40 Days to Personal Revolution. Wow. Sounds buzz-worthy right? Who doesn’t want their life to be revolutionized? But what does that really mean? What’s really involved in this process and what do I expect to gain from this program? These are all questions I’m seeking to find on this 40-day journey. Quite simply, I just felt drawn to join in so I’m going with my gut.
My name is Mo (short for Morgan) and I’m one of the assistants in Dunedin. I’m currently going through yoga teacher training with Warrior One and have found that every aspect of my life has already been changed or shifted since starting YTT in August. Yet, I still felt drawn to be a part of this community challenge. Growth seems to be at the top of my personal to-do list these days. Submerging myself in as much life experience as possible. So as Simon Sinek suggests in his Ted Talk (which you should totally check out here if you haven’t seen it), I’ll start with why. Why now? Why this challenge?
2018 was probably the most challenging year of my life, and also the year I experienced the most personal growth. A year of such extreme lows matched with extraordinary opportunities to begin again. Remembering who I am, what I stand for, and most importantly, a year I realized the need to step away from what does not serve me.
My mom went in for a routine procedure in February of last year, an esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD, to explore why she was having difficulty swallowing. During the procedure, the physician ran into bleeding and aborted the procedure. My father was told this could potentially be from a massive tumor, however, while my mom was in the recovery room she started rapidly decompensating. Her breathing was off and her mentation was not coming back despite the anesthesia being out of her system. A CT scan was performed and they saw that her right lung was completely collapsed due to a hemothorax which is a collection of blood around the lung causing so much pressure that the lung deflates. She was rushed to the hospital in Denver. I remember getting the call from my Dad and hearing him cry. My Dad does not cry. He barely emotes at all. So to hear that emotion through the phone line wrecked me before he could even tell me what was going on. All he could manage to get out at first was, “Mom went in for a procedure. There were complications. It’s…. It’s really bad. She might not make it.” It’s as if every construct of my life that I had known up to that moment crumbled in an instant. My biological mother had died of Stage IV lung cancer just one year prior. Now my adoptive mother, the mother who raised me, was dying in a hospital room in another part of the country. I was in complete shock. When the shock wore off, I was panicked grappling with the idea of going through the rest of my life without a mother.
I flew to Denver and stayed with my mom for three weeks in the ICU. There were many ups and downs in her recovery, but she survived. The bleeding from the procedure was not from a massive tumor, but from a hole the physician had accidentally caused by advancing his scope through her esophagus. The bleeding from the puncture seeped into her chest cavity collapsing her lung. 3 chest tubes, pneumonia, benzo withdrawal, and a serious case of ICU induced delirium later… she was able to leave the hospital. She was knocked down and ALMOST knocked out completely, but her strength persevered and she survived. I on the other hand… I was traumatized. I was not ok.
I’ve always been the strong one in my family. The “good one.” The glue. The successful one who managed to escape the addictions and mental illness that always plagued the rest of my family. But experiencing such a near miss knocked me into a trap called fear. I was so scared. I just wanted to forget any of it had happened. My glass of wine at night became three glasses, sometimes a bottle. I was buying boxed wine instead of bottles because “it lasted longer.” Meanwhile, it was just easier to drink more without others noticing as quickly. I wanted to be numb and alcohol was my vehicle to get there. A vehicle prone to crashing and messing up every aspect of my life. The constant binging and anesthetizing went on for about three months before I found myself sick on my bathroom floor wondering how I had managed to get to that point? How did I GET HERE??? That thought replayed and replayed and replayed in my mind as tears ran down my face until another thought came to me. I heard the voice of my yoga retreat instructor in Aruba from the previous year asking, “Are you lying on the ground? Or is the Earth holding you up?” In that moment, I was filled with clarity. My life was morphing into something I did not recognize, I was drifting so far from my moral compass and I was NOT ok with it- I needed to come home to myself. I needed to stop drinking.
That moment on my bathroom floor was May 4th, 2018 and I have not had a drop of alcohol since. And you know what? From that moment on my life has blossomed. The saying goes, “No Mud, No Lotus.” I was BURIED in mud and now I’m above water and GROWING. This 40-day challenge is just another way for me to excavate my own soul. Go deeper. Remember more. And hopefully, empower others to do the same as well. Those are my “why’s”: Grow and Empower. Life has such a beautiful way of falling into place when we get out of our own way.
So, Week 1: PRESENCE. The Laws we focused on this week were Seek The Truth and Be Willing To Come Apart. I flew to Denver Tuesday for a ski trip and read the first 100 pages of our book on my flight. Right out of the gate I resonated with the following quote from the chapter on Seek The Truth: “As the philosopher Carl Rogers said, ‘The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, I can change.’” When I accepted I had a drinking problem last year, I was able to swallow that and stop drinking. Additionally, the next chapter on Be Willing To Come Apart spoke on how, “in our lives, like in our bodies, if we refuse to give up control, life will eventually do it for us. Controlling the flow of life is like setting up a dam: All the flow stops, and it builds up within us as pressure. Finally it breaks and brings us to our knees, and we hit a crisis. Crisis can be a call to spiritual rebirth.” I’ve done a lot of coming apart in the last year. It’s a bit like feeling like you’re at the bottom of a well. Some may consider how far they’ve fallen and think it’s useless to try and make their way out. I see the light at the top illuminating the holes in the wall to serve as footholds to crawl my way out from the bottom. Out of the darkness. Away from the cold and isolation. I see the way OUT.
