A Flexible Life
by Amber Callahan, PlantFit
I just read over the first post I wrote to kick off the 40 Day Revolution. I have made some tough decisions in the last 5 weeks and have mindfully worked towards my initial goal of finding balance and joy in my personal and professional life. During week 6 I have been reflecting on these small victories and am not looking at Friday (the last day technically of the Revolution) with finality.
Baron Baptiste says in week 6 that "great spiritual triumph is the willingness to mentally renew, change and grow continually throughout the many seasons of our lives." We must be open to living a "flexible life." I love that statement. I have resisted change so often in my life and just began really wrapping my brain around the idea that EVERYTHING changes, things fall apart, and everything that has a beginning has an end. Logically, I have always known that, but I think it's so hard to accept when you make decisions and you think your life should "look a certain way."
I know, though, that I have grown in the last year and even more in the last 5 weeks with this Revolution. The fact that I am mentally better able to handle conflict and change was put to the test Monday evening. I had a conflict with my ex-husband that was probably one of the worst we have had since we were married over 11 years ago. I made the decision years ago that I would not let anger and resentment towards him have any control over me. Yet, there have been a few instances in the last 11 years where we have experienced conflict. This past Monday night was one of the worst with the conversation sending me into a complete rage. However, in the aftermath of that conversation I have been able to move forward. In the past I would have dwelled on and analyzed the situation for days reliving that same feeling of rage and anger over and over. Instead, Monday night, after a conversation with someone that helped me think logically about the situation, I was able to very easily make a decision about how to move forward, communicate those expectations to my ex-husband, and move past it. That's not to say that the things he said or the reality of the situation does not hurt me, but it is not controlling my mind in the aftermath. That is a victory for me especially given my history with him.
In week 6, Baptiste also says that triumph happens in small things with those small victories accumulating into great ones. My ability to handle this situation without diving into a total tailspin in the days following is a victory. My ability to say no to people, things and situations that are not serving me well are victories. My ability to articulate what I need and want in my life is a victory. My ability to follow through with what I've committed to myself is a victory. My ability to not berate myself when I don't follow through is a victory. My ability to be present more and more in my life is a victory. My ability to recognize that it's okay that I still am not present all the time in my life is a victory. My ability to stop and look at the sky and take in the beauty of the day is a victory. My ability to let things go is a victory. My ability to not analyze the hell out of the new boy in my life is a victory. My ability to just enjoy said new boy and his company without regard to the outcome is a victory. My ability to put my phone down and focus on my kids is a victory. My ability to give myself permission to take care of myself is a victory. My ability to stop feeling guilty about taking time for myself is a victory. My ability to recognize all of these things in my life as victories is a victory in itself. All of these things are part of my "lifelong path to lightheartedness." How amazing does that sound...to be at peace and to find joy in life? Isn't that what we're all searching for ultimately? So why not celebrate the little victories along the way?
I started the 40 Day Revolution in a better place than I was 8 months or so ago, but was still dealing with some anxiety and sadness. I set out on this 40 Day journey with the expectation that I'd find some balance and joy, knowing full well that there would still be down moments.. I obviously didn't expect to come out "perfect" at the end of it, but I can say that I am coming out improved and with more confidence and more clarity. I have been more present to my mind, body and spirit than I had been for months. I even made a few changes to my diet (which was pretty clean to begin with as a vegan) that are sticking long term. The Revolution and what I have taken from the readings has even changed how I work with my clients. I am so glad that I decided to take part in the 40 Day Revolution even thought I wasn't perfect throughout and the commitment scared me initially. I know that I am excited to continue on the path to lightheartedness being open to growing and learning along the way.
Share your small victories here or with someone. Remember that our light and our good can be the light for someone else.
Oh, and to remind myself daily of where I have come from and of the final destination, I got this on Saturday. Read more about the lotus here in a post I wrote back in September.
