Big Tree Mind 7 Day Challenge
I’ve had a lot of fun writing these posts for you. Thank you for reading my posts about sobriety and Drake and being in love. I have enjoyed talking about my practice and life in these past few months. I hope you have received helpful, real information that really serves you.
This month I have created a seven day mindfulness challenge so that we could practice together and get to know one another better.
How would you know if you need a mindfulness and meditation challenge? Ask yourselves these questions – Do you have a hard time winding down and clearing your mind of stress and worry? Do you have a hard time owning what you mean? Are you often burnt out and don’t know what to do next? Are you stuck and just need a little energy boost?
Well this is it then!
The question I get asked all the time -What can I do to quiet the mind? If your mind won’t stop or you don’t know how to stop then this is for you! Also, if you have mad resistance to doing this, then you might keep this for later, but it still will serve you I promise you. Explore what you are resistant to.
BIG TREE MIND 7-DAY MINDFULNESS CHALLENGE
What are the benefits of quieting your mind?
More intimacy and connection. Better relationships. Holding space for reactivity. Compassion for ourselves and others. Acceptance of our thinking patterns (not taking everything you think to heart). Allowing things to change (fun fact: our mental health is often defined as cultivating that ability to allow things change). Not grasping. Noticing your aversions and preferences and not letting them control you.
NOT TO MENTION: LESS STRESS ON OUR BODY AND A DEEPER CONNECTION TO OURSELVES.
I am drafting this challenge so you and I can get to know ourselves and find more interesting ways to achieve calm and quiet.
It does not matter when you start. What matters is that you tell yourself when you will start and that you get ready for it. Send me a little note letting me know so that I can support your process if you need me. It’s helpful to acknowledge what day you are starting on. You can send me a message on Big Tree Mind’s Facebook.
This challenge is about new doors and possibilities in engaging with the world.
MY BIG ASK: Take it on, really. Make a real or imaginary contract with yourself to try and stay committed to yourself for the 7 days. You don’t have to be perfect with it. It’s important to take imperfect action and to keep on trying. Give yourself time to get into it.
Don’t talk much about it, just kinda ‘do you’ for a week. Go inwards. Explore. If you feel adventures, try it for 21 days…
DAY 1 – Breath
Feeling the breath is different than listening to the breath. You can listen to yourself think from a chaotic place or a calm place or from a totally hectic and ungrounded place.
My preference is always to hear what I’m thinking from a calmer place. Then I can say to myself “oh that’s not even true anymore, that’s totally my past talking”, or “I’m so scared right now.” If my concentration is really good, then I’m just vibing with my breath and that’s all I am doing. It’s not like my mind stops, it’s just that the feeling of the breathing is enough to keep me interested in something besides my thinking.
Now I know when I am disconnected from myself and I need to stop, practice and rest. At the risk of sounding like a total cliché here: YOUR BREATH IS YOUR BEST FRIEND. The risk is that sometimes when we get along with the breath, it can catch feelings we have been suppressing or numb to. That’s the risk and a blessing. To feel our humanness and aliveness.
DAY 1 PRACTICE:
15 minutes if possible. 30 minutes is wonderful
Let your roommate/husband/friend know that you are unavailable. If you are with babies and it’s harder to leave (I KNOW, 15 minutes is a lot!). Try 5-10 minutes. Maybe even hide in the washroom if you can for three, four minutes at a time and just breathe. Or when babies are napping…they nap sometimes right? Bosses too right? Sometimes they leave? I kid, but you might need to be resourceful.
Lie on your back. Or sit in a chair. If you are sitting on a chair, feel your feet on the ground (use a blanket below your feet if it that feels better as far as making contact with the earth).
Close your eyes and feel yourself breathing. So, not necessarily super forcing your breath like Darth Vader, but rather long quiet inhale IN (to the top of your lungs), and a long quiet exhale out. Long quiet inhales in and out. Connect to the breath and don’t force it. Feel the breath behind the belly button because it’s the furthest thing away from your head. Set an alarm but stay for as long as you can. The longer the better.
Notice when you start to manipulate it too much or when you speed up. Just slow your breathing down. Long quiet inhales in, long quiet exhales out.
Set an alarm. 10-15 minutes is awesome if you can manage it.
5 minutes minimum. Good luck!!! You can do it this, I promise you.
When I started meditating on the breath I would do it for 40 minutes – but I had no job and or kids or a boyfriend or anything. Time is all I had. 30/40 minutes is great, but it’s the act of committing to this time is the most important thing.
How did it go?? Let me know in a Facebook Message.
