Often when I meditate, I have difficulty clearing my mind. Many times in the early morning I give up completely and start my day without meditating for more than a few minutes.
For most of my life I’ve prayed at night before bed, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve committed to praying each morning. The change has made quite a difference to my meditation.
After beginning with a formal prayer, I pray about each person or instance which pops into my mind. Putting all of my thoughts and challenges in God’s hands for the day fills me with peace.
On the first day I prayed, I still had some extra time so I decided to meditate. I was amazed at how easily I could concentrate on my body, breathing, and third eye. I’d released all that was bothering me in prayer and could settle into the quiet, untroubled place of my mediation. I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out this combination!
Praying gives you the freedom to let your mind wander constructively and clears the way for meditation. When I combine my religion with my yoga and meditation, I feel most complete.
Friends and family have been asking if I experienced a revolution in my life after completing the 40 Days To Personal Revolution program at Thrive Yoga earlier this year. Realizing my enthusiasm during the program, people have been wondering if it was real.
I’ve asked myself the same question, but wanted to wait a few months before answering. Raving about a program in the moment is one thing, but a change in lifestyle a few months later is a completely different matter.
My answer is yes. I’m radically different now.
The main emphasis of the program was yoga, so let’s start with a look at my practice. I’m still regularly immersed in yoga practice in the studio. Some weeks my schedule allows a session every weekday, but at a bare minimum I make it to Thrive at least a few times per week. Besides a tremendous improvement in my poses, my confidence in practice has grown. Some days I accept my yoga abilities and some days I push myself. Returning to the mat in the studio brings new experiences every week because the instructors always have a new twist and guide my poses to a heightened level. My practice at Thrive never fails to leave me in the absolute best mood to face all the situations in my day.
I continue to practice yoga more regularly than before the Revolution.
Besides improving on most poses, the greatest gift from the program is the ability to practice on my own. Each week I followed the yoga workouts in the book from sun salutations to inversions. The practice time increased each week and built upon the previous week so I now can lead my own yoga practice for an hour or more. This is extremely important with Vinyasa Flow because it should flow. I don’t have to wait for instructions or be led, I can move freely with my breath the entire time in the true sense of a natural flow for my body. This just can’t happen quite the same way in a group setting. My yoga has been completely transformed by this ability from within and I am much more in touch with my body.
I never practiced on my own without a recorded session before the Revolution so this is life-changing.
On my own for breakfast and lunch, I continue to choose vegetarian options. We have incorporated several of the vegetarian dishes in our family dinners too. I know the power of fruit to cool my body and bring rejuvenation. During the fruit fast I started drinking fruit smoothies with vitamin boosts and now these drinks are a constant in my diet. When I do deviate from healthy choices, I recognize how bad my body feels.
I can notice the difference food makes in my body more than I ever did before the Revolution.
I love meditating in the morning before I start my day. Sometimes I need to meditate in the afternoons and can easily slip into a good meditation when necessary. This ability makes all situations better and easier to handle.
Renewal from meditation is something I knew nothing about before the Revolution.
Throughout the program I worked on figuring out what I really wanted in my life. I knew the year was going to bring several endings to long-time activities, but when one of the most important of my endeavors was suddenly put on the chopping block on the last day of my Personal Revolution, I had to contend with more than I expected. If I hadn’t completed the Revolution that day, I don’t think I would have been able to be as honest with myself and let a major part of my identity go. Each part of the Revolution helps to bring you to a higher place of peace in your life and I had no idea how necessary my newly-found inner strength would be.
The Revolution is a blessing in handling the changes in life.
Five days before the end of my 40 Days To Personal Revolution, I had a bad snowboarding accident which injured my tailbone. Not wanting to miss the last days of this program, I tried everything possible to continue my practice. After such physical improvement for 35 days, it was tremendously upsetting to be unable to do simple poses without extreme pain. I couldn’t even do the resting pose. Painkillers didn’t help. I didn’t let it stop me.
