Hi friends, welcome to September! This morning, like most mornings for the past few months, I woke up a little fatigued and headache-y. Although I’m sure the hot and humid Houston weather (and my general forgetfulness around staying hydrated) have something to do with it, when I told my bestie about my less-than-100% am feels, she recommended I look into The Whole 30.
First, let me say that if you’ve ever actually done the program for the whole 30 days, I’m super impressed! Secondly, I confess that I am not one of those people! But the reason I’m bringing it up in this newsletter has actually nothing to do with recipes, food restrictions, or digestive health. As I flipped through the first few pages of The Whole 30 book, something caught my attention. The authors were adamant about not using “approved ingredients” to bake cookies, brownies, cakes, or any other type of sweet treat. Why? Because we often use these types of foods as an escape, a reward when we’re doing something we don’t like, or an activity to pass the time when we’re bored. When we see food as anything other than a delightful source of nourishment that we wholeheartedly deserve, we are reinforcing an unhealthy relationship to it – even if the food itself is not unhealthy.
This got me thinking – are there other areas in my life where I think I’m doing the right thing on the surface (using the approved ingredients) but maybe reinforcing an unhealthy behavior pattern (reaching for the Paleo version of rice-crispie treats when I’m bored?)
After years of working in a corporate environment where the unspoken requirement for promotion was to arrive before and leave after your boss, I have a really hard time feeling like I’ve worked hard enough in my drastically less structured role as an entrepreneur. Opening Yogaleena and growing it to what it is today has required a million times more commitment, passion, sweat, and dedication than any role I ever had in my previous job. However, my deeply ingrained “no pain, no gain” mindset keeps me questioning whether I’ve done enough to earn the studio’s success now that I work less traditional hours and love what I do. The thing is, I would question this wether I worked 5 hours or 50 hours in a week, because the issue (feeling like I don’t deserve my success and happiness) lies far beneath the surface of my work ethic. In fact, putting in extra hours (an approved ingredient) would actually reinforce this unhealthy dependency on work to prove my self-worth.
Similarly, putting others first, saving money, and achieving your goals can be beautiful things…unless these actions support an underlying tendency to people-please, attachment to material wealth, or dependency on external validation. Again, it’s not the ingredient or the action that’s inherently good or bad, it’s our relationship with and response to it that may be inadvertently causing us pain. Does that make sense?
In yoga, these deeply ingrained conditioned patterns of thinking are called samskaras. Our actions are driven by samskaras, and those actions, in turn, serve to reinforce them. Unfortunately, we can’t erase them simply by changing a few surface-level ingredients. Think about a trail through a forest. Once it’s there, we are going to follow it 9 out of 10 times because it’s the easiest, quickest path forward. Wether we wear the best boots, decide to walk it on our hands, or get a different hiking buddy, we’ll end in the same place we always have through that particular path. The only way to land somewhere else is to forge a different trail. If you are unhappy, truly unhappy, then changing your job, city, or spouse (ingredients) is not going to change a darn thing…you’ll eventually end up in the same place as before.
This month, I invite you to scratch the surface of your habits and look beyond the ingredients in your life. Observe and question with honesty, curiosity, and compassion – there is no room for judgement on this journey within. In time you will find that happiness, fulfillment, and peace are not a result of doing the right things, but of doing the things that are right for you.