Monday, September 2, 2013

The Doctoral Journey and the Mind and Body Connection

In four years I lost 50 pounds.  Many people who haven’t seen me in a while notice something different about me and interestingly, the weight loss is not the thing they comment on.  I have heard the following phrases from many people, “you look peaceful” or “you look balanced.” They also ask me, “what have you been doing to look so radiant?”   This seems like such a simple question, and the simple answer is: I have been working on loving myself from the inside out and I truly believe that it’s all connected – mind and body connection and achieving your goals.

If I had more time to explain, I would give them the more complicated answers.  The first answer involves putting physical activity into my life.  I started taking Tae Kwon Do classes along with my family.  My husband and 10 year old daughter are Black Belts and my 5 1/2 year old son (he insists on adding the half since his birthday is coming up soon) is a purple belt first stripe.  My current level is red belt first stripe, which I am very proud of and above I share a picture of me breaking a board with a back spinning hook kick (yeah!).  Never in a million years did I think I would (1) be capable of doing martial arts and (2) find the time to take Tae Kwon Do classes.  I also started doing Bikram Yoga (Hot Yoga) which is a form of yoga taken in a 90 minute class with 105 degrees of heat while you sweat and stare at yourself in a mirror.  That is way more “me time” than I ever thought I would need, but what I found in these two activities were strength, balance and of course, a mind and body connection.  Luckily, I don’t have any yoga pictures to post. 

Every week my body does things that amaze me and I think that pride in my body has trickled over to how I feel about my mind. This is the second answer.  I figured out how to put the attention into my body that I must have previously felt I did not deserve.  Loving myself more made me more conscious about my food choices, my alcohol intake, how I spend my time and with whom.  It also helped me to find my inner scholar and remind myself of all of my achievements that are evidence that I am capable of doing the rigorous academic work that will help me finish my dissertation.  Time, dedication and hard work are all it takes and I can do that.

The truth of the matter is that a combination of being a mother and approaching 40 made me think about the future in a way I had been taking for granted.  I not only decided that I wanted to be alive as long as possible for my children and partner, but I also decided that I wanted the best future available to me and for them.  This is where the dissertation comes in.  It was in this journey to a better mind and body connection that I realized that finishing the doctorate had to be part of that plan.

Another feature about joining these two activities that is important to note are the people who help to guide the journey.  Master Ho Lee is my Tae Kwon Do instructor who reminds me that your body is a work in progress and you have to dedicate yourself to see improvements.  The Hot Yoga Yonkers studio I go to has many instructors who remind me that you have love yourself as you are and be grateful for what your body and mind can do for you.   The dissertation journey is also full of people who are there for support and I am grateful to my family, my dissertation committee and my fellow doctoral candidates who have been cheering me on and believing in me.  

So in the end, it wasn’t what I lost that matters, though, I’m not going to lie – I don’t miss those 50 pounds one bit!  It is what I gained in this process that has improved my skin and body, and strengthened my mind and brought me to love myself as I am.  I have realized that my body is nothing but an instrument to carry out my life’s mission, which I am constantly trying to figure out like the rest of us. The difference is I now cherish every moment, enjoying the journey itself while I move closer to all of my personal and professional goals.

I know I went off the dissertation path a bit with this blog entry, but I guess I made the case in my first paragraph when I stated: “it’s all connected – mind and body connections and achieving your goals.”