Category Archives: Honing my Habits
Thoreau‘s final paragraph of Walden includes the line, “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.” I am sure he meant this both metaphorically and literally. I feel like I have a fairly good handle on the metaphor. I’m conscious of and grateful for this precious bit of life I’ve been given. BUT, I have been slacking off on the other part — getting up early. These excerpts from “Walden” always reignite my determination to “make-up with mornings” and even learn to love them.
…All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere. The Vedas say, “All intelligences awake with the morning.” Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date from such an hour. All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning. It matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes and labors of men. Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me…
…We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour…
After almost four years of never working out, I went “running” this morning. “Running” is in quotes because, at best, I jogged for 4 minutes. Things started out just fine. I was feeling pretty good about myself, headed up the avenues with Christina Aguilera singing in my ears, when I was struck by the headache. I know you know what I’m talking about. The headache that makes you wonder if God is punishing you. It is sudden. It makes you stop and take in more oxygen. It’s the warning you get that you’re just about to throw up from exertion. I dry heaved into the bushes, felt really dizzy, wheeled around and ambled my way up to a grassy spot on the hill overlooking city creek, the capitol and downtown SLC.
I took a moment to snap the photo shown here and headed back home. My head was pounding. It was really very cold and my face and ears were frozen. I must’ve been clenching my teeth, because my jaw was killing me. I was in a quite a bit of pain. And then I started coughing. You know the cough. The cough that comes from years of laziness and intermittent smoking. I welcomed the cough because I knew that even though I hadn’t gone very far, my lungs were already opening up. For that matter, I welcomed the pain. It was further proof I had done something worthwhile.
My “run” was very informative. I am obviously even more out of shape than I thought. I learned I should invest in softer ear buds for my iPod and that I gloves aren’t really optional. I found out that I really need to wear a hat and maybe even a turtleneck. I also made mental notes to wear sunscreen, even though it’s early and overcast, and to never, ever forget my sunglasses. I have sensitive eyes, yes, but mostly I wished I’d had sunglasses to hide my shame!
As part of my larger “Excess Emancipation” project I am committed to implementing a morning routine that allows me to get the most important things I need to do to maintain peace of mind finished up before heading out into the world. The first part of my new morning ritual has come surprisingly easily — I wake up at 5 AM and write for two hours. Sometimes I wake up a little later, but all in all, I’ve stuck to it pretty religiously.
The second part of this rising with the sun regimen has been a bitch. It is very important to me to be physically fit and I’ve really let things slide. So, in an effort to purge some pounds and fire up my fitness level, I decided to incorporate just 15 minutes of running and yoga, each, to my morning momentum. My plan was to be 20 days in to a 40 day yoga challenge by today (which I committed to with some other peeps from Avenues Yoga). And I figured I would also have added in the running portion of my mornings over 10 days ago. But, as it turns out, I am more resistant to exercise than I had realized.
My exercise “allergy” is proving to be one of my biggest obstacles. Regarding the yoga challenge, the rule is is that if you skip a day, you start over. Well I have started and stopped around 7 times already. I have lots of excuses. And regarding the plan to start running every day? I have not been able to force myself out the door until today.
This week’s class at Outlook Development was on listening to our inner gurus. I participated in an exercise to find a solution to whatever our biggest obstacle was to accomplishing our goals. It was easy for me to identify mine. I want to silence the “Itty bitty shitty committee” in my head that tells me I don’t like physical exertion. It’s simply NOT TRUE. I can come up with tons of examples where I have volunteered for physically exhausting enterprises. But, when it comes to consistent exercise, I balk. After having a guided convo with my inner guru, I decided I would call the person who is most like me, who has overcome this same obstacle in her life. I decided to call Nan.
My sister, Nanette, is number 4 of us 10 kids. I am number 7. We have shared a lifetime of obsessions with gymnastics, songwriting, performing, bleaching our hair, being hilarious, loving our kids, making awesome rally posters, participating in off-beat arts and crafts (She: tole [tolle?] painting, knitting and rug-making. Me: decoupage, furniture refinishing and collage making), writing and maybelline mascara.
I called her to ask what she does to stay motivated to workout. She told me that having a running buddy helped. That’s just not right for me, right now. WAY too much pressure. She said that sometimes she would sleep in her workout clothes. Brilliant! We talked for awhile until we both got really excited about making silly charts to track our progress and agreed we’d both set goals and a timeline that, when achieved, would earn us a prize. We are going to make prizes for each other to send upon completion. I am laughing out loud as I type this. It seems ridiculous, but it’s just what the doctor ordered.
I promised to call every morning as I was lacing up my shoes so I could be accountable to someone. We haven’t worked out all the details, yet, but I’m encouraged. Last night I laid out my clothes and this morning when it came time to get outside and run, I actually got dressed, laced up my shoes, left her a message, and ran!
Who cares that I overdid it in just 4 minutes and almost passed out? I don’t. I’m just stoked I actually did it. I pretty much rule. Thanks, Nan!
Everyone, I imagine, would like to change the fact that they forget important things. I think if a casual poll were taken that most people would agree it is difficult to remember everything we are supposed to do, be, think, say and recall.
But I don’t just blank on a tests, or forget to pick up the (almond) milk. I forget important commitments to other people. It feels like I have a black hole in my internal calendar. I used to think this was because I committed to too much. That is not the case anymore. I am very careful about making any commitments, large or small. I do an internal check for overload and only agree to something when I know I won’t resent committing to it.
