We are four months from New Years now. And now, as we've just slide through the Spring Equinox and into the season on renewal it's a good time to revisit, realign, or re-establish our 'resolutions'... or rather - intentions.
Our intentions and thoughts create our actions. When we set an intention we become clearer about why we are doing something; what kind of attitude we want to commit to having; and what we hope to cultivate from the experience. In addition, when we are more clear about our intention, we can more easily recognize any actions, reactions or self-talk that doesn't support us. But the thing to remember – the really important thing - is that we can recommit to our intention in any moment. Not just at the New Year. Not just at the Equinox. Not just on our birthday, but any day, any moment.
In yoga, we set an intention before each practice. This intention helps us clarify - why we are practicing in the first place, how we wish to feel when we complete our practice, and what kind of attitude, presence, and energy we'd like to take with us from our practice. In this way, our practice, our action, becomes the art of creating our intention.
Our intention helps us stay connected to our practice, allows us to hear our body and mind more, and to make more conscious decisions when choosing how to move - slow or fast; what poses to focus on - energizing or quieting. What body part may need more care or attention. We begin to build a practice that helps us feel the way we wish to feel. And 'act' the way we truly wish to act.
When we practice being present this way, our actions most closely reflect our intentions. Our actions become the art that our intentions create. And when we practice on the mat, we get better at doing it in the real moments of our life.
Of course this is hard work! But when you feel that your intentions have flown out the window, you can pause, take a breath, and start again in ANY moment, ANY time!
It's a bit like the "Re-Do" my family began to practice with my son William when he was about 4 years old.
When William was acting in a particularly 'unskillful' way (and if I could get grounded enough to ward off my knee jerk reaction of just yelling at him) I'd pause and ask him, “Do you want to choose another way of saying that?" or, "Do you want to start again? Do you want a redo?”
William always chose the opportunity to start over! This not only helped me feel better as I have the chance to let go of my own anger response (and I always like his second choice better), but he also felt so much better because he had a chance to regain control of his own actions and feelings.
And, truth be told, now that William is 14... we still find our way to use this practice. We may be in the middle of a heated argument going no where... and William may say to me - "Lets Start Over"... (Teach your children well, and they will teach you.)
The good news is you don’t have to act out in a reproachful way to get a chance to ‘start again’. You can do it any time you feel a little off course. Each breath is a chance to be more conscious: take a deep breath, pause, and choose to act in a way that expresses your presence, your mindfulness, your deeper intentions.
DEVELOPING THE RESET BUTTON WITH MINDFULNESS MEDITATION
Meditation is training in the "redo."
Mindfulness meditation is very much like a 'redo'. In my early 20s, I remember receiving a teaching from Sharon Salzberg that went something like, "Meditation is the practice of just coming back over and over again. Being pulled away by thoughts is not a problem. You don't get points for resisting thoughts and keeping your mind completely still. You get points for noticing you are off thinking, and being able to come back to your breath again."
The idea is to get better and better at noticing you are tripping out, and then being able to come back again and again. Even if it is on every other breath that notice we are out following an impulse or a thought, we still simply practicing the art of coming back. And repeat, repeat, repeat. As we become better at 'noticing we are tripping out and coming back to our breath' on our cushions, or yoga mats, we then become better and better at coming back in the real moments of our lives.
Notice you are off following a thought. Just relax. And reconnect gently with the breath.
Here is an easy 7-minute daily practice to help. Even a few minutes can help develop the ability to pause and restart all day long.