Amber Callahan, PlantFit
My entire story with yoga and meditation (starting almost a year ago now), started because I awakened from an autopilot state of life (not to anyone’s fault but my own). The frenzy of thoughts that were unleashed during that time were completely overwhelming and I honestly had no idea what to do with them at first. They caused anxiety, panic and depression because I let them engulf me. My thoughts raced on a daily basis and just kept pulling me further down into a state of indecision. Indecision about who I was, what to do with my life and how to handle the influx of emotion.
During that time, I chose to learn how to manage those emotions and become more present in my life by practicing Zen meditation and yoga. However, it is still a struggle months later to remain centered and present much of the time, although I am much more aware of my thoughts and emotions and am able to manage them without them overwhelming and controlling me.
So in week 5, I focused on being more present again because I was beginning to lose myself in the chaos of life. I think it’s actually one of the biggest things I’ve taken away from the 40 Day Revolution. One of my goals at the start of the Revolution was to find balance and I’ve kept that in the forefront over the last 5 weeks. I have made some changes to my work schedule that are allowing me more balance, I’m saying no to some things that were draining me completely, and I'm saying yes to some things that will bring me joy (another goal I had for the 40 Day Revolution). In saying no, I am slowing down some and taking more time to be aware of my life again and opening up space to say yes to new things.
With all the changes that I have been through in the last few months I did allow myself to fall back in survival mode and lost track of myself and what I want for my life. I definitely have not “been living from my center” for the last few months. There were days in the last few months, that at the end of them, I could not even recall what I ate, who I spoke to, what I wore, etc because they were such a blur. There were days that I was not even sure how I got home.
Part of the reason my life did get so chaotic is definitely lack of belief in myself and ignoring my intuition. I will admit that I struggle with belief surrounding some of my goals and I definitely have pushed my intuition away in a number of situations (that gut feeling that I have chosen to ignore time and time again).
My “monkey mind” sabotages me in the area of belief and even in trusting my intuition. There are things that I want so badly in my life, but I make excuses that become roadblocks to my goals. Those excuses revolve around my own ability much of the time. I make excuses about being tired, about not having enough time, not being skilled enough, etc. Ultimately I am the reason that I have not reached some of my goals and my primary issue is belief that I am able to do so.
So, I am making a conscious effort to fill my life with people and activities (both personal and professional) that align with what I want in my life. I am making a commitment to be more present in my life and to trust that if I just listen and connect to myself, my life will follow a path that will serve me.
What about you? How present are you in your life? Do you make decisions because you are trying to please others around you or are you living your life and making decisions that will serve you and nourish you?
“We may think we have struggles and problems in life, but the only problem we have is a disconnection from our center. When we come back to self, all the other things begin to take care of themselves and our lives begin to flow.” – Baron Baptiste, 40 Days to Personal Revolution.
by Amber Callahan
This past week has been pivotal for me. It’s funny that I needed to be “forced” into a week of restoration, but that is exactly what happened as a result of this week’s theme for the 40 Day Revolution at Awakened Yoga Studio. In 40 Days to Personal Revolution, Baron Baptiste says “Most of us are always pushing ourselves to the limit, convincing ourselves that we will be content only when we are working our to-do list.” This is so true for me. I feel a constant need to be working, to be busy, and to be productive. Yet, I am coming to realize that the pace that I am living now is going to wear me down physically and mentally and ultimately work will suffer because I am worn out.
Initially, I did not think about changing much during this week, but after the Sunday meeting, I made a commitment to take some time for myself, to not be so “busy,” to really be more present in my life, and to make some tough decisions that will only serve to improve my life. I also dove into the three
day fruit fast and completely committed to it.
Physical Restoration: Fasting
According to Baptiste “active cleansing or fasting is a way to allow your body to fully empty out and get clean, giving your metabolic organs a chance to rest and renew themselves.” I had a moment where I panicked (yes, the vegan panicked at the thought of a fruit fast) because I quite honestly do not eat a lot of fruit. However, fruit included eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, nuts like cashews and pumpkin seeds. I tend to eat a lot of greens, veggies like broccoli, mushrooms, beans/lentils and limited grains. So, I was nervous going without those things for a few days.
