“We’re a society that reacts. We don’t have habits and rituals of reflection to take our thoughts and actions to a deeper level.” Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, Jan. 2017
Each year, things quiet down after the festive holidays. The month of January is often less structured and less demanding. Everything seems to be held in suspension. It’s the perfect time to slow down and get in touch with your quiet self before embarking on the busy year ahead.
The momentum of the go-go-go world is so enthralling that it’s easy to get caught up external distractions and never take the time to just be with your self. But, this means you’re missing out on a whole slice of consciousness. After all, if work and social obligations occupy all the space, daydreams and inspiration have no place to flourish. If you’re always on delivery, you miss the subtle cues that inform good health choices and emotional intelligence. If the airwaves are always full, there’s no room left for the subtleties of intuition and insight. And, if you’re plugged in to a constant stream of opinion, news, and information, it’s hard to hear your inner truth. Why not turn it all off, set some time aside to be quiet, and see what happens?
In order to shift gears and create some quiet time, you’ll need to get your mind on board. See it as a challenge to do something different and learn something new. Begin with the intention to actively do nothing for ten or twenty minutes. Find a comfortable place to sit and simply be aware. And, turn off all your distractions- the screens and phone and music and constant barrage of mental activity. Put your mind in observation mode rather than thinking mode. Be curious about what you might discover. Here are some exercises to help you set it up for success:
Clearing space. Close your eyes and pay attention to what’s happening in your body. Wherever you find muscular tension, let it soften. Wherever you feel closed off, open up. Wherever you feel emotional content, let it go. Allow your breath to move freely, releasing all tension and fatigue. Feel the interior space and the place you occupy in the room. This is your personal space. Linger here and feel it. Now, gradually let your personal space expand beyond your body. This is your energetic space. Linger here and feel it. When your space is uncluttered and open, it’s easy to hear your inner truth. As you listen, the gifts of insight and intuition will be a trusty guide in the year to come.
Letting go. In the Jewish tradition, the New Year ritual involves several days of reflection and remembering. It’s a time when errors of the past are pardoned and the slate is cleared. Crossing the threshold to a new year is a good time to let go of any shortcomings, mistakes, regrets, and problems. Without getting mired in the details, gather all the negatives of the past year into your two hands. Hold onto them for a bit before slowly opening your fingers and letting them go. Then, keep your hands open to receive the positive potential of the future. Rest in this receptive posture and open to the creativity, opportunity and rewards that lie in the year ahead.
Breathing mindfully. Focus on the basic anatomy of breathing. Simply pay attention to the way your bones and flesh move as you breathe. Notice how a full exhale creates space for a full inhale. Without identifying them, imagine all of your worries, concerns, and opinions flowing out with each exhale. Let the intensity of your busy mind dissipate as well until you feel totally emptied. Then shift the focus to your inhale and imagine you’re receiving the inspiration, creativity, guidance, and help you need. Stay with this gentle movement of breath and connect with the simplicity of being you. Remember this place anytime you need to rest and regenerate in the year ahead.
Whether you follow one or all of the above suggestions, actively doing nothing means tuning in as each moment unfolds. Your moving, sensing body is the key to quieting your mind. Taking the time to go deep and reflect can happen whenever you anchor your attention in physical rather than mental space. Try it out the next time you take a walk, exercise, or do yoga. Pay attention to your moving intelligence the next time you undertake a cooking, cleaning or gardening chore. Direct your mind to simply observe and feel without naming or evaluating or comparing. Not only will this give you a welcome break from your over-stimulating, over-connecting, and over-analyzing habits, but it will give you a broader, deeper sense of self.
What if you made a commitment to take some time to focus inward and reflect at certain key times in the upcoming year? These could be personal moments such as a birthday, anniversary, change of jobs or residence, end or beginning of relationship, or the start of a vacation. Or, they could be seasonal moments such as New Years, solstices and equinoxes, full or new moons, or holidays. Establishing a ritual of getting in touch periodically throughout the year is a powerful resolution for the New Year.