new year resolution

31 Dec

So, I hate New Year resolutions. I don’t think anyone ever follows them. And why do it now? This is just an arbitrary break in the calendar that we made up thousands of years ago. But, as humans we do like to organize things, so I guess it works for us.

But, there is something quantifiable I can do in my life to make it better: meditate more. Scientific studies have show that regular meditation rewires your brain, for the better. It even boosts your immune system. Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone should be Buddhist. It works for me, but it’s not for everyone. Meditation in some form, however, is included in all the major religions of the world. And, you don’t need to be religious to do it either. What I’m promoting here is self-awareness and growth, two things I think the world could use some more of.

But, no matter what your resolution is, it’s really hard to start a new habit. I have decided to take it a chunk at a time and I have started with the resolution to meditate every day in January. Here’s a section from a great article in Shambhala Sun about a new practice, but I think it can be generalized to any resolution. Good luck.

Here are “Ten Suggestions for Having a Regular Daily Practice Even if You Would Rather Be Thrown into a Shark-Infested Ocean”:

1. Be gentle on yourself. If you think you’re a failure and berate yourself for missing a day or a week, meditation then becomes another excuse for self-hatred. Look, meditation training is like swimming upstream, doable, but takes some effort. Be forgiving, yet keep at it.

2. Allow it to become a habit. Try to do it at the same time in the same place everyday. The way to cultivate a habit is to actually do it. The more consistent you can be, the easier it is for the new grooves to be worn into your brain.

3. Review your day and pick a time to do it that makes sense. If you are not a morning person, in fact can’t even look at yourself in the mirror until after you’ve had your coffee, wait till later in the day. If you come home exhausted every night, try the mornings.

4. Be willing to be flexible. If you miss your morning session, be creative. Take a mindful, silent walk at work; sit before you fall asleep. Don’t throw in the towel just because your daily routine got upended.

5. Prioritize. You need to somehow insert into your brain that meditation is just as important as brushing your teeth, showering, eating, Friends reruns, whatever it is. I think it’s amazing how much time we find to answer email but how strikingly little time there is to sit daily. Hmmmm.

6. Set your intention. Ask yourself as you sit down, why am I meditating today? See what emerges. Then ask yourself, what are my deepest reasons for practice? Return to these motivations when the going gets tough. A liberated mind takes work and reminders.

7. Pick a doable amount of time. Don’t strive for an hour unless it seems easy to you. Twenty minutes to a half hour can work fine. Up it, if that seems easy and fits in with your schedule. Even five minutes will activate those neural pathways, keep it going. And get a new groove forming.

8. If all else fails, get your sweet self on your cushion and take three breaths.

9. Sometimes sitting truly feels impossible. Then use your designated time for some kind of spiritually supportive practice: read a dharma book, listen to a tape, write in your journal.

10. When you screw up, be gentle on yourself. I already said this, but I’ll say it again, it’s key for developing a regular practice.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: