Monday, November 28, 2011

December: Cleanse (mind and body)

When training to become a yoga instructor, my sister passed along ten guidelines to live by which I've found so important to remember that I've kept them hanging next to my computer at work. These are the Yamas (the changes that you make) and the Niyamas (the practices which sustain the changes you make). 

  1. Ahimsa (nonharming)
  2. Satya (honesty)
  3. Asteya (nonstealing)
  4. Brahmacarya (moderation)
  5. Aparigraha (nonhoarding)
  1. Sauca (cleanliness)
  2. Santosa (contentment)
  3. Tapas (burning zeal in practice)
  4. Svadhyaya (self-study)
  5. Isvara-pranidhana (surrender to God)
Seemingly no matter where I turn to learn more about happiness and authenticity, a variation of these ethical ideals is born: to be a peaceful person is to maintain balance and moderation, to discover joy and passion, to study yourself and your mentors, and to embrace faith in any number of forms. In addition, I see these guidelines as the backbone for the initial cleanse that I'm cultivating for December.

As I've spent more and more time fixing my hip/knee and learning about how my body works, I've become enormously interested in what I'm choosing to use product-wise. Increasing research has shown that a person's genes are not the most important factor in determining whether or not disease appears. Environmental factors, our every day products and exercise habits, and the food we consume also contribute widely. While many people are well versed in this research and have been been seeking out alternative paths for years, I didn't give much thought to the potential side effects of my products growing up, as I didn't know that the regulations needed to protect us are severely lacking and that political and industry agendas often block much needed reform. Working on projects related to toxics reform and climate change at work, in addition to my recent reading of the Omnivore's Dilemma, opened my eyes quite a bit. Instead of feeling badly that I was fairly ignorant about these topics, however, I've chosen to simply begin a new chapter of my life as someone who thinks often about synthetic chemicals, processed food, my physical and mental health, and the health of our environment.

Under the broader umbrella of Cleanse (mind and body), I have four goals I'd like to explore during the month of December. From these goals I'll create action steps to make sure I'm making some progress.  Regardless, I need to remind myself to stay flexible and open, as I am a ridiculously organized person: I love lists, charts, and updating my google calendar. This month may not unfold the way I imagine, and that's okay too! Maybe I should have bumped 'embrace the process' up to the beginning of my values list. :)
  1. Continue to make the switch to all natural products: I am currently in an experimental phase with herb facial cleanser / oil, soap, lemon shampoo with added baking soda, an apple cider vinegar rinse instead of conditioner, deodorant, and unrefined coconut oil in place of moisturizer.  So far so good, but there are other things to research if I'm going to make a complete switch! Also: I don't have tons of money. Discovering the benefits of vinegar was great, as it's super cheap; the coconut oil should last a long time too even if it was $$ up front.
  2. Create some realistic healthy eating / supplement goals: I'm a relatively healthy person in that I exercise daily, drink plenty of water, and take vitamins. I don't eat tons of sugar or smoke or eat fast food. The kicker though is that I definitely need to be eating more veggies. Tons more! Also, I know very little about enzymes, probiotics, powders, etc. Should I finally take the plunge and make some green smoothies? What vegetables should I definitely be eating on a daily basis? When does the organic label really matter and when is it okay otherwise? These are the questions, friends. 
  3. Think critically about how I spend my (mental) time: Part of my cleanse involves thinking candidly about what I spend my time doing and where my mind dwells when I allow it to do so. At least a few times a day do I waste too much time on the internet? Definitely. Do I have a tendency to dwell on things or make little judgments if I don't watch myself? Sure I do. Am I a worrier? Oh god, yes. The mind is amazing though - outrageously so. Calling attention to these habits is the first step!
  4. Have a 'virtual move': I saw this idea and loved it, as I have definitely done many purges in the past. Pretend you're going to move tomorrow: what do you bring and what do you leave  behind? I'm using this opportunity to remove additional clutter from my life, to donate clothes and other items at a time of year when people might really benefit, and to simplify my physical space.
These goals speak to my primary agenda of cleansing my body and mind free of toxins, especially during a holiday month when stress and overeating can easily abound. Granted, all of these goals will need to be ongoing if they will have any effect. I'm intimidated by all of the information I don't know, but these goals are too important to keep letting them slide. I've seen others use charts to help track progress - I might find very quickly that I need something similar. Regardless, this is my first commitment of the happiness project year: increase my energy and cultivate a long-term relationship with my health!

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