How changing my toothpaste got me to work toward daily change

Elephant Journal submission [update: published here, as “2 Morning rituals that did something better than change my life,” with modifications]:

13523967_10206638049850236_413307124_o
Morning view from my bedroom floor

We want change, but do we want the tiny, boring, almost unperceivable steps it takes to get there?

“The discipline you learn and the character you build from setting and achieving a goal can be more valuable than the achievement of the goal itself.” ~Bo Bennett

I’ve been living in Chile for almost a year and a half, and while my Spanish skills improved immensely, I could never get pulled in to a book in Spanish. There are some incredible Latin American authors and I wanted to hear their voices in original words…but constant dictionary pauses and the slow reading pace always overcame my patience. I’m not a great reader anyway, often in the middle of multiple books at the same time without finishing any or book binging on trips and then not having time to pick up a book again for weeks. It seemed like a formidable and unenjoyable challenge to push myself through a book in a foreign language.

However, I recently finished a 350 page novel by Isabel Allende, Retrato en Sepia or Portrait in Sepia. (Go me!) I cried multiple times, I laughed, I stayed up late reading, I got myself way too carsick reading this book. Allende is one of my favorite authors (I read her other books in English), but I attribute this accomplishment to something much more simple than her captivating writing: I changed my toothpaste.

A few months ago the artificial coloring of my toothpaste (since when is mint blue?) just didn’t make me feel like I was caring for my teeth enough. I’ve had sensitive and receding gum problems, as well as a constantly tight jaw and simply my mouth didn’t feel clean after brushing. I did my research and decided to make my own with two ingredients: baking soda and coconut oil.

At the same time I adopted the modified Bass brushing method and oil pulling with my extra coconut oil. Guided by Ayurvedic morning rituals, I also incorporated tongue scraping (before brushing) and drinking warm lemon water (after brushing). These changes happened almost at once, and the ritual took hold.

The time between waking and eating breakfast quickly became a golden hour of calm, awakening sacredness.

The routine brought about quiet time with myself that didn’t lend to typical time fillers (mindlessly scrolling through my phone, messaging with others, eating…). As I sat on my bed with the warm mug in my lap, I picked up Allende’s book and a scrap of paper. I creased the cover for the first time and began to read slowly. Every few moments I searched a new word to note down on paper, until my lemon water was sipped to a finish. Then I took a small spoonful of coconut oil and began to swish for up to 20 minutes.

Slowly, the glossary paper filled up, resigned to a bookmark, and the pages turned.

Reading an entire book stopped being about one large task, and turned into a short activity that lasted as long as my cup of warm water and oil pulling. And as a side benefit (in addition to whiter teeth), my gum health routine transformed into a journey of captivating historical fiction!

The moments reading on the bus or late at night were few compared to my morning ritual, without which I never would have committed to or finished the novel. Additionally, the book was divided into three parts, so it didn’t even have the typical motivation of reaching the end of a chapter during each reading session. It was simply time to spit out the coconut oil so I’d shut the book, feeling satisfied I sat still for so long and then move on with the rest of my day.

I realize now how I subtly broke a large goal into many mini goals, disguised as time fillers. Essentially, this is where real change happens. In the day-to-day.

It’s easy to see oneself in the future feeling accomplished and happy having achieved something big. We often imagine who and how we want to be in the future, but it’s harder to imagine what that change looks like because it’s a subtle step everyday.It’s more boring to think about than the reward, but this is exactly what can obstruct our path to our goals. We want to see big and fast change, and get frustrated when our small steps don’t seem to get there.

I’m grateful that I quickly began to enjoy the little, although slow, moments of change. The big task of reaching the last page was no longer the focus as I became enthralled with every single page.

As I open the cover to a new book (sad to say goodbye to the last one), I plan to incorporate more baby steps into my days. It’s clear to me now that writing and projects need daily care, like people or plants, not just occasional sporadic obsessiveness. I hope to link them to other self-care habits like midday stretching and cooking to facilitate more symbiotic incorporation into my life.

I wouldn’t say that my new toothpaste was life-changing, but—more importantly—it was certainly everyday-changing.


