…And a Mindful New Year

2 Jan

How many conversations have I started with “So, any resolutions?” this week?  Too many, I know.  And the thing is, I don’t really even believe in making grand, new-year, proclamatory resolutions anyway.  Joshua Rothman wrote a good piece in today’s Globe about how resolutions say more about the person we think we are than about the person we want to be.  His example: if you resolve to work out more, you’re saying that you’re already the kind of person who can just resolve to get fit.

Well, my non-resolution hope for 2012 is that I am more mindful.  I want to experience each moment more fully, and plan to use mindfulness practices to help me achieve this.  And before I get started, let me just say that yes, I realize that 1) a blog-post is inherently proclamatory 2) I’m assuming that I’m simply the kind of person who can “be more introspective.”  I don’t think that’d be a surprising statement to anyone who knows me.

Practicing mindfulness is supposed to actually give you the tools to reach that cliche of “living in the moment.”  Through exercises like meditation and mindful eating, you can develop a better ability to be aware of every moment without judging it.  For the past year, I have been participating in semimonthly mindfulness sessions, hoping to both reduce stress and learn more about myself.  I  think that it has helped me to be calmer, to embrace the present more often and to “stop and smell the roses” (are cliches less annoying if I put them in quotes?)

A colleague recently gave me a book chapter by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, HealthCare, and Society at UMass.  In the chapter, Kabat-Zinn lays out what he calls “the major pillars of mindfulness practice.”  They are:

  • non-judging
  • patience
  • a beginner’s mind
  • trust
  • non-striving
  • acceptance
  • letting go

What I like about these foundations is that they can be applied to a range of experiences, and can be used as guides for however you choose to live your life.  It would do us all a lot of good to remind ourselves that “no moment is the same as any other,” and our energy is better used experiencing life rather than categorizing or judging it.  Understanding the distinction between busy-ness and real productivity can take us far, as can trusting our own intuition and authority over ourselves.  In the upcoming year, let’s all also remember to appreciate all the positive that is sure to happen, and to accept any negative that we are faced with, knowing that we can always heal.

Looking back at my progress so far, and forward to the year ahead, I know that some of my “pillars” need strengthening.  For example, I tend to over-analyze, and to be goal-oriented, so the non-judging and non-striving will be particular challenges for me.  As you look forward to 2012, which part of your foundation would you like to be more solid?

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