What I found, though, as I stepped out of my comfort zone a bit, was that I was missing out on some really amazing foods (out of sheer laziness and being stuck in a food routine). I ate many of my meals raw and had fruit at every meal. I did have a killer headache on day two, but felt great on day 3 and AMAZING the day after the cleanse ended. I also had literally no stomach bloating or discomfort during the cleanse, which tells me that there is something in my current diet that is causing bloating still on occasion, so I am determined to pinpoint it now.
To give you an idea of what I ate in case you’re curious about trying it yourself:
Breakfast each day was, of course, my Arbonne Protein (kept the protein powder because of my activity level) with added Arbonne Fiber, Arbonne Greens Balance powder (this was technically not fruit because it’s loaded with fruits AND veggies), frozen fruit, almond milk and ice.
Lunch and dinner meals were:
I definitely will be incorporating more raw meals and fruit as a result of this fast. I love how I felt (once the initial headache passed) and the resulting energy.
Mental Restoration: Letting Go
If you’ve been following my series through the 40 Day Revolution, you know that I still have a lot of head trash that I’ve been working through. You can read that post here if you’re curious (side note: I have not called myself an a**hole since I wrote that post). I know that I carry thoughts and feelings (like anger and frustration) with me that tie back to different experiences and situations in my life. I am still working through some of those things and some of them will take longer than others to get through, and I have accepted that I’m a work in progress.
In order to really take some time for restoration this week, though, I slowed down with my work schedule this week and said no to a few things that I would normally say yes to. Instead of working late every night, I spent some quality time with my son, I went to yoga, had dinner with friends and went on a date. A real date. The first one in over 8 years and since my breakup…more on that below.
As part of the restoration process, there was one situation in particular, one relationship that I made the decision to end. It was not a relationship that was serving me or in line with what I want my life to look like. It was causing me a significant amount of frustration, anger, and sadness. And, it was a situation that I had complete and total control over.
Once I made the decision to end it, a weight lifted and I felt free. And, do you know what happened? It opened my life up to receive a new relationship and connect with an old friend. Almost immediately upon making the decision to end this relationship, I heard from a friend that I thought I would never hear from again and someone new entered my life. Someone in line with my life in so many ways and that shares so many of my core values and interests. Someone that as I sat across the table from him, awed me. I do not know where it is going to go, and quite frankly, I am not worried about it (in the past I would have already been analyzing long term). What I do know is that because of my decision to let go of something that was “blocking” my life, I am open to receiving what could possibly be a really amazing relationship with a really amazing person. And, that is something that makes me
And, finally, I made one more big decision this week. I have decided to go through the Awakened Yoga Teacher Training program. When I think about what makes me happy and what I want my life to look like, I want yoga to be a part of it. I have been fortunate to build a career around things that I am passionate about and it just makes sense to add yoga to it. I am so looking forward to strengthening my own personal practice through this program and to be given the opportunity to teach others what has made probably the single biggest impact on me spiritually, mentally and physically.
Whew...after putting all this on “paper” it is a bit overwhelming actually. I feel good physically, and, mentally, I have been so much more aware of the head trash (the meditation and 6 days of yoga practice have really helped with that). And, as I write this on Friday at the end of the week of restoration, I am on an airplane flying to Southern California for an Arbonne Manager’s retreat…perfect timing. I will be surrounded by some of the most important people in my life and will have “my cup” filled and restored over the weekend with them.
And, for the first time in a really long time, I am very excited about coming home to my life on Sunday. For so many months now when I have gone out of town, I have gone out of town to run away from my life and returned silently kicking and screaming my head.
So, I ask you, when was the last time you took to time to restore and recharge yourself? If it’s been a while, do it. Do it for your body, your mind and your spirit.
What are You Waiting For?
