DAY 1: RE-CHARGE A Day of Commitment
Focus on changing your mind-set: This is the day to change the thought patterns playing in your mind. Get rid of phrases such as “I can’t.” “Why does this happen to me?” “Things always seem to go wrong.” “After three bad things happen, life will change for the better.” Insert thoughts such as “I can do it.” ” There are creative solutions to any problem.”
Create a visual logo that works for you: Imagine the ocean or the lake, water falls, butterflies, sunshine, moonshine — whatever works for you. Note the image or images that work for you, and if you begin to feel negative, simply bring one of your positive images to mind. Your image is your logo for positive energy.
Tools for Day 1: Motivational books, music, dance, art, all that is inspirational.
DAY 2: RE-VAMP A Day of Planning
What changes do you need to make in your home?
What changes do you need to make in your office?
What changes do you need to make in your exercise routine, OR do you need to begin an exercise routine (with doctor’s permission of course)?
What changes do you need to make in your diet?
Tools for Day 2: A notebook and pen, or computer.
DAY 3: RE-CYCLE A Day of Throwing Out
Choose an area of your home, your garage, your backyard, and clean it outthoroughly. Have three boxes set up: one for things to keep, one for things to repair, and one for things to give to others. The hard work begins.
Do not tackle your whole house on this one-day. This seven-day program can be repeated again, and each time you can choose a new area. You can repeat Day 3 every week for six weeks.
Tools for Day 3: Boxes to sort things in, vacuum cleaner, broom, dust rags, music to play to cheer yourself on through this hard day of work.
DAY 4: RE-FRESH A Day of Refreshment
This is a day of reward. If you cleaned out your office or home on day 3, then refresh this space with a new plant or bunch of flowers. Give yourself a present. Open the windows and make sure the light can shine in.
Tools for Day 4: A present for yourself.
DAY 5: RE-TURN A Day of Spiritual Contemplation
This is a day to contemplate your spiritual values and re-turn to the values that are important to you. This is a quiet day of soul searching. In the past two days you have re-cycled some of your belongings and you have refreshed an area of your house or office: you did a lot of physical work. You were involved with a lot of “things.” Today, focus on the soul level. Sit and connect with the God of your understanding and ask questions:
What is the meaning of my life?
What am I here to do in this lifetime?
What am I proud of and what advances have I made in my life?
Which areas of my life need work?
This is the day to take an honest look at the way you spend your time, the people you associate with, the worries that occupy you too much, the fears that you allow to control you, the anger you may have towards others.
Tools for Day 5: An honest heart and an inquiring mind.
DAY 6: RE-INVENT A Day to Change Patterns
Yesterday was an assessment day. It was a hard day. Today is a day to make plans to change the parts of your life that need changing.
Do you have health problems you are not facing? Make an appointment with a health professional or get back to taking care of yourself in the way that you know is best for you.
Are you allowing the problems of others to dominate your life? If so this is a day to make plans to change your schedule. If you are a caregiver, find creative ways to get time off. And do not say, “There is no way.” Find out what your community has to offer. If the person you are taking care of does not want to receive care from others, then you must be strong and explain that you have to have time off.
If you spend all your time compassionately listening to others, remember that you will burn out if you do not have time for yourself. We all know this, but we do not always allow time for ourselves.
Tools for Day 6: A notebook, pen, computer, a telephone, appointment book.
DAY 7: RE-INVEST A Investment Day in All That is Positive
It is time to think about how to best spend your money, how to best spend your time. You have spent an entire week taking a look at your physical and spiritual life. Today is the day to take a good look at your financial life as well. Another coffee for five dollars may not be the best way to go. A lot of takeout food costs money. Are there ways to organize your cooking so that you do not pick up as much food?
Tools for Day 7: Your financial records, your checkbook, a willingness to make changes.
Money is just energy. Let’s use the analogy of the ocean in place of money. The ocean is vast, huge, and, in fact, water covers 70% of the earth’s surface. And it might be my optimism speaking but I don’t see the oceans drying up any time soon. So water flows in to the ocean and water flows out but the ocean never dries up. Money is the same way.
Roald Dahl knew this when he brilliantly penned thee most apropos money quote I’ve ever heard in his novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Charlie is thinking of selling his Golden Ticket so his family can eat when Grandpa George tells him, There’s plenty of money out there. They print more every day. But this ticket — There are only 5 of them in the whole world, and that’s all there’s ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?
Yoga is perfection in action. It’s a bit difficult to say what is perfect and what is imperfect, but the result of the action will tell you whether it is a perfect action or not. If the result of that action brings benefit to all people involved with it—to the person who performs the action and to the person who enjoys the benefit of the action—without bringing harm to anybody, then it’s a perfect action. If the action is going to bring harm even to one individual or if it’s going to build up tension in your own mind, then it’s not a perfect action. It’s the motive behind the action and the result of the action that will decide whether an action is perfect or imperfect.
– Swami Satchidananda
Making a difference is something that always makes me feel good. Whether you are volunteering at your son’s school or letting someone with fewer groceries move ahead of my overstuffed cart in line, you know that the small action that you are taking is improving the life of someone else, if even for a moment. And yet, sometimes we find it difficult to justify taking those simple steps to improve a moment in our own life, just for us.
