That hard first step

vierwaldstaettersee lake hike

I commit to taking a big mouthful of (my) life and savouring it slowly and mindfully while walking my talk.

I put that out there as one of my intentions and words for 2014. I was being brave as I am very aware that the universe brings us just what we ask for; and sometimes one needs to duck! My desire is strong, it feels right (and feelings count a lot for me) and so I am brave.

Breathe in and out. Take a brave step. And commit.

In February I focused on my commitment to self-love. I only have this one body and vehicle, so it seems like a good place to start. I realize self-love is not only about the vehicle, but it is the starting point for now. Over the last year I have neglected my body a little. I believe in healthy living and well-being. And my belief is that I must walk my talk, so I need to be more aware of how I treat my body.

I started slow. Slow brings lasting results for me and helps me to form new rituals. I prefer to call them rituals rather than habits. I chose two rituals related to committing to self-care for February.

Ritual 1 is putting in as much natural goodness as possible and being more aware of eating healthier. I don’t do diets, but eating as fresh, natural and as local as possible, works well for me, with high quantities of fruit and vegetables.

Ritual 2 is being more active and quite simply exercising more. My body has been reminding me that I’m not as fit as I used to be. I like to hike so being fit is important. Time for a change.

There is a bigger challenge here. I just don’t like most forms of exercise. I don’t run. I haven’t been able to form a gym habit, dare I say ever! And I am not fond of playing competitive sports, at least not since hockey at school. I turned this around on myself and looked at it positively to see what already works for me. I started yoga and have successfully maintained a home practice, as well as attend regular classes. I love walking and hiking as often as I can. These alone are not enough though and I know my body needs more.

That was when the lightbulb went on. I need to find an exercise ritual that I love. I love water and believe in it’s healing power. Although I miss the sea, there is lots of water here. Water equals swimming equals exercise ritual plus happiness.

Three weeks ago I started swimming at the local indoor swimming pool. It was really hard the first time, the second time and the next time. After an hour of laps, my legs felt like jelly. Despite that, my love for being in water has kept me going back.

Then the break in Paris came up and it was hard to maintain these new rituals when stepping out of the everyday. My gypsy feet were doing their happy dance as I was exploring a beautiful city, mostly on foot. Lots of exercise there, yes, but a break in my new rituals nonetheless.

I have been struggling for the last few days to return to them. But I committed. This is my word to myself. And my word is very important to me. I also shared my commitment here with you and that makes me accountable.

I found getting back onto my mat easy, perhaps because I have been doing it for longer. After a little sparring with myself, I am finally eating healthy and with awareness again (I made sure there is only healthy food in the fridge 🙂 so I have little choice ) and I have been hiking at the lake (near water, of course). Each step back up from the lake was hard, but focusing on my breath took my mind off my aching, screaming legs. I could focus on one step at a time. Good advice for life really! And I finally got myself to jump back into the pool yesterday. It was really hard work and my body talked to me (complained a little too), but I felt great afterwards. And being in that neutral space of swimming laps, allowed me to clear my head of some of the fog that had settled there.

I realize that a lot of the effort to return to my new rituals after the break was really only in my head. Once I took that first step, that hardest step of all, the natural flow and momentum starts to follow again. And I know it gets easier. Especially if it is something you love doing. So tomorrow I am going swimming again!

Breathe. Step. Commit.

So with February come and gone so quickly, I want to maintain my new rituals and commit to my creative rituals during March. Writing more is one of those, so I am hoping that with effort and practice, the words will flow more easily into this space. Keep an eye out.

How do you form and maintain new rituals? What first step do you want to take? And do you have any tips to share?

with gratitude, Delicia

11 thoughts on “That hard first step

  1. You are very brave Delicia! Your ‘commit’ word is a big one and from what I have seen you have been doing great. So breathe in and out, and be grateful to yourself.

    I am very pleased you are committing through rituals. I think that compared to habits, rituals and their sacred breath ask us to be in the moment fully aware of our convictions and intentions, link us with our purpose, and thus significantly increase the chances of achieving what we wish. The best motivation comes from aligning what we do with our innermost values. So the first tip I have is to be clear and honest about your intentions, about why you want to do something and what achieving it really brings into your life. You are very good at this and know that you already reflected on your intentions as an important part of the process to set a very solid base for your journey. Just keep coming back to them all the time.

