new you

MY LIFE FELL APART–AND I’VE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER

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Marina Abramovic

Next week I will be celebrating the two year anniversary of my life falling apart.   My life has seemingly fallen apart and back together several times.  I’ve had huge career changes, identity upheavals, I’ve sold everything I owned and moved to a foreign country, and returned from said foreign country with nothing but a broken heart and an impending divorce. I am no stranger to change. But the devastation two years ago was different.  This was a spiritual tsunami that would wash away every remnant of who I thought I was.  There would be no going back.  There was nothing to go back to.  I had unknowingly entered my “dark night of the soul.”

I had just celebrated my 30th birthday when I became physically sick.  I was continuously sick for over 18 months.  Having been blessed with a strong immune system I rarely ever got sick and on the rare occasions when I did catch a little something it never lasted longer than a week.  But this time despite the numerous medications, doctor’s visits, and home remedies I couldn’t heal.

Somewhere along the way my dear friend mentioned in passing the work of Carolyn Myss.  Not knowing anything about this woman or her work I googled her.   And instinctively I knew I was meant to read Anatomy of the Spirit.  I devoured the book and I knew then that my illness was not purely physical. Consciously or unconsciously our psychology influences and affects or physiology.  As Christane Northrup has said, “my soul was using my body to get my attention.” It was begging to be heard and acknowledged.

But if I am one thing, it is painfully stubborn.  I don’t learn easily.  Gentle nudges do not generate any traction from me.  So I dug my heels in.  I was not about to release my long held beliefs of a world without god, or my resentments, or my ideas about who I was and what I was here to do and accomplish.  But the Universe just laughed at my attempt to control and resist what was happening

The Universe: Oh, that’s cute.  You still think you’re in control.

Me: I am in CONTROL!  I have free will and I’m not buying into any of your woo woo.  I was trained to think like an academic.  I worship at the alters of logic and reason.  You can’t change me.

The Universe:  It has already begun.   Your petulant resistance has left me no choice but to do this the hard way.  I’m sorry dear one, but it’s time for you to wake the f*ck up.

Me: Ha!

While still battling illness, I entered into the darkest mental and emotional place I’ve ever known.  This was no ordinary depression.  I found myself asking some really uncomfortable questions like: “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” “What is the purpose of life?” “Is there even a purpose?”  “Is this it…?”  Every vestige and reminder of who I had been was stripped away including the need and desire to write.  Writing had literally saved my life several times before when I found myself clutched by depression.  Even during times in my life when I actually had nothing, no money, no phone, or job, or belongings of my own, or contact with any kind of support system, I had writing.  And that singular act, the need to create, gave me a reason to keep going, to keep living.  No matter what else had been taken away from me I was always a writer.  They could not take away my need to bleed words onto a page.  But then they did.  I was lost, my identity thieved from me along with my dreams for the future, my beliefs, and my motivation to do anything. I no longer knew who I was or what I was supposed to be doing.  It felt very much like this, except I still had an overwhelming desire to live despite not knowing what that looked like anymore.

Then I gave up or rather I gave it over.

 Wilted into a heap on my boyfriend’s bathroom floor with tears silently gushing down my face I surrendered.  Whether or not it was a prayer, I don’t know.  But it was a white flag waving.  “I surrender.  I surrender.  I surrender.  I surrender all this struggle and hurt and loss to you, Universe.  Whatever is happening to me let it be done.  But now, please show me what to do.”  And slowly, in very subtle ways, I was shown.

I started praying.  I had never prayed before and I was still unsure who or what I was praying to, but somehow each morning, before my meditation practice, I found myself on my knees, asking for help.  I started asking for teachers, for healers, for gurus, anyone who might be able to help me.  And one by one they showed up.  I learned that the only way forward was to go within.  I began to see that the struggle, the getting lost, the losing yourself was an essential part of growth.  There was no bypassing it.  It’s only when you’re lost that you begin to search for the way home.

The decision to surrender, to be uncomfortable, to put my faith in uncertainty was the bravest choice of my life.  It just so happens it was also the defining moment of my life.  My journey of awakening began the moment I surrendered.  Until then I never knew the strength and courage it takes to truly let go.

Most people don’t go there.  It’s not comfortable.  And it’s a lot of hard fucking work.  Soul work.  You have to mine the gold from within and in the beginning the moments of light to guide you onward may be fleeting.  But it’s worth it.  The morning will come.  You will wake up to all that you are.  And when you do it will be the beginning of everything.

My desire is that this space and my own search may be of service to you while you find your way home no matter where you happen to be on your journey.  You do not walk alone.

