Building a life worth falling in love with filled with possibilities, adventures, and friendships by focusing on health and happiness. I created this blog to share with you the things I've learned throughout the years and the things I am still learning now on how to be happy, how to see the best in people, and how to get the best out of situations despite things we have been through...
My first lesson of the day on being a better human started today at 7 A.M. at Dunkin Donuts.
After scouring the menu thoroughly to choose the healthiest vegetarian breakfast option at Dunkin Donuts, the only thing open right now in this tiny town where my brother lives, it was my turn for the person at the register to take my order.
When she asked me what would I like to order, I read to her exactly as it was written on the menu, “Multigrain brown sugar oatmeal with dried fruit and a small Americano, please.” She looks at me confused and I couldn’t tell if she couldn’t hear me or if I was speaking too fast for her so I repeat myself slower. She replies, “That’s something from here?”
Internally I’m starting to feel a bit annoyed. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to be the one holding up the line and I could feel the line growing behind me, or maybe it was because I thought to myself, “How do you work here and not know one of the items on your food menu?”
I tell her, “Yes, it’s right there.” And I point to the item on the menu, written in all capital letters. Then she replies, “You should just say you want oatmeal.”
My initial split second reaction was to go in on her and say, “I said it exactly the way it’s written on the menu. And how are you going to tell me how I should say it other than how it’s written on the menu?” After all, how dare she tell me anything before I got my caffeine, right? The clothing industry makes millions of dollars selling shirts and hats about “not before my coffee” after all.
But instead, I pull myself back, shake my head, smile, and say, “Ok. No problem.”
As I’m eating my oatmeal which turns out to be surprisingly better than expected, I start wondering about the workers here. Is the girl who took my order a college student? Is she a single mom? Is this her first job in the U.S. as a foreigner? Why is she up this early choosing to take orders from people?
Then I start to think whichever reason it is that she’s working here, she’s doing her thing to make a living to do whatever it is that she needs to do for her life. I’m glad I was able to resist my initial reaction because she deserves to have a good day too. I wouldn’t like being yelled at by anyone, especially not in the morning. I wonder how many times she gets yelled at by strangers.
By the time I finish my oatmeal and coffee, I’m realizing I have work to do on myself. I need to work on being more patient with strangers.
It’s easier to be patient with people we know we will see again. But how do we treat complete strangers that we think we will never see again? Whether it’s on the road while driving or a fast food order taker while on vacation. Are we as patient with these people when we know it’s only a one time interaction and we think there will be no repercussion to our behavior?
When I started to wonder about her and her life, it was easier to have empathy for her. When I imagined who she was as a human in this world, a mother, a student, a foreigner trying to make it in a new country, these were all examples of people I know and love in my life.
If I had started the day from the moment I opened my eyes with an awareness of this feeling of connection, I could have more empathy for more strangers who are all going through their own struggles, with their own goals, who are all trying to make it. But how do I stay aware at all times enough so I can stay connected and empathetic?
It has to start from the moment I open my eyes. I need to add another action to my morning ritual which will get me to this feeling of connection and empathy before I interact with any other human being for the day. Perhaps even a 5 minute visualization of the types of strangers I could encounter would get me present and connected. This way, I could make myself aware ahead of time of the people I could have more patience with throughout my day.
Why is this important? Why would I add another thing to do in my morning routine? Because my life is lived being seen from my eyes. So if I do what I can to make this world a better place, even if I’m the only one doing it, I’m making the world through my eyes, my world a much better place.
There’s ALWAYS a choice. In fact, we always have 4 basic choices…no matter what situation we are in which are in. We just have to remember that we have the free will to decide what we want to do.
While I was kidnapped, locked in that room for 3 months, it took me awhile to come to the realization that I had choices to make. I was paralyzed by fear of the unknown until I couldn’t stand the pain of staying the same any longer. When the pain of reality the way it was became too great, I was no longer willing to accept that the current reality was my only option. At the time I couldn’t think of a lot of other options. The four I could think of was A) try to kill myself, B) get him to kill me, C) keep things exactly as they were, or D) try to escape or die trying. I chose “D”.
