It probably seems to you that the days of the New Year have long passed but I'm just getting around to writing this post. I've been going at turtle speed! Every day, even every moment, is an opportunity to embrace our lives. Much like the feeling of entering a new year, we can embrace every new day, and live it to the fullest, like there's no tomorrow. It's easy to forget our New Year's resolutions with the absence of regular practice. It requires a boat-load of patience and self-compassion to return again and again, back to the beginning, to the New Day and Year we promised ourselves, remembering what are hearts truly long for. If we look on each day as a new start, we have the opportunity to return to this beginning again and again.
I entered this year in my usual quiet way. While most of the world is raring to go with a laundry list of promises, goals, and resolution--whether quitting an old habit or forming a new one--my body was telling me something else. I wasn't ready for the Jan 1 bells and whistles. Instead my body was saying, "Rest, darling, just rest. Rest is what you need right now, everything else will take care of itself". Of course, I didn't take this message easily. My always-on-the-go brain kicked in and said, "Come on, Paula, get going. Everyone else is, and you are going to be left behind". When the familiar anxiety showed up, I chose instead to watch the playing out of my storyline and listen closer to my natural rhythm. I find that when I try to push myself into doing during times of rest, I don't see the results I hoped for. Besides, there was unfinished business of 2013 that needed attention before I was able to embrace the New Year.
It's in deep silence where the profound resides and in the quiet, restful state lays the container of productivity, creativity, and innovation.
So in those early days between hibernation and incubating ideas, I toiled at my business plans and rested, dreaming in between. This time has been a life review, an intense practice of writing, mindfulness, meditation, working with voice, telling the untold stories that matter in a big way. We all have great stories to tell and to be shared. By 'big way', I mean it's the inner work for becoming more present, courageous and trusting.
Becoming bigger is an inner process. It is not about external achievement. It is not about being an extrovert rather than an introvert. But it is about allowing yourself to feel - more and more and more.
~ Lee, from 2014: Year of Emergence
When we feel more, life becomes alive and expansive...and it's with this awareness, that we heal-ourselves as well as our world.
Along with my life review, I also embarked on a One Year Journey, A Year to Live which, so far, is helping me get focused, suspend my fears, and get clear on what really matters most in this one precious life. Even in the early days, it's amazing what has surfaced, a deep interconnectedness arose and I came to the realization, this time in a 'bigger' way that compassion is at the heart of being Human.
Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.
~ Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
Isn't Winter About Hibernation?
I strongly believe in working and connecting with our natural rhythms, following the cycle of the seasons, the planetary shifts, and tuning into what's happening in nature. These things have so much to tell us and when we work with them, we reignite and balance our energy, productivity, and creativity.
It's also a great time of year to learn. Daniel Goleman, author, psychologist, and science journalist, talks about brain science in the fascinating NIACBM webinar series. He says that focus and attention require a lot of energy, and the body needs periods of rest to reboot. The problem is, we continue to drive full speed ahead, even when our fuel light is on.
Other fascinating research, published by Richard Davidson, recently suggests that gene expression changes with meditation. As a treatment, this has wide implications for therapeutic and preventative applications. Practices of meditation and mindfulness (as well as restorative yoga practices) directly target the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn promotes rest and healing. We're living in a world that fires off the sympathetic nervous system, the fight or flight response. We're not intended to live this way without great side effects.
This time of year signifies a greater need for rest and retreat. Winter is an incubator, a time for hibernation, and an opportunity to replenish our energy for the year ahead. After all, it's what nature intended. The days are shorter and not designed for long days of productivity. Unfortunately, that's what's not expected of us. The pressure to keep up with the uber-pace doesn't stop for winter, hibernation, or a need to rest. But, here's the thing: you have a choice. You can choose to do things differently, even if its just short periods of time integrated within your day to day.
Your breath is your fuel, just like gas in your car. With daily meditation and mindfulness practice, our point of focus is the breath. The breath is our life force and the quality of our breath has a direct impact on the quality of our thoughts and actions. You see, when our breath is scattered, so too are our thoughts and when we breathe with deeper, longer, conscious breaths, we think more clearly. You become fully present in your life. So, 'Breathe as if your life depends on it'.
Let us determine to be more sincere, compassionate, warm-hearted human beings, trying to make our world a more equal place. That way we'll actually make it a happy year.
~ Dalai Lama
With love and light,