In our busy lives, especially in the final weeks of 2017, where we are focused on finishing our work schedules and preparing for the festivities ahead, it can feel like a struggle to find the space to breathe.
Slowing down and acknowledging what is present is not a luxury: it has been shown time and time again to be an important strategy for developing our personal wellbeing and helping us choose to live our lives more consciously. As Mark Williams says, “Now is the future that you promised yourself last year, last month, last week. Now is the only moment you’ll ever really have.”
This time of year and the season of winter symbolically provide us with an opportunity to take an important pause, a time for personal contemplation and reflection, a chance to go within and dwell in some silent introspection. An opportunity to honour what has been and is ending and connect to the hope and renewal of what is to come in the New Year.
Why is this important? By deciding to take some time for personal reflection on 2017, we are consciously choosing to acknowledge who we have become and are right now (not whom we would like to be or were). This is an important process for us if we are to continue to develop the critical characteristics of authenticity and self-regard.
Underpinning both of these attributes is self-acceptance, accepting who we are and where we are in our lives (without judgement) and our strengths and areas of growth (the light and the shadow) as this is all of whom we really are.
Our fast lives and focus on achievement prevent many of us appreciating what has been achieved and created over the past 12 months; our development edges prevent us from accepting where we are. I always remember some advice a dear friend once gave to me: “you need to realise there is perfection in imperfection.”
At this time of year, we tend to set professional and personal goals for the coming year and whilst this has benefits in terms of generating focus and energy, it also keeps us in the grip of striving to become a future and better version of ourselves – rather then acknowledging and appreciating the person we are right now.
“The renowned seventh-century Zen master Seng-tsan taught that true freedom is being “without anxiety about imperfection.”
— Tara Brach
So to help you with your personal reflection on 2017, I would like to offer you a reflective exercise. This combines a mindfulness practice with some reflective questions and journaling. You will need approximately 45 minutes to complete this – choose a time where you will not be interrupted.
To perform the exercise, you will need
- To download or stream the recorded guidance
- A pen and paper.
I really hope you can make the time for this exercise, as my clients have found it to be an energising and insightful process.
Building on your reflections and to help deepen these further, I would like to share with you a poignant poem by Nadine Stair. This is a piece that I sometimes read at the end of a mindfulness programme as for me it brings to our consciousness the importance of living right here and right now. This is not a dress rehearsal, this is it, and this is our only chance! So as you read ‘If I had to live my life over,’ reflect further upon how you choose to live right now.
If I had my life to live over,
I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax, I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles,
But I’d Have fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I am one of those people who has lived sensibly and sanely,
Hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again,
I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else.
One after another,
Instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those people who never goes anywhere
Without a thermometer, a hot water bottle,
A raincoat and a parachute.
If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.
If I had my life to live over,
I would start bare foot earlier in the spring
And stay that way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.
I look forward to connecting with you soon, and Vanessa and I wish you a very happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2018.
Wherever you go, be there!