janus

Janus in detail of painting in Waltham Abbey Church

two-faced Janus is the Roman god of doorways, and therefore also of beginnings, endings, and transitions. he gives his name to the month of January, when we re-read the open book of the past and look forward to the closed book of the unknown future.

for me January has been a month of persistent and consistent effort to make my meditation practice a daily one. I blogged about that here and so I’m pleased to report that I now have 30 consecutive days of meditation. yay!

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a parade? well, if you insist, how terrifically kind!

right – here’s the give-away, then the think piece later so you can skip the latter if you like 😉 I’ve been sent two vouchers by the lovely people at Headspace, one for reaching 15 consecutive days and one for reaching 30 consecutive days. I’d like to offer them to readers of this blog! each voucher entitles the user to a month free subscription to the Headspace app.

Headspace offers an initial free 10 day trial of its app. if you’d be interested in my giveaway, please leave a comment saying so below and I will email you the voucher references. (your email address appears on my WordPress comment screen.) if you’re not a blog commenter, please email me on primrosebeatingwolfie@outlook.com and that will work too. I will respond to requests up until the end of February 2016 (not sure how long a tail this blog has!) (post edited to add: these vouchers have both now been taken up so this give-away is now closed, sorry!)

if I do get more than one person interested, please do still comment – the vouchers will only expire when used, so if the first commenter doesn’t get round to using them, they shouldn’t feel guilty and any later commenters will be able to use them accordingly.

right, here’s the thinking bit…

what I’ve realised is that I need different strategies for behaviours I’m trying to adopt, depending upon whether they are behaviours I enjoy, or find neutral, or if they are behaviours that I struggle with. 

meditation, for me at any rate, was not something I felt an aversion to the process of, at least after the initial not-sure-what-I’m-doing sensation. similarly there are other behaviours, such as for example flossing, where the behaviour isn’t tricky in itself. maybe a little dull, tedious? but not enough to actually be uncomfortable. yet despite wanting to repeat the behaviour more frequently, I often just… don’t.

this can be particularly serious in the early days of sobriety, when we are trying to re-wire our reward systems with alternate rewards. if we cannot induce ourselves to do things we like doing on a regular basis, then it increases the odds that we will be unable to wean ourselves off Wolfie’s nipple and will continue to keep suckling there, even when we don’t want to. madness!

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Romulus, Remus, Mummy Wolfie.

here are some strategies I adopted to help me get to the thirty days:

firstly, what Gretchen Rubin calls the Strategy of the Clean Slate. in my case it was the commonest of muckest of slates, of 1 January. but I was interested to see how she portrays so many other occasions when this can be invoked – even one so minor as taking a fresh route to work. and if you’re looking for a Clean Slate, you may already have noticed that the day after tomorrow is not only a Monday, but also the first of the month – what could you write on that propitious page?! I speak now as someone whom for years tried to change on the first of the month, or every Monday, so I am well aware that this strategy only has as much momentum as the rest of our behaviour accords it. but if you are in the throes of a life-changing circumstance, could you couple a change in perhaps even a minor behaviour to that altered situation?

secondly, the strategy of habit-stacking, which James Clear writes about here.

habit stacking is the process of attaching a new habit to a pre-existing and deeply entrenched habit.

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not to be confused with rabbit stacking – the necessary preliminary to this game of Bunny Jenga.

for me this involved inserting meditation in between breakfast and online time first thing in the morning. this was not a painless procedure – I wanted quite badly to go online while I ate my breakfast for at least the first 10 days. I worried that missing my routine of starting the day with sober blogs, which I have done for over two years now since first getting sober, would somehow de-rail me, make me drift from my support network. you will not be astounded to hear that doing so half an hour later each day has made no appreciable difference 😉

I also used an ‘if… then’ strategy, in the event that I missed the first window, for example when I overslept. in that case I would meditate immediately after lunch, before doing anything else. I did this twice I think in the thirty days, which stopped me falling off the wagon on those occasions.

lastly, I think what surprised me most was how motivated I became at the prospect of being able to give away those Headspace vouchers. this was similar to my planned reward for reaching 180 days sober, which was a donation to a favourite charity, which I found very motivational compared to doing something for myself. maybe that little voice inside us that says we can’t justify doing something good for ‘only’ ourselves is silenced when others benefit?

and now, at 30 days of meditation, I want to continue, and am looking for some further strategies to keep on this path.

there are always new tools out there, always, yes?! of which more soon, sober compadres!

have a smashing weekend in the meantime! perhaps you’d like to come and sit with me on my virtual park bench and chat for a while? Prim xx

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