I've been wanting to write about this for awhile, but I've been a little distracted with Thailand. Before I came on my trip I participated in a 40-Day Sadhana on Creating Self-Love, which means every day for 40 days I did the same meditation with the intention to create self-love.
First, let me explain how it came about. I've been pretty open about my depression I've been lost in the last few months, but I've glossed over a major part of that depression, which was my broken heart. I'm not good at breakups. Of course, it's no walk in the park for anyone, but I have an especially hard time letting go. Every relationship I've been in has this long, painful, drawn out ending that leaves me pretty destroyed. And afterwords I beat myself up for failing to make it work and for the qualities I possess that make love challenging. Failure and self-hatred swallow me up and then the fear sets in. Fear that I will only know heartache and struggle. Fear that a family is not in the cards for me. Fear that I will forever continue on this life adventure alone.
I know, I'm young and all that, but I've already missed the opportunity for my grandmas to meet my kids and they'll never know that I found love. They left this world before I had a chance to show them who I would build a life with. It's thoughts like that that break my heart even more. The knowing that the longer I wait the less time my kids will have with my parents. Yes, these are morbid thoughts and I absolutely agree that I worry too much, but that's my plight.
Losing both my grandmas the same year my relationship fell apart was just a little too much reality and pain for me. And you guys know the rest: numbing blanket of depression, crippling anxiety, consuming self-hatred, isolation, blah, blah, blah. So that brings us to almost two months ago. I was slowly coming back to life and the depression fog was lifting ever so slightly and with that came awareness and self-reflection. It's at this time when I realized just how low my confidence was.
I had social anxiety like never before and I felt so awkward interacting with people even my closest people. I felt so unsure and ashamed of myself. Not good feelings, not at all, especially as someone who once considered themselves an extrovert. I stopped enjoying going out and doing things with people.
When New Years came along you couldn't pay me enough to get me to do some big social outing so I planned a solo retreat at camp to try to shift me out of this space with saunas, good food, exercise, meditation, some r&r, and, of course, a dip in Lake Superior. A spiritual, physical, and emotional cleansing to jump kick the new year. On New Year's Day I took my deck of color therapy cards and shuffled them asking what I needed to focus on for the next year. I flipped over magenta, the color that represents self-love. Yeah, no shit.
On Thursday, January 5th I was talking to my friend, Emily, about all the things I had been doing (i.e. therapy, eating healthy, exercising, booking a trip to Thailand, meditating, yoga, etc.) and how I still hadn't notice a shift in my confidence. I was frustrated and feeling defeated. That's when Emily said, "you need to do a 40-Day Sadhana." Emily and I both practice Kundalini yoga where 40-day Sadhanas are a tradition, however I had never done one.
Instantly I felt resistant. Committing to 40 days of anything felt daunting and I was so scared that I'd set myself up for failure and disappointment and I couldn't handle anymore of that. Then I thought of my trip and thought it could be my excuse. "I don't want to commit to meditating while I'm traveling," I said. Then Emily, in true Emily fashion, whips out her calendar and starts counting. Turns out if I started the next day, January 6th, that would mean that my 40th day would fall on the very day I left for Thailand. Okay, I could take a hint.
We chose the meditation on Creating Self-Love as it seemed exactly what I needed. It was only later that night that I remembered my color therapy card suggesting I do the same thing. For the first time in a very long time I felt like everything was lining up. After feeling so disconnected from my path, this was such a relief. I swallowed my fear of commitment and started the very next day.
Kundalini yoga feels like magic to me. Each series of exercises has a specific focus. Lots of times I don't understand what we're doing or why we're doing it, but I often see results. Whether it's the focused intent that creates a shift or the movements actually do tap into some spiritual power, I'm not sure, but time and again I find myself amazed. That being said this is what I did for 40 days:
I began with 11 minutes in this position:
Then I spent 3 minutes like this (my least favorite):
And ended with 3 minutes like this:
The first week was AMAZING! It felt way easier than I expected and I had this huge surge of motivation. Every meditation I would have some sort of realization of something that needed to get done and right after the meditation I'd get to work. These were all organizational things that would make my life easier. In the first week I went through all my clothes and sent four garbage bags off to Goodwill, I rearranged my room, deep cleaned my whole apartment, organized my cupboards, created a meditation and yoga space, and organized my clothes, even folding all my underwear. Everything looked and felt good, which was a relief after the messy laziness of depression.
