I recently returned from a two week vacation where part was spent in Jamaica for Acrofest. It was eight days spent flying, sweating, connecting and playing with new friends amidst locals and turquoise water beaches.
Acroyoga is one of those activities that I've loved ever since I was introduced to it over 10 years ago at the Om Factory in NYC. There's no other feeling like the collaborative interplay between sensitivity, trust and connection that's cultivated with your partner as you find balance, graceful movement and controlled strength. And the exhilaration of being suspended in space is thrilling!
Although I enjoy Acroyoga so much I hadn't made time for it since I had kids. Aside from summer evenings flying my boys on our trampoline, I made excuses for not attending the weekly "jam sessions" as there was always so many other things to do.
Over the past 6 years I've immersed myself in the lifestyle and business of yoga and Ayurveda. Being both my work AND my play, I found myself doing something "work-related" 7 days a week. However, this year it became more and more apparent that I needed something in my life that was NOT related to my work. I know that I had become miopically focused on eating and breathing yoga that I needed breakout times to play and do something that was for no other reason than pure fun and enjoyment.
Although this was something I'd known for several years, I never made a sincere effort to make it happen. Then, when the opportunity to attend Acrofest presented itself, I knew I had to take it.
It can be hard to make the changes we need without stepping out of our current environment. Our environment has an enormous impact on our behaviors and often the only way to make real and lasting changes is to plop ourselves in a context which makes the transformation we seek inevitable. And sometimes just a week with peak experiences is enough to create the momentum for new ways of living to take root. xo
There's a fire in your belly called "agni". Agni is your digestive ability. According to the elemental theory of Ayurveda, fire is the energy of transformation, metabolism and digestion. Another important Ayurvedic principle states that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm – as without, so within.
The fire inside reflects the fire outside. When I say the fire outside – I'm talking about the sun. When the sun is highest in the sky, our digestion is strongest. We have the most bile, which is the fire-y substance that breaks down our food transforming it into energy or matter which can be used to create the cells of our body.
Agni is a big deal.
As the sun sets in the sky, our inner fire also subsides. Bile production decreases and as a result that big, heavy, late dinner doesn't get broken down efficiently and turns into "ama". Ama is the Sanskrit word for "uncooked". It refers to the sticky, sludgy, goo that's a by-product of your undigested food. Ama is responsible for that which ails you – low energy, heaviness (in body and/or mind), digestive issues, brain fog, aches, pains, anxiety, depression, and more. Ama is the root cause of every disease.
Ama impairs agni. When agni is compromised ama results and the vicious cycle continues. How do we stop the ama-generating cycle in its tracks and stoke our belly fire so we burn through our food and attain thriving health?
Below are 10 healthier eating guidelines for strengthening agni and reducing ama.
- Make lunch your main meal and eat an earlier, lighter dinner. Try to eat the majority of your food during daylight hours when the sun is in the sky and your agni is burning bright.
- Eat real food. Processed, de-natured food turns into ama. Choose a whole food, nutrient-dense plant-centric diet that’s preferably local, seasonal and organic (when possible).
- Stick to a regular schedule of 2-3 meals per day allowing 3-6 hours between meals to fully digest your food. Wait until you experience true hunger before you eat. If you're not hungry at meal times "turn on" your agni with a cup of warm water and a teaspoon of chopped ginger topped with a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt 20 minutes before eating.
- Drink hot water between meals: 2-4 cups upon rising, 1 cup 20 min before meals and one hour after to aid in digestion. Feel hungry even though you ate a few hours ago? 80% of the time your body registers dehydration as hunger.
- When you eat, just eat. Stop, sit and mindfully, taste, chew and savor your food slowly.
- Eat to nourish your body, not to numb your emotions. Emotional eating leads to overeating, eating unhealthy food or simply eating when you're not really hungry. If your agni isn't hot and ready for your food, what you ingest will turn to ama. True hunger is accompanied by grumbling in your tummy, a feeling of emptiness and a willingness to eat anything – not just chocolate. When there's an urge to emotionally eat, breathe deeply, make yourself a soothing cup of tea, call a friend or just allow yourself to feel your feelings instead of stuffing them down.
- Awaken your agni with a morning routine that supports regular elimination with lots of hot water upon arising, and at least 20 minutes of breath-based exercise.
- Don't overeat. If you've had a cup of water 20 minutes before eating and you eat slowly and mindfully this shouldn't be a problem. If it still is, eat from a smaller plate and aim to stop when you're 2/3 full.
- Eat for YOUR body. There's so much controversy about what the best diet is – vegan, paleo, ketogenic, raw.... In reality, there's no one size fits all approach. We're all unique, complex beings. Start by simply noticing how you feel after eating certain foods. Do you experience any digestive discomfort such as gas, bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, constipation, or loose stools? If so, try eliminating that food and see if it improves.