Before the realization of my power to choose, I felt hopeless. By the time I got to the point where I had to weigh death as a real possible choice, the desire to live became stronger than the fear of death. Also, I would literally rather die than to keep the situation the same. I got my hope back when I became aware that I could CHOOSE to A) fight to live, B) to die, C) stay the same, or D) change. These are our 4 basic choices no matter how simple or complex our situation, in any and every given situation.
I know this is supposed to be a how to be happy blog. So here’s the twist of what I learned from that experience.
We all go through experiences in our lives that are less than ideal. It’s just all about perspective. It’s about keeping your FAITH that you ALWAYS have the free will to choose. You may not love the choices available. But there’s always a choice. No matter what you’re going through. There’s a power in knowing that. That knowledge helped me during very hard times in my life and I hope it helps you when you’re going through something difficult.
The other positive thing I got from this experience is that no matter what I’m going through in life now, it’s really not that bad because I know how much worse it could be. My thresh hold for what I consider “hard” is at a point where most other things in life seems laughable in relation. It’s about choosing to see your experiences as experiences that made you better. It took a lot of practice for me to see that and I still practice everyday choosing to see my experiences this way. The worst times are what makes me not sweat the small stuff today. Everyday I’m just grateful…for my freedom, my health, and my choices.
On May 26, 2014 I took my first selfie ever. In this day and age of social media, and someone who sees my Instagram page with dozens of photos may think, “Why is that such a big deal?” The reason why this date is important to me is because it was the exact day that I decided to change my life. The selfie was one of the first actions I took despite one of my deepest fears…to be seen.
Imagine you just graduated 8th grade and you’re about to have the best summer of your life before you go to high school, except you don’t because you’ve been kidnapped by gunpoint by a stranger who keeps you locked in a room for months and months. While you’re locked in that room, that stranger keeps telling you over and over romanticizing about the first time he saw you. He tells you how much he loves you and that he’s never going to let you go.
While I was locked in that room, I kept thinking to myself, “Why did he have to notice me? Why me?” That repeated thought eventually turned into a belief that if only he hadn’t seen me or noticed me, I wouldn’t have been kidnapped.
Before the start of social media and digital cameras, I wasn’t even aware of this fear. I remember the huge fights I had with my dad in high school when I didn’t want to be a part of any family photos, but I thought that was just me being a resentful teenager. I remember the extreme anxiety I felt in any social situation where I had to meet strangers, but I thought that was because I was shy.
That first selfie I took and posted on my social media was the start date of my transformation. It was the day I decided not to hide anymore. I would say it was both an inner and outer transformation, but now that I look at the photo I haven’t changed that much on the outside. What has changed is how I feel about myself, my relationships, my work, where I live, my time freedom, and most importantly, my appreciation for my life. That selfie was my starting point of focusing on my health. It was the starting point of becoming a consistent person, a person of integrity who’s actions matched my words and beliefs. It was the starting point of a person who others could depend on. It was the birth of a person who is kind, creative, strong, persevering, independent, responsible, forgiving, thoughtful, and adventurous. It was the moment I started over again and decided to become who I wanted to be instead of being a person living with fears from events that happened so long ago.
It started with that one selfie but I’ve taken actions to face my fears in so many other ways since then such as hang gliding, solo traveling internationally, and even writing and posting these blogs. Each time I faced a new fear I’ve been able to get closer to the life I’ve always wanted. Each time I got closer to the person I’ve wanted to be, life seemed to reward me for being brave.
The reason I took that selfie was because I was at my breaking point. I no longer wanted to feel the way I felt about myself. I wanted a completely new life. It was the lowest point in my adult life where I asked myself, “How did I get here? Where did I go wrong?” I had to really look at myself and make some serious changes. I was tired of being stressed out from living paycheck to paycheck, writing rent checks knowing I didn’t have the money and being one check away from being homeless. Or driving a car where it was falling apart so bad that people would point and laugh anytime I stopped at a red light. Mind you I know these were still first world problems…to have a car and a roof over my head are blessings in itself. But they were still humbling experiences that I needed to drive me to make a change.
