Last updated on March 27th, 2019 at 08:13 pm
The following is an excerpt from Barb Schmidt’s book The Practice.
Reflection is our final exercise of the day. This is when we scan our day and “officially” let go of everything that happened in the day—all the ups and downs—so that we can wake up the next morning in the new day without attachments or regrets over what happened the day before. Without yesterday’s worries and stresses weighing us down, we can begin a new day with a peaceful mind and heart.
There’s really nothing specific you need to do to prepare for Reflection other than relax and get into bed. It’s so interesting here to actually think about winding down and officially ending our day. Have you ever thought about doing this? Of course, you can do a number of things to wind down once the day is over. I start the process of ending my day with Reading for Inspiration. This is a wonderful way to shift from my busy outward thinking to spiritually nourishing inward thinking. This last practice of the day is meant to leave our day “in the day” and sleep peacefully knowing our day’s work is done.
If we want to end our day quiet, centered, and peaceful, we must find a way to disconnect from the outer world. So this is not a good time to watch the news or read the newspaper. There’s plenty of time to do that during the day. Remember, our point here is to close out the day. My usual nightly routine is this: I get into bed, do some inspirational reading, repeat my Sacred Mantra to stay focused, and then scan my day and reflect. Then as I drift off to sleep, I repeat my Sacred Mantra.
When I first began my nightly Reflection, I found it incredible just how unaware I had been during my days—how “asleep” I really was. I had been going through life from moment to moment without really noticing what I was doing or stopping to think before I acted. I began to see how easily I fell into a routine of living my life based on my conditioned habits and behaviours rather than living in a state of awareness, present to every moment in which I had the ability to make decisions and actually choose moment by moment.
When you start incorporating The Practice into your life, you will realize that in order to live a life fully alive and fully present to everyone and everything, you must become aware. Little by little, nightly Reflection helps you develop that awareness. This allows you to make the moment-by-moment choices that will lead you closer to the magnificent and loving life you are meant to live.
How long to practice Reflection
Reflect for five to ten minutes. This part of The Practice is intentionally short because it’s easy to get trapped into trying to figure out some things at the end of the day. The mind loves nothing better than to ruminate over what went wrong and how we could have done things better or smarter. But there’s nothing to figure out. The day is over, so the idea is to notice, become aware, and move through it and not get stuck on any one part. We cannot change anything that has happened; we can only become aware of the happenings of our day and take notice of what we may learn by reflecting and then making a note of what we might want to do differently or similarly if given an opportunity another day.
When to practice Reflection
Do your Reflection at the end of the day, after you have done everything you need to do to prepare yourself to turn in for the night. The idea is to go straight to sleep when you’re done. You’re truly making an effort to close out the day and go to sleep knowing you
have ended the day the best you can.
Where to practice Reflection
I recommend practicing Reflection sitting up in your bed. That is where I do mine. If you have a special room or place set aside for your morning meditation, you can do your Reflection there, if you choose. It’s usually best to keep the lights on so that the urge to fall asleep does not come over you before you’re done reviewing your day. Wherever you decide to practice your Reflection, the key is to be ready to go straight to bed when you’re finished.
How to practice Reflection
Take a few deep breaths and relax. Then begin to visualize the events of the day in order as if you’re watching a movie. As you scan the “frames,” let the day easily pass through your mind without judgment.
Your mind may want to get stuck on certain events: Why did I do that? Why did I say that? I should have done or said this instead. That is its nature, so simply take notice of the event and gently repeat your Sacred Mantra as needed to get back on track and guide it along. There’s nothing you can do to change what occurred during the past twenty-four hours; this is a great revelation for us. I know there are times I’m reflecting on my day when my mind tries to convince me that I can actually change the events and outcomes of the day. We all know that this cannot be; what is done is done. But we can become aware and then make an intention to handle things differently the next day.
Remember, this is not a judging exercise; we’re simply noticing. The moment we start to judge, we lose our ability to eventually let go. Let me state this another way: When we start to judge ourselves or others, we immediately get stuck, making it impossible to “let go” of the day. So make an effort to really be present to these particular memories running through the mind, and try not to get stuck on any of them. Look at everything. Then as they pass, make an intention to release them.
It really is not necessary to make your Reflection so detailed that you do a moment-by-moment replay. For me, it’s nearly impossible to remember every little detail of my day, no matter how present I might have been. Actually, I have found that trying to remember the specific details has many times interfered with my ability to move forward and let go of the day. For example, when I do my Reflection, I do not try to re-create the whole day. I reflect on “events” such as my walk with my dog, my first interaction with my husband in the morning, my afternoon meeting, my experience at the dentist, or my phone call with my sister. I try to break down the day into segments and look at the highlights.
Naturally, if it has been a particularly disturbing day, those memories come up quite easily. The same is true when the day has been wonderful; that, too, is easy to reflect on. In either case—difficult day or wonderful day—the whole purpose of this precious time is to let the day go so you’re ready to start the following day fresh. This is truly a beautiful gift.
The art of noticing without judgment
We cannot change what happened during the day, but our minds often try to rewrite the ending by thinking about how it should have or could have gone differently. We sometimes go to sleep just racked with guilt, pain, stress, anger or suffering: Why did I do this? Why did this happen to me? I should have done this. I could have done that. Why did they treat me this way? I feel so guilty for saying those negative things. I’m so angry with her/him! This is not right, what happened to me!
But really, what does this do for us? It actually puts us into an agitated, unsettled place just before sleep. Can you see the absurdity in stressing ourselves out before bed? Here we are, especially after a hard day, thinking, Oh good, the day is over and I can finally end it by going to sleep, but then the mind ruminates over what happened, and there is no way we’re getting to sleep; it’s impossible. We can only find peace when we’re able to let the day go. I know this sounds easier said than done, but little by little, with practice, we become able to leave the day in the day, knowing we did the best we could.