On the last day of the program I showed up for yoga practice with Dave who was leading the Revolution program. Devastated by the pain throughout the week I explained my situation to him before class and my eyes started to tear up. He immediately understood. He knew I was a black-and-white person. Either I do something full force or I don’t. I can’t approach things without giving them my all. His pep talk made all the difference and was particularly timely on the last day. From that day on, my Revolution would be in a “gray” area. My mind wouldn’t be totally dedicated to the program and I would need to find a way to weave it into the fabric of my life for the long haul. I could do it.
In the final chapter of the book, After The Revolution, Baron Baptiste explains why you shouldn’t have goals in life.
My goals were an attempt to manipulate reality in my favor (or so my ego thought). My purpose, however, was to be a vessel for good in the world, in whatever form that took. In this way, I could live out God’s goals for me. Really, giving up goals is a high form of faith.
If you look at young children, you’ll notice that they have no goals. They tend to be much happier than we are as adults, much more free and light. Why? Because without goals, they can simply relax, be creative, and learn from reality as it is. When we have fixed goals, we are struggling to force things turn out a certain way. Hence we close ourselves off from seeing what is possible and what else is available to us. We can’t see the bigger picture.
My physical injury taught me a valuable lesson in feeling accomplishment even if you can’t do something perfectly. The Revolution taught me to accept life’s constant turns with total trust.
The book ends with Daily Practices, which I occasionally re-read to remember to live the way I want to live, not react to the world.
Yes, I have had a Revolution, but it means constantly practicing.
Many people have been asking me how to meditate. At the end of my 40 Days to Personal Revolution, the goal was two 30 minute meditations each day. But the program started with 5 minutes twice a day and added five minutes each week. Those beginning meditations were quick releases from my day, a solid way to start and finish. You always have 5 minutes!
To demonstrate how I started, I have created a brief video. You can listen and follow along. I promise it will be over before you know it. After you listen, you can incorporate the basic thought pattern when you try it on your own. When I hear it out loud, the instructions seem busy. But when you are on your own, you can slowly choose to do some or all of the instructions. Slowly stretch out each thought with many more full still breaths between each one, or pick one mantra and repeat it. Before you know it, you’ll be meditating even longer.
Without snow, ice, closed schools, or sick children, I was able to practice all five weekdays at Thrive Yoga. Combined with two kickboxing/MMA sessions at LA Boxing, my body gave it my all this week. I can feel a new strength even as my body struggled to meet this physical level.
I’ll admit it. By Friday I was slightly bored with the sun salutations. Repetition always bores me. But Dave at Thrive Yoga had a few new “twists”. Adding the three new poses made all the difference and reminded me why I love the studio so much. Dave also teaches Yin Yoga, deep tissue, and his outlook is always slightly different, plus he makes the class fun by sharing what’s he’s really thinking about instructing and the possibilities for each of us.
After five weeks, I have to finally express it. I really, truly do not like hot yoga. After I started practicing yoga over ten years ago, I read an article in the newspaper about this new hot yoga trend which was moving into the Washington area. All I could think was that I had finally found a physical activity that I loved and now there was a total mutilation of everything which made it special.
All these years I have avoided hot yoga classes. At Thrive the hot class temperature is 85 degrees which isn’t even has hot as these other places at 95 to 105. Not wanting to take hot yoga instruction prevented me from taking more advanced classes. Part of signing up for the 40 Days program meant I would be doing a tremendous amount of hot yoga. This was yet another way I was stepping out of my usual pattern and forcing myself to try something new.
As I started my first hot class this week, I finally admitted to myself how much I have not been enjoying it. The heat in the room is artificial. When I build my body heat in a cold room, I know the heat is mine. I created it. This is my strength and my accomplishment. My body miraculously heats me. The process is authentic and genuine. I feel the heat and know what my body can do. I feel the power.
When you practice in a heated room, you might sweat more but I know it isn’t me. I slide on the mat. The drops drip onto the mat. I hate it. I spend the time knowing the suffocating feeling is unnecessary and forced — and it isn’t even as hot as these other places. I know what is real.
At LA Boxing, the management doesn’t waste much money on heat. I don’t wear very much clothing. This week the room was freezing and the big fan was blowing directly at us. As we waited to begin, another woman and I commented about the cold but we laughed as we admitted we both knew the fan wasn’t going to be enough in a short while. The sweat would pour off my head. My outfits would be completely soaked. My gloves and wraps will be damp and reek.
