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Finding our values

My New year’s resolution this year is not to make any New Year resolutions. In any case, I’ve usually forgotten about them February. The real changes I’ve made have come when I’ve been in touch with the motivations that underpin my life and seen clearly what I need to do next.

At the end of the MBSR course we ask the question, does mindfulness practice touch on your underlying values – things you really care about that can continue to motivate you over the years? It’s moving to hear what people say: “I’ve spent my life rushing, now I want to go deeper”; “I really love my children and I want to communicate with them better”; “my depression has meant that I feel I have missed out on years of my life, now I want to really live it.”

Often we’re driven instead by the need to manage arrangements, earn a living and respond to demands and that can get mixed with anxiety and worrying what other people think of us. So here’s a simple exercise to help connect with your core values.

  •  Take a sheet of paper and write on it: ‘Things I love’ then make a list of everything you can think of, keeping your hand moving for several minutes, not thinking or censoring too much
  • Then take another sheet of paper and write: ‘Times I’ve felt fulfilled and truly alive’, and do the same
  • Look at your lists see what patterns or issues emerge and write a list of the most important values or qualities that these lists express.
  • Next time you meditate, turn those words or phrases over in your mind. If you notice a particular resonance or impulse to act, then notice it. Also notice if there’s a judging voice telling you that you really ought to do something because you aren’t a good enough person, and let it go.

Real change comes when we find new ways of being more truly ourselves.

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About Vishvapani

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Vishvapani is a teacher, writer and broadcaster whose work focuses on Buddhism. Gautama Buddha: the Life and Teachings of the Awakened One was published in 2011. See more writing by Vishvapani at www.wiseattention.org and learn about his mindfulness training work at www.mindfulnessinaction.co.uk. Read more articles by .

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