Tomorrow marks the last day of my Lent Challenge.
I was asked yesterday by a friend if it indeed was much of a challenge. And to be honest I had to say 'not really'.
You see I eat quite similarly to the Lent Challenge Diet usually, and the only change was that I would be completely abstaining from meat, dairy and eggs for 6 days of the week, rather than my usual pattern which is: to not eat meat at home, and eat in what some may consider a more 'Paleo' style when 'out and about' (although I am loathe to use the term as my eating habits pre-date the 'Paleo revolution'!)
It was never really intended to be a gruelling challenge though (although some may have found it so), but was moreso a chance to be challenged to recognise a few of the patterns of behaviour that we fall into and evaluate whether they are serving our best interest.
This year's Lent challenge reminded me of several key things:
Knowing and doing are two different things
I had fallen out of the habit of meditation and the intention to do this every day was one of the toughest aspects of the challenge for me. And to be honest I didn't meditate every day, and sometimes when I did I would find after a 20 minute sitting meditation that I would find myself thinking "I don't need to do this...I don't think this is improving my mindfulness one bit!"
Now whether it is or not is inconsequential. The value is in the doing. I have a long history of meditative practice going back to childhood and I certainly believe that mindfulness begins to infuse into every moment of one's life, mitigating the need to meditate daily, but that not withstanding there is value in doing if one teaches, and as it's an aspect of my lectures, teaching and writing it was a welcome call to action to get back on the 'horse' (or more accurately the meditation cushion)...
The value of 'sleeping on it'
Part of my commitment over Lent was to give 10% of my revenue for the time period to charity. It was nice to refocus on a figure of donation as my charitable donations had become a little haphazard, and certainly unquantified.
When the Kony 2012 viral video had just become prominent I figured that it's cause would be a good one to donate to for that particular time period, and so I donated some money and bought a campaign pack...and as soon as I had I began to have doubts about the organisation, and many of these doubts were subsequently debated by people the world over.
I don't regret donating because I have come to peace with the fact that whilst there may have been better causes to donate to, at least I know that I am, and continue to at least do something, while many simply sit idly by and criticise causes for their perceived shortcomings and never do a damn thing.
But would I donate to them again?
Probably not, as I have charities that I donate to that I believe have a bigger 'bang for buck' (some of them are mentioned in the chapter 'Selflessness & Charity' in Time Rich Cash Optional)
The value of eliminating the choice conundrum (AKA simplify, simplify, simplify!)
One thing that many people asked me when they heard what I was doing (in spite of the fact that it's nothing new...I do it every year!) was "What are you going to eat?!"
And the answer - at least when I was out and about in business meetings, meeting friends in cafes and out socialising was; "Whatever I can!".
When you have made a commitment to not only eliminate many options (in this case meat, dairy, eggs, alcohol, coffee, sugar, gluten) but also to eat healthily (which I class as 'natural, whole, unprocessed foods) there are often few options.
This is seen as a negative, but in fact can be extraordinarily freeing! When you only have one or two options you need not mentally labour over which choice to make, because your previous commitments have already made it for you. The value of eliminating the choice conundrum has been noted in many articles and in research by psychologists and sociologists and is one of the co-factors in the growing levels of stress we have. Abundance can in some cases be stressful!
Simplify, simplify, simplify...
The value of preparation
Without the option of stopping off at one of several local restaurants and cafes for an omelette, or some variation on meat and vegetables, I had to prepare more thoroughly - particularly in terms of making sure I had good quality food available at home more often.
I have become pretty adept at finding excellent food options whilst eating out, and so that can become an easy fall-back. But the value of getting back in touch with food prep will, if nothing else carry over after the challenge and result in a significantly heavier wallet!
The importance of valuing your own health and well-being
Tying in with the point above, there is a very important tangent to preparation, and that is of self valuing and self honouring.
When we prepare great food ahead of time, and also when we prioritise shopping for food and the preparation of that food for ourselves we are spending the currency of our lives, the currency of happiness: Time, on ourselves. More importantly we are spending it on ourselves because we want to be healthier and more vital, and because we have made an important commitment to ourselves.
There is no greater way to honour and value one's self than to spend your most important currency (time) on yourself.
The strength that we gain through resolve
Even if we are not overly challenged by giving up alcohol, coffee, or anything else we may choose to forgo for a short time or a long time, there will still be moments when we feel we are at the end of our resolve, usually not even in relation to those commitments we have made to ourselves, but due to other stressors rearing their heads. It is at these times that we are likely to lose our willpower and 'give in' and have a coffee, have a drink or go and buy a king size chocolate bar.
But in those moments of weakness IF we can steel our resolve and make one final push to 'not' do what we are feeling compelled to, we can come out the other side having stuck to our commitments to self, and as a result feeling greatly empowered and more able to repeat that pattern of resolve in future times when we feel weak.
Being strong, and having internal resolve is, like anything else a pattern that we ingrain within through repetition and continued commitment.
The importance of making a decision
I often talk about the 'super-position' that many people fall into simply by not making a decision. When there is a choice conundrum there will be some level of stress and there will be time and energy expended (sometimes greatly) until a decision is made.
Because of the fear of losing many people simply fail to make a decision. They fail for example to say 'No' even when it is the right thing to do because people expect them to say yes, or because they feel by turning away an opportunity they will 'miss out'.
As a health practitioner an area where I see this played out a lot is in the context of social drinking.
Many of my clients would like to drink less, and some would like to not drink at all, but for many it is an incredibly hard decision to make.
When we decide, even if just for a short time to simply NOT do something (like drink) we eliminate that super-position of 'should I or shouldn't I'. The decision has already been made.