For the first time in my life, my body is a powerhouse. Nobody has to turn up a thermostat.
Yesterday my husband found my old rec center card when he was cleaning out the basement. The card was exactly ten years old. In the picture I’m very overweight. Seven years ago I decided to change. I held the old card, the evidence of a different me. I barely recognized her.
At a gathering over the weekend, a friend asked me if I have had a revolution. She’d been meaning to ask. I feel physically better than I have ever felt in my entire life. My body shines every day. I’m happy without meat and always feel better without the alcohol. My sleep has been 100% improved. When I feel myself wanting coffee, the craving has proven to be the result of having to do something I don’t want to do, a way to get through it. I’m endeavoring to remove those tasks from my life. So the quick on the spot answer was “yes”.
As I enter the last week, my thoughts turn to what practices and habits I will keep in my life. I don’t know how much meditation will be in my daily plan. This past week the 40 Days program expected 25 minutes of meditation twice a day. The increased time has been a struggle. Perhaps I haven’t felt any additional benefit from the added minutes. Thinking of nothing for almost a half hour is extremely difficult. Constantly pulling my thoughts back to the moment and feeling peace and freedom from my responsibilities became close to impossible even with every “trick” in the book. Considering meditation to be “tricks” might be my problem so I’ll have to work on it. At the very least I spent the time in relaxation and concentration. Because of the struggles, I didn’t feel better when the meditation was complete. I will have to endeavor to improve. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
When 2011 rolled around I was happy for all the endings this year will bring. I’ve been afraid to admit this happiness because I thought fate might bring other unwanted endings in my life. Embracing endings will mean I have new beginnings and I’ve been looking forward to the excitement of new prospects. In this way I will embrace the ending of my 40 Days this week and start my new permanent beginnings.
I never thought elimination diets were a good idea. My motto has always been “everything in moderation”. When I lost my weight my goal was to make changes in my diet which could last a lifetime. But during a personal revolution, you must shed your perceptions of the world and try those things you never thought you would.
For three days I only ate fruit. I spent the time flip flopping. I was surprised when I wasn’t hungry then bouts of hunger would come over me. Fruit only goes so far. Blended organic juices high in fiber can actually be very filling. But I was cold, freezing most of the time. My solution was to cook the fresh pineapple and sauté the avocado-tomato medley (yes, they are fruits).
By the third day I didn’t go to my mixed martial arts class because I knew burning 1000 calories would leave me too hungry. I certainly wasn’t functioning with my full potential. The daily hour and a half of yoga was no problem but there was no strength for anything else. For this reason the cleanse was a bad idea.
However, my body did feel clean without any adverse effects. The day after the cleanse ended I simply had yogurt for breakfast. Being famished didn’t cause me to overeat.
Because I had been so hungry for so long and couldn’t appease the pangs, I have become much more conscious of eating. Even though I want to eat something, I now stop and think about it even more than usual. Eating somehow has become more of a choice and less of a necessity.
At a cocktail party I accidentally ate a chicken salad sandwich. After a month without meat, the taste seemed strange. I finished it even though I recognized my mistake after the first bite. I know I could live without meat. Unfortunately, I don’t think my kids could, partially because of the food allergies and partially because of their complete lament that we are only half-way done with this experiment.
As for the rest of my week of “restoration”, I learned to take it easy when necessary. The fruit cleanse forced me to skip my kickboxing so I did relax. Some of the yoga practices challenged my muscles and I realized I need to mix the difficulty of my practices. The 20 minutes of meditation seemed long at first, but it definitely forced me to learn to let go and begin again. Repeatedly pushing thoughts out of my head means I repeatedly feel the peace of the moment.
At one yoga practice we sent out our love and then felt the love in the room return to us. This probably seems pretty hokey to many people. This could even be held up as a reason never to try yoga but it was only for a moment. Consider how we exist in a state of never-ending emotions. Capitalizing on the best one can only make you feel better. I know the love from those I love in my life is the only way I am truly restored.
This post is part of a series on my 40 Days To Personal Revolution journey.
