from you bigger miseries like anger, depression and anxiety.

I know this may seem impossible, but it is important to remember that pain is only pain when put in context. For example, sometimes you will be sitting there with your legs crossed and get this intense burn or ache in your calf or thigh. You see it as a bad pain. However, after a great workout you have that burn in your calf or thigh and you will see it as a good pain because it is proof that you worked hard. It is the same sensation but in one scenario the pain is torture and in the other it is welcomed.

Anyway, once the methods of Vipassana were taught to us on the fourth day, we spent the remaining part of our course perfecting this. 

I have yet to perfect it. I was able to remain detached from the pain, but I really struggled with getting restless. I would want to move after about 15 minutes just for the sake of moving. I don't know what that says about me and my depression, but there you have it. 

Since my return I've had two questions asked of me more then any others:

What was the hardest part? 

Would I do it again?

I had two things that were the hardest part. Not having a pen, not being able to journal, drove me insane and made my brain feel like mush by the time the course was over. I'm the type of person that learns best having the directions in front of me and being able to take notes and write things down, even if I never read over what I wrote.  It is the only way that I feel like I can articulate and really get a grasp on what I'm thinking about something.

The other thing was to have one of my closest friends four rows in front of me, passing me in the hall, sitting next to me at lunch, and not being able to acknowledge her. Especially when I was thinking through some pretty tough stuff and I knew she was as well. That was painful.

Would I do it again? If you had asked me on the morning of the tenth day my answer would have been: "Are you f*%#ing kidding me!?!"

But once I was finally able to vent my frustrations and hear that I was not alone, I was able to see the experience for what it really was. I was able to see it for what I actually did learn and appreciate how it did help me. 

Today, my answer is, yes. I would most absolutely do it again. 

However, they do have shorter courses and I would go to one of those first. If I really felt like the shorter courses couldn't give me what I needed, then I would try to muster up the strength to complete a longer course again. But I would definitely try the shorter course first.

Thank you so much for reading this post, I'm sorry if it felt really long and boring! If you have any questions please leave them in the comments and I will answer everything I can.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Let me explain...

About a little over a week ago I had a 20 minute break between my two morning classes. I decided to entertain myself by typing up a draft for my next post on this blog from my cell phone!

The problem with typing up a blog post on your phone is that the buttons are small so it is easy to accidentally press the wrong one, also the screen doesn't always show you what you are typing so it is easy to get lost in a sentence.

However I thought this was all really funny so before my class started I decided to go ahead and post it so that my loyal followers could have a good laugh at my expense.

My intention was to also go back and retype the post that night...

Well, obviously that didn't happen!

So this is attempt number two:

All I really wanted to say in that last post was that things in my life are going really good right now. I have been 30 for 6 months now and I could not be happier. My life has never felt so positive and full of direction before. And my self confidence is through the roof!!!

Now see that is something that I spend a lot of time talking about on this blog, my lack of self confidence. 

So here is the epiphany on how I finally started loving myself...

In Weight Watchers we have a tool we refer to as an "anchor". 

Basically it works like this:

  1. Think of an emotion that you are somewhat lacking in but want to tap into. 
  2. Think of a moment or an instant when you were overflowing with that emotion. 
  3. Think about the physical things that were surrounding you in that moment.
  4. Find one of those objects, or an object that will represent and symbolize that time, and when you hold it in your hands focus on your energy and spirit into recreating the emotion that you had felt before. 
  5. Now, anytime you need a hit of that power and strength grab that object (your new anchor) and allow that emotion to wash over you.
Well, it took me a long time to decide on something. I spent an entire morning at work going over everything I could think of but nothing fit. When out of nowhere I realized that the last time that I felt truly and entirely happy, beautiful, confident, strong, and positive was at my friend Mary's wedding...three summers ago.

Weddings are a big deal and I take them very seriously. In spite of the fact that this was also the summer that I was at my lowest with my depression and didn't think I would still be alive come the 4th of July, on the night of Mary's wedding I told my inner demons to shut up and take the night off. 

I didn't want for Mary to be worried or concerned about me for one second that night because it was her wedding and her big day. I was not about to steal one moment of that day from her by being insecure about how I looked in my dress or by becoming shy and introverted around all the new people. I was going to be happy for her that night if it was literally the last thing I did. 

