Tuesday, February 11, 2014

40 Days to Personal Revolution: Week 5

Today is the last day of Week 5 of Baron Baptiste's 40 Days to Personal Revolution, and this week we focus on Centering. Being the end of week 5 means that there are only 5 days left of my Personal Revolution!  I can't even believe it, part of me is excited to complete the challenge and a bigger part of me is sad that it's going to be over... it really have been transformative for me, and SO MUCH FUN!  

My yoga practice has grown LEAPS and BOUNDS over the last month and not just in my physical  practice.  This past weekend I spent two whole days in a Yoga Immersion at The River learning about the 8 Limbs of Yoga and all of the mental / spiritual avenues through which to practice yoga, or to "live your yoga" and take the practice off of your mat. It turns out the physical "asana" practice is just a very small piece to this yummy yoga pie. It's some pretty neat stuff, and has made me realize that as my 40 days are ending, my yoga journey is just beginning.

I have to say week 5 has gone pretty well in most areas of the 'revolution' with the exception of meditation, which this week was supposed to be 25 minutes twice a day.  Out of 7 days, I only managed to meditate 6 times and of those 6 times, only 4 of them were for 25 minutes... bad Rachel! I am going to rededicate myself to finishing up the last week strong w/ 30 minutes twice a day... I'm REALLY going to try (but my brother is coming into town on Friday for a ski weekend... so no promises...)  BUT I am definitely going to continue daily meditation after the 40 days are over (definitely only once per day, because meditating in the evenings is just impossible for me, and probably starting w/ only 10-20 minutes a day) BUT even though this was my 'worst' week for meditation, it was also the week that the meditation component really clicked for me.  I notice it creeping into my everyday life and I really think it has been a wonderful training for my mind - helping me to be more present in my everyday life AND helping me to recognize when my mind is getting carried away with itself and redirect my thoughts to the present moment. 

This week the theme was centering and we focused on Baron Baptiste's Laws of Transformation #9 and #10... some more good stuff!!

Law 9: Don't Rush the Process - This law really reminds us that everything in life is a process and we can't skip the work and expect to see the results, any results.  It is a great thing to be reminded of at any point in life and in any aspect in life, because no matter where you are or what you are doing, you've just got to put the work in in order to get anywhere in life. As Baron says,
The principle of process is a law that our culture is constantly attempting to defy. It is a law that cannot be broken, however, so we end up braking ourselves against it instead. For many of us it's easy to accept this law when we see it in nature, but personally we want to cheat it. We want the quick fix... We cannot rush the process and still expect to be really successful at anything.
I love that. I need that reminder and I need it often! Baron quotes one of his students as saying, "I learned that I had to be willing to show up and suck until I could show up and shine." and that is what it is really all about. I've learned that a lot in yoga this last month. I try and try and try these poses and they just suck and suck until one day, I just get it! And it's wonderful! But if I had never tried and if I had never been willing to "suck" at it, I would never have been able to shine... and just like that, another lesson moves from the mat to real life, because when in life can you ever get good at something without first making mistakes?

Law 10: Be True To Yourself - As Baron describes this law he says, "Being true to yourself means looking within to discover what you know in your heart to be right and then acting on it. It does not mean following every last whim or urge you might have; that is just selfishness in disguise."

During this week, one of my yoga teachers shared this little cartoon on Facebook:
I'm not going vegan, but it's is funny because I ran into this a little bit when I went on my fruit fast (which was only four days!). Just as this cartoon depicts, in this law Baron is reminding us that following our inner compass probably will involve going against the grain, in some way, and that we should be prepared for that.  It is important to be committed to our own intuition, find our way on our own in this life, and be willing to accept the disruption to our own status quo... because "the genuine transformational experience is by its nature disruptive of the existing state of affairs."

(this is literally a split second cut from a video of my first attempt at this pose... this is DEFINITELY one of my biggest works in progress, but I'll get it one day!)
I think the biggest lesson of this week, and the one that I will have to probably work on for the rest of my life, and will likely never perfect, is maintaining grounding and presence.  And not just being present when I'm with my friends and family or really enjoying the moment when I'm out doing something fun... but being present in the minutia of every day life - do I really remember what i said to the grocery store clerk? Am I really present when I'm driving to and from my yoga studio (a drive which I could do blindfolded), or am I getting caught up in my stories and lists that run through my head. 
This is where it is really starting to come together (as I mentioned earlier) that meditation is not just a practice that is separate from my 'real' life, meditation is a practice FOR my 'real' life. Baron encourages us to 'Make everything you do a practice of meditative awareness." What a challenge that is, but really it is a chance to reclaim your life from your self, to really be here and not be lost in thought, "in your own world" and missing what is actually right in front of you. How much have I missed already!? 

still workin' on it!
Tomorrow starts my last week! It's almost over!!!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