And yet, it seems I forget something I promised someone almost every day. I often think I should have a sign made up that I have to wear that says, “Do not depend on me for anything immediate, pressing or detailed!” I feel so guilty and dark when I let people down that I immediately go into retreat mode. In relationships, I almost always default to the flight part of “fight or flight.” My predisposition for becoming a hermit is alarming.
I WANT to be a person who can be depended on. I strive to be someone who always lives up to their promises. So what is the deal?? It’s not like a commitment runs through my mind and I dismiss it, it’s that it gets deleted. And people get mad. THEY SHOULD! Forgetting to do the things we promise we’ll do makes people feel like they don’t matter. I make people feel like I don’t care about them. I am committing to changing that.
I’ve done some research today on using memory cues, iPhone apps and checklists to help me to do better. So far, I’ve come up with a 25-person checklist. This list includes my immediate family members, my “buddies” and my closest friends. I will cultivate the habit of thinking of each person I make commitments to, instead of the commitments themselves.
As of now, I think about commitments like a jumbled mess of demands in my head. Even commitments that I LOVE to be a part of wind up in that mess alongside homework, housework and stuff I dread doing. Dread has a way of infecting the good stuff and pretty soon ALL my commitments present in my consciousness as too much stuff to process.
I believe that through personalizing my feelings each time I am reminded by an iPhone app about a commitment, that I will be less likely to blank-out on them. When I see I’ve promised someone they can borrow my car, for instance, for a very important errand, I will think of the person and hopefully imbed that commitment more firmly. When I put a thought like “lend car” in this head, it obviously does not carry the gravitas needed for it to stick. I will focus less about the commitment itself and more on the people behind each commitment.
My to do lists may end up looking more like lists of greeting card platitudes, but I have a lot of hope it will help me to be better.
Wow, can I ever procrastinate. I found perfectly legitimate reasons to put off the inaugural yoga session of a 40-day challenge until late yesterday. I was going to start on the 1st. Then I had people in town and wasn’t mentally up to the commitment quite yet. Then I was going to start on the 8th, but still didn’t feel ready. I woke up yesterday feeling ready!
But first I had a book to read; had to make a playlist; had to talk on the phone a million times; had to file some online paperwork… you get the idea. I’m not sure why I’ve been resisting. I think it’s fear of failure (i.e. quitting).
The good news is that I was able to do the prescribed routine! I’m sure I’m not as graceful as the rest of the people doing this, but it was perfect for me. I’m so relieved. It is totally doable. I will triumph!
As part of my quest to emancipate myself from excess, I decided I wanted to incorporate yoga back into my life. I determined I wanted to commit to some type of daily practice as well as attending classes, etc. I was fortunate enough to realize on New Years Eve that attending a yoga class on New Years Day would be the perfect way to “seal” that intention.
I went online figuring there would be dozens of New Years Day yoga extravaganzas. (This town’s lousy with yogis!) But, to my surprise, I only found one. That was all good, of course, because the studio is just a few blocks from my house and the instructor is/was an acquaintance with a big reputation for giving good yoga.
So I went. It was indeed awesome. And it was lucky! He told us he was, “Doing a defined daily vinyasa practice for 40 days,” and invited those of us who wanted to, to join in. I signed up and he emailed me the vinyasa. I should’ve know it would be complicated for a novice like myself!
I finally took to the net and looked up each position. Then I printed out a picture of each one, (crazy, much?) and made a ridiculous chart so I could follow along without interpreting too much along the way. He says he can do the whole deal in 15 minutes.
Actually, he didn’t tell the class he was, “Doing a defined daily vinyasa practice for 40 days.” What he actually said was that he was beginning a 40-day “Sadhana.” And really, that’s what this whole “Shucking the superfluous shit” saga is for me — it’s a Sadhana.
A “Sadhana” is defined as “…the process of consciously participating in spiritual growth, or the exercises or methods we practice for personal development and Self-mastery, leading toward what is thought of as ‘enlightenment’ or ‘Self-realization.” <<– That there is jest fancy talk for Excess Emancipation.
I started in late December, 2011 and will finish my “Sadhana” on the Ides of March. To sum up: I am uncovering my authentic self, crawling out from under excess stuff, excess weight, excess TV, excess bullshit, excess stress and excess baggage. My approach is 3-pronged. The categories are: Me & My Life. My Health. My Home.
Under the category “Me & My Life” are qualitative, ongoing “to dos” like: letting go of negative beliefs; discovering and claiming what I want to do with my life (again); filling my days with reading, studying, practicing the piano and guitar, re-purposing furniture, writing and other worthy pursuits; shedding the TV habit; connecting with nature and so on…
Under the “My Health” category are quantitative mini-goals like: quit smoking (done!); do a 10-day green smoothie detox (done!); commit to a 90% raw food diet (done!); Begin a daily yoga practice (starting in the morning!); build a habit of running at least 6 miles a week (work on this starts soon!); Get outdoors and play, etc…
In the “My Home” category are fun plans like: getting rid of 50-75% of my stuff; fixing my financial quagmire; implementing simple cleaning habits; finding ways to make money from home and still go to school… you get the idea.
I have reviewed my lists and am implementing new habits every week. Which brings us to today. This week, along with sticking to eating mostly raw foods; sorting my shit for the big yard sale; reading something uplifting just before going to sleep every night; doing a “choice process” once a week to shed negative beliefs; blogging every day; and just generally being awesome, I am adding the aforementioned “defined daily vinyasa practice for 40 days” to my 90-day “Sadhana.”
I’m feeling some fear of failure around this milestone, but I know I can do it. I’ll let you know how it goes!