Embracing the New Year will likely be no different for me this year than last or the one before that. With one exception. I intend to improve upon my practice of mindfulness, gratitude and compassion. In the past; resolutions, goal setting, promises and plans generally resulted in nothing more than dissolved resolutions, broken promises to myself and others and constant re-planning. Unexpected stuff comes up, throwing us off our intended path. Some by our own doing, some not. Learning to be open-minded and open-hearted while gracefully changing course allows us to “go with our flow” and remain true to ourself. Instead of acting against our true nature to please others, which rarely serves us well.
I have been most successful in my life by consistently practicing what is important to me. By this I mean, I practice being mindful and present. I practice being grateful. I practice kindness and compassion toward myself, so I can be kind and compassionate toward others. It’s not rocket science – but good ole fashion daily practice. Whatever your pleasure; exercise, practicing yoga, trying to meditate, therapy, writing, gardening, playing cards, reading trashy romance novels, romping with your kids and dogs, shopping, then returning, cooking and eating it afterward or coffee with girlfriends. Practice doing and being, mindfully; with gratitude and compassion, aimed directly at you. We get better everyday, just by trying.
I endeavor to remain present and focused in spite of those moments when I’m sure I will drown in a sea of unmitigated chaos.
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
One of the true sources of happiness and health, as the Buddha discovered more than 2500 years ago, is the ability to be in the present moment. In truth, reality only exists right now—it’s as close and accessible as our breath—and this awareness heals suffering caused by past regrets or future fears. Research shows the many physical benefits of learning to be in the moment—from lower blood pressure to reduced levels of stress and anxiety.
How do I practice staying mindful and present?
With practice, Warrior 2 pose helps teach us to accept each moment with confidence and grace. Thus, strengthening our resolve to remain calm and carry on. Think about it. Imagine yourself in the pose; wide lunging stance, legs strong, sending your deep strong roots into the earth. Energy lifting up through your core, into your heart and out through your long arms and finger tips. Feel your body soften into easy natural alignment; shoulders over hips and your knee opening toward the baby toe and just slightly behind the big toe. Your soft gaze drifts forward off the middle finger and returns a bright light inward. This is where you will learn to stay present and focused. If the arm directed toward the back wall begins drifting further back, perhaps you are struggling to stay in the past. Never a good idea. Come back to center. If you begin reaching away from your center with your forward arm, hoping to leap out of the pose or grab hold of a life boat, anything to get you out of the moment, keep in mind that chasing the future or running away from discomfort, will only cause more grief and choas. Again, take a deep breath and gracefully set back to your center. Eckhart Tolle says, “Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie
I will continue to practice gratitude everyday. Even in the face of overwhelming pain and unspeakable ugliness – especially then. Yes I will. Like when 20 beautiful children and six loving adults are senselessly massaquered. Under such horrible circumstances what else could I possibly do?
How do I practice gratitude?
I stop whatever I’m doing, no matter what, because the world never will. I still myself and close my eyes. I assign a gratitude thought to each finger and thumb. For example: I look into my minds eye and see the precious loving faces of my children. I wrap my heart and soul around theirs and I thank god for their presence in my life everyday. I think of the wonderful people I have known and loved (and always will love) who have supported and guided me unconditionally. I owe a huge debt of gratitude for their compassionate wisdom. I physically connect to the love and joy that fills my heart when I truly see my good fortune. I’ve been doing this as far back as I can remember, long before I discovered yoga. This mindful practice of gratitude comforts me and reinforces my strong spirit. Practicing gratitude also strengthens my belief that an abundance of goodness, grace, karma, and unconditional love will prevail.
I will continue to practice kindness and compassion even under the most challenging circumstances. It’s medicine for my heart and soul.
“Those who make compassion an essential part of their lives find the joy of life. Kindness deepens the spirit and produces rewards that cannot be completely explained in words. It is an experience more powerful than words. To become acquainted with kindness one must be prepared to learn new things and feel new feelings. Kindness is more than a philosophy of the mind. It is a philosophy of the spirit.” Robert J. Furey
How do I practice kindness and compassion?
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Dali Lama
Simple expressions of kindness and compassion are the quintessential way to a healing heart. Often an easy smile, a soft touch, an empathic listening ear or a big fat bear hug will do the trick. Showing up when you are always expected to disappear or not be available. Of course, running an errand, volunteering in your community, dropping in to visit a sick friend or lonely neighbor are opportunities to practice kindness and compassion. The idea is that reaching out and sharing your heart with others in spite of your own discomfort is healing for everyone. It’s almost magical.
Happy New Year, With Love, Allison
“Keep up and you will be kept up” ~ Yogi Bhajan