Related article (which I’ve bookmarked to remind myself again and again): You probably know to ask yourself, “What do I want?” Here’s a way better question

6.25.16, Family reunion, south of France

13518036_10206626819809492_1578611835_o
Lacoste, Provence, France
Simply overwhelmed with gratitude. The sunlight hours and odd blue skies cast a dreamy haze over this lavender-infused trip. As we strolled through ancient ruins and limestone hill towns, the honoring of history was a common theme. Birthdays and anniversaries tinted our trip in the same way.
As a family, we are drawn to preserve our traditions. And as an individual I am moved as powerfully by an ancient towering aqueduct as by the love and spirits we propel by making family.
None of this existed not long ago, when grandma was just a dancer tapping her way through life. We’re so lucky to rediscover this magic again and again, as our history morphs and what was once everything we knew about each other becomes new again. The ruins are beautiful not because they once stood bold and intact, but because they tell a story and make us feel small yet significant against the backdrop of time.
Time is what cut this trip short before one more laugh or delightful meal. But time is what gave us this serendipitous window to join together before being thrust back into our own unique stories. So I only feel gratitude. For family and the places and people it takes us to.
13499771_10206626825849643_1972722048_o
St. Remy de Provence, France

2.17.16 Earwigs nearby

IMG_8560Said "ok" and suddenly I'm in a torn-up teepee in a hay barn with four people I met three days ago. We spent the last hour patching up the hut and stacking the last of the heavy hay bails on the other side of the room.
IMG_8597The door creaks with the breeze and the disgruntled cows moan around us. Tomorrow we will milk them. We're surrounded by earwigs and the only solution is to sleep, quickly, before not sleeping at all.
IMG_8596Let the dull moos and the heat cuddle me up and doze, thinking of Ignacio, my toes, and how easy it was to be here.

Making time for May

It’s the 3rd of May and I’m looking back on how my month has gone so far. On the 1st and 2nd I explored locally with my boyfriend with little to no pre-planning. We stepped out of the city noise into quiet fresh air.

IMG_7758
Cerro El Roble in Caleu, Chile. On the horizon is the Andes mountain range.

Yesterday I woke up at 5:40 AM and I loved it. We metro-bus-hitchhiked our way to the foot of a 2222 meter mountain in full autumn brilliance. We encouraged each other through foot pain and the uncertainty of how we would return home from this tiny valley village with no public transportation.

At the top, the snow-capped Andes stretched in the longest line from North to South that we had ever seen. To the other side we saw the blue rolling Costal mountain range and the clouds above the sea. We sat in silence, the breeze quiet and looked below and around at the varied landscape. Suddenly, a condor swept silently beneath us and I gasped in awe. I had never seen one from above before nor so close and it was moving. It circled below and then above us for a short time, never flapping it  s wings once but simply gliding over the air currents.

IMG_7805
The condor beneath the summit of El Roble.
I’m happy I could make room for adventure so close to home. It’s refreshing and empowering. I was able to let go and center my energy on the hike. I plan to use this experience as a guide into the task I have ahead for the next month.
Make time for what’s important. Do one thing at a time. 
For the rest of the month, I hope to continue a few simple things:
  • Waking up early (more on this later)
  • My sacred morning routine
And to start some new things:
  • Stay active everyday
  • A solid bedtime routine
  • Writing routine, publishing every Friday and Monday
Here we go!IMG_7807

No one is you…

 

No one is me and I am no one else. My transformation is personal and it will not look like anything I’ve seen before.

This is all the encouragement I need to feel ready for the Elephant Academy Apprenticeship. #gratitude #itwasofbenefit

11.13.15 Calle Las Rosas, Viña del Mar, Chile

the richest day, sweet fruit
deep plunge, creamy breeze
an aroma mixing aged and new 
like home and the future at once
autumn and spring at once
mind mixing the sweetest blend 
into one.
trusting the flow
feet overhead, head behind feet,
hands in hands
your turn, my turn.
treading sun rays, 
squinting grins, heavy contact
the ground leaves imprints
on my feet soles, 
squeezes that say, 
we're in this together but we each
play a part, or apart.
never before tastes familiar.
on the richest day
sweet fruit, deep plunge
we're never seen but we are 
something.