“Each day should be devoted to miracles. The purpose of time is to enable man to learn to use it constructively.”
A Course in Miracles
It’s the very first day of 2016. We, collectively as human beings on earth, are about to take another trip round the sun. How immensely exciting is that?
What an amazing opportunity we have to make something of our lives and change ourselves and this world for the better, if we can only learn how to harness each day constructively.
It’s also scary, right? Because another year has come to an end and we aren’t perfect yet!
Of course we never will be. In fact, most of our problems come from this constant striving to perfect ourselves and achieve goals that will have no real impact on our well-being once we achieve them.
Instead we need to accept ourselves as we are, and celebrate the small things we can do each day, starting now – not at some future date when all the planets align perfectly.
So give yourself hearty congratulations for any positive progress you have made in the last twelve months – no matter how small.
“A tree that fills a man’s embrace grows from a seedling.
a tower nine stories high starts with one brick.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
The truth is – we can only make progress in small steps. I’ve learnt that far and away the best way to create lasting change is to establish daily practices in your life.
Rituals that we repeat consistently will eventually become second nature and allow us to create real, lasting change from within. A little effort each day can make progress feel almost effortless over the long-term.
Is it selfish to focus on self-care? Well, if we have the capacity to focus on helping others through our work each day, that’s fantastic. Often though, we have to nourish ourselves first, or we risk burning out or even making things worse for others – despite our best intentions.
Last year I practiced mindfulness meditation daily. I made a gratitude list daily. I begun practicing chi gong, tai chi and yoga regularly – and this year I hope to move these things towards being a daily practice too.
This has all massively helped to improve my mental and physical health. My life continues to be difficult, and troublesome. I continue to be deeply flawed – to procrastinate, overeat and watch too much TV, and take on too many projects. But I have found more peace, and strength within myself -and that feels like real progress! Hopefully now I can begin to improve some of the other areas of my life too.
If I have one wish for you, and myself at the beginning of this new year, it is that we can learn to use time constructively. To harness each day and make small steps towards more happiness for ourselves and those around us.
“Success is a social activity.”
My tip is: don’t rely on willpower to establish a daily practice. Find a teacher who can guide you on the way and provide you with a realistic plan of action based on their experience. Make a commitment to follow that plan as best you can.
If just the thought of this makes your stomach and chest tighten with feelings of overwhelm and panic, then you probably need to let go of some things and create the space to take on something new. Maybe now isn’t the time – that’s ok. Have a think though – what could you let go of that might enable you to take better care of yourself by establishing a positive daily practice?
I’ll leave you with a thought-provoking poem:
I want to know what you ache for,
And if you dare to dream of meeting
Your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
For love, for your dream,
For the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
If you have been opened by life’s betrayals,
Or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain,
Mine or your own,
To hide it or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy,
Mine or your own,
If you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
Without cautioning us to be careful, realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself,
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
I want to know if you can be faithless and therefore be trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty
Even when it is not pretty every day,
And if you can source your own life
From its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure,
Yours and mine,
And still stand on the edge of a lake and shout to the silver of the full moon,
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
Weary and bruised to the bone,
And do what needs to be done for the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you are, how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
In the center of the fire with me
And not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
From the inside
When all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone With yourself, And if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer