A few months ago, my teacher and Ayurvedic Health Counselor, Larissa Hall Carlson, recommended that I make a list of non-negotiables: daily practices that are mine, and that I will stand firm on in order to prioritize my self care and cultivate my desired quality of non-rushing. It being one of the toughest months of my life thus far, with many traditionally stable aspects suddenly out of balance, it took me a several days before I made a list. It was a long list, a laundry list. Many of those listed were ideals, that would not become daily realities, and I soon realized that my own list had set me up for failure. I wasn’t going to put my foot down (with myself) about meditating every morning at 6:15am! There are probably about 3 days each week, at least, at this moment in time, when I really need the sleep instead. By listing this on my non-negotiable list, and not fulfilling it, I was making it impossible to meet my own goals. I already felt so low in many ways, and so this was not helping. I also wasn’t going to never use the phone in the car, nor always avoid multitasking. While these are great goals I aspire to, I recognize now that they are negotiable. If I am sick, or up in the middle of the night attending to that wonderful time of the month, sleep is key; attempting to meditate while tired often leads to sleep anyway! In the case of an emergency (physical, emotional or spiritual) using the phone in the car may be a lifesaver! And multitasking, unfortunately, is a life-long challenge to overcome. Stress often leads to rushing for me, and doing several things at once often results. If I have this as a non-negotiable, I am in a way denying my own emotion of stress by telling myself I cannot feel that way, because I will likely then break a non-negotiable. I had written a far too strict list of commandments, many of which did not make it out of my notebook and into reality.
A few months went by and I received an email from Anna Kunnecke, who is all about declare[ing] dominion over your beautiful life. In it, she encouraged her readers to be “very very gentle, and very very fierce.” She had a list of Daily Non-Negotiables, followed by a list of Bigger Non-Negotiables. I have no idea if these women (Larissa & Anna) know each other, but I took it as a sign and remade my list. This time, I was gentle with myself; I refused to list anything that would be impossible to do at least 6 days each week, but almost always 7, on my daily non-negotiables. I also got clear with myself and fiercely considered ways in which I had sacrificed my own self-care and made a pact to follow through with myself. My list is shorter, simpler and contains the gems that I now cherish when I catch myself following through, which is, I am proud to say, most days!
- Poop (preferably in the morning after a big glass of warm water, or before the water)
- Wash the essentials (showers everyday in the winter do a number on my dry and sensitive skin. That’s my skin saying, “what, you rolled in mud naked again? How is that possible, snow is covering every inch of existence as far as the eye can see!? Oh, you didn’t, then get the heck out of the hot shower, and put some oil on instead. It’s only a few parts of you that stink!”)
- Eat at least one meal with utter gratitude and conscious presence (avoiding reading, cell phone, violence—in conversation, literature or media, etc)
- Snuggle with my Black Lab-Pitt Amazing Dog
- Go outside willingly even on days the weather sucks. But, if every outdoor trip is a must, at least look at the sky or a tree and soak in the beauty for a moment. It makes it is so much easier to go outside when you have to, and lessens the complaints and judgements that infiltrate mind & body in the 4 months of Michigan winter.
- Write a list of 5 gratitudes before bed
- Go to bed content and in acceptance of the days events, with love in my heart for my loved ones
Non-Negotiables for Life:
- Get in bed with enough time to sleep 8 hours, in order to get up in time not to rush off in a huff
- The price of healing (local, organic, fresh, unprocessed) food is more than worth it! Even when it means that buying groceries takes precedence over going out for a drink with friends—have them over instead!
- Drive as little as possible, but don’t sacrifice your sanity or your health either
- Prioritize Rest. The feet up reading, lounging, snuggling, task-free kind of rest.
- Go with your gut. It’s always right if you are truly listening. Just make sure it’s your gut and not fear you are hearing!
- Move deliberately and with peaceful intention. 6 days each week, when not fighting a cold, flu, etc. practice yoga, take a walk, go for a swim, or play– dance, hike, kayak, frisbee…
- Cook! It’s the best medicine. You love it. And nearly always brings solace.
- Bite your tongue long enough to let another person finish their thought. This is one that I have to write down to remind me how important it is, and how unfortunately easy it is to forget!
- Tell the truth! And all of it, to a few trusted friends, mentors and/or a therapist.
- Limit work to 6 days/week, maximum.
Ahhhhh. It’s a breath of fresh air to read these again and feel content with the list. I encourage you to make your own. You may have more or less than I do. Its not about the numbers or how lofty your words may appear to others (I listed poop as number 1, remember…if this is surprising to you, let’s book a diet & lifestyle consultation right away!!) And it’s certainly not about how humble, strong, peaceful or together the list makes you appear on paper, rather this is all about getting clear with what you find essential for connecting to your true self, honoring and serving that divine soul so that you can live your dharma (your life’s purpose, your spiritual practices, your life).