The theme of the third week of 40 Days To Personal Revolution was equanimity. There are so many things in our life we can’t change and rather than fighting, it is better to accept that we aren’t in control. Last week provided a snow storm with 8 inches to shovel and the kids home from school for three days, which was a perfect situation to practice the “art of meeting life as it meets you” and remain calm without frustration or drama. This wasn’t a problem. However, after the storm, a woman on her cell phone speeding through the middle of the parking garage lane and almost hitting me was a problem. These are the quick little situations we need to address with calmness.
As for equanimity while eating, 40 Days To Personal Revolution purports there is “no place where reactivity shows up faster than in our diets”. Therefore we were to look at what we crave.
The running joke in our house last week was “Why do I want to eat ______ ?” The answer was always “Because I want ________”. We all joined in the joking.
Looking to Ancient Chinese practitioners, “when the body reacts adversely to life, it craves sweets” and a chemical reaction in our bodies must be met. Unfortunately, since it was my birthday I wouldn’t remove all treats from my diet to analyze when I craved sweetness. We had birthday cake which also turned into “breakfast cake” and a couple of deserts. My husband made my favorite coca cola cake and icing so the whole thing was blasted with sugar and delicious.
Yes, you guessed it, I had the best time asking “Why do I want to eat this birthday cake?” “Because it’s my birthday, that’s why!”
Having lost 50 pounds on Weight Watchers I learned a long time ago to think about every single food I eat, so recognizing my weak spots has been my practice for a long time.
During the meditation, the program called for complete stillness for 15 minutes twice a day. Since I spent hours every day for months practicing to have a natural childbirth with the Bradley Method, staying still for meditation has not been a problem. As long as I plan my evenings and arise early enough in the morning, the meditation flows like the deep breathing. Turns out this might be time well spent. This week the New York Times had an article about meditation, How Meditation Might Change The Brain:
M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress.
So I’m halfway to a better brain! No wonder meditation is the new fad.
As I’m completing the six days of yoga per week, I always think I don’t need a day off. Then when the seventh day rolls around, I definitely need to rest my shaky limbs. Always take advantage of the breaks in life.
These first 20 days have sped past. I still don’t miss the meat or coffee.
When you truly want to fit something into your life, you can.
A couple of years ago, Dave, the co-owner of Thrive Yoga, told me the participants in the 40 Days To Personal Revolution program not only find time to do their yoga but their energy level allows them to do much more in their life. At the time, I believed him but understood the process would be miraculous. It is. Setting your mind on a goal and dedicating the time to make it happen may take up your time, but by not wasting it elsewhere and feeling rejuvenated, you can create more. I plan my yoga classes and everything else falls into place.
Think about how it feels to visit a new destination. You notice and observe every little detail. Everything’s a surprise. Even if you don’t know where you are going, it’s all new so each moment seems special and exciting. This is the true sense of discovery.
During the second week of Baptiste’s 40 Days program, the emphasis is on vitality but you don’t need to go somewhere exotic to rediscover and rejuvenate.
Because of the program, I discovered new teachers, poses, and food. Having to practice yoga 6 out of 7 days last week meant I spent more time in the studio and had two new instructors. The instructors introduced different challenges and poses. One had us in Down Dog so long I was in pain then she said “This is supposed to be a resting pose, right?[Laughter] I once had an instructor keep us in Down Dog for 10 minutes.” At least I wasn’t imagining the difficulty. Repetitious programs can dull your senses but because we all desire the familiar, we often stick to our same patterns and don’t shake up our lives. I’m being forced out of my usual yoga habits. I’d never seen the Bird of Paradise pose but after it was introduced last week, I practiced at home. The new poses, and several twists to old poses, clicked my brain into a higher gear.
When we started the 40 Days program, we were told we’d be excited to try new shops. At the time I didn’t think my journey would take me to any new stores. This week’s food theme was fresh food and my search brought me to the local seafood market which I had not visited in years. A new baked bluefish recipe called for apples and mushrooms and the family hasn’t stopped saying they want to eat it again.
Researchers say that the more absorbed we are in activities we like to do, the happier we are. Abraham Maslow and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi pinpointed the power of full involvement in the moment to produce optimal experiences. Maslow called optimal moments the time when we are most attuned, “more integrated and less split, more perfectly actualizing.”
