Here is a lovely blog from Bill Paterson. It’s a final wish for a Happy New Year as the month of January closes and continues our theme about inevitable change, which seems to be quite prevalent at the moment. Enjoy…
New years and new beginnings, eh. Aye well that is the tradition? So maybe you’re setting out to create a new you? A thinner, more attractive, more intelligent, more effective, more efficient, more dynamic and stronger version of yerself? The interesting question is why? I’ll rephrase that, does it come from the criticism that you are always directing at yourself?
Let me explain and see if it resonates with you. Planning for change can be good things when it comes from the right place. Over the years I have noticed how my New Year’s resolution to transformation to a new me is often born out of my habit of self-criticism. From my practice, I know that no good can come out of constantly criticising myself – I am too fat, too short, too grey, old, ugly … etc. A resolution from here actually creates a benchmark to measure how inadequate I am at sticking to a diet, an exercise regime, not ruminating, not losing my temper … etc. Oh, the irony of creating a plan for good only to end up in a circle of self-criticism for not meeting goals. It’s like a plan for self-sabotage.
Self-sabotaging is defined as “Behaviour when it creates problems in daily life and interferes with long-standing goals … acting in a way that proves damaging to his or her own well-being”.
An alternative is appreciating all that is working well right now, and how to act and plan from there. So, I have started this year with the intentions to look after myself, specifically self-care, gratitude and cultivating the good that is present. My motivation is knowing that looking after myself will give me more space and time to see the potential for being more skilful with what arises, and so I can move towards being more present for my family and be of best service to others. An essential part of my self-care strategy is cultivating my mindfulness practice as an antidote to my long-established habits of self-sabotage.
Self-Care can be defined as taking deliberate action to manage your physical, emotional, and relational well-being towards a health and well-being goal/good. It is about self-regulation of the good and difficult bits of yourself. For me this stems from wanting to be my own best friend. Setting a New Year goal from here is more akin to a radical act of love, well it is for me. I liked this quote below and it set me off thinking.
“the old you has survived every terrible day
Every hard thing, every awful circumstance
And every heartbreak you have ever felt.
The old you got you to here and that is worth celebrating”
It inspired me to start with accepting that there are parts of myself that are a cause for celebration and gratitude before starting out on a path of transformation. Indeed, this has been central to my mindfulness and compassion training (Level 1 & Level 2). Rather than meeting myself with self-criticism and self-loathing, mindfulness training encourages me to cultivate a kind and warm attitude towards meet all the different parts of myself. It is the difficult but fruitful path of turning towards my difficulties with kindness. To begin to accept myself as I am, not as I imagine myself. I’ve noticed how I can imagine how the better Bill of the future will be worthy of compassion, but the one here is not. But all I have is the Bill right here in this moment – and he needs my warmth and compassion.
What does this look like? At the moment self-care comes down to cultivating and cherishing my daily practice (including yoga, movement and meditation) and making plans to practice as a collective – weekly sits, M4L monthly meets, CPD weekends and retreats. I know making the effort to attend always bolsters my motivation to practice. It helps me to feel more spacious and connected.
I have really experienced the importance to exhale and to let go of all the tension and tightness my body has accumulated. I’m getting a lot from the Compassionate Body Scan or Soften, Soothe and Allow to invite my body to let go of all the fight, flight and freezing it has sought to survive over the days, weeks and years. Practicing a little gratitude and taking in the good is a wonderful way to brighten these dark days and nights.
I’m also reading Mindfulness to Insight with a group of friends. We completed Insight Training (level 3) a few years ago, so reading chapters and practicing at home has been inspiring. We are planning to meet up, talk about the chapters and to have a day of practice together. Currently, we are exploring settling the mind, resting in the space and noticing the undercurrent and all the attitudes, assumptions, expectations and preferences that are projected onto it. It has been fascinating trying not to try so as to witness the Egocentric Preference System (EPS). For me all my self-care extents out from these practices because it enables me to work more skilfully with my thoughts, emotions and sensations. It means I can act and plan for the year from a place of loving kindness – trying to be my own best friend. In doing so, I’m hoping it will create less suffering for myself, my family, my friends and all other beings.
In contrast self-sabotage normally comes from believing I am my thoughts, emotions and sensations. When I do, I can feel my whole being contract and tighten around these. I get caught in believing that they are real solid things – including my sense of self – and this so limiting. It causes of lot suffering. How we come to have this sense of a solid permanent self, how it creates suffering and how we might start to work with it is the topic of Chapter 5 of Mindfulness to Insight. It makes for compelling reading. I’ll not give any spoilers but suffice to say that alleviating suffering is in there. Similarly, I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the year develops – not knowing and trusting in the practices.
My invitation for 2020 to you is to practice some self-care without spiralling into self-sabotage.