Saturday, December 28, 2013

Year-End Review: A Guided Meditation

Year-End Review: three words that can make your heart race a little! In corporate culture this means a sit-down with your manager and some feedback on your work, sometimes framed as "constructive criticism," though euphemisms have come to replace anything that could seem too "critical," unless you are a law firm associate or finance professional. Just kidding. Sort of. Well, I'm really glad I teach yoga these days... but even I had a Year-End Review! "Here's what's working, here's what's not." I asked for it! Old habits die hard. Reviews are helpful!

This is a rich, festive and fruitful week for those of us on the Good Ole Gregorian Calendar. Year-End is a beautiful, sacred time when we can look back and reflect on all we have accomplished, ways we have grown, new relationships we entered and events that shook things up in our lives. Facebook has a Year-In-Review feature that lets you see your notable status updates and photographs. You can do that with an old-fashioned photo book, too, or a personal journal.

Today, I'm suggesting we do this in a yoga class, or on your own in your home practice. I'd like you to direct your mind's activity in a purposeful meditation period today, first getting quiet and centered and then systematically going back through your year to collect impressions, high points, low points and turning points from 2013. I want you to form a mental picture of what 2013 brought to you, good and bad. What do you want to celebrate, and what do you want to leave behind? Make peace with 2013, thankful for both the blessings and the adversities and what they meant for you on your life's journey, so you can step into 2014 with an open mind and heart, ready to receive the gifts of the New Year.


Let's begin. We will use a candle to ritualize this moment and our intention, so light your candle and set it down in front of you if you are at home. Find a comfortable seat so you can begin settling into your body with ease: either legs crossed and hands resting on your thighs, or sitting up on a block in hero's pose with the tops of the feet resting on the floor. Now, steady your gaze on the candle. Begin to bring awareness to your breath. Feel the in breath and the out breath. Notice the sound and sensation of your breathing. As you focus your attention on the breath, begin to even out the length of the inhale and the exhale. With the eyes open, still gazing at the candle, we will take three deep, soothing breaths, inhaling to the top of the lungs, and exhaling all the way out, to a hollow belly. 1.....2.....3.

Gaze at the candle for a few more moments.  And now, let your eyes gently close. With your eyes closed, see the image of the candlelight set against the darkness on your eyelids.

Direct your attention to your head. Relax your forehead. Release any tension between your brows. Relax your jaw. Relax your scalp, from the top of your head to the base of your neck. Relax your neck. Relax your shoulders and the area between the shoulder blades. Relax your arms, all the way down to your fingers. Breathe into your belly and as you exhale, fully release and relax your abdominal muscles. Bring your attention to your legs. Relax your thighs and feel them get heavy and loose, the weight of the thighs dropping towards the floor. Relax your knees...your calves...your ankles...and your feet, down to your toes. Direct your breath all through your body, from your heart to your extremities, and feel everything relaxing and releasing. Let go.

Now, let your mind take you on a journey. Begin to take yourself back in time, to this time last year. You had finished celebrating your holidays. You were ready to embark on a New Year. Take yourself back to Wintertime, one year ago. How was last Winter for you? What did it feel like, physically, emotionally? How much did you work? How much did you play? Was it cold outside and warm in your house, in your cozy bed? Or did you go away? Was it warm where you went? When were you happy, or sad? Did you get sick? What was that like? Did you get better? Did you set resolutions? Did you get a financial bonus? Were you focused on gratitude, goal setting, or both? What other things happened in your life last Winter? Stay in your previous Winter for another minute or two.

Now, we will travel just like that through the other three seasons, up to today. Let's move on from Winter and into Spring, 2013. Take yourself back to last Spring, and envision what happened for you then, what you wanted, what you experienced, what was memorable? If nothing pivotal comes to mind, just focus on the sensations and impressions of Springtime, and something notable may come to you.

Last Summer. Go there now. What did you do last summer? Really. What can you be proud of and what could have gone better? How did it feel? Summer. Ahhhh...stay a few moments in Summer 2013.

Fall. Let's go. Autumn in New York...or wherever you were. Where were you? This one is recent. Did your autumn fly by? Take note of what happened in your life, what you achieved, what fell behind and what moved forward, and what did you experience? Who was with you?

And now come full circle, back to Wintertime, here in your body, sitting on the floor, at the tail-end of 2013. How do you feel this Winter, and how do you feel right now? What were the memorable moments of your holidays? What are your plans for New Year's Eve? What do you feel really good about and what do you want to happen?

Keep your eyes closed, but move around a little. Start to come back into the now. But as you are doing that, I want you to envision a big, old fashioned collage on poster board, or on a projector screen...a vision board, if you will. Imagine snapshots of events and people from the past year, and also words and other images that form a picture of your year. Get that image ready, and then, look it over really well, side to side and top to bottom. Hey, you... good job! And also--I'm sorry. And also... what an adventure. You gained some things, you lost some things, but most importantly, you are still here, and you are still breathing. You are a gift, and your life is a gift. Thank yourself. Applaud yourself. Bring to mind those achievements and good times and good feelings you want to keep with you as you move into new blessings.

Finally, I want you to choose a few things you'd like to leave behind as you move into 2013. Remember the candle. Imagine that candle is actually a big fire, big enough to burn anything you are leaving behind. Now, in your mind's eye, I want you to see yourself approaching that fire and throwing onto it all the experiences and sensations and memories you'd like to leave behind you. They're going to burn out in the fire, and in the heat we create in today's movement practice.

Take a few moments, and let your eyes open. Look at the candle. Come back into the room. Wiggle your arms and legs and fingers and toes. Deep breath in, deep breath out, three times. And now open your arms wide, and feel your chest and heart open. You are ready to walk with open arms, an open heart and an open mind, into a new year. Congratulations. And Happy New Year!

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