Contemplative psychotherapy for individuals, couples, and groups in New York City.
When I used to live in the monastery, one of the things we had to do at the end of each day was sit down for five minutes and reflect on the day that had passed. It usually felt like I needed a lot longer, but it was purposely kept short so that we wouldn’t get caught up in lots of analysis. The idea wasn’t to get all daydreamy or to be judgmental, but rather to look back objectively on which things in the day had led to a positive outcome and which things had led to a negative outcome.
So, if we realized that we’d said something to someone that had caused offense or hurt in some way, then it was an opportunity to acknowledge it, make it right if appropriate, and, most importantly of all, make the intention not to repeat the same mistake again in the future. Equally, if we’d done something which was the cause for someone else to be happy, then it was an opportunity to make the intention to repeat that action in the future. By doing this systematically and on a daily basis, it was a way of refining action, speech, and even thought.
Because, let’s face it, we all have patterns of thought that are sometimes better not engaged with or indulged in, and by acknowledging that and making the resolution to be aware of that tendency in the future, we are that much more likely to be aware of it. This not only leads to a better understanding of your challenging thoughts or emotions, but can shift your perspective to such a degree that you no longer even experience them as your own—such is the power of awareness.
Thinking back to the past and making plans for the future may at first sound counterintuitive when you are seeking to live life in the present, but it’s only with awareness of the present moment, a willingness to sit down and reflect and resolve right now, free from distraction, that you can make genuine, long-lasting and sustainable change for the future.
So, whether you choose to make your own resolutions on a daily basis, as we did in the monastery, or just once a year on the 1st of January, take a few minutes to sit down and reflect on what things increase your sense of happiness and wellbeing—and the happiness and wellbeing of those around you—and what things have the opposite effect. It sounds obvious, and yet so often we forget this or miss the opportunity to make a better choice because we are so caught up in our own thoughts. So, be confident in your resolutions, follow them through and get to experience the benefits you’re looking for.