January, A month to Reflect
“Hello, Silence My Old Friend. I’ve Come to Talk to You Again”
Paul Simon 1964
Well by the time you read this, Christmas 2019 has well ended. It is a time to reflect on the previous year.
Some will have lost loved ones, their health, their job, their relationship. For others, it will have been about growth, stretching themselves, writing their first book!
Whatever the circumstances, it is good to take time out to see where your life is heading in 2020. In order to do this, you may need to go to a place of silence where you have peace to reflect and digest and plan for the year ahead. “Taking a breath”, so to speak.
I begin every year, not so much with New Year resolutions which I invariably break, but by choosing a project which will stretch me. Learning something new, or by writing and sharing something which will help someone along the way. Just one starfish!
My passion for writing started with my mum’s death nearly two years ago in February and has gained momentum. I made the decision to turn her death into an opportunity for growth whilst forging through the sadness. So aside from dedicating my first book to her, I learnt a lot about myself in the process. But in order to do this, I needed time out to go to that place of quiet. I metaphorically pulled the duvet around me and went on a journey of soul searching. I am still a work in progress but at least I have moved forward.
- I can’t solve everybody else’s problems, but I can hold a safe space for them by listening from the heart. Listening to the base line.
- I won’t be liked by everybody, no matter how I try.
- I can’t change the past – just my attitude to it.
- I don’t have to answer every electronic communication straight away, if at all.
- Even if I fail at something, that won’t stop my trying.
- If something seems daunting, I will give it a go. What do I have to lose?
- I am the best version of myself and that’s good enough. Comparisons seldom, if ever work.
- It’s OK to say no without giving an explanation.
- There are certain things I can’t physically do anymore and that’s cool. I will do the things I can.
- If I need to safeguard my energy, then I will.
- I will live more in the present. It is after all the only thing of which I can be certain.
- It’s not important for me to shine my light all the time. If I can help others move into the spotlight, then that’s rather special.
- Who is my horizon? Who keeps me moving forward? These are the special people who nudge me when I get stuck. They have my back. I treasure them.
- Hold on tightly but let go lightly. The latter may require change and a re-evaluation of values and long held beliefs. This can take time. Be gentle with yourself.
And the list goes on……
Ever tried making a list like this? Ever had the space to do it?
Let’s start with ideas on stilling the mind (Taken from my book ‘Another Zero’, 2018, Ch 6)
Tips to help you still the mind
- Seek out a place where you feel totally relaxed, safe and peaceful. This can be a real place, or it can be a place in your imagination, whether from the past, or present.
- Don’t try to stop intrusive thoughts; but rather note them and let them pass through, unhindered and without judgement.
- Try staying in the present moment; when your mind wanders, guide it gently back to the present moment in time.
- Strangely enough, when your mind gets too busy, you may want to take a walk outside in the fresh air, to change the scene and interrupt your cycle of thoughts. Sometimes, if we sit focussing on an anxious thought, for too long, we start snowballing; that is to say, we start to think of other problems we may have, either in the future, or those of the past. If we can break the cycle, then so much the better.
- Listen to calming music. There is plenty to choose from out there.
- If you are in a place with too much noise and activity; if it is possible, remove yourself from the situation. If not, use earphones.
- Smile from your heart; loosen the muscles around your mouth and jaw; allow your face to smile softly.
- Familiarize yourself with various breathing techniques. One technique I use with my clients, is the Buteyko method. This is so powerful, and it is worth checking out on the web.
- Pick a time out of your busy day to meditate. This may seem an impossible task, but it is more accessible than you think. Here is a quick exercise from Dr Herbert Benson, (a Boston physician, and researcher) to practise getting into the zone. A good exercise for those who are impatient to get things done quickly.
Extremely Relaxed Extremely Anxious
N.B. Before beginning this exercise, make a mental note as to where you are on the scale above.
- Sit in a relaxed position and allow your eyes to close softly.
- Breathe out slowly through your nose.
- Focus your attention on your breathing.
- Silently say the word ‘relax’ (or a word which resonates with you) each time you exhale.
- After 5 minutes, open your eyes and note where you are now on the scale above.
You probably do some of these things already, but even if you try just one of them, then silence/stillness will become an old trusted friend whose company you seek out regularly.
With practice (typically 30 days) it will become a habit and will have huge benefits for your mental health.
Happy New Year fellow authors and friends.