Process not Perfection

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Is done really better than perfect? Maybe in marketing or bed-making, but perfect sounds like a good idea when engaging in say, heart surgery or packing a parachute. Habits, though? Where do they fit in? I’m siding with done. To any degree.

I’m two weeks into my made up Three for Three system. I’m counting the “dones” because there is no perfect here. This is life. It’s more about mastery than perfection. And it’s all 100% subjective.

There is a quote from Swami Kripalu that I have always marveled at and I’m on a constant quest to embed it into every judgmental cell of my being: “Self-observation without judgment is the highest form of spiritual practice.” And how.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

Eliminating things is way easier than adding in new practices. At least the things I chose to let go of. It took absolutely no effort to deny alcohol. I mean aside from thinking somewhere on the periphery while preparing dinner that first night how lovely a glass of wine would be while chopping veggies, there has really been no thought of wine or alcohol of any kind.

While I was making my list of positive changes I wanted to adopt this year, there were other food items that I wanted to eliminate or greatly reduce: meat, dairy, gluten and sugar. I secretly bundled two of those into the curriculum of month one of “Project Me” and, like their buddy alcohol, they have not been missed. No meat or gluten for 14 days. Check.

BUT, if I do have meat and/or gluten, I have already given myself permission to let it go and not be judgmental. Alcohol is the focus. That was the one thing I promised myself.

I also want to clarify the reason I am doing this. To myself as much as anyone. I have identified those 5 foods as working against me. Or perhaps it is my affinity for them that becomes detrimental. Alcohol invites me to stay up too late and cozy up to lethargy. Meat has become more of a compassion issue over the years, but I also know too much of it too often promotes prolonged couch sitting. Gluten is glue to my digestive system. Nuff said. Dairy is inflammatory to everyone and I am everyone. Sugar is my best friend. I love sugar. I have let her go before and plan to move to another state to avoid her enticements if I have to to say bye-bye again. But not yet.

I always have these five frenemies in the back of my mind. I am hyper aware of each teaspoon of sugar that goes into my coffee and of how much butter I am using on my gluten-free toast. I have let go of cheese for the most part and don’t miss it. But just knowing this is the direction in which I’d like to go, keeps me from overindulging and seems to be working in my favor.

Plus, I have made no promises to let go of any of these things forever. Or maybe I will. But there is no pressure to label myself anything or any pride involved in being something-free. In fact, I would like to be the type of person that becomes so attuned to the needs of their own body that they eat and nourish it with exactly what and how much it requires.

Can you imagine? Not succumbing to peer pressure, advertising or non-supportive habits? Sounds kinda magical.

The side effect of eliminating all of these things, slowly and mindfully, is to create space and clarity. Clean energy to be used for higher pursuits. Give myself and my body the best opportunity to digest and thrive, thereby clearing my mind and sparking the moldering embers of creativity. To give myself every opportunity to be shiny.

Weight loss could also be a side benefit, but it’s not the driver. I haven’t weighed myself at all. I know I need to lighten up, lose weight and reduce inflammation and I believe that will happen naturally. I want to be my ideal size, but I’ve actually grown quite fond of my curves and thickness over the years. I like being huggable and grounded. But, if the universe decides my best body mass is 120 pounds I’m down with that too. I’ll adjust.

Now, for the moment of truth: The adding in of helpful habits. (Big sign, eye roll.)

The morning practice and daily writing? More difficult. For me it’s about structure and time. If I get up early enough these things will flow with much less effort. (That’s my belief.) The holidays and company have given me many convenient excuses not to do this. But honestly, even when I get up at 5:00 AM I manage to somehow fill the time with other things.

But I’m not giving up. Quitting would not serve me. These two practices are still tugging at me.

Let’s start with the morning practice. In my mind it was to be about an hour and include meditation, breath work and yoga. In reality, on my best days, it turned into 15 minutes of all of that. However, I am reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear and one of the methods to skillfully adopt a habit is to commit 2 minutes to it daily. In the case of my little routine that would look like sitting on my mat for 2 minutes. Maybe eyes closed and breathing. Maybe looking around my backyard. The habit is rolling out my mat and sitting down however I spend that time is irrelevant. In theory this mat sitting will evolve into the hour I had envisioned. Maybe two minutes at a time. Better than avoidance.

