Whenever I contemplate a new project, I always ask myself Why? And until I unearth an answer that will keep me going when I lose energy, or motivation, or heart for the thing, I don’t do it. I have to know my why first.
If I don’t have a strong enough why articulated at the get-go, I know I’m doomed.
It’s okay if my why changes during the project, as long as I continue to have one. And it’s a good one.
I’m in the process of writing my April newsletter to my mailing list now. I’m describing the Challenge and laying out the rules.
The game of the Challenge is that if you agree to come to class every day for 30 days, you only pay $30 for the entire month. There’s a leader board on the back wall where you sign in every day, and others can see your attendance and scribble notes of encouragement to you if they want.
It’s really fun, but it’s also hard. But not because of the yoga. It’s hard because of the everyday. That’s why you need a strong why going in.
So I started writing this sort of rah-rah newsletter to my people, encouraging anybody thinking of doing the Challenge this year to know their why first.
Just for fun, I tried to think of a few good whys for myself. Why would I commit to such a thing?
I came up with 4. There could be many more, but these four would work for me.
1. For My Health
2. To Align More Closely with my Aspirational Self
3. To Set a Good Example
4. For Accountability
I want to shed some winter weight. I want to get stronger, more toned and energized. A 30 Day Yoga Challenge would be a good way to support my healthier eating resolution, or even a detox.
Aligning with My Aspirational Self
When I invision my best self I see a person who does yoga everyday and looks like they do yoga every day. I see someone healthy, glowing, and energetic. Someone getting life done. Someone who’s not enslaved. Someone calling the shots on their own life, or at least recognizing where choices can be made, and making good ones.
A 30 Day Yoga Challenge would give me an opportunity to live, at least for a month, in alignment with what I’m always saying I want to do, but so often don’t.
Here is my favorite chicken-crossing-the-road joke:
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: To prove to the possum that it could be done.
I want to be the chicken. I want to prove that something hard can be done. I want to do something hard and not get hit by a truck doing it. I am aware that people are inspired by other people and that we’re all watching each other. If I can be a good example, maybe you’ll be inspired. That’s how the world works, We’re all watching each other. If I can work the logistics of fitting a yoga class into my life for 30 days in a row, maybe you can, too. I am highly incentivized by being a good example. For nobody in particular. For everyone in general.
Also: Very few people in the world actually do what they say they’re going to do. So it’s inspiring to see someone actually persist and win at something hard.
I’m an Obliger. Most people are. Obligers depend on an accountability partner to keep them connected to their goals. A 30 Day Challenge acts as that accountability partner, because if I don’t show up, I’m out. And everybody knows it.
Also: Very few people do this, so it makes me feel part of a little tribe that I have to show up for and root on. And I like that.
If you’ve ever committed to doing something hard, a marathon, losing weight— anything that demanded training and a long(ish) slog, you know what I’m talking about. You have to have your why tattooed on your brain or you’ll bonk.
I’ll be really curious to see how many people sign up for this and what their whys are. I’ll be writing a lot about the Challenge next month for sure. Stay tuned.
Also: if you’ve ever done anything like this, let me know how it went, and if your why played a big part in your success.
Yesterday, out on the bike path, there was a new slant of light. A spring slant. It was still blowing in the 20s in my face, but there was a definite shift in the angle of the sun. Stella and I both felt it.
This new light and the cold on my face reminded me of when I used to be a runner. I ran everyday. Rain or shine. I trained up and down the hills.
My walks with Stella are taking on this same kind of regularity.
I like it.
Reading Digital Minimalism
Newport On Walking:
I just got finished reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. He too, highly recommends taking long walks alone. He calls walking “a high-quality source of solitude.” (p.119)
He quotes Nietzsche, “Only thoughts reached by walking have value.”
I, personally, have always liked the Latin phrase, solvitur ambulando which means: All is solved through walking.
Pretty much my experience. If I have a problem, I take it for a walk. The bigger the problem, the longer the walk.
Newport takes his problems on walks sometimes, too, he says, but he also goes on what he calls “gratitude walks” where he just appreciates the environment.
That’s what I try to do when I take Stella. I try to get out of my head and just notice nature and the sky, and do what Thoreau did: spend a lot of time staring at ice.
