At the end of 2007 I was feeling pretty miserable. I had a list of complaints including rejection, unfulfilled ambition and uncertainty about the future. Regardless I found myself on a last minute getaway over New Year’s with a good friend, eager to have some end of year reflection. As NYE approached I found myself considering the nature of resolutions.
As I thought about things I wanted to change I began to feel that perhaps New Year’s resolutions were not that great and were actually a means of confirming the list of insecurities I was carrying around. Why was I easy to reject? Was I getting too fat? Should exercise more, eat less, be more outgoing, less unconventional? And on it went ad nauseam. Not only would my resolutions confirm everything that was ‘wrong’ with me, but when I inevitably failed to live up to these changes I’d also be able to ad that failure to the list of inadequacies. Not great for self-esteem.
Rather than challenge myself with resolutions reliant on my will power and based on subjective imperfections I decided to take on a New Year’s evolution instead. I wanted to change the way I saw myself and the world in a way that might be more productive and positive. We are, after all, a species that can adapt and change. But where do you start when it comes to evolving?
When I thought about it, all I had that I could control were the means with which I perceived the world. The five senses, and of course my human brain.
I later discovered this was called a mindful practice and it completely transformed my life. Over the following months I found joy in the smallest of moments by focusing on my different senses throughout the day. I’d take walks and alternate my focus, even situations that previously felt boring had elements I could uncover. Eventually my despair evaporated. When I added meditation a few years later things got even better.
A number of years later, however, and I’m ready to do it again. Over the last few months I’ve allowed the screaming demands of life to erode my regular practices. While I feel fundamentally happy, old patterns of frustration have re-emerged and I don’t want to be subject to them.
Here is what I said to myself in 2007 and what I’m saying to myself again today:
Look at the world in ways you don’t normally see it. Take time to examine objects in your every day life that you’ve seen thousands of times, but really examine their structure and construction. Don’t just look for the beauty in things, look past your initial observation and deconstruct your automatic responses.
When you wake in the morning listen for sounds in your environment you may have previously heard but not acknowledged. Quiet moments are not always made from the absence of sound. There may be things in your environment that you are hearing but not consciously perceiving.
Savour not only the foods you enjoy but examine what it is about things that initially disagree with your pallet. Food is not all you can taste. Examine what properties make things taste good to you.
Breathe in the aromas of your world. They are abundant, pungent, delicate and multi layered. Detect the layers, ad fragrance to your environment. Walk through the various environments in which you live and acknowledge the delightful and the not so delightful odours that waft in and out around you.
Touch everything you can. Caress surfaces, feel textures, enjoy skin, bristles, clothes, bench tops, steering wheels, food, soapy water. Remember your entire body can perceive touch. Exploit it.