A few hours before the first session, I read the preface and first chapter of James' book used in connection with "Mental Muscle".
As I read, I felt tense. It was as if an invisible wall appeared and enveloped my body. I'd had this feeling many times, so I knew what it was: fear. Namely, fear I would not be capable of doing what James is asking. As much as I wanted to push against the invisible wall and break through it, the pressure was so great it felt like I would spontaneously combust trying.
I wondered if I'd made a mistake to commit to Boot Camp. Sure, the idea and build-up to doing Boot Camp and writing this series felt exciting, but now I've got to fully dedicate myself to it for the next 16 weeks!
Although "Mental Muscle" is an online, interactive program, local participants are welcome to be in the studio with James as he does a live broadcast over the web. I chose to do this for the first session.
A pre-requisite to Boot Camp was sending James a brief biography and a "word" that becomes an intention, or what you hope to gain by participating. The first week of Boot Camp was largely focused on James introducing some of the 150 plus participants around the world by reading their bios and sharing their chosen words.
Some of those words included trust, focus, peace, clear, manifest, joy and love. A few Boot Campers even created conjunctions of words you won't find in any dictionary.
As James read stories that sounded very much like my own, tears came to my eyes. Many wrote about being at a crossroads, feeling out of touch with life and having difficulty with anxiety and depression. Others said they have manifested great things in their lives but currently felt stagnated.
All of us are seekers looking for this exercise to take us to another level. We all share a need to embody the word we've chosen.
I had an impossible time finalizing my word because so many came to me. You name it, I probably thought about it. All the words were appropriate, but none of them seemed to sum up my intention.
Eventually, I settled on one that was perfect. I snapped my fingers the minute it popped into my head. I've been asked to keep the word to myself and fellow Boot Campers for now and will reveal it at the end of the series. I will tell you that my word is never far from my mind and colored every experience I had this past week.
Another of James' primary focuses for this first session was how important it is to let go of any and all preconceived notions of ourselves. He refers to this as a "belief system", or "b.s."
The "b.s." is similar to what Eckhart Tolle referred to in A New Earth as "me and my sad story." Negative things you believe about yourself are just a story. You may believe the story, but it is not necessarily the truth of who you are. It can be completely unnecessary baggage you're carrying that needs to be let go.
When James referred to Boot Camp as "honest, rigorous, self-study", I thought about my experiences with other therapies and the self-help books I'd read and could only laugh. "Oh, you mean, there is more I have to uncover?"
(Of course, I know the journey 'ain't over 'til it's over!')
By the end of the hour, James gave three directives, one being to think about our word at various times during the day, and before bed, and to pay attention to occurrences in our lives where the word popped up.
As early as 12 hours after this first session, and continuing throughout the week, I was stunned to notice how often the word I'd chosen revealed itself. I particularly felt confronted with my actions and reactions to situations as varied as dealing with Los Angeles drivers to my attitude at work. I assumed it might take a week or two of settling into Boot Camp before seeing any effects, but this horse charged right out of the gate.
Another directive is to journal upon waking up every morning for the full 16 weeks. Years ago, I tried something similar using Julia Cameron's Artist's Way, but my discipline faded fast. This "journaling first thing in the morning" idea made me nervous. I am not the easiest riser in the morning, and generally wait until the last possible second to get out of bed and start my day.
However, for the last seven days, I pushed myself out of bed right after my alarm went off instead of hitting the snooze button for an hour. Once out of bed, I headed to my dining room table to handwrite a journal page.
I believe there are two reasons this shift occurred. The first is that someone is holding me accountable for this journey. James has made no bones that he'll get on us if he doesn't feel we're doing the work. It helps with the discipline and it's nice to know someone is pulling for me.
The second is more important: I decided to do it. It's not going to work if I am not resolute. As Goethe said, "At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you."
I have committed and will push through that invisible wall. After all, I've given James and fellow Boot Campers my word.