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Healthy Minds in Practice: A New Beginning

Photo courtesy iStock

When reflecting on the past year, it can be easy to focus on all the difficulties, all the challenges and all the things that have gone wrong in our lives. But, what if we view this season of spring as a new beginning? In this 10 minute practice, we reflect on challenging times and carry lessons learned forward for a new beginning this spring.

A New Beginning

Led by Cortland Dahl

Hi this is Cortland Dahl with the Healthy Minds Program. In this guided meditation we are going to look back over the past year - which has been incredibly difficult for us all. We’ll look back to see what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown, and then we’ll look forward. We'll take this season of spring as a new beginning to see how we can carry the lessons that we’ve learned into our lives. So let’s dive in and give this a try. 

Go ahead and find a comfortable posture, one that helps you feel upright and alert and also relaxed and at ease. You can close your eyes if you like or simply relax your gaze - and take a few slow calming breaths. As you do this, notice how your breath feels as it moves in and out of your body.

Now take a few moments to find an uplifting motivation for this practice. You might include the well-being of others in this motivation. For example, you could think to yourself, “I’m now going to meditate, not only for my own well-being, but so that I can bring a little more wisdom and compassion into the world.” But feel free to use whatever motivation works for you. Just find something uplifting and inspiring.

Great. Now let’s take a moment to rest in open, effortless awareness. You don’t need to do anything for these next few moments. You don’t even need to meditate. Just simply rest your mind naturally. And let whatever is happening within you, and around you, to happen naturally.

Next, let’s look back over the past year. We usually focus on all the difficulties, all the challenges, all the things that have gone wrong in our lives. This time I want you to look back and focus on the positive. What lessons have you learned over this past year? How have you grown? What important insights have you gained? Look back over this past year and see what you notice.

If this year were a guide, a teacher, or a mentor, what lessons would you be learning? For example, maybe you learned to cherish the many things that we usually take for granted. Something as simple as spending some time with friends or going out for a cup of coffee. It could be anything. Just step back and examine what’s happened this past year. And all the many ways you’ve learned and grown.

Next, think of some of your core values - the principles that guide your life - and how these have helped you navigate these challenging times. For example, perhaps you really value self-care or kindness. Or perhaps its integrity or creativity. It really doesn’t matter what the values are. Look back over the past year and see what values have guided you, what values have nurtured you and sustained you and allowed you to be as resilient as you’ve been over this past year.  

Great. Now let’s look forward. How might you bring these insights, these core values and principles into your life in this coming year? Imagine that this is a time of rebirth and renewal. How might you continue to embody these insights? Let’s just start with the next week or so. Imagine some of the things you will be doing, some of the people you'll be seeing and how you might embody these values and insights. What might that look like?

Now, hopefully this upcoming year will not be as difficult as the past year. But we will inevitably face challenges and difficulties. How might you view these as opportunities to learn and grow? Imagine some of the challenges you might face and how you can embody these insights and values as you face them. Again just get creative here. Explore and see what you notice.

Now let’s zoom out even further. Imagine you are writing one chapter in the story of your life. What do you want this chapter to be about? See if you can find one north star - a guiding purpose, a principle, a core value - and imagine how that can be the focus for your life over the next year. What would you want that to be? Perhaps it’s insight. Perhaps it’s kindness. It could be anything. But again, see if you can find that north star. And imagine what it would be like to have that guide you over this coming year.

Ok. For these last few moments, you can drop the reflection. No need to contemplate anything. And now instead, bring awareness into your body. Notice how you feel right now. There’s no right or wrong, no good or bad. Just notice how you feel. 

And now you can slowly open your eyes if they’ve been closed. Take in the world around you. Notice what you see, what you hear.

As you move on to whatever comes next in your day. See if you can stay connected to what you’ve discovered here. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing - find simply ways to embody the insights and values that guide your life. So take care, and good luck with your practice.

Awareness. Connection. Insight. Purpose. We consider these to be four ingredients of a healthy mind. You can train yourself to improve these skills, just like you can develop any habit. This audio practice is provided by Healthy Minds Innovations (HMI), an external, affiliated nonprofit dedicated to supporting the mission of the Center for Healthy Minds. Want more practices? Try the Healthy Minds Program App.

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