I used to get the best soaps and shampoos in my stocking at Christmas-time. I loved opening them, smelling them, and even placing them with care on my bathroom shelves.

I always wanted to wait for a special occasion to use “the good stuff.” The days passed, but there was never a good enough reason to break it out. Those beautiful bottles were destined to become clutter and eventually get cleared out in a big purge.

It took me over 30 years to stop saving up self-care until I deserved it.

For the last decade, I’ve been breaking out the salon shampoo and the department store shower gel on the daily. I’ve carved time for massages and facials. I buy the expensive milk and don’t think twice about it. I take naps – sometimes in the middle of the day.

I not only set aside 1 day a week for taking care of myself, I advocate for others to do it as well. I have seen, over-and-over how allocating time for doctors’ appointments, body work, cosmetic treatments, long walks, prayer, meditation, reading and mid-day napping enables me to get more done in a month than most people do in a year. If you are still ascribing to the idea you will have time for manicures or overdue medical procedures once you hit some business-related goal, newsflash – that day is not coming.

Buddhism teaches us to drop our expectations, so I was pretty shocked that after 5 intense days of meditation at 40 Years of Zen in Seattle, that the message I got was to DROP SELF-CARE! I did not see that coming!!!

40 Years of Zen is a neurofeedback training program that was developed by Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof coffee biohacker. The way I like to think about 40 Years of Zen that it is less like trying to do 40 years of Buddhist meditation in 5 days and more like brain rehab.

Imagine if you had experienced a traumatic brain injury. You know how you would have months or years of brain rehabilitation to regain function? Well, now imagine instead if you were to do 40 hours of the same kinds of things they do in brain rehab but instead of an hour a week for 40 weeks you do all that work in 1 packed week. Certainly, even without an injury, you would benefit from a 40-hour brain workout, right?

Some people go to brain training to eliminate or minimize symptoms like migraines, insomnia or depression. I wasn’t dealing with any of those symptoms. I just wanted to see what results training my brain might create for me.

We focused on training/strengthening our performance in 3 brain states:

1) Alpha — that calm, collected state you are in when everything is moving forward in peace and flow.

2) Theta — that dream-like state between sleep and wake where you are super creative and visual.

3) Gamma — that buzzy state of connection with source when you are having massive aha moments and making unexpected connections.

One of the things I learned is that my morning meditation practice of 20 years is totally training in ALPHA – which is awesome, but there are areas where I need or want more theta or gamma which I learned how to call in as needed.

When I am coaching I have a practice I call “feet in the dirt” and I realized this was a way of boosting my alpha state. What’s fun about this is I was able to do sample coaching during neurofeedback in different brainwave states and it was easy to see that alpha is my coaching preference.

Gamma likes to ride on Alpha waves and for me, I feel Gamma first in my lips, so when a gamma wave was on coming I learned how to go from alpha to gamma and create more ah-ha moments for my clients – so fun.

Theta, for me, is where I get messages from Source. I was given the spiritual name “Suwan AshAarthi” during a ritual that happened while I was in theta meditation. If anyone knows what that might mean, definitely let me know. I got to catch up with my grandmother who died in 1993. We walked through a garden filled with pink Camellias and I was filled with deep connection and gratitude. And then, during my last theta session, I met Tulsi the Cheetah. Tulsi explained that she is one of my animal spirit guides, and that she had 7 lessons to teach me in our time together in this incarnation, but she could only share 6 of them with me right now because these were the ones I was currently working on or had mastered:

Fierceness, Bravery, Caution, Stealthiness, Protection, Strategy

We walked through a labyrinth and Tulsi called me on something. She said to reach the 7th lesson, I had to give up the idea of self-care. “Self-care,” said my wise feline friend, “sounds like an extra or something you SHOULD do. Cheetah’s don’t believe in self-care, we believe in UPGRADE TIME. You should always be progressing and doing things you are excited about. We don’t nap for self-care, we nap because it gets us the results we want.”

And so, with that, Tulsi took an eraser to my self-care plans for the year and re-wrote a new UPGRADE TIME plan. I’m keeping the same schedule as my old self-care schedule – 1 hour a day, in the morning, before anything else, for meditation, journaling, and reading and then one day a week for upgrades and attunements. I’m so excited about upgrade time. Instead of body maintenance chores – which was how I had come to think about my self-care system – I see UPGRADE TIME as the perfect way to integrate what I’m learning and take my growth to the next level.

For instance, I had already picked my word of the year for 2019 as Intuition, but while I was at 40 Years of Zen, I changed that word to “GUT” and I know much of my UPGRADE TIME will be spent getting to know and improve my microbiome. Going with my gut means putting gut health at the center of my year. Reframing self-care as upgrade time feels so fun because I know how fast we can create change in our bodies and our lives when we have a clear intention.

In the past, my intention has been to love myself and take care of myself. That was brave and fierce at one point, but no longer. I’m letting go of something that has worked and stepping into something that feels fierce and brave right now.

What are you stepping into in 2019 that feels fierce and brave? I wanna know!