As we start a new year, many people will make a resolution to lose some weight. Being physically healthy is a fantastic goal for everyone, but I invite you to also lose another kind of weight in 2014.
Life can get chronically heavy. This weight is created by our inner thoughts about the external world. Many of us, including myself, have formed habits to think and respond negatively to our external conditions. This negative inner chatter produces negative emotions. When those emotions become chronic, they can generate anxiety, depression, and a host of physiological problems (headaches, insomnia, hypertension, etc). Left unchecked, we can also develop a miserable attitude.
So we busy ourselves with the quest to manipulate external conditions in an effort to short-circuit these negative thoughts and all of the terrible stuff that follows. This quest is never-ending. We find that once we have one external issue solved, another pops up. Our lives become a non-stop game of Whack-A-Mole. We heal a relationship and then another one begins to deteriorate. Just when we think we have external conditions settled, another stressful event rears its head. This quest often leaves us exhausted, cynical, and jaded. So we do our best to cope with this weight and simply try to hold on until our next break or vacation when we can temporarily step away from this maddening game.
As a teacher, I recall the combination of excitement and dread as I returned to work after a break. This mixture of optimism and pessimism, hope and fear, made transitioning back to work a challenge. I hoped there would be fewer moles and feared there would be more, but I knew the whacking of moles would really never stop. For me, the hardest transition of the year was returning to work after the holidays. After spending time surrounded by family and friends, celebrating and relaxing, it was hard to face down that long stretch between January and Spring Break. The days are still short. The weather is still cold. The holidays are done, and there is still a LONG way to go before summer. PLUS....college football is over. That alone is enough to make many of us pretty blue. This time of year can be very stressful and, at times, depressing for lots of us.
Well, this year I challenge you, her, that other guy and myself to completely change the way we view this time. Instead of simply coping with life, hanging on until Friday afternoon or Spring Break, let's reprogram ourselves to make the most of each moment we have.
To help us accomplish this, we can make a resolution to "lose some weight" through practicing mindfulness. Just like consistently eating well and exercising can help us lose physical weight, a consistent mindfulness practice can help us lose this mental/emotional weight. We will see that so much of this weight is placed upon us by ourselves. We will learn to control our negative inner dialogue and realize that the path to inner peace is found within us rather than outside us. We will learn to accept that while we don't have much control over our external conditions, we have the ONLY control over our inner conditions. As we lose this kind of weight, our daily lives will get lighter and lighter. We will still experience painful and stressful situations, but they won't seem as overwhelming. We will be better equipped to keep life in perspective resulting in much greater levels of peace, joy, equanimity and love. I hope YOU will join us this year, and I hope all of us will be much lighter headed into 2015.
If you are new to mindfulness practice, check out this this great illustrated guide to get you started.