At the end of April, the 40 Days to Personal Transformation program began at Yoga Bhoga (a Portland yoga studio). This program follows the principals and laws Baron Baptiste presents in his book 40 Days to Personal Revolution. Through meditation, yoga, journaling, weekly meetings and diet changes the participants of the program move on a journey of self-exploration and self-awareness. By becoming hyper-aware of oneself, we bring to the surface buried emotions, thoughts, habits of avoidance, denial, and self-sabotage. Only from recognizing these behaviors, are we then able to remove them, to change our patterns, in order to find a place of ultimate joy.
B.K.S Iyengar said “Asanas penetrate deep into each layer of the body and ultimately into the consciousness itself.” In yoga classes, asana refers to the postures but asana literally means “seat.” In the 40 days program, we are asked to find a seat within ourselves and begin to observe who we are. By sitting with ourselves, listening to our thoughts, witnessing our reactions to daily life, we allow our bodies and minds to feel both the positive and negative emotions within us. As I begin to root down into my internal seat, mindful to the moments of my life, pleasant or not, I am little by little beginning to remove my layers, slowly exposing the consciousness I long ago hid from myself. The idea of transformation is not about changing who I am or looking to become a new person but rather it is about removing what binds me to discover who I already am.
In this program, a component to restoring mind, body, and spirit involves going through a 3-day cleanse that consists of eating only fruit. The first day I was surprised to find I was neither uncomfortable nor hunger. I felt good eating fruit salads and I discovered that the addition of mango slices made each meal a special treat. On the second day I woke up to a headache…and a fuzzy mouth. As the day progressed, I found myself craving almonds and thick chunks of sourdough bread with melted butter. I was mildly surprised that I did not crave more luxurious foods…or even full meals. More importantly, on the second day, I painstaking came to understand the weight loss I desired from this fruit cleanse is not from losing water weight but from the metaphorical shedding of emotional layers due to the lack of distraction brought on by comfort food, alcohol, and caffeine.
What was hard for me during this cleanse was the emotions it brought to the surface. Primarily, the urge to quit the fast – that it was too hard. The desire to quit, to eat a piece of bread began to spread and I found myself angry at everything. Scared of my anger, I wanted to stuff my face to prove I was in control of the situation; to say “Screw it!” and eat cheese fries. I wanted to stop feeling so turbulent inside. And suddenly I realized: I am a quitter. I tend to quit, sabotaging my own growth and potential when things become uncomfortable. In yoga, holding a pose my muscles may burn or emotions may bubble to the surface so I move in ways to stifle the emotions, to relieve the discomfort, in order leave my layer in place. In love, for years, I would run away, lick my self-inflicted wounds rather than stay and lose control in a relationship with no guarantees. I quit in order to remain in control, to avoid failure, to avoid the unknown. In my kitchen, unable to eat and stuff out my emotions with food, I faced a choice: Do I continue the fruit cleanse and sit with my truth or literally eat my emotions away and continue avoiding the unknown within me?
Staying in the moment, I began to realize that the urgent need to escape back into my comfort zone, to not face my fears, stemmed from my own knowledge that I needed to rest during this week. I became angry that I did not have time to rest, that I did not have time for myself. I got mad at the fruit cleanse, the program, even my husband, and then I realized that I was blaming everyone else for my inability to say “no”. I stood there and asked myself “if I never say ‘no’, what is my ‘yes’ worth?” In my aerial classes we are taught not to swing our bodies into a position because swinging only creates more swinging. When we swing our body, it moves to the opposite point from where we want it to be. Only by mindfully engaging muscles, can we shift our body and place it where it needs to be. Right now, my pendulum is swinging, constantly moving, and all I want to do is slow down. In order to slow down, I must stop. I must stop going full force, stop worrying about others, stop brewing anger, stop blaming others for my inability to rest, to renew, to move past being tired. I must stop and begin to remove each layer, shedding old habits, resisting urges to flee and control what is not stable. I must stop, breathe, see where I am, greet who I am, and begin anew, mindful, aware, intentional and, yes, slightly scared, until stepping outside of boxes becomes natural.