I’ve read that we replace 1% of our cells daily. Every 100 days we have a new body. What that new body consists of is the food we eat, air we breathe, water we drink, exercise we take and thoughts we think. – A friend
Three-plus boxes of incense and 31 days ago, I launched “The Happy Heart Project: 100 Days Toward Joy” as a simple way to set an intention.
Under the new moon of Sunday, August 28th, I lit my first stick of “Happy Heart” (an incense by Maroma) and made a commitment to move toward joy for that day, and that day only. Because that’s really all I have – one day at a time.
When I started this “project,” I understood there would be no guarantees. The dark funk of the past year (or so) would either stay or go. And indeed – over the past month, that funk has left, returned, become darker, been replaced by light, strengthened, weakened, disappeared, appeared again…you get the picture.
Still, it’s the intention that makes the difference. It’s the intention that gives the journey purpose, that keeps me honest with myself, that drives me toward solutions, that sparks change.
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“Sankalpa” is a Sanskrit word loosely meaning “intention.” Other definitions include: commitment, resolution, resolve, will, purpose, determination, motivation. I have heard from yoga experts that the act of reinforcing a Sankalpa has the power to replace and erase destructive habits, unwanted thoughts and false beliefs, aka negative “Samskara” (patterns created by the “scars” of life). Setting this positive, committed intention is like a deep practice of “Pratipaksha Bhavana” – replacing negative thoughts with positive.
“Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah” – yoga restrains disturbances of the mind. I cling (loosely, hehehe) to this promise that my sometimes dark, anguished and seeking (aka human) mind can be calmed by yoga. And not just the movement of my body on a mat, but all of yoga’s calming practices, from Pranayama (the movement of vital energy through oxygenation, aka, breathing) to setting a Sankalpa.
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So how did the 1st month of “Happy Heart” burning go?
Well let’s see…in no particular order:
During a three-day yoga retreat, I had a soul-bearing conversation with a beautiful old tree, a powerfully silent meditation at Satchidananda’s tomb, and a thankful turn-of-the-corner from darkness to light. Since returning from retreat, I have awakened between 5:30 and 7am each day to practice Pranayama, meditation and prayer. I reunited and hung out with wonderful friends; listened to Car Talk and laughed my butt off; took a nourishing Asana class with a teacher I’d never experienced; saw the Washington Nationals’ win their final home game; saw “Our Idiot Brother” (silly comedy) and “The Interrupters” (intense documentary). After consulting with trusted doctors, I paused my PTSD therapy in order to soften the intense triggers arising after the June mugging. I finally started sleeping through the night and balancing out during the day with the help of herbal and nutrient-based supplements. While walking near my home, I saw the guy who mugged me, followed him (again), called the police (again), and lost him (again). I received very caring attention from DC MPD detectives. I met with a DC MPD inspector who likes my idea of teaching Pranayama and meditation to traumatized cops. In response to these recent tough times, and, the approach of my 9th anniversary of addiction recovery, I increased my recovery activities and started receiving regular guidance from a recovery program mentor. The early-recovery gal that I was mentoring moved on to work with a different mentor. I showed up for others; picked up my friend’s kids from the school bus stop; listened to friends who are hurting. I had a panic attack, triggered by a false belief that someone was going to abandon me. The all-female Kirtan group I’m in – The Shaktis – guided a roof-raising night of chanting at a yoga center. I continued teaching my three yoga classes per week, with a focus on “Everyday Enlightenment” – observing how we carry our Eight Limb influences off the mat and into daily life. I showed up for my part-time retail job; I reached the end of my rope with ongoing poor treatment by a co-worker; I quit that job. Today I interviewed for a new job.
I healed, I worried, I laughed, I grieved. I walked with confidence, I asked for help. I felt pissed off; I felt forgiving; I felt human.
In other words, I experienced life.
Somewhere around Day #20, there was one morning that I felt so frustrated that I did not want to light the incense. I did it anyway.
Because that’s what a Sankalpa is – a commitment, no matter what. A firm resolution to stick with the positive action despite all challenges. Or, even better – a firm resolution to meet all challenges with positive action. Whether that positive action is to grieve authentically or celebrate joyously.
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At this moment, under the new-new moon, I am preparing to attend Rosh Hashanah services. The Jewish New Year launches a period of intense prayer, forgiveness (offered and requested), and atonement. After 10 days, on Yom Kippur, we seal these efforts with a one-day fast. I didn’t plan it this way – but after these 31 days of ups, downs, turned corners, endings, clarity and renewed intention…the rituals of the High Holy Days are the perfect way to start my 2nd month of “The Happy Heart Project.”
More will be revealed. OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.
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THE HAPPY HEART PROJECT. Under the new moon of Sunday, August 28, 2011 I launched “The Happy Heart Project: 100 Days Toward Joy” – an effort to document my daily journey away from an annoyingly encroaching emotional darkness and toward the hopeful light of happiness. For 100 days from 8/28 through 12/5, I will wake up, burn a stick of Happy Heart incense and set an intention to grow toward joy. Each day I’ll post a “Happy Heart Project” status (and accompanying song for that day’s mood) on Urban Yoga Den on Facebook, then see what happens during the day. Periodically, I’ll post an UrbanYogaDen.wordpress.com blog that covers my journey. I’m excited that one yoga teacher friend unexpectedly exclaimed, “I’m with you!” and is sharing the journey! Join us – choose one simple heartfelt ritual for your morning, intend to practice it daily, “Like” Urban Yoga Den on Facebook, and let us know how you’re doing from time to time!