What an incredible year of growth, learning and mindfulness 2013 has been.

Here’s what I’ve been up too and the 5 greatest lessons I’ve learned this year.

I totally revamped my ‘branding’ and website – and became a blogger (which is surprising seeing as I didn’t even understand what a blog really was at the start of the year!)

Meditating upside down while hanging from a giant tree in Costa Rica!

Meditating upside down, hanging from a giant tree in the jungle!

I lived deep in the jungles of Costa Rica for 3 months, immersed in the slow rhythm of nature, and then resurfaced in Australia to teach a string of new retreats and courses.

Matty and I also made the big decision to sell our home and move from the city in Sydney to a mini-farm in northern NSW (we move in May 2014!). It’s more than a physical move. It’s a choice to slow our lives down, be more connected to nature, to our food and to our lives.

Less tangibly than the external stuff, but perhaps more importantly its been an adventure in the art of mindful living for me this year. I have deepened and refined my ability to live in awareness.

It hasn’t always been easy. I’ve stumbled and fallen and picked myself up. Much of the time though, I’ve been able to abide in an oasis of beingness. I’ve made mistakes and discoveries along the way – had wonderful realizations and insights. It’s been both the easiest and hardest thing in the world.

Here are the 5 essential lessons that I feel deepened my practice this past year…

1. I learned that authenticity is important – vital actually – in ‘the art of mindful living’. To truly embody mindfulness, we need to embrace absolute authenticity in all levels of our lives. Authenticity is the degree to which we are true to our own character and our spirit, despite external pressures the world seems to place on us.

2. I learned to protect and nurture mindfulness despite living in a world that’s moving in the opposite direction. Previously I had been attempting a mindful life even while trying to keep pace with the world around me.

I was doing too much and consuming too much (clothes, food, drink, events and other ‘stuff’) and it was all taking up to much space and time in my life. This year I learned to simplify, to ‘do’ and ‘get’ less and to make space for me to just be– and boy I feel so much more balanced and happy for it!

3. As my practice deepened this year so did my ability to listen to my body-mind and I learned to respond to it with love instead of just ‘pushing through it’ (which is what our culture seems to encourage.)

For instance, instead of drinking caffeine when I got tired in the afternoons, I took meditative naps (Yoga Nidra’s). Instead of continuing to sit at my desk for long hours I found other ways to work when my body gave me signals that it had had enough. I also realized that I get really over-stimulated (seriously frazzled!) in crowds or at parties and so I gave myself permission to take breaks or leave as needed, even if others didn’t understand why or I didn’t seem cool.

4. I found better ways to deal with stress and difficult emotions. This year I have learned, through mindfulness, to change my relationship to ‘negative’ emotions. Instead of trying to run from them through addictive behaviours, suppression or struggle, I have been more able to be at ease within myself, even in the midst of inner storms.

The extra perk is that I’ve found bad habits naturally receding as I become more able to embody this new way relating.

5. I learned the value of consistency. I have been very devoted this year to a consistent formal mindfulness practice (usually yoga and meditation) at a consistent time of day (early morning). I have a sleep routine to make sure I can get up early most days (I’ll still go out every now and then but most days I’m in bed by 9pm and don’t eat after 5.30pm).

This consistency of routine and practice has given me a rapid deepening in my ability to remain mindful throughout the rest of my days during ‘informal’ practice.

I hope my own realizations and lessons may be helpful to you. What has helped or hindered you this year? Share your experience and wisdom below.

Wishing you a wonderful 2014,

Wishing you well,