The New Year ushers in a fiery spirit that engenders change. However, this week I noticed the treadmills that thumped with resolutions over the last 30 days have gone silent. The waiting lists at the local yoga studio have vanished. Rather than grabbing the last bunch of kale at Whole Foods like I have over the last four weeks, I had my pick of the stack this past Saturday. How have the goals created a mere month ago already slipped from daily routines?
As a Coach, I know what goals look like without support and accountability. On my personal path, I’ve realized what goals look like without intention. Over the last year in my own life, I’ve replaced goals entirely, using intentions and my feelings to light my way (more on that in another blog post).
Thich Nhat Hanh, an incredible visionary and Zen Buddhist Monk, asks us to ponder a poignant question in this talk, "will the New Year really be a new year, or will it be just a repetition of the old year?" His answer? It depends entirely on us. He continues to say, "so in order for the New Year to be new, you have to renew yourself. You have to make yourself new. That is why in Plum Village this year we have the sentence: 'New Year, New Me'. I need to have a new me in order to really enjoy the New Year…If we know the practice of mindful breathing, mindful walking, mindful dealing with pain, sorrow, and anger, we can improve the quality of our actions, improve the quality of our life, improve the quality of our days, and months, and years."
The path to mindful living is here, AWAITING you to step UPON it.
Start now, with these three tips for mindful living:
1) Connect with your breath, right now, in this moment. This can literally be done in less than one minute:
Close your eyes. Feel your connection to the earth through your feet if seated in a chair, and through your Sitz bones (the bones at the bottom of your pelvis), if seated on the floor. Take a deep inhalation, breathing into the present moment. Release a deep exhalation, letting go of anything that isn't serving you in this moment. Inhale again deeply, feeling the expansion of your body with the breath. Exhale, letting go, sinking in more deeply to your seat. Inhale one last time, tuning into the sensations within your body. Notice where you might be holding any tension. Finally, exhale, releasing any tension. Feel your body and mind come to quiet.
2) Extend your intentional breathing into a 5 minute daily meditation.
You may choose to use the three breaths described above to start a meditation in which you simply tune into the sensations in your body. Notice the rise and fall of the body with each cycle of breath. Notice where the body is heavy and where it is light. Notice where you hold tension, releasing it with each exhale, when you are ready. Notice any temperature sensations that arise, where you are hot, warm, cool or cold. Practicing in the same place, at the same time each day, holds space for routine and invites habit.
3) Practice mindful eating.
Mindful eating allows you to fully taste your food, aids digestion and leads to a beautiful appreciation for your food sources and the time (and choices) you make to nourish your body. It takes 20 minutes for the body to realize it's full. As you learn to eat mindfully, your meal may extend to the point at which your body indicates it's full within the meal itself, assisting you with portion control.
Start with one meal per week, in which you eat mindfully for several minutes. To prepare for mindful eating, reduce distractions by turning off your phone, computer and tv. Sit at a table that is uncluttered. Take a deep breath, preparing a smaller bite than you usually would intake. Take a bite, placing your fork or food down after this first bite. If you would like to, close your eyes as you chew. Notice the textures of your food. Masticate longer than you normally would, breaking down the food slowly. Notice the flavors that stand out and which are barely perceptible. As you finish swallowing, take a deep breath. Notice how your body feels as you nourish yourself.
I encourage you to rekindle the fire of the New Year, stoking it internally, through mindful living to foster more sustainable change. There are many opportunities throughout our day in which we can truly create a new experience. Ask yourself, “how might I create a new me in this New Year?” "In this month?" "Today?" "Right now, in this moment, how can I create a new me?"