It’s that time of year again, where we contemplate major changes in our life. As the calendar refreshes to a new year, we too yearn to hit refresh on ourselves, setting resolutions that we will finally (finally!) implement from now on. It might be physical (such as exercising more or losing weight), emotional (such as being kinder to certain people or connecting more with loved ones), or mental (such as getting more organized or focused at work). No matter what your resolution may be, I have a sinking suspicion that meditation will support it.
What Is Meditation?
In its simplest definition, meditation is a way to become familiar with all of who you are. You begin to see the wonderful and inspiring aspects of yourself, as well as the many ways you get stuck and spin out in habitual, not-so-helpful ways.
The type of meditation I often teach is called shamatha, or calm-abiding meditation. It’s a mindfulness technique where we keep returning to something that anchors us in the present moment: the breath. You are breathing right now. You don’t need to do anything about it; meditating on it means simply bringing your full attention to what’s already occurring. You need to simply feel the breath. When you get distracted by thoughts, you gently acknowledge that and return your attention to the natural cycle of the breath.
Simple, yet it has profound ramifications — I am a firm believer that whatever your New Year’s resolution may be, this simple act of mindfulness will set you up for success.
Meditation as a Tool for Setting Intention
The first thing I ask people to do when starting a meditation practice is contemplate their intention. You can do the basic shamatha practice for five minutes, then contemplate a simple phrase:
“Why is this resolution important to me?”
Notice whatever answers arise in your meditation practice, returning to the question again and again, in the same way that you return to the breath in shamatha. After a few minutes of contemplating your motivation for your New Years resolution, return to that basic breathing exercise.
After your meditation session, jot down some of the answers that came up, but only the…