Wherever you go, it seems people have the same experience with New Year's "resolutions." We set a goal and work furiously toward it . . . for two weeks. And what happens after that? Typically, we go back to our same old patterns which, although not ideal, have the benefit of being comfortable. Our habits are like those "friends" we left behind in middle school - they misdirect us and sometimes make us feel lousy, but at least their familiarity give us some sense of who we think we are - even if we don't particularly like the selves we're expressing.
This article is not about resolutions or setting goals. This is about creating intentions to help us develop new habits that honor who we really are - the self we want and need to be.
Unlike resolutions, intentions focus on the process rather than the goal. It's about the steps we take each and every day to establish new patterns - new habits - that help you create a healthier, happier lifestyle. "I want to lose 20 pounds" is a resolution. Every cookie you eat, every day you don't lose a pound, feels like a failure. Success can only be attained by the loss of 20 pounds. "I want to eat healthy foods that make me feel good" is an intention. Every time you put something healthy in your mouth, you've succeeded. And every time you don't is an opportunity to learn and change. It's really about living ALL the moments of your life. Life, itself, is a process.
So, here are six vital intentions to help you live and love every moment of being a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend - of being you.
1. Connect with your body. Your body is an amazing machine, but don't be mechanical or mindless about how you use it. Pay attention. Your body is your tangible link between your inner self and the world around you. By observing your body as you move and breathe, you develop a greater understanding of yourself. Western science is discovering that mindful, intentional movement leads to improved physical coordination,cognitive learning and emotional stability. In a nutshell, movement is a catalyst that unites body, mind and spirit. The western world is finally validating what yoga has been teaching for millenia.
2. Celebrate the ordinary. Don't wait for big events or exotic vacations to enjoy your live. Make every day a celebration. Whether you're sharing a cup of tea with a friend or snuggling with your child as you read to them, honor the moment for the special time it is. Life is about this continuous flow of moments - each of them precious. Honor them.
3. Make time for quiet moments. I know, I know - you heard this before. But, it's so important and will reap incredible rewards for you, your family and your life. Life is busy. It's easy to get caught up in the pursuit of tasks and goals, and put off down time for later. But the quiet times are necessary to reset emotions and alleviate stress - which are critical for sustaining health and personal satisfaction with yourself and your life. So make time, each and every day, to let go. Sit and watch the snow fall. Close your eyes and meditate. Lie down and rest. Even if you only have five minutes - do it.
4. Be present. Life is short and time seems to fly by more and more quickly with each passing year. The more you get caught up in tasks and errands and objectives, the faster time goes. Why? Because you're not paying attention. By being present to every moment in your life, you effectively slow time. Grab a hold of every minute, and eek out all of the living it has to offer - good and bad. Live every moment fully. If you hold only one intention in your life, make this one it.
5. Love yourself. A baby must discover its feet before it can stand and walk. Loving is no different. Before we can truly, deeply love others, we must discover how to truly, deeply love ourselves. Easy? Maybe not. But working toward recognizing when we are or are not practicing self-love is a good start. Baby steps come years before running. Be patient with yourself.
6. Listen to your self/Self. In yoga, we distinguish between self and Self. The self is the consciousness that is contained in our physical being. Your little self can tell you much about how you feel and what you need. It's our personality, our emotions, our ego; the one that says I'm bored or You hurt my feelings. Your big Self, on the other hand, is the unchanging spirit that dwells within all living beings. Your Self is an immense source of wisdom, that guides you along the paths you walk throughout your life. Both of these selves are always talking to you. Listen closely...and then try to decipher which "self" is speaking to you at any given time. Your egoless big Self is the one to typically guide you to living your higher intentions. Try to follow the quiet wisdom of this true Self. When you do so, all the above intentions become much simpler.
What does all of this have to do with good parenting? Everything. When we honor these intentions, we become better people and better parents. And if your children see you trying, each day, to connect, celebrate, listen and love; if they see you being present and honoring your life, then they will learn to do the same.
Lisa Burk-McCoy, RYT200, is working toward a 500 hour teaching certificate in Classical Yoga from the YogaLife Institute. She also holds a prenatal yoga certification, and children's yoga certifications from ChildLight Yoga and Itsy Bitsy Yoga. Lisa currently serves as an instructor and business consultant for ChildLight Yoga. When not practicing yoga, she dabbles as a musician, playing flute in a local contra-dance band and teaching classical flute lessons to children and adults. She is blessed with a wonderful family–a husband, son and daughter, and a menagerie of pets. They make their home in Exeter, NH.