I read an article some time ago (2 years, maybe?) about a study on how humans reflect on our lives. (I can't recall where I saw this, so if you know what I'm talking about, please send me a link!) Basically, the study concluded that people tend to reflect on their own current or most recent period (I believe in this particular study, that was about 1-3 years) as the most difficult or stressful time of their lives. I remember feeling simultaneously saddened and hopeful after reading this article: sad because the study suggests that we (adult “Westernized” humans) have a tendency to focus more heavily on the negative aspects of our memories, but hopeful because it also suggests that this is more a product of faulty thinking than an actual pattern.
When any pain is still relatively new, it tends to feel disproportionately deeper. (Think about how often we complain, "This is the worst!") Breakups can feel excruciatingly painful when they're recent, but years later, we might laugh about how things ended, noticing the humour and beauty in everything when our perspective isn't so clouded by pain. (I realise there are some losses that are deeply painful and I don’t mean to minimize that here.) I lost my job around this time last year, and although it felt awful while I was going through it, I was eventually able to see it as the best thing to have happened to me in a long time; it was the last push I needed to fully invest myself in Sarasponda Yoga. I resolved to put my best effort forth in developing my private yoga business and I was able to meet my goal of being fully booked within 6 months. In the beginning especially, I spent a lot of time reading, writing, sequencing, meditating, practicing yoga, working through injuries, completing additional yoga training courses, and looking for a community. As always, there were bumps along the way: a few fairly serious ones but most very minor.
Overall, I had a great year. I don’t write this to be condescending, insensitive, or rude, so please forgive me if it comes across that way to you. I’m telling you my own most recent story to remind you that life isn't linear and organized for most of us, and it often doesn't care about our plans; we all have ups and downs to maintain the natural balance of our lives. I definitely would have told you that 2013 and 2014 (and probably most of 2015, to be honest...) were "the worst" years of my life (and I probably did tell some of you that!). Looking back on them now, I'm still not laughing about any of it; however, I can certainly see the value of the lessons I learned during my most difficult times. If this past year felt terrible for you, I urge you to find a little hope and just resolve to move on from here.
Whether 2016 was amazing for you, or the worst that you can remember (or anywhere in between), now is a really good time to reflect on the past year. This shouldn’t feel self-critical, judgemental, or even overly analytical; instead, take a moment to identify the things you would like to change in your life, as objectively as possible. If you’re holding on to deep emotions that are no longer serving you, now is an opportunity to try to let them go. Reflect on the things that made you feel good about yourself, hopeful, inspired, loved, purposeful, and set the intention to cultivate more positivity in the coming year.
Try this healing and clarifying meditation before the New Year:
Find a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably, using pillows, props or furniture as needed. Sit down and bring your legs into a comfortable position. Draw your belly button toward your spine to support your upper body with your core. Rest your hands on your knees and relax your shoulders. Close your eyes and relax your face, including your jaw. Start with natural breathing, in and out through your nose, being mindful to take deep breaths from the belly. Without thinking too hard, imagine yourself “taking in” the qualities you feel you need right now on the INHALE (love, forgiveness, courage, determination, etc). ~Like your yoga and other breathing practices, this meditation should be unique to you, so be open to what your heart is telling you to seek. ~ Repeat a similar process on the EXHALE breath, this time “letting go” of anything that is no longer serving you (fear, anger, resentment, jealousy, etc). Maybe you repeat only word in your mind, or perhaps there are a few things you’d like to focus on; as long as it feels authentic to you, you’re doing it right. Repeat this process for 10 breath cycles (inhale and exhale), then attempt to empty your mind and focus only on your breath for a few minutes. Close your meditation by setting intentions for the year to come. These can be as specific as you’d like, or as general as “be kinder to myself.” (Which I personally believe is a fantastic intention for everyone to adopt!)
If it feels helpful, make a list so that you can stay focused on your intentions, resolutions, or goals for the coming year. This is another opportunity to “start over”, so to speak; you can decide what sort of life you’d like to create from here on out.
I wish you all the utmost joy, love, and happiness in 2017. Happy New Year, yogis!