Self-esteem is crucial to well-being, mental and even physical health. It improves one’s mood, lowers stress levels and becomes a catalyst for confident, positive living. People with high self-esteem are often magnets in social settings, leaders in business, risk takers and innovators. Having high self-esteem, or a healthy dose of self-esteem, should not, however, be confused with being self-absorbed, conceited or narcissistic. Self-esteem is the result of doing something that is beneficial and causes good feelings for everyone involved. Putting oneself above all others or causing emotional pain or harm to other people in order to make oneself feel better will never improve self-esteem.
So how does someone find the proper balance between putting oneself last and putting oneself first? The answer is within all of us. Each of us is unique and has unique interests, passions and desires that brings us joy. When we are doing something that we are truly passionate about, we feel confident and assured that the quality of our actions is pretty darned good, even if it isn’t. When we are absorbed in something that motivates and inspires us, we are so enthusiastic about it that we yearn to share it with those around us. And when we take something that we love, and are halfway decent at, and do it with a zeal that is unparalleled and eagerly share it, we are making an impact that can only result in a good feeling for us and those who are fortunate enough to be a witness to our joy.
We are the only ones who can supply, maintain and replenish our own self-esteem by giving ourselves the opportunity to indulge in those things that truly fill us with a sense of purpose and positivity. When we do this, we can go through life with a feeling of satisfaction, a belly full of gratification that spills over into every other area of our lives. People who have a healthy self-esteem are quicker to compliment others because doing so never threatens their opinion of themselves. Those who feel genuinely good about their professional, personal or civic activities or contributions will barely notice the traits that others may deem unsatisfactory. When self-esteem is intact and abundant, perceptions and opinions of others has no bearing.
So take time to listen to your heart and discover what puts a smile on your face. Don’t be discouraged if there are things that you feel less than perfect at, focus only on what you enjoy. Hone in solely on those activities that bring you, and only you, joy. Perhaps it is baking, gardening, or exercising. Whatever it is, do it for you. And do it often. Eventually, you will have developed one area of your life that fills you so completely that your self-esteem will overflow and you will have the confidence to face those things that you once perceived as less than adequate. Even if you start off small, just start. Take those kayaking lessons that you’ve always dreamt about. Volunteer at a soup kitchen and see how you feel about yourself. Or just let me cut in the checkout line in front of you.
Many health practitioners recommend yoga as a means of combating stress—which, they point out, can compromise the neuroendocrine and immune systems. Stress by itself does not cause problems. In fact, the human body has a very efficient, built-in mechanism for dealing with stress.
What scientists call “fight or flight” response is triggered when we become frightened, anxious, agitated, or threatened. If you’ve ever stepped off the curb and just barely missed being hit by a bus, for example, you know what this syndrome feels like: As your adrenaline soars, your blood pressure increases, your heart pounds wildly, you sweat like crazy, your mind becomes hyperalert, blood rushes to your large muscle groups (in the arms and legs), and your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. To bring as much power as possible to your sympathetic nervous system (which controls this response) so the body can react quickly and efficiently, the body diverts energy from your digestive, reproductive, and immune systems, slowing them down to a bare maintenance level.
Once you realize that you’re out of danger, you begin to calm down and your system returns to normal. Unfortunately, those who constantly feel the threat of external stressors don’t give their systems a chance to return to normal. Their adrenal glands become exhausted from constantly pumping adrenaline into the system; the digestive and immune systems remain sluggish. A consistent yoga practice goes a long way toward mitigating the effects of the fight-or-flight response by giving your body the opportunity to rest completely.
But yoga does even more than that. Yoga can stimulate the bones to retain calcium, provided the body gets enough calcium in the first place. It does this through weight-bearing poses (like arm balances, inversions, and standing poses) that affect the whole spine, arms, shoulders, elbows, legs, knees, ankles, and feet, while encouraging full range of motion. B.K.S. Iyengar, master of yoga’s therapeutic applications, explains the benefits of yoga by means of what he calls its “squeezing and soaking” actions. He contends that through the process of squeezing out the old, stale blood or lymphatic fluids and soaking the area with fresh, oxygenated blood or fluids, yoga helps the body to utilize the nutrients it needs.
Inversions offer a perfect example of this phenomenon, particularly Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) and Halasana (Plow Pose). These poses, according to Iyengar, regulate the thyroid and parathyroid glands (critical for metabolism) located in the neck, by creating a “chin lock” that squeezes stale blood from the area. As we come out of the pose and release the lock, the neck region is bathed in fresh, oxygenated blood. Iyengar also teaches that forward bends quiet the adrenals, and backbends energize them. Twists like Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose), he says, are equally effective for regulating the adrenal glands, which we rely on to provide adequate amounts of estrogen and androgen for healthy bones.
A consistent yoga practice can give us confidence and stability as we move through the world. Many older people experience falls because they lose confidence in their ability to move properly; others suffer from poor eyesight, weakened muscles (often from lack of use), poor posture, or arthritis. Yoga can improve posture and coordination, strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, and create balance.