It is 3:47am and I closed out the last year with a complete meltdown from my daughter and a restart on the year with a midnight raccoon visitor that has been seen crossing over my skylight. It seems my New Year starts out with a bang, or a scampering, in this case.
Hope everyone else’s new years’ started off better than mine. I think of the change of the new year as a chance to reflect on the past year and what could the future year hold for me. Inevitably, I default to the three ‘big’ ideas that seem to top everyone’s list: eat better, more exercise, and finances. I came to realize that these are never exactly accomplished as regular behavior for me because they have been treated as external achievements, rather than internal reflection. In January, I kick off my first 40-day Challenge, and have been spending weeks thinking about what works, “how can you inspire, how can you help people achieve their goals”. I came to the realization through this journey that you can’t, really. Nothing externally will help change what is going on within; myself included.
First round of business: physician, heal thyself.
So let’s get to the heart of things. For me, food inevitably goes back to one time in my life: when my parents first separated and my mother had to move us and work a full-time job. For more exercise, well this was never a problem until after I had my child and am frankly too exhausted or cannot afford the additional daycare for the gym. Lousy Seattle weather, a bum knee, some extra weight and all my time going towards yoga doesn’t make me, the sluggish Kapha Taurean, all that eager to go the extra mile on a treadmill or climb a mountain anytime soon. And finances, well don’t get me started. I always mean well, but my attitude has been a bit anti-establishment.
When you are surrounded by a bunch of type-A tech executives constantly checking the pulse of the stock and their investment portfolios it is hard not to be put off by this obsession with money, lake houses, Lexus’, etc.
Let’s hoard a bunch of cash and when we are seventy and retired, we can start living our lives the way we have always dreamed- too bad I will need that hip replacement and will need to downsize our McMansion so I can make it up and down the stairs. Cynicism about finances, or the assumption that the hardworking will always have money coming in has seemed to delude the point for me if not miss it entirely.
Finances for me boils down to one thing: discipline.
But is it discipline or devotion that takes precedence in the recipe for success? That is a tricky road to navigate in life. Why? Realizing I was working too much after having my daughter, and the toll it was taking on her, I resigned from Microsoft (aka financial security) and traveled with her around the world doing nothing but connecting, playing and doing yoga. When I resurfaced, I opted to devote my life to yoga study and teaching people how to teach yoga. Instead of making it what I love to do part time it is now what I am. Could I not apply that same logic- the devotion of wanting the best life and love for my daughter with the discipline of focusing on my yoga teaching? Discipline and devotion, didn’t Edward Clark talk about that a few years back with regards to cultivating the ultimate practice?
Last night, pre-meltdown, we were playing Connect Four, but her way. Seeing my daughter counting and making up new ways to play old games really reminded me why I am here. It is an extraordinary privilege to share your life devoted to another. But to maintain harmony, it also requires discipline. An equal measure creates balance, just like the doshas require balance as part of maintaining natural order. 2012 and this is what I am going to do, inside, to bring forth a set of desired external results.
1) Diet. Recently, I had rented out the upstairs on my house since we had a busy travel year and I was starting my yoga business full-time. As such, we got into the dangerous habit (financially and wellness) of eating out a lot. Plus, no longer constantly being in an electrolyte-draining hot room, I quit drinking water or any liquids, almost completely, except my new kitchen-free breakfast on the go, Mexican mochas. Stupid, I know, but it actually tied eerily well into the gestalt of my family life when my mother went back to work. By the time she got home, which was late, there was no time to make food unless it was microwaved or drive-thru and we were still quite young and not really preparing our own food but sandwiches. Fruit consisted of red
delicious (the least delicious – IMHO) apples, bananas, and oranges.
When going out to eat, I noticed this tendency to order amazing foods. With no place to bring leftovers back to, I did not want to waste any of it so managed to eat it. I also packed my juicer and my food processor. Solution: Mindful eating. Spending time in Charlotte with Jessie Fletcher from Clear Conscience market showed me how you don’t need much and the non-negotiable choices you make in food cannot be deviated from. I learned so much being with her on so many levels and am working hard to adapt her effortless mindset.
One of my teachers always says appetite is the lie; hunger the truth. He also says you don’t need health insurance; spend the money preventatively on excellent, organic, high-quality foods. Two beautifully wisely stated truths.
Application: Take as much time to eat as you took to prepare. Eat slower, be grateful and acknowledge the work of the creation of the food and its sourcing. Organic, local, etc. those are engrained in my ethos, but the Slow Food Nation concept I somehow lost last year. Now that I have my kitchen back and am traveling less, I will work towards forming this habit again. Plus, I am conscientiously drinking more water. The delusion inside? The feelings of my parents’ divorce being processed through eating food on the go and forming bad eating habits in my early years. The devotion? My love of preparing, serving and enjoying my food. The discipline? Go slow, enjoy, eat only on need, not on emotional neediness.
