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My New Year’s Resolution for 2008

Meditation mat

Photo by Mami

Having looked at Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail and offered some Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution, it’s time for me to walk the talk and commit to my own resolution for 2008.

For me, last year was about starting lots of new projects and I made three resolutions. This year will be about paring things down and focusing on the essentials, so I’ve just made one. Here it is:

I will sit still for five minutes every day.

This one definitely fits Steve Roesler’s description ‘knowing what to do, but then not doing it’. Whenever I’ve practised daily meditation, it’ always made a big positive difference to my life – but after a while I get too ‘busy’ or complacent to keep it up, start skipping sessions, then a few weeks later realise I’ve forgotten all about it. So now I’m committing to doing it every day for a year.

Meditation is a bit like creativity – if you’re doing it in order to get something else, you’re not really doing it. Having said that, I do notice the following changes – call them side-effects – when I’m meditating every day:

I’m calmer
I’m more present in the moment
I find it easier to concentrate
I make better decisions
I tend to experience more creative flow
I take problems less seriously

(If you’re curious about meditation and haven’t tried it, here’s a good introduction to the basics.)

So how will I keep my resolution?

By following the 6 Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution that I used to keep last year’s resolutions.

1. Find something you want to do

OK I’ve done that. Meditation isn’t always easy or enjoyable, but it’s definitely rewarding.

2. Focus on what’s in it for you

Hmm, I’m not sure what an enlightened master would have to say about this one! Hopefully I can avoid too much egomania if I approach this in terms of practical motivation. i.e. getting myself to sit on the mat first thing in the morning instead of rushing to switch on the laptop.

So when I’ve just woken up and I’m pondering my next move, I do a quick ‘fast forward’ in my mind about 30 minutes – in one scenario, I’ve been sitting on the mat for half an hour, feeling fresh and relaxed, looking forward to the day; in the other one I couldn’t wait to get going on the laptop, and I’m feeling disappointed and irritated with myself. Once I’ve done that, it’s fairly easy to leave the laptop alone and sit on the mat.

3. Aim low and overachieve

So far I’ve been sitting for 20-30 minutes each morning and I intend to continue like that. But I deliberately chose five minutes so that I have no excuse for skipping a day – even I can’t be ‘too busy’ to take five minutes out of my day!

4. Anticipate and avoid obstacles

The five minute minimum should help me avoid the ‘too busy’ obstacle. Even when I’m travelling for work, I should be able to find a spare five minutes. If it comes to it, I could even practise on the plane or train.

I could get bored, but that’s one of the things you’re supposed to deal with in meditation anyway, so don’t let me give you that excuse.

Maybe I could get an injury or my back could seize up again so I couldn’t sit on the mat. So I could sit on a chair instead. And lying, standing and walking are all common postures for meditation, so no escape there.

5. Make a public commitment

Well I’ve told you so the cat’s out of the bag. Next time I see you, feel free to ask me how I’m getting on with my resolution.

I’ve also told Mrs WT, and it will be fairly obvious to her if I give up.

6. Do it with others

This is the trickiest one. Ideally I’d join a group for regular practice. But I’m already doing that for my poetry and aikido classes, so realistically signing up for another group would start to overload my week. Which would defeat the ‘less is more’ intention behind this resolution.

I was wondering what to do about this the other day as I sat down on the mat. Then it occurred to me that lots of other people were sitting down to practise at the same time, and I suddenly felt part of a group. Don’t worry, it was nothing mystical – I just realised I’d been thinking of it as a solitary activity, but it made just as much sense to think of it as a group activity. Which somehow makes it seem a bit easier.

And Mrs WT has been very supportive and encouraging. No doubt she likes the idea of a slightly more chilled-out version of me. It makes a big difference to a new undertaking when someone special is cheering you on.

7. Treat yourself to some decent kit

This is a bonus tip that occurred to me since I wrote the last post. The picture shows the mat and cushion I’ve been given as a present for my new regime. I know it’s a bit materialistic, but it does pep up your motivation a bit if you’ve got nice equipment to work with.

Having faffed around with various combinations of sofa cushions and yoga mats over the years, it makes a big difference to sit on a proper zafu and zabuton from Blue Banyan. When I sat on them for the first time, I instantly felt calmer and more centred. John would tell me this is because the familiar feeling of sitting on the zafu activates a ‘chemical memory’ of sitting on this kind of support while on meditation retreats. The more I use the mat, the more I will come to associate it with these feelings.

Sitting in the corner of my living room, the mat also serves as a tangible reminder of my resolution. If I don’t follow through with the resolution, I’ll feel a bit sheepish when visitors ask ‘What’s that?’. The mat’s part of the furniture now – it should help me make the habit part of my life.

Over to you…

If you want to make a public commitment of your own, feel free to post your resolution(s) in the comments. Then we can come back next year and see how we all got on.

Right, that’s enough resolutions for one year. On with the creativity…

Comments

  1. Hi Mark

    Delighted to find your site. I think your research is a fantastic idea and wondered how it is coming along – is it finished? Or written up?

    And NY Resolutions? I discovered quite accidently years ago that you only need to do things – write them down somewhere where you will find the list later and then forget about them. You’ll get it done, but not immediately. I think we just forget what we have achieved as the mess of the world overtakes us. Checking back later helps you feel good when you see how much you have done.

    For really difficult goals, doing something you don’t like, then it helps to phrase the goal well – take pleasure in exercise for example – and to get a buddy – it doesn’t have to be someone you know. Impowr is a great Web2.0 site for that. We are just too impatient with ourselves and we don’t spend enough time tracking success. Good luck with your though!

    Let me know about your research, would you. It is a great idea.
    Jo

  2. My New Year’s Resolution for 2008 is to throw (or give) something away every day.

    Have you tried meditating while sitting directly in front of a wall?

    Maggie

  3. Hi Maggie, sounds there will soon be a nice Zen simplicity about your place!

    Yes I’ve tried sitting in front of a wall. It can be a real relief not to have anything to look at.

  4. Hi Jo,

    Thanks for asking about the research. The original paper has been written up, handed in and – I’m please to say – passed by the examiners at Warwick. I’m currently working on an expanded version for publication on this site later this year. I’ve been struggling a bit to find the time to revise it in the middle of all the other writing I have to do, but I’m getting there slowly! Will let you know when it’s available.

    Good points about resolutions – as a poet, I agree that phrasing is always important! And taking time to acknowledge success can be a great (and easily overlooked)motivator.

  5. Hi Mark!
    I wonder whether your commitment really made you experience what you expected:

    I’m calmer
    I’m more present in the moment
    I find it easier to concentrate
    I make better decisions
    I tend to experience more creative flow
    I take problems less seriously

    Can you tell a little bit more about that? I could not find any post about your meditiation experience and would be highly interested.

Trackbacks

  1. […] on time management I posted here) has a series of great posts on his blog Wishful Thinking on New Year’s Resolutions, how to make them and how to keep them, and, why they fail! I wish I’d read this before I […]

  2. […] the beginning of 2008, I posted my New Year’s resolution on this blog: I will sit still for five minutes every […]