Meditation and mindfulness helped me wander thru last year as open and calm as I could be. These calming skills are founded in ancient practices but are perfectly suited to this changing world we live in.
Mindfulness, if you’re not on board with the terminology, is a practice of being present to experience each moment of life, open to each experience as it comes to you. Mindfulness asks me to be open to the possibilities, regardless of my preferences.
I have learned about mindfulness from Thích Nhất Hạnh, a Vietnamese Thiền Buddhist monk, peace activist, and founder of the Plum Village Tradition. This venerable teacher explains it this way,
“I define mindfulness as the practice of being fully present and alive, body and mind united. Mindfulness is the energy that helps us to know what is going on in the present moment.”
Mindfulness often presents two challenges to me:
1. Our minds are wandering about 50% of the time, often exploring the past or future. While worrying or daydreaming, we are totally ineffective and missing out on things in this moment where we could take action. Hmmm
Replaying memories that are sweet is a nice experience. However, more often we’re replaying not-so-sweet experiences, which makes us feel crappy. What’s done is done, let it go.
Worrying about the future generates so much stress. I define worry as making up a sad ending to your movie. Try making up happy endings for a change. Both are made up, but the happy ending is easier on your body’s stress response. Or better yet, pull your head out of worry, take a deep breath and enjoy this moment for whatever it brings.
2. We love to label what is “good” and “bad” as life unfurls herself to us. Truth is- life is life, bringing highs and lows, hard lessons and joy rides. All are important to our evolving to be our best selves.
“It is your resistance to ‘what is’ that causes your suffering.” Buddha.
Many meditation students know the phrase “Pain + Resistance= Suffering.”
We add a lot of stress and unhappiness to our days by fighting what is. “I just WILL NOT believe, accept, listen to…” ever uttered any of those statements? When we dig in our heels and refuse to look at what the moment has brought us, we create more pain than the reality has brought.
An example, your flight is delayed at the airport. Yes, inconvenient. However, the airport has heat, restrooms, food and plenty of comfy seats. You’ll be okay while you wait. If instead of accepting the change in schedule, you get your panties in a big ole knot, “I can’t believe this! I shouldn’t have to go through this. What’s wrong with these people? Don’t you know WHO I AM?! (grin for that last one. ) Truth is delays happen, often fixing things that might ensure your safety… so sit down, get out your book, take a deep breath and wait nicely. You still have the “pain” of a delay” but all the adding maddening BS is avoided for you and everyone around you.
My point in explaining all this (a point, hooray!!) is that we are facing a new year, after a challenging one. I view 2020 as a transformative year but change isn’t comfortable. Many have faced loss and pain. I suspect that most of us have also had amazing, positive experiences in 2020… along with the muck and bumps. Life is life, it brings good and bad. It is no one’s fault. Yes, change is needed.
So, how to greet 2021? I suggest we greet a new year with open arms. No one knows what all is coming. Visualize good, set some intentions for yourself while congratulating yourself on all your accomplished last year.
Be fully engaged with this sweet life you have been given.
Pay attention and be open to the possibilities.
Face each moment as it comes up with mind, heart and spirit all engaged. Choose kindness.
Find a way to love.
Realize that everyone is going thru the discomfort of transformation.
Give each other a break.
I’m visualizing an exciting new year of more needed transformation and wonderful possibilities. Remember, we never have all the information of what lies ahead. We get that day by day, moment by moment. Be ready to greet the new day, the new year with clear eyes, open arms and a loving heart.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.” – T.S. Eliot