Wise life coach Marcia Goldberg once wrote, “Intention is the thread on which the pearls of our life experience are strung”. If we go through life without intention – without consciously knowing what we want to embody – we are more likely to have haphazard experiences in life.
There’s a balance between going with the flow and setting the agenda. Intention speaks to why – the motivator – of your actions that can help you know when to let go, and when to lean in.
Finding that balance is a fun and fascinating experience, if you also hold a sense of being open to the odd ironies of life that surround us. First, however, get clear on your why – set intention.
How To Set Intention
As you vision your life unfolding over the next year, consider what you’d like to have more. Peace, abundance, fun, balance? How about taking some time to visualize what it would feel like to embody a life with more of what you vision – can you open your senses to explore how it might feel to be living your intention? What would you be doing most days? How would you be feeling physically, emotionally, in your bones?
Your intention speaks to what you are seeking in life. It speaks to the why behind your actions. When I hear, for example, someone is interested addressing metabolic (weight-related) health – things like high blood sugar or high blood pressure – I always ask why. Why do you want to be healthy? That’s when I hear – “I want to see my son graduate from college”, or “I want to see my grandkids get married” – I can feel the energy behind the intention. That’s motivation!
From there, your practices for the year are grounded in and fired by the motivation of intention. In my own life, this adds meaning to my planning and what I choose to do to each day. If I can take some time daily, reminding myself of my intention – the why, it directs my conscious and unconscious being in the direction I’m aiming.
Intention Rather than Resolutions?
New Year’s Resolutions – our declarations about doing this or that, being this or that in the New Year, are designed to fail. “Lose Weight!” “Get Healthy!” “New Job!” These are missives and there is nothing wrong with a declaration. Resolutions fail when they are not rooted in intention, and not follow-up with a plan. When it is just a declaration without the why or thought of how, well, that’s when, in March, for forget what your resolutions even are.
So, this year, try something new.
What is your intention for the New Year?
You can see that I have a free transformation workbook available to you to help you find your intention, and then to power it with some mantra and affirmations. This is the type of work that can be fun and helpful in support real change. Give it a download.
In the coming year I plan to continue to cover the connections between nutritional science, spirit, and wisdom, and to grow our community with online opportunities (personal & professional!) to learn together.
Hopefully, as the year unfolds, I will see many of you in person at some of our favorite gathering spots. Much of my year, however, will center on online offerings.
Thank you for those of you who have commented, dugg, stumbled, twittered and otherwise reached out.
My wish for you is that you enjoy health, happiness, and the light of your truest self.
Please please share your intentions for the New Year in the comments!
Here it comes – the wave of winter holidays.
Time seems to speed up now, and the season can seem a bit sugar-coated and a bit stressful. Suddenly so much to do! Decorating, attending gatherings, figuring out if you should send cards or get gifts for the people in your life, and dealing with extended family can be overwhelming. If you have a business – double the decisions!
It doesn’t have to be quite so stressful. Holiday cheer doesn’t require weight gain (here’s a study from the National Weight Control Registry about what works). Mindfulness can help you enjoy the holidays a little more, and stress a little less.
If you find yourself feeling holiday-rattled and you’re not basking in a glowing sense of cheer, the practices of mindfulness might help you take a break from expectation and reconnect with the reason for the season.
Can Mindfulness Really Help?
The short answer is yes. Practicing mindfulness – both the meditation practice, and taking a more mindful attitude toward the activities of the holiday – can help. Mindfulness can provide that little shift in attitude that can be the difference between feeling overwhelmed and feeling excited about the holiday.
Mindfulness practice and attitudes can help you become more aware of your own needs as you move through the season of giving. It can make you more aware of your choices and give you space to choose in a more thoughtful way. Mindfulness can also help you to be a little easier on yourself for being human should you not create holiday perfection or if you over-indulge.
How does Mindfulness Manage Stress?
A mindfulness practice can help you step away from the fire, mentally and emotionally, and practice the power of pause – of taking a breath when things get overheated or overwhelming. When we get triggered by an unkind or unintended nastiness, or feel that we are not up to the job of holiday bliss, pausing for a breath tends to help us take a step back and see things in a little less pressured light. Then, we can respond in a wiser, kinder way. This take practice, my friends, but it is interesting how quickly the attitudes around mindfulness – kindness, compassion – can make life better and ease the tension of the holidays.
