Posts tagged ‘new year’

December 3, 2018

Mindfulness Intentions for the New Year

The frenzy of the holiday season is the perfect time to set some mindfulness intentions for the new year. Sometimes the simple act of giving ourselves permission to be mindful has a calming effect. That provides an immediate benefit. Planning now for mindfulness in the new year ensures the possibility of enjoying positive long-term health effects as well.

While the idea of mindfulness may be calming for some, it can be scary for others. What is it exactly? Is it difficult? How much time does it take? Is it religious? Do I have to chant? Do I need crystals or essential oils or a stay in a yurt? These questions may send you into a tailspin before you even get started.
For years, I was intrigued by yoga but afraid to participate. I wasn’t afraid of the postures per se. I just had a subconscious aversion to moving my body in a way that might release the feelings I tightly held in my solar plexus and gut. I knew I had this without knowing it. The ambivalent need to hold myself physically frozen in certain ways is the legacy of trauma and difficult to give words.

It took years of learning to sit still and practicing somatic experiencing therapy before I rolled out a mat. It was another two years before I tried a guided meditation. I’m not sure it could have happened any other way for me, but these practices have so improved my inner life that I wish I had known the benefits much sooner.

What is Mindfulness?

Before I talk about the researched health benefits of mindfulness, let me tell you a little more about the practice itself. First, foremost, and most importantly your practice is YOURS. It can look like whatever you want it to look like.

You do not have to wear a certain type of clothes. You do not have to chant. You do not have to pray. You do not have to attend a class. You can practice a few minutes per week or a few hours. You can choose your instructor and change instructors at will. You can practice in a class or at home alone. You can follow along with the instructor or modify your practice and meet the instructor back at a pose that feels like the right next move. Mindfulness is about being kind to yourself, being aware of your feelings, thoughts, and body sensations without judging them, and breathing.

Yes, there are instructors who approach yoga like a typical gym workout. I do not choose those. That’s not the type of session from which I receive the most benefit. There are yin yoga sessions that are all about letting go of tension and softening into a pose. There are instructors who specialize in yoga for trauma. Video streaming makes finding the perfect fit easier than ever.
Health Benefits of Mindfulness

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) along with celiac disease, mindfulness can decrease the severity of symptoms according to recent research. That sounds like some welcome relief. Mindfulness has also been shown to improve both physical and psychological quality of life for those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Research also shows that mindfulness is helpful for depression and can actually change the brains of trauma victims. It is increasingly incorporated into the treatment of symptoms resulting from PTSD and childhood trauma.

Practical Tools

A couple of weeks ago I re-injured an old knee injury. Not only was my knee hurting, but my hip and back were very tense and I was coughing like crazy due to a cold. Although I was exhausted, I could not relax. After about 30 minutes of feeling miserable, I put myself in a comfortable recliner and turned on a guided meditation. In less than 15 minutes, I felt relaxed, calm, and ready to crawl in bed and get some sleep. My knee was still sore, but the surrounding tension was gone and I no longer felt restless.

Having that sort of tool available feels like magic! As you know, tension can build upon tension until you feel like you’re spinning and everything hurts. Just knowing there’s a simple way to feel better can prevent ever getting to that point. That’s a powerful benefit!

Perhaps because I only started meditating after years of practicing yoga, I feel confused when I hear people talking about how difficult it is. All you have to do is to breathe and be present. (Okay, admittedly that can bring up unfinished emotional business and maybe that’s why people think meditation is hard. Thing is, that has nothing to do with meditation and everything to do with the emotional business they are trying to avoid.) Like all mindfulness practices, meditation can look like anything that works for you. There’s no pressure to do it “right”. Anything you read or hear that indicates otherwise is misinformation.

While research into the psychological benefits of mindfulness tends to focus on lessening depression or calming the amygdala, it can also change self-talk. I became aware of this when I participated in a Daring Way class earlier this year. As we assessed our self-talk for shame and guilt messages, I realized that I feel no need to shame or guilt myself on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean I never feel shame or guilt, they just aren’t default states for me. I can tell you without hesitation that mindfulness has significantly influenced my self-talk in a positive way.

Intentions for the New Year

My 7-month-old granddaughter has spent four months in the hospital this year. All of those were in CVICU and her condition was critical for over a month. She has had two open chest heart surgeries and several other surgical procedures. She continues to be medically fragile. Three weeks ago, the cardiologist carried her from admitting to CVICU himself because he was concerned that she would code on the elevator.

