30 Sober Days of Meditation

Week 1 Update:

1/19/18

Day 7, I made it, phew! I’ve been wanting to write a blog post on this particular experiment for a long time. And I don’t want to simply label this as an “experiment” because it’s so much more than that. This is the first time, in a LONG time, that I’ve really challenged myself…to say NO to something that I always say YES to and to commit to sitting still for at least 15 minutes a day. This can only change me for the better, right? And I’m ready to change, I’m ready to grow and expand in a meaningful way.

This blog idea has probably been on my mind for at least year and I kept coming up with excuses not to do it…I had a party coming up or a show or I was bored and wanted some wine. Something interesting that I’ve noticed this week is the panic that I experience around saying no to an ingrained habit. There’s almost a sense of dread when saying no to something that you always, ALWAYS, A L W A Y S say yes to. Exploring that gap, that dreaded gap, I believe, is the space where we have the power to make huge, sweeping changes in our lives. I’ve never had the courage to explore it until now…

Sitting has been easier for me, as I have years of experience with it and have done it for hours at a time. The tricky thing is…I’ve never done it for 30 days straight because I always let myself off the hook. It’s not that I forget, I just choose to get lazy. I watch Netflix instead (usually with wine;) or just say that I don’t want to do it. One of the things that I love about a consistent meditation practice is how sharp my focus and attention becomes and it’s certainly something that I’ve been enjoying the last couple days. This combined with not drinking has definitely cleared up my thinking, I’ve become noticeably more patient and perhaps the biggest place that I notice a difference is, is in my teaching. There are intelligent and philosophical words and thoughts flowing out of my mouth and I’m not really sure where they came from. When I put my hands on my student’s bodies, I feel as if I’m able to mold and hold them with just the right amount of pressure and in just the right way. I feel as if my ability to read my students has helped me to care for an nurture them in a way that feels honest and genuine. Everything feels more…potent.

Next Friday, I leave for Oakland for 10 days to start my 300-hour training with Annie Carpenter. I’m scared, nervous and excited about the rigorous schedule and also what I might learn about myself, what sort of depth I may uncover. I *knew* that I had to be sober for this training, I knew that I had to give this everything I possibly could because it is such a privilege to study with someone that I look up to in a million different ways. I’m also scared, nervous and excited for 7 another days of saying no to my habit and saying yes to unearthing another layer of my sanity.

Until next Friday, I can’t wait to update you…

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Week 2 Update:

1/26/18

I just arrived in Oakland and feeling eager to start my training tomorrow. I must say, week 2 of this 30-day challenge has been noticeably easier than week 1. The first week was hard, breaking habits is hard. I felt left out in a hand full of situations where people were drinking. I looked at them longingly as they appeared to “loosen up” and relax. I craved sugar and ate as much as I could get my hands on. I felt annoyed that I had put myself in this situation, that I had made this commitment for the sake of a blog post.

All the while, I was experiencing some pretty awesome changes in my teaching, my focus had become more dialed in, I felt overall “more sensitive”. I dunno…something was happening, but I was kind of vague on what.

This last week was better, saying “no” to drinking became easier. I started to question my cravings more (which are decreasing in intensity) and have been trying to use this new clarity of mind to contemplate my relationship with alcohol (Why do I do it? How will I feel physically and emotionally about it at the end of this 30 days? Will I drink less?). The sugar cravings are still there, but also becoming less loud, less physical.

I’ve really enjoyed sitting lately, I can tell that my ability to explore the spacious gap between my thoughts is becoming more and more attainable. The gap is growing. I’ve been experiencing my feelings more intensely, they more refined- like I’m able to describe them with laser-sharp detail, I’m able to assimilate them with a more fine-toothed comb.

Tomorrow begins a very physically (and I’m sure emotionally) arduous journey. “No expectations” is my mantra…easier said than done.

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Week 3 Update:

2/2/18

As I expected, this training is by far the hardest thing that I’ve ever done physically. And because I’m edging up to my physical boundaries, I’m starting to feel the effects emotionally. I come home every night feeling like a I had a “really long day at work” and the desire to reward myself is definitely there. I feel like I just want to relax a little bit knowing that I’ll have to endure something just as challenging the next day.

All in all though, I’m not around people who are drinking, which is always helpful. In an effort to get 8 or 9 hours of sleep, I’m trying to go to sleep around 10pm and I’m seeing that my ability to sleep through the night and wake up with more ease has improved immensely. I feel like good quality sleep is so underrated and I’ll definitely have to take into account whether this is worth losing to just “relax a little” the night before.

In this particular training, our focus is on really getting clear about how to do asana safely, which means long holds in poses while making small adjustments to ultimately make the spine “happy”. This is a test of endurance unlike what I’m used to. THIS is where I’ve noticed my mediation practice come into play the most. When I feel my body fatiguing, when I feel my muscles shaking– that’s when I use my mind training practice, that’s when I steady my gaze, soften my eyes, allow the breath to flow with more ease and find just an overall sense of becoming more relaxed form the inside out.

After week 3, I am truly proud of myself. I feel empowered knowing that I’m capable of saying “no” and also of creating and maintaining healthy habits. The changes I’m noticing are becoming less loud and more subtle. I’m not sure if I’ll have any big breakthroughs in the next week, but I sure am going to try and keep an open mind about it all.