It’s funny how life does that for you. Some people have higher thresholds for misery than others. My life had to fall apart to MY definition of shambles in order for me to say “That’s it. I’ve had it. I’m not living like this anymore.” I still think of new ways to challenge my fears by doing things that make me uncomfortable.
If you want to change your life, YOU have got to change from the INSIDE first. You can’t expect new results being the same person you’ve always been, with the same mindset you’ve always had. Or else you’ll get exactly what you have now. Start with a small action. Even the smallest action can snowball into something that will completely change your life. Be brave!
I don’t know about you, but I have ups and downs in my life. When I didn’t know myself as well, I wasn’t able to recognize when I was in a down swing. It might sound silly that I was so unaware of myself that I didn’t know when I was down. But when you’re actually going through it, it’s hard to see yourself. It’s kind of like being in a dream and sometimes you don’t know you’re dreaming. I didn’t know what my triggers were, how long it would last, what were my symptoms or behaviors during this period of time, and I didn’t know how to get myself out of it. I used to call these periods of times “depression” but I don’t like to label it that anymore. I call it a down swing because I know it’s just a phase and it will swing back in the other direction soon enough. I also know it’s easier to get through it if I prepare myself, kind of like the way people prepare for a natural disaster.
The following are the steps I took to prepare myself for my low periods:
How to identify your triggers. One of the ways I was able to finally see what my triggers were was by keeping a journal. I didn’t always have page long journal entries. Most days they were just mood check ins using 3 words to describe my mood at the beginning of the day and 3 words at the end of the day. I also would note what songs on my playlist I chose to listen to that day. After carefully thinking about the 3 words that best described how I felt at that moment, I would write at least one sentence for why I felt each word. I reviewed the journal on a weekly basis and on a monthly basis to look for patterns of triggers and how to improve myself.
Identify your patterns. By keeping track with a journal, I was able to identify that I tend to be more sensitive around New Year’s Eve, my birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. According to my journal, I also tend to be overly sensitive approximately 3 days before my monthly cycle. Also, I noticed that when I’m feeling down I listen to sad songs on my playlist, watch television, eat more junk food, and don’t go out as much. When I’m happy I tend to go to the gym, read, write, listen to specific happy songs on my playlist, and meet with friends.
Create healthy habits. Creating a habit of keeping a journal was extremely useful. It helped me to recognize my behaviors associated with my highs and lows. It helped me recognize that I needed to strengthen my healthy behaviors that made me happy, like working out and reading, so that I would do those on autopilot instead of doing them based on how I felt. Having these healthy habits really helped get me through the times I had low periods in my life because it got me off my couch. It got me doing things I did when I was happy. It made the low periods not as low and not as long. One of the books that I absolutely LOVED reading that really helped me to understand how to create good habits is called “Atomic Habits”.
Create new associations. Recognizing there were specific times of the year that triggered sad memories for me, I knew not to make any major decisions during those periods of times. It’s never a good idea to make decisions based on emotions. I also knew I had to create new associations for those periods of times. For example, I started a tradition to go on a trip out of the country every year, a few days after Christmas to my birthday in January. This tradition of traveling helped a lot because instead of being sad thinking about my family who doesn’t celebrate holidays, I’m excited thinking about my trip. I felt good about seeing the world and starting the new year in a new country. It gave me the feeling of having a fresh start.
Fall in love with your life. This is a statement I saw hanging on the wall of my Bikram Yoga studio and it changed my life. I thought about all the things I would LOVE to do, LOVE to see, and the type of person I would LOVE to BE. I asked myself, “How would my life need to look for me to fall in love with it? What changes do I need to make?” It helped me reprioritize my time so that I could spend my time becoming who I wanted to BE, preparing myself so I could have the flexibility to do what I wanted to DO, and planning my goals so I could have the things I wanted HAVE. Everybody has high and low periods in their lives. That’s just a part of life. But when you invest the time that you have in ways that create a life that you’re excited about, it’s easier to appreciate even when you’re feeling low. When you are specific with each and everything and every person in your life that you hand picked to be there, it’s easier to look on the bright side.
