The 40 Days
are over! Did you hear? While I have to admit they weren’t a rigid success (I never had a single week of doing all six days of yoga, nor all seven of meditation), I feel pretty darn good.
And to be honest, I’m pretty amazed about that, considering the 40 Days coincided with a pretty intense bout of work – the kind that usually leaves me wound up.
While the last month hasn’t been pure bliss (what is?), I’ve found myself responding to stress in a much healthier way, and I attribute that the best tools I learned during my 40 Days…
1. Recognize I am living in my own story. The world is happening around us, and what we often think of as the “truth” is really the story we make of the bits and pieces we are exposed to. Our stories can be positive or negative, emotion-filled or objective, but they are just our perspectives.
When I can recognize that the story I’m spinning is just that – a story – it helps keep my perspective wider. I may be sure that the guy who cut me off on the freeway is a total jerk, but what if he’s late for the most important job interview of his life? What if he’s rushing his child to the hospital? Remembering that I don’t know all the facts can help me stay calm.
2. Tease my less-than-best self. I often get in that habit of reprimanding myself when I have a bad moment. When I find myself getting judgmental, I shudder and tell myself to stop it! This not only makes me feel bad, it doesn’t even make the habit go away.
During the 40 Days I took a more playful approach. When I found myself thinking something I wasn’t proud of, rather than admonish myself, I’d label it as a different Abby. I’d say, “Oh, there goes Judgmental Abby,” or most commonly, “Victim Abby has made her appearance again!”
Being playful with myself helped me to recognize my negative thoughts (which helped me stop them) but because I kept the tone with myself light, I kept the internal battle at bay. A win all around.
3. Just come back. They say meditation is the art of coming back. I love that, because I so often feel, when I get off course, that I need a trigger to start over. This 40 Days, I never beat myself up if I didn’t make it to a yoga class when I was supposed to. Rather than “starting over” the next week, I forgave myself and came back. Nothing was lost – practicing coming back was just as important as the yoga itself.
4. Choose to be calm. The story of my greatest victory this 40 Days:
It was a Wednesday afternoon, and I could have been in tears. I had driven to Austin that morning for a company recruiting event, and was supposed to make the three-hour drive back to Houston that evening. As the day progressed, more and more work made its way to my phone, until by 5 p.m. I was swamped with tasks that all felt critical to get done by the very next day. The drive back to Houston was daunting, especially with hours of work looming over my head.
Fortunately for me, this was the program’s week of equanimity, or the practice of remaining calm. So I chose to practice. Rather than calling Michael to vent about the work (which would have taken up more of my precious time), I took a few minutes to release my anxiety in my journal. I decided the most critical pieces of work to get done, and I decided that doing them in Austin could be a way to make the situation fun. I’d be working before the exhausting drive home, and I could do it in an Austin coffee shop, an atmosphere I love.
It worked! I felt so much better, both for getting my work done and for refusing to panic. I vow to practice this every day from here on out. And if I have moments of panic – moments in which I am not practicing equanimity – then I’ll simply come back.