40 Days to Personal Revolution: Three-Day Fruit Fast

Here I am, just finishing up my final day of the three-day fruit fast that is 'prescribed' in Week 4 of Baron Baptiste's 40 Days to Personal Revolution... so how do I feel on the evening of my last day?  Pretty good, I have to say! - but definitely ready for a cup of coffee and some thing crunchy tomorrow!
According to the Mayo Clinic a fruit includes avocado, beans, peapods, corn kernels, cucumbers, grains, nuts, olives peppers, pumpkin, squash, sunflower seeds and tomatoes. Vegetables include celery (stem), lettuce (leaves), cauliflower and broccoli (buds), and beets, carrots and potatoes (roots).
I decided to stick to a pretty narrow definition of fruit (berries, bananas, oranges, apples, etc.) and also tomatoes and avocados, and I have to say... it wasn't even close to being as hard as I thought it would be. I know that there were others in my group that did struggle with it, and a lot of others who included things like squash and nuts, but I found the strict fruit fast surprisingly easy.  Although February is not the best month to attempt a fruit cleanse, I was able to stock up on some berries and a fresh pineapple yesterday to give myself some more variety and that got me through to the end. My one mistake was that I didn't properly shop prior to starting, so the first two days were VERY repetitive (I'm SICK of APPLES!).
Technically the fruit fast is supposed to be three days, but yesterday (on my third day) I randomly ended up at a customer's site without a car (silly of me) and had to go to lunch with my customers to pass the time until my ride was ready to leave. We were in Meade, Colorado, a TINY town north of Denver with not much going on and not many options, so they took me to the local BBQ joint.... not the best place to be if your on a fruit fast - they didn't even have fruit on the menu!  There was really no socially acceptable way for me to get out of lunch w/out eating, so I ordered a chicken salad and promised myself I wouldn't beat myself up over it... life happens and you have to roll with the punches sometimes. But I was disappointed because I knew I could have done it and I really wanted to do it, so later that day I decided that to make up for it by extending my fruit fast one more day - hence a 4-day fruit fast.
The hardest part of the four days was last night, because it was Nick's birthday.  Dan invited us over for dinner with Aimee and Kevin. There was pasta w/ sausage, bread (that looked amazing), Caesar salad, chicken wings, AND birthday cake.... I wanted to eat it so bad!!! But I'm proud of myself that I held strong and didn't cave to the temptation (but there is a piece of bday cake in the fridge for me that I will eat tomorrow!!)
So what did my day look like on the fruit cleanse?  For breakfast every day I had a fruit shake - fruit only, with either some coconut milk or pineapple juice.  Lunch was a fruit salad (except when it was a chicken salad!) and for dinner I had roasted tomatoes and avocado every night.  (yes as I said... my fast was a little redundant). then there was snacking throughout the day on whatever I grabbed first.  
So now that it's just about over, what are my take-aways form the fast
First: What I learned
  •  I was REALLY surprised that I wasn't famished all day long and I was REALLY surprised by how easy the fast was for me. (ok it's not really a fast, because you can eat as much as you want but it just has to be fruit) but yeah it was great to do something so easily that I thought was going to be really hard.
  • Yoga was also not as difficult as I thought it would be on the fast.  On the second day I even did YogaCross (45 minutes of cross training + 45 minutes of yoga) and felt absolutely great! Today, though, I was definitely feeling fatigued in class and had to take it easy in a couple of poses, but all in all it went pretty well.
  • I was surprised by how little I actually needed to eat to feel satiated.  Of course I was eating lots of small portions throughout the day, but it gave me the sense that I probably over eat quite a bit without realizing it - in the very least it gave me a better awareness of my eating patterns and how I might make small changes to improve my general diet.
  • The most important thing I learned was that I really love fruit, it is easy to eat, and I should always be snacking on fruit and eating fruit salads, it is wonderful!  Last fall I was almost never eating fruit, so I started to track it in an attempt to eat more... in October I ate fruit only 50% of the days... in January, I ate fruit 26 / 31 days - and in February right now I'm 6/6.... pretty good improvement if I do say so myself!
What I would do differently:
  • I would buy more varieties of fruit and not be so lazy with my dinner choices - tomatoes and avocado are great, but 4 nights in a row? That is just lazy! I probably would have benefited from diversifying my diet a bit, but for a first ever cleanse, I'm not going to beat myself up over it.
And that's about it.  I am super excited to have finished my first ever cleanse.  I also combined the fruit fast with a 7-day cleanse from Arbonne where you basically just drink their cleanse drink every day for 7 days.  It didn't cause any cramping or bathroom problems (like I had feared) and was probably the easiest cleanse I've ever heard of, so that was pretty great too. 
 I'm not sure how detoxified my body really is after all of this cleansing, I don't know if you're supposed to feel different or anything, i feel about the same (but i did lose a couple of pounds!) but it did feel pretty good to spend a week being super diligent about what I ate  (except on super bowl Sunday when I was washing down my Doritos with my Arbonne cleanse!).  Now that it's over though, I'm ready for some solid food tomorrow!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