All love,

lauren

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7 Tips for Keeping New Habits

yogaCreating this blog and posting regularly, is a new habit I established as part of the Yoga Girl challenge. I decided to use my new routine of posting at least 3 times each week as a catalyst to write some tips and tricks for establishing and keeping new habits.

Across the internet, magazines, and social media we frequently see 21 day challenges. These challenges ask participants to adopt a new routine for 21 days, promising that after that time a fully-fledged habit will be in place. However, where this magic 21 day number came from is completely undocumented and not supported by any scientific research. Allow yourself to release the one size fits all notion that you can form and permanently establish a new habit in 21 days. Or alternatively, choose to hold on to that notion if it is a strong motivating force for you.

I know first-hand that establishing habits is difficult. I am a world class negotiator when it comes to talking myself out of habits and granting exceptions. But each time I allow myself to do this, guess what happens? The habit doesn’t stick. So now when I want to establish a new habit I employ the following tips before beginning.

Choose Wisely
Listen to your intuition. What is your body, mind, lifestyle begging you to change? When you begin a habit that is aligned with an inner desire to change it is easier to make that habit a practice. Your gut is supporting you. Often when we give our souls what they have been asking for we feel amazing. We find new ways of being, new favorite activities, and interests. For years my soul had longed for a daily meditation practice. Beginning this new habit was always at the top of my resolutions and yet I never did it, even though part of me was longing for this habit. I just wasn’t listening. And honestly, I thought it would be far too difficult an undertaking to begin. But when I finally did commit to beginning my meditation practice (a decision that was brought about entirely because a psychic told me I needed to meditate) it was actually easier than I anticipated because the part of me that had wanted this habit all along was overjoyed with my beginning.

Put Your Pants on One Leg at a Time
If you tried to put on your jeans by inserting both legs at the same time you would topple over in a tangle of legs and fabric. The same is true when you try to begin multiple habits at the same time, you topple over. Start with only one new habit. Creating new habits requires a shift in balance, so allow yourself to make adjustments one habit at a time.

Be Specific
Determine what exactly you want to change. Saying that you are going to make running your new habit lacks specificity, which pretty much guarantees it will also lack staying power. To help determine the specificity of your new habit ask yourself: What will this look like? How will this be accomplished? When will this habit be performed? And most importantly, don’t forget to ask yourself why you want to establish your new habit. Having a clear desired outcome makes you more likely to stick with your habit.

Start Small
So you have your ONE new habit that you are committed to adding into your daily routine. Let’s say your goal is to eat healthier. First off, I would encourage you to make that more specific. What does that mean? Eating more servings of fruits and veggies? Drinking more water? Cutting out processed foods or added sugars? Ok, so maybe you want to eat more fruits and veggies. Start small. Begin by replacing just one thing. Swap your snack of cheese and crackers for some veggies and hummus. When you’ve implemented this change for a week or so, try adding another small tweak. Could you add some delicious fruit to your breakfast of choice? Or add an extra vegetable serving to your dinner meal? If you keep this progression you will soon be swapping your lunchtime sandwich for a veggie abundant salad or start whipping up green smoothies for your go to breakfast. You’ll also increase the longevity of your habit. You can do one small thing right? Of course you can!

Plan
Your new habit will not yet be second nature to you so it helps to formulate a plan. Make grocery lists that will insure you have healthy options for meals and snacks on hand. Take a water bottle to work with you. Lay out your gym clothes the previous night for your morning run. Remove all of the obstacles that would prevent you from following through on your habit.

Listen to your thoughts
What is your internal dialogue saying? Monitor what you allow yourself to think. The annoying roommate in my head likes to tell me all kinds of lies about how I can’t do something. Sometimes it even formulates these elaborate excuses as to why I shouldn’t do something. When you catch yourself thinking these thoughts, acknowledge them and then tell your inner mean girl that the statement is not true. “It is not true that I have no follow-through. I complete many things I set my mind to.” And then give an example. I also like to laugh or smile at my sneaky mean girl when I catch on to the games she’s trying to play.

Create Accountability
Tell others about your new habit. You never know who you will inspire and sharing your goal and progress with others makes you accountable. But at the end of the day, you are ultimately only accountable to yourself. This also means that you are the only person that stands in the way of your new habit. Hold yourself accountable. When I start a new habit I often have the desire to skip a day, which leads to usually skipping multiple days, which can lead to the abandonment of the habit. A trick I’ve learned is to not let myself off the hook. But we are human, and we have days where we really don’t want to practice yoga or go to the gym. On those days I remind myself that not practicing is not an option, but that I am willing to adjust that day’s practice. Maybe you really don’t feel like running your two miles, but you could run one and walk the other. The important thing is to not skip days.

I hope some of these tips help you keep your new habits.  You are a source of greatness. You can move mountains if you want to, eating some carrots is going to be easy.

Love,
lauren