We are now in the third week of January 2019 and memories of Christmas are beginning to fade. Perhaps too, as often happens, our New Year resolutions have also become a thing of the recent past! I know someone who waits until January 6th to make his promise for the year ahead. He says beginning on the first day of the first month of the year is too drastic a step and we should ease ourselves into things. His theory is that your resolution will last, well longer anyway, if you do not rush into it as everyone seems to do on January 1st.
A lot of people decide to give something up, such as alcohol or cigarettes, which is of course good for their general health and physical well-being. Others may decide to take up an activity like swimming or walking, or just attempt to do more exercise in general. I have heard of people determined to give up swearing which is surely good for the well-being of others!
If we take the decision to begin something new, it is usually in order to add something of benefit to an area of our life which we feel has been neglected and is therefore in need of some attention.
It has been proved that it is the spiritual dimension of peoples’ lives which is the least developed. We are all physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual beings, but on a day-to-day basis the first three aspects of ourselves will be much more in evidence. For many people the first two are the most developed, as there are those who may find it difficult to talk about their emotions or are embarrassed by issues of an intimate nature. However no one gets through a day without displaying some emotion, whereas we need never refer at all to matters of a spiritual nature. Quite a lot of people are only concerned with material and physical things and have no interest in considerations related to the human spirit or soul.
For those of us who do but who feel we could give these issues more attention a New Year resolution might still help. Why not put aside some time each day for something like meditation, mindfulness and prayer? All of these will help to nourish and keep us in touch with our spiritual side.
The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditari which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice. Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says , “Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our heart and strengthen our will to follow Christ.” (CCC 2708).
In Meditation we focus inward to increase calmness, concentration and emotional balance. It usually begins with deep breathing in a comfortable position, bringing all your awareness to your breath as you inhale and exhale, consciously guiding the mind towards an anchor, or a single point of focus, e.g. the word God. The phrase ‘Be still and know that I am God’ is one that lends itself particularly to this practice.Of course another lovely meditative prayer is the Rosary, the most important prayer of the Church, dealing as it does with the whole Salvation story.
Maybe this year too we could resolve to be more Mindful. Mindfulness is the simple act of paying attention, noticing and being present, in whatever you are doing. When most of us go about our daily lives our minds wander from the actual activities we are engaging in, to other thoughts or sensations. When you are mindful you are actively involved in the activity with all your senses instead of allowing your mind to wander. When you are not you may be focused on the past (with regret), the future (with worry), all the while reiterating ‘I should have…’ and ‘What if…?’ You can practise mindfulness anytime, anywhere and with anyone by being fully engaged in the here and now. This is very important with regard to our dealings with other people. How can we be completely there for, or present with, anyone else if we are not actually listening to what they are saying?
Whether we have made New Year resolution, as such, or not, it is never too late to make quality time for ourselves, while at the same time looking at how we might use our time to do more for others, especially those who are finding January particularly tough.
Have a great 2019!
Written by Marie – Therese Cryan