By Amber Callahan
"If we don't step out of the known - the comfort zone - we bring yesterday's limited thinking into the present, therefore dooming the present to be just like the past." - Baron Baptiste
This week I've really been focusing on keeping a sense of calm and being very mindful of having an equanimous mind. It's so easy in the day to day to react to situations, other people's behavior and life's little frustrations. It takes a greater sense of presence to remain calm amidst all the chaos of life. Much of the time that chaos or those frustrations are out of our control, but sometimes we choose the chaos by stepping out of our comfort zone, which is Law 3 in the 40 Day Revolution. This is not to say that stepping out of our comfort zone is always chaotic, but it can sometimes certainly feel like that when we're in the middle of it. How we choose to react to the change, though, is completely within our control.
Much of my life I have been a risk taker and much of my life I hated that about myself. I wanted to live a "normal" life and do things that "normal" people did. I wanted the adventurous, "wild" side of myself to be tamed and grown up. I just wanted a normal life. Now I have come to understand that there is no one definition of normal. I had pictures in my mind that I formed early on in life as to what I thought my life should like according to society, my family, friends, books, TV shows, you name it. Those pictures and ideals form very early on in life and sometimes we cling to them a little too tightly distorting the reality in front of ourselves.
So, in pursuit of a "normal" life, at the age of 24, I married a very "normal" man thinking that was what I was supposed to do. We were divorced 18 months later after having a child together. I spent the next few years still struggling against myself, feeling like a failure, escaping with different forms of self sabotaging behavior. Finally, I made the decision to quit fighting myself and began to accept that my "normal" was going to be different from what everyone in my life expected of me (or what I THOUGHT they expected of me). Once I started to accept this part of myself, I opened my life up to the woman that I would spend the next seven years of my life with.
Then in May of last year, a switch flipped...a switch that made me question everything about my life. A switch that shut off the autopilot I had been living on for years and that popped open an immense slew of emotions that I had been stuffing down and ignoring. Emotions including anger, sadness and defeat. I acknowledged how defeated I felt because I was living a life that was comfortable but still left me feeling very unhappy. There was nothing “wrong” or “bad,” it just was not right.
I would wake up some days with crippling sadness and would cry without really understanding why I was so sad or why I was even crying. I had a good life, one that reflected the pictures of safety and security in my mind, and I felt terrible about myself for not being happy given so much good in my life. And that's when I had to accept that I was still looking for other people and things to make me happy.
The tough reality is, though, that when we look to the outside for happiness, we'll never find it. That’s hard to wake up to, particularly when you’re in a relationship with a good person who wants the best for you. How do you hurt someone that has done nothing to hurt you? How do you make changes when from the outside looking in no one can understand your decision because there is nothing visibly "wrong" (no fights, no external scars, no ugliness)? How do you turn your life completely upside down when the only reason you have to do it is that you’re just not happy?
I grappled with all of these questions, but in the end, I had to admit that I had been living a life that left me empty and sad. And it was a life I had created. I created it because I was not authentic in the beginning of my relationship with my partner. I hid parts of myself that I was ashamed of, I tamed myself, I quit doing things that I loved and became someone that I thought she deserved and would love. I did not feel deserving of her if she knew who I really was (going back to those pictures we form about who we should be). That was not fair to her or to me and it was not sustainable. Ultimately, I knew that I had to change something and break out of my "comfort zone."
I spent the summer exploring my emotions and my mind to try to understand why I was feeling the way I was and to determine the next steps to take in my life. I learned so much about myself in those months of self exploration. I spent time in meditation, I started yoga again (which I wanted to do for the last two years), I dyed my hair, I got a tattoo I had been wanting, I left my house and my partner and my life and walked away from the safety and security that I had sought so desperately and walked right into the unknown.
No one has to settle, but so many of us do. We are afraid of what awaits us (or not) on the other side. And, it is scary. I have had moments of total panic and doubt since I moved out to be on my own, but I know that I made the right decision because the Universe continues to send me signs (and I am open to receiving them). It’s not easy, and I still fight the voices in my head telling me that I'm selfish, that I'm a**hole, and so much more. However, designing the life that I want, years later with a whole lot more self acceptance, experience and knowledge, is both exhilarating and terrifying.
