As the dust and soot settles from gentle rains and the holidays slowly pass, a return to routine filled with aspirations can seep back into our days.
My inbox is full of last minute invitations to "transform this" and "fix that". To take advantage of "great deals" and "last minute" sales. While all these offers may be excellent opportunities, for some reason, they seem overwhelming this year.
So, this new year, I'm inviting my clients, students and friends to:
Drop all concern with the things you are not (or don't have).
It's not only a good practice that helps rewire the negativity bias in the brain, but it is now part of the training I'm using with my new canine companion, Greta. I'm invited to praise only that behavior I want to see and refrain from negative attention to the behavior I don't want.
Meet Greta. It was almost 3 years to the day of Shylila's passing that we rescued Greta from a Southern California shelter. It's been a huge change full of adjustments, but, as you'll read, she's worth it.
Greta was highly submissive and extremely underweight. She's been a mommy, but now gets to spend time taking good care of herself through healthful eating and lots of exercise. She meets humans easily, will give you her belly in a heartbeat, and enjoys a good soup bone. She immediately laid beside me the first meditation and continues to do so each time. She has some separation anxiety and doggy socialization issues that we're slowly working on, but she's a keeper!
This is the stance I'm taking with myself, too. Regardless of my issues, I'm a keeper. I've gained weight over the past year. (I actually weigh more now than I ever have in my life!) But, on New Year's day, when I heard myself apologizing for my body to Jim, it stopped me in my tracks. Really?!
Oh, I can point to an unhealthy eating pattern that has crept into my life recently and the change of lifestyle brought on by moving to my home on Cobb, or the hormonal changes that occur for a woman of 50+, and the additional reaction from the #ValleyFire, but the reality is, no matter how much I (or anyone else, for that matter) do in the way of healthy living--eating well, healthful exercise (I practice yoga, run and hike), practice meditation, etc., I will continue to experience difficulties--whether it's with my body aging, illness or myriad other ways that life can be.
So, waiting to appreciate myself and my life until I've reached this ideal weight (or, with Greta, until she is okay to be left at home and meets other dogs appropriately) is a waste of precious time.
Then and there, I vowed to stop apologizing for myself and focus and appreciate those things that I do bring to my relationship with Jim--in other words, as Dr. Rick Hanson says, "It's good to grow the good." So, with Greta's training, I praise that which I like to see and, while I say no or ignore those I don't want to see, I don't fill her with negative or shaming reprisals, just a gentle course correction.
For myself, I may never return to my ideal weight, for myriad reasons. I could spend my days lamenting and striving--waiting for a perfect weight to return before I can enjoy myself and my body, or I can accept myself as I am, appreciate who that is and continue to aspire with intention (vs. expectation) to live the healthiest life I can.
If this were denial, I either wouldn't be acknowledging I'm not my ideal weight, not willing to look in a mirror or refuse to believe that I have an issue with my diet and eating. But I do, and I have tools I use to help me through.
This is an example of the nature of life. Things happen that we don't like. This is one of the foundational discoveries from a practice of mindfulness. We see, without judgment, this very fact of life. It is also the very reason we bring an attitude of compassion to our practice, ourselves and our lives, because no one is immune to this. We all have contact with pleasant, unpleasant and neutral experiences.
So rather than promise you the world, unfailing health or forever-lasting ecstatic existence, I prefer to work in the world of what is real or true (in Pali, the language native to the Indian subcontinent and the one of the Buddha, the term is sacca, which is interesting, given my last name).
The Compassion-based Mindfulness courses teach not only how to more fully experience the truth of our existence, but how to skillfully and compassionately meet it and live more fully in response, rather than blind reaction. It's a practice of acceptance, attention and intention. It's a practice of compassion.
JoAnn Saccato, MA is a mindfulness teacher, author, life coach, educator, and consultant in Northern California. She is author of Companioning the Sacred Journey and the forthcoming Mindful and Intentional Living: A Path to Peace, Clarity and Freedom