Pic: Taken from the Hill of Uisneach, 1 Jan 2017.
Approaching the end of one year, we usually anticipate the beginning of another. Full of possiblity. We may compile our resolutions. We may set new intentions. We may renew old ones. Though the days are lengthening gradually, January can feel grey and dark for me. The process of setting intentions at this time of year offers me a way to create and see light that is also present. Yet every moment, every breath, is an opporunity to begin again. It really is. I love when I remember this mantra!
In positive psychology, setting and achieving goals are powerful ways to build our natural strengths. Setting resolutions at new year, is a brilliant opportunity to remember to begin again. Helping us? the encouraging mind, the supporter. Hindering us? The critical mind, the judge. So we work with both. Acknowledging the critic that may loom in the shadows or that lurks on our shoulders. Becoming aware that we have choice. Deliberately choosing to let go of unhelpful beliefs, remembering these as creations of the mind, arising out of the conditions of that past-present-future fusion. Rememering the bigger picture and acknowledging our efforts to incline towards our renewed intention. Our north star guiding us along the path.
The wonderful thing about the powerful mind and its capacity to believe the thoughts we create for ourselves, is that we can use this power for good. More words I love to remember! Not dismissing those unhelplful thoughts with an energy fuelled by resistance, frustration, fear and despair but maybe first acknowledging them as they are, using the neutral quality of mindful attention to help. Maybe even understanding how the thoughts arose and allowing them to wash through – not holding, not pushing, simply being with them as we experience their impact on our moment to moment experience. And choosing to let go, through the body. This is where that second wing of new mindful attention comes in for me. In order to allow my experience to be as it is, I need to deliberately cultivate thoughts and gestures of kindness and gentleness. Remembering this resistance, this fear, this critic, are each part of being human. Just like me, others experience and treat themselves in similar ways. That helps me stay with the experience and let it wash through. Being with it in the body helps me to let it be. The breath. The heartbeat. In a way it also helps me connect with others, having this sense of shared experience as human beings. I am not alone. And this helps me to make the next steps and choices in life with more ease and kindness. Though that inner critic and judge remains. She doesn’t go away. But her words don’t seem so loud now. Don’t seem to penetrate so much. Still there, yes, still part of my experience. But not all of my experience. Also present are words of kindness, of acknowledgement, of gratitude. Trust. Trusting that all of this is okay. These reactions. These thoughts. These sensations.
With a break away from the work commute and demands, this January I slowly give space to regular daily practices once again. When I remember to make space for an early morning mindful movement and mindful sitting practice, I remember the benefits of practice from direct experience. Sometimes, as this morning, it’s like I’ve just experienced a massage of the body and mind: I experience an easing of bodily tensions – shoulder knots softened, chest area expanded and broadened, neck lengthened with head resting rather than straining atop. And I remember. The effort to make space in the day can bring these forgotten rewards. A clarity of mind is also experienced – the to-do list has reorganised itself, is held less tightly and not up so close; I realise that the unncessaries are dropping away and the priorities present with space around them – one thing at a time is possible. “If the mind is not cluttered with unncessary things this is the best season of our lives” (words from another remembered). With that bodily ease and clarity of mind, the experience of openness, gentleness and responsive intent to act, it feels possible – that this moment really is the best season of our lives.