I've been back from the Peru retreat for more than a week now. Coming home, I hit the ground running by graduating the first round of my six-month continuity course (14 amazing women who are making their way beautifully in this world) and launching the next round of Self Care 101 (these ladies are so energetic and deeply ready for change--stay tuned for news of their awesome progress).
Both events were incredibly inspiring. The collective power of strong women joining together will never cease to amaze me. After they were over, I breathed out a big sigh and realized that how much I've done and experienced in the past month.
With so much action, I was hungry for time to process. So I used the last two days to fully rest and integrate all that's happened. I journaled, read and took lots of walks with Poncho. Now I am caught up on my sleep and am even back to my fermenting ways (tea for my kombucha is brewing on my stove right now). It's good to be home.
Yet I miss our gorgeous retreat center, the wonderful people who filled it and the simplicity of our days nestled in the Andes mountains. Even though I helped create the retreat schedule, once it was set there were very few decisions that needed to be made. Our work each day was to show up on time to yoga class and the tour bus. It made me realize that having a set schedule is one of the most luxurious parts of being on a retreat.
To stay balanced, we need to talk more about the simplification of choices. In our culture we get overwhelmed because we CAN do so much. We are educated, we have access to resources and thus we could achieve our dreams if we choose to dedicate our time and efforts to them.
So why aren't we? Why are we so scattered and anxious when it comes to the future? Why do we feel like we are always falling behind?
Ayurvedically speaking, too many choices causes our vata to go out of whack. Vata imbalance makes us feel shaky, lonely, insecure. Vata goes out of balance when we get overwhelmed and causes us to fritter away our energy on the unessential. We stay extra busy, get really tired yet feel like we aren't getting anywhere.
It gets worse when we are afraid of making the wrong choice. Our fear paralyzes us and we do nothing, which takes a surprising amount of energy. Then we get frustrating with ourselves for not making the most of our lives. It's a tough, draining cycle!
Being in Peru reminded me that most places in the world don't have the opportunities we have here in the West. It's a big privilege and an enviable one. Yet it's wise to realize all that opportunity can come with a big cost--our sense of peace and grounding.
I've worked on healing my own vata imbalance over these past years. My consistent, although often unsexy advice is to set up a solid daily routine that includes your basic self care. Then stick to it 70% of the time. Knowing how you will spend most of your day, most of the time will free up the energy you need to make your most important choices with clarity and confidence.
The best place to start is by establishing a solid morning routine for yourself. To get started, check out my posts on why morning routine helps you become powerful and how I spend the first hour of morning. Think about what your ideal morning routine would contain. Exercise? Meditation? Time to just sit and be?
Then narrow that habit down to one clear action and automate it. You automate the habit by attaching it to another habit you are doing anyway. For example, as soon as you finish brushing your teeth, sit directly down on your meditation cushion. Or say five things you are grateful for as you grind your coffee (somehow we never forget the coffee). My favorite habit tweak is to put on my tea kettle instead of hitting snooze. It's reminder to drink warm water right away and that tea whistle really gets me out of bed the second time.
So yes, automation is the key to good habits. I've practiced my morning routine so many times by now that I don't even have to think of it. I can go on autopilot as I scrape my tongue, splash my face with cold water and sit down at my altar to meditate. If I feel crappy upon waking, going through my automated habits makes me feel better. If I wake up feeling pretty good, my automated habits take me into feeling great.
Often people ask me if I get bored by doing the same thing every day. I respond that there are so many life decisions I can't automate or anticipate. Sometimes they are fun decisions and sometimes they are really hard. Having set habits, beginning with a strong morning routine, ensures that I have the grounding and energy I need to make these unexpected decisions with a clear head and open heart. This is anything but boring.
The incredible yoga instructor Kia Miller once said that she didn't know true freedom until she found discipline. I couldn't agree more. For years, the "shoulds" and even the "coulds" of life drained my energy like a hole in a bucket. Now my routine gives me the integrity of actual doing a thing and for that I am rewarded on a daily basis with the beauty of my own life pouring forth.