Today we celebrate Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. This celebration in America dates back to the late 16th century as French explorers, commanded by King Louis XIV, commemorated newly discovered land near present day New Orleans. In 1702, the first French capital was named at Mobile, Alabama where one year later French settlers organized the first Mardi Gras celebration. While Mardi Gras symbolizes the conclusion of fun-filled, indulgent festivities, it is also the eve of a period of introspection. This year is particularly symbolic, as it falls on the last day of the month, with the fasting season beginning tomorrow on the 1st of the month. A meaningful time to set an intention for the six-week Lenten period. What is it that you would like to focus on adding or removing from your life, thereby opening up new possibilities, inspiring ideas, and creating lasting change in your life?
Educated in Catholic schools, I was accustomed to fasting for 40 days as penance for my sins. My limited focus growing up centered on the ritualistic and obligatory renunciation of my favorite things. As an adult, I realize this period is not an obligation, rather an opportunity; an empowering choice with benefits. Fasting plays an important role in many faiths and is an integral part of secular practices. Philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Hippocrates relied on fasting to increase focus and heighten awareness.
Today’s tips are designed to inspire you to make the most of the Spring renewal season. They are adapted from best-selling author and motivational leader, Tony Robbins. In Awakening the Giant Within, he shares a specific methodology for making change, which I believe will serve as a guideposts for your personal journey of change during this 40 day period.
6 STEPS to CREATING LASTING CHANGE
- DECIDE. It all starts here. What is your intention for this period? What is it you truly want to do, feel, or experience in your life? Most of the work is in this first step. Take courage, trust your gut, and make the decision. There is tremendous power in decision-making.
- GET LEVERAGE. Tony suggests we “associate massive pain to not changing now, and massive pleasure to the experience of changing now.” He continues,“the greatest leverage we can create for ourselves is the pain that comes from the inside, not outside. Knowing you have failed to live up to your own standards for you life is the ultimate pain.” Translation: Retrain your brain and establish new ways of thinking. Take the decision you made in step 1, and create new neuro-associations linking to this behavior. Make the new behavior so enticing, that you cannot imagine going back to the old behavior.
- INTERRUPT the LIMITING PATTERN. This is the heart and soul of the 40 day fasting practice. It is an interruption of your regular routine. Fasting breaks up existing patterns of behavior, thought, and actions. This is exercise for the brain! Flex those muscles, work those neurons and create new pathways for improved thinking and doing! How incredibly invigorating to take responsibility for the way you think, act, and behave. Taking ownership of your emotions and actions eliminates feelings of victimization and reduces disempowerment.
- CREATE NEW EMPOWERING ALTERNATIVE. Anyone in recovery knows that abandoning an old habit means replacing it with a new, healthier alternative. Choose wisely, and be realistic. If food is your struggle, replace with a healthier option that will not leave you feeling guilty or shamed. Remember, this is about your concious choice to change or replace.
- CONDITION NEW PATTERN UNTIL CONSISTENT. Behavioral Scientist B.F.Skinner developed the Law of Reinforcement, inspired by Thorndike’s Law of Effect. The theory: Behavior which is reinforced tends to be repeated or strengthened; behavior which is not reinforced tends to be extinguished or weakened.
- TEST IT. How do you feel each day? When you wake up, you have a daily opportunity to test or practice this new thought or behavior. Do you recognize subtle shifts in thoughts, behaviors, or actions? Do things that once bothered you now seem less fear and anxiety provoking? Make notes in a journal and keep track of your progress. Journaling is a healthy way to visualize your changes and rewards your efforts!
Fasting is not limited to food abstention. You may decide to fast from social media, television, or any routine activity requiring time and space; things that block you from experiencing your deepest, heartfelt desires. Another common practice is fasting from negative emotions: complaining, arguing, or judging, thereby making room to practice heart healthy emotions like joy, positivity, and acceptance. Benefits of fasting include mental clarity, a renewed sense of purpose, as well as physical improvements like a relaxed digestive system.
Finally, it is important to remember we are human beings, not perfectionist bots. That means we will allow ourselves and others grace and compassion when we slip up and fall. If you missed the last post with tips on self-love and whole-hearted living, learn more here. Please share your ideas and tips for the Spring renewal season! You may inspire someone who needs to hear your idea!
Laisser les bons temps rouler!