“I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room.” — May Sarton, 1912 – 1995
I hope the arrival of the New Year finds you well and happy. I hope that many of you did let your psyche rest, wander, and live in the changing light of a room!
For many of us, the first days of the year often inspire feelings of immense pressure. The “new year, new me” mentality can create feelings of failure if you don’t get started on those new year resolutions right now, or if you have not exercised, or have broken the promise to yourself to eat healthy food. Sure, it is always good to work on self-improvement, but relaxing and just listening to what you need at your own pace is pretty good, too.
You have all of 2018 and really all your life to work on your goals and changes you would like to see for yourself. So why not relax and spend a few minutes on a mindful meditation?
Find a comfortable place to sit
You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills, just a posture that allows you to be alert and relaxed.
Close your eyes and take a few breaths
Observe the present moment as it is
The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, but try it anyway.
Notice the sensations in your body
Pick one, like the feeling of breath going in and out, and focus your attention on it.
Let your judgments roll by
When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
Return to observing the present moment as it is
Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
Be kind to your wandering mind
Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts come up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.
When you are ready
After 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 20 minutes, gently open your eyes.
Spending time to meditate has shown benefits to our mental and physical health. In fact, studies by Herbert Benson have indicated that relaxing routinely improves the expression of genes that help control the fight-or-flight stress response. This means that the effects of soothing and calming your body trickle all the way down to affect tiny atomic units within the molecules of your DNA.
Give it a try, and get ready for another year feeling a bit more relaxed and content with yourself.