And it worked. 

That night I felt so beautiful and happy and even though I can't dance myself out of a paper bag, that night, they could not keep me off that dance floor. If I remember correctly I even danced with three different guys that night and didn't spend a single second of it wondering if they could feel my back fat or if my makeup was running because I was sweating so much. 

I just danced. And I had the best night of my entire life! Even now, it is still going down in my record books. It was amazing. 

Now the important thing to remember is that this was all happening at a time in my life when I was still depressed and still overweight. But by telling my inner demons to shut up I was able to be happy in spite of those obstacles. is my anchor...

I now have copies of this picture all over my house and in my car and at my office. And every time I look at it, it reminds me that my inner demons are totally fired.

The crazy thing is though, it is actually working.

I feel amazing!

I'm starting a zumba class with my older sister next week and I'm harassing my cousin into setting me up with this guy she works with. I'm taking charge of things that I normally would have continued to be so very passive over.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure if this new found positivity has been fully cemented into my brain yet. And it may never be. There may always come moments in my future when my demons will try to sneak back in and I will have to fire them again. But I'm not going to live my life tied to gloom and despair only because there is a chance that my insecurities may come back someday.

Because seriously...who gives a shit anymore???

If they come back, they come back, and I'll deal with it then, but that is no excuse to not live your life!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Attention Followers: I'm still here...

okay, wow! It has been a really long time since ive been ted abput iton this blog. and so much has been happening      that i dont even know where to atart.

first off, i have not ywt joined but lete enfisize the word YET in that sentence. people always advertize their dating websites as being so cheap, only 20 a month blah blah blah. but what they dont tell you is that you have to pay for 6 months up front. at the time when i was writing about joining last winter i had didnot have that kind of money just lying around.
in other news this year i havedecided to go back to sschool. at times it really sucks, like qhen im home studying or getting lost on assignments, but for some reason whenever i amon campus and im walking through the halls i do get that warm fuzzy feeling that im just so excited to be here and at those tomes i really lobve it. plus im getting an A in my math class

in other news i have joined weight watchers. i joined in february ansd messed around for a few months but now i amso on program and im really excthat is actually a huge reason as to why im reblofgging. i want to chronicle my weight loss because thia blog is about self discovery and so much about losing weight deals with self discovery. and as much as i am being held accountable by my meetings i want mu friends to hold me accountable to.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Teen Me

My friend Steph recently wrote a review about a book called My Teen Self (find it HERE), where a bunch of authors wrote letters to their teen selves, and that has inspired the following...

Dear Teen Courtney 12.11.1997 ~

How exactly is one supposed to begin a letter like this? Simply saying "Hello" sounds way to formal but it is not like we ever made up a secret language or anything that I can reference at this point. Plus it seems awkward to begin with lines like "How are you?" "What are you up to?" "How's the weather?" I may not remember what the weather was like in 1997, but I remember how you were and what you were up to. 

Right now you are feeling like the black sheep. There may be large chunks of that day that I have forgotten, but that feeling, the black sheep feeling, I remember clear as crystal. I remember you felt like both your sisters were so perfect. You thought it was because they both got better grades then you or were never in as much trouble as you. But what you didn't realize is that the real problem was that you felt lost and scared and you didn't see that in them. They both seemed so happy and since you were consumed by fear, you blamed them.

I wish I could tell you that the black sheep feeling will pass. But I can't. That is probably the reason why I can remember that feeling so clearly, because in a lot of ways you still feel like the black sheep. But there is a difference. Right now you are allowing your fear alienate you from your family and to harbor such resentment towards them that you can't even be happy for them and their accomplishments. That will stop.

There will come a day when you will finally open your eyes are realize that your family loves you. And you may think they don't see the pain you are in, but they see it. 

I wish I could tell you that the pain stops, but it doesn't. And there have been so many times that I have hated you for that pain. But here is something that I know you need to hear and that I need to say...

It's not your fault. It is not your fault. You are a child, you are! And you are scared and you feel alone and you are utterly and completely lost and you are grabbing onto anything that you think will keep your head above water. And I know at times that pain can do that. In its own sick and twisted way, pain can feel like a life jacket. And as much as I wish I could say something to you now to make you not depend on it, I know that you are going to. But it is not your fault. 

