If mindfulness is headlining your list of New Year’s Resolutions this year, here are seven ways to begin your practice effectively, so it is more than a #januaryfantasy and keeps you calm all the way through Spring and beyond!
1. Begin Intentionally
Mindfulness is going to take some of your time and will require perseverance before bearing fruit so it is very important to be clear why you are starting this journey and what you are hoping to gain.
Start by thinking about the following questions:
Why do I want to practice mindfulness?
What am I seeking to create in my life?
What would I like to experience more of, and less of, in 2020?
How will I know if I am becoming more mindful?
Next, write down the following sentence starters, reflect for a moment, and then complete them in your own words:
I would like to develop my mindfulness practice because I am committed to…
Mindfulness is important to me because…
It is perfectly alright, if you do not have too much to write at the beginning. Keep coming back to these sentences and update them as your practice evolves.
2. Begin Gently
Landing your mindfulness habit will take discipline but be gentle with yourself when your dedication wanes or when a certain type of practice feels too much. Honour the rhythm of your personal evolution and practice self-forgiveness when you slip. Personal growth and the evolution of awareness follow a natural flow, try to observe yours without judgement and make space for the ups and downs. With a compassionate perseverance you will be more likely to stay the course.
3. Begin Slowly
Start with short meditations and increase the time gradually as your practice matures. It is far better to begin with a five-minute practice, five days a week, and keep to it, than aim for 30 minutes every day, and quickly lose the habit. You’ll find plenty of useful (and short) practice inspirations in my book, 100 Mindfulness Meditations.
You will also need to plan your routine carefully to build mindfulness into your daily schedule. This prep work will mean that your practice has a committed space in your day and is much more likely to stick than if you try to ‘tack it on’. Full disclosure: you may need to get up a few minutes earlier than normal. Trust me – it is worth it.
4. Begin Your Way
At the end of the day, we are simply learning how to close our eyes, sit quietly and be with ourselves peacefully. We are discovering how to be a little more ok with the flux of human experience rising and falling within ourselves. There will be a teacher, a book, a quote, a friend, a piece of music, a physical activity, a scent, a place, a time that speaks to you. Find your own way into your practice and allow your curiosity to lead you forward. This human experience (life) is far more complex than we know – I love tapping into the source of my own experience and viewing this mystery through my unique lens. You might enjoy peering through yours too! Follow the breath, feel the body, and observe the mind booting up in a new way.
5. Begin Wisely
The call to be mindful comes from within. It is the call to listen to yourself at a beautifully profound level. As such, make space to hear the wisdom of your body mind and being. If you are being called to meditation, something new is seeking to become known. My own practice has led me to some unbelievable and surprising destinations. I used to be a Civil Law Barrister. I never thought I would be a Mindfulness Advocate or a Soul Portrait Artist. Simply by listening, and following my own cues, and those of my teachers, these things have been borne in me and are now my work, my joy, my life.
6. Begin Reflectively
The amount of data arising within your consciousness in any moment is unfathomable, there is such richness to this human experience that goes unnoticed because we are not able to be present to it. More of this richness becomes available as we develop the capacity to be still. You may want to notice these riches and capture them in words or doodles. So make sure you have a journal or notepad by your side to record your practice. In my experience, even the smallest micro-revelations may build to a wholly new understanding of yourself.
7. Begin Joyfully
If not careful, mindfulness can quickly become another chore to tick off the list so remember your intention and why you are practicing. Over the 21 years that I have been meditating, my practice has waxed and waned and been re-made in many different ways. What I have come to learn is that dedicating time to sit in silence in our world of distraction, change, and vulnerability, is nothing less than a revolutionary act.
Even though a part of me still sometimes resists my practice, I find my way back to the cushion each time and can truly say that my most precious moments in this lifetime have occurred in the space of my own silence, just sitting there, nothing to do, nowhere to go…
So whatever your reason for resolving mindfully into the New Year, be proud of your commitment, and treat your meditation time as the ultimate daily gift to yourself!
Happy New Year!!
By Neil Seligman
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