It has been a challenging year for her parents, her 2-year-old brother, her other grandparents and me. It literally takes all of us to keep the household going and some sense of normalcy for the 2-year-old. While we are hoping to avoid additional surgery next year, there’s no way to predict what will happen. We just know that the risk of hospitalization remains high.

When times are difficult, practicing mindfulness is a way to be kind to myself. With that in mind, I intend to carve out time for yoga every week. My goal is 2 1/2 hours minimum. If that means that the laundry waits unfolded on the couch for a day or two, so be it. If it means I must forego a social activity, it is worth it.

There may be weeks during which I do not make my goal. I could be sick or traveling or otherwise obligated. Don’t worry, I won’t shame or guilt myself and it won’t be hard for me to pick back up where I left off. That’s the thing about finding a practice that makes you feel good – you WANT to come back again and again.

I don’t have any specific intention for meditation other than to incorporate it as needed. That could change as the year progresses.

While it’s possible to practice gratitude through intention without yoga or meditation, it is almost impossible to practice yoga or meditation without gratitude. A feeling of appreciation for the strength, ease, energy, and resilience of your body begins to naturally flow. Observing this opens the door to other feelings of gratitude.

I may not keep a gratitude journal next year. While I like that practice, at this moment I prefer feeling and expressing gratitude in the moment. I intend to verbalize my gratitude to others at every opportunity.

The Challenge for Improvement

You may have noticed that my intentions so far are for things I like and want to do anyway. That won’t necessarily push me toward growth. With the intent of self-improvement, I plan to challenge myself to practice grace: as in a disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency. You’d think this would be easy because I value grace when it’s extended to me, but the truth is, it is difficult for me to practice.

Typically, grace must be extended when someone has wronged you or fallen short of your expectations. Depending on the circumstances, repeated real aggressions or perceived injustice can be a big trigger for me. Clearly, I have not healed all of the wounds I carry from the wrongdoing of others. Practicing grace can be a bottom-up piece of the healing process.

Just thinking about this intention makes me feel angry. That’s good. It means I’m on point. I will have to sit with this for a moment because I do not yet know what I want this grace to look like. I intend to be kind to and honor myself in the process. Right now, it sounds impossible for me to be kind to myself and extend grace to anyone who habitually makes my life more difficult. Experience tells me that the point for healing lies in the middle of this dilemma.

It will take some reflection for me to become clear on how to begin practicing grace. That’s why I have to start setting intentions for the new year early. I know that having a clear picture in my mind to serve as a guide makes it possible for me to accomplish things that seem impossible today.

The specific path will unfold over time in ways I cannot anticipate. When I feel discouraged, I often rely on Rori Raye’s mantra: Trust your boundaries. Feel your feelings. Choose your words. Be surprised.

Mindfulness helps me know where my boundaries should be. It allows me to reconnect with my body so I can feel. It changes my focus so I can choose the best words. It allows me to let go of an anticipated outcome and be surprised by real experience. Since we often anticipate the worst, these surprises can be the best!

I intend to relish every good surprise in the new year! I hope you will too.

January 5, 2014

Happy New Year? It’s all in the choices we make!

Happy New Year to all of you! Every year as the calendar rolls to a larger number, we get a new beginning. Reset to zero or pass go and collect $200 – which choice will you make?

It’s easy to just continue around, around, and around the board buying property and transportation, paying taxes, and avoiding jail as much as possible. In fact, isn’t that the choice most of us make – the monotony of Monopoly?

Why do I say that? Well, if we were really choosing to reset to zero and begin differently, wouldn’t all those New Year’s Resolutions soon be our new reality? Instead, most of eventually leave behind the illusion of even making resolutions and just keep trudging the same direction.

Does this mean that we’re destined to continue round and round and round, never quite able to let go of our unproductive or unhealthy habits in order to make the space for new, healthy ones?


Sorry if I sound irritable. I started the new year with the flu. Yep, it started at 6:36 am on New Year’s Day. I’m still dragging. In this bit of half-medicated limbo, I’ve been pondering what to hold onto, what to let go, what shift will bring me the very best today each and every day of 2014. What choices can I make that will encourage me to thrive?

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Light bulbI’ve decided to hold onto incandescent light bulbs. I’m happy to turn them off and use natural light to reduce my carbon footprint, but I find florescent light unpleasant.



