I admit that I have borrowed the subject line of this email newsletter from the recent film with Keira Knightley that I finally watched on a long-haul flight back to Boston to visit my family over the holidays. It certainly wasn’t my favourite film of 2014 (if you haven’t seen Chef, that one was), but it contained a favourite message of mine, one that echoes everywhere at this time of year, and the message is that life will always present us with an opportunity to start over. Isn’t that nice?
My yoga students and friends know that I am a huge advocate of quiet reflection on the past, conscious effort to focus on the present (and it does take effort), and setting intentions and goals for the future. I tend to talk about this a lot around the Spring and Autumn Equinox when nature beckons and supports us to change with it. It’s important to seize those opportunities to take a pause and see where you’ve come from, what helped you get through it, and consider what’s up next so you can prepare yourself to not only survive but thrive during the months ahead.
Even though it’s marketed heavily as such, January is not actually the best time to make major changes in your life. If we were bears, we would be hibernating. And who doesn’t want to live like a bear? If you could see me on this cold Sunday morning, bundled up in the biggest, brown jumper I own and have affectionately nick-named ‘jumpy’, I look a little bit like a bear disturbed from its slumber to tap away at my keyboard for a bit before curling up with a book and a cup of tea because the weather has given me permission to do so – thank you winter. For me, January is not a time of action. Instead I have learned that January is an excellent time to rest and reflect upon what you want to achieve over the next year and line up your support for the months ahead (not to mention recover from a potentially unrestful winter holiday break re-connecting with friends and family across many locations). Making changes is not easy to do on your own. Resting on the other hand is, so if you’re lucky enough to find a few moments of undisturbed quiet this month, then wrap them up in your arms and cuddle them because you’ve likely got a whole lot of activity up ahead.
So if you’ve been stressing about changing eating habits, starting a new work-out routine, improving your attitude, your relationships, your living situation, etc. then I invite you to sit back for a second, put on a big wooly jumper and breathe. You know you have some changes to make over 2015 and that’s the first step – well done. Now you’ve got 12 months to do it, as well as opportunities to edit along the way. Less daunting? You probably have a rough idea of new things you want to try, people you want to work with, places you want to go so perhaps write those down. Then look at the bigger picture. What served you well in 2014 and is something you want to burrow deeper into in 2015? What didn’t help you out so much and is something you can leave behind or replace with a better habit? Is an overall theme evolving when you look back and think ahead that could support you in your decisions? Meditate on that. Let it sit on your tongue. What are the finer, subtle notes you detect?
I was taught how to colour by my older sister (by 2 years). I could grip a crayon much tighter than most children for the fear of being reprimanded for colouring outside the lines (my sister, a natural artist, was unrelenting in her instruction). One technique I learned was to trace the outline of each image in my colouring book with a crayon and then colour in. The waxy outline helped to keep the edges clean and allowed more freedom and ease to fill in the shapes. In many ways January is my outline month and the following months are the colouring in. I am still outlining this month and enjoying the process.
Even though January isn’t the best time to make changes, it is a wonderful reminder of that opportunity life gives us to begin again. A fresh, new canvas to play with. Maybe a new calendar. But remember that these opportunities don’t only arise in the new year. The opportunity to start over presents itself each morning that we wake up. Changes don’t need to be drastic and life-changing, they can be small, subtle and gradual. In fact they can sometimes be so gradual, you don’t even recognize them until you look back. That’s always my motto in January – Start Slow (and I have to repeat it to myself often like a mantra because it’s not in my nature to be laid back). Last year I had the intention to develop a more restorative yoga practice and with that, to invest in a bolster. It took me 11 months, but I finally bought one in November when an opportunity for free shipping presented itself. I’m sitting on it now as I type and in 2015 it’s going to be a great friend – maybe I’ll need it more this year than last year.
Towards the end of every year, I have a ritual of going through all of my photographs (this year I had a record number thanks to my iPhone and Instagram inspiration) to remember the events of the year and to highlight the ups and downs and the lessons learnt from the downs. Below I have summarized a few of the things (including what I recently termed ‘frozen moments’ – the moments that freeze you into the present because they are so gobsmackingly beautiful and divine) that I don’t want to forget (especially when I’m feeling less optimistic about the world – pretty easy if you turn on the news).
One thing I am aware of every time that I look back, is the support I had from friends, family, colleagues, assorted therapists, acupuncturists, you name it, to get me through it all. Just because I teach yoga and health coach, doesn’t mean I have life fully sussed out. That’s a life-long journey and I am always learning new techniques. Every teacher has a teacher. Every mentor was mentored in some way. All of us in life have someone to look up to, someone or something that influences us, someone we can lean upon. I feel very fortunate to have studied and dedicated time to learning how to better support people on their journey towards wellness. Happy Resting and Reflecting, and Happy New Year!
P.S. Here’s a link to a great article in the Guardian by Sophie Heawood with a similar message about the new year: ‘It’s January, it’s dark – is this really the best time to launch a new you?
P.P.S Here’s a lovely practice poem I read in a book I picked up in New York City that was calling my name called ‘Beginning Anew’ by Sister Chan Khong (p.22):
Waking up this morning,
I thank life for giving me
twenty-four brand new hours to live.