- Stress less. The parasympathetic nervous system triggers the "rest and digest" response. When you're stressed out all of your blood and energy is preoccupied with the perceived or actual threat that's causing your stress. "Turn off" your stress response before eating by getting out of your head and into your body. A great way to do this is with a few rounds of deep diaphragmatic breathing.
Honor and nurture your agni and your agni will grace you with excellent health, vibrant energy and a clear, uplifted mind.
Dina charya is the Sanskrit word for daily routine. It’s an Ayurvedic concept based on the idea that when we align our daily cycles with the cycles of the sun and the moon, we create the conditions for balance and thriving health to naturally arise.
The daily routine includes everything from daily exercise, proper nourishment, evening wind down practices to cultivating an easeful relationship to life and doing something every day just for fun. Yep, Ayurveda prescribes play as fundamental to promoting health.
Why is it so essential that we build in activities that spark joy into our everyday lives? Well, because all work and no play makes us dull humans.
Play is something done for no other reason than it’s innate pleasure. Play has no purpose, except for the fun of it.
I once taught a workshop on handstands and I had a student approach me and ask me why we do handstands. It took me by surprise because my first thought was - why NOT do handstands?!?
She probably wanted to hear how they build overall strength, improve balance and the intricacies and benefits of inverting and reversing blood flow. Funny isn’t it, how adults need everything to have a logical reason.
My answer was simply, “because it’s fun”. It might not have been what she wanted to hear, but it was true.
Stewart Brown in his TEDTalk “Play is more than just fun”, talks about body play, which is a spontaneous desire to get ourselves out of gravity. Handstands are a perfect example of this.
Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism (a really good book that I highly recommend) said that: "Very successful people see play as essential for creativity.” Brown echoed it when he said: “Play leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity… Nothing fires up the brain like play.”
He also said: “Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor.”
Play can unleash possibilities we barely dare to dream of. It can crack open creativity that otherwise laid dormant. At the same time, it offers lightness and liberation we often forget to seek in our grown-up lives.
We're never too old to play. In fact, George Bernard Shaw said: "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing".
Even the Tantric Yoga tradition teaches that life has no other purpose other than for the play of it. This is expressed in the Lila Tandava - the playful dance of life. Life is an unfolding of creativity, of consciousness expressing itself in everything and every moment.
The Lila Tandava is an invitation into participating fully in our lives. It’s playing the game of life with curiosity, openness and acceptance for whatever is being presented in the moment. It’s an affirmation of life’s innate goodness, even amidst pain and difficulty.
It’s not taking ourselves too seriously, but having the willingness to try new things, experiment with new ideas and try on new perspectives. It’s gamifying our challenges to play our edges and expand our capabilities.
Play is a way of life. It’s an attitude and an approach to living that’s cultivated by creating a childlike wonder and curiosity towards everything. It’s choosing to be amazed and live with awe.
Like Mary Oliver says in her poem My Work is Living the World:
“Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.”
Tomorrow morning our night sky will be lit up by the rare "Super Blue Blood Moon". I never paid much attention to what the moon was doing unless it just happened to catch my eye. But over the past 6 years of aligning with nature's rhythms and living an Ayurvedic lifestyle, I've attuned to these changing cycles and have began to notice the profound effect the natural elements have on our lives.
This week in my Empowered Living course we're learning about moon cycles. We're talking about the 4 phases of the moon and the different energies that accompany each. I did a quick google search to confirm the exact evening of this week's full moon and discovered that Wednesday's moon is not your average full moon.
A once-in-a-lifetime occurrence
The term "Blood Moon" is used to describe a total lunar eclipse because it causes the Moon to turn a dark reddish color. This happens when the earth passes directly between the Sun and the Moon. A "Blue Moon" occurs when there are 2 full moons in one calendar month. And not only is it a full moon, but it's a "Super Moon" which means that it will be closer to the Earth and appear larger than usual. Those of us in North America can see this one-in-a-lifetime occurrence (this hasn't happened in over 150 years) on the morning of January 31st. (see specific times here)
Why should we be paying attention to what phase the moon is in?
Our bodies are approximately 60% water. If the moon can impact the tides of the ocean, does it not make sense that it would impact the cells of our body just as profoundly? Part of living Ayurveda is paying attention to cause and effect. We are a microcosm of the macrocosm. No doubt we've all experienced how a grey, rainy day draws us inwards to cuddle up on the couch with a warm cup of tea; whereas a bright, sunny day invites us outside to play and frolic. When we do this intentionally we're stepping into the current that's already pulling us. We choose to align with it as opposed to resist it.
How do we align with the full moon?
The Full moon is a time of abundance, creativity, and generosity. Purna is the Sanskrit word for the quality of fullness. The full moon is an invitation into the full expression of ourselves. We feel more naturally extroverted, energized and activated. We want to harness this excess of energy and offer it outwards in a way of service, connection and celebration.
Celebrate your accomplishments and achievements. While this should be a daily practice, this is particularly a potent time to acknowledge your efforts and recognize your successes.