    I am also sure your body is very grateful for all the love you are giving it. So the second tip is to listen to how your body feels before and after your care, and be with it for few minutes noticing the impact of what you did for – and with (your body is a good companion along this journey!) – your body on your soul. And accept credit for your steps forward and your success 😉

    You are right, the hardest step of all is the first. You have to build the momentum until your practice becomes self-sustaining. Know it will become self-sustaining because you will feel so good that you will simply want more! Until then you probably have to discipline yourself. But there are several things you can try that might help. Some are suggested in ‘Search Inside Yourself’ to sustain meditation practice, others are coming directly from my personal experience.

    • Have a buddy. The benefits of this you know already since you have a tea bag friend together with you for your meditation practice. So I do not add more here, but refer back to your post.
    • Tell your intentions to other people. This has many advantages. Verbalising makes it clearer, you become accountable, you will find people to help you (with suggestions and tips), you will get support (the energy you will receive from those who believe in you and your purpose will be amazing! I think you know this…). And do not forget the power of sharing! by doing and succeeding you are inspiring others to do the same.
    • Give your full attention to the activity and do it in a way it is fun and easy. Which means that you should do less than you can, so that the practice does not become a burden. With the enthusiasm of the beginning it easily happens that we put too great effort to make fast advancements. But this is not the best, so I am glad you write you started slow – though I am just not sure that you really started slow… ;). To build the momentum and reach self-sustainability, regularity is more important than quantity. The hero feeling can be rewarding at the moment, but before practicing next time what you will have in mind is how exhausting this has been, and the benefits will be a bit too far in the back. The best is to make your practice difficult enough to provide a challenge, but not too difficult to discourage you.
    • Do not be hard on you. Do less than you can ( 😉 ), recognise your limitations without self-blame, leave out self-criticism and self-judgment. If something does not work as you hoped simply come back to your intention. Be kind and give love to your self and to your body, just as you are even if not perfect. Make your body your best buddy for your practice 🙂
    • Do not make it a full-time job. Leave enough time for doing other things as well, including doing nothing and feeling good about it. Even if from time to time this means skipping one session! Maybe not too much at the beginning, but there is also the risk that a healthy ritual becomes an addiction. Be mindful. All what we do is to ultimately be happy and feel great with ourselves as we simply breathe.
    • Envision the desired future. The power of visualisation is amazing. If you see yourself there, you know it is possible to reach that state.
    • Last but not least, set a tangible goal, for example a beautiful but difficult and long hike. When you practice think that you are training for it already savouring the breathtaking views! To help you a bit, know that I am already waiting for a beautiful hike with 1’000 m altitude gap with you when you are ready. Up, of course! and then also down… Well, I will have to start training my knees, which should not be too difficult as I love going up and once at the top I do not have many other choices 😉

    Thank you for the prompt and for making me realise that a big part of our resistance is in our heads. Everything is possible, if we really want it! Namaste.

    • Annalisa, thank you for taking the time to share these great tips both from your own experiences and ‘Search Inside Yourself’.

      Your description of a ritual is perfect and it is exactly what I feel about it as opposed to a habit. Your reminders to not make a healthy ritual an addiction and to be mindful are really good points to remember.

      Like you, I find the power of visualisation an incredibly powerful tool and use it a lot. I have already seen myself comfortably swimming those laps with ease. I haven’t set a specific goal beyond my desire to be healthier and fitter, so you have given me something to think about. I can even start to dream about hiking the Camino again 😉 but perhaps that’s not for right now.

      I will definitely take you up on your offer for a shared hike when I am fitter. 1000m altitude gap would never have been a challenge for me in the past as I know I have done more. Now I wouldn’t feel ready to do it without some more training first. 🙂 Something to look forward too.

      Do remember to be gentle whilst you are training your knees too.

      Namaste and much gratitude for the tips and support!

      • Hiking the Camino is a very inspiring goal! I like that you wrote of ‘dreaming’ about it 🙂 In our dreams there is a strong desire. Focussing on a specific goal which is a dream just brings us back to the desire. Resistance disappears and everything uncurls without effort.

        It is great you thought of exploiting your love for water to form your exercises ritual. But do not underestimate the value of all little bits and pieces of everyday life: taking the stairs, walking rather than using other transport, lifting paper bundles for recycling, cleaning windows (there are many exercises one can do with housekeeping… maybe thinking that by doing them you are also taking care of your body is a way of enjoying them, but I have to say that they still remain not my favourite exercise), carrying home loads of fresh vegetables and fruits from farms, having a few minutes break in warrior pose, and many others.