The writing has had a higher success rate. I have wondered more than once why I chose writing. I love to write. I hate to write. I love to think about writing and to have written, but the process sometimes feels arduous and the words won’t flow and who wants to read this drivel anyway when I’m bored with my own sentences. But bad writing is still writing. Good and better writing comes with consistency. And lots pages of bad writing. I have been able to meet my goal of 1000 words per day about 65% of the time.

As I consider my choices, and that voice of lethargy disguised as common sense that tries to talk me into other distractions, I am also fortifying my decisions by reading about habits, by reading about food, by writing about what I’m reading about. I believe that is called studying. And I do not have a specific goal in mind for any of it. No weight loss or book deal, no financial gain or gold stars.

The process is the struggle and the reward. To let it go is to fail. To skip days, fight against it and whine, but still do something, anything? That’s progress. Process not perfection.

 

A Nice Cup of Hot Water

Glass Cup of Tea

Day Five

Today is Big B Day. Basti – you remember, enema. (I just want you to know I typed that last word  s u p e r   s l o w l y  with my face all scrunched up.)

I decide to start my day right, with the routine Dr. Jain recommended.

  • Tongue scraping
  • Oil pulling
  • Teeth brushing
  • Hot water drinking
  • Pranayama
  • Meditation
  • Yoga

Let’s unpack a few of these a little more, shall we?

I briefly explained tongue scraping and oil pulling in yesterday’s blog and I trust you understand teeth brushing, but maybe you don’t see the appeal of “a nice cup of hot water”. Honestly I don’t either, or didn’t, but it’s not so bad.

Hot water with lemon was grandma’s old remedy to get things going in the morning. That’s still its purpose. Hot water stokes the digestive fires or maybe wakes them up. Mostly one cup will do, but if you’ve cheesed it up the night before or went to bed with a hamburger, maybe add a second cup. The idea is to drink the hot water until you eliminate.

Drinking hot water throughout the day keeps the plumbing happy. Dr. Jain recommends lime instead of lemon, and just a little bit, if you’d like to flavor your water. I wish I could remember why, I know asked him no less than 20 times. But a little of either would be fine.

Pranayama, our next step in this process, is a fancy Sanskrit word for breath work. Here, we are doing three different kinds.

Bastrika or breath of fire – forcefully inhaling and exhaling through the nose. We’re guided to do as many rounds as is comfortable and feels beneficial for us. Mostly we seem to be doing 2 sets of around 35. Between each round we take a moment to allow the breath to come back to normal.

Nadhi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing. This is an amazing technique that balances both hemispheres of the brain and is great to do before meditation or bed. It is done with a mudra (hand gesture) so that each nostril can be closed off to switch back and forth.

Kappalabhati or skull shining. It might be my favorite. It is also a forceful breath, but just on the exhalation. It takes a bit more practice to master as it involves the snapping in and up of the diaphragm on that forceful exhalation. The inhalation happens on its own. We do several rounds including adding in the kicky alternate nostril bit along with it.

All of these breathing techniques are done in this order and slowly with awareness of how they are making us feel. This part takes about 10 minutes.

The breath work clears the mind to prepare it for meditation. Here we sit for about 20 minutes, followed by a gentle yoga class.

This is my new morning routine, maybe an hour, hour and 15 each day. Fingers crossed.

My treatment is scheduled early today so I will forego breakfast. Skipping lunch yesterday had the pleasant consequences I was hoping for, so I’m trusting my gut. And leaving it empty. It will all be emptied out for me anyway.

It is Big Basti Day.

I want so badly to share the details with you but I fear I will lose you forever, so let’s just leave it at this: It cannot be done wrong, at least not with these kind and loving therapists. I imagine no matter what happens they remain encouraging and tell you what a great job you’re doing.

I can tell you that the bag they use is scary. It is big and full of oatmeal colored stuff. (Imagine an IV drip bag half full.) Each basti is tailor-made to the individual. I have no idea what is in mine but it has a yellowish tinge so I’m assuming turmeric is among its ingredients. They all have some sort of oil base, like coconut, olive or even ghee. There are tiny specs of things floating around in the bag which I take to be healing herbs.