40 Days to Personal Revolution: Laws of Transformation for Weeks 3-4

I am almost through with week 4 and I have to say, things are going pretty well. I'm feeling amazing and absolutely LOVING going to yoga everyday.  Today is the first day of my 3-day fruit cleanse (or "fruit feast") where I cleanse my body by eating only fruit (avocados and tomatoes count!) for three days.  At the end of day one I feel wonderful, so far so good! Today after class I was feeling so good that I spent some time practicing at home afterwards... and snapping some selfies!! haha
Still a work in progress...
So as I've mentioned before, every week of our ~6 week 40 Day Personal Revolution, we focus on 2 of Baron Baptiste's 12 Laws of Transformation (which are all in his book 40 Days to Personal Revolution). Week three focused on Laws 5 and 6:

Law 5: Shift Your Vision:  I love this one because my yoga studio has been encouraging us to #shiftyourperspective in 2014 - because "if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change" and this is exactly what this law is all about. One of the great pieces of wisdom in this law is "In life we run into obstacles that upon first glance look like the fault of others, but a closer examination will often show that the obstacles can be a mirror of our own hidden barriers." Baron challenges us to focus our attention, intention, and faith in positive directions because "whatever you focus on, you fortify." And isn't that the truth!
My first #shiftyourperspective Instragram picture
Law 6: Drop What You Know: This law is essentially instructing us to stop thinking and start being.  "It means noticing your doubts and then letting them go, endlessly releasing the thoughts and internal stories that reinforce your mental status quo." Because, "We don't change by thinking, we change by being and doing with pure intent."  Baron encourages us to stay in the present moment, because "the present moment has the opportunity for a rebirth" - every breath is blessing and new opportunity to start fresh.
At first I thought, this law is especially pertinent for yoga because it is so important to be present on your mat, or you will miss the entire class. But then doesn't that just bring yoga right back to life... because if you are not present in life, you will miss that just as easily.  My yoga teacher told me last week that as we began our class in child's pose and ended in corpse pose, our time on the mat was (and always is) a metaphor for life. How we choose to react to struggle, fatigue, challenge, and even boredom on the mat directly translates to how we react to those things in life.  Our mats are a mirror into ourselves and we can use our time on the mat to practice (and indeed yoga is a practice) how want to live our lives, and it begins with dropping what we know and being fully present in every posture and then in every moment in life... As Baron says in Law 6, " lightening lasts only for a moment and ...we must be fully present and open in order to see what it illuminates."
Week 4 of our 40 Days to Personal Revolution was focused on Restoration, and went along with laws 7 & 8. 
Law 7: Relax With What Is: This law encourages us to "relax in the face of stress." This again is an area that we can REALLY practice on the mat how we want to react to stressful situations in "real life."  It is a constant part of any yoga practice to relax into intense and often times uncomfortable stretches, but we do it because, as Baron says in Law 7, "Good pain... is the threshold to a new body, a new psychology, and a new spirit. As uncomfortable as it is, it usually holds lessons and can give new direction if we stay open and relax with the discomfort just as it is."  In life, there is great value in being a person who can relax in the face of stress - at the office, in the hectic day-to-day, in situations of danger or uncertainty - because that is when you need to be most clear of mind in order to find your way out.
Law 8: Remove the Rocks: "The block of granite which was an obstacle in the path of the weak becomes a stepping stone in the path of the strong," Thomas Carlyle (by way of Baron Baptiste).  This is a beautiful law, and something that I should come back to again and again, because in this law Baron reminds us that, "Transformation comes not by adding things on, but by removing what didn't belong in the first place.... We forget that there is something perfect already within us..."  Here are some more of his words (I especially love the first line!):
The greatest power we have over ourselves is our ability to change our minds about ourselves... There is tremendous power in just knowing what is going on within us, not so that we can "work on stuff," but so that we can begin to release it...It is so important for us to get that we don't have to solve any of our problems. If we can soften our heart, give up some of our old ways of being, and reconnect to the truth, our problems will give us up. - Baron Baptiste, 40 Days to Personal Revolution, Law 8.
So yeah... these are the things that I have been trying to focus on for the last two weeks... some really great stuff, even if you aren't in to yoga (I think!).  I think everyone can benefit from some more mindfulness and presence in life and working through this book, practicing yoga, and meditating every day has definitely brought more mindfulness and presence into my life in the last 4 weeks.

I have to say I didn't really have any expectations when I started this little program, but I am really happy that I did - it has been a great means by which to center myself and focus renewed energy on becoming the best possible version of myself. AND it's an excuse to go to yoga every single day... what more could a girl ask for!? :-)

I am really thankful that this 40 Days is right at the beginning of the year and also at the beginning of a new decade in my life.  First because I am not traveling so much for work right now, so I have the opportunity to really spend the time diving into it all, but second, because I can't think of a better way to start of my 30's! I am excited about the last two weeks and even more excited to take what I've learned in these 40 days with me throughout the year and beyond. 

And now I leave you with a some new videos of some things I've been working on in my yoga practice in the last couple of weeks...