DAY 2 – How To Quiet The Mind
OK, this one is fun. Are you ready? How do I quiet the mind? But how? How? How? I can’t, why can’t I? It worked for 10 mins, but then it didn’t work…
That’s a lot of thinking right? We can’t quiet the mind with more thinking.
That’s why we miss the quiet. To quiet the mind we must feel more and think less right? We must TRUST THE PROCESS and ourselves even when it’s not going so well. Even when you are in and out of presence you are just practicing and bringing yourself back gently to your breath.
We must be one with the environment around us but stay deeply anchored in our own energy.
That’s why I’m so into the feeling of the breath exercise. Feeling the breath is like feeling your POWER, LOVE, SOURCE, PRANA, CHI, GOD, SPIRIT, ETC. We must learn to get in touch with the feeling and from that awareness we can notice what is happening — without making it any better or worse.
My job is hard. I have anxiety or stress. My partner doesn’t get me. I’m lonely.
These are the thoughts, but it’s the feeling beneath them that we are being asked to pay attention to. Think of it like this: feeling the feeling without making it better or worse.
To feel the emotion, but also to stay connected to our energy source.
We want to resolve too much, when sometimes there is nothing to resolve. Since we don’t want to feel our lives and problems all of the time, our intellect can hijack us. Feelings can be so scary, but they can also pass through us. With awareness, more is possible I PROMISE YOU!
Day 2 Practice:
Today I ask you to sit down and notice how you are feeling.
Practice breathing technique. If you are open to it use a candle, and sage, or take a bath. Make a ritual out of it. Write it down with a pen and a piece of paper. Writing is really helpful in having energy move. Sometimes it’s not even what we say to ourselves but the tone that we use with ourselves that judges us. Or you might make fun of yourself very subtly without even noticing.
Do you notice how when we are in a bad mood it’s incredibly difficult to get anything done? This exercise is similar, in the sense that I want you to feel without falling down the hole completely. Have a compassionate check-in with yourself and ask yourself to really speak from your heart, your gut, and your head. Don’t be surprised if they might say different things!
When you finish writing your vow to yourself to honour your feelings, take note to stand up for yourself and whatever emotions are coming up. If you can – share what came up with someone you trust. It’s good to say it out loud.
DAY 3 – Go outside
Go outside. Try it without your phone. Make contact with something alive; a tree or a puppy or mountains or water. Feel the elements. Really breathe with the elements. All of it. Breathe it in. Take it in. Make contact with aliveness. And know that nature is where it’s at! If all else fails. Nature. Nature. Nature.
Notice that when you are making contact with something that is alive, your mood can change.Your mind, body and spirit need to practice just being with that thing that is right in front of you. Just being with it, and knowing you are ok. Even if you are a little raw, or sensitive on inside, you are ok. Stay with it just a little bit longer.
Please feel free to check in with me on Facebook and let me know about your mindful walking practice.
Day 3 Practice:
Find nature. Go outside. Find water, trees, puppies and let the elements heal you. Breath. Walk. If you can go outside and go with the flow it would be best to let your body, and imagination unwind slowly.
How did you engage with your environment? Could you feel the environment or were you caught up in yourself? Be honest…
DAY 4 – Self-Care
If there is burn out in the body, then we need to replenish the body in BIG ways. Nothing pains me more than when I see people super burnt out and they can only take an afternoon off. It’s simply not enough. If your nerves are really shoot, and your nervous system off, then you will need a number of days to bring yourself back and please take this seriously. I always take burn out seriously because it takes 4 days usually just to recover and that’s after acupuncture treatments and real self-care, and nutritious food.
When your vibe and energy gets low you need extra strength. Think extreme measures. Extreme self-care. Believe me all that matters is how quickly we can recover and adapt to changes. Mental health is just that, being able to adapt.
Day 4 Practice:
Do something for you today and make a commitment to do this every day for the rest of the challenge. Take a bath. Meditate. Book a massage. Take a walk in Nature. Do a restorative yoga pose for 15 minutes. Turn your phone off (if you can).
When all else fails, and I can’t sleep, I bring myself close to a wall and I practice viparita karani, legs up the wall pose. This pose allows the blood to drain down to the internal organs. It’s super amazing if you can’t sleep at night. This exercise calms the nervous system.
Day 4 is about finding your own way of calming your nervous system and being good to you. Be super good. Try this every single day.
DAY 5 – Speed up slowly
I know this is really hard because we are so busy and passionate and motivated and there are so many things that need to get done but I promise you that you can get things done from a calmer more quiet place just as efficiently as chaotic, ungrounded place. If you are only able to do work when you are cramming or hectic, then it’s helpful to examine the root of that. It’s often fear that motivates us. I’m offering two ways for practice on this day so here it is.