Thank you. This is good for me.

It wasn’t humiliating or as bad as I thought. It did produce the desired results and after about an hour I felt pretty amazing. And I get to do it all over again tomorrow! (There’s sarcasm in that exclamation point.)

Most of us are walking around lighter and glowy as we meet for dinner. It is a free night, and a movie on Netflix has been cued up for us. It is not by accident that we are going to watch What the Health. It’s food education after all. The movie is clearly shewed toward Veganism with all the right doctors and statistics. But it offers a lot of useful information. We wince and oh my god at all the right places and vow to become vegans, at least until we leave here. After the movie we engage in a lively discourse about what we have just watched. We offer our opinions as well as debate certain facts. We listen to each other and agree or disagree kindly. All movies should be viewed this way, with a group of people who are like-minded but may have differing opinions. This art of conversation seems to have been swept away with the tides of civility not so long ago.

I head to bed with the stories of the three people in the movie that went from death’s door to glowing health in just two weeks, the pleasant feeling of being empty and a text from home that the kitty I’m fostering is a monster.

This should make for some interesting dreams.

Impure

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It has been a week since I completed an 8-day detox. This was not a stay-at-home and mix some lemon and apple cider vinegar cleanse type of thing, this was a go to a place get lulled into relaxation by the beautiful surroundings then get beaten up by treatments kinda deal.

I may be a tad bit dramatic here.

What I did is called panchakarma. It is an Ayurvedic detoxification process. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga – they kind of grew up together – which focuses on food, the physical body and its relationship to nature. Yoga, is the spiritual practice that is its companion.

You may be confused by that last sentence as yoga certainly seems like a physical exercise and in part it is, but that is just one small aspect of the philosophy. But we’ll get into that at another time.

Panchakarma translates to: pancha = five, karma = actions. There are five actions taken to help the body detoxify, but the actual detoxification is three weeks long (or forever). Here are the cliff notes:

Week One: The week before attending panchakarma I met with the doctor. Based on his assessment of my overall health he prescribed medicated ghee (an organic clarified butter with helpful herbs for my constitution), a powder to mix into hot water and drink before meals, and castor oil to drink at night. For 7 days.

Week Two: Go to the location of the panchakarma and receive the five actions, as well as; participate in breath work, meditation and yoga each morning; eat healthy balancing food provided throughout the day; and attend a lecture each evening.

The five actions in brief:

Abhyanga – a two-person lymphatic massage using a gallon of oil. Two people work on opposite sides of the body, in tandem, to help the lymph move through to carry toxins out of the body. There are other add-ons to the body work that I will share as they happen.

Swedana – Steaming out the impurities either through a canvas steamed dome that is lowered over the massage table or a steam box in which one sits with the head out.

Shirodhara – a continuous warm oil drip onto the third eye. You might see god, it’s that divine.

Vamana or Vierechana – Controlled Elimination. Depending on the individual’s constitution and level of impurities, they are administered herbs to either “gently” vomit or have “controlled” diarrhea.

Basti – enema. Do you want the name and number of this magical retreat yet? There are two types: a 2 ounce oleating enema that mostly gets absorbed into the colon, and the 12-ounce bag (think IV size) that is filled with a personalized prescription of oils and herbs. The results of this one are markedly different from the 2-ounce as you’ve likely already surmised.

Rakta Mokshana – Blood letting. Like leeches. We did not do this one. Apparently the FDA has rules about the health of leeches so we missed out.

Ok, I know that’s six and there are also nasya – medicated oil up the nose, and netra tarpin – eye drops. Just know we got the full package, plus some extras, minus the leeches.

Week Three: During week two diet and lifestyle practices have been discussed and then prescribed for home. In addition, some herbs or supplements may be recommended. And in all honesty, this third week is really a suggested way to continue eating and living for the next three months. Or forever. I am doing the vegan thing until May. At least. To the best of my ability. [Please note: chocolate, wine and coffee are all vegan.]

By now you may be wondering, Why? Why would you do this and why are you sharing this masochistic torture with me?

