Mindfulness is being in the present moment in an open and friendly way. It's both mind-training and heart-training.You can start right where you are.
I have a new relationship with the grocery store. Woodman’s is now a place to intentionally practice; to be aware, mindful, and kind. If you’re unfamiliar with Woodman’s, it’s a huge supermarket with towering, crammed aisles and little open space. Navigating a cart isn’t easy. This situation used to annoy me, but now I enter Woodman’s prepared to slow down.
I came to meditation, 16 years ago, out of necessity. I was working 70-hour weeks, achieving and striving, yet still worrying and planning. It was a cycle of “finish this project, get this promotion, or write this paper, and then you can relax,” but the “then” never came.
Emotions and needs are connected. When our needs are met, we experience pleasant feelings; when our needs are not met, we experience unpleasant feelings. This doesn’t mean we should expect our needs to always be met. But it does give us more awareness, so we’re able to regulate emotions in new ways.
I’ve been reading the great speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m moved by his words and his work. And I’m struck by how relevant his message is in today’s world. The injustice he met with love and “soul force” is still widespread.
When we reflect on our day, it’s often negative events that stick in our minds—the undone tasks, mistakes, or criticisms—because the human brain has a negativity bias. When I first heard this, I felt relief: Phew, it’s not just me! A negativity bias is baked into us through evolution.
I’m humbled when I volunteer in prison. On Sunday, I felt beleaguered: too much to do, not enough time. Essentially, the “me” channel was loud and voracious. I was a big deal in my mind (though not a big deal in the world). I’d lost touch with gratitude and perspective.
Often, a new year brings resolutions. Yet meaningful change rarely comes from rigid rules. There’s no requirement to enter 2019 with a self-improvement list. Interestingly, when we accept ourselves just as we are, we’re able to make important changes. And these changes must come from within.
Winter Solstice is a natural time for contemplation and reflection. It’s a more powerful transition than the flip of the calendar year. For months, the days become shorter. Darkness descends as an invitation to rest and nourish. The primal parts of us lean into hibernation. We stock our pantries, make soup, wrap in blankets, and get more sleep. We slow the pace and turn inward.
As many of you know, I volunteer 10 hours a week in prison, teaching meditation and mindfulness; bearing witness to deep suffering and powerful insight; widening my circle of compassion and understanding.
We play many roles in our lives. These roles and identities affect us in deep ways. Some nourish and fulfill, others drain and frustrate, and some feel neutral. It's helpful to understand the wide variety of roles we play and their impact on our physical, mental, and emotional life.