One of our walks takes us across a beaver dam. There’s ice on both sides of the path. It’s getting thinner.
On a regular basis, go for long walks, preferably somewhere scenic. Take these walks alone, which means not just by yourself, but also, if possible, without your phone. If you’re wearing headphones, or monitoring a text message chain, or, God forbid narrating the stroll on Instagram—you’re not really walking, and therefore you’re not going to experience this practice’s greatest benefits.” P. 121
And what are the benefits? Clearer thinking, time to clarify values, time to connect to nature, and as a high quality source of solitude.
Newport On Leisure:
He makes a lot of distinctions in this book between high quality and low quality things.
Things like leisure.
He says there are high quality leisure activities and low quality ones. If it’s passive, it’s low-quality: video games, watching sports, web-surfing and long evenings at the bar.
High quality leisure activities involve making things in the world, either that, or being super-social.
High quality leisure activities are often done outside and always without screens, unless it’s using a YouTube tutorial to learn how to fix something.
Ever since I read this I’ve been trying to think of something I do that results in something physical in the world. I can’t think of a thing.
I have lots of low-quality leisure activities though, but no high-quality ones. Someone I follow on FB just posted pictures of a table she made from a slab of wood she found in the woods. It’s gorgeous. It’s amazing. That’s what Newport would call a high-quality leisure activity.
What do I do that’s comparable to that? Nothing. I need a thing like that to do. I need to make something. What, though?
This is what I’m thinking about on my walks these days, in between staring at ice, and trying not to think at all.
“The poetry of four seasons is all wrong for this part of the planet, and this may explain why we are so depressed so much of the time. I mean, spring doesn’t feel like spring a lot of the time, and November is all wrong for autumn, and so on. Here is the truth about the seasons: Spring is May and June. What could be springier than May and June? Summer is July and August. Really hot, right? Autumn is September and October. See the pumpkins? Smell those burning leaves? Next comes the season called Locking. That is when nature shuts everything down. November and December aren’t winter. They’re Locking. Next comes winter. January and February. Boy! Are they ever cold! What comes next? Not spring. “Unlocking” comes next. What else could cruel March and only slightly less cruel April be? March and April are not spring. They are Unlocking.”
From an essay entitled “Funnier On Paper Than Most People” in PalmSunday by Kurt Vonnegut
Now that it’s March and the Groundhog has predicted an early spring, I could get all depressed that I just came back from walking Stella in a real-feel of zero. But ever since I found this Vonnegut reframe, I’ve become more patient.
When I used to expect spring weather to start happening in March or April, there was daily disappointment.
Now, I reframe and think: Now is the season of Unlocking. And I look for signs of that.
Like mud. Mud is a sign of unlocking.
And a snowfall that doesn’t linger too long. That’s a sign of unlocking, too.
The days getting longer? Unlocking.
The flowering houseplants in the mudroom which haven’t flowered all winter, now showing little buds under their leaves. Unlocking.
The Athleta catalog with swimsuits on the cover: Unlocking.
Flower catalogs. Ditto.
Spring will come. But not until May.
In the meantime, I watch for all the signs of Unlocking.
I know there will come a day, probably in early May, when a really warm day will hit. It will send me to my bin of stored summer clothes in the basement. Finally!
But I also know my body may not be quite ready for prime time.
A winter of too many noodles, and too little kale, has consequences.
I know that as sure as crocus bulbs lie dormant under the snow crust, under my Eddie Bauer thermals lies a body pale, dry, and a little bit flabby.
So when the the season of Unlocking arrives (now) it’s time to start getting ready.
So the other day I took the VitaMix out of the cupboard and went to Wegmans for greens to make my GGS.
Here’s the recipe:
Into the blender put 2 cups of water, some ice, lots of romaine lettuce, spinach, and chard, 2 apples, a frozen banana, and a pear.
I blend it all up and sip on it all morning. It’s good.
I’m also starting to jump on my rebounder everyday. I’m starting with 5 minutes and will work up to 15 or 20. After that, I dry brush, and take my shower. This, to move lymph, the body’s first drain.
Then, I heavily moisturize.
This is my personal way of “unlocking.” It’s slow and gradual, just like the season. But when May comes, I want to be all ready to bloom.