It seems everywhere I turn — on the radio, internet, and TV, and even in conversations with friends — folks are reviewing the highlights (and lowlights) of the past year. Reflecting on the past feels like a natural urge, doesn’t it? Perhaps it’s our desire to learn from our mistakes or to grab hold of an elusive warmth or positive feeling we once felt. As someone who is very introspective, at times to the point of reflecting too much on my past, I urge you to go ahead and reflect, but do so in a mindful, intentional way. Perhaps you might like to try this brief meditation I wrote:
<<<Find a quiet place and assume a comfortable sitting position, choosing a posture that honors your body and allows for deep inhalation and exhalation.
Then, close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing. Breathe in slowly and deeply. Notice how the air feels as it goes in your nose. Then exhale slowly and notice how the chest falls. (Try not to raise and lower your shoulders; the breath should come gently in and out from the lower abdomen). Continue to breathe in and out slowly, gently, and comfortably.
Now, turn your attention to your thoughts. Imagine that you’re looking at a 2013 calendar. The first month, January, appears before you. Just say that word, “January”, over to yourself. Notice where your thoughts go. Perhaps you’ll remember events that occured in January. Maybe you’ll recall those events with fondness or maybe with sadness. Whatever feelings come up for you, simply acknowledge them and notice them, without judging the feelings, thoughts, or situations. When you feel ready to move on, you can imagine looking at the calendar again. See yourself turning the page to reveal February. Say that word, “February”, to yourself over and over again. Again, notice any thoughts that come to mind. Acknowledge the thoughts, feeilngs, and situations that come to mind and simply attend to them without judging them. Spend as much time as you need on the month of February and then move on to March. Continue this exercise through the entire 2013 calendar. If you get “stuck” on a particular month, give yourself permission to move on until you have the mental energy and time to examine your “stuckness” at another time. Then, when you feel ready, you can open your eyes and return your full attention and alertness to the present.>>>
I think this kind of reflection is different from the rumination that so many of us do when we think of the past. Those of us who are struggling to overcome disordered eating or negative body image tend to replay our perceived mistakes over and over again (usually with the help of an inner critic that berates us for these mistakes). How freeing it would be to be able to simply accept our actions as they were. I encourage you to try to tap into that gentle voice within you today. And then shake off the dust of 2013 and breathe in the promise and hope of 2014.
Blessings, peace, and joy,