That continued for a week and a half until the stomach flu put a hitch in my stride. That was the first time I felt like I wasn't going to make it, but I'm proud to say I kept with it. For the next couple weeks, it just became part of my day. All the bells and whistles that were there in the beginning faded into something more routine and I started to worry that nothing was happening. I settled into being busy getting ready for my trip, working, and covering Pilates classes, and just kept meditating. Some days I'd feel like no time had passed and I was already done, other days I sat there eyes wide-open staring at my timer fidgeting and bouncing around, wiggling my arms and making frustrated noises, but still I stuck with it. I stuck with it on twelve hour work days. I stuck with it even when it meant skipping a meal to find the time. I stuck with it through a head cold, through exhaustion, through impatience, and through boredom. Some days I felt nothing, other days I'd cry or laugh or feel inspired or angry. It became the most important part of my day.
The whole experience was a rollercoaster as I continued to heal and figure things out, but all at once things began to shift. It started with little things, like buying and wearing make-up and dusting off my hula hoops and led to bigger things like chopping my hair off. Even though it was a dramatic change for me, that still paled in comparison to the biggest shifts that were yet to come.
A few months ago, during my darkest of days, I was desperate for change. I needed something new and different than the life I was currently living so I began looking at houses and apartments, calling realtors and banks, emailing retreat centers in Costa Rica and Vermont, shopping for puppies, looking at tattoo ideas and trip ideas, and looking for a new space for my business so I could grow. Anything to feel different. However, each pursuit felt like running into a wall. It was dead end after dead end and, after a couple months, I gave up hope and felt defeated and pessimistic.
Then, a little more than halfway through my Sadhana, the walls came busting down. I got the green light to move into a new work studio and begin remodeling and, at the same time, my friend offered to rent me her house when she moved, which would give me a much better kitchen, a dishwasher, a washer/dryer, and the option of having a pup. All of a sudden things were changing and they were all lining up in this chaotic, but beautiful way. It's all working out so that I will move my business and my home the week I get back from Thailand. So, literally I will return to a whole new life. Holy shit, it's all happening.
In the last week of my Sadhana I felt all the feelings: excited, scared, sad, overwhelmed, and oh so anxious. After months of feeling alone and praying for guidance, I finally felt a strong driving force pushing me along. Part of me felt so relieved and part of me wondered why I had prayed for that. I feel like I went from months and months of stagnation to hyper speed shifts. There is no doubt in my mind that the Sadhana acted as a catalyst for all this change. Focus, commitment, intent, and openness to change are powerful tools separately and when combined are an unstoppable force and that's what my meditation gave me.
Meditation creates space. That's all it is, it's so simple, but in a world of distractions, stress, and the go-go-go mentality, it's the one thing we're sorely missing. Space allows us to settle and think and practice calm, so that our brain can catch up. I was doing everything right, except allowing myself this space. I never wanted to be alone with my thoughts, so Netflix was a constant, and I mean constant, distraction when I was home, even when I took a bath. And, even though I had begun to meditate and do more yoga, it still was not a consistent enough practice to allow myself to sort through the year or so of tough emotions. Finally, after enough consistent quiet, they began to bubble out and now are flooding out, which makes me feel alive. I imagine I will continue to sort and reflect and learn, but I couldn't be more grateful for what my 40-day Sadhana has taught me.
Do I love myself more? Yes, absolutely. Is there still work to be done? Yes, absolutely. However, now I know that I am capable of committing to myself and will use meditation as a tool to sort out and focus my energy to create the shifts that I need. I encourage everyone to make more space and see what happens. If you need a place to start try the app Insight Timer, it's a great tool and has a lot of guided meditations to begin with. :) Go find your peace!