by: Anh Lai-O’Connell, MSW, LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
The beginning of a new year is typically considered a time to start fresh with great hope and expectations. Instead of setting daunting goals of self improvement, let the beginning of a new year be a time to celebrate life. Rather than looking to fill what is lacking in your life, challenge yourself to become aware of what is already there. Mindfulness practice is a dynamic and lively process of living fully. In choosing to be mindful, we choose to be connected to our mind, body, and all things as they are, whether pleasant or unpleasant. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “a conscious bringing of attention to the present moment without judgment”.
In this day and age of instant gratification and infinite choices, we tend to dwell in past events or plan ahead for the future, rarely enjoying the present experience with the dignity it deserves. When we fall into a robot-like way of seeing, thinking, and doing, Kabat-Zinn writes, “in those moments, we break contact with that is deepest in ourselves and affords us perhaps our great opportunities for creativity, learning, and growing. If we are not careful, those clouded moments can stretch out and become most of our lives.” (Wherever you go, there you are)
Here are some ideas to contemplate for 2016:
Pema Chodron, a Buddhist teacher, author, and nun reminds us to tune into the ordinary things in our life where we will find a lot to rejoice about. In The places that scare you she writes, “the ordinariness of our good fortune can make it hard to catch…the key is to be here, connected in the present moment, paying attention to the ordinary things in life- pots, pans, clothing; by taking care of our ordinary things, we rejoice in them…”.
Look around you and rejoice in the small and big blessings your life holds.
The Power of Silence and Breath
When was the last time you have had 20 (or 15, 10, 5) wakeful minutes to yourself, in silence and stillness, without a phone or computer? With countless distractions available to us, cultivating authentic self-love and acceptance is difficult. Not as a punishment but rather as a gift, give yourself permission to be in silence, using your breath as an anchor from the thoughts that pass by. You may find that you are already dignified, deserving, and worthy. You may find clarity and connectedness. Incorporate this dynamic awareness in your daily activities and engage in mindful eating, fully experiencing the meal in front of you, turning off the radio on your drive, taking a walk without a destination, and in each of these experiences and more, notice all that they have to offer.
Lastly, and perhaps most of all, inviting full awareness to each moment will undoubtedly invite gratitude and appreciation which is the glue that Chodron believes “connects us fully with reality and brings us joy.” I invite you to start to tune in and notice. You will find that authentic happiness will greet you; a smile from a stranger, an embrace with a loved one, a laugh with a dear friend, the sun shining on your face, the smell of coffee…
There is so much to celebrate. What better way to celebrate life than to relish and remain in the present moment and all it has to offer you?