They almost did not believe me Wednesday night. We gathered for our Week III get-together, fresh off an emotionally exhausting ten days. Week I was reasonable: watch what you eat, avoid eating meat and processed foods. Not that it was easy; our habits look like bears overnight at a litter-strewn campsite. We kicked off the event with bringing awareness to the body, the state of the vehicle which drives the spirit. Week II, we took the spirit head on in the form of our pasts, now Week III we utilize insights to grow past these pesky habits.
“We are going to learn about our senses and how they expose us to input from the outside world.” Taste, Hearing, Sight, Smell and Touch. Because we had already had two full weeks of putting the proper fuel into our gas tanks and had mined out those parts of our lives that to date have systematically caused us blockages and limitations, it seemed like a good time to peel away the veneer and superficial comfort our senses give us when we are dealing with these challenging chapters.
So I proposed taking them away. Although there was not going to be a trip to the sensory deprivation tanks, there was a modest list of to-do’s. Sight=Do not look at yourself or your reflection (not even while putting in your contacts). Taste=Avoid anything rajasic, eat a pure and Sattvic diet. Hearing=No music or television or films for the next week. Smell=Do not use perfumes or scented creams or oils on your skin. With touch I did not take away, instead we focused on connection: touching through handshake or embrace with the silent intention ‘loving kindness’. Everyone liked the one hour massage mandate. One of the tasks is to hold someone without talking for at least five minutes a day. That one I would reconsider in hindsight. I came to the observation that perhaps not everyone had someone to hold. For me, I have a snuggly little Bunny, eager for my affection. If worse comes to worse, Mom is in town. I could wrangle five awkward minutes if need be.
TASTE: Anything I ask of the others, I also need to honor. Unfortunately, I started my sensory deprivation at the Seattle-Tacoma airport on my way to a series of workshops.
My first word of caution to Team 40 was to plan your meals in advance
In a rush, I failed to get any food in my stomach prior to leaving. For some God-forsaken reason, Alaska Airlines has moved a portion of their fleet to the further-afield N gates at the airport. So once I make it to the N gates, I am powerfully reminded that I have a four hour flight and a gurgling stomach and the choice of Burger King (definitely NOT allowed on a 40 Day Challenge in any of its gastronomic manifestations, the Whaler included!), Starbucks, or the Great American Bagel shop. How long was this day going to be? I ordered a tuna sandwich on a bagel. I regretted doing it but knew that I could not get through the day without something to eat. I acknowledge I was at a crossroads and made a decision. There was restraint and rational consideration, even if the outcome was not ideal. After that, I owned this challenge- in some areas—plus or minus a chocolate cookie and a scone. Here are my results:
SMELL: I sprayed perfume once on accident- oops! Just a bear rattling his snout in an open can of baked beans.
HEARING: A challenge like this is best served at home where the environment is contained. After four days shuttling people back and forth from the Houston International airport, driving between two yoga studies, my teacher’s cottage and my sister-in-law’s where I stayed, I clocked over 760 miles in four days. Imagine no music or radio for 760 miles. That’s A LOT of soul-searching as each half of the round trip found me alone looking out on vast stretches of highway. Add nine hours of flight time sans iTunes and I feel like I should win a prize. Interesting observation after every retail or restaurant visited,
I become convinced that “Oh What A Night” is quite possibly the most ubiquitous radio track of all time.
SIGHT: Piece of cake. I had done this experiment after I graduated from college going two years without looking into a mirror or at myself in a reflection. I was going to see a movie to kill some time before my teacher flew in, but realized that was not an option and turned around.
TOUCH: Not one to indulge in sentimentality, I actually found the touch assignment a delight. Although I did not have my
daughter nearby, my niece & nephew whose father is en route to Afghanistan, were eager to cuddle up. I also had about fifty hugs to give out in Houston to the workshop attendees.
But it can’t all be rainbows and unicorns. Even the oldest of grizzly bear emerges from the woods, wanting in on the action.
This exercise brought back two old and unwelcomed habits: 1) Shopping, and 2) Peeling the skin from my lip. Five pairs of shoes (guilty conscience a bit lazy but still I managed to return one pair). Peeling of the lip, well I am still watching that one. I was already eliminating food categories out of my diet, and by week three, I was actually very content saying no to the usual indulgences.
The mermaid logo on Starbucks’signs were no longer luring me in like the song of the sirens.
The long unchanging corridor of 518, 54 North and the 8 Beltway become contemplative and my mind found the silent surrounding sweet.
It took courage as I tend to avoid measuring any success in terms of the scale, but alas, one beckoned me on my sister-in-law’s floor, a bit lonely and kicked into the corner of the master bath. Five pounds! I thought things felt a bit looser right out of the dryer. This time I could slide in an ardha padmasana with the other leg behind my head. All of this is exciting stuff, keeping me motivated to finish 40 days strong and embrace my new lifestyle permanently.
What thrilled me the most was for the first time seeing old patterning and recognizing it at its root. Through the program, I had a path and timeline that put context around that impulse. I could be grateful that now I have the tools to overcome that tendency. It no longer served a deep-seeded emotional something locked down somewhere inside me. For once I owned the shoes; the shoes didn’t own me. And as for the three pairs that I kept, well they are going to help keep me marching into the direction of my fulfilling my goals.
You just might ask if I can make choices that guarantee my success. And I just might answer “Does a bear s*** in the woods?”