Count your blessings. Again, ideally part of your regular routine, but now more than ever bring your awareness to the abundance and good fortune that surrounds you. The full moon is an outer expression of the plentiful bounty in our lives.
PLAY. During a full moon we're naturally drawn to connecting more with others. It's a beautiful time for intimate love-making, impromptu dance parties, gatherings with friends and crazy adventures. With increased strength and stamina, we have more capacity to push ourselves physically.
Indulge in life's sensual pleasures. This is a time to enjoy elaborate and delicious feasts. Digestion is strong being in the "pitta" phase of the moon. You can also delight in a lovely at-home spa night with an aromatherapy scented bath and luxurious oil massage. Or pop in your favorite tunes and get on your yoga mat for a blissful flow.
Begin to notice how the different phases of the moon affect your energy and shift your natural desires. Listen to your inner wisdom and honor its quiet requests. When you do, you'll live a life of more ease and balance.
Yesterday I sat down at my computer frozen into inaction by the unfinished to-do list from 2017 and my new goals and projects planned for 2018. Then it dawned on me, I can't just keep adding things, I also need to eliminate.
So many of us are stretched too thin, overcommitted and too busy for what matters most. We complain about never having enough time yet keep piling things on our plate. Our to-do lists only get longer.
I think that's why the allure of the New Year being a blank slate, a fresh start is so appealing. So many of us crave simplicity, yet we're struck with "bright, shiny object syndrome". FOMO is real yo!
But the reality is there's only so many hours in a day, and only so many days in a week. We can do anything, but not everything. To fully commit ourselves to what we really want and to become the person we're capable of, requires that we make some hard decisions of what to let go of to make space for what's most important.
When we say yes to one thing, we're saying no to another. Decide comes from the latin word decidere - which means to cut off. When we're making a decision we cut ourselves off from all other options. This isn't easy. It's easier to be a people-pleaser or a yes-man (or woman). It might require making a difficult decision or having an uncomfortable conversation. Tim Ferris said,
"A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
What commitment have you made that you're not psyched about? What makes you feel heavy or weighed down when you think about it? Those are the things you need to uncommit from and take off your plate. Nobody wants to be inconsistent or go back on previous commitments, but sometimes it's necessary if you're serious about reaching your goals.
If you stay stuck in commitments that aren't aligned to where you're going and the person you're becoming you'll lose trust in yourself. You're signaling to yourself that other people's priorities are more important than yours and you're not worth it. If you want to increase your confidence and build your self-worth in 2018, you need to start aligning your actions with your desires. Confidence comes when your behaviors are aligned with your highest intentions.
If you're serious about making shit happen this year, if you're determined to crush your goals and upgrade your life in 2018, you need to be willing to commit wholeheartedly to what you want. You need to eliminate distractions and narrow your focus. Removing the extraneous is the fastest path to progress.
Your action step this week:
Wipe the slate clean, throw out the old to-do list and start a new one. Ask yourself, "who do I want to become?". Create space for your big hairy goals. Uncommit yourself to at least one thing and create a "stop doing" list. Eliminate drag. Purge the superfluous. Stop being the bottleneck in your life. A blank canvas lies ahead, how will you author the next chapter?
Ready to make 2018 the best one yet?? Join my absolutely FREE 4-day Rock Your 2018 challenge and receive a step-by-step roadmap to make 2018 the best year ever! We start Monday, January 8th so sign up NOW!
This year I read more than ever. Thanks to my audible account, the library (don't know why I didn't think of this sooner) and amazon prime, I was able to read 29 books (that I can remember - possibly more!). These were books recommended by excellent sources and they did not disappoint. If you're into personal growth, non-fiction and books that help you become smarter stronger, healthier, happier and wealthier, check them out:
- The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance
- Think and Grow Rich: This Book Could Be Worth a Million Dollars to You
- Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts--Becoming the Person You Want to Be
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
- Abundance Now: Amplify Your Life & Achieve Prosperity Today
- Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection
- Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
- Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
- Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
- Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success
- Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster-in Just Two Weeks
- You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
- You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth
- Oversubscribed: How to Get People Lining Up to Do Business with You
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
- The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey to Your True Calling
- Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
- The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living
- The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
- The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT
- 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works--A True Story
- Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work
- Launch: An Internet Millionaire's Secret Formula To Sell Almost Anything Online, Build A Business You Love, And Live The Life Of Your Dreams
- The Compound Effect
- Wellpreneur: The Ultimate Guide for Wellness Entrepreneurs to Nail Your Niche and Find Clients Online
- The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
- Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers
- High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way
I worked my ass off this year.
Every quarter I set specific goals, laid out a plan and took action daily to accomplish them. Over the years of refining my goal-setting and time management processes, I'm getting better and better at hitting my goals on time, most of the time. While I work 6-7 days a week, I always stop working by 4pm. I'm a bit of a workaholic so my self-care habits are non-negotiable so that I don't burn out.
