Monday, July 15, 2013

Life's a journey, not a destination.

Look through my old notebooks; you'll find a lot of Day 1s.  I've been dreaming up grand new goals and setting milestones for completing them for literally as long as I can remember.  Diary entry, age 8: "I'm going to the dentist on Friday!!!"  (I loved the dentist.)  Entry continues: "Floss!  Brush teeth for half an hour on Thursday."  [Insert drawing of smiling mouth next to toothbrush here.]  Um, a half hour?  Yikes. What the hell?

I'm willing to bet that I did not follow through with that particular, inadvisable and OCD-esque goal, since I don't remember ever having brushed until my gums bled.  But the spirit behind that 8-year-old's writing is what interests me.  Specific goal-setting behavior, always in the realm of self-improvement, is something I've continued to do throughout my life.  And as far as I can remember, nobody ever taught me to do that; it seems to be inherent in me.

What I realize now at age 29, 3 months shy of 30, is that setting short, mid-length, and long-term goals can be a powerful tool for tracking your progress toward creating the life, and the bright shining smiling self that you want.  I've totally achieved some of the goals that I've put in print and declared I'll achieve.  Lose five pounds for Rachael's wedding!  Redecorate the guest room before Mom arrives!  And etc.  But since there have been a lot of false starts, too... I've had to ask myself, wherein lies the difference between the goals that I successfully achieve and the goals that I think I want to achieve, but never do?

Well, I think I've figured it out.  The entries that are destined to fail usually come from a negative place.  Right goal, wrong inspiration.  I've stepped on the scale, noticed a weight gain, and in shock and horror I've grabbed a notebook and written out a plan: "Flab to Fit February!  Lose 8lbs in 30 days!"  I myself tend to write these things; other people tend to impulsively grab magazines with similar slogans printed across them when they're feeling the same way.  The point is, you can't just open a page and declare, "today I'll change!"  Not from a place of self-punishment, and not hastily.  That approach is backwards, because it looks at a goal from the outside in, rather than the inside out.  

The only goals that are destined to succeed are the ones that reflect our true desire.  If you're feeling hateful toward your body, if you're punishing yourself for past mistakes, then you'll just get more of that: hateful and guilty emotions don't lead us to make self-empowered, healthy choices, because hate and guilt aren't healthy emotions.  A shift must occur.  You must release those emotions and gain acceptance of this moment, just as it is.  Suddenly, you can acknowledge that improvement is possible, with a spirit of calm and clarity.  You can see a path toward a worthy goal, and the journey toward it excites you, instead of condemns you.  

I believe the truth is that the lives we lead are in every way a reflection of what's in our hearts.  All you need to do is observe your life in order to see a visualization of what you've prioritized, up to this moment.  Each choice we make is a demonstration -- actual proof of our mindset.  "In this moment, I place a higher value on the instant gratification of this piece of cake than I do on eating healthily and losing weight."  Or, maybe it's not about instant gratification -- maybe we want to participate in a celebration by eating the cake, or sample an amazing chef's new recipe.  No choice is wrong, is just depends on what the heart says about why you're making that choice.  When you observe your choices, in relation to your goals, you will find examples that resonate with you.  Think about it.  Are the choices you make falling in line with what you think of as your personal goals?  If not, then perhaps your goals are not in line with what's really in your heart.  

What does your heart say?  What are your goals?

My heart says, I have a huge and worthy goal that excites me.  My goal is to be content, at peace, kind toward myself and others, non-judgmental toward myself and others -- in a word, HAPPY -- in every moment, for the rest of my life.  "What the hell," you say?  "Life is long, and shit will inevitably go wrong; that's an unattainable goal!"  Well, I don't think so.  Because nobody promised me a tomorrow, perhaps this is only a goal for today.  Hell, nobody has promised me that this evening will come, or that I will still be alive and reveling in the luxury of my dissatisfactions, even half an hour from now, so perhaps it's only this minute's goal!  This second's goal!  You've heard it before, haven't you?  NOW.  And NOW.  And NOW is all there is.  Each moment can be a Day 1, a fresh opportunity for a fresh start.  How you experience each moment of your life is up to you, and no single piece of cake or act of deviation from your goal can utterly derail you.  If you keep checking in with your heart, and letting it lead you, your mind will stay in line with your goal.

