Every year close to NYE, I spent a day reflecting on the past year then wrote down new year resolutions which I came back to once in a while, whenever I felt a little off balance.
This year, I was at a meditation retreat in the last four days. All I did was thinking nothing, not about the past nor future. But somehow I came out with this list of resolutions. The mind does wonders when it stays still.
Self-awareness is an on-going process. This list is not perfect or even close to it, more like the first draft of what I came to realize at this phase of life. So I treat it like any first drafts, all it needs to do is exist.
1. Thoughts are like food, only take in what nourishes us. Only eat when we are hungry, only think when we need to.
99% of our thoughts are repeated and unnecessary so don’t overthink or think all the time. First, that’s bad for our mental health. Second, that’s a waste of time and efforts. Believe it or not, we will come up with much better ideas if we just quiet our mind.
Can’t control our thoughts? Then accept them, the good, the bad and the ugly. Accept and be content with all thoughts.
I’m content that I’m depressed.
Wonder if you can ever get anything done if you stop thinking? You would be surprised at how much more productive and efficient you become. Just like after we throw out all the junks from our house, it’s much quicker to go look for what we need.
2. Practice mindfulness, one cup of tea at a time.
To be frank, it’s pretty damn hard to be mindful all the time. Over time, I have developed a trick that leverages my daily routine to snap me back to the present.
I am a hardcore tea person. I drink tea all day, every day. So every time I am about to take a sip, I take a long deep breath so that I can be fully present with that cup of tea until I place it back down.
I know I’m reaching out to the cup. I know I’m touching the cup. I know I’m lifting it up. I know my lips are touching the cup. I know I’m drinking the tea. I’m grateful for this tea. I know I’m holding the cup. I know I’m putting it down.
Those are NOT thoughts, just sensational experience and observation of my every single movement. When first trying out this trick, I felt like I had never truly had tea before.
Let’s find the things that we tend to do mindlessly in our daily activities and turn them to our mindfulness weapons 💪🏼.
3. Effective self-reflection does not come from contemplating our past,
but from observing the present moment. Our memories are unreliable because we perceive everything through our distorted lens. Don’t let our analytical mind roam freely and jump to many biased conclusions.
The same concept can be applied in times of conflict. May we not dwell on the past, but be fast to forgive and let go.
The person who upset you two minutes ago is not the one in front of you right now.—My Zen teacher
If it’s too hard, there is another trick. Contemplate on the impermanence. No one is going to stay with us forever. Would we want to waste our limited time together on this conflict and negative emotions?
4. Stop saying “I can’t wait…”
I can’t wait for Friday, summer or the next vacation to come!
I can’t wait for this to be over!
Does it sound familiar? We are all anticipating, expecting, or wishing for anything but now and here.
“If you’re waiting for something to happen, time becomes your suffering. Things that are meant to come will come. It comes at its own time. When it comes, you know that it will go one day. So welcome it when it comes, and when it goes, let it go peacefully.”—My Zen teacher
I hope we don’t get attached to the future or our expectations. Of course, we should always plan for it, but let’s not get any emotions involved.
May we not be afraid of aging or running out of time. All we have is now, so what kind of time we are losing? If we are not in the present moment, we are already dead, no need to wait until we are inside a casket ⚰️.
If we refuse to get older, we have no right to eat a ripe mango 🥭 (get it?).
Being busy gives us a false sense of productivity. May we all master the art of doing nothing.
5. Love one and another, including nature.
Once I have realized how interconnected our world is, I don’t see any difference between me and the person sitting next to me on the subway, or between me and the Sun.
We all depend on each other to survive. In other words, we give each other a chance to experience this life. So the least we could do to express our gratitude is to take care of all beings.
Reduce our waste, eat fewer animal products, and overcome consumerism.
6. Say, Thank you.ALL.THE.TIME
I say thanks to the Sun when walking out, to the fresh water while taking a shower, to the people who laid out the pavement I’m walking on.
I also say thanks to what I have to let go. I once told the clothes I had to ship back, Thank you for coming all the way here for me to try you on.
It’s easy for us to take a lot of things for granted, especially the “unseen” ones. We don’t tend to value what comes easily or seems to be the norms, like electricity or a full bowl of plain rice. Our trash doesn’t magically disappear from the bins, let’s say thanks to the person who takes it out.
7. Slow down
Like literally physically slow down. Every act is a mindful choice, slow down our life to experience it. I once experimented walking 4x slower around NYC for 13 days and this is what I learned.
A friend of mine said it beautifully,
We all had the opportunity to pace our lives slowly and reflect internally to recognize the beauty that is all around us, a nonjudgmental beauty we have long forgotten because our egos constantly interject to voice binary judgment of good versus bad, beautiful versus ugly, etc…