Over time I have learnt that starting a new year is less about resolutions and more about intentions. Yet each year there seems to be a frantic scrabbling for ‘making this your best year yet’ and ‘New Year, New You.’ Once the holiday glitter has washed off and the fairy lights have been switched off, we’re the same as we were before.
I’ve come to a place in myself of prioritising self-acceptance and gratitude, rather than constantly chasing a version of self-improvement. I just don’t think it’s the best use of time to constantly be chipping away at myself when I could turn my attention on helping more people.
I’ve noticed when there seems to be a lot of buzz and activity in life, the best thing I can do for myself is to follow my own pace and slow right down.
There’s been a huge growth in the planner market, with a variety of cults such as bullet journalling and passion planners . I have a school-girl’s love of stationery, but I try to use journals as a place for expression rather than perfection. We can be led to believe that life can be controlled, especially if we create a logical and ordered world.
When I listen to my body I know that instead of a jumping out of my seat start to the year, I am better off going slow and easy. I struggle with winter. It’s just not my easiest season and whilst I have learnt to enjoy snuggling up and reading more at this time, I am much happier when the light returns and I don’t feel weighed down from my winter coat.
Knowing the wisdom of a more intentional start to the year, I booked in to the Instant Pause back in September, knowing the January date is the only one my good friend and founder Danielle Marchant runs for the year. (She has a team of coaches who run the Instant Pause throughout the year in many locations).
As the day got closer, I felt a bit unsure if I needed a day to pause. I’ve been pretty dedicated to a meditation and yoga nidra practice of late and wasn’t feeling wiped out. When clients ask if they can come for a treatment even if they aren’t feeling pain, I tell them that treatment enhances how you feel when you’re already in a good space. So I decided that pausing when I already felt on track was a great thing to do for myself.
The Instant Pause was held at 42 Acres in Shoreditch. It’s a beautiful venue and a beautiful company. I have been on retreat at their Somerset centre and really resonate with their mission of inner transformation and global change. 42 Acres is a physically inspiring space. It’s a converted church and the reward for climbing up the steep stone stairs is a light-filled, open-planned space that’s used for co-working by day. I feel most me when I can take my shoes off and sit on the floor, and the wooden floors, zafu cushions and sheepskin rugs make it easy to feel at home.
After a warm welcome we were guided to foraged herbal teas (or Pukka for ease!) and invited to sit in the opening circle. Danielle started the morning by sharing her story. She used to manage an international coaching company and lived at breakneck speed. I didn’t know this about her but at that time in her life, she often worked until 3am, only to start again at 6am the next day. Until the time when she couldn’t get out of bed. What followed was a road to recovery which not only healed her tired body, but birthed the ‘Pause’, which has now grown from a seed into a beautiful collection of pit-stops and retreats and transformational coaching programmes. It’s been a joy to witness Danielle’s transformation and I was especially proud when I met a number of people who were there because they had read her book.
Our first exercise was to reflect. Danielle’s critique of a number of goal setting approaches was the lack of reflection. If you want to move forward, you have to look back to know where you’ve been. It made so much sense. Only the day before, I had been doing visioning work for my business but there was much more emphasis on where I want to be in 3 and 10 years time, rather than what was happening 3 and 10 years ago.
She suggested we use our diaries and social media feed to look back and write down what had happened that year. We then plotted the events onto a diagram related to our feelings. I learnt that I tend to share on social media when I am feeling happy, but there were periods of the recent months when things were challenging and yet you would have not realised this from the images on my feed. What was projected into the outside world wasn’t always a reflection of what was going on inside. Sometimes happy occasions could simultaneously feel low.
Over a stunning spread of healthy and colourful food, we had connecting conversations with one another. It was a very open and friendly group of people. I’m not generally a group person, but I found myself happily chatting away with people- the conversations instantly felt meaningful in this space rather than ‘hairdresser holiday talk’.
In the afternoon we moved on to what we wanted to bring in to our lives. I love Danielle’s observation that ‘when you make space, life can come in.‘ She’s helped me do this in many ways over the years. I used to jam pack my diary and leave myself feeling trapped and over-committed. She taught me to leave space in my diary, and use space as a visual guide to know that I was taking care of myself. Also writing in pencil in the diary gives some freedom to erase if it no longer feels like the right plan.
We made vision boards as a graphic representation of our intentions. Or in other words, to bring what’s inside into the light. I’ve poo-poohed vision boards before. Even though I am into personal and spiritual development, vision boards are one of those activities that leave me feeling a little queasy. They seem akin to The Secret where you just wish away and things magically happen in your life. Even though I was resistant, I was open to trying the process again. We had piles of magazines and crafty bits galore to pick from. It was like being back in my happy place of cutting and sticking at nursery. I worked quite quickly, flicking through magazines and picking things that I was drawn to. I liked the suggestion to tear out the images I felt drawn to. The act of tearing was kinaesthetic and felt liberating. I was sat a table with some lovely people and it was fascinating to watch one another’s work emerge. Sharing over tea and almond cake felt like a real treat!
We completed the day with a closing circle and shared our vision boards with one another. This year I am following Danielle’s sage advice to make a plan and hold it lightly. I arrived feeling pretty clear in myself, but left the day feeling light and expanded. I’m exited to see what life brings in with the tide.