So, what did I learn from turning my world upside down and breaking out of a comfort zone?
Where in your life are you comfortable, yet still feeling unsettled internally? Where do you sense the need for change, but still doubt that you can make the change happen or that you could survive it if you did follow through? Are you using your comfort zone to escape your life? It is so easy to go through the motions each day, but do not ignore the gentle nudges. Listen to your heart…listen to the Universe. Do not be afraid of change and be aware of the catalysts (signs) in your life. They are placed in your life for a reason…do not ignore them.
Calm During a Storm
by Amber Callahan
Week 2 of the 40 Day Revolution is coming to a close. I've done really well at making it to the mat 6 times the last two weeks. I did have to release some guilt this past week because I had to practice at home two times. But I'm getting to a new class on Monday (Yoga-lates) to make sure I get my 5 studio days in this week! I was also much more mindful about food this week and am already starting to notice a change in my body. It's amazing how the body responds when we fuel it appropriately. I will admit, though, that I'm still struggling to sit in meditation two times a day. The evenings are much easier than the mornings for me. I know that if I'd go to bed earlier, I'd be able to get up earlier, so I'm working on that!
The exercise at this week's meeting was on my mind most of the week (I go to the Wednesday meetings). I could not believe how incredibly uncomfortable I was with it. We had to sit face to face with another person (cross legged, knees touching) and stare into one another's eyes. I did not know my partner, yet she was the kind of person that has an incredible calming energy radiating off of her. I, however, do not exude that same sense of calm. I sat and maintained eye contact for the full two minutes all the while talking myself out of the panic that I felt rising up. I wanted really, really badly to break the gaze and get out of the situation. It sounds pretty funny now as I type this.
When we were processing our feelings after the exercise, though, it was very clear that I handle many situations in my life in the same manner. I get anxious and try to avoid situations and uncomfortable feelings, particularly conflict. I made it through those two minutes of eye contact by focusing on my breath and reminding myself to breathe. I have to remind myself daily to breathe through situations.
But, you know what struck me the most in the conversation after the exercise? Someone said, it helped to think that the situation was temporary. And, that's true in life. Situations are temporary (if we want them to be) and we have complete control over our emotions and how we react to situations. It doesn't mean that we won't ever be faced with uncomfortable situations (that's called life), but we have total choice in how we REACT to the situation. Week 3 focuses on equanimity: the art of meeting life as it meets you - calmly. I think I need a little of that in my life.
by Amber Callahan
For Week 2 of the 40 Day Revolution at Awakened Yoga, our focus is vitality. Baron Baptiste defines vitality as "an energy that comes from living a life of enlightened knowledge and action." He also goes on to say, that when we "do what we know to be right and true, we are revitalized and renewed right where we live." Our focus this week is to reveal our vitality right where we are through yoga, meditation and the integration of more whole foods to nourish our bodies.
During meditation this week, we are supposed to notice and release the tapes that run in our heads. These are tapes that come from our past and block our energy and vitality. These tapes were the focus in our weekly meeting and we were asked to write statements that regularly play in our minds. We wrote those statements on sticky notes and then stuck them on the wall for the world to see. Mind you, our names weren't on them, but it still felt very public and fear of judgement by others immediately crept in ("monkey mind").
I didn't write the very first thought that came into my head, though, and post it to the wall because I hate that I think it about myself regularly. I chickened out because it's somewhat embarrassing how mean I can be to myself while telling everyone else in my life to be kind to themselves.
So, I wrote "safer" (yet still true and difficult) statements:
1. I don't spend enough time with my kids (i.e. I'm a bad mom). I carry a lot guilt most days about this. I am working hard to be more present when I am with my kids since I only get to see them part time (shared custody). I especially appreciated Baron Baptiste's reflections and struggles here even as a dad in the week one reading. He has his kids call him out when he's not present with them. I may do the same! (Note: This was one statement that several of us wrote, so many moms share this same thought.)