It’s easy to blame everyone but yourself for things that happen in your life that you don’t like. I used to do that too. But when I started taking FULL responsibility of every single thing in my life, acknowledging that every part was created by me, this changed my entire world. After I acknowledged my power in the creation of all the content, “good” AND “bad”, I decided to focus on creating “good” and life started to become REALLY fun.
For a long time it was hard to accept that every single thing was created by me. I mean, how was it me who created having an alcoholic father who beat me everyday? Why would I create being kidnapped at gunpoint by a stranger and locked in a room for 3 months? Could it really have been me who got me into this financial situation where I was living paycheck to paycheck…and NOT my childhood, NOT my parents, and NOT my ex who “took advantage of me financially”, or any of the other reasons I use to play in my head?
It’s not about the events that happened. It’s the way you decide to FEEL about what happened. Life happens. You can keep wondering where you went wrong and who you can blame. Or you can choose to accept that things happened. The way you decide to feel will determine the actions you take that coincide with the way you feel. You can still learn from your past without dwelling on it. (This took a lot of practice for me). But if you can take the emotion out of the event as if you’re watching a movie or reading a book, you’ll be able to learn the lessons more effectively.
Don’t take things personal. After I left my parents’ house to join the Army, I didn’t speak with my father for 15 years. It took me a long time to get to the space where I could entertain even the thought of forgiving him. Then I eventually got to a space where I was able to forgive him. Now I’m in a space where I understand that the Universe is not conspiring against me. Things just happen. People do what they do for what they think is the best decision for them. And even though I’d like to think I have a major role in the decision making process of other people’s lives, their decisions have nothing to do with me. I’m not the reason they decided to do what they did, good or bad. It’s not always about me. Everyone has their own reasons, their own history, etc.
It’s not easy to take full responsibility of your life. But in the long run it’s the choice you make if you want your life to get better. If you give anyone else that power of responsibility over YOUR life, you will always feel partially helpless because giving responsibility over your life also means giving power over your life. For example, when you have an argument with someone, do you blame the way you feel completely on them, do you say it’s both of your faults, or do you take full responsibility?
I like taking ALL the responsibility. It makes me realize it’s ALL my choice who I let into my life, who’s in control of my feelings (me), and who has the power to change any circumstance in my life if I don’t like it ( me again). With that understanding, I appreciate the people I invite into my life on a deeper level because my life is my party and these are my guests who came to celebrate with me. I like taking care of my guests because that’s the kind of host I am. But if there’s anyone that doesn’t respect the house rules they are politely asked to leave.
If you don’t like something, make a plan to change. It took all my childhood to find the courage to leave. I used to fantasize about what it would be like to be raised by a foster family but I heard so many bad stories about kids being abused by their foster families too…so I decided to stay. I didn’t leave permanently until I left for the Army after high school.
It took me 3 months to get out of that room when I was kidnapped. At first I didn’t even think it was a possibility to escape because I was too scared. Then when I decided I wouldn’t live the rest of my life in that room, I made a plan to get out. I was still scared but at least I had hope of possibility and hope is what it takes for action.
It took 2 years for me to get my credit score from the 400’s to having a good credit score, living paycheck to paycheck to creating my own schedule and having more freedom in every area in my life.
What all these situations have in common is that I wasn’t able to change them until I realized nobody was coming to save me. I was the only one that could save me. It was my responsibility.
So maybe you’re not entirely convinced yet on the idea that every part of your life is your responsibility and created by you. But if I’ve hit a chord with you that nobody is coming to save you and you decide to take responsibility to make a plan to save yourself…then that’s the start of hope. And hope is what it takes for action.
Have you ever had a period of time when you felt like you finally found a rhythm in all areas of your life and then bam! You get sick.