With a mindful attitude, we become more aware of the results of our choices – how our choices impact how we feel, and how our lives unfold. Eventually (with practice, self-compassion and awareness) the practice of mindfulness can be a framework within which we begin to choose to feel a bit better, then make the choices that will create that result.
As it happens, this particular time of year is excellent for cultivating quietness and a meditative mindset. It may be one reason that we can feel so overwhelmed with our over-commercialized holiday – that this season is, naturally, a time of slowing down and turning inward. The winter solstice is akin to the end of the exhale for the earth – a time of dark and quiet and reflection before the next year begins. In the Celtic wheel of the year this is a time when the veil between worlds is thin – when you can “see” or imagine your way into your future, and “see” and appreciate you past. It is a great time of the year for honoring and integrating what has unfolded for you, and for visioning what may come. Mindfulness practice can help with that.
So, What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a meditation practice, and it is also the attitudes and mindsets that a meditation practice encompasses. In mindfulness, you:
- Adopt a meditative mindset. We humans have the capacity to change our consciousness from our everyday distracted state to a calm, clear relaxed and open one. With this change, you focus attention inward and relax.
- Pay attention to what is happening moment by moment. Mindfulness is meditation while…(whatever you are doing). So, you get curious about whatever you are doing – be it walking or eating. Slowing the process down so that you can get fascinated enough that you lose yourself – you lose track of time – is mindful meditative absorption.
- There is a particular attitude of mindfulness called non-judgmental awareness. As you practice, you become aware of judgements like comparisons (this food is heathy therefore good, that food is less healthy, therefore not so good, for example). In mindfulness while eating, for example, you aim for a direct, sensory relationship with what you are eating. Cultivate an attitude of kindness – toward yourself and others.
How can I Practice Mindfulness this Holiday?
There are limitless ways to practice through this particular season.
Here are just few ideas:
Start or re-charge your morning meditation practice. If you are just beginning, start with just 5 or 10 minutes to sit in a quiet place, with music or not, and get quiet. You can focus your attention on your breathing – on the expansion of the inhale, and letting go of the exhale. Alternatively, you can focus on your thoughts – noticing your thoughts as they arise, label them “just thoughts” and let them float away.
Practice mindfulness meditation while eating.
Practicing mindful eating can help you explore your sensual relationship with food as well as your hunger and satiety (fullness) indicators. When I see people eat more of their bites as a mindfulness meditation practice, they begin to recognize that their eating patterns are tied more to external signals – things like getting home from a stressful day of work, or seeing one of the endless food-porn ads on TV. Over time, the practice of mindful eating tends to help people tune-in more deeply to their internal guidance system with regard to hunger, fullness and how much food is enough.
Here’s my post on how that can unfold.
Mindful Eating: The Practice of Eating Better
It’s difficult to practice mindful meditation while socializing – meditation just doesn’t work that way! But, you can be mindful of your breath, mindful of something kind you would like to say to someone, or practice appreciation of your friends and family. With regard to food, can you simply practice what I call the power of pause – and take in the visual beauty of the holiday food?
Another practice you might play with this year is the mindful practices of kindness and of contentment. How might you be kind to yourself and others through this season? Is there something that you do, or way you are through the holidays, that doesn’t really serve you anymore?
In yoga contentment is a practice – one of my wise teachers used to say “try less”. What a great motto for life!
Can we practice – intentionally – being content with things as they are right now – in their perfect imperfection.
In psychology there the idea that “it’s not your fault that you…”. We did not personally create many of the dysfunctional parts of our life. Many of our struggles are rooted in early events and our of our control.
But that’s not the end of the conversation of change. In yoga philosophy, not your fault is only part of (half of?) the conversation. The other part is – now what? Once you realize that you didn’t create these situations, one option is to take responsibility to clean it up anyway because it will likely make your life better to do so.
This dichotomy and the tension in the dichotomy is an aspect of life – it’s the dance of action & embodiment, of being & doing, of masculine & feminine, Shakti & Shiva. In yoga philosophy we need both – we need to accept that it’s not our fault, yet we have the capacity to shift, renew, embody our own experience.
In this episode I’ll tell stories and give examples, and then a 3-step process to navigate from doing to being.