Jane is reflecting on the lessons of 2020 and setting intentions for the new year
As we leave behind the most extraordinary of years, it’s worth stopping to think back about what we have learned. 2020 has been one huge teacher, hasn’t it?
For me, the lessons were surprising. I regularly spend swathes of time on retreat, often in silence, so I thought I’d breeze through lockdown. Wrong. I swiftly realised how much I missed connection, hanging out with friends and like-minded people. I realised just how much I distract myself – with work, with travel, with reading, with television. Like many others, I learned how scary it can be when we stop and start listening to our feelings, our minds, our bodies. Fear, anxiety, anger and depression rose up but, instead of squashing them down, I observed them. I leaned heavily on Byron Katie’s The Work (thework.com) – questioning my thoughts, challenging my assumptions. I recognised when my mood was dipping too low and sought online therapy (a true lifesaver).
While social media can be a boon, equally it can polarise and separate us – do watch the eye-opening docudrama, The Social Dilemma (thesocialdilemma.com), if you haven’t already. Stepping away from ‘doomscrolling’ Twitter and getting out into nature (even just cuddling a tree in the local park) can be a mind-saver.
As our horizons narrowed, we started noticing the smaller, more humble things. We learned gratitude for little pleasures – for a beautiful sunset, a neighbour’s kindness, a batch of cupcakes, smiling eyes over a mask.
So how do we approach the New Year? I’d suggest a healthy dose of self-compassion. Honestly, this is not a year for harsh resolutions and deprivations. Put aside those draconian detoxes and diets. Ditch the ‘I must conquer the world’ mindset: in fact, ditch ‘must’, ‘should’ and ‘ought’ altogether.
Let’s focus on how we want to feel this coming year, rather than what we want to possess or shed. There’s a useful technique called the Miracle Question that comes from Solution Focused Therapy. It asks how you would know if a miracle happened in your life. It teaches us to zoom in on how we would feel on the inside (rather than focusing on the externals – loads of money, a perfect relationship, that two stone weight loss). If that miracle happened what emotions would appear? Joy, peace, security, ease? So crunch it down and think how you could usher those in. Do more of the things that bring you peace or joy, however that looks for you – for me, it’s regular meditation; plenty of wild dance and gentle yoga online with the lovely Gillie Sutherland (behappyfit.co.uk); and long walks and snug cuddles with my dog.
Let’s all resolve to take a few moments each day for gratitude (there’s always something to be grateful for); and maybe promise to commit to some small random acts of kindness when we get the chance. Wishing you peace, kindness and bright blessings for 2021.
Jane Alexander book Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living (Kyle Books, £14.99) is available now.
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