Being sick sucks. But what I appreciate about it is how it reminds me that life gives me EXACTLY what I need at the precise right time. This is how I use being sick as an opportunity:
Time to Reflect: What areas of my life have been stressful? I look at my immune system as a defense system. When stress is high, my defense system is overworked because my mind has too many areas it is focusing on without the proper needed rest. I’m thinking too much. What are the areas in my life that need to be tweaked so I’m not stressed and thinking too much moving forward?
Out With the Old: A lot of times, our outer physical world is a representation of our inner spiritual world. And vice versa. So when my nose is stuffed and my body is draining unwanted, unneeded, unpleasant looking stuff, I take this literally and imagine it being the people, situations, environments that I identified during my time of reflection that I need to drain out of my life. I turn it into a little ritual symbolizing this new change I’m about to make.
Time to Organize: Besides binging on TV shows and movies, I take the time to slowly change my physical space. Whether it’s one drawer or one closet…I do what I can without exerting too much energy to unclutter the inside. I get rid of things I don’t need anymore.
Time to Appreciate: As I’m going through old items to dispose of, sell, or give away, I am so grateful of my space. This is what I love about organizing and cleaning. It gives me the time to appreciate the things I have by holding them in my hands, by cleaning them, by sorting them. It reminds me that all of these things are items that I was able to accumulate because I wanted.
Establish New Goals: Now what do I want next? What will make the most impact in my life for the next chapter? As I feel my body recovering, I’m excited to regain my energy so when I am back to full force, I have a new mission in mind.
I remember a time when I was very insecure in social situations. If I’m being honest, it was because I didn’t like a lot of types of people because I didn’t like myself very much. Looking back, I can see now that all the things I didn’t like in other people were a reflection of the lessons I needed to learn to improve my love and respect for myself. I needed to improve my character.
It was hard to see this reality because it was well hidden by justifications that appeared real to my ego, which was directing the movie of my life. But I finally started to see that the character I was being in the movie of my life wasn’t the person I would be cheering on if I were sitting in the audience watching this movie.
I came to this realization when I destroyed enough relationships with people I cared about. One after another I would fight with someone that meant a lot to me and then the result was cutting them off.
It was hard to see for a long time because in the heated moment of action or argument I always felt right to be angry and always felt right to cut the person off. But after I cut off enough people and I had A LOT of alone time with my ego, I started to re-evaluate myself because I finally got to the point where I had to face my aloneness. I started to realize I can either continue to create relationships to eventually cut people off when they do or say something I don’t like, or I can improve myself so I can create healthy relationships with mutual respect and effective communication.
I started to read self improvement books to improve my social skills, go to transformational personal development seminars once or twice a year to understand myself on a deeper level, eat healthier and every 3 hours because I make better decisions when I’m not low on sugar, exercise regularly so my brain has enough serotonin to keep my mood high, and re-program my inner thoughts with autosuggestion.
How to Reprogram Your Thoughts: I still work on reprogramming my inner thoughts by literally looking at myself in the mirror every morning for 10 minutes and telling myself “I AM…” whatever I want myself to be. The reason this is important is because the more belief I have in who I am and who I’m not in my character, the less sensitive I am so I don’t hear things in a negative way and overreact when someone says something about me or to me. When you hear and INTERPRET what someone is telling you as negative, that’s when you feel defensive because it hit a nerve. Remember, YOU always have the choice on how to interpret information. When you don’t take someone else’s words negatively, it’s because you know whatever they say doesn’t have anything to do with who you are because you know who you are regardless.
Thought Interruption Exercise: These “I AM” statements are also what I use for thought interruption meaning whenever I start to have a negative thought or feeling that starts to bring me down, I catch myself and start to repeat and really focus on my “I AM…” statements until I feel better and realize there’s no reason to worry or have bad thoughts. For example, “I AM perfect, I AM whole, I AM powerful, I AM successful, I AM beautiful, I AM kind, I AM loving, I AM creative, I AM harmonious, I AM happy. I learned this from one of my favorite books called, The Master Key System.