2 I'm spread too thin. I do feel tired, overwhelmed, and exhausted much of the time, but I am in total control of my schedule. I'm working on finding balance (that is one of my biggest goals for this Revolution). This is something I have control over and have to be mindful of when planning my schedule.
3. I'm frustrated with my life. This is particularly hard to write because I am so lucky to be able to live life on my own terms, so I feel ungrateful even saying it. I am building a business of my own that I genuinely love (and feel grateful for daily), I have beautiful children, I have amazing people in my life that love me and support me, I am healthy and my body is strong. When I look at everything I have, I should be happy and satisfied, yet I have the constant feeling of unrest within me like I'm fighting myself. My mind continues to tell me that I'm not enough, I'm not working hard enough, I am not successful enough , I'm a bad mom (number 1 on my list) and more. With that reel playing in my head I find myself frustrated many days when I should just be present and thankful. The reading this week (Law 2) talks about this struggle so many of us have with ourselves. Baptiste says we must be get to the point where we give up control so that we can experience the healing we need. I know I try to force things in my life and it only leaves me feeling frustrated. I like control and I like order, so accepting, really accepting, that there are so many things I can't control is very difficult.
But, honestly, the first thought that came to my head that I really wanted to write was, "I'm an a**hole." That statement runs through my head on an almost daily basis. It's based around some decisions I have made in the last 8 months or so. Decisions that hurt people around me and that I know brought a lot of disappointment. I also think I'm an a**hole for other reasons, but that's a whole other story. However, hanging on to that statement wears me down. Yes, I hurt people in my life, and I own all of my choices. Yes, I will continue to disappoint and possibly hurt others, but deep down I know that really doesn't justify me calling myself an a**hole on a daily basis.
The other piece this week was to focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods as the nutritional equivalent to vitality. Food has the power to heal us or harm us and if we're feeding it artificial ingredients, sugar, and other inflammatory foods, it absolutely effects our energy.
I have eaten a plant based, whole foods diet (vegan) for about 4 years now, so this is an area I am very comfortable with. That's not to say I eat perfectly 100% of the time, but I have definitely benefited from eating this way for an extended period of time.
The biggest obstacle I hear from people, though, is that they don't have time to prepare fresh meals or prep veggies. Simplify it. Meals don't have to be elaborate and I have found that cooking is actually so much simpler because I am not using a ton of ingredients and am eating very, very simply. The key is to be prepared and pick a day or two where you can prep multiple meals. Being prepared and planning meals will ensure your success.
Check out some of these recipes (favorites of mine) for some easy, simple, delicious ideas:
1. 5 Superfood Recipes that you will love (and can afford): This is honestly how I eat much of my food: smoothies, salads, bowls make up my meals most days. I'm very simple in my choices and rely on the natural flavors of foods instead of sauces and dressings and cheese.
2. Roasted Buddha Bowl: This is one of my favorite combinations. I also roast a variety of other veggies and keep them on hand during the week to eat. I literally walk through the produce section each week and pick out veggies that look appetizing to me that week.
3. Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili: Soups, stews and chilis are also another really easy way to get a variety of veggies, beans and grains in your daily meals (and they last for days so you have several meals).
4. Quinoa Red Lentil Stew: This is a high protein meal! Quinoa is actually a complete protein (like an animal protein but less inflammatory).
The Best Thing?
Do you know the best thing about eating a diet of whole, unprocessed foods (and even if you eat animal products, the majority of your diet should still be plants)? You don't have to count calories, especially with plants. Plants provide huge nutritional value in exchange for low calories. So you can eat a high volume of food! Doesn't that sound fantastic!? And check out my website for more recipes, as well.
The Mind: What tapes do you play in your head? What are you saying to yourself? What are you holding on to from the past and need to release?
The Body: What fuel are feeding your body? Does your food nourish you or drain your energy? What small changes can you make today to incorporate more whole, unprocessed foods into your daily meals?