If New Year’s resolutions are notorious for one thing, it’s that they’re easy to break. Our resolve to eat healthier, fit in more exercise, lose weight etc. gets tossed to the curb when the holidays end and we return to work and normal life resumes and stress shows up in our lives. And often by the time February rolls around (or maybe even sooner), we scratch our heads wondering how we’ve managed to slip back into our old habits.
Breaking habits is not easy because, by their nature, they are ingrained in us and have become automatic reflexes. It’s easy to mindlessly snack when we’re bored, or watch TV after dinner rather than go for a walk, if that‘s what we’ve been doing for years.
One of the keys to ending unhealthy habits is developing mindfulness or presence moment awareness. Being mindful simply means being fully aware of what is happening at this very moment. And one of the ways of developing, nurturing and maintaining this awareness is through meditation.
In practical terms, meditation simply involves sitting quietly and focusing the mind on one thing — often the feel or sound of one’s breath. Then, as thoughts enter the mind, we simply take note of the thoughts, not having to react to them and gently return the focus to our breath.
It is a simple and powerful technique.
When practised regularly, people report that meditation does more than just relax them during the meditation itself; over time, they begin transferring the technique of “quieting the mind” into their thought processes throughout the day, resulting in less stress and anxiety overall.
If you take a step back, and take note of what’s running through your mind, most of the time is spent worrying about the future or the past, or wanting something or judging something. We’re not really awake to the moments of our life. We’re just getting ready for the next thing. Instead of enjoying what we’re eating, for example, we’re thinking about what we’re going to do after we eat. So we miss a lot.
By becoming aware of this moment right now, it gives our minds a chance to take a break and reset. Similar to when we de-frag our computer or tune an instrument – it just kind of settles us back to something that is more real.
Meditation teaches us not to react to thoughts that enter the mind during a meditation. When thoughts begin to creep in and distract, instead of getting irritated, we simply notice the thoughts, and go back to the breath. With enough practice, this ability not to judge or react to intruding thoughts becomes a habit in itself.
Meditation helps to shift habits because what you’re learning during meditation is the ability to notice a thought, sensation or a desire, and to just sit with those sensations without reacting to them. If you just sit with the sensations long enough, they will pass.
Meditation also helps when we fall off the resolution wagon by reminding us not to beat ourselves up over our misstep and by renewing the resolve to try again. A key principle of meditation is acceptance. When the mind wanders during a meditation (as it inevitably will), we accept that it will – after all, it’s just what the mind does – and come back to our breath.
Instead of judging and berating ourselves, we simply bring ourselves back to the present moment. The same is true with making goals for change. Instead of running the usual judging story of: “Oh God, here I go again, failing at this”, you can say: “Ok, I’ve kind of lost my way with my goal. But I can just begin again”.
With a regular meditation practice, and as mindfulness becomes embedded as a habit, what you’ll find is you get is more time. If you’re truly awake and present moment to moment, you get to have and enjoy each moment of your life instead of missing most of them. It’s about waking up to your life.
There’s no better time to try meditation. At the YogaBar, we have made meditation easy for you. A drop in 30 minute guided meditation class for you to relax and recharge over lunchtime. You don’t even have to change into workout gear. Get on the mat, flow with the gentle cues provided by our teacher and start diving into deep relaxation.
Blog post courtesy of Kimberley Chan www.kimberleychanmeditation.com.au