Benefits of Reading Books: Reading self improvement books also help in many ways, not only for learning the content of the book. I used to use the excuse I don’t have the patience to read. Patience is actually one of the things that improved dramatically once I started reading. Reading helped me consider another person’s complete perspective on a subject for 200 or so pages without ever interrupting the person telling the story. Reading helped me improve relationships in my life because I started becoming a good listener who cares about another person’s story, instead of the person I used to be who only listened for my turn to speak.
Increase Your Creativity/Empathy: Reading also helps improve your imagination and creativity because of how you have to use your eyes to the path of your brain to decipher the words that become pictures in your mind. Imagination and creativity is needed to improve empathy because you have to be able to imagine being in someone else’s situation, not just yours. If you want to improve your empathy, start reading books instead of turning on the television. That’s what I did to make time.
The Power of Your Words: The last thing is that I know I am constantly improving because that is my focus. I love how much I’ve grown and I am looking forward to more opportunities for growth.
I used to would have said something like “I know I’m not perfect and I don’t mind challenges”.
Although these two statements are similar, if you dissect them carefully you can see the first statement is more powerful and positive. For example, in the first statement I use the word “growth” and in the second I use the word “challenges”. I am more mindful now in making sure I don’t say anything to take away my own power because when someone keeps saying the same things over and over, you may start to believe it. I am now more precise in selecting the words I use to make sure that I am kind to myself, in my thoughts and verbally out loud. I think more before I speak to make sure the words I use are precisely what I want to create or become. In the previous example used, do I want to create challenges or do I want to create growth?
Overall, your character is something that needs to match the person you want to be in the movie of your life. Even the thoughts you have…are they the kind of thoughts the person you’d root for in the movie would have? Or would you NOT want your character to win if you heard their inner thoughts in a movie? This is an important question to ask yourself especially if there are areas in your life you’d like to improve. Work on your character so you become the type of person you would root for to win and life will match what you truly believe about yourself and who you are BEING.
I had tried meditation several years ago but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I decided to make it a priority and incorporate it into my daily routine. I made the decision to make it a priority because I realized how important it is to exercise my mind, which is consciousness, which is spirit. I wanted to have a healthier spirit so that my strong, healthy spirit would dictate my level of happiness, not circumstances of life.
The following is how I practice meditating. They are not the official names of mediation, but they are how I like to describe them.
Guided Meditation (to improve energy):When I first started meditating, I started with a guided meditation by Abraham Hicks. The way the music was recorded combined with her voice, her words, and the cadence of how her words landed with the music were exactly what I needed as a beginner who wanted to get all the benefits of meditation I had heard about for years, but didn’t know where to start. This 15 minute meditation helped me learn how to breathe deeply in and breathe out slowly as I listened to her soothing voice help me relax but also program my mind to receive all the positive words she was saying.
I use this guided meditation first thing in the morning before I get out of bed. I use this meditation basically anytime I need energy. Instead of going for caffeine midday, I lay in my parked car, recline my seat, put on my headphones, and listen to this guided meditation. After the 15 minutes of meditation I feel refreshed again and high in energy…without using caffeine. I used to be a caffeine junkie who used to drink two to three cans of Rockstar a day. So trust me, I know it sounds crazy to replace caffeine with meditation. But it works and it’s so much healthier!
The science behind why deep breathing works has to do with the Vagus nerve, which helps regulate your heart rate and blood flow. Have you ever heard the phrase “sigh of relief?” When we are in fight or flight response during a stressful situation, we literally sigh in relief after it’s over to let our body know everything is okay. By focusing on breathing deeply in and slow, drawn out breaths out, we are allowing the blood to flow from our lungs to our body. This is why after this 15 minute meditation, you will have a feeling of lightness and energy throughout your body because that’s the blood flowing.
Active Meditation (to practice being in the moment):Some of the scientific benefits of meditation include improving your immune system, increasing happiness, productivity, and self control, while also reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Before I started practicing being present and in the moment, I would often let my mind lead me down paths of thought that were not always pleasant to think about. If I think back to any of the times I felt depressed or anxious, it was usually when I was thinking about the future or past instead of being present in the moment. One of the ways I practice being in the moment is when I workout.
