As a new year begins, we are drawn to the idea of change - changing ourselves, our appearance, our behavior, our thoughts, our situation, our lives. For many of us, there is a tendency to think BIG, which is not a bad thing, but can, sometimes, be self-defeating. We want big results, and we want them fast. We're not always so interested in taking small steps, or in taking things one step at a time. But the reality is that creating long-term, sustainable change in any aspect of our lives is dependent on understanding that reaching a "finish line" is the result of taking many small steps.
"...the best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment." In yoga, mindfulness practice is a path to making change one small step at a time. This is the practice of learning to connect to the present moment, to being aware of what is right here with us, now, not what was in the past or may be in the future. The practice is simple, but not easy: we find a quiet spot, come to sit in stillness and focus our awareness on one thing - the breath, a word, a phrase, an image.
"...if you can take one mindful step, you can take another and another." If the goal is to run a triathalon and you are terribly out of shape, your first step is unlikely to be signing up to run a marathon next week! Rather, that first step might be as small and simple as today I will take a walk. If your goal is to meditate an hour a day, and you don't have much experience with it, or haven't had much success with it before, it is self-defeating to try to sit quietly for an hour on the first day. Or even a half hour. Even fifteen minutes may be too long. Try five, and if five is easy try ten the next day. You may find ten is too long. Go back to five. Let it be okay at first to take just one step.
- Find a quiet spot with few distractions.
- Set up a comfortable seat - a chair, or a stack of blankets on the floor.
- If sitting on the floor, you might sit with your back at the wall for support.
- Make sure that you feel connected to your seat and that you are sitting upright and not in a slouched position.
- Set a timer for five minutes.
- Close your eyes and feel your breath.
- Try to keep your awareness with your breath.
- When your mind wanders - which it will! - just come back to your breath.
- Try to stay with each breath, one breath followed by the next. Nothing more.
- There is no failure, nothing is ruined if your mind is busy and wanders a lot.
- This is the practice - to keep the attention focused, and when it drifts, come back and begin again.