I have spent so much of my life blaming you for grabbing onto that pain. You were a child and you were trying to survive. I am sorry that I hated you for so long. And I wish there was a more solid word then "sorry" that I could use instead, but I can't think of one. I am sorry I hated you and I am sorry for blaming you. 

I know you feel like you need that pain right now, but you don't. You really really don't! And there will come a day when you will finally tap into the strength you have inside you and you will be amazed by what you find there. Because you are strong, you are brave and compassionate and smart and loyal, and okay right now you really aren't as funny as you think you are, but you will grow into your own brand of sarcasm and wit that makes me laugh on a daily basis.

Sometimes I look back on the crazy things you did and I am overwhelmingly embarrassed by you. But there is a part of me that wishes I had some of the courage you showed back then. There are moments when you don't let the risk of possibly making a fool of yourself stop you from doing whatever it is you want to do exactly when you want to do it. These days I let those risks stop me in my tracks so often I feel like I'm never going to get anywhere.

Right now you are also feeling that the friendships you have are shallow ones. Well...they are. You are in highschool, friendships are supposed to be shallow right now. But I can tell you that I have met the women you will befriend as you get older and they are some of the most incredible people you will ever meet. But I can also tell you that one of the friends you have right now will be with you forever. 

All in all, your life wont turn out to be what you thought it was going to be. I can't tell you that all your dreams come true and you live happily ever after. Not because that doesn't happen, but because I'm still working on it. What I can tell you is that it does get better. The difference is so small and subtle that you wont recognize when it happens, but eventually there is enough of a shift that you are able to start breathing, and everything gets just a little bit easier. 

If there was anything that I could ask you to do for me, it would be to call your grandfather and ask him to take you to church. Sounds random, I know. And it may seem impossible to believe, but there will come a day when the Catholic faith will play a huge role in your life. And one thing you will regret is never getting the chance to share that with your grandfather. That is why I am asking you to go with him now. Not because I expect you to be converted now, you may go and the spirit may not move you at all, In fact I highly doubt that it would, but just to have that memory of being in a church with him...that would be something you would treasure.

As awkward as I thought it was to begin this letter, I am finding it even harder to think of something to say to end it. Just remember, it gets better. You are better. You will find your way. 

~Courtney 10.25.2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Power of Friendship

A few weeks ago I actually checked my mailbox (this happens only rarely, and hasn't happened since) and I had a very special postcard inside. A friend sent it to me just to say hi and to say that she couldn't wait to see what else I would right about on my 29th year blog. This was very sweet of her but of course it made me feel slightly guilty for not keeping up with this blog to the degree to which I had planned. 

I wanted to mention that because I did want to say Thank You to that friend for the very kind postcard (Thank You), but it also happens to tie in very nicely with what finally got me motivated to write today.

Sooooooo, I have this friend.

I have known this friend for exactly half my life. I wouldn't go as far as to say that we met in high school and have been inseparable best friends ever since, but I would say that we have been in each others lives since then as friends, enemies, roommates, adversaries, confidants, as supporters.

Right now I am feeling like our friendship is in the "adversaries" category because I know that she is lying to me. 

I know that she is struggling. I know that she is hurting. I know that life isn't working out for her the way she thought it should. But instead of being honest about it and taking responsibility of it, she just goes around with this smile on saying, "Oh yeah everything's fine." "I'm fine! I'm great! Life couldn't be better! Job is great! Home is great! I'm starting a new life for myself and everything is going to be great great great!" 

Okay, so, why am I calling her an adversary if she so obviously needs a friend right now? 

Because she wont let me be a friend to her right now and it is DRIVING ME CRAZY!!!

There is some other stuff that is going on between us too, but that's not what I want the point of this post to be about. 

Here is my point:

Friendships are...Friendships are everything. 

I really and truly, whole heartily, believe that it is the friendship you have with people that is the most important thing! The dynamic of the friendships you have with your family members, with your partners, with your peers may all be different but it is that dynamic that is most important. 

It is the friendships that I have with my sisters that I know I need to work on. When I get married, I want to know that I am married to my best friend. 