I am currently in love with jumping rope as my warm up before I lift weights. It’s a ritual I’ve developed because it not only gets my body warmed up, it gets me totally focused and present. I pick a tiny spot on the wall, focus on that spot, and I listen to the sound of the rope rhythmically slapping the floor as I count the number of my jumps. The sound, the focus on the spot on the wall, the counting, the breathing…it’s all so hypnotizing.
When I first started jumping rope I wasn’t able to focus as well as I do today. Each time my mind would get distracted, I would stumble on my rope or lose track of what number jump I was on. I was barely able to get to 100 jumps total before I got too tired or frustrated with having to focus. Today I am able to do 900 jumps without even a stumble, and I do 3 sets. I feel so powerful and proud of myself when I finish my sets of jumps because I know how far I’ve come from when I started.
Another way I practice being present is by practicing Bikram Yoga. What I love about Bikram Yoga is the fact that I need to focus on being present in order to stretch my body to its limit while balancing. To breathe calmly and deeply while stretching and balancing, in a room that is 105 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter for 90 minutes is definitely difficult. It’s basically a controlled environment where you can practice being calm and present, with a heart of gratitude, with a smile on your face…despite being EXTREMELY uncomfortable.
When I first started Bikram, I looked around the room at others a lot more to see what they were doing. I went into the second or third position of each posture without doing the first correctly, just because I wanted to feel like I was doing just as much or more as the others were. It didn’t even occur to me that some people in the class had years of experience more than I had.
What I’ve learned in Bikram is that we cannot compare ourselves to others because we are on our own journey on a different timeline. All we can do is focus on improving ourselves at the pace that is correct and healthy for us, not rushing to the next step just to look like we are where everyone else seems to be.
I also learned that I am able to improve myself a lot more when I focus on myself instead of looking around to see what everyone else is doing.
Lastly, just like in Bikram no matter how uncomfortable of a situation I am in, if I continue to focus, be present, and breathe while stretching myself to the limit and keeping my balance, I can keep a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart.
Unguided Meditation (to find solutions or to be creative):The way I practice this type of meditation is by sitting up in a comfortable position, always in the exact same place on my couch. I want to be comfortable but not so comfortable that I fall asleep, which is why I turn on the lights and sit up. I start with closing my eyes, breathing in deeply and out slowly (at the same pace as I do during my guided meditation). Then I lightly focus my mind on something I want to improve. Each time I do this meditation, I get very clear answers that feel like thoughts of inspiration. I don’t force the thoughts. I only lightly focus on what I want answers to. Sometimes my mind will drift to another subject and I will go with it like a feather in the wind. Then after that the thought of the subject I lightly drifted to is done, I gently guide my focus back to what I want. It’s as if I’m having a conversation in my mind with an All Knowing child, who always wants to play, and communicates with visions, not words. For example, if my “problem” were Lego pieces scattered all over the floor, when I lightly suggest we play with those pieces, this All Knowing child would put the pieces together to turn it into something meaningful. The end product would be something I can clearly see and make sense of.
When I first started doing this meditation I set my alarm to 15 minutes. It took practice to be with my mind in a playful, gentle, friendly manner instead of focusing it by force. But with practice I’ve learned to enjoy this quality time with my mind and I’ve increased the amount of minutes. Now I am sitting for 30 minutes a day. The starting of this blog, the topics, and formatting of the subjects are all results of this type of meditation.
After I started meditating on a daily basis, I’ve been able to better control my mind and the direction of my thoughts. With the improved control of the direction of my thoughts, it significantly improved my overall emotions which are directly tied to my thoughts. With my overall emotions being improved, I started improving relationships at work, with family, friends, and people in general. With relationships in various areas of my life being improved, so did my overall quality and satisfaction of life. The saying “think positive” is so cliche, and sounds so easy to do. But for me it required and still requires a lot of practice. I intend to keep practicing and keep getting better.
