This is a really good time of the year to think about what you practice on a daily basis. One of the reasons I love mindfulness practice is because it has many benefits – greater presence, less emotional reactivity, increased resilience, and an enhanced ability to make decisions based on lasting values.
A wonderful mindfulness practice is to sit quietly and count your breaths with full attention. “One” on the in breath, “two” on the out breath, “three” on the in breath, “four” on the out breath – and so on up to ten. It is normal for attention to wander and to lose count. When this happens, you simply begin again at one. The reason that I love this practice is because it is a powerful metaphor for living a purposeful life. When we lose track of what we are doing, we can just begin again.
We can begin again with kindness and with gratitude for the opportunity. No big deal, no need to blame anyone or anything – just begin again. This really is a great approach for a lifetime of growth and fulfillment. Set a course, and when you become aware that you have lost focus on what matters, simply begin again with kindness and gratitude.
For the last two months I have been doing treatment for leukemia. Before the chemotherapy began, I had been exercising everyday. I had worked up to a point where I was enjoying a satisfying level of cardiovascular fitness. And then it all stopped – my white and red blood cell level dropped and everything was much more tiring. Walking up a small hill or two flights of stairs left me winded. It has been disheartening.
This is where beginning again with kindness and gratitude can be very useful. I can’t do 25 burpees in a row. How about three burpees to start? Or two? I can be grateful that I have a body that can do one burpee. And I can be kind to myself about starting over. I can be grateful for the amazing care I have received from family, friends, nurses, and doctors.
Maybe I will get back in the shape I was before – I don’t know. I do know that the process starts with one – one breath, one exercise, one expression of gratitude, one act of kindness.
A good life is not the life where we never face challenge and never lose sight of what matters. This life does not exist — it is a fantasy. A good life includes the whole deal – the challenging stuff, the wandering mind, and the beginning again. This is the life I wish for each of us — a peaceful and powerful life filled with moments of awareness, gratitude, joy and kindness.