This week I have been noticing that inner monologue listing off all the goals I am going to reach this year. This is the year I will get a strong core by working out four times a week, this is the year that I will use less plastic and make all my own cleaning products (one raised eyebrow), I will meditate for longer, this year I will make sure all my daughters get music lessons and practice feverishly, I will cycle more and swim more and brings the kids traveling more.…
Typically each resolution to improve myself, subdivides into several sub categories! (‘I will do yoga and pilates and that boxercise class is meant to be lethal!’). Historically my New Year’s resolution lists have been very long and rather short lived. However naive our lists might be, I do feel tremendous tenderness for us all, just trying to do our best. It has been true in my experience that striving & trying too hard can be counter productive, however I do believe in harnessing this abundant motivation a New Year brings. It seems from my research, that in order to sustain our aspirations for the 2016, the trick is to turn these 'resolutions' into intentions .
Setting intentions is much more about inclining the heart and mind in the direction of what we long for, what we feel is right and important. It is useful to spend some time meditating on what really matters to us?. To really get in touch with & be very clear about what we want to commit to. For example, Why is it important to you that you sustain a meditation practice—or do yoga, or do boxercise? What part of you does it nourish? Write down your reasons. The more specific you are, the more likely you will be to do it. It’s not just “I want to meditate more.” It’s “I commit to meditating for ten minutes before I wake up the kids for school because it keeps me calm, grounded, and more present for my family.”
So honouring our intentions we make simple & clear commitment that makes sense to us and If we fall, we don’t need judge ourselves, there is no self-recrimination or blame or anger—we very gently but firmly need a reawakening of our intention and a willingness to recommit, to be wholehearted once again.
Rethinking my intentions for the New Year I decided when I listened to my heart mind that what mattered to me was to be ‘more green and less greedy’ . More mindful of being greedy for that other cappuncino or that next episode on netflix.. to ask my self... "is it green? Is it a bit greedy? before I make that choice might steer on the right track, that and the boxercise.
The end of the summer is all around and I find myself shaking my head and repeating the statement to friends and neighbours, "I can't believe the summer is over, it whizzed by so fast" . I can't help but wonder, is this is what we do at the end of each summer? Perhaps, this year, it might be wise to pay attention to this whizzing by of time, use it as a sample of how quickly the sands of time slip through our fingers and out of our reach. We should consider how this sample of time represents how finite our life is and how we more then ever need to be present for each moment. How we need to be there for our families, and friends and make the changes to our lives that need to made starting right now, not when everything is ready or just so. The summer is almost over and in my case I had not seen my family enough. My children had not seen their cousins. I made a few changes to my schedule so that we could go and see my sisters and my father. The gathering of little cousins was heartwarming.
The oldest of the cousin collective was only 7 years and so they straight away started to play and laugh, chatter and stuck into toys. They had no pre-set judgements, no complicated history between them, they were absorbed in their play and when they fell, they acknowledged it and moved on quickly. The adult siblings in the parallel room did their best to listen to each other and pay attention to each other's needs and find the compassion to give each other the benefit of the doubt despite the complicated histories, pre-set judgements and ideals.
Visiting your old home where you grew up can very often be a trigger for difficult feelings. A short spell in the company of one of your parents or your siblings can sometimes be the catalyst to a downward spiral of negative thoughts about yourself and your life. Mindfulness and meditation has been the parachute for me for this pattern. I notice what is going on in my mind. I float down through the usual thoughts and feelings and I know that they not me. I check in with myself. I breathe mindfully for 3 minutes and I am home.
After the visit, grateful for my family, I drive home 170 miles to meditation stool! Remembering that I can be a committed and dedicated person and not to listen to the self doubt! reminding myself that I am developing a trait of being mindful and acknowledging that I am taking care of myself so that I can be better for others, I sit down and happily let go.
Here are 5 great tips from Lucid Living about how to keep up your practice.
One of the most challenging bits about meditation is to actually establish a regular practice. Here are our five tips that will hopefully inspire you to start or to pick up your practice.
1. Find the right motivation & intention
Although you might not feel up for it every day, it is important to look at the ‘glass as half full’ as opposed to ‘half empty’. It can be helpful to remind yourself of why you are sitting, how it will benefit you, and enrich your life. Watch out for approaching your daily routine automatically, and take a moment to renew your intention to do something for your health and well-being. Remember that just like with most new things sometimes, before it get’s easy, things have to become more difficult. Keeping this in mind will help you to stay open and find forgiveness when everything appears to go pear-shaped.