Because the results are amazing.

It is a complete reset. When I showed up at the center’s front door, I was stressed beyond my capacity to deal with it in a healthy manner, instead I was on the fuck it diet – eating whatever I wanted – and drinking way too much wine. I let go of all my helpful practices and even gave up riding my beloved bike, Ruby Blue. I was just too busy being overwhelmed and important to take care of myself. I was on auto-destruct but powering through.

I had to disrupt all my habits.

I had committed to the panchakarma six months before going. A couple of friends from California were going to do it and invited me join, so I say yes. One of my best yesses, I’d say.

The first few days of panchakarma I was still stuck in my head, anxious without an impossible list of tasks to complete, but by mid-week I had relaxed into the rhythm and surrendered to the schedule. I could feel the stress turning to vapor and leaving my body (it left in other ways too, but I don’t want to spoil it), I could feel my mind beginning to clear and my muscles and righteousness beginning to relax.

By the time I left, I had a clarity and focus I have not had in years. My body felt lighter and more open. I could breathe fully and smile easily. My skin was glowing.

Why would I want to give that up? Why would I ever want to go back to the old uptight pressure cooker I was? I wouldn’t. I don’t. I am doing all I can to maintain my peace and continue to heal body and mind.

What will follow the next few days is my day-by-day account of what I went through. It’s written in real time, as I was experiencing it, so it has all the snark that comes along with a sarcastic, stressed, overweight, toxic, middle-aged woman being asked to get naked so her body can be sanded, slathered and sweated for her own good.

Regardless of what that crazy bitch has to say, this clearer, calmer version of her, highly recommends the process and the amazing therapists and doctor of the Mind Body Wellness Center in Flagler Beach, Florida.

 

Juiced Up

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When I first dreamed up this year of the purge thing it included a few components: body, mind, home, life. The results or byproducts of clearing and cleansing those aspects would include, more energy, more peace, less stuff, and higher consciousness regarding things and their impact on the planet and my life.

Oh, and, more time and money for travel. All roads lead to another road to wander down. There’s always an end game. But I am content to be in the process and see where else it takes me.

I’ve been working on the home aspect, having counted a few areas and filled at least one bag for donation, handed off random things to people I thought may enjoy them, and made lists of other items to go. Now it’s ime to switch gears a bit.

Onto the body. A little cleansing of the meat suit. Which brings us to juicing.

I love juicing. I have mentioned this. As far as a way to cleanse the body and shoot it through with energy, I have found no better, kinder way than juicing.

Like all things good for me, I let juicing go for a while. Why do we do this? Why do we say, ‘oh, yoga is great, I always feel so open and calm after I do yoga,’ then not do yoga for a week? Or is that just me?

Anyway, I thought I had unlocked that mystery or at least crafted a workaround where juicing was concerned.

Like all things awesome there is another side.

THE DOWNSIDES OF JUICING:

It takes time. Vegetables need to be rinsed. I remove the stalk of the kale to help preserve the life of my juicer, so that takes some time. I also remove seeds and stems from apples and pears, cut up large carrots and celery stalks. Maybe most of that isn’t necessary, but it works for me.

And money. A mound of greens the size of a Volkswagen Beetle produces about 12 ounces of juice. Organic greens are not inexpensive. I would love to grown my own and hope to plant as soon as it’s time, but until then, I buy.

Plus, juicers don’t come cheap. A good one will be $200 and up.

Waste. Once the liquid is extracted, all the fiber gets shot into the waste bin and it’s a lot. If you don’t have a compost bin, it just goes into the trash. That health fiber could be the start of the aforementioned garden.

Back to time: Most juicers have many parts and they all have to be cleaned. Mine has 7.

THE UPSIDE OF JUICING:

Energy, cleansing, energy. Juicing as opposed to smoothies provides a shot of nutrients because the fiber is removed. There’s nothing to slow down the digestive and assimilation process. I’m a big fan of smoothies too, but if it’s energy in a hurry I want, juicing is my go to.

So how to minimize all this if I’m in a time crunch?

