A 21-day commitment between friends to practice self-love, a challenge meant to help establish new habits and eliminate negative behaviors.
For most of us, birthdays gain significance as we get older. Or perhaps it’s that their significance shifts, as we grow past the infallible naiveté of youth and come to terms with the reality of aging. If you’re lucky, that means a healthy appreciation of your earned wisdom and the courage to replace fantasies with memories. It was a few days before my friend Jessica’s birthday, and no doubt these same feelings were stirring inside her when she suggested making a commitment to self-improvement to a group of our friends. She wanted to do a 21-day “Love Thyself” challenge, and she wanted to seal the commitment with a ceremony to take place during the new moon.
The premise was simple, yet much more intentional than some fad diet or cleanse. We would all commit to changing certain behaviors, whether it meant temporary sobriety or daily meditation, in order to cultivate a more prosperous existence. None of us are particularly mystical, but we rationalized that performing
a ceremony would reinforce our intentions. We decided to meet on Monday evening at Echo Park Lake.
It was a warm, sticky night, and all but one of us arrived at the boathouse empty-handed. Luckily, Frankie showed up with candles, blankets, crystals, sage, Goddess cards, and an abundance of symbolic pageantry that made our night all the more magical. “So many activities!” I kept squealing, clapping my hands and wishing it were a weekend so our ceremony could be a sleepover.
We talked about our commitments, and what we hoped to achieve over the next three weeks. Some of us took the challenge as an opportunity to eliminate harmful behaviors, while others chose unknown adventures. We agreed to hold each other accountable by checking in daily via group message, and to update the group whenever we completed our tasks successfully. We also decided to meet up periodically over the next 21 days, as we normally would, but with one meeting scheduled for the full moon on October 27th.
We also agreed to be flexible. If an intention was no longer serving us, or we wanted to add something to our list, we had the freedom to alter as needed. Our ritual was a grab-bag of spiritual practices, but it surprised me how sacred it all felt. I feel like I’d be betraying trust to reveal it in its entirety, but it included writing our intentions down and reading them aloud, chanting each others’ names, and lots of silly derailments.
I began with three goals, but quickly expanded to five, borrowing ideas from a friend. Over the next 21 days, I plan to invite adventure, introspection, awareness, and motivation into my life by:
Journaling daily, through which I hope to nurture creativity and uncover my innermost thoughts by giving myself the time and space to reflect without judgment.
Meditating for at least ten minutes a day, a habit I’ve been trying to establish for some time now, that helps me manage my anxiety.
Eliminating procrastination, which sounds daunting, but so far I’ve been able to combat it by telling myself “Just do it,” and forcing myself to imagine how accomplished I’ll feel once I’ve completed the task.
I got the idea to do three yoga classes a week from my friend Noel, since my practice has been inconsistent for the last few weeks, and I needed a push to get back on track.
It didn’t surprise me that Noel also chose to try three new things during her 21 days, and I quickly borrowed that idea as well, curious where spontaneity might land me.
Although the ceremony held a certain reverence, it wasn’t until the next day that I began to realize the true power of sharing intentions with others, and how much we can uplift each other just by being encouraging and involved. I had a busy day on Tuesday, and all I really wanted to do while I waited for my boyfriend to come over with ice cream was watch the latest episode of Jane the Virgin. Instead, feeling a responsibility to honor the commitments I’d made, I forced myself to do a quick meditation.
I was quickly reminded of how good it feels to show up for yourself. We feel so badly when we break commitments with our friends, whether it’s having to reschedule dinner or flaking on a night out, but too often we’re fine standing ourselves up, convinced we’d rather sit in front of a television than be reflective.
I get it, it’s work. Sitting alone with your thoughts and really examining who you are and your role in the world is not an easy task. Neither is allowing your thoughts to bleed on paper or laying yourself vulnerable on a yoga mat. It’s much easier to go out to a bar and drink until social interaction no longer feels like a chore. Marathon watching a new Netflix show requires little to no introspection. After a long, 40-plus hour week, that’s what a lot of us want.
It feels good to be my own cheerleader and quarterback, but it’s especially affirming to have friends cheering alongside me. As we updated the group text, we weren’t smug about our accomplishments, some of us just sending a check-mark emoji to signify that we were done for the day. Still, the support was overwhelming, and the feeling of mutual pride reinforced our choices. Every day will get a little easier, and before we know it, the moon will be new again.