My goals were hard-won, pushed my edges and weren't always easy – but discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.
Here's my list of accomplishments for 2017:
- Led a kick ass retreat in Bali
- Created and launched the Do Your Dharma course
- Took my Align and Thrive course online and helped 40 people achieve their health goals
- Started the free Grow Strong Facebook Group and led 3 super fun challenges (4th coming soon!)
- Recorded 6 podcasts: The Sonya Looney Show, Women Gone Vibrant, Yoga Health Coaching, and Shameless Mom Academy and Yogahealer here and here
- Published 48 blogs (so far - more to come!)
- Practiced (almost) daily meditation and exercise
- Delivered 15 free talks at yoga studios, teacher trainings, and health fairs
- Read a boatload of new books (audible rocks!)
- Attended my first yoga retreat as a guest
- Established new daily habits of getting to inbox zero and intermittent fasting (14-15 hours between dinner and breakfast)
- Got the boys started with daily chores to help with maintaining a clutter-free home
- Reduced daily sugar consumption radically
- Hired a business coach to improve my systems for increased efficiency and effectiveness
It's been a great year and I plan to make 2018 even better. Hope you join me for the ride.
Do it your way. Let go of obligation and expectation. How do you want to give? How do you want to celebrate? Release cultural norms and allow yourself to be guided from within.
Feast + Fast. Pulse between celebratory feasting with smaller, simple, easy to digest meals. If you’ve overeaten, skip a meal or wait as long as you can before your next one. Sip hot water between meals and definitely don’t snack.
Focus on presence, not presents. Your time, your attention, your listening and your support are way more valuable than the obligatory gift you’re meant to buy. If you want to give - do it in a way that’s meaningful - not because you’re supposed to. This will inspire you.
Bundle up, go outside and walk. Invite an old friend or family member to catch up on a hike. Walk alone in silence or while you call your mama on the phone. Anyway you can get it in - just do it.
Embrace hygge. Hygge is a Danish quality of “coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”. Embracing hygge is taking pleasure in the small things - a warm cup of tea, curling up with a cozy blanket in front of a fire, relaxing on the couch with a good book. Hygge for me is wearing the same comfy sweatpants every single day, a pantry stocked with yummy herbal teas to drink throughout the day, and quiet mornings meditating in my yoga room.
Nurture your ojas. When you embrace hygge, you nurture your ojas. Ojas is one of the three vital essences that together promote and sustain our physical vitality, mental clarity, and overall health. Ojas governs our immune system, inner radiance, strength, and sleep. Activities that Build Ojas:
laughing and loving others
Getting enough sleep – 7-9 hours between the hours of 10 and 6
Eating fresh wholesome foods in a relaxed manner
Being in nature
Yoga, nasal breathing and meditation
Giving and serving others
Acting on what you are passionate about
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. This is ojas, hygge, and presence - all bundled up into one powerful and uplifting practice. When you reflect daily on all the abundance and gifts that surround you, you invite more of the same to come into your life.
Make time for reflection. The darkness is a prime time to retreat inside of our hearts and reflect on hopes, dreams and desires. It’s in this fertile ground that we plant seeds for what we want to create as we cross the threshold of the solstice and the days begin to grow longer. A daily journal practice cultivates clarity, creativity, and congruence with your daily actions and your goals.
Practice the golden rule, in reverse. Treat yourself as you would have others treat you. Fill your own cup first
Early to bed, early to rise. Like the bears and other hibernating animals - we need more sleep in the winter. The hours before midnight count for twice as much. Aim for bedtime closer to 9pm so you can be up around 6 and enjoy those precious early hours of quiet.
1. Learn how to listen
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood" - Steven Covey
2. See eye-to-eye (seriously - watch this!)
3. Eat mindfully
5. Breathe it all in, love it all out.
Dry skin, chapped lips, flakey scalp – all symptoms of what in Ayurveda is considered to be vata imbalances. These imbalances are most common during the vata season – fall and winter.
In Ayurveda we always look to the root of the problem instead of only addressing the symptoms. And then addressing the symptoms is a simple formula of adding the opposite quality to create balance. Pretty easy right?
If the qualities we're experiencing are dry, rough, chapped, and cold we can look around and notice that the environment is reflecting these qualities. We're a product of our environment after all.
The solution is to add the opposite: oily, smooth, warm, moist. We can do that with how we nourish ourselves from the inside out and the outside in.
To counter dry skin, eat warm, soupy, stew-y, spicy, oily, heavy foods. Incorporate lots of good fats like avocado on EVERYTHING, soaked nuts and seeds, ghee, and coconut oil. If you're drinking coffee or matcha which both exasperate dryness (they're astringent - drying) and a diuretic - purges water and salt from the body) make it bulletproof by adding grass fed butter and MCT oil (in coconut oil) and put in a blender for 30 seconds.
Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic practice of warm oil-massage. Sesame oil is the most warming and heavy, while almond oil or sunflower are more neutral. Choose a high-quality oil and add a few drops of your favorite essential oil and lovingly massage your skin before showering or after having a bath. Use long strokes on your limbs, circular movements on your joints, and big clockwise circles on your abdomen (which supports digestion). Abhyanga is the number one practice to help balance vata – so not only will your skin feeling amazing but you'll feel more grounded, calm and nourished on all levels.
Smooth it out:
Exfoliate your skin with baking soda if you're prone to oily skin and breakouts, and almond meal for dryer skin. Mix with a little water or yogurt and massage in circular motions. I keep a box of baking soda in my bathroom and shake a little in my hand while I'm in the shower. I also dry brush before my oil massage to keep my skin soft all year long.
Sip hot water and herbal teas throughout the day, drink bone broth (or veggie broth) and soups for dinner. My water routine is:
- 2 cups of hot water with a squeeze of lemon upon arising
- 1 cup of hot water or herbal tea 15 minutes before meals (aids in digestion)
- 1 cup of hot water or herbal tea 1 hour after meals (aids in digestion)
Total 8 cups per day (aim for ½ your body weight in ounces
I recently returned from a trip to Bali. Before I left I was hell-bent on hacking jet lag. I was determined to do everything I could from losing sleep upon my return. I have shit to do and I wasn't going to let a 30-hour trip and a 15-hour time difference stand in my way.
Or so I thought.
I didn’t hack jet lag. I did everything I read about – fasted for 30 hours, touched metal on the plane to "ground", hydrated like crazy, and took melatonin as well as a handful of other supplements. Turns out I'm only human and had to endure 2 nights of restless sleep before my body adjusted.
We often think we're exempt from the laws of nature: "I only need 4 hours of sleep a night" (only 3% of the population requires less than the suggested 7-9 hours. Or, "I can get away with this second slice of cake".
And on the same hand, we think we're less than the people we perceive as "superhuman" and say to ourselves "I could never do that, I don't have the (connections, talent, looks, smarts, resources, etc)". Despite the rags to riches stories of big wigs like Oprah and others who have overcome the adversities of the worse of the worse – somehow we think the same rules don't apply to us.
In Asia there's a popular tee-shirt you see everywhere that says: "same same, but different".
The locals see the tourists and know that they're just "people", yet they have different customs, cultures and appearances.
Don’t fall into the trap that you're inferior to those who have achieved great things – that somehow, you're different. And don’t believe the ego that you're "above" anyone else. Whether you put yourself above or below others, either way your ego is making excuses to not step into your potential.
Because we're all same same, but different.
I'm taking a public speaking course. One of the things we're practicing is eliminating filler words. Examples of filler words are um, you know, like, so, - basically words that dilute your message and make you come across as not as smart, clear or confident. Using filler words is a largely unconscious habit which makes it a hard one to quit. Awareness is the precursor to change, so once we know our tendencies, we can take steps to shift them.
We often use fillers when we're not clear or confident. We "fill the space" while we process our thoughts and form our sentences. If we haven't taken time to refine our message, we're unsure of ourselves and hesitant so we diffuse it by using filler words.
I was thinking about how this relates to life. Before I was clear on who I am, what my values are and what I want, I "filled" my time with extraneous activities like reading magazines and other time-wasters (disclaimer – there's nothing inherently wrong with reading magazines for pleasure if you're taking a break from the "real work").
Over the years I've refined my direction in life and crystalized that I want to do with it. I'm more "on purpose" and my time is more intentional. I get a lot done because I know exactly where I'm going.
One of my favorite quotes is by Tantric philosopher Douglas Brooks. He says:
"You are the point the universe is trying to make"
The invitation of that quote is to discover your dharma. What's the point your life is trying to make?
In life, just as with our words, we want to get to the point. And state it with clear conviction - loud and clear. We want to stand strongly in who we are, speak our truth and unabashedly go for what we want.
“Everything - a horse, a vine - is created for some duty... For what task, then, were you yourself created?” Marcus Aurelius
In the last week I've had more than one conversation with several of my coaching students on how to stop procrastinating. Whether it's keeping up with course work, taking the next step towards our goals, or starting a new habit, we drag our feet when the task feels daunting. I've spent some time reflecting on this and wanted to share my insights with you.
Why we procrastinate
Based on personal experience and coaching my students, I've come up with 2 reasons why we put things off. The task is either not important or it's VERY important. If it's not important then we simply don't care enough to make time for it. On the other hand (and more often the case), if it's very important it often scares us. The important things (like focusing on our goals) often require that we step out of our comfort zone and into unknown territory. Humans detest discomfort and avoid it at all costs. When the time comes to step forward into our growth edge we slam on the brakes and check our email instead.
