It’s almost appropriate that this challenge starts a new number cycle – for there are changes afoot!
As I stated in my last ELB challenge post, the women who came up with this wonderful idea and compiled a list of weekly topics have found that it was time for a shake-up. The community was faltering and many members, while enthusiastic to begin with, began to fall to the wayside. ELB truly became a “New Year’s Resolution”.
I’ve taken the idea a bit to heart and have stuck with it since January. I started this year with a new mindset and a new outlook to life, health and beauty that I wanted to cultivate. I didn’t want to just progress, but grow into a new woman that was ready to tackle life with slightly more wisdom than the naive 20-something I had been up to this point.
Certainly I was tired of being so negative and self-deprecating.
So, I extracted myself from a job that caused me to see myself in a spectrum of negativity, changed my health habits and sought out more of what made me happy.
The ELB weekly challenge topics are now moving to once a month affairs. This is alright by me, although I believe I’ll stick with my weekly posts. I find them fulfilling even if all I do is reaffirm that I have been “keeping on” through the previous week with set goals.
To differentiate between my own topics and those set by the group, I’ll be posting my topics as iChallenges. Not only is this a cute use of my name (one can’t skip on that opportunity!), but it reflects the inner me that I want to dig into and find.
So, with that all said, here’s my first ichallenge.
iChallenge 30 Topic: Loving myself – the beginning.
I’m a subscriber to Whole Living magazine. I love the thoughtful articles, the advice on living well and living healthy without being spiritual or fanatic. I dislike its association with Martha Stewart, but luckily this can be ignored since the magazine doesn’t dwell on that connection.
I was reading an article in the June issue titled “Weightless” by Suzan Colón (page 109). It was a painful piece about losing a friend to cancer and subsequently losing oneself to a coping mechanism that resulted in an infatuation with health and losing weight. Another term might be orthoexia – a fixation with healthy eating. (Pollan writes about it in his two books In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.)
I was moved by her story. Even though I had started on this road to become healthier and happier, I was finding myself becoming almost paranoid and overly-critical of things that never used to bother me.
Suddenly, looking down at my body was not only a physical action but a figurative one. I noticed that I felt my best right when I woke up and put on my exercise gear. It was in the evening when all of my negativity came out and I would find myself gazing at my thighs or at my stomach with a mixture of grim determination and defeat.
One of my original challenges to myself at the start of ELB was to be kinder to myself – to see myself as beautiful and be less critical. And while I’ve been able to do the more physical goals I had listed, the mental goal was lagging pretty far behind.
That’s where I was when I came across a technique listed in the article called “Loving Kindness Meditation.”
The excerpt in the magazine didn’t describe it very well (it simply stated that to exercise loving kindness, one only had to think positive thoughts about oneself for 10-15 minutes), so I did some searching online and put together the meditative exercise below that I will be practicing every night for 5 – 10 minutes for the first month or so. I hope to then progress in my exercise beyond this introductory phase, but seeing as how I’ve never mediated before and I want to do this right, I’m going slow.
I did my first session tonight following the practice below and it left me both exhausted and refreshed. It was an odd state. I wasn’t quite able to settle the mind except for a few fleeting seconds at a time, but I allowed my breathing to bring me back to myself and my, for a lack of a better word, mantra. I did yawn a couple of times, though, but it felt cleansing to do so. I can’t say that I feel all positive and beautiful after my session, but my mind did feel quieter and more sated than before.
I’m looking forward to logging my practice here.
Loving Kindness Meditation Practice
(Note: I cobbled together the exercise below after reading the information found on the Buddhanet.net and Wildmind.org sites. I’m not a practicing Buddhist by any means nor do I have any training. Go read the sites for a more structured exercise and for more information.)
- Sit down on a soft carpet on the floor with back supported and legs crossed.
- Place hands gently on legs and close eyes. (Keep head upright but don’t be afraid to let it relax slightly if the body desires it.)
- Begin breathing in slowly yet deeply. Expand the chest and then breathe out completely. Keep breathing while thoughts begin scattering across your mind. Let them, but also recognize them as distractions and try to let them go (this is HARD and I wasn’t really successful, but I tried).
- After a while, begin reciting the following (I took this from the Buddhanet.net site here.)
May I be free from enmity.
May I be free from mental suffering.
May I be free from physical suffering.
May I take care of myself happily.
- Between each phrase, pause for a few breaths before beginning the next. Allow yourself to absorb the phrase.
- Repeat the entire thing twice.
- Slowly lift the head, adjust the shoulders and open eyes.