Anyway, my friendships mean absolutely everything! And when I look around and see that I have some of the most beautiful, talented, strong, brave, courageous, amazing women as my friends it leaves me feeling honored and humbled.

And when I have to sit back and watch someone treat their friends like trash that can be tossed aside or burn bridges with that level of ease and carelessness, it makes me absolutely insane! 

It offends me. It infuriates me. It makes me write really long blog posts all about how you shouldn't treat your friends like crap!

And here is my other point:

We're not in high school anymore folks! 

And this point is a threefold point!

1) We're not in high school anymore so grow up! (this point isn't about friendship, but I'm including it because it is what I want to scream at the top of my lungs right now)

2) Making friends when we are kids is easy. When you are a kid and you go to a play ground all you have to do is start running and inevitably some other kid will start running with you trying to play tag. I have gone and sat with my friends Andrea and Christi at the play area in the mall and I have witnessed this with their kids on numerous occasions. 

Then you get into school age and you are all riding the same bus and sitting at the same lunch table and in the same classes. You see each other 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. You really don't have to put that much effort into maintaining friendships.

So when you find those amazing friendships as an adult, treasure them. Take care of them. It may not always be easy but it is a two way street and you have to work at it. 

And 3)...the best point of all...the friendships we have today are going to, by far, be deeper and more intimate then they could have ever been when we were kids. 

When you are a kid you usually see the world as what is outside your backyard or as your home town. It is hard to realize just how big the world is and how small you are in it. You are immature and therefore, to a certain level, your friendships are immature.

But now we are adults and we get to have these amazingly mature and deep friendships. 

My friend Christi and I were best friends through high school. Sure we were close then and we spent more time together, but now I get to see her as a wife and a mother. I've seen her grow into this whole person and I know our friendship has grown so far beyond how great I thought it was back then.

When I look at this other friend of mine, the one who is lying to everyone and not opening up about what she is going through and instead just telling everyone that every thing is a-okay...

As angry as she can make me, I'm really feeling sorry for her more then anything else. I see the women that are around her. These women that I feel so blessed to have in my life, and I see her being so careless with them. It angers me because I know that if she would just quit lying to them they would all turn right around and support her. 

Whenever we are going through something that is hard and difficult, our friends can't be there for us if we lie to them. No one can help you if you wont let them. And with all the weight of the world that we have to carry on us everyday...the weight of our mistakes and wrong turns...why would anyone want to add on the extra weight of having to lie to your friends about it?

I apologize if a lot of this sounded like ranting and therefore didn't make much sense. 

Overall message: Don't treat friends like crap!

The funny thing is of course, that I honestly don't think any of the people who will ultimately read this actually do treat their friends like crap, but hey I needed to get it off my chest.

And to those friends I want to say, that I hope you know I was including you in the part where I said I am honored and humbled to have you in my life. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Let the countdown begin...

I had dinner the other night with my two friends Shavonne and Courtney F. And it wasn't too long into that dinner before they both started pressuring me to join They made a ton of good and valid points, but, of course, because I can be incredibly stubborn when I want to be, I kept insisting that I would "think" about joining and not commit to actually signing up. 

I do have some reservations and nerves going into the whole thing but I have decided that I am going to do it. 

Oh, God, just typing that makes me nervous. Palms are sweating, heart beat is picking up just a little bit...

While we were at dinner the girls kept asking me what my reservations were and at the time the only things I could think to mention was the surface stuff. Being nervous about what to wear, where to go, getting a profile picture, those kind of things. But since that night I have had two revelations that will better explain why I am hesitant to actually join a dating site like

1. Over the years my idea of what a first date should be have only continued to grow. I mean people talk about how virgins like to put the penis or the vagina on a pedestal, but when you are a virgin in every aspect of the dating world it is virtually impossible for every simple thing from the first date, the first kiss, the first time you hear someone say "I love you" they are all on pedestals! Basically I don't have anything in my life but pedestals!

And I think that one of the things I may have thought was that if I start compromising the way I see relationships from the very beginning then that will equate to me compromising further down the line. 

When it comes to my future husband and the relationship I think we will have, I do like to think that I am open and willing to go with the flow for most of the issues. I have never really committed to a check list of qualities because I am willing to be flexible. But there are certain aspects of the relationship that I am not willing to compromise on.