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Week 4 Update:

2/10/18

Day 29! I never thought this day would come. I feel a new sense of self-control and self-awareness that was well worth the work and the wait. This week has been tempting since I’ve come home and found myself back in situations where I need to say “no” to social drinking. I’ve found this week difficult to sit as I’ve been experiencing a little bit more stress than normal; I’ve found it difficult, actually DAUNTING to sit with my anxiety and I have done more Yoga Nidra instead of actual sitting meditation.

One thing I’ve noticed about week four is that I find I’m able to connect to my inner child more! I’ve found myself being more silly, the kind of silly that I would expect from myself when I’m drinking. I actually joked and said, “I think I’m getting sympathy drunk with you guys” because I really felt like I was letting go in that way! The one difference though is that I was more aware of my words, my filter was still in tact;)

During week 4, I also have begun to see changes in my body, extra “stuff” seems to be melting away and I feel overall lighter and more agile.

I am rewarding myself (for completing my training and these 30 days) with 10-day supergreens Purium cleanse, which I’ll begin on Monday. At 12:01am tonight I plan to indulge a bit and perhaps have a mimosa tomorrow, but I’ll be continuing on alcohol-free for another 10 days and I plan to write about my very first cleanse EVER. I’m nervous and excited, but I know if I can do everything that I’ve done over the last month, I can do anything.

Thanks for taking part of my journey!

 

2/11/18

P.S. Having a drinking actually wasn’t that fun.

Unrealistic Expectations

The last year has been full of doubt and uncertainty in my own craft. I’ve been teaching yoga and barre full-time for nine years and I’ve felt far less sure and confident of myself today than I did in the beginning.

In a world where our worth as a yoga/fitness teacher seems dependent on class numbers, high amounts of followers and likes and publicly-available Classpass and Google reviews, I have felt like I can’t compete. I’m not a competitive person and I never have been. I feel the pressure to be something extraordinary, to become a celebrity, to get people’s attention and have them care about me and praise me. I see the efforts that others in my community put into their social media and a sense of failure immediately fills my being. Everyone *seems* to have a professional photographer with them at all times, has unsurmountable inspiration and motivation while sporting the newest gear, the most perfect hair and a perfectly toned body to match.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “are you just jealous?”

Hell yes I’ve experienced jealousy! And doubt. And inadequacy. And envy. I also want to acknowledge the incredible amount of work that my community members put into building their brand. I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out how I might do the same, where I can take a visually-appealing yoga picture, how I can get people look at me and pay attention to me so that I might have bigger classes and amazing reviews and more followers because…society says that matters…

I finally realized, after reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, that my standards are way too high. They’re unrealistic and feel disingenuous. The goal of yoga and meditation is about releasing our attachment to the ego, about letting go of our identity, our need to be seen and heard and admired and noticed. THAT makes sense to me. That feels like an honest and attainable goal. No doubt it requires an immense amount of work and focus (like becoming a yoga/fitness celebrity), but *this* goal actually makes my heart light up with excitement. My merits for success have been unattainable and I needed to change my perspective to something that does feel authentic and something that I have control over right now:

I can be present for my students. I can drop the overly-cheery welcomes when they walk through the doors and be calm, and hold eye contact and listen with my whole body when catching up on what’s been going on. I don’t have to put on a show during class and embellish my personality, I can give thoughtful and individualized cues and smile with gratitude for their presence in my life. I can give them adjustments with love and care and also give them space to have their own experience instead of trying to coddle them to ensure that they’re having a good time (and maybe give me a good review).

Being authentic and present in my classes would be a massive success, in fact I feel silly now thinking that I ever needed to be more. And sure, there are teachers who can be authentic and present and also be a yoga/fitness celebrity and that’s great for them. But if I can just show up and create a safe and comfortable space for people to have a present moment experience, then I would feel as though I’ve contributed positively to my community.

I wish I had realized this all sooner. In this day and age, in this society, it’s not as easy as it seems to just “be yourself”. Simple, yes. Easy, no. It’s obvious that part of our job as yoga/fitness teachers is to be likeable, if you’re not, students don’t come. Being myself unfortunately does not mean that I will build my class numbers, it won’t get me more Instagram followers (in fact, my numbers seem to drop the most when I think I’m posting something “epic”) and it might not get me better ratings online. BUT…but…it’s the only thing that I know I can actually live up to.

Right now, just simply being myself is the only standard of success that I can honestly strive towards.  I don’t have a grandiose personality, I probably don’t teach the most amazingly creative flows, I don’t have any pretty pictures to post on social media and I won’t tell you that everything is “love and light”. I can give it to you straight, I want to be able to talk about the imperfections of my humanity without being ashamed. I can only live up to being ordinary. I don’t work out every day. I sleep a lot. I overindulge. I fall off the wagon. I get back on the wagon and feel like I have things figured out and then fall off again. I set goals. I fail. Sometimes I am myself and people respond well. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I clean my house. Lots of times I don’t. I experience insecurity about my personality, my body, my hair. my food, my mind, my choices. Sometimes I experience so much anxiety about teaching, about showing up perfectly and making people like me that I can’t even show up for my class. I’ve made myself sick trying to live up to these unrealistic standards.

So here I am, an ordinary woman, with ordinary goals. And I happen to teach yoga. I won’t try to drop esoteric spiritual knowledge on you, I’m not special and I don’t know things that you don’t know. I’m just an average person. All I can commit to is being present with my classes. I can’t think of anything more rewarding or satisfying.