Since the transition into the new year, there have been many scientific revelations around the practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is focused attention, the observing of sensations and thoughts without getting caught up in them. Often the breath is the focus of mindfulness meditation, and yoga is an example of mindfulness practice.
Meditators and yoga lovers have known the power of focused attention, stillness and breath awareness for a long time—thousands of years, even. Through many recent brain scans studies, science now acknowledges several physiological benefits of taking just five minutes every day to pay attention to the breath:
Convinced like a scientist yet?
So, where to begin? All you need in your busy schedule is five minutes. Try to pick the same time each day so it becomes part of your daily routine. Think of it as necessary as brushing your teeth, except you are “brushing” away stress from your brain!
Sit comfortably. Begin taking normal breaths. Make sure you are breathing from your diaphragm (“belly breathing”) rather than your lungs only (“chest breathing”). Rest your hand above the stomach and below the ribs, which is where your diaphragm is approximately located. As you breathe normally from your diaphragm, you will feel your belly rise as you inhale, and retract as you exhale. Continue for five minutes.
If you find your mind wandering (which you will!) during this time, gently bring your attention back to your breathe. Notice any sensations in your body, but do not let your mind have a conversation about them. Simply bring your attention back to your breathe. Notice sounds around you, but again, don’t let your thoughts go on about them. Let your belly breathing be your primary focus.
Keep a journal of the changes you notice over time. People have told me that their doctors asked them why their blood pressure was lower than their last check up. Others have noticed emotional equilibrium that wasn’t there before they began practicing. Others appreciate the sense of overall peace throughout their day.
What benefits are coming to you through your practice?
"'Mindfulness' Meditation Alters Gene Expression, Study Suggests", The Huffington Post | By Jacqueline Howard Posted: 12/09/2013 7:53 am EST | Updated: 01/19/2014 11:49 pm EST
"The science behind meditation, and why it makes you feel better", GEORGE DVORSKY on IO9NEUROSCIENCE
"The Power of Concentration", By Maria Konnikova, Published: December 15, 2012
Each new year brings new energy and desire for change! Often when we have something we want to change in ourselves, the first response we have is anger, frustration, rejection. We then try to go about our desired change with a hammer over our heads!
How many of us do well while getting bossed around, criticized and rejected? It might work for a little while—or a long while, if we are super-tolerant—but after a time, we stop trying so hard, or try to get away from the hammer, thus avoiding the task at hand.
We do better at change when we have encouragement, acceptance and a caring eye guiding us in the new behavior.
Who is the best person to do that for you? Maybe you have a supportive friend, or an encouraging therapist. But you are with you all the time! You are the one who will walk with you through all of the ups and downs of life!
Here are a few ways to encourage yourself through any change you want to make:
A little love goes a long way to melt raw materials and create a masterpiece. Take a best friend with you into 2014…YOU! Happy New Year, and happy new YOU!
Two years ago, I had the privilege of participating in a three part web radio series on Jane Elizabeth Hart's powerful processing tool, Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions, with Jane Elizabeth and my awesome husband, Gregory Barrette.
Since it is a time of transitioning from one year into the next, I wanted to re-post these audios on the Seven Steps. Releasing the old year is an essential part of making room for a new year of experiences and spiritual growth!
The first interview in the series, called "How to Move into the New Year Empowered", was with author and spiritual teacher Jane Elizabeth. Click here to listen. For more information on her formula for moving through changes, Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions, and empowering yourself for the new year, click here. While you are there, check out the free spiritual resources available at Center For Enlightenment.
"Every problem in life is here to support your soul's evolution. Unless you have a challenge, you will never know your capabilities. Your problems are not awful. They are the most wonderful tools designed to push you forward!"
My interview was next: "The Gift of the Seven Steps." Listen to the recorded show here: Mentors of New Thought Radio. Below is the description of the program:
"My work with clients is to help pull out the patterns and help make the unconscious conscious," says therapist and spiritual counselor Lynn Barrette, LCSW. "Or, as leading psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel says in his book, Mindsight, “In order for us to become aware of the feelings inside us—to consciously attend to and understand them—we need to link these subcortically created emotional states to our [higher thinking] cortex.” Or, in spiritual terms, making the unconscious conscious! In order for us to heal the buried emotions and the beliefs that are sustaining them, we need to become aware of our hidden patterns that keep us stuck.
"Jane Elizabeth's Seven Steps for Successful Life Transitions is the greatest, most thorough processing tool I have found to uncover and heal unconscious patterns, for myself as well as my clients."
The final show in the series was with Gregory Barrette. Greg spoke about leaving the old year behind and "Making a New Start" in the new year. Here's what he says about this powerful tool: "The Seven Steps method is the single most effective way I know to forgive and release old, past issues and experiences... to fully let go of all that has happened in the past year and open up to a new experience in 201." Listen to to Greg's interview here.
However you use the Seven Steps process, it will help catapult you into new spiritual understanding in many different situations in life. Try it out, and let me know how it works for you!
No, I’m not talking about soccer. Or rugby. Or quidditch.
I’m talking about those goals you made last month for the new year. How are they going for you?