But just because I compromise on my idea of a "first date" does not mean that I will end up with some neanderthal who treats me bad but is at least a warm body. 

2. Even though people have always told me not to marry my first boyfriend and to try to play the field and have a few different experiences before settling down, I think I always did feel like part of the fantasy was that the first guy would be the guy! And I only just now realized that the place that all of that stems from, is the place inside me that only ever wanted to have to put myself out there once. 

If I married the first guy I dated, then I would only have to deal with factoring a guy into my life once. I would only have to deal with letting down my guard once. I would only have to let someone in once. And I would never ever have to live through a rejection.

But what I have to realize is that all of those experiences are a part of life. And even though they may hurt, they are still good and exciting and desirable. 

So, why did I title this post "Let the countdown begin..." ?

Well, because I just need everyone to be aware of how important this step is for me. Because let's say I join on August 1st. As long as everything goes according to plan, I could have my first date and my first kiss, before I'm 30! Which is coming up soooooo fast! 

Seriously, think about that. My first kiss...

MY FIRST KISS... is just around the corner...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

This is NOT a pity party

I've been doing a lot of looking back lately.

Not in a bad way, but in a "look how far I've come" way. 

This Tuesday will be the half way point in my journey for this year, so it is natural to take some time evaluating where you are. A lot of my friends have been mentioning how impressed they are with how much progress I have already, and I'll give myself a pat on the back and say that I'm pretty impressed myself! 

But I do still have little moments where I am reminded that I do have some more work to do. 

Like this, for example...

I like a boy. 

I haven't had a full on hard core crush in a really long time and so my hormones are going crazy now that they have been released.

I used to be very passive when it came to talking to boys. Relationships have always scared me and therefore even when I really liked a guy and thought that he just might like me back, I never did anything about it. 

I was one of those girls who would avoid the guy as much as possible and never try to get noticed because God forbid he just might realize I liked him! And the few times that, that actually did happen, well, I ran. Never to speak to the guy again. 

Then today I was driving in my car, thinking about my crush and how I couldn't wait to see him because I couldn't wait to talk to him. I was doing the totally sappy thing that girls do where I was trying to think of all the questions I could ask him and all the different ways I could try to start a conversation. 

Then, out of nowhere, this little voice started whispering in my ear; "Hold on there Courtney. Don't get too excited, remember your place. Let us remember who you are. You are over weight and not that pretty so don't start getting all cocky." 

Now, don't freak out! I know a lot of my readers are probably ready to start trying to contradict that statement, but as the title of this post has already declared:This is NOT a pity party!

It may have taken me a couple of hours to silence that voice, but eventually I was able to get to a place where I could say; "Wait a second! Remember my place! Okay, yeah, let's do that! Let's remember who I really am! I may be an over weight girl but I'm also an over weight girl who just completed a half marathon! A girl who is loyal and dedicated to my friends, has a good heart and a great personality and who has a hell of a lot to offer! And have you heard my laugh? Because, I'm sorry, but my laugh is freaking contagious! So, F#%^ you stupid voice whispering in my ear!" 

Yes, it is a testament to how far I have come that I am able to turn my thoughts like that and recognize on my own when I'm being crazy.

But at the same time...I hate that voice! It's such a stupid voice. Why do I have it? Why wont it just die?

I'm not writing this post as a "woe is me" post. I'm writing it more out of curiosity. 

I know I'm not the only one who has this voice, but I'm just curious how many of us still hear it so clearly. And how long does it take to kill it? 

Honestly, I'm feeling pretty damn good about myself right now. I've been eating better and exercising, and I'm being more active and putting myself out there. I really do feel so much more positive and...just...lighter. I'm in the best place that, personally, I have ever been in. So, why can't that voice just be dead and buried?

I actually just presented this question to Shavonne since we are working together today, and we were discussing how it goes back centuries. Way back when it was always society trying to "keep the woman in her place". That mentality may still be out there it is not as dominant as it had been and so now women just do it to themselves. We do whatever we can to allow our negative thoughts to keep us in our place. And apparently that isn't going to go away any time soon.

Well, as far as I am concerned, the next time that voice comes back I'm going to karate chop it back in the dirt.