Day 5 Practice:
If you need energy try this!
Stand up tall. Bring your arms over your head or into a V shape. Take a long breath in and imagine you breathing from your feet into your fingertips.Feel the ground below you. If you need it, you can imagine yourself as a tall tree digging deep roots though your feet to the centre of the earth. Breath into your feet and into your arms. Feel energy flow through your body like you are a big tree. Whatever way you do this is ok. The important thing is that you are recognizing your energy flow and connecting to the earth. Keep your arms in the v shape and do this for 5-10 minutes. I know it’s a bit silly but try to feel yourself as a being that is open to receiving what is meant for you. Open your whole body up by noticing the energy flow of your own body.
To slow down, try this!
Sit down, breath. Feel your bum on your seat. Connect to the instructions at the beginning of this challenge about feeling your breath. Try to remember them or read above. When you get the hang of it add a mantra.
Tell yourself: ‘Everything that is meant for me is coming my way. Everything that is meant for me is coming my way. I trust the process. I can do this with awareness and compassion for myself.’
Do this for ten-fifteen minutes or as long as you need.
Everything we have discussed comes back to this experience of how we connect to the ‘here and now’.
DAY 6 -Allow Others to Help and Speak Your Uncomfortable Truth
I have an accountability friend. She is my safe spot. I get to say to her what I’m struggling with and what I need support with. This goes for my spiritual work, and my work work and places I am struggling with.
It might make you feel sick a little bit to do this if you are not used to this but try your best and think of it as an experiment.
Day 6 Practice:
I want to keep day 6 simple so that you can really practice breathing and listening to yourself because boundary work and asking for support is a big deal and it takes time. So here is your practice today. Find your journal. After you have sat and meditated or walked in nature take our your journal and ask yourself these questions.
1. In what ways am I not receiving support in my life?
2. What is the root of my pain?
3. Where do I feel pain in my body?
4. How do I abandon yourself?
5. How do I stand up for yourself?
This is the experiment you can choose to take on. It’s around exploring boundaries. Set boundaries around yourself and your energy. The hardest thing can be to actually set boundaries with ourselves. I know this is uncomfortable but it has to be done.
Do you need more help with setting boundaries? Our boundaries can change quickly. One day you might be open to a person, the next day you might not be. Feel free to contact me if this step is challenging. This takes time.
DAY 7- Back to Basics: How to Quiet The Mind?
Here we are. Day 7: How do I quiet the mind?
Ask for help. Not from me, or your friend, or co-worker. ASK yourself for help. Makes sense? Here is what I mean. YOU ARE LITERALLY YOUR own best friend. Your breath is your best friend. Your body is your best friend. Get that into your HEART. Feel it every single day.
DAY 7 Practice
The moment you wake up, before you even open your eyes. Ask yourself: “What can I do for you today? How can I take good care of you and ask yourself, your higher powers, your angels, your inner wisdom, your intuition, your gut feeling?”
Tell yourself that you are open to receiving messages.
Dance in your kitchen for 5 minutes, or move, or stretch. Tell yourself you are worth the trouble of listening and breathing and doing weird body/mind experiments. And above all, know that all of this works. Breath, touch and movement calms the nervous system. We just have to fine tune ourselves to listen to ourselves. You need to listen to yourself and to what is of most value to you. I am here!
Know that these things changed my life and i’ve been doing them for a decade. I know they can work. The more support you receive in different ways the more you will get out of this! Take imperfect action with these things. Please don’t just read this manual. Carve out some time to do this. Tell your roommate, sister, partner, it’s ‘you’ time. Let others support your challenge.
Keep on making contact with yourself. Your inner wisdom is inside and it wants you to get calm and quiet i promise you. You can do this! Sit down now, and try that practice that speaks the most to your heart. Do it your way.
If you want to keep going, you can join me for a six week Sustainable Shifts in Toronto this August or we can work on this privately.
Join me on Big Tree Mind and Lana Lontos on Facebook and tell me how you are doing. Send me videos, notes, e-mails, social media messages. I want to know how you are doing when you are ready to talk about it. I believe all feedback is good info so don’t be shy. Ask me questions at any point during this time. Any input you give that’s real helps me understand what works and what doesn’t. I’m in school as you may know. My intention is to learn and get more connected and clearer in my language. I really want to know what’s happening for you if you feel like sharing.
Love always, Lana Lontos
For more practice periods, I will be hosting a 6 week meditation session in August at Moksha Yoga Uptown.
To register, click here
ALSO Check out my podcast! it’s full of fun info and inspiration www.vimeo.com/bigtreemind or iTunes Bigtreemind