        There are beautiful hikes with all sorts of altitude gaps here around. Start small to reach the 1’000 one and then enjoy more challenging ones! I will be always happy to share hikes with you.

        • Finding the joy in the everyday is so important and thanks for that reminder. There are stunning hikes around here, I know. Let’s go hiking! 🙂

  2. Lovely post Delicia! There was just so much I could relate to.
    I think you are brave to have a) started and b) to have made it public and have yourself held accountable. You also need to give yourself a huge pat on the back for getting back into swimming so soon after returning from your travels.
    I have no tips to offer I’m afraid – I tend to let things go if I find myself resisting them : ) But I have noticed that I do come back to them – even years later – once the desire has become very strong.
    I do like the tips that Annalisa has shared above. Definitely food for thought…
    Well done on all counts and best of luck!

    • Hello Indika and thank you for visiting and your kind words.

      Yes, resistance can be an interesting thing to observe. I often come back to wondering at which point to give in to the resistance and go with the flow or go against it to see something through. It is a rather delicate balance. For me, I tend to trust my instincts or feelings when trying to decide. Thank you for prompting these musings.

      It is wonderful that you do return to things once the desire has become strong. Desire is a wonderful force to help us attain our dreams and goals.

      Much gratitude.

    • Thank you Indika for reminding us the leading energy of a strong desire. I perfectly know what you mean by letting things go if you find yourself resisting them! It happened to me several times and this was because either I concentrated on things that were not so important to me, or because I was not ready to pursue them and let them become part of who I am. In such cases letting go is good. Though Delicia is also right. There is also some resistance that needs our attention and simply asks us for some extra effort. I think that if you have been clear and honest about your intentions, trusting the feeling will definitely bring you the right… balance!

  3. This is a very personal post. I can identify with what you have shared.

    I quite often see people go to the gym and mindlessly plug away at the equipment. They go great guns in an effort to stave off the inner voice that they are not good enough. I believe it is an endeavor that misses a much more significant practice.

    You are talking my kind of health. There appears a kind of balance in the healthy practices you seek. There is an awareness of the environments that either give you energy or don’t serve to create spark in your pursuit of balanced health.

    I think you are on the right path; a mindful journey for bodily health that harmonizes with your spirit and your mind. It is a personal journey. So it is yours to find the balance. Keep asking questions and feeling out what is right for you.

    Your talk of water reminds me of some ocean play I recently did. I started body surfing the waves, feeling them carry me onto the beach. Then I faced into them letting them pick me up and throw me down, have their way with me. My mind let go as I felt like each wave series was a way for this planet to breathe. I was so tiny and insignificant in that system and yet that moment was so significant to me. It was a moving moment, the power of water on the body and spirit, and my body sure felt exercised from the whole experience.

    Thanks for your post – Peace

    • Rich, you carried me with you on those waves through your vivid description. I haven’t body surfed for many moons myself. It feels like you became one with the force of the ocean and ultimately the planet, allowing yourself to sense that universal breath. A divine moment which must have fed your soul deeply, I am sure. I hope you will go back for more.

      Gratitude for stopping by and for your support, suggestions to keep feeling and asking; and for sharing your magic ocean play moments.


  4. You are strong and have a strong will power. I am lacking of physical exercise and I am very aware of it. We made a ritual to go and have a walk in the wood every weekend no matter what weather we are having… So far, so good. I also embrace a whole new diet… I thought I was eating healthy, but I have realised that it was not really the case and I needed to push myself harder and further. My next step is to push this also to my son as I use “convenient” foods for breakfast and for snacks and they are not as healthy as they look…
    It is said that it takes 28 days to put in place new habits or new rituals (I love much better this way of seeing it), so, beginning of May, I should report on my progress 🙂

    • I love your ritual of walking in the wood every weekend and well done on going no matter what the weather. New rituals are challenging and I find the strength in it by making it fun for myself. I am not sure if I am strong or have a lot of willpower, I just try to take each day step by step. If we start with one simple step, the next one is a lot easier. And I try not be to hard on myself if I don’t succeed. Like that old saying, I just try again. So by breaking it down and focusing only on the first step, I eventually reach my goal or new ritual. This works for me. I look forward to hearing about your steps along your path to new rituals. 🙂

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