2. Find the right attitude & attention
Mindfulness practice is not a competition or performance. There is no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ sitting but each practice will allow you to learn more about yourself, and to gain insight into how your very mind works. This in itself is a win, even though there might be days where it just feels, well, much less pleasant. It is important to keep in mind that what you are trying to do is not rigidly sticking to a task, such as observing your breath, but to become fluid in guiding your wandering attention back to the object of observation. Each moment holds a new opportunity for a new discovery.
3. Find the right time & timing
Sometimes five minutes with the right intention and right attention are much more useful than forty minutes half-hearted practice. Although this might not be news to you, there is still the nagging, competitive mind lurking in the back, condescendingly dismissing minimum times. Lose it, and start with what you can actually really sustain. This way you will have a much more rewarding experience rather than feeling you have “failed” over and over. Therefore, it is double important that you take one moment at the end of each session to really appreciate and acknowledge yourself for having taken the time to stick to your commitment to do something for your health and well-being.
4. Find the right spot & posture
Wherever you decide to practice, make sure that you are feeling safe, grounded and find a wakeful posture so that you provide for yourself the best possible conditions. Go ahead and get yourself your favourite cushion, chair, mat, blanket or block. Over the years there might be some days where you find yourself in a less than ideal environment, then the second best spot will do just fine. Whilst it is clearly vital that you find a place and posture that work for you, it is equally important not to put too much importance on either choice. What you are looking for is an open-hearted, curious approach to being with whatever the moment presents.
5. Find the right routine & stick to it!
Short and sweet, and probably most challenging: Whether you sit once a day or more often, perhaps just a few minutes or longer periods of time, find a minimum commitment which you can sustain every day for the rest of your life. Imagine yourself practicing on your birthday, New Years Eve, the day you do your taxes, your friend’s wedding, the day you buy the new car, your daughter’s graduation, the day you lose your job, your grandson’s birth… Stick to it. No excuses.
So, how about starting right now? You could close your computer, and start by taking a few mindful breaths…
Wherever you go, go with all your heart. ― Confucius
In the home where I live, pink is king. In the room where I sit and type, no matter how we try (which is not that hard) we fail to sweep away every sparkle of glitter. And, there is a lot of singing. The summer holidays have infused my universe with three little girls perpetually humming or singing whilst drawing, twirling, cartwheeling or otherwise expressing their emotions or themselves in some way.
I lay in bed last night thinking about why I want to teach mindfulness. As I explored my feelings & memory files, there was a persistent background song from the Disney movie "Enchanted" called "How do you know?". In the movie, Giselle, the princess-to-be is banished from her fairytale world and is thrust into a cynical and hard edged city called Manhattan. The princess is curious and open to her experience and joyful and in that way there is possible metaphor for mindfulness, but that wasn't where I was going with this. It was just the title of the song that I decided to pay attention to, seeing as it was so determined to distract me! 'How do I know' that Mindfulness will help others? I know because of the thousands of peer reviewed research papers? True, but I think that I mostly know because it helped me.
Mindfulness has radically transformed (I like this expression) how I relate to my experience, others and myself . Four years ago I was an overwrought mother of three very small girls. By the time my third daughter came along, I had not slept properly for four years (like a lot of mothers or carers) and was compensating by drinking too much coffee. Jumpy, edgy and tired of being yelled at by a trio of egomaniacs, I was reaching critical mass and barely keeping it together. I was also writing a thesis on using MBCT to prevent depression and anxiety and the research was the final push I needed. Something had to change and between the research and the book "Full Catastrophe Living" (Jon Kabat-Zinn), I decided that Mindfulness was part of that change.
Pre-kids, I had done Hatha yoga three times a week and meditated as part of that practice. I thought that I could learn all about Mindfulness by reading about it. 'I didn't need a class'. There I was again, striving and forcing and lacking the self awareness to realize that I was already struggling. I needed to reach out for help. Eventually, I let go of my ego. I found classes. I went on retreats and slowly but surely I began to stop falling asleep during guided meditations. I looked forward to meditating. I missed it when I was out of my routine. I began to enjoy my babies again, rediscovering the exquisite joy that I was fortunate to experience when I brought home my babies. I also found the space within myself to be (occasionally :-)) crazy in love with my husband once again. I was gaining the capacity to understand my mind's impulses and I was becoming skillful at stopping before I reacted in a negative way. Instead I was able to respond in a calm or kind or maybe even compassionate way. I also found the space to become aware of the areas of my life that were not working for me and to take decisive action to change what I could.
We live in the countryside now and the girls are growing like the weeds in the garden, singing and making mud pies and potions. I am grateful for Mindfulness, I could wish that I found it earlier but that would be looking in the rear view mirror. I am in this moment alive and grateful. Next week "Let it go" from the movie Frozen :-).