I have to admit, I am always amused at how the beginning of a new year is overflowing with promises imposed upon ourselves about all of the changes we are going to make; to be a fitter/ healthier person, to have better relationships, be more organized, more spiritual, more productive, etc., etc., etc… And what I have observed year after year, ...after year, is that these resolutions last about 4 days. Maybe more, if you are strictly disciplined or have an inherently strong will (or are a Pitta), but inevitably, as the days of January roll quickly along, we slack off on some of these commitments or promises, only to add recrimination and guilt on top of existing issues that we earnestly want so much to correct or transform. And where are we next year? Sometimes in exactly the same place (or worse), making the same promises only to have history repeat itself for yet one more year. So what can we do?
My answer is, “we meditate!”
Motivation to change something in our lives, while useful, is an intellectual exercise that usually doesn’t last. Inspiration, like we attain from a regular meditation practice, is grounded in the spirit. It literally means in spirit. And when we are inspired to do something, we do not have to work at it. We accomplish our desires with effortless ease, without force and strain, and certainly without feeling deprived.
If you do not already have a meditation practice, now would be an excellent time to start one. This is still the time of the year when there is not a lot of outward manifestation, but a time of going within to plant the seeds of what we want to create in the Spring. Whether you use meditation as a spiritual practice or as a means to reduce stress, the benefits physically, mentally and emotionally are immeasurable and have been proven scientifically time and time again. And since stress is the cause of many of the chronic medical & mental problems we face today, as well as causing us to fall back on bad habits (like smoking, drinking, drugging, & over eating) to cope with life in general, simply reducing stress can go a long way to help us drop the habits that create dis-ease in the body, mind, and emotions as we discover our true Selves.
Meditation is the cornerstone of Ayurveda. It is through the practice of meditation that we can better know ourselves on the level of our soul and our relationship to other people and to the environment. When we meditate, we tap into that timeless aspect of ourselves that is eternal and unchanging. Bypassing the body and the mind, with regular practice, we begin to see the bigger picture of things, knowing deeply that we are more than our bodies, our thoughts, and our emotions and that the answers for everything, including ourselves, reside within.
How to start - If you are just beginning, simply spend some time first thing in the morning sitting in a comfortable position and observing the inflow and outflow of the breath. Be sure to breathe from the belly since your lungs actually extend down that far. If you are thinking of your breath, you cannot be thinking of other things. As you focus on the breath, your thoughts will automatically start to calm, and your breath will normalize. When your mind drifts to all you have to do today, gently bring your attention back to the breath. Meditation has a cumulative effect and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. It takes practice, so please, please do not sit down and just expect your mind to become calm. This usually will NOT happen - as a matter of fact, it is when you actually do sit quietly with an intention to meditate that the inner turbulence that is always going on inside of your head will begin to get louder. This is normal. And it is then that you will be able to see (hear) what is actually going on in that head of yours on an almost continual basis. We create our reality with our thoughts and our language, and we have 60-70,000 thoughts a day – most of them non-productive. Once you become aware of your thoughts, you will be choosing them more carefully and not engaging in inner conversations that are contrary to what you want to create in your life – like better health & wellbeing. Awareness is key and is the first step when trying to change anything. When we are more self-aware, we have the power to change that which is no longer serving us.
I hear it all the time – “I tried to meditate once, and it didn’t work for me.” That is usually because you have experienced the misconception described above. The most important aspect of meditation is the discipline. Not so much what happens in meditation as you practice it, but that you sit down every day (preferably twice a day for 20-30 minutes), to practice. As you focus on your breath, even when the mind is chattering, stress will be released and you will enter a quieter level of mind. Do that, and the deepening will happen automatically as you change your mind to be the servant it should be rather than the master it wants to be.
So take a break from your thoughts and experience the peace and joy of a clear mind. You will be surprised at the enhanced creativity and peace that you experience in your life as well as better overall health, vitality and well-being.
Many of you make New Year's Resolutions at the beginning of the year, but like most of us, it is hard to keep them. Try making the one resolution you can't afford not to make. Make an appointment with yourself to meditate and see how inspired you will be to make other changes with no effort. You dedicate an entire calendar to appointments with others. Don’t you deserve the same attention?
PS - I use the RPM method (Rise - Pee - Meditate), because you know what will happen if you put it off….. You need to put it into your life like you brush your teeth in the morning. Whether it’s 3 minutes or 30 minutes, you don’t go a day without it. If this is the only resolution you make, then you really have no excuse to drop it after January 4th. ; )
To learn more about meditation, Dr. Joanna Carmichael, the Kalyana Centre, how you can learn the time-honored technique of Primordial Sound Meditation, or join our growing community dedicated to total health and wellbeing, feel free to contact me at Joanna@thekalyanacentre.com or 484-412-8815.
Dr. Joanna Carmichael is an RN, Doctor of Metaphysics & Divinity, Interfaith Minister, Ayurveda, Meditation & Yoga Practitioner, Spiritual Teacher and animal activist.