Play the long game
We're hard-wired to choose instant gratification over long term rewards. Mentally we know what's good for us, but in the moment, we just want to feel good. When we're building a new habit, we need to exert some effort. However, our nature is to take the path of least resistance. One way to overcome this roadblock is to
Take a teeny, tiny step forward
One of the methods I teach in helping people implement new habits is to make it so easy you can't say no. In a culture of all or nothing mindset it might feel pointless to take a seemingly insignificant step forward, but baby steps compound into giant results. If you want to start meditating regularly, start with just one minute a day. Another approach is
Give yourself an out
If the task you're procrastinating feels like a big deal, set a timer for 5 minutes and tell yourself that you can quit after the 5 minutes is up. I use this strategy with coaching students trying to build a morning exercise habit. After 5 minutes you're getting your groove on and most likely will want to keep going. But knowing that you're allowed to quit tricks your mind into getting started.
Find ways of holding yourself accountable
One way I'm able to execute on big ideas is to tell people I'm doing it before I've even started. This is how I've created several of my courses and workshops. First, I write an outline, then I tell people about it, and THEN I actually create the course. Once I've put it "out there", I want to be true to my word (especially if people have actually paid for it). What kind of commitment device can you create to help hold you to your word? Do you need to tell someone who will keep you accountable?
Don't pay attention to how you feel
This is contradictory to the advice I usually give on listening to your body. However, since we've established that humans avoid discomfort, and discomfort is a requirement for growth, don't pay attention to it when it comes down to procrastinating on something you've decided is good for you. I exercise every morning, whether I feel like it or not. And sometimes I really don't feel like – but I get on my mat and go through the motions anyway.
The pain of putting things off is more painful than the effort needed to get started
Once you've taken the first step it's rarely as bad as you made it out to be in your head. Guilt, shame, and anxiety are far worse than the effort required to complete the task. The longer we procrastinate, the more we erode our self-worth, lose trust in ourselves, and enforce old stories of being "someone who can't stick with anything". If we can remember this intellectually, we can just take a small step forward. The first step creates momentum. Once in motion, it's much easier to keep going.
My number one strategy for avoiding procrastination: my Sunday planning session
Every week I schedule a planning session with myself. I've built a ritual of going to my favorite tea shop, opening my goals spreadsheet, my Google calendar, my project management tool and planning the week ahead. (I teach this in great detail in my Do Your Dharma course). My weekly planning is key to continuously taking aligned action. Study after study shows that people who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals.
Part of my weekly planning session entails scoring the previous week to see if I've kept my commitments to myself. I have a spreadsheet with the habits I'm currently working on automating. Everyday, I track my progress and give myself a +1 if I did the desired behavior, a 0 if I didn't. It's a very effective way to see how consistent I am. We tend to over or underestimate how much we do. We're good at beating ourselves up and never feel like we're "enough" and we're not great at celebrating our accomplishments. A scorecard gives you a measure of reality that's undeniable.
We all fall prey to the pull of procrastination. But with a few systems in place, and habits around getting started and taking baby steps, change is possible, and our goals, within reach.
Ayurveda is the study of life (Ayu-life, Veda-study, knowledge or truth). Ayurveda teaches us how to live in rhythm with the cycles of nature and how to sync our daily routine with the cycles of the sun and moon. In Ayurveda there are daily routines (dinacharya) that follow the 24 hour cycle, and there's seasonal routines (ritucharya) that follow the different seasons of the year.
Right now we're in fall or "vata" season which is dominated by the elements of air and space. The governing principle in Ayurveda is that like increases like which creates imbalance, whereas opposites cultivate balance. The qualities of air and space are cold, dry, rough, light, and mobile. To balance out these qualities we need to bring in the opposing qualities of warm, moist, soft, heavy and steady. We can do this through diet, lifestyle and even mindset. Read more about balancing for fall here.
Vata is the dosha that goes out of balance the easiest and wreaks the most havoc on our system. The list of vata imbalances is long, but suffice to say that we all could use a good dose of vata-balancing in our lives, especially in the season where vata energy presides.
Eating a vata-balancing diet is one strategy, another is having a regular daily routine which includes eating, waking and sleeping at the same time everyday. The body LOVES regularity and thrives on a consistent daily routine. Read more about my Ayurvedic daily routine here.
The first habit I teach in my Ayurvedic daily routine course Align + Thrive is eating an earlier, lighter dinner. I recommend soups, stews and other easy to digest foods that don't put a lot of load on the digestive system at a time of day when the body doesn't have the capacity to break down and burn up heavy foods.
Since we're in fall and soups are the perfect fall food (warming, moistening and grounding) I thought I would share my top 12 favorite soup recipes. Soups are easy to digest and packed with nutrients. Eating soup for dinner can help you avoid a cold, recover from being sick, cleanse your system and help you drop some unwanted weight. Eating soup for dinner will help you wake up feeling light, clear and energized and ready to conquer the day!
Apply to join my next Align + Thrive course here to optimize your life through creating healthy and nourishing daily routines and habits.
