Designated as our chance at new beginnings, Jan. 1 invites a fresh start, a time to release worn out patterns and commit to shaping our lives with bright intentions. But life itself is a fluttering series of Jan. 1s. Consider that this moment, right now, has never been experienced before and will never be experienced again. It can't get newer than that. In fact there are no "moments" other than the ones bracketed by our thoughts, only the flow of experience. This is not philosophy, but rather a description of the very nature of life and our ever-evolving place as an intimate part of its whole. When we are present to the perennial now with fresh curiosity and fewer preconceived notions, we get to participate with deeper awareness in the dazzling river of our life's sufferings and delights: the welcoming scent of dark coffee, fingers stiff and brittle in winter, the geese aiming for home, the heartache of a life cut short by an unfathomable accident, blossoming trust in a friendship, the sour taste of soup that outlived its time in the fridge, a bone-deep sigh as shoes get pulled off after a long day.
As with each 10-minute meditation in the series, you are invited to bring your body/heart/soul into this practice to become more aware of, and release anything, that blocks your way to experiencing more fully the ever-emerging you in our one ever-emerging life.
Body Wise -- Shake It Up Baby, Now
Have you ever seen a dog shake itself dry after jumping into a lake or the ocean? They start a small vibration that shakes the water off their noses and then rolls to their necks, shoulders, along their torsos until they whip the last drops off the tips their tails. Start in a standing position and begin a gentle shaking motion in your head, as though you were flicking water off your hair. Always respect the limits of your physical comfort, progressing with the level of vigor that is right for you today. Let the shaking travel into your shoulders and down your arms until you are shaking both hands. Now shimmy your torso, then hips, until the shaking travels down both legs to the tips of your toes. Pick up one foot and then the other, keeping your ankles as relaxed as possible as you shake them out. Have fun with it, and continue the head-to-toe progression several times at different speeds for about two minutes. Imagine yourself flicking off tension, worries, and anything that doesn't serve you in this moment. Then stand quietly for about 30 seconds, being present to sensations of vibration and flow, even in stillness.
Heart Wise -- Who Are You Now?
To become more fully who we are, we need to sort through the beliefs about ourselves and life, releasing distorted ones that have been installed though family, culture and difficult experiences. Meister Eckhart, the German theologian, wrote, "The spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition." I would include that a fulfilling life, a psychologically healthy life, follows the same premise. We are born whole and brimming with potential, and it's vital to our wellbeing to "subtract" warped filters that accumulate over time for our unique presence to be available to ourselves and others.
When a non-truth or partial truth lodges in us, it blinds us to seeing what other facets comprise a more complete picture. Common examples are: "I'm not smart enough," "Real men don't cry," "I always get the short end of the stick," "It's better to be seen than heard," "I'm too tall," "I'm too short," "The world is a dangerous place -- don't trust anyone," "Money will solve your problems," "Money is the root of evil." What lenses are in front of your eyes?
Quickly write down a belief about yourself or life that has its origin in your childhood. Don't think too much about it; just go with your initial impression. Now take three minutes to inquire more deeply into your statement. Ask yourself whether you can know with certainty that the belief is true. Can you be sure it is a flaw, or a mandate, to living a peace-filled and joyful life? Most beliefs have much more flexibility than we initially perceive. If you recognize that there is room for a more accurate and useful perspective, write out the modified one and put it in several places around your home where it can be a touchstone for you.
Soul Wise -- A Blessing For The Journey
When days rush past in a blur,
may you pause to receive the simple gifts that life generously offers.
When you are overwhelmed,
may you rest in the gentleness of your own heart.
When you are feeling hopeless,
may your imagination hold a torch to unseen possibilities.
When your mind is drowning in details,
may spaciousness arise, connecting you to the sacred mystery that you are.
When you are exhausted,
may you be refreshed by vibrant life forces always present within and around you.
When you are overcome with grief,
may precious tears bathe your heart with salty buoyancy and comfort.
When the world brushes you with harshness,
may you realize that we're all works in progress, and life itself is a learning curve.
When nothing seems to be going your way,
may you make room for the unknown, finding patience with your unfolding life.
When you are disheartened by the suffering in the world,
may you find the courage and strength to stand for what you know is good.
When you believe that you are not good enough,
may you discover your inherent value and place in the family of all things.
May you receive earth's bounty to nourish your body,
kindness to nourish your heart;
wisdom to nourish your mind,
and wonder to nourish your soul.
There is always an open door to reinventing yourself. If we move with the events of life, holding onto our memories but letting go of the past, and plan for the future but meet openly whatever arises, we discover that our life is more vibrant and free than anything we imagined.
Leslie Davenport is the author of the classic book on self-healing "Healing and Transformation Through Self-Guided Imagery." A pioneer in the health care revolution that recognizes psychospiritual dimensions as an integral part of health, she is a founding member of the Institute for Health & Healing at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, serves on the faculty of John F. Kennedy University and is a clinical supervisor with the California Institute of Integral Studies. Visit Leslie on Red Room, where you can buy her books.