The beauty of life is that it repeats itself. Even though we cannot change what happened on any particular day, chances are we will probably have another opportunity to try again in a similar situation. So we leave whatever it was in that day, but with the awareness and knowledge that we will most likely have another opportunity. Then when that opportunity presents itself, we will make the connection: Oh, this is where I have the opportunity to try this out a little bit differently and see what happens. For example, if I’m looking at my day and I see a part where I was impatient with my daughter, I can reflect on the reasons for my impatience: Oh, yes, I was trying to make dinner and something was about to burn, but then the phone rang at the same time my daughter asked me a question, and I snapped at her and said, “Go ask your father!”
When I reflect on this, I’m not blaming or chastising myself for my impatience or for being angry with my daughter for interrupting me. I’m just acknowledging that I was impatient; in that simple acknowledgment, the new action comes. I now see that next time I could just let my daughter know I would need a few moments before I could respond to her, unless it was an emergency. Phone calls can always go to voice mail if I have to attend to something on the stovetop. In this way, I can see how by Living Present, in the moment, a different response could be beneficial to both my loved ones and myself.
Many of us can relate to being pulled in many directions during the moments of our day. For example, during Reflection, you may notice that you did not handle something as well as you would have liked. Again, this is not about making excuses; it is, however, about acknowledging those factors that may have contributed to your inability to handle matters the way you would have liked—factors such as not getting enough sleep, skipping breakfast, or putting too much pressure and stress on yourself.
Noticing interactions like this is how you begin to tap into your inner wisdom and knowledge. This gives you the perfect opportunity to make an intention to handle something differently next time or to make a change if necessary. You become aware or, as the Buddha said, awake.
Questions for Reflection
When it comes to Reflection, some people have no difficulty visualizing the events of the day and spending a thoughtful moment or two on the highs and the lows. Others prefer prompts to jog their memories and help them focus their thoughts. I have had many people during my workshops ask me for sample questions, so if the latter is your preference, the following are some questions you can use when performing your nightly review.
When responding to the questions, just observe your answers without judgment. These questions are intended as examples to help you acknowledge and release your day:
» Did I give my full attention to the people in my life?
» Was I present for them? Was I patient with them?
» How was my interaction with my family and friends?
» How was my interaction with my coworkers and acquaintances?
» Did I make eye contact with people?
» Did I listen to what others had to say?
» Did I use The Practice in my day? How did it help?
» Did I turn to my Sacred Mantra for support?
» What went well today?
» What didn’t go well today?
» What are my blessings?
Completing your Reflection
When you have completed your review of the events of your day, a nice way to seal the process is by repeating an affirmation. You can write one for yourself, or, if it resonates with you, you may want to use the affirmation that follows, which was written and used by my dear friend Mary for this part of The Practice. If you choose an affirmation of your own, which you’re likely to want to do as your practice progresses, just be sure that it centres on being present and releasing the day so that your mind knows it’s time to let go.
This day is now over. I choose to live in the present moment. I am thankful for having been given this day and the blessings that it has held. I take comfort in now releasing any challenges or successes I experienced today, and I head into a restful sleep with the peace and knowledge that tomorrow is a new day. I am always working toward the person I wish to be.
We often take for granted that tomorrow will come, and, of course, there’s a good chance it will. Although this may be true, I always keep in mind that there’s never a foolproof guarantee we will wake up in the morning. This may sound difficult for some to hear spoken, but for me, it feels quite the opposite. Keeping this in mind reminds me of how precious each day is and helps me focus more on the positives than on the negatives.
Some years ago, I spent time in Mexico on a service project to build an orphanage and school for a small village. I had the great privilege to hear a Native American speak who, at the time, was seventy-eight years old and in extremely good health. Both his mother and his grandmother were still alive! During the Q&A time, a teenager asked him how he accounted for his longevity, to which he replied, “I do not drink soda, and I wake up every morning in the new day. I let the day go to sleep with me at night, never knowing if I am going to wake up the next morning. So if I do wake up, I am so happy that I have a great day in front of me… even if it’s not such a ‘great’ day.”
The words of this wise man continue to touch my heart because I understand on a deep level just how true they are. In 2007, my first husband (my daughter’s father) went to sleep one night and did not wake up. We can never really be certain that we will wake up tomorrow. This is not meant to be scary. It’s meant to be a mindful and thoughtful reminder: live each day to the fullest and make an effort to be our greatest self so that we will always remember that every day we are given is a precious gift. Our Reflection time before bed is truly meant to be a time to express our sincere thankfulness for that gift.
But what if you had a particularly bad day? What if someone did something to you that you think is unforgivable? A situation like this is a good time to call upon your Sacred Mantra for additional support. You may even want to take a few minutes to write out your Sacred Mantra with the intention of healing the situation or your feelings surrounding the person or area of concern. I find this practice extraordinarily helpful when I have had a particularly trying day. Writing your Sacred Mantra is discussed in more detail in Chapter 4.
The same way you will notice that there were things about your day that you were not so happy about, you will also notice the highlights. You might find yourself saying, Oh, wow, I handled that really well! This was a fabulous day; I really wish it would not end. That is great, of course, but let that go, too. Just notice it, smile, and embrace the happiness for the moment, and then let it pass along with the rest of the day. This is not about judging things good or bad. It’s simply a way to acknowledge events, gain wisdom from the lessons they offered, and then let them go. Success is going to bed at night knowing you did the best job you could, feeling truly at peace with yourself.
“This is a unique moment. Maybe I’m glad about that because it’s painful, but I don’t want to waste it, because it’s never going to happen again this way.” – Pema Chödrön