THE WORKAROUND:

Purchasing cold pressed juices I trust. I am partial to the brand Suja. Until, of course, I learn that they have been purchased by one of the major soft drink companies who will undoubtedly change the formulas to include some sort of poison wrapped in a healthy name I can’t pronounce. But, as of yet, this has not happened. I hope. But, these juices come in plastic bottles and that makes me a little sad.

Knowing that 80% of what we toss into our recycle bins ends up at the landfill gives me pause every time I purchase something. It’s daunting. It has to be a process and that’s what I’m in the middle of right now.

Instead of taking the shortcut and buying my energy – and honestly the effect doesn’t seem as immediate with the store-bought elixir – I have to change some habits. I have to be consistent in what time I get up each morning to allow enough time for this important aspect of The Plan.

There is a back-up plan. A back-up to the back-up, if you will.

THE OTHER WORKAROUND:

Smoothies. I have my eye on a Vitamix. I have a 20% off coupon and a $100 gift card that will drop the price to about $350 but that is still an investment. Smoothies also have incredible health benefits with the added bonus of less produce waste and more options. I can throw a banana or an avocado in a Vitamix along with wheat grass powder and almost anything else. And the best part? One thing to clean and it does that on its own.

But it’s another appliance. *SIGH*

This mindful conscious thing is a lot of work. It’s a process. And totally worth it.

 

Cluttered Mind

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The whole idea of cleansing is a mental one. Amassing stuff, weight, debt – all stemming from the same root cause by the way – happens first in the  mind. We feel a sense of lack on some level so we eat, purchase, expend undue stress and energy.

Your mind created it. It can fix it.

If clarity is what you’re seeking a dedicated meditation practice is all you need. Really.

But if your mind is so occupied with thoughts about work, the kids, aging parents, cleaning, cooking, laundry, car trouble, illness, I forgot to exercise again, etc. how are you expected to quiet your mind enough to meditate?

If losing weight and getting healthier is your focus, simply changing how you eat, what you eat and moving more should take care of that.

But if you are stressed and your body is constantly “on” in flight or flight – and believe me it probably is – the weight will be stubborn. It’s quite comfortable right where it is. Giving up often seems like the only clear option.

If creating more physical space by decluttering and purging your stuff is your goal, that’s simple enough. Go through your things and get rid of whatever you no longer need or want.

But what if you uncover some attachments to weird things. An old handkerchief becomes a memory of a long passed grandmother, the broken chair was the one your dad always sat in. How are you going to release anything at that rate? And what if your partner, kids or other housemates just keep bringing more stuff home?

The reason behind the purge has to be solid; it has to be enough to keep you going. You know you will feel lighter and more open to possibility if you have less stuff, more time, and get healthy. That clear picture of the results – the space – has to become crystal clear to keep you moving forward.

Start slow but steady and determined. Habits will try to remind you how everything was just fine the way it was.

This is ultimately a mental cleanse; the clearing out of old habits and they will fight back.

I highly recommend meditation, yoga, walking, juicing. They’re all powerful tools for clarity.

We have 12 full months to turn this ship around. Just take one step today. Just agree with yourself that you are going to create space for clarity and magic then let the ‘hows’ unfold.

Still chomping to get started or whining a little?

If you did a little internal groan at meditation might I recommend Yoga Nidra? It is a meditation practice that is guided. You are laying down and simply listening. Doing this practice everyday or even twice a day for a month, or less, will change everything. Well, it will change your perspective of everything.

If yoga or walking prompted an eyeroll, just do some research on your local studios first, find a truly gentle class and start there. The big secret: Yoga is less about physical flexibility and strength (although that naturally comes) and more about mental flexibility and clarity. Or go for a walk. In regular old street clothes and some comfortable shoes. Take your phone – not to talk, try to be completely present to everything around you – to take photos of magic. You’re bound to see a beautiful flower, a bird, a sunrise. Capture it, it’ll get you back out there tomorrow.

fullsizerender-20If juicing sounds like yesterday’s hot thing or pure quackery, give it another chance. It takes a little more work. First you need a juicer and lots and lots of raw veggies and a few not too-sweet fruits. Or do you? There are some high quality cold pressed juices out there. I’m a big fan of Suja. I’m a bigger fan of juicing myself. Smoothies are great too, but with juicing you get a shot of nutrients right to the blood stream without the time it takes to digest the fiber of eating a whole bunch of kale or a carrot. If you don’t have a juicer, start with the store bought variety or make yourself a healthy smoothie in your blender. Just get some more high-quality raw veggies in that amazing body of yours.