Contrary to stereotype, engaged play is the gateway not to time-wasting but to times that let you contact deeper realms. When you paint a canvas or play volleyball, you’re in a creative improvisation that calls on inner fortitude and commitment and that reflect your values through self-expression. Play satisfies core self-determination needs, such as autonomy and competence, as little else can, connecting you with your mandate to explore and challenge yourself. That’s the integration Maslow was talking about. You tap the true you, not the performance identity of the job or the presentation identity that we display to others. Play relieves you of the burden to be someone you’re not. There’s nothing on the line; it’s just play. Just you.
With only one rest day, I have challenged myself and found the real me on my yoga mat. In the process, I’ve discovered a new level of satisfaction.
As for the coffee endeavor, I actually forgot to make it twice last week. And yes, I had a chuckle over the release of a supersized 31 oz. coffee from Starbucks while I’m trying to cut back. That’s a lot of coffee!
This post is part of a series on my 40 Days To Personal Revolution journey.
Over the weekend I banged my forehead on the kitchen counter and finally lost it about reducing my coffee intake.
I don’t want to be healthy. I want to kill myself with food and drink. I want more COFFEE.
The outburst was due to my strenuous kickboxing workout rather than my yoga excursion. For some reason I crave coffee after intense physical activities. Since I’d had one mug before heading out the door and another with my blueberry/apple pancake breakfast upon return, I was done for the day. I couldn’t take it.
The first week of my 40 Day Personal Revolution through yoga (the Barron Baptiste way) shook up my world. Every change in my life during the last week was of my choosing. Some were easy and others more difficult. The week one emphasis is “Presence” so I analyzed myself.
One of the first unhealthy habits to go was my 8-cup per day coffee addiction which I have promised to cut by half. Eating vegetarian was actually easier than giving up the coffee. Since I was a small child I never enjoyed the thought of eating animals. I know I couldn’t slaughter one and have struggled with the massive meat production machine which does the dirty work for me. My family has joined me in this vegetarian excursion so a few new meals have landed on our table. One dinner of Israeli couscous, garbanzo beans, and carrots was not well received at first glance but everyone had seconds and asked for the dish to become a regular. Thrive Yoga has provided a weekly chart to log all of our activities. Journaling food is a time-tested way to watch your diet and reminds me of my early days of Weight Watchers when I lost 50 pounds, so I am writing down everything which goes in my mouth. My goal is to continue to eliminate the “hot” foods such as coffee and meat, along with the alcohol I already eliminated, and increase the “cold” foods such as salads and yogurt, to bring my body into better balance. Honestly, I’m too “hot” of a person and will give the diet a chance to see if it works.
Yoga and Workouts
Although the program states the six days of yoga practice will be enough physically, I will not give up my kickboxing/MMA. The combination has proven to provide a careful balance in my life. A new favorite trainer at LA Boxing has rocked my body, leaving me nauseas and unable to move. To show up for an intensive all level yoga class 12 hours later when every move was painful challenged my resolve, but if I can continue, I will take myself to a new physical level.
My goal is to practice yoga in the studio at Thrive Yoga at least four times per week with the other two days at home from the sequences in the book plus my usual three kickboxing/MMA sessions. On the final day of this first week, my increased abilities during practice surprised me. Knowing this improvement will continue to new heights uplifts me.
Everywhere you looked during the time of New Year’s resolutions mentioned meditating so this is definitely the current trend. What is it? Thrive Yoga assigns an email buddy to support you through the program. My buddy and I aren’t really sure about the meditation or what we are supposed to be doing. This past week the 5 minutes twice-a-day has been easy. By the time I think through all the parts of my body and concentrate on my breathing, the time is over. Keeping my mind blank can be an extreme challenge and one morning I couldn’t do it. These thoughts were from situations I need to change in my life so the exercise at least had the benefit of making me face these needed changes. If you have time for a shower, you have time to mediate. Moving up to 10 minutes twice a day will certainly be a challenge. Breathe in, breathe out …
Although during the weekly “check in” at the studio, some people admitted they were only focusing on one part of the program for improvement, my goal is to completely flip my life and see where it leads. The biggest change is that I am tired early in the evening and have been sleeping. Baptiste writes about our lifestyles causing insomnia and when I read it, I didn’t quite believe it. All these years I’ve struggled to sleep.