Last week I returned from a 2-week trip to Bali. The trip was amazing but I returned home with a bit of "Bali belly" (upset stomach, no appetite, constipation). After a few days of getting back to my routine and applying all the tricks up my sleeve for getting my digestion back in good working order, I'm happy to say that things are running smoothly (pun intended).
This month in my Empowered Living course we're focusing on optimal digestion and strengthening agni (digestive fire in Ayurvedic speak). Digestive health is an area where Ayurveda really excels in. This ancient healing system understands that the root of all disease begins in the gut. Any imbalance can be traced back to impaired agni. Ayurveda views agni as the source of all of life and even reveres a god by the same name.
Most westerners abuse their digestion by eating too much, too often, the wrong foods and at the wrong times. 60% of our energy goes towards our metabolism. So, if you're stressing your digestive system through unhealthy eating habits – you're going to experience low energy and mental dullness.
Signs your digestion could use a little love:
Emotional disturbances, with an increased tendency toward fear, anxiety, anger, confusion, lethargy, or depression.
Low energy, weakness, or fatigue
Suppressed or over-active appetite
Indigestion: gas, bloating, constipation, nausea, hyperacidity, loose stools, a sense of heaviness, feeling tired or mentally foggy after meals.
A tendency toward congestion in the sinuses, the lymph, or even the mind.
If you have any of the above I would love to invite you to join the community in a 21-day optimal digestion challenge. I've outlined 21 tips for promoting digestive ease and balanced agni. Download the checklist and follow along in the Grow Strong Facebook Group. I'll be sharing articles, tips and tricks along the way to help you cultivate perfect health through strong digestion! This means you'll create a buffer against sickness as we move into cold and flu season. Strong digestion = strong immune system!
The last few weeks have brought cooler temperatures and a skittishness that marks our transition into fall.
According to Ayurveda, fall to early winter is considered vata season. Vata dosha is the energy governed by the elements of air/wind and ether which are revealed in the following qualities or gunas:
cold, light, dry, rough, mobile, and subtle
These qualities show up in the weather as cooler temperatures, blowing winds and crisp, clear air.
It shows up in the vegetation as dry, crisp color-changing leaves and dying plants that are drawing their energy inward and pulling it down into their roots.
It shows up in us as increased anxiety, being scattered or overwhelmed, but also feeling inspired and creative and having an innate desire towards wanting to be more disciplined and tightening up our schedules. We might also experience insomnia, colds and flus, constipation, dry skin, stiff joints and low energy.
Ayurveda teaches us that we are the microcosm of the macrocosm - so without as within. If the qualities or gunas of the elements are in the ecosystem - then they’re also in us. Learning the language of the gunas gives us great insight as to what we need to do to bring ourselves into balance.
Once we can name these gunas we can use the Ayurvedic formula “like increases like and opposites balance” to remedy the situation.
For example, if it’s cold outside, we can increase heat by adding warming spices to our food. This simple yet sophisticated system simply requires that we’re awake to what’s going inside and all around us. Read more about using gunas to stay balanced in fall here.
Fall is the season to fortify, nurture and nourish ourselves.
The etheric quality of vata makes us more sensitive and susceptible to imbalances of all kinds. Therefore we need to turn up our self care and turn down the noise, distraction and anything else that pulls us away from our center.
The upside of vata is that is adapts quickly and small changes yield profound results. If you can incorporate even a few of the tips I’ll share with you, it will make a difference.
Over the next 12 days I’ll be sharing simple practices and tips for getting grounded and feeling deeply nourished in the months to come on my Facebook page.
“Like” my page and follow along there. Know someone who might benefit from upping their self-care? Share the love!
Today I begin the next chapter of my life. As I set sail into the fourth quarter of the year, I'm forging ahead with clear purpose, direction and intention. I'm readier than ever to take on teaching four courses, 80 students and one adventure (provided a certain volcano doesn't erupt – I'm hopeful).
My intention moving forward, and one I'm integrating into my teaching - is pulsation. This was confirmed recently in the book Peak Performance that I just finished. The author provided this definition of growth:
Stress + Rest = Growth
In order to show up at our best, function optimally and achieve success both physically and mentally – we need to balance giving everything we've got with turning off, slowing down and complete rest and rejuvenation.
It's somewhat of a science figuring out the "right" amount of both for each one of us. Since we're all different, we need different amounts of each to find equilibrium.
I know this from personal experience with my sleep quality. If I don't have a strong exercise session in the morning (stress) with a solid meditation practice (rest) then I don't sleep as well. Also, if there's too much mental stimulation (stress) and not enough wind down time at night (rest) then I'll end up tossing and turning at night and unable to shut my mind off. To find the "right" amount of each takes some experimenting, observing cause and effect of your actions and tweaking the amount of stress and rest you experience until you get it just right and sleep tight. The more stress you experience, the more rest you need to counter it.
