The first week or two of the year is typically when, like with new beginnings, I think most of us look behind us with a combination of satisfaction, joy, sadness, regret, humor – and we look ahead of us with some mix of vigor, excitement, fear, anxiety, doubt, eagerness, dread.
Or at least that’s how I feel.
Last year was certainly filled with experiences and challenges and growth and relationships -and deaths - that I could never have predicted. Which I suppose is part of why I enter this year with a curiosity and mindfulness I suppose I have never before felt at the start of a new year. I already know of some major challenges in the next 12 months because they are events that my family and I have chosen to work towards, but I also know that as the saying goes, life is what happens while you’re making plans, so I fully expect a few unexpected curve balls as well as happy surprises.
When I drove home alone with the kids from Toronto, Canada, back to Connecticut, this past Saturday, I had a lot of time to think. What should have been a 7 hour drive was more like 10 hours because it happened that as soon as we crossed the border into the US, the snow started to fall. And it continued to fall, and pile up, for hours. I suppose most people would have chosen to find a motel and resume the next morning, but the thought of finding a hotel, taking what bags we needed for the night out of the crammed car, finding a place for dinner, not sleeping well, and paying for all of this, was somehow more overwhelming to me than the prospect of navigating slippery roads with a windshield wiper that wasn’t working, in at times white-out conditions, going 30 mph – for what turned out to be about 5 hours. I know this may make me sound like an unstable risk-taker, but it was more of a calculated risk. I knew that the fact we were off major highways for much of it (thank you, Waize, for alerting me to the traffic stoppages!) lessened risks since it meant slower moving vehicles, and less of them.
So as I drove, I practiced mindfulness. I noticed how my body felt in this stressful situation, and I paid attention to my emotions. And I realized that in spite of the circumstances, I felt unusually calm. I focused on breathing evenly and I repeated the mantra, “God, please use me and my family as you best see fit.” I was hyper alert to other vehicles, the amount of snow in the road before and beneath me, the feel of my tires on the road, the responsiveness of my car’s breaks. When we finally arrived home, it was with intense gratitude and relief – and an even deeper appreciation for my yoga training and practice, which has been leading me down a fascinating and gratifying journey into mindful living.
I don’t make resolutions, I think resolutions are best reserved for the U.N., but I do think it’s important to have goals, mantras, themes, missions. Not doing so puts us at risk to end up in situations of unnecessary, irresistible temptations. Not having focus leads to mediocrity, lost time, missed opportunities, laziness, stress, illness, stuck in ruts. When we find ourselves feeling depressed or out of control, it is usually because we have gone off course, and it is easier to stay on course when we have an idea of the desired destination and some pit stops along the way.
Goals and ambitions certainly change over time as we or our circumstances change. But the values we cherish are not as volatile, so I like to make that my main focus. For me, the most important value or filter is INTEGRITY. Personally, I strive for integrity when it comes to how I treat myself, my family, my friends, my professional relationships.
The formal definitions of integrity place an emphasis on morality and righteousness. Which conjures up an image of a nun in my head and those of you who know me probably see the lack of integrity in the image of “Sister Susanne.” Let’s just say that I wouldn’t last much longer than a Kardashian marriage in a convent. For me, integrity means, passing every choice and decision through a filter that determines whether my choice or decision is best serving my and others’ health, and if I am acting in a spirit of love and compassion and truth. I believe that when we are feeling heavy, sick, unpurposeful, guilty, secretive, critical, offended, offensive, addicted, bored, judgmental, anxious, afraid – we are not living with as much integrity as we are capable of living.
My projects for 2015 are not being driven by a need for success in terms of financial gains, medals for the bling rack, qualifications for certain races, notoriety. They are driven by what is my personal expression of integrity: to use my gifts and blessings to help others learn what it means to live with their own definition of integrity. I believe that we can justify anything, whether it is in consuming certain foods or other items or allowing them in our families, engaging in business practices or with companies that disguise their lack of integrity with financial rewards and shiny promises, supporting certain ideas, ideologies, trends or people, all ultimately leading to more harm than good, in the long run and for individual and collective health. In my journey of mindfulness, I try to run everything through my Integrity Filter and I encourage my family, friends, colleagues and clients to do the same.
This year, my main projects outside of my home and family are:
1. Educate more people on the importance and effectiveness of real, long-term wellness through the Fit n Fab health reboot plan. This plan is not a quick fix, but a series of daily steps and structured guidelines for eating and moving, that will lead to newfound lightness, immunity, energy, connection, awareness. Participants are mindfully feeding themselves real food, releasing toxins and addictions and other behaviors that have outstayed their welcome. All are welcome to join us, so if you’re interested please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Learning and helping others learn more about the fascinating world of the brain. The Brain is as affected by the environment in which we immerse ourselves as are all our other organs such as the heart, breast, skin, liver, etc. So with the documentary Running From Stigma as well as my participation in various athletic events such as Ragnar and Ironman, certification in Mental Health First Aid, and my immersion course and facilitator certification in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, I hope to help others increase their acceptance, open curiosity, compassion, options and access to treatment.
In a nutshell, my main goal for 2015 is to be part of what I see as a journey toward recovery and hope, starting from within and stretching out to others.
Motivational coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.