“What about all my stuff?” you may be thinking. Take that one step at a time as well. We’ll be talking in great detail about physical objects and clutter. For now take a look around your home and determine where to start. For most it will be inside something. My own home neatly hides tons of mysterious secret stuff: drawers, closets, desks. Maybe start somewhere simple and mostly neglected. Or maybe you’ll choose to start with a category of things like clothes. There are as many techniques out there as there is stuff, we’ll go over a few that seem to be gaining some traction in the coming weeks. For now, just observe. Notice how things make you feel.

None of this has to be started today. Or ever. Remember your goal? Your reason? It’s yours, it’s personal. If any of these things can help you get on your way to more clarity give them a shot.

There will not be just one answer, one solution. It takes a village of ideas and practices working together – along with a support system – to feel safe enough to drill down and begin to create a shift.

With clarity comes enchantment, freedom and purpose.

Wait, purpose, what?

 

 

Making Space for Enchantment

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I have too much stuff. And this is the year I am going to get to know it on a very personal level.

If you saw my home you might not agree with me and I have to admit I love my home, it’s warm and cozy and many – most really – of the objects I own have some sort of special significance or I just fell madly in love with them. But I’m done collecting and storing. I’d like to think.

This year for me is going to be about living mindfully. Consciously. In every way I can without becoming some reformed fanatic and without walking away and giving up when something becomes too daunting or difficult or even boring – there’s magic in those struggles.

I have been obsessed with purging and organizing since almost forever. When I was in middle school I actually wrote down everything I owned on a notepad. Of course I only had one room to catalog. As an interior designer I used the Chinese art of placement – Feng Shui – in every application I could, and still do in my own home. I’ve read the Japanese Art of Tidying and purged over 350 books, bags of clothes and shoes, chatchkes that had lost their charm and broken plates, furniture, etc. I read Minimalism in a day while I was at my brothers and organized his house with a plan for him to finish and my suggestions.

It’s in my DNA.

So If I am always purging you’d think that, a.) I am a hoarder and therefore have an unlimited amount of things to remove from my home or b.) there’s really nothing left for me to do and I’m obsessive compulsive. There is a third option that I’ve wondered about: do I continue to purchase things so I can continue to purge? Am I perpetuating this because it makes me feel good to clean out?

This will be the test. I do not want to simply organize – although I do love that! – I want to eliminate stuff and exchange it for space and clarity.

My plan:

  • Catalog every item in my home. I will start with just my stuff, but eventually get to my husband’s as well. He’s part of my conundrum. While I could live simply with a few precious items, he hauls stuff in on the regular to fix, keep or sell at one of his various antique spaces. Then there is the pile(s) of “I might need this…” stuff. But we’ll address that, and him, later.
  • Purge what is no longer useful or meaningful. Mindfully putting it in the best hands for what it is. Maybe even selling it to pay off that looming student loan (more on that…).
  • Eat clean 90% of the time. We do this pretty well, but I want to become even more conscious of the companies and people from whom I am purchasing my food.
  • Reduce my carbon footprint any way I can. Reducing the amount of plastic and paper we use, how we wash our clothes and our bodies (making conscious choices with shower products), growing some of my own food.
  • Create a mammoth spreadsheet of my stuff, categorize it, tell it’s story and along the way release what I can
  • Ask myself, with everything I do or bring into my home, “Is this the best choice for me, the planet, my home?” “Do I need it?”
  • Reduce my trash and recycles to next to nothing.

I don’t expect to come out on the other side of this with a chair, a table and laptop only. I won’t be reducing my place settings and silverware down to two sets. But I can make some sound decisions and profound changes that will impact my overall sense of well-being, improve my health and be kinder to the planet.

Wanna play along? Comment often with questions or what you’re doing. Let’s make this a practice we do together. It’s not about making sacrifices so much as honoring your own time and energy and creating the space for an Enchanted Life.