Several months ago, the challenges I had originally planned for this project started to feel forced and inauthentic. Following my rule #5 (restructuring mid-way is okay), I took a break from the challenges and the blog. However, I have maintained my original focus: to continuously push the boundaries of my comfort zone.
For the last few months that has looked like reconnecting with old friends and initiating new friendships, being more open with friends about the realities of life vs. the version you see on social media, learning to be present to listen to others, and a lot of yoga.
I have decided that this spring is a good time to continue my blog, with a slightly new focus. From the first few months of my more regimented experiment, I discovered that saying “yes” to opportunities as they present themselves can be a strong driver for personal growth. With that in mind, I am going to focus on documenting projects and activities as they present themselves – opportunities that in the past I may have let pass me by, but that I am now actively trying to embrace as I continue to strive to move beyond my comfort zone.
I explored several local yoga studios this winter, which lead me to my current project. At the beginning of the year, I noticed a number of studios were advertising programs to work through Baron Baptiste’s “40 Days to Personal Revolution.” I bought the book from Amazon to see what it was all it about. And, for a while, the book sat unopened on my (large) pile of future reads
A few weeks ago, I finally sat down with the book. Baptiste starts out with 12 laws, which I found to be both immediately intriguing and confronting. I read through the laws and again put the book aside. But I was drawn back to it and, this week, I finally decided to start the program on my own.
I decided to post my reflections here – for a little bit of accountability, and also as a personal record as I go through the process.
This project is outside my comfort zone on several fronts. First and foremost, I think it will force me to slow down and tune in. I’m typically doing ten things at once, trying to fit it all in, while effectively ensuring that I am not confronting or examining my patterns and habits. I’m pretty sure that the 40 Days framework, with yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry, will force me to take a fresh look at the status quo. Second, I’m going to have to commit to getting up early every morning. I’ve been trying to establish a morning routine for years. I’ve had some moderate success, but as the week goes by I tend to start getting up later and later. To make room for yoga and meditation in the mornings, I will have to be consistent and self-disciplined, even when I don’t feel like it. And third, I will have to give things up to fit in both the morning practice and the evening meditation. I think this will look like less time on social media and less time in front of the TV.
I am now nearly a week into the 40 days. Week One’s focus is on “Presence”. The two laws for this week are: “Seek the Truth” and “Be Willing to Come Apart” (1). It has been challenging and eye-opening to spend a week noticing all of the ways I habitually avoid being present. I trained myself from a young age to spend considerable time living in a world of daydreams, purposefully disengaging. In this way, I was able to successfully avoid facing emotions, fears, and negativity. I’m coming to realize I was also preventing myself from connecting, being of service, and fully engaging with life. While this area has been a growth focus for me over the past several months, this week’s yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry helped me to see more clearly where I am today and where I want to go.
My biggest success for this week is a transformation in how I feel about meditation. I have been working on a meditation practice for years. I took an 8-week mindfulness class that included a full day of silent meditation and explored several different meditation techniques through videos, reading, and workshops. Despite all of this, I still never feel like I quite got the point. I was never able to clear my mind, and often ended up frustrated as I would recognize only at the end of a lengthy meditation that I was once again lost in thought.
A brief explanation of meditation in Baptiste’s book really resonated with me. He States:
The goal of meditation is not to stop our thinking or even clear our minds. In fact, that would be impossible. In the same way that our hearts beat, our minds think. Meditation is the practice of being less immersed in our thoughts and knowing the difference between thinking and being lost in thoughts. . . Don’t try to stop your thoughts. Don’t block them: Let them come up, and then let them go (p57)
This passage immediately released me from the burden that I felt whenever I tried meditation. I was able to step outside of my typical ineffective loop of judging myself every time a thought came up – and then judging myself for judging which is also thinking, quickly winding my way down a rabbit hole and ending up feeling wholly inadequate. Instead, every time I noticed a thought, I observed it, and then looked for something else to ground myself to the present – the noise of cars passing by or birds chirping, or a focus on my breath or physical sensations in my body.
I was skeptical about the short, 5-minute, duration for the first week of meditation. But I found it to be just long enough to practice continuously bringing myself back to the present moment. I ended most meditations feeling refreshed and relaxed.
I found the new routine surprisingly easy to follow this week. The first two days I was energized by the yoga practice and felt great with a high energy level all day. By Wednesday though, I didn’t want to move in the morning. Once I got myself started I was okay, but I was definitely dragging overall by the end of the week. One change I am making for week 2 is to make sure I take one complete day of rest. I have been continuing my other workouts, and definitely need to scale back a bit.
Each week, the book presents questions for self-inquiry that mirror the week’s theme. This week, I wrote out responses to the inquiry questions on Day 7. Moving forward, I want to work through them on the first or second day of the week, and then go back to them at the end of the week. I think spending a little more time in this area will be beneficial, and I am interested to see what comes up in the few days break in between. When writing out the responses to the week 1 questions, I was surprised by how much negativity showed up. I reflected negatively on questions relating to body image, my attitude around money, and taking responsibility in life. My hope is that recognition of these areas of negativity, will lead me to more clearly see how they impact my decision making, and allow me to more consciously steer my life.
Overall, I’m glad I started this project, and I’m looking forward to the next 5 weeks. I’m committing to complete this project despite my fears and doubts: not having enough time (the time commitment goes up considerably towards the end), not being able to do this “right” on my own, and the concern that I will be putting in a lot of effort and may not see any lasting results. But, instead of guaranteeing no results – by not starting or by giving up, I will be putting in the effort and moving forward, and I will stay open to observing whatever happens next.
(1) Baptiste, Baron. 40 Days to Personal Revolution. 2004, Baptiste Power Yoga Institute, Inc. pp5-10.