“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” -Dr.Seuss
I recently completed a 40-day Sadhana practice as homework for my yoga teacher training. We were asked to pick something we wanted to incorporate into our lives and stick with it, then reflect on our experience. Sadhana is a Sanskrit word that means a daily spiritual practice. It's the foundation for your personal, individual effort to communicate with the divine inside of you and all around you. It is the main tool you use to work on yourself to achieve your purpose in life.
For my practice, I got a little ambitious and tried to incorporate several things I wanted to have in my life. I wanted to commit 30 minutes a day to yoga or meditation, whichever I felt I needed that day. I wanted to commit to taking a silent moment of gratitude before eating my meals. And finally, I wanted to commit to starting my day EARLY with a glass of warm lemon water (6:30am or earlier).
My goals came about in part because I had just returned from my yoga retreat where I was able to enjoy these daily habits for a few weeks and really feel the positive effects on my life. I woke up naturally with the morning light (unheard of for me, I love to stay up late and sleep in forever), I had my morning routine of warm lemon water, yoga & meditation, I reminded myself to be grateful for my beautiful food before I ate it, and I had no access to alcohol, coffee or other stimulants to distract me.
Looking back over my Sadhana daily journal, I can see I was more successful at some goals than others, but the overall practice taught me a lot about what I am capable of achieving if I set my mind to something. I have now incorporated most of my goals into my daily routine and have integrated them with how I choose to live in the world. I also realized how important it is to start fresh every day with an open heart and clear mind. Even if you stumble along your way, you can always begin again. It is imperative that we treat ourselves with the same kindness we treat others with. I found more success when I was patient and loving towards myself, rather than getting frustrated with my progress. Here is a breakdown of how things went:
1) Warm lemon water in the morning is a short, easy task that I was able to incorporate nearly every day, and has continued after my 40-day milestone. Lemon water jump starts your digestion and has other bonus health benefits. Being a morning person is not as easy as waking up with lemon water. I force myself to get to bed earlier, I schedule more things in the morning to make myself get up, and it is still hard! Mornings have gotten easier, but being a "morning person" is still a work in progress.
2) Thirty minutes of yoga and/ or meditation practice daily. At first, this was a breeze. I was fresh off of my training from doing hours of daily yoga & meditation, and it had become much easier for me to drop into that Zen state of mind. But as the 40-days wore on, my life got busier and busier and I found it very difficult to make time for myself. I would put other things ahead of having Terra Time and tell myself there was no space in my schedule to recharge. This is a huge problem in our culture; placing more value in doing and achieving and less on resting and reflecting. I still struggle with making myself a priority when life gets complicated, but I'm getting better at avoiding burnout so I don't lose my mind. Yogi's are just as crazy as everyone else, that's why we do yoga!
About halfway through the 40 days, I got the idea in my head that it wasn’t worth doing a daily practice if it wasn't the full thirty minutes. I was loosing steam, feeling guilty and then I went to a women’s networking event where a woman reminded me that a short meditation is just as good for you! She has a Sadhana practice as well, but only for 7 minutes a day. Talking with her and the other women re-inspired me and gave me the little push I needed to keep going. My mindset shifted away from, 'If I don’t do it for a long time, it’s not good enough so I just won’t do it at all'. Being committed to a daily practice means that you have to do it daily, whether you think it's 'good enough' or not. Even if it's only for a short time, remember to do what you can with what you have. You can't get where your are going if you don't start from where you are.
3) Gratitude before meals has now become my second nature. I look forward to it. I appreciate the moment to remember that not only do I have enough to feel full and give me all the nourishment that I need, but I have access to such a wide variety of healthy, colorful, and local food. I get to eat, whatever I want, whenever I want, period. Reminding myself that food is a blessing that many people do not have makes me feel humble and honored to enjoy the meal in front of me. When I started this practice, I usually remembered about one or two bites into my meal that I had forgotten to take a moment of gratitude before I started eating, but now I remember almost every single time I sit down to eat. Bonus: being grateful makes your food taste better!
Overall, 40 days is a small amount of time to totally change your life. New habits, making better choices, these all take some time to integrate into your routine. But 40 days is a great place to start- I encourage all of my students to challenge themselves to a daily Sadhana practice, whatever that might look like in your own life. We create the world we want to live in with our choices, starting new in every moment. My personal daily practice has taught me 2 key things: One, if you want to do something, there is nothing in the way to stop you but yourself. You can always find a way to get better, stronger, and smarter if you put your mind to it. Two, it’s never too late to start over again. Did you skip yoga to watch TV & eat ice cream in bed instead? So what! That is NOT something to beat yourself up about (unless it's a nightly habit). Instead, start the next day with a clean slate, knowing that YOU are always in control of what to do with your time, day to day, moment to moment.