Let me clarify the "stress" part. We're often conditioned to think of stress is a bad thing. But stress is only a bad thing if you think it is. Studies show that how you perceive stress affects the physiological impact it will have on you. If you see stress as a way of preparing your body to meet the challenges you’re faced with, you can embrace that heightened physical and mental state as your body's way of saying: "Bring it on!". On the other hand, if you tell yourself that your stress is killing you, it will.
We need both physical and mental stress. Our muscles only grow then we break them down enough so that when they repair, they grow back stronger. We grow mentally when we step out of our comfort zone, explore new territories and learn new things. We need to continually push our edges and seek out just manageable challenges in all areas of our lives – body + mind to grow strong.
Where do you lie on the spectrum of getting enough stress and rest? Are you overworked and underslept? Or do you need to light a fire under your ass and push yourself a bit more?
I recently finished reading the book Triggers. As part of my work I'm always researching and studying ways to successfully create behavioral change and implement new habits. Whenever I find a new tool I get very excited and right away introduce it to my students and try it out myself.
I've written about many of the concepts referred to in the book – like the power of your environment and the people you surround yourself with, taking baby steps, having a plan and keeping track.
Triggers introduced me to a brilliant new way of holding yourself accountable to become the person you want to be with what he calls "daily questions". "Daily questions" is a series of questions you ask yourself at the end of the day to see how well you did with each one. You then give yourself a score between 1 and 10 for each. If you've ever tracked your steps or your weight – it's the same idea – what gets measured improves.
What makes this technique unique and so effective is how you ask the questions. Instead of using your inner strict parent voice like "Did you exercise today?", he recommends starting the question with “Did you do your best?”. This simple but profound semantic adjustment makes all the difference.
There's several reasons why the practice works so well.
"Daily questions" puts the emphasis on your efforts instead of the outcome. For example, obsessing with the number on the scale is the wrong way to approach weight loss. Instead, focus on the behaviors that lead to the result you're after. In this way you can put your attention on developing the habits of the kind of person who has the weight you're trying to achieve.
In determining the questions we want to ask ourselves, we're deciding what behaviors will take us where we need to go. We're determining what we really want and who we want to become – that practice in and of itself is the first step in creating positive change.
“The [Daily Questions] announce our intention to do something and, at the risk of private disappointment or public humiliation, they commit us to doing it”.
The daily check-in also reminds us to take things one day at a time.Incremental improvements compound into big results. By focusing on doing our best every day, we shrink overwhelming changes into manageable 24-hour bite-size chunks.
“Daily Questions remind us that: Change doesn’t happen overnight. Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. If we make the effort, we will get better. If we don’t, we won’t”.
This commitment device also takes us out of victim mentality and assumes 100% responsibility for our actions. We will never change anything if we don't think that we have the power to do so. The daily questions remind us in our role in making it happen.
We are the only ones who can hold ourselves accountable. It takes great courage to measure ourselves and face up to our own shortcomings. However, when we do, change is possible.
“This ‘active’ process will help anyone get better at almost anything. It only takes a couple of minutes a day. But be warned: it is tough to face the reality of our own behavior—and our own level of effort—everyday”
These are my daily questions:
Did I do my best to...
- be grateful and appreciate what I have
- do my MIT's first
- develop new material
- get to equilibrium zero
- cultivate ease
- make my courses a transformative and unforgettable experience
- love up my community
- not eat sugar
- learn and develop a new skill
- preserve and nurture my relationships
- use buffer blocks to check my email
- focus and be fully engaged
- listen deeply
- be patient and loving with Max and Gavin
These questions have helped me live a more intentional, values-aligned and purpose-driven life. In small yet profound ways, they've helped sway me towards better choices in each and every moment.
By the way, for all you techies - there's an app! I recommend enabling the reminder setting.
What’s your wildly important goal?
Do you have one?
What’s that one thing, that if you realized it, would make all the difference??
Imagine yourself having achieved it…
What would be different?
How does it feel?
Now ask yourself…
How badly do I want this?
What am I willing to sacrifice in order to get it?
What would it actually take to attain it?
These are all good and important questions.
Questions like these have the capacity to transform your life.
Change your questions, change your life.
Ask the right questions, and your mind gets to work finding the right answers.
Then there’s the questions we don’t want to ask like:
What’s wrong with me?
What if I don’t have what it takes?
What if I’m inherently flawed and it doesn’t work for me?
These questions aren’t helpful.
Inquiry practice is at the heart of self discovery. It’s what I’ve used to tap into my inner guide and uncover deep desires that lie dormant inside me. Good questions are the keys that unlock doorways that open us up to possibility and potentiality.
If you find yourself stuck, ask better questions and doors will open up where before there were only walls.
Sometimes we think there’s only one way to live our lives and to do our jobs. In those instances we haven’t asked the right questions and thus remain inside a box of our own creation.
Sometimes, one question can be the catalyst to an entirely different world.