My doctor recommended that I take time off from working out for a while after I got into a car accident. Before the accident, exercising regularly was one of the only things I noticed that really helped relieve my back pain. I had sustained back injuries while serving active duty in the U.S. Army and I was getting medical care for ongoing back problems as a disabled veteran. The stronger my back and abs were, the less pain I felt. The less pain I felt, the more energy I had to do things I enjoyed. The more things I did that I enjoyed the happier I felt overall. Since the car accident and taking time off from working out, I noticed I hadn’t been feeling so good. My back pain was draining all my energy so I decided I needed to get back in the gym.Here are the steps I took that helped me get back in the habit.
SET A MICRO GOAL:
I started with the micro goal of checking into the gym three times a week. Not working out three times a week, but just checking in. When I first started “going to the gym” again, there would be days I would drive all the way to the gym parking lot and not even make it inside. My usual excuses were because I was too tired, or it’s too cold outside, or it’s too hot outside. So the first week my only goal was to get inside the gym and check in. I also set a hypothetical goal for in case once I got there I decided I wanted to workout for extra credit. My hypothetical goal was to jump rope for just 100 jumps. Sometimes I would check in and go home. But eventually the habit of getting inside the gym was established. Then I decided I might as well do some extra credit and jump rope since I was there anyway.
BE ENCOURAGING TO YOUR INNER CHILD:
I think of it this way…my subconscious/ego/inner kid needed to be positively encouraged when I was doing the things I wanted me to do because it’s also the same inner kid who often “doesn’t wanna” do things the adult me knows I should do. Instead of being hard on myself about driving all the way to the gym and not working out, I decided to be proud of myself when I actually got out of the car despite all my complaints and reasons why I didn’t want to, walked ALL the way dragging my feet to get inside the gym from the parking lot, and checked in at the front desk with a big pout on my face. This was a step in the right direction than not going to the gym at all. So each time I accomplished this micro goal, I praised myself and allowed myself to feel proud of meeting my goal.
CHOOSE ONE MEASUREABLE ACTIVITY:
That first month it was really hard to get myself to the gym three times a week. But on the days I got there and I felt like giving myself extra credit, I would jump rope. At first I kept tripping over the rope and I couldn’t get a rhythm. It was also hard to keep track of what number jump I was on. But by the end of the second week, I was able to easily jump 100 without stumbling. And by the end of the first month, I was going to the gym 3-4 times a week AND jumping rope. The benefit of jumping rope with a set number of jumps was to know I was improving. Seeing physical results takes time. Counting my jumps let me know I was getting something for the time I spent. Today I counted four sets of 750 jumps for my warm up with each set of 750 taking 4.5 minutes. Then after my warm up I lifted weights.
SET A WARM UP RITUAL:
Jumping rope as my warm up became a ritual. There were times I didn’t feel like working out but I had gotten pretty good at jumping rope easily so even on the days I didn’t feel like doing an intense work out with weights, I could easily convince my inner kid to jump rope. Since I had done it so many times I was good at it, and who doesn’t like doing things they’re good at? After I jumped rope, I always felt the adrenaline pumping through my veins that I wouldn’t want to waste. That’s how I would get a really great workout.
GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS:
Did I mention I workout without headphones on? It helps me to be completely present. I used to workout with my headphones on like most people who blast their music to drown out everything else that’s going on around them at the gym. But I noticed I get a much better workout when I put my phone on airplane mode and I’m not distracted by text messages, dating app messages, phone calls, or choosing what song I want to hear next. Try it. One hour without your phone won’t kill you.
I’ve noticed since I’ve been working out regularly again I’ve been more proud of myself. Not only do I feel stronger physically, I feel great about making a commitment to myself and keeping it. It feels great that I’m doing something good for myself on a daily basis. I feel grateFUL that I have the health and the physical ability to be able to workout and make use of my healthy limbs, core and heart. I’ve often heard the saying, “Use it or Lose it.” And I definitely want to keep my health. It’s not about punishing yourself when you don’t hit your goals. It’s about making a commitment to get better than you were before. That’s the only real goal. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall short sometimes. Just get back up and re-commit. And don’t forget to set a reward for yourself for when you do hit your goals no matter how small the goal was. Because it’s important to acknowledge your accomplishments. It shows yourself that you appreciate you.