Warrior was a huge part of that illumination in my life. Not only was I given a place to go when all I wanted to do was drown out my thoughts, but it gave me a community. It gave me a physical practice that I could feel proud of week to week when I noticed my body changing and growing stronger. It gave me OPPORTUNITY in the form of teacher training which has helped my life in more ways than I ever thought possible (or even necessary). I feel like this 40 Days program is another light waiting to uncover more about myself, a deep dive snapshot of what I’ve been learning in my teacher training.
I’ll be honest, I’ve been struggling with the meditation aspect on my trip here in Denver. I’ve been very present with my friends and enjoying the gorgeous scenery. While I’ve had many “mindful moments” throughout my day, I haven’t actually sat in meditation on my trip. I have found that the end of the day comes around and I’m left thinking, “I’m so tired I’ll try again tomorrow.” When truthfully, I have the ability to meditate in THAT moment. So my goal going into next week (starting today!) will be to stop the excuses. I’m used to regular asana practice, so that aspect has not been challenging for me. My body craves intentional movement and I’ve found it extra helpful this week with all the skiing we’ve been doing.
I naturally am very aware of what I put into my body, especially since I started noticing how much better my body felt when I stopped drinking last year. I started feeling healthier and in turn started craving things that would keep the vitality going. Don’t get me wrong, it would be a dream if it would rain tacos and pizza slices in my book. I’ve decided I feel best when I eat intuitively. Usually, that’s healthy whole foods but sometimes, it’s junk. The key for me is moderation. I listen to when my body is cueing me that it’s had enough and I stop then. I have never been one to gorge myself to the point of misery when it comes to food and I attribute that to the fact that I naturally eat very slowly.
I sought to bring awareness to my diet this week rather than trying to change anything so I’ve really been focusing on just noticing what my body is wanting. The temperature in Colorado has been between 5 and 20 degrees. My first couple of days here I found that I was wanting warm, building foods like potatoes, rice, tacos (always), pizza and I wanted everything SPICY. I’m cold natured, so this is not too far from my norm, but I definitely was eating heavier and larger portions than usual the first part of the week. Makes sense since I’m in a colder climate and expending a lot of energy skiing. After about three days of eating this way, I found I was craving the opposite. I wanted soup, oranges, bananas, no meat. I really felt that my body was needing to balance out after so much heaviness.
The fourth aspect of this 40 days challenge in addition to daily meditation, asana, and diet awareness is journaling. Journaling has always been a release for me. I started writing in a journal when I was 5 years old. Before I was adopted in 5th grade, I grew up with an alcoholic mother where I filled the role of parent taking care of her and my younger brother. Journaling served as an outlet and still helps me make sense of the confetti swirling in my brain at times. I really enjoyed having specific questions to delve into. I probably uncovered the most with our last journal question: Where in my life am I flirting with disaster?
My answer to this question last year would have been very different than my answer today. Shit, it would have been different last month. This highlights the importance of writing things down so we can look back and reflect on what we’ve been through, how we’ve grown, and what we still have left to learn. This week I realized that I flirt with disaster by allowing myself to get in my own way. I constantly have to keep myself in check with perfectionism, self-doubt, and placing absurd high expectations and pressure to succeed on myself. I believe this comes from growing up in turbulent conditions as a child. I grew up quickly because I had to in order to survive my circumstances. I found out early on that succeeding in school provided opportunities to get me out of my crazy home life. That translated to every aspect of my life. Succeeding in sports granted me the recognition I wasn’t getting at home. Making good grades ensured I could attend college which in turn ensured I could create a stable life for myself VASTLY different than the one I grew up in during my early childhood years. On and on and on this cycle of do good, succeed, get recognized, get rewarded has been present in my life.
Even with something as silly and mundane as skiing I find myself getting frustrated and angry when I don’t pick up on the skill right away because I have this need to succeed. And why?? Who cares? The fear of potentially injuring myself used to keep me from even trying skiing. Then when I decided to try, I would quit after an hour saying FUCK THIS skiing just isn’t for me because it didn’t come naturally to me- I saw myself as a failure. So. Dramatic. But this trip, I decided to get out of my own way and try a lesson. Push myself to the edge of my comfort zone fear wise and do the thing anyway. And yes, I was scared. Yes, there were times I was frustrated. But I had a fucking blast. I gave myself the opportunity to be proud of myself for trying something I’m not comfortable with. I am by no means ready to take on black diamonds, but I was able to have fun and laugh and be ok with getting a little uncomfortable. After all, magic happens in the uncertainty. The friction. The unknown. When we stop trying so hard to control and free ourselves to just see what happens, anything is possible. And it might even be a little fun.
Looking forward to next week and seeing what else will come up. Thank you for letting me share. Thank you for holding space for me, even if it is just cyberspace.