2) Exercise (non-yoga). When Mathilde was a baby, this was easy. I had baby weight and was motivated to lose it. Found love in running half marathons around the country, and training for marathons. I loved getting feeling back in my arms after my pregnancy and lifting weights again. Then she got bored and fussy being in the stroller for long periods of time. She wanted
to start walking but went slowly and soon wanted to be carried back home. Now that she is five and good at interacting with others, I have to make a decision.
Excuses, excuses; they are the strange bedfellow of any new year’s resolution, right?
Solution: Alter Schedule to incorporate swimming & weights no matter where you are and what you are doing. Either we take it outside into nature or we carve out time to do it at the gym. It is not going to happen any other way. Travel is the bull that pushes me out of my exercising arena and this is all about discipline because I know from the past, that I am certainly motivated and completely devoted to wellness. Application: Set specific times in the morning and make them non-negotiable. Do not allow scheduling or social obligations to get in the way. Since I cannot roll out of bed at 5am and hit the road or the gym due to baby that has to be my meditation time while I can still be in the house. Gym time will have to be mid-day, either when she is in school or can go to daycare. Five days a week :90 was a must-do pre 2006. Yoga is not enough for my body as much as I love it and cherish it. I really love integrating yoga with other pursuits and somehow stayed with yoga but ditched its compensations. This includes finding this time even during teacher trainings and retreats. The delusion inside? My daughter or travel schedule prohibits me from the freedom to do what I need to do for me. The devotion? I LOVE exercising and working out to supplement my yoga. The discipline? I have lost that under the heap of excuses I have made, so this one for the next few months will be ALL about the discipline.
3) Finances. Good thing about finances and numbers: numbers don’t lie. Bad thing about finances and numbers: numbers don’t lie. On the excel spreadsheet, on the scale, on the bank balance; there is no place to run when examining the numbers because they take the emotion and subjectivity out of the equation. We tend to run from numbers because they don’t make us feel good and nothing in society dictates that having less or doing without is ever okay. Even when I was flush with cash working in high-tech, the numbers never seemed big enough, because I had magazines and airport lounge televisions pointing out to me that I did not drive the big Range Rover but only the Land Rover T-3. My house was okay, but others houses were twice the size, had
televisions in every room, twin sub-Z’s, and four carports. Did you know that my house actually doesn’t have motion sensor toilets whose seats rise and warm when I come into a five foot range? I actually have to lift my own toilet seat in my own home. What was my problem? I buried the hatchet on these types of attachments as they are God knows, completely superficial and an easy veil to remove once you become a full-time yoga teacher. Ha ha, actually the veil is just torn off like an industrial strength Band-Aid. Solution: Say goodbye to all those magazine subscriptions and avoid the malls at all costs. I have a library floor to ceiling full of design and fashion magazines. I recently parted during a relocation from New York to San Francisco with every edition of Vogue from 1980-2000 (the archivist in me cringes at this fact). I never want or desire until I see and the inculcation of luxury goods in the plethora of catalog drops in my mailbox and the prodigious subscription base of design and lifestyle related mags really wastes my time. What used to be relaxing and stimulating to my creative mind quickly became a “must have” mentality. Once an avid art collector and perennial clothes’ horse, I have stepped away from those indulgences. See? Even I am making progress. Application: No visits to the mall, no late nights online shopping (I don’t do this at all but thought it was worth a mention for those that do).
But don’t deprive yourself. If your expenses are in line with your life purpose and vision, then consider investments as being made in yourself and your life and not simply in your bank account. They will reap a return on investment in their own way, and not always financially but in ways that will encourage the right way of living for you and your goals (dharma goals, that is).
The delusion inside? I need more; there must be more to feel complete. The devotion? Because I am committed to my vision and my purpose and value my own time I willingly make lifestyle and purchasing choices that support and sustain my goals which also includes providing for my daughter. The discipline? Really, no Lululemon, weekly pedicure and massage!? $250 per week times four equals $1000 per month, or $12,000 per year. Again, math and those pesky numbers.
Summary: Without a vision, a deeper inner knowing of who we are and what we are here to accomplish, there is no way any goals can be set that will stick and have true impact. Instead let’s see who we are and put it on paper and understand the places where we need to cultivate discipline vs. nurture our devotions.
We are not what we say we are, but simply what we do.
Practice creates mastery.
We are also human, and need to be gracious and forgiving of our faults. Hard-ass has never worked for any new years resolution strategy I have ever heard of; why start now only to fail later?
Sometimes we let external circumstances dictate or overly influence the flora of our internal worlds. That is the #1 thing we should all set goals to eradicate. How do we do this? We practice our yoga. We sit in devotion, either in prayer or meditation. We spend a balanced amount of time in nature, caring for our bodies. We devote our time to those we love that serve that higher goal in us and say goodbye, compassionately, to those that do not. Reclaim your time, reclaim your mind, and what can one NOT accomplish in 2012.
Happy New Years, everyone!