I planned to start 2010 with a clean slate, or a least an empty desk. What I have before me today resembles the scattered remains of an office left during a fire or other life-threatening emergency. I have piles on piles. I can no longer recognize the handwriting on my to do list, now forty odd items long. So I turn to yoga. I breathe, long smooth inhale, long smooth exhale. I choose one thing each day to accomplish. At this rate I may find the surface of my desk by the first spring thaw. In Wisconsin, this could mean the beginning of May, but I am optimistic.
As a student of yoga (and life) I am continually amazed at the work required to maintain a calm mind. I see others who move forward seemingly without struggle. Step by step I learn to manage my desk and my mind, but it is with great effort and determination. With a two-year old son and a messy desk, I plot a course forward.
To my students (and myself) I offer the following list of Eight Practices for 2010. Choose and experiment, take a leap (which may mean sit still and do nothing), remain open to your experiences and watch the thought patterns in your own mind. See if by year’s end you can integrate all eight into your daily life.
1. Practice Savasana (corpse pose) everyday for a minimum of 12 breaths. Everyone can make time to take 12 mindful breaths lying down. Prime yourself to let go of willing and doing. Stay longer whenever possible.
2. Drink a glass of warm or room temperature water upon rising every morning. This starts your digestion off on the right foot. Sip warm water throughout the day to remain hydrated.
3. Walk 15 minutes each day. Let your walk be restorative. Leave the cell phone and the ipod at home. Step outside and take in the natural world. Welcome in the sounds you hear. Smile at the people you pass. Plug yourself back in.
4.When you eat, just eat. Don’t watch television, or talk on the phone. Avoid reading at mealtimes, too. All these activities take attention away from the act of eating. Consume mindfully.
5. Do no harm. Commit to Ahimsa as a launching pad for contemplation. All of our actions affect the environment and the people around us. It is not always possible to do no harm, but it is the intention behind your actions you can be clear about.
6. Speak only about what you have direct experiential knowledge. Keep Quiet. Observe what happens when you abstain from speech. You will be surprised how this practice reduces your experience of stress.
7. Find a way to serve others. Do this without expectations or attachments. By reaching out to other people you will see how we are all connected.
8. Sit quietly and don’t do anything. When I was a child I would often stare off into space, pretending that my body had been absorbed into the world and objects around me. Feeling invisible meant feeling free. Become absorbed by your surroundings. Listen. See. Just Be.