Right now, I feel like sharing these thoughts with you in the form of this blog, and I feel like calling this blog, "Total Body Happiness."  And now, I'd like to explain my title.  :)

Total Body Happiness, Defined!

Where does the body come into the picture of total happiness?  What does it mean to be happy in the body? Well, without your body -- intricate, amazing, phenomenal organism that it is -- you wouldn't have this life experience.  The body encapsulates the mind, as far as I can tell, and we have two distinct working systems at play.  The body operates without your input: breathing for you when you're focusing on other things, beating your heart to pump your blood, digesting your food to fuel your muscles, and doing a whole host of other things that I don't have the doctorate to even summarily describe!  What a luxury!  Study is required to begin to understand what the body's born doing!  Impressive stuff.  Yet, if you wanted to study it, you could, because the mind is equally vast!  Storing all your memories, your learned skills, all the associations that it constantly calls upon in order for you to assess your surroundings in a mere blink of your amazing eyes!  

By Total Body Happiness, I'm trying to convey a sense of fusing your body's "happiness" (which is equal to physical health and vitality) with peaceful contentment of the mind, and the inspired creativity that is able to arise when you're not bogged down in negative or stressful emotions.  This union of body and mind is where successful goals are born, and thus, the union of body and mind seems to me to be the only Goal #1 that is truly worth setting.  

Here are the specifics of how I plan to modify my daily behavior in order to be happier and healthier in body and mind:
  • Go to sleep by 10:30 so I can wake up by 6:30, and not be too grouchy about it
  • Follow a morning schedule that includes breakfast, formal mindfulness meditation*, and exercise*
  • Sustain a spirit of mindfulness at all times to the best of my ability
  • Continue to eat nourishing, healthful foods and not overeat, or booze (as a verb) to excess.  (I'm setting these booze rules specifically: thumbs up to a lovely glass of red wine on weeknights if desired; thumbs up to delicious, beloved craft beers on weekends only.)
That's it.  A simple experiment, right?  My hypothesis is that my results will be tangible, so I must be able to gauge them.  To track the mind: I intend to use this blog to share reviews of the texts I'm studying, as well as struggles, triumphs, and experiences along the way.  Or, maybe this is a great idea, and yet I'm full of shit and will never log into this blog again.  Time will tell, but right now, I have the best intention to document my idea.  And I still have it now.  And now.  And now...  :)

To track my physical results, I've recorded my current statistics and taken before photos.  Even though I find the photos a little gruesome, I'm not beating myself up about them emotionally.  I'm not in the best shape of my life, but why would I be?  I haven't been exercising regularly and I've been drinking a lot of beer.  But, I'll share these photos because after I saw them, I gained more inspiration to make my body an extension of my happy mind.  I think it's important to remember that the only sane starting point is self-effacing honesty.  Plus, if you've actually read this many of my thoughts, I guess you deserve to see a little skin!

If you want to follow along with me, take your weight, the following measurements, and multiple before pictures.

Weight: 139.4 lbs
Chest: 36"
Waist: 27"
Bicep: 11"
Thigh: 24"
Hips: 40"

And this is what that looks like on me:

Sweaty exercise pic from today's Day 1 of workout!
Full frontal workout-wear.  I'm sportin' some pudge, but I'm diggin' my tan!

Frankly, this photo disturbed and thus motivated me.  I look forward to seeing improvement in the back of my legs!

Empowered to begin, again, and again, and again!

*Here's the book and guided meditation program I'm starting with, as well as the exercise program I'm starting with:

Book and audio program: Mindfulness for Beginners, by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Here it is on Amazon.
Exercise program: T25 by Shaun T, distributed by Beachbody.  More info about that here

Thank you for reading and for joining me in, or supporting me on, this journey of being alive in the best way possible!  Just by being in my circle, our lives overlap; you impact me and I impact you!  Let's make that impact positive.  Three cheers to what I hope will be the first of many blog entries.

<3 Angela

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