Lap PoolI also plan to hold onto a regular swimming routine. While I’m not too keen on the idea of going to the pool when it’s 20º outside, I love the way I feel when I’m in the water.



BlackberriesI’ll keep eating raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries as often as possible.




I’ll continue to eat at regular times because I feel best when I do this.




TrampolineI intend to add more planned play time beginning with a trampoline park birthday party.




I also intend to continue to say no when it feels important to say no.

I recognize that this list isn’t done, but I don’t feel bad. I’ll add to it when I’m ready. And it doesn’t have to be in the next week or two. There’s no deadline for creating positive intentions, finding inspiration, feeling content in the moment. It’s never too late to make another positive choice. That’s almost enough to make me forget the flu.

How about you? Want to share how you’re feeling about your choices for 2014?

January 1, 2013

Stop Struggling! Start THRIVING!

Good morning and Happy New Year!


My cousin who's been thriving for 92 years!

What a great day to become more aware of ourselves and our relationship to our lives! Did you awaken this morning rested, smiling, and excited about the possibilities today brings? Are you looking forward to the Rose Parade, a good bowl game, and dining on black-eyed peas and greens while still in your pjs, or are you feeling hung-over, angry over the hardships of last year, and annoyed that you won’t be able to eat whatever you want today because your health requires limitations?

Do you feel content or dissatisfied? 

Are you too busy or numb to even know how you feel?

I will admit it would be easier to force a smile, make the usual list of resolutions to be ignored, growl over every healthy choice as though it’s deprivation and have a glass of wine to take the edge off.  Perhaps you can even reward yourself with dessert tonight since you skipped the doughnuts this morning. After all, that’s the norm, right?

Unfortunately, it’s a norm that’s often reinforced by our surroundings, our friends, our families, and the media. And there’s a certain amount of comfort in conforming to the norm.  If we fit the mold, conventional wisdom tells us, then we’ll be seen as “good”, acceptable, and lovable. Yet many of us work hard, perform well, do what’s expected only to spend most of our time feeling as though we’re pushing ourselves from one struggle to the next. We do not feel more loved or more joyous.

How can we stop struggling? By controlling our circumstances, right? 

If removing struggle is predicated on controlling our environment, we will always be fighting our surroundings, feeling angry and dissatisfied that we never seem to get ahead.  If it’s not one thing, it’s another.  We may believe that we can be masters of our own destiny, but we cannot control our spouse, our boss, the reckless driver who hits our car, or the tornado that hits our home. We can do everything right and life will still present us with challenges over which we have no control. The longer we choose to fight, the longer we choose to struggle. If we struggle long enough, we will drown any possible joy under the weight of perceived difficulties.

Like the drowning swimmer, we believe that fighting to keep our head above water is the way to preserve ourselves. Like the drowning swimmer, we must calm ourselves and allow our surroundings to buoy us in order to survive.

By now, you’re probably thinking I’m crazy. That’s okay with me. I cannot control you. Not only that, I don’t want to. I do want you to stop struggling and start living!

How can you do that? 

First, recognize that it will be a process. There’s no quick fix for a lifelong struggler.

Next, develop practices that support the process. You’ll need these for reinforcement when fear stands in your way.

Third, begin to recognize the preconceived ideas with which you filter life experience. Get curious about how another point of view may feel and allow yourself to experience that difference without expectation regarding the outcome.

Fourth, let go of your protective persona in order to allow your authentic self to be known. This will require setting boundaries and making choices. With good boundaries for protection, you can begin to open yourself to receiving. This is the environment in which real connections begin. 

Fifth, step into your personal power.  You must be present to win!  Experiencing personal power is all about being present.

Sixth, practice, practice, practice. Note the experiences that make you feel more whole, connected, encouraged, supported, and joyous. Repeat those experiences when you can.  Visualize them when repetition is not available. (Here are a view visualization possibilities for me.)



waterfallSeventh, acknowledge and appreciate the experiences you note. Revel in these positives with the same amount of energy you previously devoted to struggle. 

Eighth, acknowledge and appreciate yourself.

Ninth, acknowledge and appreciate others. 

Tenth, sit still, do nothing, be, be, be. You are enough. When you know you’re enough, you will live a full life and make a great contribution. When you know you’re enough, you will make healthy choices. We like to call that thriving!

Is all of this easier said than done? Of course it is. But feeling better is worth it and we’ll be here to feed and nourish you along the way.


Happy New Year!