Committing to a goal is exciting. It brings with it new energy, new hope for happiness, and…change. Uh-oh. There it is. Change. Our commitments require us to change. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t need to commit to something in the first place, would we? We often secretly expect new year magic to come in and make us different so we can have the outcomes of our new year’s goals…which come from the awareness that we need to change. See? Tricky!
Let’s look more closely at what our resolutions really require us to do. Run one of your goals through the following questions to see what you are really committing to:
1. What is my goal? (Keep it simple, realistic and attainable.)
2. What would keep me from achieving this goal?
3. What do I have to give up in order to make this goal happen?
4. What do I have to begin doing in order to make this goal happen?
5. What would support me in achieving this goal?
6. How can I break this goal down into manageable steps?
7. What is a good first step toward this goal?
Knowing what we are in for when committing to anything helps us know how to be prepared and advocate for our success. You are an evolving soul that embraces change. Cooperate with that metamorphosis!
REVAMPED RULES FOR RESOLUTIONS
So we made it to 2013 after all! Maybe you put off your New Year’s resolutions until now so let’s take this time to look at a few rules for your New Year resolutions.
First take out any resolution that begins with "I want a better …" We all want to enjoy where we are no matter what, and if we don't like something, we think we have to jump to something else. So many desires building on each other keep us from listening within to what our soul is trying to tell us. Perhaps we are supposed to stay and learn something from our current job, relationship, house, car, and so forth. How will we know what we are truly supposed to do when we are somewhere already making our exit plan?
Try the good ole standby Serenity Prayer instead: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Now that is a beautiful resolution for 2013!
Next, add meditation to your daily self-care routine. Are you tired of hearing about the importance of meditation? Increasingly, meditation is shown to reduce stress, physical and mental illnesses, and
even increase successful decision-making in daily life. Commit to making the centeredness of your soul as important as the care of your physical body! Ten minutes a day will change you at depth.
Now commit to learning to observe yourself. Hold one part of yourself in a listening and watching position within you, while the other part of you is in "doing" mode. You will be amazed at what you
learn about yourself and how much easier it is to make changes when you discover something you don’t like so well about your own motives. This helps us to be more in tune with our intuition as well,
and who doesn’t want that for their new year?
Finally, resolve to forgive – any time, anywhere, for any reason. Do it just once, and you will discover how much lighter you feel, how much happier you can be! It’s worth the regular maintenance, but
even if you forgive two out of three times, you’ll be lighter when the time comes to release this year and prepare for 2014.
Service to others adds a nice extra credit touch to your list of resolutions. It allows you to share all the good vibes that lift you when you do all of the above actions. There is nothing more fulfilling than
supporting our own soul. Then we have much, much more to give to others.
For 2013, resolve to evolve!
If you’re anything like me, when I set a goal, I mean business—I want the results TODAY!
While some goals can manifest quickly, others take the long road, like an investment. When I put money in stocks, I can’t expect my money to double by the end of the day! I have to have patience, detachment, persistence.
What is a goal you are working toward right now? Losing weight? Saving money for a new car? Forgiving someone in your life? Embracing more positive thoughts throughout your day? Or some other goal that will take more than a few hours, days or even weeks to accomplish?
These long term goals require us to have a long view of our achievement process. We are changing patterns, some of which have been with us for some time, and our progress will naturally look more like a Dow Jones Industrial Average chart, with the characteristic ups and downs. Our objective isn’t to climb with daily perfection, but to trend toward our goal.
We have our great days, when our new outlook seems easy and attainable. We take great strides some days! Other days can leave us feeling like we have taken one step forward and two steps backward. These are the days when we have the opportunity to have compassion on ourselves, strengthen the areas that need more work, and keep our eyes on the bigger goal down the road.
We are always moving forward in consciousness; whether we feel the truth of that or not can vary day to day. Our job is to remember that we are slowly but surely trending toward our good, and that goal will give way to a new good to achieve.
How many of you make New Year’s resolutions each year?
I stopped making them years ago, when I finally felt disempowered enough to end the madness, since I wasn’t following through with them anyway! Daniel Goldstein, a research scientist, says “It’s not that your goals are impossible to reach, but that you lack the self-discipline to stick to them. It is physically possible to lose weight, it is physically possible to exercise more, but resisting temptation is hard.”
He goes on to explain that we have two parts of us, our present self and our future self. Who is in control? Our present self that often wants immediate gratification! So what can we do to defend our future self that wants the positive outcomes of our goals?
The wonderful news is that life is always providing us with opportunities for change right NOW—and in every NOW moment! Instead of imposing behavior alterations on ourselves at the beginning of the year, why not make a commitment to embrace the changes that arise throughout the year?
Often, not exercising is not the problem, but not feeling worthy of this self-care is. Eating too much is not the problem, but that which you are avoiding in consciousness is. Let your commitment for the New Year be, “I embrace the changes I need to make throughout 2012.” Believe me, you will be aware of what those changes are as they arise! And, you will be supported, because embracing change when it comes is participating in the process, instead of controlling how it happens.
Give this new resolution a try for 2012: “I let my resolutions come to me!”
Happy New Year!
Lynn Barrette, LCSW Blending psychology with spirituality, I offer tools for forgiveness, acceptance, meditation and relaxation, and positive parenting solutions.