A Yogi Blog
Happy New Year!!
A first lesson in the New Year...A lesson on parallel reflection
Greetings from Khao Lak, Thailand where I find myself this New Year thankful as can be and ready for all 2017 has up its sleeve.
Here we are, Day 2 of the new year! I deliberately chose not to do much on the 1st as so often we rush into a new year with so many expectations and resolutions. It's almost too easy to set ourselves up for disappointments when we move too quickly in life. It's understandable being eager and wanting to "get the ball rolling" on some of our goals, especially if we have big hopes and dreams for this New Year ahead of us. Equally understandable if we are looking to put behind any past negative experiences. I need to be careful with this one, as I am all to eager to put 2016 behind me. But, I encourage you to move slowly and mindfully into this new book you are about to begin writing. That is after all what all these years we collect are, essentially they are our library of life. Each book is the story of that year, a collection of all we experienced and hopefully lessons learnt that we can reference when we need to.
Being a practicing Yogi and a teacher as well as a student of the Dharma for many years now, Mindfulness is something you hear a lot about. This past year I've spent quite a lot of time reading many books and studying about Mindfulness and being in the present. Many TED talks watched, teachers studied with, even a 10 Day Silent Vipassana Meditation at a Wat here in Thailand last March. Being in the present is something I encourage during Yoga classes, in our day to day experiences and is a must while I'm giving a Thai Massage or performing any bodywork. Having said that, I've also come to realize that being mindfully in the present sometimes is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Our days can be overwhelming. Life and people can be hectic and demanding. Sometimes, we simply just don't want to be where we are, going through what we may be going through. As hard as we try living in the present and being mindful, sometimes it just doesn't work. Of course during my 10 day Vipassana I had all the time in the world to be present. It was why I was there after all, to learn how to be fully in the moment and mindful of my thoughts, actions and feelings. Hindsight, it wasn't as difficult as I thought it was at the time as nothing else was competing for my "present". I am thankful for the many lessons and tools taken away from that experience, but, realistically sometimes they are very difficult to apply in our day to day, all day, everyday normal lives. I found I became harsh and disappointed with myself because I was having such a hard time practicing this Mindfulness. I've since accepted that you have to move slowly into it. It's a journey of self discovery and when the time comes along my path, it will become easier. I truly believe in the power of Mindfulness and being present. The awareness and lessons you can learn about yourself and the insight into yourself are paramount in the change the world needs. For me I will be working on applying what I've learnt to the life I live and not so much trying to change my life based on what I've learnt.
My first lesson of the New Year comes from an exercise I practiced early this morning. It came naturally and without much thought. I set aside some time first thing this morning and reflected fully on everything I had done yesterday, just yesterday, my first day of 2017. I went back in time, in a way, and became fully present. Conversations had, foods eaten, places visited, tears shed, thoughts run rampant and I took the time to reflect how I felt about those experiences, regardless of how small and insignificant they seemed at the time. Turns out the highlight of my day was the ice cream I had at lunch! I knew I was enjoying it at the moment, but only in reflecting today on it, did I realize how much I really enjoyed it. It's almost a parallel experience I'd say. Is it cheating? Not if it's a tool in helping you to slow down and become used to the process of becoming aware and mindful. Too often we beat ourselves up because we do something in a way that someone else says is wrong. We are organic beings and sometimes how we learn needs to be organic as well, and that's ok!
Is this new practice going to cause me to start living in the past? I'd say no. If I spent all day today thinking about yesterday, then I'd say yes. That's the difference, by setting aside time in the morning to fully reflect on yesterday I have been able to point out some things to myself that I otherwise wouldn't have gone back and thought about or noticed even though I believed myself to be present at that moment. It was as if I took a walk with myself and along the way had a great conversation about everything. I was able to reflect on certain actions, words said and emotions felt and gain insight into where "I" was at those moments. I'll be taking this walk with myself again tomorrow looking back on today.
You may already be doing this. Sounds a bit like journaling? Although I've done this at night while reflecting on the days events, I realized that I wasn't giving myself the time to let events settle into what they really were. I've found it was easier to be emotional rather than honest about events. From the time I wrote down my thoughts to the time I woke up the next day, much more had happened. Either it was one last conversation had that changed the tone of the days events or I was hanging onto an emotion that carried into my sleep and affected my dreams and what state I woke up in. All based on the power of what I'd just written down or reflected on while being a little too stuck in the moment. I have found that by reflecting first thing today on the past day, I've given myself a sort of complete cycle on how that day fully affected me. I wasn't influenced by emotion and I'd had a restful night and was able to calmly look back on yesterday from start to finish and it has surprised me how clearly I have been able to see it for the day it truly was and truly learn from it. Is this important? For me yes, I am an emotional person who's thoughts can run amuck and take over. For you, only you can answer that by giving it a try. I encourage and invite you to try this simple practice and give yourself the opportunity to get to know yourself comfortably, what I call getting to know yourself from a parallel perspective. Let the full cycle of today finish and tomorrow morning take a walk with yourself in your mind and talk about everything that's happened today and how it all may have affected your relationships, thoughts, feelings, dreams. What did you learn about others, where you were physically or emotionally, what you wish you had or hadn't said, did or didn't do? Jot it down afterwards, start inputting into your 2017 book. Keep it simple, keep it honest and accept fully what you learn. Be kind to yourself.
It might sound simple, almost to simple, especially if you are already used to reflecting and noting down your thoughts, to simply shift your moments of reflection from night to day. Sometimes the simplest changes can lead to the most profound discoveries.
My intention for 2017 is to get back to basics...what will yours be?
Be kind to yourself and move gently along your path.