We have a lot of ideas about mindfulness and what it means to be mindful in our modern world, but one in particular resonates with me on a level that makes being mindful achievable. Someone high-up in the spiritual teaching world once told me that mindfulness is the simple act of returning to the task at hand.
I’ll say it again because it sounds so easy; mindfulness is the simple act of returning to the task at hand. I tell my students as they’re laying on their mats & I’m cuing them through breath work that if their mind starts to wonder, I want them to simply catch it and return their attention back to their breath. Imagine sitting in a busy coffee shop reading a book and something catches your attention, you look up, allow yourself to be distracted for a moment and then you simply return back to the page you were reading. That… is mindfulness. Let’s look at it on a larger scale;
2020 was the year that brought all of our lives to a screeching halt. The events of this year were that interruption in the busy coffee shop that caused us all to look up from the narratives we were reading in our own little bubbles. I’m not going to spend too much time discussing how difficult, traumatizing and life-changing this year has been as we have all uniquely and intimately felt it’s weight. The more important discussion could be; where do we go from here? Do we mindfully bring our attention back to what we were doing before things went off the rails? Back to the task at hand? Or do we intentionally close that book, get up & start something new? Begin again? I think either is fair game. What is not an option, however, is to stay distracted and interrupted for too long.
The interesting part about experiencing something new as a collective is that no one has the right advice. Or any advice, for that matter. It’s not like you can call up your dad and ask for his experience on how to move forward from this one like you would a divorce or a career change or a bankruptcy… because no one alive today can speak to experience on this. It’s really up to you, to uniquely navigate this experience and choose your next move. How do you move forward? How do you take what you now know about life and use that to plan your next steps?
Put your eggs in 4 baskets.
As 2021 is fast-approaching, I think it’s never been more crucial to take the time to set some sort of intention for at least how you want to begin the new year. With that, I challenge you to think of this upcoming year in quarters instead of one whole year. As we’ve learned from 2020, it can be risky to have all of our eggs in one basket. It is much more effective to put your eggs in four separate baskets (i.e. each quarter) instead of dumping them all into one big basket labeled 2021 & hoping for the best.
If you have larger goals that will take all year to achieve, try breaking them up into two or four quarters. This not only helps you keep yourself on pace with progress (you can’t wait until December to complete a goal that you broke up into four quarters) but it also allows room for changes, course corrections & margin for error. I want big things for 2021 but I also know now that managing my expectations & my intentions requires better planning on my part. I think this simple mental shift of viewing the year in quarters instead of as a whole is a great start.
Even under our old, somewhat normal circumstances it was difficult to predict unforeseen events in our lives because… well.. they’re unforeseen. In the temporary holding pattern that we’re coexisting in today, it’s even more challenging to navigate the future. Especially if we allow ourselves to be consumed by all of the uncertain outer circumstances. SO, for 2021 I’m really challenging myself (and you) to go inward and dig up what we really want for ourselves that doesn’t depend on other people, places or things falling into place for us.
I tell my students in the beginning of class that I want them to imagine themselves at the end of class, rolling up their mats and walking out the door. How do they want to feel? Proud of what they’ve accomplished? Lighter? More at peace? What does that look like? Literally, feel it. Picture it. Imagine it. Taste it… Why do I feel this is effective? Because it gets them in a mindset that no matter what kind of class I provide them with that day, no matter how many curve balls I throw at them, no matter how well they think they held that crescent lunge – they are navigating their practice with that end intention already within their grasp. It’s already theirs. Their end result was already theirs before we even down dogged. They don’t have to hope for me to bring it that day or hope that the heat is hot enough that day in order to feel like they had an effective practice. It’s within them, already. It’s called manifestation, but we’ll save that for another blog post. When you work backwards from that very clear and descriptive picture of yourself walking out of 2021, it suddenly becomes easier to close the gap between where you are right now and where you want to be. It also suddenly doesn’t matter what 2021 will throw at you because you already know, with certainty, that the end result you desire is intimately yours. Reverse engineer your year to the best of your ability with the tools and knowledge you have in this moment and move forward from there. Free of the circumstances that surround us.
When it’s difficult for me to look forward, I always quickly look backwards to gain perspective and trust. Like everyone else, I’m not entirely sure how to confidently shift into 2021 and feel certain about what I want to accomplish but when I look back on my life so far I can clearly see that I’ve never truly lacked for anything, I’ve always made a way and even when my plans/goals changed it was always for the better. Even reflecting on 2020, a challenging year, there was still so many unexpected blessings & new opportunities. Us humans are adaptable and capable and resilient as long as we trust that we are. When we consider moving forward from something that forever changed us, I think it’s important to allow that change to redirect where we’re going but not let us forget who we inherently are. As you’re jotting down your goals for the new year, remember who you are and allow yourself to walk confidently in the direction of your dreams. If you’re not sure what you want to do in 2021, focus on who you want to be in 2021.
Believe in something new
Last, but certainly not least, as you’re considering your goals for next year I want to excite you with the idea that anything is now possible. With our changed circumstances come new opportunities. Perhaps your dream job didn’t exist in our old life but now that we’re all remote could totally happen! There’s suddenly new ways of earning money, new ways of thinking about how we function in our world and new ideas about life. Whatever you didn’t love about how things used to be (and I know in hindsight everything seemed like it was perfect, but I assure you it wasn’t) you can change and re-create in this new life and it’s almost like it’s all fair game. If you allow yourself to see these circumstances in a positive light, it really is magic. A whole world of possibilities is open to us if we choose to embrace it. Give yourself permission to believe that the best really is yet to come. Your best day. Your most intimate love. Your proudest moment. All are ahead of you NOT behind you. Your world doesn’t get to stop just because the whole world stopped. You’re still you. You’re still breathing. You’re still capable of living and creating a wild and beautiful life. THAT’s where we go from here.