By Tanya Tiger
Welcome to 2018. Here’s to putting the past behind us and moving forward.
The new year gives me a solid place to stop and take a moment to reflect on where I’ve been and where I am going, or want to go, in the coming year. I don’t really do resolutions anymore. I used to set weight loss or fitness goals and set up timelines for new projects, but I discovered that I’m a bit of a rebel and locking myself into strict commitments right off the bat never seemed to work out for me. To top it off, failing at my resolutions only made me feel worse about myself which seemed pretty pointless and bit masochistic. So now I pick an overarching theme I’d like to embrace for the new year.
For instance, this year, I chose “mindfulness.”
We tend to live our heads a lot. We are either dwelling on the past or day dreaming about the future. I am rarely in the “here and now” which is, in truth, all I or anyone actually has. Visiting the past to revel in a happy memory or to be reminded of mistakes made and lessons learned is one thing but I was spending far too much time on the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” train, and you can’t move forward if you’re always looking back. I also spend a great deal of time worrying about the future and all of the “what ifs” that come along with that line of thinking.
Often, we end up worrying about things that never happen or doubling our anxiety by being worried about something that hasn’t happened and then worrying about it again if it does happen. No wonder I’m always exhausted yet feel like life is passing me by. I’m never “in” my life. I go through the motions of what it means to exist but I’m not actually present in my own life. A lot of us seem to exist on autopilot. There’s never enough time to get it all done and we never take the time to stop and count our blessings. We end up feeling short-changed even when, from the outside looking in, we seem to have it all.
As a way to embrace being more mindful I started by simply paying attention to what I was seeing around me as my husband drove us to lunch one day. I had been up and down this particular road a million times but I really took it all in as we drove. I saw the people, the buildings, the colors, and the signs of a community hit hard by poverty and crime. I really looked at people’s faces, their body language and the way they interacted with their environment. I could feel them, their “energy” per se. I sensed a community which wanted to be close-knit and there was a definite undercurrent of pride. There was also a sense of hopelessness and heaviness in the air. For all the times I had driven this road, through my own community, I had never really seen it before. I felt a sudden sense of connection that had been missing. There was a subtle hum that arose in my body. I felt like I was really seeing for the first time and it made me wonder what else I had been missing.
I applied this when we got home too. Instead of half-listening to my daughter or husband while also half-watching TV or half-looking at my phone I stopped and focused on them. I consciously connected with their eyes, watched the way they moved as they talked, listened to the pitch and tone of their voices, and leaned into the conversation. Whether it was something silly like a joke my daughter heard at school or whether it was a serious discussion about the political climate of the world I was all-in. I had been aware, in the past, how distracted I could be at times but this conscious effort to be more fully engaged really brought home how distant I had become in my own home. I started putting my phone away as soon as I walked in the door, only checking it once or twice before bed, when my husband and daughter were otherwise engaged. The TV took a backseat to family games and family movies. Our interactions became warmer, more real, more grounded.
Even though it’s only been a week or so of applying this new way of being, I feel lighter and much more connected to the world around me than before. I always thought of myself as someone fully awake and aware of the happenings in and around me. I know that this disconnect was unintentional and unexpected. It happened so gradually that I didn’t even know it had occurred to the extent which it had.
It’s crazy that such a simple thing as hitting the metaphorical “pause button” from time to time could have this great of an impact but it has, in so many ways.
I still catch myself occasionally drifting away in thought or being distracted, but I’m getting better. After all, I am a work in progress (aren’t we all), and I am looking forward to seeing what being more mindful brings into my life. Time has already slowed down for me. I take each moment as it comes and treat each new day as the blessing it is meant to be.
Stressful days will still come. Thoughts of the past or concerns for the future will still ebb and flow, as will my sense of connection to the community around me. That said, now that I have begun to understand the power of being fully present, I am committed to staying that way, not because it’s the new year or because I feel resolved to follow through but because in doing so I feel better and because I get to bear witness to the beauty and blessing sin my life.
The road to change is rarely smooth but I’m learning that life is about progress, not perfection, and I am all for making progress.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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