For many, myself included, the start of a new year is associated with making a resolution; a firm decision to do, or not do, something throughout the upcoming year. Some people want to lose weight, others want to save money, or perhaps, spend less time working and more time with family and friends. Whatever it is, all of us have things in our life that can lead to us feeling dissatisfied. Even when life is great, our brains often have a way of reminding us of that one little thing that could be even better. The start of a new year brings about a certain amount of pressure to commit to a change. For many, coming up with, and committing to, a resolution can be a worrisome thing. Change is hard, life happens, and the calendar fills up. Before you know it, your resolution is the furthest thing from your mind. Thinking about what change to make may cause someone to reflect back on the past year and decide what went “wrong”. In other words, what could they have done differently to be happier with where they are now. Alternatively, others may look ahead to the future and think about all the “what if this” and “maybe that”, which can lead to anxiety about things that have not happened and may never happen! This year instead of committing to a resolution, what if instead we were to commit to a way of thinking; a new way of how we approach the world that can lead us to no longer dread change or fear the unknown, but accept and embrace it. This way of thinking is called mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the process of bringing your thoughts and attentions to the experiences happening in the present moment. The idea and practice of being mindful, fully in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and actions in the moment, can be found throughout religion and therapeutic techniques. Thousands of years ago, God encouraged his followers to embrace the idea of living in the moment. In Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (NIV)- This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart. What he is saying here is that God wants us to take care of ourselves, to have a good time, and to enjoy whatever job we may have. God has given us the gift of enjoying the things we have this very moment.
Further, Isaiah instructs us to move on from the past because God is making a new way. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV). By dwelling on our past shortcomings, we are separating ourselves from the work that God is doing in our lives. Where the uncertainty about our health, our career, or our family looks to us like we are stuck in the wilderness, God is at work making a way through for us.
By being mindful in your everyday life, you are able to truly be open to, and appreciate, what God has given you. Fully seeing, understanding, and experiencing our feelings, thoughts, and beliefs in the present gives us the freedom to accept everything, without having to attach a judgment to it. Mindful prayer allows us to tune out the world around us, build a close, meaningful relationship with God, and experience what it is that He is doing in our lives. It gives us the clarity to decide what steps we can take to begin experiencing more happiness, enjoyment, and triumph in the year ahead. My hope for all of us is that in 2018 we can explore what it is to live in the moment during our time with the people around us, our time with God, and our time with ourselves.
Interested in learning more about mindfulness and how you can incorporate it into your day? Check out this TED talk: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzR62JJCMBQ
Chris Williams, LCSW