Will it last? I’ll continue down the path and see what happens.
This post is part of a series on my 40 Days to Personal Revolution journey.
When I decided to embark on the 40 Days To Personal Revolution of Baron Baptiste, I was not concerned about the diet component. Our family eats healthy. With my son’s food allergies, we prepare all 21 of our weekly meals at home. Because of fears of cross contaminations, I very rarely buy processed food.
We love cooking together. My husband and I have always pulled out cookbooks then started to experiment (since I don’t like to follow recipes). We would make pizzas on our own pan and cook gourmet recipes from our own herb garden. When our first child had extensive food allergies, I always said God looked around for two people who could reinvent recipes without most of their ingredients and we were great candidates.
So, without looking at the diet section of the book, I thought my eating habits would be no problem whatsoever.
Then I read what Baptiste had to say about our Western diet. I’d have to give up meats and our standard starches. This would definitely be a challenge. We already eat fish, shellfish, and bean dishes each week, but I’d need to replace some other standard dishes.
Last night at dinner I brought up my concern to the family. I didn’t know if I would be able to do it. Immediately my husband said he would join me. “I’m in.” Then my eldest son said he would like to be healthier too and he would give it a try. The youngest asked for clarification but he realized the decision had already been made.
At first I was surprised then filled with gratitude. No matter what crazy idea I throw their way, my guys come through with their support. Looks like we are on our way to a six-week eating adventure. We’re going to have to continue to make it up as we go along.
This post is part of a series on my 40 Days To Personal Revolution journey.
For both my pregnancies my husband and I intensely prepared with the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth (that’s another post I need to write!). During my second pregnancy almost 11 years ago, I added a prenatal yoga class and never stopped practicing at home by myself with videos and instruction.
Stepping into an actual studio with people was a big step a few years ago. I have never enjoyed group physical fitness experiences but I found a home at Thrive Yoga, a special and peaceful place which takes you beyond the physical yoga practice. When I first talked to the co-owner Susan, she explained that her husband, Dave, had been in a bad car accident and her sister had died from cancer. When she looked at her life, she knew what was important so they started Thrive. This is a beautiful studio where you can go to handle the stresses from life and center yourself. The workshops and classes are all about a better, complete life.
Since Thrive Yoga already provides a transforming experience, the thought of a more intense study requires me to take an even deeper breath. I’ll admit I’m nervous. A year and a half ago, I talked to Dave about advancing in my yoga practice. Expecting an easy answer about the classes I should take, he suggested the intensive 40-day course. He said most people think they don’t have the time and this was exactly what I was thinking. Then my arm injury prevented me from even considering the possibility.
But here I am.
For six weeks the program works on your health. In addition to at least six yoga practices a week, we’ll meet weekly to talk about our eating habits and daily meditation. That’s body, mind, and spirit.
I need this now.
When I spoke with one of my spiritual advisors recently, he commented that I had said the same thing to him two years ago. He’s right. He was also right when he said I was doing too many things.
I must stand still and listen for a while.
This will mean I cut back on much of what I am doing. I have a painting sketched out on a big white canvas and I’m going to pick up those brushes again. Because I never thought I’d make a salary with my artwork, I discarded it. Truth be told, I’m not making a heck of a lot of money freelancing right now so I might as well be doing what I truly love. So yoga, diet, prayer, painting, and family will be my only priorities as I open myself to come apart. My husband said he can’t imagine a better time for me to do this, and he is right.
Although I am fortunate to have a local program to keep me focused, 40 Days To Personal Revolution provides a complete guide for anyone, anywhere. Even a beginner can follow the instructions for each yoga pose and benefit from the weekly readings.
Now if I can only get “You say you want a revolution” to stop repeating in my head.
May you find what you seek this year.
This post is part of a series on my 40 Days To Personal Revolution journey.
Along the way I've discovered a love for blogging. First for my local community with RockvilleCentral.com and almost immediately with TryingNotToBNeg.com because I needed to express my thoughts beyond Rockville, MD.
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