Using Mindfulness to Create the Habits You Desire

Right about now is the time when most of us (myself included) start to fall off the New Year’s Resolution wagon:( I’ve found mindfulness to be an awesome tool to help me climb back on for the long haul.

Mindfulness in its most simplistic essence is defined as a process and state of continually coming back to the present moment with non-judgmental awareness. The practice of mindfulness teaches us tools to bare witness to our thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions, and see them as a passing waves in the ocean of our lives; rather than ways of being that define us or are permanent.

So how can mindfulness help us create the habits we want and let go of the habits we don’t? The first thing is that mindfulness teaches us tools to tune-in to what is happening in the present moment with deeper attention; helping us catch ourselves when we fall into mindless behaviors (like going for that extra piece of chocolate, potato chip or glass of wine).

We learn to turn toward these behaviors with compassion and dive into the feelings and thoughts that may have triggered our mindless behaviors or old patterns. Rather than engaging in self-flogging for having fallen off the wagon, we learn to embrace these moments of imperfection as opportunities to learn more about ourselves. To dust ourselves off and hop back on the wagon with greater conviction to make the changes we desire, a deeper understanding of ourselves and patters, and most important, a lighter heart.

We also learn tools to help us reinforce the changes we want to make by paying greater attention to the baby steps along the way and progress we make towards our goals. We learn to use our breath and body sensations to tune-in to how great we feel when we are consistent with the exercise regime we have followed for a whole week – or even 10 minutes! This helps to build new neural pathways in our brain to connect the thought and action of doing these activities with positive feelings so that eventually the desire to engage in these new behaviors is transferred to the automatic part of our brains and the battle of finding the will, time, energy to get to the gym is partially won.

So to help you on your journey toward using mindfulness to create the habits you deeply desire, here are a few tips:

  1. Get clear with yourself about the real reason why you want to create the new habit or let go of the old one. Visualize yourself having been successful for a whole month. How does it feel in your body when you imagine this state of being? Do this everyday, first thing in the morning, for at least 30 days.
  1. When you fall off the wagon, rather than letting your inner critic take over, let your inner best friend take the lead. Remind yourself of the progress you have made, that you are in fact doing the best you can. Ask yourself why you may have been triggered into the old habit or away from the new habit. Remind yourself that this is the normal process of learning something new and remind yourself of why you want to make the change and how great it feels in your body when you do.
  1. Celebrate your successes along the way. Identify some specific ways you can reward yourself for milestones achieved and take the time to share these moments of success with the people you love. In the wise words of one of my mindfulness mentors, Thich Nhat Hanh “ Every time you recognize a moment of happiness, happiness comes.”

Namaste,

Sari LaBelle MA (HSI), CYT, n.d.

Curious about for learning more about mindfulness or shaping your future creatively, join Sari for two of her upcoming workshops: The Magic of Mindfulness and Flow into Your Heart’s Desires Vision Collage and Yoga Retreat.

The Power of Intentions & Affirmations

A powerful tool for our yoga practice and our daily life is intention. Intention is a course of action that one intends to follow, an aim that guides action. As we begin our yoga practice setting an intention can be a great guiding force of how we will practice on that specific day and how we will approach the rest of our day off the mat.

An intention is your true self`s desire to come into balance. When we quiet the mind and tune into our inner knowing our intention will surface. You can set your intention in many ways. An intention is in the present moment – what would help you cultivate more balance in this moment? An intention can be a word, a prayer, an affirmation, a quote, etc.

A simple way to set your intention at the beginning of your yoga practice or day:

  • Sit on a chair with both feet on the ground or on your mat in a simple cross leg position with a straight spine, hands resting on your lap.
  • Bring your attention to your breath, inhaling and exhaling deeply through the nose, eyes closed or open with a sliver of light coming in.
  • Feel your muscles relaxing with every passing breath, feel your attention moving away from thoughts into your body.
  • Bring your hands in front of your chest, press your palms together, thumbs press against the chest.
  • Continue to breathe and ask yourself what is your intention? What would bring me the most balance at this moment?

As you do this it might be a word that comes up; compassion, relax, self-love. Whatever arises is perfect.

Turning your intention into an affirmation:

We can then use our intention as an affirmation in our yoga practice or day. For example: if the words that came up during your intention setting were compassion, self-love then perhaps the affirmation becomes:

-I love myself fully and have compassion for myself.

During your practice you can take moments to come back to your affirmation and notice what you need to continue doing or change in the way you are practicing to embody this intention. Perhaps you notice you are judging yourself in a certain pose and it`s making you become frustrated. You can then come back to your intention of loving yourself unconditionally and having compassion, when you reiterate this intention then you can let go of the judgement to maintain your equanimity. Continue to repeat the process throughout your practice and your day.

You are creating a new habit of embodying this intention and affirmation, the more you practice it and create this neural groove of compassion and self-love, the easier it will be to make this become your habitual way of approaching yourself in your life on and off the mat.

Sat Nam,

Jacynte Léger, CYA-E-RYT500

Jacynte is a Kundalini, Yin and Restorative Yoga trained teacher specializing in the therapeutic application of yoga at Shanti Yogi.

Letting Go & Opening Up

A few years ago I began the practice of taking a few minutes on the last day of the year to say goodbye to everything I wanted to let go of.  Yogis for centuries have understood that too much of anything  – good or bad – weighs down, confuses and distracts us from optimal health and well-being.  So, each year I take the time to dive deep and reflect on all those things that I wish to bid adieu to from the year that is passing through the sands of time.

Each year it seems this list is becoming more and more authentic…real.  Each item seems to open-up a treasure trove of memories about the personal and professional challenges and milestones I encountered in the year and bring new awareness and meaning to how I want to spend my energy, time and resources. It has become a very sacred part of my annual routine and I have found myself actually beginning to prepare for the process weeks in advance, mulling over exactly what will be most life giving to let go of. During these weeks I often find myself taking more time in my daily yoga practice to rid my body of deeper places of tension and blockages and cleaning-out forgotten drawers and cupboards in order to create more room to breathe in my home.

After I’ve made the list I conduct a ritual to dispose of it’s contents…sometimes ripping it up, burning it, whatever feels right in the moment.  This year I added in the ritual of reciting the mantra “Om Gum Ganapateyi Namaha” 108 times, a mantra which helps one release obstacles in their path. </span>However I dispose of the contents there is always a moment of bliss that follows.  I feel this sense of freedom washing over me, re-charging every cell of my being.  It’s as if I can taste the possibility inherent in the blank slate opportunity I’ve created. It’s exhilarating. And although it may not last the entire new year, each year it does seem to linger longer and longer…wafting in and out more regularly throughout the passing year.

So, I invite you to join me in this ritual of letting go of whatever you don’t want to carry from 2016, in order to open-up fully to what awaits you in 2017. And after you’ve made your list take a moment to dance in the sense of freedom and possibility that arises out of the purge. Let’s make 2017 your most freeing year yet!

Namaste, Sari

Sari LaBelle is a co-owner of Shanti Yogi, yoga teacher, naturotherapist and life coach.